Beginning with the Breath

My Dear Shepherds,

In the beginning God created ex nihilo—from nothing. Ezekiel, in his vision of bones and breath, saw God re-create ex mortuis—from the dead; from the condemned dead, to be specific. That is the greater miracle! Ezekiel reported,

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; … So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army. … 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. (Ezek. 37:9-10,12)

God did indeed resuscitate Israel, restoring them to their homeland where they rebuilt their city and their identity as God’s holy people. But “a vast army” they weren’t. Not yet.

That story began when the crucified, entombed body of Jesus suddenly inhaled immortality, the first breath of the second Adam. Fifty days later, when the little platoon of pray-ers “were all together in one place,” God’s “breath entered them,” sweeping in with the sound of a violent wind and with “what seemed to be tongues of fire coming to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit ….”

In the next verses of Ezekiel 37, God continued to reveal a stunning synopsis of the epic future of his people, which would be millennia in the making. So many of our sweetest hopes are packed tightly into the ancient promises of Ezekiel 37:15-28. The faithful among the exiles in Babylon as well as faithful sojourners now wait from one border of paradise or the other for the prophecy’s complete fulfillment.

Our pastoral duty is to embed and foster this spacious living hope in God’s people. Echoing Ezekiel, we tell them how God will make his divided and dead people “one nation in the land.” We also tell our flock how we will be included in “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.”

God promised the refugees in Babylon, “My servant David will be king over them, and they will have one shepherd.” We can tell our people so much more of Christ Jesus, of his reign as King of kings, and of his lordship within us. We know and love him as our good shepherd who “lays down his life for his sheep.”

We unpack Ezekiel’s prophecy of God’s everlasting covenant of peace and his blood-bought promise, “I will save them from all their sinful backsliding and I will cleanse them. … They will follow my laws and be careful to keep my decrees.”

Through Ezekiel God promised, “I will put my sanctuary among them forever.” We explain how we “are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit,” and how one day we will descend from heaven as Christ’s Bride. With Ezekiel, we echo one of God’s own favorite promises, “I will be their God and they will be my people.”

And that “vast army”? John saw

“… a rider called faithful and true … and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean.” (Rev. 19:14)

The epic ending often seems so far off, our place so small and our pace so plodding. We resonate with Sam’s question of Gandalf, “Is everything sad going to come untrue?” Our prophetic calling is to assure the saints, “Yes, beloved, indeed it will!”

Be ye glad!

Like this article?

Leave a comment