Posted: 2/14/20 at 1:45pm. Column by Ed Jordan.
Last weekend I spoke from Ezekiel chapter 37:1-10, where Ezekiel is led out into a valley that was full of bones and partial skeletons that were very dry. In Ez. 37:3 (CSB), God asks Ezekiel a question: “… Son of man, can these bones live?” I replied, “Lord God, only you know.”
In response, God told Ezekiel to speak to the dry bones, telling them in verse 4 to “Hear what God is saying to you.” Then God elaborates further in 37:5 (CSB): “This is what the Lord God says to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you will live.”
I am sure that it sounds a little weird to be told to speak to a bunch of dry human bones. It makes a little more sense when you read verse 11 to discover that the dry bones represent the people of Israel, who were depressed, despondent, spiritually parched, and felt cut off from God.
In truth, many people today are most likely spiritually parched, like those dry bones. Many others live as though there is no God, and this scenario can become very dark and discouraging. Just as plants need light to help sustain and feed them, we humans need God to breathe life and perspective into us.
Physically, we cannot survive long without breathing. Every cell in our body needs oxygen. Spiritually we also need the Spirit of God, who brings life into our whole being and energizes us to be able to live and interact with God.
We read in Genesis 2:7 (CSB): “Then the Lord God formed the man out of the dust from the ground and breathed the breath of life into his nostrils, and the man became a living being.” So breath is vital to making us a living being and also vital to sustaining our physical body.
But God’s breath is also vital to sustaining our spiritual health. Just as in physical breathing, God’s Spirit living within a person is the source of eternal life and spiritual health and stamina.
The word translated “breath” is the word “ruah” in the Hebrew language of the Old Testament, and “pneuma” in the Greek language of the New Testament. In Hebrew the word “ruah” can be translated “Spirit, breath, or wind.”
In the Greek language, the same is true: the Greek word pneuma (root word of pneumonia) can be translated “Spirit, breath, or wind,” with the context making its meaning clear. Both these words are associated with the breath that brings life.
Back to Ezekiel. God speaks through Ezekiel to the dry, dead, lifeless bones. God says that he will “cause breath to enter into you, and you will live.” Life comes from God. Life is sustained by God. This is true physically and spiritually.
In the famous third chapter of John, Jesus had a late-night teaching session with Nicodemus, a devout Jew and Pharisee who was very religious but still felt like he was missing something.
Jesus told Nicodemus that what he was missing was God’s Spirit—God’s life. Nicodemus obeyed religious rules but was empty, dry, and frustrated. In John 3:3 Jesus told Nicodemus that he couldn’t see God’s kingdom unless he became born again. Then Nicodemus asks Jesus how it could be possible for a grown man to be born a second time.
Jesus explains in verses 5-7 (CSB). “Truly I tell you, unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I told you that you must be born again.”
So there is a physical birth and physical life, and a spiritual birth and spiritual life. When a person asks for forgiveness of their sins through the sacrifice of Jesus and invites Jesus to come live within them, God comes to live within them through the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit of God comes into the person, and they come alive spiritually, entering into a living spiritual relationship with God: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Once this happens the person lives a spiritual life even while still in a physical body.
God offers us his Spirit, and the life that only God can create within us, and through us. I encourage you to open up to God’s breath, his Spirit, and the spiritual life that comes with God’s indwelling presence. Breathe in God!