Ezekiel 37:1-14 1 The hand of the LORD was upon 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. 2 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. 3 He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “O Sovereign LORD, you alone know.” 4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! 5 This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. 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.'”7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. 8 I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them. 9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.'” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet–a vast army. 11 Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.'”
John 20:19-22 19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. 21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
I want to talk to you this morning about the difference the “breath of God” makes in the life of a person and how we go about experiencing the “breath of God.” Some of the highest points in all of human history involve contact with the breath of God. We read in Genesis 2:7 that after God formed Adam from the dust of the ground, He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and in that instant, man became a living soul. In the John 20:22 verse we read that Jesus breathed on the disciples and imparted to them a sample or foreshadowing of the Holy Spirit’s power as He commissioned them for His service. Of course on the Day of Pentecost, the day which we are celebrating, on that day the Holy Spirit manifested as the breath of God or as the translations say as a “mighty rushing wind.” Anytime you read the Word “Spirit” in the Bible, it denotes wind, air or breath. So in three major places in history, the beginning of humanity, the commissioning of humanity and the mass empowering of humanity to do God’s work-all came through the breath of God. Let me be clear. We are born by the Spirit of God. We are called by the Spirit of God, and we are empowered by the Spirit of God to do God’s work. How critical is then this “breath of God?” What do we need to know about it, and how can we experience it?
Ezekiel was a prophet who lived in a really bad time in Israel’s history. They were paying the consequences for not listening to earlier prophets who told them to shape up or God would ship them out of their country. Many were living in exile in Babylon and Ezekiel was one of those folks who had been taken by the Babylonians.
God took Ezekiel into a place in the spirit realm where he had an incredible vision that involved the breath of God. It wasn’t a pretty vision. It was one that was tough to see. God set Ezekiel in a valley. It wasn’t a lush green valley with springs of water and gorgeous plants. It was a valley of death. It was a valley of desolation. It was a valley of destruction. It was a valley of bones. Everywhere Ezekiel looked he saw skulls and crossbones. The bones were brittle because they were very dry. How many of you know that is a bad situation? As we read the passage we see that God was showing Ezekiel the reality of the spiritual state of Israel. In the natural the situation looked hopeless. When all you can see are bones it appears to be pretty dismal, pretty final, pretty much finished.
As we read how Ezekiel’s vision unfolds it is obvious to me that the first step to experiencing the breath of God in a hopeless situation is to:
Be willing to acknowledge what isn’t pretty. Israel was in a state of spiritual deadness, but they didn’t want to acknowledge it. They weren’t looking at the situation from God’s perspective. He didn’t just think they had messed up. He didn’t just feel they had made a mistake. No, He was pointing out that they had turned their back on Him to the point where they were in fact, “past the point of no return,” so to speak. Israel was in trouble. Unless God did something, it was over, over. Left to themselves, the bones Ezekiel saw in the vision were depicting Israel’s lot.
I’m sure Ezekiel would have preferred being confronted with a prettier image, a happier thought, but God wanted the prophet to process the cold, hard, truth. Maybe you are here and you know there is something wrong in your life, with a relationship, with your creditors, with your family, with your health, with your spiritual condition or whatever, but you just don’t want to deal with it. You don’t want to think about it. You don’t want to have to acknowledge that things are as bad as they are. You want to sweep things under the rug. God is telling you that the first step to experiencing the breath of God is to admit you need it, to admit without some kind of resurrection in your life, you are going to dry up, shrivel up and be finished.
The person who is choking and can’t breathe is quick to get the attention of anyone who can help because they recognize how dire the situation is. Yet many put off dealing with crises that have the same kind of potential to kill them spiritually and destroy their lives and futures in multiple ways. What are the bones you need to look at this morning? And maybe an even tougher question is, “What part, if any, have you played in creating the death and destruction in your life?”
The second step to experiencing the breath of God is to:
Rely on God for life’s answers and on His Sovereignty to see you through. After God led Ezekiel on the “Tour of bones,” God asked him a tough question in verse 3. “Can these bones live again?” I can just imagine what Ezekiel may have wanted to say. Based on what he saw he had to have thought, “There is no way! Don’t be ridiculous! Dead is dead! Over is over! Hopeless is hopeless! Maybe You created something from nothing God, but there is no way life can come from death.”
Perhaps those thoughts went through Ezekiel’s mind. But those aren’t the thoughts Ezekiel expressed. Rather than respond with his opinion Ezekiel responded with an affirmation of God’s Sovereignty. He said in verse 3, “O Sovereign LORD, You alone know.” Rather than even offer an opinion, Ezekiel left the answer for a hopeless situation in the hands of an Almighty God.
You know what sucks the life out of many people and steals their emotional, spiritual and often physical breath away? Trying to explain why something bad has happened or trying to figure out when things will change. Sometimes there is no human explanation for life’s questions. When we want to know why something has happened we may really asking, “Whose fault is this?” “Who can I blame for what I’m going through?” “Can I blame God, myself or someone else?” We think if we answer the “why” question and put blame somewhere we can find relief or resolve. When we want to know how long our suffering will last our focus gets shifted away from gaining wisdom and endurance and giving God glory to just getting through it whatever valley we are in. Perhaps that is often why the “why?” and the “how long?” questions don’t get answered by God. Answering them short-circuits what God wants to accomplish in our difficulties. God’s Sovereignty should not be minimized or downplayed in the life of His children.
Also, God’s Sovereignty trumps any impossibility. Is there no way out? With God there is always a way. Is there no hope? With God there is always hope. “With God all things are possible” isn’t just a nice slogan. It is the reality for believers who are walking with Him that resurrection, restoration, and regeneration are always a breath of God away!
1 Corinthians 2:9-10 “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”– 10 but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.” Your mind can’t even imagine up the worst case scenario that could trump what God could do in a split second. As Ezekiel relied on God to answer His own question he was expressing his belief that God could do whatever was needed in any situation and whether He would choose to or not was up to God. When you are faced with difficult and desperate situations rely on God to answer or not answer the questions you have, but rely on His Sovereignty to see you through.
Third, Express the Word of God in every circumstance. Revisit verse four with me: Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD!” Ezekiel was commanded by God to preach to the inanimate bones. Preaching to dead, dry bones is crazy, right? (There’s room for a joke there, but I’ll let it go .) God was asking Ezekiel to talk to the hopeless circumstance and command the circumstance to pay attention to the Word of God.
Many Christians find themselves speaking only about their problems or only speaking to God about our problems. We should speak to God about our problems because we need to hear what God has to say about them. We need His perspective. However, we also need to speak directly to our problems ourselves. God gives us authority to speak directly to our problems. Mark 11:23 says we can speak to mountains in our lives and see them removed.
I believe something happens every time we speak God’s Word over our circumstance. It will be something seen or something unseen, but God’s Word will always produce movement because it is innately powerful. God’s Word cannot be spoken in faith and accomplish nothing. (Isaiah 55:11)
Why aren’t more Christians speaking God’s Word over their lives as a first action? I mean, doesn’t Ephesians 6 tell us the Sword of the Spirit IS the Word of God? Let’s get the Sword out of its sheath and start wielding it against our circumstances. Why not use the weapons God has given us to fight life’s battles? Perhaps it is because we put more faith, more stock, more confidence on what we can see than what we can’t see. One problem with that is that what we can see in the natural is negative and limited and hopeless. What we can see, however, in the Spirit, as we speak the Word of God over our life is that “all things are possible to Him who believes” (Mark 9:23).
Remember, we have been created in God’s image. God spoke the world into existence. He utilized the power of Words countless ways in Scripture. We, too, have been given the ability to express truth through our words, to express faith through our words. Proverbs 18:21 says we create life and death through the things that we say. In Ezekiel God is telling us that no matter how things look, they are not beyond where the Word of God can reach.
Start speaking God’s Word over your fears. Proverbs 18:10, “God is my Strong Tower. In Him I am safe.”
Start speaking God’s Word over your financial need. Philippians 4:19, “God will provide for me. I will have what I need. I will lack no good thing,” Psalm 34:9.
Start speaking God’s Word over your work. Galatians 6:9, “I will reap a harvest. I won’t give up.”
Start speaking God’s Word over any spiritual struggle you sense you are facing. “No weapon that Satan has in his arsenal will prosper against me,” Isaiah 54:17.
Start speaking God’s Word over your fatigue and depression. “I will wait upon the Lord and my strength will be renewed. I will have endurance for my life’s journey,” Isaiah 40:31.
Start speaking God’s Word over your trial. “I will prosper through this difficulty. I won’t be harmed. I will have greater hope and a brighter future because of it,” Jeremiah 29:11.
Be willing to acknowledge what isn’t pretty, rely on God for life’s answers and on His sovereignty to see you through, express the Word of God in every circumstance, and fourth Ask for the breath of God to breathe over your situation in order that God will be glorified. Verse 9 of our text: “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.'” Ezekiel was calling upon the Spirit of God, the power of God, to enliven the dry bones.
Nothing spiritual takes place-no miracle takes place-without the “BREATH” which is the Spirit of God. Mass miracles took place on the Day of Pentecost because the Spirit of God blew into town and rested on all those who had been praying for the Spirit to come. Acts one records how the believers were meeting together, praying for God’s Spirit to be poured out upon them.
You can endure anything, you can experience hope in the midst of the darkest of times when God’s Spirit is manifesting Himself in your life. In Acts 2, when the Spirit filled the believers and they started to spontaneously speaking in languages they themselves had never learned so that others gathered in Jerusalem from around the known world could hear the Word of God in their own language the onlookers didn’t say, “Wow, these disciples are something else! They are either fast learners of languages or they possess special powers.” No, they saw the demonstration of the Spirit’s power, the Breath of God, and heard the Word of God in their own language and were “cut to the heart” and said, “What do we need to do to be saved?” (Acts 2:37) When the Spirit of God is moving in power the credit will go to God and many others will get the benefit of the breath of God as He breathes out His life and will through yours.
Can you envision yourself praying, “Breath of God, heal my body not so that I can have a happy or carefree life, but so that all the doctors and nurses and friends and family who don’t know you will see you at work in me and come to faith in you as well. And God, until You heal me, Breathe on me so that I can have endurance and joy and not complain, but that I will show that You are not just Who I count on to heal me, but You are Who I count on to sustain me every day of my life.”
When God breathes out His Spirit, revival fires burn. It’s not just breath enough to resuscitate one person, but hundreds and thousands get blown over by the Wind of God’s Spirit. In Ezekiel’s vision all of the bones stood up. Verse 10 says it was a vast army. It was the whole house of Israel. When God breathes on your situation, more than just you will be blessed.
In order to experience the breath, you see, you have to Take the Lord to be the Lord of all of your life. Verse 12: This is what the Sovereign LORD says: O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.'”
The whole reason the Israelites were in the dry, brittle state they were in was because they had turned their backs on God and chosen their own way. They were supposed to be God’s people. They weren’t in a covenant with God so that they could call the shots. God’s Word doesn’t work when we go our own way. God’s Spirit doesn’t manifest His power in our lives when we go our own way. We must submit to being the people of God.
In order to encounter the breath of God, you have to want to participate with God in Spirit and in Truth. The Truth part is the elevating of God’s Word in your life, the exercising of God’s Word in faith as you speak it over your situation. The Spirit part is the desiring of that total experience, that indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. You have to want to be transformed or the Spirit won’t take up residence in you. You can’t pray, “Holy Spirit fill me, but let me live the way I want to.” We must participate with the Truth of God’s Word and the molding and shaping the Holy Spirit wants to do in our lives. We must yield to His direction fully, even when it seems crazy. When God commands you to talk to bones, you have to be willing to do it, as ridiculous as it may seem. Following Jesus will never be a life of logic, but it will be a life of power and peace and miracles for all who take measures to follow Him wholeheartedly.
Finally, God continues to breathe in us as we Hope always in the Lord. This connects again with the sovereignty of God piece, but revisit verse 1 of Ezekiel 37. “The hand of the LORD was upon 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.” It may be obvious, but let me point out that Ezekiel was in a barren place, a hard place, by the plan and purpose of God. God was the one who took him to that valley for a “come to Jesus meeting” and Ezekiel was selected to represent the whole house of Israel at the meeting. Ezekiel was there, looking at all of the death and devastation and doing everything God asked Him to do not just for Himself, but for a whole country of people who needed the words and understanding Ezekiel would then share. God took Ezekiel there on purpose for a purpose greater than himself.
In the valley of the shadow of death don’t ever take your eyes off of Jesus. He isn’t just coming into the valley to find you and be with you. He is leading you there, and when it is time He will lead you out. I love Andrew Murry’s thoughts on this subject when he says about life’s difficult circumstances:
First, He brought me here. It is by His will that I am in this strait place. In that fact I will rest. Next, He will keep me here in His love and give me grace to behave as His child. Then, He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me the lessons He intends me to learn, and working in me the grace He means to bestow. Last, in His good time He can bring me out again. How and when He knows. Let me say I am here, by God’s appointment, in His keeping, under His training, for His time. (Andrew Murray, Though the Mountains Shake by Amy Carmichael, p. 12)
You may be in a valley this morning. God wants to breathe on you right where you are. The Holy Spirit doesn’t have to have favorable conditions in order to move in your life. He can come into the impossible, into the desolation, into the dryness of your life and bring resurrection. What do you need to do in order to receive the breath of God in your situation?
Be willing to acknowledge what isn’t pretty.
Rely on God for life’s answers and on His Sovereignty to see you through.
Express the Word of God in every circumstance.
Ask for the breath of God to breathe over your situation in order that God will be glorified.
Take the Lord to be the Lord of all of your life.
Hope always in the Lord.