The valley of dry bones
Ezekiel 37 is famous for a very graphic vision that the prophet received concerning the broken state of Israel and God’s promise of national resurrection. In the Vision, God took the prophet in the spirit to a valley of very dry bones. God asked Ezekiel if it was possible for those bones to live again, to which Ezekiel replied “O Lord God, you know”, to say: “Lord you can do whatever you want; It’s all down to you”. What follows is a demonstration of God’s power, a resurrection that however took place in 2 stages. First God commanded Ezekiel to prophesy over the bones and declare resurrection. At God’s word, the bones began to rattle and join together. Then muscles, sinews and skin began to grow on them. The bodies were completely restored but as Ezekiel pointed out, “there was no breath in them”. Quite interestingly, the Hebrew word for breath “ruach” just as the Greek word “pneuma” (from which we get the English word “pneumatic”), mean both spirit, air and breath and it refers to the breath of God, the Spirit of God that gives life to man. The bodies were restored but there was no life, no Spirit in them. God then commanded Ezekiel to prophesy God’s breath over this mass of perfectly formed but lifeless bodies and we read that “The breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army”. This speaks of Israel’s resurrection after their Babylonian exile, how God would resurrect his people in 2 stages: first at a national level (as it has already happened) and then at a spiritual level (something that is prophesied to happen at Christ’s return).
Despite being OT prophecy related to OT history, this passage presents us with a principle of vital importance for the life and success of God’s kingdom today, namely the necessity of spiritual anointing for spiritual success. We may be many, we may be focussed and dressed up for battle, but without God’s breath, without his Spirit, without his anointing to fill us with life and power, we are absolutely useless in God’s hands, as good as dead. This principle is reflected in Jesus’ command to his disciples shortly before his ascension – “While staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, ‘you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now… you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.”
Jesus’ words weren’t a suggestion but a command. For he knew that without said anointing his Church would be as useful to his purposes as a corpse. Just as Christ needed that anointing how much more do we! Yet, how many of us are intentionally making efforts to wait for that anointing and power? How easy it is for us as a Church to focus on getting our earthly resources ready without giving equal attention to our spirituality? As a Church, we are beginning to take steps in the new direction God is pointing us to, but it is of paramount importance that we don’t just get our “bodies” ready but that we seek a fresh anointing, a dispensation of God’s Spirit and power necessary for the successful completion of God’s task for us in this generation. It is only when God’s Spirit breathed in that lifeless pile of bodies that they stood up as a mighty army, and so it will be with us.
Let us make time for prayer and for waiting in God’s presence. Not just individually but corporately as well. Let us gather together to seek a renewed anointing. Whether it be at prayer meetings or our Refresh mid-week nights, let us get together and cry out for a fresh dispensation of God’s ruach.