In the days of the great sailing ships, wind opened up the possibility of trade around the globe. Windmills pump water and generate electricity. At its wildest, at hurricane or tornado force, wind flips cars and demolishes buildings. Wind at tamer speeds keeps kites aloft on a brisk March day.
Breath, though less forceful than wind, is more of a life-and-death matter. A person can live for weeks without food, days without water, but only minutes without breath.
The same Hebrew word can be translated wind, breath or spirit. All three are powerful but invisible. No one can see them, but everyone can see their effects.
Group Discussion. When has wind felt especially good to you?
Personal Reflection. Think of someone you would describe as "a breath of fresh air." Why would you describe the person in that way?
Ezekiel was God's prophet to the exiled Jewish community in Babylon in the 6th century B.C. The Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar had broken down the walls of Jerusalem, burned the temple and deported thousands of Jews as captives. While Ezekiel pronounced God's judgment on Israel, he also proclaimed messages of hope. Read Ezekiel 37:1-14.
- At what points does breath play an important role in this passage?
- How does Ezekiel wind up in this unidentified valley (v. 1)?
- Imagine that, along with Ezekiel, you find yourself in the valley of dry bones (vv. 1-2). How are you affected by what you see?
- What are God's intentions in the valley of dry bones (vv. 3-6)?
- You are still a spectator in the valley when Ezekiel obeys God's command to prophesy to the bones. What do you see, hear and feel (vv. 7-8)?
- God's work in the valley of dry bones was still incomplete. How does God, through Ezekiel, finish restoring the multitude to life (vv. 8-10)?
- How does God explain the significance of what has just happened (vv. 11-14)?
- What difference would you expect the Spirit of God to make in the renewal of exiled Israel (v. 14)?
- While Ezekiel's vision was for the Jews exiled to Babylon, many people have found hope in his vision of a dead multitude brought to life. Identify your own "valley of dry bones," an area or areas of your life where you have echoed Israel's hopelessness in verse 11.
- As you consider that area (or areas), what invitation from God do you find in this passage?
- How might you be trying to enliven yourself through your own efforts or schemes?
- How will you remind yourself this week to let go of your own efforts and let the Spirit renew you?
Ask the Holy Spirit to breathe life into places where you feel spiritually weak or even lifeless. Pray that the Spirit will breathe life into others for whom you are concerned.
Now or Later
- Draw your own personal "valley of dry bones." Label individual bones with situations or areas of life in which you feel hopeless. Draw a second picture in which the Holy Spirit reconnects the bones and gives them life. Use the pictures to inspire your continued prayers about those situations.
- Study John 3:1-15, in which Jesus talks with Nicodemus about being born of the Spirit.
Suggested hymns to read or sing
- Breathe on Me, Breath of God
- O Breath of Life, Come Sweeping Through Us