Summary: Make No Bones About It, The Holy Spirit Grants Life 1) Throug God's Word; 2) To God's Glory
Because of all the idioms we use, the English language can be quite challenging to understand. Take this idiom for example: “Make no bones about it; that was the best hamburger I ever tasted!” Make no bones about it? That means that what you’re about to say is true and therefore your audience can swallow your words without fear of choking on a lie as if it was a sharp bone lurking in a piece of grilled salmon.
Ironically our sermon text on this Pentecost Sunday uses bones, a valley full of dry human bones to teach important truths about the Holy Spirit. What are those truths? Well, make no bones about it; the Holy Spirit grants life. He does so through God’s Word, and he does so to God’s glory.
When I have spoken of the Holy Spirit and his work on past Pentecost Sundays, I think I’ve given the impression that he’s like a spark plug: important but kind of dull. That certainly is not what the prophet Ezekiel thought after what he witnessed. Ezekiel lived about 2500 years ago at a time when the Israelites had been carried off into captivity to Babylon (modern-day Iraq). They ended up in exile because they had rebelled against God. What would become of them? Even worse, what would become of God’s promise that one of their own was to one day give birth to the world’s savior in Bethlehem, which was now 800 km away?
The truth is the Israelites were worse off than they realized. God illustrated this fact when he brought Ezekiel to a valley that was filled, not with waving wheat, bubbling streams, and cows grazing on lush vegetation – an idyllic scene of life; he brought Ezekiel to a veritable death valley – one filled with human bones, a scene more macabre than any mass grave one might discover in the killings fields of Cambodia or Serbia. God made Ezekiel take a tour of the valley. Everywhere the prophet walked – bones. Bones that were very dry and would have perhaps turned to dust should Ezekiel have tried to pick one up. God was driving home the point that, left to themselves, Israel’s hope of going back to their country was as bleak as the hope one of those bleached bones ambulating home.
This vision of a valley filled with bones is not just a curiosity for modern-day students of the Word. It’s an accurate snapshot of our spiritual past. The Apostle Paul once wrote: “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath” (Ephesians 2:1-3).
With Paul’s words in mind let’s take a look at the valley of bones again. The Hebrew text seems to imply that the bones Ezekiel saw were not neatly laid out like you might find at an ancient burial ground; they were all jumbled together. The skull of the respectable baker was mixed up with the ribs of a prostitute. A priest’s femur was over there with the finger-bones of the town drunk. What’s my point? You may be a respectable member of society but if you don’t have faith in Jesus as your Savior, you’re the same to God as the impenitent wife-beater, or the internet scammer. And don’t think that your worship attendance in and of itself counts for something. The Israelites had offered sacrifices at the temple up to the very day it was destroyed, but for a long time it had been worship without fear in God’s Word and faith in his promises. It was a dead, ritualistic form of worship carried out by spiritually dead people and therefore was offensive to God – as offensive as someone dumping a dead skunk onto your front doorstep and thinking they were doing you a favor.