June 2024

‘Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live’ Ezekiel 37.5 (RSV)

The prophet Ezekiel received these divine words during the vision he was given of the bones of an army lying in a dry valley.  Years earlier, in 597 B.C., he had been exiled with many of the Jews to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar.  He was from a priestly family, but now cut off from the temple in Jerusalem.  God called him to minister to the exiles as a prophet.  For years he warned the people of the harsh consequences of divine judgement and the inevitable fall of Jerusalem.  The Jews had to endure exile, living at peace with their neighbours and with God.  Finally Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 and from then on the message changed to become one which promised hope and restoration.

The vision of the dry bones is perhaps the most memorable of Ezekiel’s visions.  Finding himself alone, surrounded by heaps of completely lifeless dried out victims of destruction, he is told to give this word to them.  As Ezekiel watches, he sees the bones come back together, and the bodies of the soldiers become whole again. Then God gives him a command: ‘Prophesy to the breath ... “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live”’.  It is only then that the army becomes alive again.  This is a two stage creation.  Just as mankind was originally created from the dust of the ground, so is this army revived from it.  Yet it is not until God breathes into Adam’s nostrils that he becomes a fully living being (Genesis 2.7).  Similarly, here, the bones need living breath to complete their reanimation.

When we spend time in contemplation of the Word, we can become conscious of our own breathing, the way in which the ‘ruach’ (the Hebrew word for spirit, wind, breath) can come into the depths of our lungs.  We take God’s word into our heads and into our hearts, and the word comes to life when we allow the Holy Spirit to enter into our very being.  Thus our bodies can become fully alive, and we can, this month and always, grow to know the glory of the Lord.