Today is Pentecost Sunday the day in our Christian calendar in which the Christian Church traditionally reflects on the Spirit
Often Christians speak as though God's Spirit was only present after Pentecost however in Genesis we see the work of the Spirit at the very beginning hovering over the waters of chaos.
Today we examine one of the Old Testament passages that speaks of God as Spirit. It is that well known text from Ezekiel 37:1-14 often entitled “The Valley of Dry Bones”.
1. Firstly in this text we see that the Spirit of God meets us in the valley's of life.
The valley in scripture is often contrasted with the mountain top. The mountain top experience is where we feel on top of the world. The experience of walking into the valley is to feel a closeness with the deep realities of life. It is sometimes to feel the shadow of life over us.
We see it in Psalm 23 “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you are with me. ”
That was certainly Ezekiel's experience. In verse 1 and 2 we read that the hand of the Lord was on Ezekiel and that in a vision, the Spirit set him in the middle of a valley. To experience the Spirit of God is not only to have mountain top experiences. Sometimes the spirit of God leads us into the valley's of life to be sensitized to the pain of other's and the pain of the world. Sometimes God God comes to meet usin the valleys of our own pain and brokeness.
In our passage, not only is Ezekiel in a valley, but it is a valley that is full of dry bones, bones with the life sucked out of them, a symbol of the pain and brokeness of the people of Israel. A picture of a nation's shattered hopes and dreams. A picture of desolation. Ezekiel was writing at a time when the people of Israel were in exile in Babylon, living in a foreign land, having lost everything.
But the brokeness and desolation not only exists in the world out there. If we allow ourselves to walk down into the depths of our own hearts, most of us will find deep within valley's of brokeness, valley's of desolation.
Maybe at the moment, you are feeling like you're in a dark valley of dry, dislocated bones. Maybe at the moment it feels like you have had the life and the muscle drained out of you and you are feeling that life has become empty and meaningless.
This passage reminds us that we encounter God not only on the mountain-top, but also when we find ourselves in the valley's of life. God comes to meet us. God comes and joins us in the valley of dry bone's.
In the valley of dry bone's, God asks Ezekiel a pointed question: “Can these bones live?” To put it another way...“Can these bones know life and joy once again?”
Ezekiel replies: "Lord, Only you know".
2. Secondly we see in this passage that where the Spirit of God is, life increases and flourishes.
As the Spirit begins to work through Ezekiel, as Ezekiel begins to prophesy to the bones, the dead dry bones begin to find new life. They grow muscle and flesh and skin once again and God gives life to them as the Spirit is breathed into them (vs 4-9).
Irenaeus, one of the early Church leaders once wrote that “The glory of God is a human being fully alive.”
In John's Gospel, Jesus says: “ I have come that you may have life, life in all it's fullness” (John 10:10).
Where the Spirit of God is, life increases and flourishes. God is that presence in the world that nurtures us and brings life to our spirits once again. Maybe today you are needing for the breathe of God to breathe new life and new hope into you.
It is an important spiritual discipline for us, especially when we are going through difficult times to ask ourselves the question: What are the things that help to make me feel alive. What are the things that help me to feel joy?
Those things that bring us life and joy are gifts from the Spirit of God.
3. Thirdly, as the Spirit of God breathes into us, so God uses us as ordinary frail human beings to bring life to others and the world.
In verse 3 God refers to Ezekiel as the Son of Man. It is a phrase in Hebrew that would read: Ben Adam meaning the “Son of Adam”. In other words, God is simply referring to Ezekiel as a “Human Being”.
Verse 3 would then read: “Human Being, can these bones live?” As God commands Ezekiel to begin prophesying, so through Ezekiel, the ordinary human being, God brings life to the dry bones, God begins to breathe new life into the people of Israel. God's spirit works through ordinary frail human beings to bring life to others and the world.
On Facebook a few weeks ago, I found a short post that left an impression on me. It is just a few poetic lines expressing the desire of an ordinary human being to make a difference in the world in simple and very ordinary ways:
“She felt like doing her part to change the world, so she started giving thanks for all the blessings in her life, rather than bemoaning all that was missing from it. Then she complimented herself in the mirror instead of criticizing herself as she usually did. Next she walked into her neighbourhood and offered her smile to everyone she passed, whether they offered theirs to her. Each day she did these things, and soon they became a habit. Each day, she lived with more gratitude, more acceptance and more kindness. And sure enough the world around her began to change. Because she had decided so, she was single-handedly doing her part to change it.”
It doesn't take much for the Spirit of God to breathe into ordinary frail human beings like you and me to bring about a change in the world. Single-handedly, God can use us to do our part to bring a change in the world.
“Human being, can these bones live?”