“Take a Breather”

Ezekiel 37:1-14


Each and every time you take a breath, your diaphragm is working. As you inhale, your diaphragm contracts and moves downward so that the space in your chest cavity increases. As the lungs expand, air is pulled in, and with the help of a fancy protein called a hemoglobin, oxygen goes into the blood. While all this is going on, carbon dioxide moves into the lungs and is then forced out when we exhale. The whole process is pretty amazing, and of course there are hundreds of more details about this thing we call “breathing” which I didn’t mention. Considering that the average person takes about 25,000 breaths a day, it’s a good idea to periodically check in and be in touch with our breathing every now and then.

In our text from Ezekiel 37, God shows Ezekiel a vision which makes quite dramatic how important this simple thing of breathing really is. Ezekiel is looking over and moving through this valley of dead, dried up bones which are obviously not breathing. You could say they are taking a breather and relaxing, but it’s more than that for there is absolutely no life to be found in this valley. The bones are lifeless. But why? I’ll go out on a limb here and say that it was because they were taking too many breathers and were breathing in all the wrong kinds of things.

As God’s people, we don’t and haven’t really been breathing very well. You see we were all born into this world with a broken breathing problem. And what I mean by that is our breathing issues, they go far beyond the fact that we have allergies or asthma, that we need to use oxygen or a CPAP machine. It’s deeper than that. Our breathing problems revolve around what it is that we literally and figuratively “inhale.” Our breathing problems revolve around what it is we put into our bodies and what it is we do with our bodies. Our breathing problems revolve around our physical and spiritual well-being. What are we inhaling through our mouths, nose, eyes and ears? What are we putting into our bodies in regards to our needs, our desires, our unhealthy passions? What are we doing with our bodies in regards to our actions or lack of action within ourselves and towards others?

The sinful physical and spiritual breathing we do, it infects us to the core. Eventually, these God given gifts of our bodies will fail and they will find themselves dried up and brittle. Ezekiel in his vision tells us that the LORD set him in the middle of a valley that was full of bones. As he went back and forth through them, he saw bone on top of bone on top of bone and all these bones were dried and brittle. The LORD tells Ezekiel that these bones, they make up the whole house of Israel, the people of Israel.

Now why are the bones of the Israelites covering this valley floor? … Because they were breathing all the wrong kind of things. They were breathing in the aroma of self-centeredness, of self-righteousness; they were breathing in the thin, lofty air of pride and self-promotion at the neglect of those in need, those who were under them; they were consuming in the sweet idea of being invincible, untouchable, of being like God. And because of this, because of their breathing of all the wrong things … God allowed the Babylonians come in. As they Babylonians came in, they destroyed the land, they took all of the riches, and carried off some of the Israelites into Babylonian captivity.

The LORD led Ezekiel back and forth among the bones which were left. The LORD did this to make sure that Ezekiel truly took in the severity of Israel’s sin. What Israel did in neglecting the poor, the building of altars to make believe gods, the raising up of themselves and their possessions to be gods was not just some small petty little thing. The consequence of their sins led to death, it lead to their bones to be dry and brittle and lifeless.

Ezekiel was forced to take a good look at the situation. God’s Law, it does or is supposed to do the same thing for you and me. God gives us His Law, His instructions as a guide on how we are to live our lives, but He also gives it to us so that we can take look in a mirror and examine our own sinful condition. Each of our sins, each time we go up against God and His law, there are consequences. Some may seem really small, some may seem non-existent, but there are some consequences which are definitely noticeable.

No matter our age, whether we’re a premature baby or the oldest person alive … we have all sinned, we have all fallen short, we have all been breathing in the polluted air of sin and death. Those bones which Ezekiel saw laying on the floor of that valley, even though they’re dead, they speak. They say, “Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off” (Ezekiel 37:11). And whether we see the consequences of our sins or not, whether you and I recognize our sin and the consequences they produce … one day, our bones will be dried up, our hope will be gone, we will be cut off.

On our own, we trudge through the muck and mire, we go through the valley of deep darkness, and we’re surrounded by the stench of death. But, but a breath of fresh air, Ezekiel tells us, is on the way. This breath of fresh air, it all begins with the Word of the LORD. The LORD askes Ezekiel, “‘Son of man, can these bones live?’ ‘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!’” (37:3-4). And they do! These dry bones hear! They hear the Word of the LORD because the Word of the LORD is alive and active (Hebrews 4:12). Where the Word of the LORD is, there also is the Spirit of the LORD.

The LORD tells Ezekiel, “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 37:9). Spirit and breath, in the Hebrew … it’s the same word. So think about it for a moment.  Do you see the connection here? Where the Spirit is, there is breath. Where there is breath, there is life. Where there is the Spirit, there is life. The LORD says, “I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life” (Ezekiel 37:5), “I will put my Spirit in you and you will live” (37:14). And when He says, it happens. Before Ezekiel stands, living, breathing the whole army of Israel.

This breath prophesied to a pile of dead, dry, brittle bones is the same breath which God breathed into Adam when He formed him from the dust of the earth. This breath prophesied is the same breath which Jesus breathed when He breathed His last breath as He dies on the cross. Before He breathed His last … Jesus said, “Telestia”, “It is finished.” The price of your and my sins was paid. The work of our salvation was complete. Jesus breathed His first and His last breath for you.

Lifeless, breathless … Jesus was laid in a tomb. In the darkness, in the stillness of death, Jesus laid. Jesus, empty of life suddenly gasps and raises His chest, lowers His diaphragm, and inhales the breath of life, the breath of a resurrected life. Jesus, filled with the Spirit of God, breathes the breath of life. Having conquered sin and Satan by the cross, and having conquered death by His resurrection, Jesus leaves that tomb, leaves the sins of the world, leaves your and my sins in the darkness of the tomb and breathes a new life.

A new life which He breathes into those who follow Him. The breath prophesied to the dead bones in a valley is the same breath which Jesus breathes. It is the same breath He breathes upon His disciples in the Upper Room after His resurrection so that their minds would be opened to the Scriptures. This same breath Jesus breathes on the disciples He breathes into you and me now through His Word. In Christ is a breath for the weary and heavy-laden, for the crushed in spirit, for the despised and the lowly. Through this breath Jesus enters into the deepest dryness of your life and revitalizes who you are beyond all understanding. In Jesus is a breath of life which extends even beyond the grave as He will come again and breathe life into those who have died. Filled with a new life the dead in Christ will rise and together with Him, we can all take a breather and breathe easy forever. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, now and forever. Amen.


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