Take a Deep Breath

I wonder how many of you actually just took a deep breath! We need to do that more often, you know. Most of us don’t breathe right most of the time. Quick, shallow breaths don’t feed our brains like long deep ones. In that case, I’d better take a few big ones right now before I go any further.

As a follow-up to Dry Bones, here are some thoughts on breathing.

Breathing is life. In the valley of dry bones, the bodies were reassembled, but remained nothing more than a pile of corpses until God’s breath entered them and they came to life. Just as when God made man in the beginning, Adam was a lifeless body until the breath of life shot into his nostrils and he became a living being. Isn’t that what we long for when we look at the body of a loved one lying in a casket – the breath of life? (I just looked in my thesaurus under breath and it says, “see LIFE”.)

The Hebrew word for breath, ruwach, also means wind and Spirit. Sounds like the lingo Jesus used with Nicodemus in John 3.  Spirit=breathe=life. I’m sure there are layers and nuances of meaning that go deep and wide here. I’d need lots of deep breathing to send my brain there.

In Paul’s letter to Timothy, he said “all scripture is God-breathed”. So, for me, reading the living and active Word of God is like being hooked up to an oxygen tank after inhaling pollution all day. It purifies, cleanses, brings health.

One last thought: don’t forget to exhale. Breathing isn’t just taking in air, but also letting it go in a natural rhythm. After six days of creating things, God designed something different: rest. The Hebrew Bible says that on the seventh day God rested and was refreshed. The word literally means God exhaled. I like to think of the Sabbath as the great exhale after sucking air for six days.

One more last thought: Here’s my favorite sermon illustration on breathing.

A young man asked a wise elderly teacher how he could find God. The gentleman asked the young man to come with him to the river. The young man expected to receive some wise words along the riverbank. But when they arrived, the old man walked out into the water, so the young man followed. Suddenly, the teacher grabbed the young man and forced him under. The seconds ticked by and the young man began to fight against the firm grip holding him down. Right before everything went black, the hand released him and he blasted out of the water, gasping for air. As he gagged and choked, he shouted, “What were you doing? Trying to kill me?” The teacher said, “When you want God as much as you wanted that breath of air, you will find Him.”

Breathe on me, Breath of God, till I am wholly thine;

Till all this earthly part of me glows with Thy fire divine.

Dry Bones

I’ve been gutting my way through the book of Ezekiel. It’s not an easy read, but then it wasn’t easy being a prophet, either. Ezekiel, the poor guy, had to pronounce judgement on place after place: Egypt, Sidon, Moab, Tyre, Edom, Babylon, Jerusalem, Ammon, Philistia, Gog. He had to relay searing messages from God to Israel’s leaders and priests, to false prophets and idolaters, to those in his own hometown. Whew! That’s a lot of bad news.

Finally, this morning, the words flew off the page right to my heart. As I read in chapter 37, God gave Ezekiel a break from broadcasting words of woe and took him on a field trip to the bottom of a valley filled with very dry bones. God asked the prophet, “Can these bones live?” Ezekiel didn’t say yes, but he didn’t say no, either. He gave the best answer possible, “Lord, only You can answer that.”

I don’t know about you, but there have been times when I’ve felt like a pile of dried up old bones laying on a valley floor. My prayers are dry, my devotions are dry — it’s that sense of being shriveled and empty and lifeless. Usually, something eventually breaks through and brings me back to life, although I once spent a two year stint in the desert of dryness. No fun.

God told Ezekiel what to say to that ditch full of skeletons and before the prophet got all the words out of his mouth, a rattling sound echoed from one end of the valley to the other. The bones came together (the foot bone connected to the ankle bone, the ankle bone connected to the shin bone…) and then tendons and flesh appeared (can you imagine seeing that?) and then God breathed His breath into the bodies and they all stood up (what a riveting picture!). “I will put breath in you, and you will come to life.” Ezekiel 37:6

During that long dry season I experienced, the words to a song by Michael W. Smith became my anthem:

“So breath in me, I need You now; I’ve never felt so dead within.

So breath in me, maybe somehow, You can breath new life in me again.”

So Ezekiel, can these dry bones live? Yes, indeed, they can.