A Breath of Fresh Life
Sermon on Ezekiel 37:1-14
Title: A Breath of Fresh Life.
Theme: The Holy Spirit brings fresh life.
Goal: to encourage believers that the Holy Spirit brings fresh life to them.
Need: We live a dried out existence that leaves us with out hope for a future.
The Problem Today: We live a dried out existence without hope for a future.
The Problem in Ezekiel’s Day: The People of God are dried up like bones of the young men that went out to fight when Judah was brought into exile.
The Grace of God: The Holy Spirit brings fresh life. Promised in the days of Ezekiel. Fulfilled when the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles and everyone personally.
The Grace of God Today: We have the Holy Spirit in us as a guarantee of resurrection. As the mover toward fresh life.
Parched. Dehydrated. Bone Dry. Burned out. Lifeless. Pointless. Hopeless. Dead. Which one best describes where you have been lately. Any of them? With the direction your life is headed , do you ever ask the question out in the wind like I’ve done before: Who really cares. What’s the point of this whole church thing? What’s the point of anything that we have going on? Who cares about the bread and juice. Who cares that the Bible says Jesus died for our sins. What does it matter that Jesus washed the feet of his disciples?
Have you ever sat down with me in the depths of that sort of attitude? Go ahead pick up a baby bottle. Fill it with donations for a pregnancy center. Send oodles of Bibles for missions. Go ahead give flowers in the neighbourhood. Go ahead. But don’t you see it. The kingdom of God is still losing.
Do you see it out there where the world falls further away from Christ. Do you see it here where faith can be boiled down to coffee club with songs, sermon and sacrament before we get started? Do you see it right inside of here. Deep within you. Prayer sounds the like yapping of a little lap dog, not complete communion with the creator of the universe. Being united with Christ means you read the Bible even though it didn’t change a thing about the way you acted today. Hearing mention of Spiritual Gifts makes you run through your well rehearsed, “I’m too busy excuses.”
We understand all that. You get it don’t you. Dehydrated. Parched. Burned Out. Lifeless. Pointless. Hopeless. Bone Dry. Dead.
Ezekiel’s vision is a metaphor for the state of the people of Israel in his day. It’s also a picture of how it is today for us.
The feeling is nothing new. The people of Israel were at that point. In the passage we are shown their hopelessness. In that day the survival of your people was the most important. And the survival of the people chosen by God was even more important. But in the decade or decades before these visions, God’s very own people have had the door of hope and real life slammed in their face. The Babylonian armies had come in and taken many of people of the Israel into exile away from the land God promised to them.
War is gruesome and terrible. We are reminded of that again this week with another repatriation of a soldier that was killed. The vision Ezekiel sees in the passage is much more gruesome and inhumane and dismal. Ezekiel 37:1-2 picture it for us. “1The 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. 2He 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.”
What are all these bones doing, laying in this valley? They are the bones of the young men of Israel that went out to war. They were the young men that thought they might just stand a chance against the Babylonian armies. They are the bones of the young men that wondered if they would see their families again and save their homeland. These are the bones. Each one with a story to tell.
Together the bones tell a very powerful story. The bones still lying there mean that Israel’s army has been routed. They have been so thoroughly defeated that they could not go and bury their dead. The bodies lay there rotting, flesh eaten by the vultures and scavengers. The bones left to bake.
There is no hope for Israel. Their young men are gone. Their freedom is gone. Their homeland is gone. Is there anything left. Nothing.
Its not just a physical sort of hopelessness either. Ezekiel has already told the people the reason why they have been brought here to this foreign land and seen their sons killed on the battlefield. Before Israel was dead and bone dry physically. They were bone dry spiritually. They had lost their first love. They had forgotten that God called them out of slavery once before and told them. Live right! Follow my Law! Obey my commands and you will live long in the land the Lord is giving you!
But instead of a wholehearted life of serving and pleasing God, the died and rotted from the inside out. God’s law was forgotten. Other false gods were given a place in Israel. The people relied on their own strength and the strength of their armies instead of trusting in God. They didn’t look out for the needs of the powerless like God commanded over and over. Take care of the widow and the orphan! Israel had lost their souls. And when the soul is gone, the body will rot away.
But our God is not a God of hopelessness. With our God, there is always a next chapter of when hope seems to have turned to the last page. God shows throughout the Bible time and time again that he is the continual giver of fresh life. The old and rotten life might be hopeless. But the Holy Spirit that comes from God is truly a breath of fresh air, a breath of fresh life.
God’s question in verse 3 is a tricky one. God says, Ezekiel, can these bones live.
Ezekiel gave the only answer he possibly could. The human answer is obviously ‘no.’ But when the God of the universe asks you a question the obvious answers aren’t maybe so obvious anymore. Ezekiel says, only you know that for sure God.
God shows Ezekiel that he is a God who gives a breath of fresh life even when life seems dead and hopeless. He shows this through commanding Ezekiel to do two prophecies. The first one he speaks to all those dried up bones. Look at verse 4 with me again. “4Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. 6I 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.’”
Then the rattling of bones starts and the foot bone connected to the ankle bone. The ankle bone connected to the leg bone. The leg bone connected to the hip bone. The hip bone connected to the backbone. The backbone connected to the head bone. Some one should write a song like that! Either that or Spielberg should take a crack at imagining what this would have looked like. I would imagine it would be quite frightening to see. Bones becoming skeletons. Skeletons having tendons and ligaments and muscle suddenly appear on them. Skin then over top of the organs. Now, instead of dry bones, the desert is filled with the bodies of these young men who died in battle.
But that’s all that happens. The bones get bodies but they have no life to them.
So God tells Ezekiel again to prophesy. Look again at verses 9-10:9Then 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.’” 10So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.
The effect of the miracle is hightened when it takes two times to finish the job.
When I was in grade school there was a world class archer that went to the Christian High School. He did a demonstration of shoot an apple off a students head. They chose one of the students and put an apple on top of their head. The archer got ready then told everyone to stop because he was a little nervous. Instead of the student, they replaced here with a manikin head. They put the apple on top of the manikins head. The Archer pulled back the bow and fired. The arrow went right between the eyes of the manikin.
He turned to the students and said, this is to show everyone that archery may be a sport, but they are not toys. He got our attention. Then he tried it again. He fired the apple off the top of manikin with no problem. The school errupted with applause. Because of the first partial success the effect of the full success is hightened.
Ezekiel prophesies. This time to the four winds. He tells the wind to breath into these slain me so that they might live.
Tremendous. Incredible. New life comes to the Soldiers. That’s the promise for the people of Israel. They are like the bones in the valley. They are dead and gone. They were morally corrupt. The have now lost their homeland and it seems that there is no hope for any Israelite or for the enter group that went off into exile.
But this passage is a promise of renewal. It’s a promise that new life is possible through the coming of the Holy Spirit.
The word for Spirit in the Old Testament is RUACh and it can mean wind, or breath, or spirit. So in Ezekiel’s vision the Spirit of God blows into men and they live again.
It definitely would make the Israelites remember what happened when Adam and Eve were created. God first formed the person. Then he blew the Spirit of Life into his nostrils. The spirit here blows and gives new life.
What makes this passage even more astounding is that God’s grace in the passage extends into the New Testament and even on to us today. Ezekiel 37:14 says this: 14I 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 Spirit will live in you. That`s the moment of refreshed life. That`s the way God moves people from dull burnt out life to the full and fresh life with Christ. It is through the presence of the Holy Spirit.
When we look around and see dry bones we need to expect more because the Holy Spirit lives in us.
When the Holy Spirit is present with people different stories start to immerge. The apostle Paul was completely opposed to the gospel of Christ until he encountered Christ and was given the Holy Spirit. The 12 disciples had tongues of fire rest on their heads and they brought people to understand and accept Jesus as their savior and God. Timothy was a young preacher that Paul mentored. He believed and was raised in the faith. No dramatic conversion. Just stead faith development through his mom and through other in the covenant community.
When the wind of God gets blown into your nostrils, you don`t just live. You take in the breathe of fresh life.
So look for the presence of the Holy Spirit that was given on Pentecost. Look for his presence in your life. Know that if you have faith in Jesus Christ, you already have the Holy Spirit living in you. The breath of God fills your soul. So we might experience the dryness from time to time. But the power of God`s word and the Holy Spirit is to radically change your life.
If you have been looking for that kind of change in your life, it starts by acknowledging your dryness and perhaps changing the routines of your devotions, and your prayers. Perhaps worshiping in a different way.
And ultimately, when we look for revival and we get frustrated about the church not moving ahead quicker, or frustrated about personal struggle. We are not in control of what the Holy Spirit is doing, but we do play a part in the out come of his presence in us.
The Holy Spirit gives purpose. He gives new life. As if we were completely recreated again, he blows a breath of fresh life into us.
Life with the Holy Spirit`s power and vigor. Loved by the God eternal, saved through Jesus Christ. And animated to life through the Holy Spirit to a fresh life.