Ezekiel 37: 7-10
So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.
Then he said to me, ‘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.”’ So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet – a vast army.
Ezekiel prophesies to the dry bones as God had commanded. At first there’s just a noise. He doesn’t see anything but he hears a rattling. That often happens when God is at work. We sense the change before we see it, we feel that something is shifting and stirring.
The sound intensified until it became a movement. Things that were apart started coming together. As the prophetic word is declared, things move to line up with what God has said.
There’s two types of prophecy: Foretelling, which is declaring what God says is going to happen at some stage - it’s predictive in nature. Then there is forthtelling which is when God’s revealed desire and will is spoken aloud and the prophetic decree actually causes things to move into line with what God has said. When God’s Word is released, decreed and declared we will find that dead bones rattle, situations shift, circumstances change, things move.
The bones start joining together and tendons, muscles, flesh and skin form. However look at the end of verse 8:
“I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.”
There was structure to the bodies but there was no life in them; they had been restructured but they hadn’t been revived; they had all the form but they hadn't been filled. That is a picture of religion without the Holy Spirit. It looks good but it lacks power.
Once again Ezekiel is commanded to prophesy, this time to the wind. He calls on it to come and fill these dead bodies with new life. The Hebrew word for breath is ruach which can be translated breath, wind or spirit. It’s the same word used in Genesis 2 when God creates man from the dust. Adam was structurally formed but he wasn’t alive yet. Look at what God does: “Then the Lord God...breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” (Gen 2:7) Jewish mystics call it the ‘cosmic kiss’.
What we see here is that, as absolutely vital as the Word of God is, we also desperately need the Spirit of God. We need to be both formed by the Word and filled with the wind. When the Word of God and the Spirit of God come together we have structure and life, we have a body filled with breath, we are resurrected and revived, we have form which is filled.
As the Word of God is combined with the Spirit of God these dead, dry bones are totally transformed into a vast unified army, a powerful, Spirit-filled community.
Many scholars believe that this is a prophetic picture of what God has been doing in the nation of Israel in the last century. Since 1948 the tribes which had been scattered, the dispersed, have been returning to the land of Israel, and God one day plans to breathe new spiritual life into that nation.
But it is also a prophetic picture of the church, the Christ-centred community of God’s people in every nation. Selwyn Hughes once wrote this:
“What is the Church? It is not a building but a body – a body empowered and made alive by the Holy Spirit. And the secret of her survival in this world is in continually opening herself to the Spirit who gave her life. She was not only born of the Spirit but survives and thrives by the Spirit. No Spirit – no life.”
God longs that we would be a Word and Spirit people. Not one or the other - but both. The great healing evangelist Smith Wigglesworth reportedly gave a prophetic word in 1947 about a coming move of the Holy Spirit. After speaking about two distinct moves of the Holy Spirit which have since already been fulfilled, the final piece of his prophecy said this:
"When the new church phase is on the wane, there will be evidenced in the churches something that has not been seen before: a coming together of those with an emphasis on the Word and those with an emphasis on the Spirit. When the Word and the Spirit come together, there will be the biggest movement of the Holy Spirit that the nation, and indeed, the world, has ever seen....The outpouring of God’s Spirit will flow over from the United Kingdom to the mainland of Europe, and from there, will begin a missionary move to the ends of the earth.”
We look forward to seeing you this Sunday at 9.30 am, 11.30 am and 7.00 pm.