A Breath of Fresh Air

Ezekiel 37: 1 – 14 (Confirmation & Pentecost Day -  2018)

“A Breath of Fresh Air”

Day Six. The Creator gathers the dust of the earth he formed. He breathes into it. Adam is brought to life. Four days after Lazarus died his lifeless body began to decay in a tomb. Jesus, the Son of God, called out to him. His cold, dead body was brought to life. When the Word of Christ speaks Life results. This is the message of Pentecost. The Spirit of God Gives Spiritual Life through the Word.

Ezekiel served as a prophet before and during the captivity of Israel. His contemporaries saw the destruction of the Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem. God asked Ezekiel to live out several object lessons. One in particular involved the death of his own wife (Ezekiel 24: 15 – 27). The LORD had instructed Ezekiel to not openly grieve the loss of his wife. The lesson God was teaching? As Ezekiel was not to mourn for the “delight of his eyes” Israel was not to mourn for the destruction of the temple – the delight of their eyes (24: 21).

The people embraced a false spiritual security in the physical existence of Solomon’s temple and in their human ancestry to Abraham. Because of their spiritual deadness, God was going to take away their false God’s, false hopes, and false perceptions. He was going to clean them down to nothing but dead bones. In Babylon there would not be a temple with priestly ceremonies. They would be refugees; captives; society’s “nobodies.” Their only connection to God would  be the breath of His living Word.

“Son of man, can these bones lives?” “Sovereign LORD, you alone know.”

“Speak to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the Word of the Lord!”

Living Confessions

Thursday our confirmands gave a clear confession to the truths they learned in catechism classes. I love to hear these confessions each year. They are a welcomed breath of fresh air. The examination is not a test as much as it is a reminder that we are still tethered to the Word of God which gives truth and life. These young people repeat the Biblical sound: “This what the Bible says!”  These Bible confessions are clear air from the smog and soot of what passes for truth today. The Word they confess is life among a creation that insists on worshiping the created things rather than their Creator (Romans 1).

God had not deserted Israel in Babylon. He kept them close to his heart. In love he stripped them of everything that had the potential to lure them away from trusting only in him. Through Ezekiel, through Daniel, through men like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego – the Word of the Lord was clearly confessed, a breath of fresh air among Persian godlessness. The LORD promise to bring Israel back to Jerusalem for the birth of his Son. He was going to make this valley of dry bones live again – with flesh and bones, with spiritual vibrancy - a vast army – brought alive by the Gospel truths of the LORD - an army that would stand in fiery furnaces before they would abandon their faith in the living God.

Today we rejoice in his promises: “heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Matthew 24:35).With David we confess, “Surely I was sinful from birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). And Paul “you were dead in your transgressions and sins in which you used to live.”  And of Christ the Vine: “Apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15: 5). But in Christ we are made alive again. In Christ we are cleansed bones dressed with life giving blood from his cross.

That deadness to the Spirit continues to dwell in the core of our hearts: “Every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood” (Genesis 8:21). When we deny that truth, we only deceive ourselves. Try and live for one day, one hour, one minute without a sinful inclination, and we see how helpless we truly are. Hurtful emotions come easily. Words that need repentance flow easily from our mouths. Abandoning Biblical principles happens to quickly in the face of pressure. Trusting in earthly things is an daily trap. Sin comes easy to the lifeless bones that lie deep in our bodies.

See the Pentecost today! Spiritual life is the work of God. Jesus washed out sin through his blood. Jesus completes all righteousness. Jesus commits his life into his Father’s hands. Jesus sends the Holy Spirit into our hearts. By him we cry Abba Father. Jesus and his Spirit give life where there once was death. “This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come for the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live!”

By a Living Word

Do you see the point of the valley of dry bones? Israel rested their spiritual well-being on surface things: where they worshiped, who they were, what they did, what they avoided, and what words they recited. While some of those things did have value, the people earned the warning: “These people honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me.” The people of God had been lured to the lies of false prophets that judgment was not coming at all. They lost sight that the true meaning and message of the Temple was the Christ, the breath of fresh air which brings forgiveness in his death, and life in his Resurrection, and a Spirit on Pentecost Day that gives life to our faith - spiritual flesh on our dead bones!

“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men” (John 1: 1-4). Jesus is that Word of God made flesh. He was made flesh to take our sins to the cross. He was made flesh to be abandoned by his Father. He was made flesh so that his lifeless body could be placed into a grave - a grave from which he rose to life again!

What does that have to do with us today? God repeatedly strips us down to dry bones for us to see the same point. The Word of God seems too much of a burden for my Old Adam. Sometimes the rubber stamp of mankind seems more appealing. Sometimes it is just easier to ask: “What does the church teach?” “What list of facts can I memorize when I am 13?” “What does pastor think?” “What is the synod rule that we may follow it and be satisfied?” “Tell me what to avoid, tell me what to do and when to do it, so that I may stop troubling myself with personal study.” This is a sinful, misplaced comfort in external trusts. While many of those things have value in their proper place, they mean nothing if the clear integrity of the Word is dead to us.

Rather, we learn this breath of fresh air: What does the Word of God say? What does the Word of God teach? What are the governing principles that our God gives freely in his word of life? Where do we turn when we fall into sin? Where do we turn when there is trouble at home? Where do we turn when there is division in the church? Where do we turn for comfort in sickness and death? Where do we turn when there are questions about the purpose and focus of ministry? Better learn and relearn what Christ done with sin, death and devil!

The Word of God gives life where there once was death. The Word of God divides when God means for it to divide. The Word of God unifies when the LORD means for it to unify. The Word of God speaks us to the cross in order to speak us forgiven! The Word of God speaks us to the the Empty grave in order to speak of our empty graves. The Spirit of Life wakes the thousands to Life. Peter’s Pentecost sermon explains the Work of the Spirit in order to proclaim the Word of Christ as absolute truth for you!  

The Spirit of God continues to give you life, forming you into a vast army of soldiers under his Cross: to believe teach, confess and defend his life-giving Word. These young “soldiers” have been armed for places where the fighting will be more and more fierce. They are armed with the Sword of the Spirit and the Shield of faith and the breastplate of righteousness (Ephesians 6). We pray that they are armed to “suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it.” We trust that by this Word they are living confessions and a breath of fresh air in face the devil’s smog and a society blurred lines.

God’s Word is, indeed, a breath of fresh air!. His Word divides our very joints and marrow. His Word makes plain water the washing of renewal by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5). His Word proclaims the atoning death of Christ whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup (1 Corinthians 11:26). His Word is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). His Word will one day say to you and all who believe in Jesus: “Come you who are blessed by my Father, take the inheritance - the life - prepared for you since the creation of the world” (Matthew 25: 34).

“Son of man, can these bones lives?” “Sovereign LORD, you alone know.”

“Speak to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the Word of the Lord!”