Digging Deeper into Scripture: Ezekiel 37

Incarnation and spiritual life bring unity to Ezekiel 37, Psalm 139, Acts 2, John 15, and John 16. In his description of the Valley of Dry Bones, Ezekiel writes, “And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin” (Ezekiel 37:6). Reading of the physical life coming to dead bones, we are mindful of God’s creation of man. Moses writes in Genesis, “then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature” (Genesis 2:7). The connecting concept is God’s work to create flesh and bring life through His breath. Although Adam’s body was brought to life from nothing, and the bones from death, wind brings life and breath into Adam’s lungs and the dead bones.

Scripture Interprets Scripture

David amplifies the concept of incarnational life as he describes God’s work of fleshly creation even in the womb. He writes in Psalm 139, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb” and “My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret.” Although there seems to be no direct delivery of breath from God into the individual conceived child, we can recognize the Lord’s original breath into Adam descending into each of us.

Although in John 16:5–15 Jesus speaks of the necessity of His departure to usher in the Helper (our Savior’s coming before the Holy Spirit), it is valuable to recognize the Spirit’s work in bringing the pre-incarnate Christ into earthly flesh. We confess in the Apostles’ Creed that Jesus was “conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary.” In Luke chapter one the angel speaks to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.” Although the Holy Spirit’s work of salvation follows Jesus’ work of redemption, we see that the Spirit brings the Son into flesh.

Perhaps more directly, we comprehend the Spirit’s work in bringing salvation, or spiritual life. The reading from Acts describes the work of the Holy Spirit in “a mighty rushing wind” and “divided tongues of fire.” With this, they were filled with the Holy Spirit and enabled to speak other tongues. Here the Spirit works with purpose. The disciples at Pentecost were enlivened and equipped linguistically to share the good news with those in proximity. Salvation is the goal. In the work of salvation, we connect Jesus’ words to the disciples.

“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me” (John 15:26). The Holy Spirit brings Jesus into flesh, but finally presents His work before men.

Law and Gospel

Ezekiel writes, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel” (Ezekiel 37:11). Where God’s breath brings the dust of the ground to physical life, sin reduces it to dry bones. Adam and Eve suffered physical death, as do their offspring. Although God conceives each human being in the womb, every individual inherits mortality from our Edenic parents.

Remember that Jesus had no reason to enter the world in human flesh except to save sinners. Our salvation required the Second Adam, a perfect fleshly being, to live without sin and then take that body to the cross to die physically to redeem our dry bones.

The cost of sin is more than physical mortality. It is spiritual, and the Holy Spirit convicts the world of this sin. John explains that the Helper will convict the world of sin and God’s righteous judgment. What is more, as we read in Acts chapter two, the Holy Spirit terrifies the world with the Lord’s final judgment that there will be blood, fire, and smoke, and that the lights in the sky will turn to darkness and blood before Christ returns on the last day.

The Holy Spirit also brings enormous comfort. Ezekiel explains that the Lord will “open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel” (Ezekiel 37:12). In the narrow sense, God is speaking to His people whom He will restore from death at the hands of foreign invaders, such as, the Assyrians, Babylonians, and Romans. More broadly, the Lord will open the graves of everyone who, as our Acts reading states, calls on the name of the Lord.

Preaching and Teaching

Effective preaching and teaching on these readings involves leading students to see the work of the Holy Spirit not only at the Pentecost gathering, but in the creation of physical and spiritual life. God breathed into Adam, delivering fleshly life, but also an eternal soul. Although with a sinful nature we inherit this, God breathed life at conception. Where Christ is our redeemer, the Holy Spirit brings the Son into human flesh, that once Jesus’ work is done, He will present Him for the salvation of the world.

To study the Acts 2:1–21 reading more, download the free Books of the Bible Study Questions on Acts below.

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Phil Rigdon

The Rev. Dr. Philip Rigdon and his wife, Jamelyn, live in Kendallville, Indiana, with their two rabbits, Frankie and Buttons. He serves as pastor of St. John Lutheran Church and School in Kendallville. He enjoys writing, running, and playing guitar.

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