Pete Greig: Breath in a time of death

Your unfailing love is better than life itself;
how I praise you!
I will praise you as long as I live,
lifting up my hands to you in prayer.
You satisfy me more than the richest feast.
I will praise you with songs of joy.
I lie awake thinking of you,
meditating on you through the night.
Because you are my helper,
I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.
I cling to you;
your strong right hand holds me securely.

Psalm 63:3-8

Today we are going to reflect on Ezekiel in the valley of dry bones, standing in a place of death and devastation, confronting a situation of total despair with nothing but the Word of the Lord.

[The Lord] 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.
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.” 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. Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 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.”

Ezekiel 37:9-14

We know by now that the Coronavirus spreads extensively through coughing, sneezing and breathing, and that it attacks the lungs. We are warned to maintain a two meter distance from one another, and to avoid breathing in close proximity for any length of time.

Breath is a powerful metaphor in the Bible for life and the Holy Spirit. In Genesis 2:7 God makes Adam by breathing into his nostrils. In John 20:22 Jesus breathes upon his disciples and says ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’. And here in this story Ezekiel prophesies breath into countless corpses turning the Valley of Dry Bones into the Valley of Resurrection.

Ask
Acutely aware as I am that the Enemy wants to attack my breath, I take a few deep defiant breaths now in God’s presence, consciously exhaling fear, quietly receiving his Spirit afresh into my body, rejoicing that the breath of God brings hope not harm, health not sickness and life to the full.

Pause and pray

I pray for those in my local hospital right now using ventilators, for those desperately needing ventilators and for those companies rushing to manufacture more ventilators in response to the sudden urgent demand.

Lord, we cry out to you in the words of Ezekiel ‘put your Spirit in these people that they might live.’

Pause and pray

Yield
As I return to the passage, I open my ears to hear Your Word, and my heart to yield to Your will once again.

[The Lord] 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.
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.” 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. Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 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.”

Ezekiel 37:9-14

The People of God in the world today are certainly saying ‘Our hope is gone and we are cut off’, but as in the Days of Ezekiel, the Breath of God is coming again in our time to counter the Enemy’s devastation and to raise us up once again as ‘a vast army’. Holy Spirit I invite you to come now from the four winds to revive and resurrect us in this place of such despair. I name particular churches other than my own in my village, town or city.

Pause and pray

Prayer of Yielding
At this time of so much grieving and dying I receive God’s promise through Ezekiel again into my own life, allowing faith to rise within me for all that is to come:

Hear the Word of the Lord: ‘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’ (Ez 37:14)

Closing Prayer
Father, help me to live this day to the full,
being true to You, in every way.
Jesus, help me to give myself away to others,
being kind to everyone I meet.
Spirit, help me to love the lost,
proclaiming Christ in all I do and say.
Amen.

Text taken from 24-7 Prayer’s Lectio 365 app.

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