Breathe: Speak to the Wind
Ezekiel 1:28-2:2 and 2 Corinthians 3:5
Throughout this series, we’ve been learning the functions of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit which gives our life meaning and ties us to God. It is the Holy Spirit that allows us to understand God’s will for our lives but it is also the Holy Spirit which empowers us to bring new life to others.
In 586 BC, Jerusalem was totally destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzer of Babylon. The Temple, which had been the pride and glory of Israel for almost 400 years, was reduced to ashes; all the inhabitants of Jerusalem had been taken either into captivity in Babylon, including King Mattaniah, who was blinded and taken in chains. Although they had been warned repeatedly by God through His prophets, including Ezekiel, they had turned a deaf ear! Now they found themselves in a foreign land, separated from friends, loved ones, home and temple without any hope that they would ever return. The people had gone astray and forgotten that God was the one who had provided protection for them, who had fought their battles for them, who put food on their tables and who provided their home, the holy city of Jerusalem and the Temple of God. They had literally turned away from God. Now they were spiritually dead, their hope was gone and they were in complete despair in their Babylonian Captivity. They thought that God would never take them back. So they also had completely lost their faith in God.
One day, God shows up to Ezekiel in an amazing way: on a whirlwind. We learn several things from God in this encounter. That tells us that not only does God like a fine ride but God can find you wherever you are. When He did, Ezekiel fell to the ground. There’s something about being in the presence of the holy and Almighty God which can be overwhelming. Time and time again in the Scriptures we see when God’s presence shows up in all its fullness, it moves us to fall in his presence and worship Him. Ezekiel says that God spoke to Him and filled him with his presence and then he arose. Ezekiel had to be filled with God’s presence to stand and behold what God had to show him. Now the presence of God shows us not only who we are but also who we’re not. This is what God is wanting to show Ezekiel. But more importantly, God can show us who we can become in Him. From this experience, we learn that God is always wanting to speak to his servants. God is wanting to show himself to you and his will for your life. There are times when you have been ushered in to the very presence of God. God works in ways that we can never imagine. God can move anywhere. God is so low you can’t get under him, so high you can’t get over him, so wide that you can’t get around him. When he wants to show up, he’s doesn’t need an invitation to let his presence and his majesty be experienced. That’s the kind of God we serve and worship. We can all relate to a time when God showed up in a way we can understand.
When I was a 4th grader, I went on a spiritual retreat. We had worship one night and the counselor sent us to go find a private spot where we could pray individually. I went by a large tree away from everyone else. As I began to pray and pour my heart out to God, I heard a rustling in the leaves. I opened my eyes and saw a wild rabbit. Now if you know anything about wild rabbits, they’re skittish. You can’t get near them, let alone touch them. But this rabbit came up to me and sat between my legs and let me pet him. It was in that moment I knew God has sent this animal as a sign of his presence and love for me. God didn’t send an angel, didn’t give me a great vision but rather spoke to me in a manner that I as a 11 year old could understand. God wanted me to know that He was there, that he loved me and had a purpose for my life. I walked back to the campfire and shared with it with the counselor who rejoiced. As wonderful as that experience was you can’t live on those experiences. That’s not enough to carry you through the difficult times, the challenges and the ups and downs of serving God. So what do you do?
You have to continually seek fresh fillings of the Holy Spirit. Jim Cymbala, in his book “Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire”, tells being asked in 1972 to pastor part-time the Brooklyn Tabernacle. It was in a shabby two-story building on Atlantic Avenue in New York City. The location was bad. The people were few. The facilities were falling apart. In fact, one Sunday night a pew broke, spilling several people onto the floor as he preached. Looking around he was surrounded by a city of muggers, transvestites, drug addicts and more, and Jim realized he was in trouble. He was overcome by his own inadequacy to lead the church, as well as his lack of answers for the world. In his desperation, he began to search for answers, yearning for the power that can only come from God. At the end of his rope, he felt the Lord impress on him, deep within his soul, that God’s power would be with them, if only he and the church learned to call on His name and be filled with the Holy Spirit to supply their needs. The Spirit said, “If you and your wife will lead my people to pray and call upon my name, you will never lack for something fresh to preach. I will supply all the money that’s needed, both for the church and for your family, and you will never have a building large enough to contain the crowds I will send in response.” He went back to the church and told them that from that moment on the health of the church would be measured by its Tuesday night prayer meeting focused on seeking the Holy Spirit. That first night 15 people came. God began to move. The church grew. The prayer meeting became larger. They were forced three times to seek larger facilities. By 1985 they were running 1600 each Sunday service. Hundreds came to the Tuesday night prayer meeting. God brought miraculous conversions and they continually receive a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit. Today the church worship over 10,000 each week. Once you have been filled with the Holy Spirit, you have to stay filled and you do that by seeking the Spirit regularly.
The second way is by daily internalizing God’s word. God said, “Son of man, eat what is before you, eat this scroll; then go and speak to the people of Israel.” So I opened my mouth, and he gave me the scroll to eat.” God showed Ezekiel that he had to internalize His word. Like rice paper, he had to eat the scroll. Don’t start tearing up your Bible. This is for demonstration only. The point is you have to chew on it. That which you saw on the outside, you have to bring on the inside. And sometimes, it doesn’t taste all that good. Sometimes it takes awhile to digest. Sometimes you have to work at swallowing it. Just keep at it until what’s on the outside comes on the inside instead of passing it by, you have to internalize his Word. If Ezekiel did it, we have to do it. When you do that, you begin to see things you didn’t see before. When we internalize God’s word, we begin to see God possibilities all around us. The Word changes your perspective and your outlook. You begin to see things not as they are but as they can become. When you digest it, chew on it, pray on it, you begin to see the world and the people in it through God’s eyes. Rather than despair, you begin to see hope. Rather than doubt, you begin to see assurance. God’s word allows you to see beyond the surface.
This was the beginning of the journey for Ezekiel. God couldn’t show him what He had until he was filled with the presence of God and had digested God’s word. It was only then that he was able and ready to see what God wanted him to see. What was that? God wanted to show Ezekiel the impact of the Israelites taking God’s presence for granted and now God was preparing to show him what was happening. Things were pretty bad. Things were worse than a broken public school system, worse than a broken health care system, worse than a recession and a dead housing market, worse than 10% unemployment. Maybe he thought he was going to see a city filled with abandoned houses. Maybe he thought he was going to see a national debt which is continuing to rise. Maybe he thought he was going to see closed, boarded up businesses, libraries, and hospitals. Maybe he was going to see homes which have not been re-inhabited.
But Ezekiel didn’t show any of that. What God showed Ezekiel was much worse than all of that combined. God brought him out by the Spirit of the LORD and set him in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led him back and forth among them, and he saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry.” Things were so bad that they couldn’t get any lower. What Ezekiel saw was that death had come to the nation. Death had come and they had been dead a long time. These bones had been there awhile. Dry bones are those situations in life where it appears that no life had ever existed. Maybe you know a situation or somebody in your life that has dry bones. When you lose a job and there’s no new one in sight or you’ve been diagnosed and the doctors have given you no hope or when you have a spouse that walks out on you or when you have a marriage that’s dead on the vine or children who are rebelling, drinking, doing drugs and getting on the wrong side of the law. These are all dry bones. These are all dry bones.
In such dire circumstances, it can be tough to step out in faith when God calls. So the third thing is that you have to yield to God’s spirit. Just because it’s there, doesn’t mean you automatically do what it says. You have to yield to what God says in your life. God says to Ezekiel, “Can these bones live?” Had Ezekiel not been filled with the Spirit of God, had he not internalized God’s Word, he would have looked at those dead bones and seen no possibility for life. But now he looks at these dry through the eyes of God and sees God possibilities. He looked at God and said, You know! Then he yielded to God and prophesied as he was commanded. He said, “I know you can do anything. I have been in your presence. I remember what you did. I know what you have promised. I know you can do all things. If you say, “Live!” then life will come.”
In this series, we’ve been talking about how the wind is like the Holy Spirit. For the sailboat to move, the sail has to catch the wind but sometimes it moves you where you don’t want to go or expect to go. You have to go where the wind is taking you and you can end up in a place where you didn’t expect to be. So it is with the Holy Spirit as Ezekiel stands before this valley of dry bone, a cemetery. Nobody likes to go to the cemetery! And yet Ezekiel finds himself surrounded by dry bones. You have to learn to yield to the move of the spirit and go wherever it leads. You have to yield to God. He yielded when he was in the presence of God. He yielded when he ate the word. He yielded when God led him out. He yielded when he spoke new life into what seemed like an impossible situation.
Fourth, if you have dry places in your life then you have to speak to those dry places. Don’t speak your word into them, speak the word of God into them. Tell them not what the world sees in them but what God sees in them. Jesus did this all the time. Jesus spoke to the possessed man, “Come out of him!” Jesus spoke to the man with leprosy, “Be clean!” To the paralyzed man he said, “Son, your sins are forgiven!” To the storm on the Sea of Galilee, he said, “Quiet! Be still!” To the demon possessed man he said, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!” See. You have to speak life into the dead. Jesus did it and we have to do it. Speak life into your marriage. Speak life into your children. Speak life into your friends and co workers who have dead bones. Speak life into the dry places of your life.
Ezekiel spoke to those bones and they started to rattle. And the bones started to come together and before he knew it, the body had come back together but it still was not alive. The body was together but there was no breath. We see it all the time. You have a marriage but no relationship. There can be a job but no joy in the work. There can be a life but no purpose or mission. And God said, Now that you have spoken to the bones, you are now ready to speak to the wind. In the 9th verse God says, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” Speak life! Speak what you have heard into those dry places and you can speak the Holy Spirit into those dry places. Let’s give this a try.
- If you need light, God said, “I have come into the world as light so that no one who believes in me shall remain in darkness.” And you say, “Come Holy Spirit, give your light.”
- If you need strength, God said, “God is our strength and a very present help in our time of need. “Come Holy Spirit, give your strength.”
- If you need power, God said, “He gives strength to the weary and gives power to the weak.” And you say, “Come Holy Spirit, give your power.”
- If you need rest, God said, “Come to me all who are weary and I will give you rest.” And you say, “Come Holy Spirit, give your rest.”
- If you need faith, God said, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen,” Now you say, “Come Holy Spirit, give us faith.”
- If you need joy, God said, “I have told you this that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” Now you say, “Come Holy Spirit, give us joy.”
- If you need more love to give, God said, “I love those who love me and those who seek me, find me.” Now you say, “Come Holy Spirit, give us love.”
Speak to the wind and speak life in those dry places, become an instrument of life in the Holy Spirit. Amen? Amen!