Breath of life
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 the valley; it was full of bones. He led me to and fro among them, and I saw a great many bones on the the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”
I said, O Sovereign Lord, you alone know. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. 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.”
The Valley of dry bones…..this is such a well known story, partly because the extraordinary imagery captures our imagination but also because it is a powerful illustration that God can bring life out of any situation.
Here is a picture of God’s people, exiled, sinful, defeated, broken and yet God says “I remember my covenant with you. I will raise you up. I will breathe life into you once more.”
Listening and praying as we move through these difficult times, the theme of breath and lungs is coming up again and again. Throughout the bible there are references to God breathing life into his people. From Genesis where he breathed into Adam’s nostrils to Revelation where he breathed life back into the two dead prophets and they stood on their feet.
Recently, we’ve witnessed many harrowing images of people fighting for breath in hospital as they battle with covid-19. The virus is so dangerous because it can cause air sacs in the lungs to fill with fluid so they can’t absorb oxygen.
We take breathing for granted and so when it becomes difficult for some reason, it is the only thing we can think about. Breathing is fundamental to physical life so it’s not surprising that it’s an image used throughout scripture to signify the gift of life.
The Hebrew word for breath also means spirit. When the disciples were huddled behind locked doors fearful of the Jews, John 20:22 tells us that Jesus breathed on his disciples and said “Receive the Holy Spirit”.
If breathing is vital for physical life, the Holy Spirit is vital for our spiritual life. Without the Holy Spirit, our bones will grow weary and we will struggle to discern God’s purposes for us. God is longing to fill us again.
A favourite song we’ve sung a lot recently is Great are you Lord (All Sons and Daughters. Integrity Music) It sums this up so well.
You give life. You are love
You bring light to the darkness.
You give hope, you restore,
every heart that is broken.
Great are you Lord.
It’s your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise to you only.
And all the Earth will shout your praise
Our heart will cry, these bones will sing
Great are you Lord!
Father, thank you that you’re so much more willing to give than we are to ask. Please fill us again with your Holy Spirit. Come Holy Spirit. Breathe on me breath of God, fill me with life anew. Fill me so full that I can only overflow with praise to you. Thank you that you bring life into the dry places. Renew and strengthen me today.
And because I love the ancient Collect for Purity, hard wired into my brain from communion services, here is a perfect and contemporary prayer for us now. The root meaning of the word Inspiration is to breathe in…….
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.