Article linked to The Living Word Bible study post for May 23 which has detailed verse by verse commentary on these readings which the Revised Common Lectionary lists for Pentecost:
OT: Ezekiel 37:1-14 — Ezekiel’s vision of dry bones coming to life
NT gospel: John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15 — Jesus promises the Spirit of Truth when He has gone
NT narrative: Acts 2:1-21 — The Holy Spirit is poured out on disciples and crowd at Pentecost
And also: Psalm 104:24-35
Scene 1: Ezekiel’s vision of bones coming to life
The first scene opens our story this week with Ezekiel’s remarkable vision of the dry bones that came to life.
Perhaps what he saw was a kind of flashback to the defeat he witnessed in 589 BC and the death and destruction as the remaining captives were led away on the road to Babylon.
The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones.Ezekiel 37:1-3 NIV
He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry.
He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”
The point of the scene, the widely scattered bones of unburied bodies — was that destruction was total; no regrowth was possible. It symbolised how the people had lost the protection of their God and Israel as a nation was finished.
Exvcept that God had a plan — and in the vision that was about Ezekiel and his faith and obedienced.
We see this sense of partnership unfold in the whole story as it emerges through Jesus’ teaching in the gospel. Then we see how it was worked out in the birth of the Early Church.
Back to Ezekiel as the Lord questions him as the vision is revealed to Him: “Can these bones live?”
What the Lord is teaching in this encounter comes out in what follows next, as the Lord instructs Ezekiel to do his bit in the drama:
Prophesy to these bones and say to them, “Dry bones! Hear the Word of the Lord!…Ezekiel 37:4,6
… “I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.”
Ezekiel is to speak heavenly truth to the earthly dead bones, and declare t them what God is going to do. If this seems like a strange idea, you have seen it before. At the very beginning of the beginnings:
The earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.Genesis 1:3
And God SAID: “Let there be light” — and there was light.
And in the same way He spoke into being the other attributes of our environment.
Now in this vision, God is instructing Ezekiel to prophesy — to declare in faith — what God is telling Him He wants to create with these words.
Ezekiel is tasked with speaking form and life into these scattered bones, and as he speaks in the vision, with a rattling sound they come together, joined with tendons and covered with flesh and skin.
Lastly, Ezekiel must speak breath and spirit into them:
“Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain that they may live.”
So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up…”Ezekiel 37:9-10
God explains to Ezekiel that the bones rperesent the exiled people of Israel who are saying that they are cut off, with all hope gone.
Ezekiel, in faith, is to speak over them what God says, resulting in avery different outcome.
Words spoken in faith and in obedience to God are creative. You have seen this before in Jesus’ teaching. In that last week in and around Jerusalem before Passover, He spoke words over a leafy fig tree, and the next morning it was dying:
In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots.Mark 11:20
“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.”Mark 11:22-23
That is not just Jesus’ example, it is Jesus’ teaching and it shows where we fit in this story. There is a principle being taught here for us to hold on to, the partnership between God and those who belong to Him.
Scene 2: Jesus introduces the Advocate
The second scene shows how this partnership works in a different way through Jesus’ very last teaching session for the 11 remaining disciples, even while Judas is taking money from the priests to deliver Jesus in betrayal.
Jesus explains that He must go, before the Spirit of God that He calls the Advocate and the Spirit of Truth comes:
“When He, the Spirit of Truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth. He will speak what he hears and He will tell you what is yet to come.John 15:12
He will receive from Me what He will make known to you.John 16:15
What are they to do with what the Spirit makes known? Jesus makes that clear as He continues:
“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send you from the Father… He will testify about Me. And you also MUST TESTIFY.John 15:26-27
“I pray for those who will believe ion Me through their message… that the world will know that You sent Me and have loved them…From John 17:20-23
The Spirit reveals it (like Ezekiel’s vision) to the disciples and they (like Ezekiel) are charged with speaking it out in faith. The change happens in the speaking of God’s truth by faith, as drected by the Spirit.
Now let’s see this working in practice.
Scene 3 — Storm in the temple courts
The final scene of this part of the story happens on the day of Pentecost in the temple courts where the disciples are gathered. And there’s a loud noise like the wind roaring in a storm, accompanied by the sight of tongues of fire that reach down and touch each one of them.
Of course, this draws a crowd. Even early in the morning there is quite a throng around the temple because it it the day of celebrating the first harvest, and remembering Moses going up Mount Sinai and disappearing into the fire and smoke, and returning to give the law.
Now the fire has come to rest on the disciples — and watch what happens:
What seemed to be tongues of fire separate and came to rest on each of them.Acts 1:3-4
All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
The crowd was very diverse, drawn from all around t he Mediterranean region.
There were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation… together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being SPOKEN.Acts 2:6
And watch what happens next:
Peter stood up with the Eleven, RAISED HIS VOICE and ADDRESSED the crowd.Acts 2:14
He explains that this phenomenon is that which the prophet Joel had foretold, a time when people, young nnd old, male and female, would be empowered to PROPHESY — TO SPEAK OUT TRUTH FROM GOD in a witness of the coming Final Day of the Lord. And He encourages many to respond.
And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.Acts 2:21
THis is a story about what heaven reveals, and believing people hear and speak out.
Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ.Romans 10:17
This is how salvation comes. There is no ritual, no priests, no structure, just a move of the Holy Spirit, first on a few obedient people. Then there is what is often called a sacrament — an outward sign of an inner blessing. The outward sign was the proclaimed word given by Peter received by 3,000 people. The ‘inward blessing’ is their hearts changed in salvation as they are moved to give their lives to the Lord, and seeking to seal it in baptism.
Jesus has done it, we receive it and others hear it from us. This is how salvation comes.