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Ezekiel 37:1-14 When your hope is dried up, hear the word of the Lord and the Spirit will give you life!

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Clothespins come in handy for more than hanging clothes up to dry. You can also use them as a chip clip, to hold a nail in place, to hold your nose closed when going under water, etc. Learning how to hold your breath underwater is a skill. It is a skill we begin teaching children at an early age. With practice, you can hold your breath for longer and longer periods of time. Holding your breath underwater is a skill that might save your life someday. You cannot hold your breath forever though because you need to breathe to live. The Holy Spirit breathes life into us through the word of the Lord even when all seems hopeless.

Most of us have timed how long we can hold our breath underwater. Those of us who want to get an accurate reading for how long we can hold out breath use a watch or stopwatch feature on a phone, while those of us who are less concerned about accuracy count in our head. If you are wondering what the records are for holding your breath, I already looked it up.

According to the Guinness World Records website, on March 27, 2021, official time was kept and Budimir Šobat from Croatia broke the record for the longest breath held voluntarily for a man with a time of 24 minutes 37.36 seconds, and on July 10, 2009, Karoline Mariechen Meyer from Brazil broke the women’s record with a breath held for 18 min 32.59. Both times far surpass any official or unofficial time keeping of any of my attempts to hold my breath underwater, but like all of us they eventually had to take a breath to live.

Whether you are a record holder or not, you need breath for life. God showed the prophet Ezekiel the value of breath in our Old Testament reading from Ezekiel 37. God did not teach his lesson in a pool with a group of lively swimmers though. Instead, God took Ezekiel to a an abandoned valley, a place of hopelessness and void of life.

We read from Ezekiel 37, 1 The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. God took his time with Ezekiel leading him among the bones to take in the full weight of death. Then, there came a question, 3 He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” In any other circumstances, the obvious response would have been, “No.” But Ezekiel was with the Lord, and so we read, I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.” Ezekiel knew the Lord not only knew the answer but was himself them answer.

The Lord showed Ezekiel his power to give life to the dry bones. In what must have looked foolish, the Lord showed Ezekiel his power by having him speak to the thoroughly dead dry bones as we read in Ezekiel 37, 4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5 This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’” The image of Ezekiel speaking to these dry bones is foolish from a worldly perspective, but the Lord had filled Ezekiel with trust in him; Ezekiel knew that the Lord is God.

Thus, we read, 7 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. 8 I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them. Ezekiel heard the word of the Lord and followed God’s command, and God followed through on his message. And again, we read, 9 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.’” 10 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 watched God turn a valley of dry bones into an army of living breathing people.

Turning away from God is like someone turning into dry bones scattered over the ground. Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones is like the times we have been without hope and someone spoke to us, or we have spoken to someone else without hope. The identity of the hopeless dead, the unburied, unmarked bones was revealed to Ezekiel as we read, 11 Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’

Ezekiel was born in Judah, the Southern Kingdom of Israel, but was taken captive to Babylon as an exile of war where he spent most of his life. Judah like the Northern Kingdom had turned away from God to follow false gods and embraced immoral living, so God left them alone to fall to the ravages of the wicked world. When Israel was faced with the consequences of their turning away from God and sin, their guilt left them hopeless. Literally, in the Hebrew text, the word used to describe their hope is the word for ‘killed’ or ‘dead.’

Like the Israelites, we let our circumstances turn us away from hope in God. It happens when we pursue instant gratification apart from God, rather than being disciplined to wait for good, better and lasting satisfaction. It also happens when we get to a place that hurts because the things, plans or people we abandoned God for let us down or turned on us. When we turn from God forgetting his power to give life we lose his blessings, security, purpose and hope.

God proved himself as the source of hope. Today we celebrate the ‘Day of Pentecost.’ On the first Pentecost, the Holy Spirit showed himself by appearing as flames over the disciples’ heads, but the true miracle on that day was the message about Jesus being heard by people who spoke many different languages. Through the word, many more people were turned away from hope in the world to hope in Jesus as we hear in our New Testament reading from Acts 2, 11 … we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” The answer appears a few verses later, 20… before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. 21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

Before Jesus died on the cross, he told his disciples what the Holy Spirit would do in our Gospel reading from John 16, 8 When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 about sin, because people do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. The Holy Spirit opens eyes and ears, hearts and minds to all Jesus did to save the world from sin through his crucifixion, to give his righteousness to us and to be the source of life who destroyed the devil’s weapon of death. The Holy Spirit works this hope through the word and will continue to call people to faith before the great and glorious return of Jesus on Judgment Day.

The Holy Spirit was the one who could restore hope in the hearts of the Israelites. After the Lord showed Ezekiel the power of prophesy with the vision of the dry bones becoming a vast army, he command to Ezekiel to prophesy to Israel as we read in Ezekiel 37, 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’ God told Judah through the prophet Jeremiah that the Babylonian exile would only last 70 years, and he kept that promise allowing them to return to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple after 70 years. More than that, God put his Spirit in his people restoring their hope for life for some in the earthly promised land, but for all in the eternal promised land of heaven.

Hearing the word of the Lord restores our hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. If someone were to say to you that they took their customary daily breath at 8:00 am this morning, you would not believe them. A breath of air typically lasts us a matter of second, maybe minutes, never a full day. The word of God is like air, you need it, and you need it often for the hope to live. Hearing the word of the Lord one time or sporadically leaves you gasping for hope.

By the grace of God and work of the Holy Spirit, you and I are part of the vast army called to life through the word of God. We got to see the Holy Spirit work through the word along with water this morning as a young baby was washed clean of sins, given the gift of faith and brought into the kingdom of God. All of us are part of spiritual Israel, joined together with God’s Old Testament people in Christ.

The word of the Lord gives life. You may feel hopeless raising kids, doing what the world might call mundane tasks like the dishes, laundry, microwaving chicken nuggets, etc. rather than earning a paycheck or working in a field related to your college degree. The truth is that raising children means you get to breathe hope and life into the next generation. You are instrumental in the lives of immortal souls.

You might also feel hopeless at work like you are just going to get a paycheck, that your work is not changing the world for the better, that you are not living up to your potential, etc. when the truth is that your paycheck allows you to take care of yourself and support others if you have a spouse or kids, plus you are contributing to society and you pay taxes to support the government, and even more than that, you get to make acquaintances and even friendships with coworkers with whom you get to breathe hope and life into by sharing the word of the Lord.

As a student, you may feel hopeless finishing assignments, taking tests, wondering how much of your education will come in handy after graduation, etc. but the truth is that you are using the mind God gave you to learn and grow in your understanding of his creation, plus you get to breath hope and life into classmates and friends by sharing Jesus with them.

And if you are retired, you may feel hopeless without a job, kids at home, the energy of your youth, etc. but the truth is that you have time for prayer, to send a note, email, text of encouragement to your kids, grandkids, great-grandkids, past coworkers, friends or someone from your neighborhood allowing you to breath hope and life through the word of the Lord to someone.

You can use a clothespin to hold your nose closed when going under water. With practice, you can hold your breath for longer and longer periods of time, but eventually you need to breathe to live. You can turn away from God and survive a short time, but eventually death comes for all of us. You may feel hopeless, but Jesus saved you from your sins. His perfect record is yours. He overcame death and the devil for you. When your hope is dried up, hear the word of the Lord and the Spirit will give you life. Amen.

Gunnar Ledermann, Pastor Divine Peace Church

Gunnar Ledermann

I’m passionate about Rockwall’s vibrant community and actively engage with local non-profits and community organizations, including the Rockwall Chamber of Commerce, the City of Rockwall, and the Downtown Rockwall Association. My background includes a bachelor’s degree in Classical Languages and a master’s degree in divinity. Currently serving as a pastor at Divine Peace Church in Rockwall, I also enjoy spending time with my wife, Marinda, and our three children.

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