A Breath of Revival

July 09, 2018

God revived the nation of Israel, and He can revive you too.

FROM A SERMON BY Tony Boyce

Ezekiel 37:1-14:

 

The hand of the Lord was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones, And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry. And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord God, thou knowest. Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live: And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the Lord. So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone. And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them. Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord God; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.10  So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army. 11 Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts.12  Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. 13 And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, 14 And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the Lord have spoken it, and performed it, saith the Lord.

 

In January 2010, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, addressed a group of people during a memorial service held at Auschwitz, a concentration camp where thousands of Jews were killed during World War II. In the speech, he referred to Ezekiel 37:11-12, “Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts. Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.” Netanyahu said this prophecy had been fulfilled in the nation of Israel; the Jewish people had risen from destruction, were returned to their land, and could hope again.1

The verses mentioned are part of a longer passage of Scripture found in Ezekiel 37:1-14, which foretells both the physical and spiritual restoration of the Jewish nation. Though the fulfillment will not be complete until after the Lord returns, we have indeed witnessed the restoration of the Jewish people to their land and their preservation as a nation.

A look back at the history of the Jewish people reveals this preservation was only possible through divine intervention. The Jews have survived tremendous hardships through the ages. During World War II, for example, nearly six million people of Jewish descent were killed in the genocide known as the Holocaust. It is estimated that this number was equal to one third of the Jewish population. To put that into perspective, visualize being part of a family of six. If you had gone into the Holocaust together as a family, two of you would not have come out alive.  

After World War II, there was a great outcry over what had been done to the Jewish people, and many wanted them to have their own state. The Zionist movement had already begun with the purpose of establishing a homeland for the Jews, and was drawing many of them to the territory God had promised their forefather, Abraham. One portion of the land, originally called Canaan, eventually became known as Palestine. In 1947, the United Nations General Assembly voted to divide Palestine between the Arabs and Jews living there to provide a homeland for the Jewish people. The British, who had possession of the territory at the time, prepared to withdraw their peacekeeping troops, and many thought the Jewish people were being given over to another holocaust. The Arab nations surrounding the area (Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq) were poised to march into the void left by the British and take the full territory by force. As the British exited, a war did ensue, and though the odds seemed to be greatly against the Jewish people, they prevailed.   

There is no earthly reason why the nation of Israel should continue to exist, but it does, and it has for seventy years. Today, it stands as a testament to the power of God to restore and preserve, and offers proof that He keeps His promises.

The nation of Israel was established on May 14, 1948, and since then has continued to suffer attacks from various aggressors. In 1967 and 1973, they successfully defended their borders from neighboring states. Even recently, there have been reports of rockets fired into Israel. One Israeli commander operating the iron dome that deflects these rockets said there was a time when two interceptors were fired and missed. Then an east wind came and blew the missile into the sea. He said, “I witnessed this miracle with my own eyes. It was not told or reported to me. I saw the hand of God send that missile into the sea.”2 There is no earthly reason why the nation of Israel should continue to exist, but it does, and it has for seventy years. Today, it stands as a testament to the power of God to restore and preserve, and offers proof that He keeps His promises.

Though the prophecy given in Ezekiel was directed to the nation of Israel, it has universal application. If we were to look at it as an allegory, each of us would be able to find ourselves somewhere in the narrative. Several key roles are brought out in the account that we might identify with, including the prophet Ezekiel, the wind, and the dry bones.  

The Prophet

In verse 3, Ezekiel was asked the question, “Son of man, can these bones live?” Now if you or I were in that situation, we might look down at the bones and say there was absolutely no way they could live. I have never been in a position to see dry bones come to life, and you have not either, so that would be a normal response. Ezekiel, however, gave a better answer—the correct answer. He said, “O Lord God, thou knowest.” All too often, we make up our own minds about how a difficulty in our lives will turn out, and we don’t even give God the opportunity to help. We don’t want to be in that place where we say, “This situation is so hopeless, there is nothing God can do about it.”

Realistically, though, we do feel that way sometimes. A young man testified recently that he sought for the experience of sanctification for twelve years before receiving it. He said it took so long, because it just seemed too complicated. I can remember thinking the same thing while seeking for the baptism of the Holy Ghost. If you have been seeking for an experience from God for a long time and have not received it, you also might think it is complicated. You might think it is impossible to receive, but no situation is impossible if we put it in God’s hands and trust Him. That is what the prophet did in this account. He said, “Thou knowest.” Those who stay focused on what God can do and not on the circumstances, identify with the prophet in this account.     

In the next verse, God told Ezekiel, “Prophesy upon these bones.” That seemed a futile command. Have you ever given your testimony to someone and then thought doing so may have been a waste of time—that of all people, this particular individual would never come into the Gospel? A minister in our church once said of a man, “I thought for sure he would never get saved, but God knew better.” That man did get saved, and eventually became a minister also. Sometimes we look at people and think they are so far from the Gospel that they don’t have a chance. However, God can see the heart, and He knows how to deal with people. He is able to bring forth life where there seems to be no hope.  

If you are one who simply looks to God in faith and obeys, then you can relate to the prophet, and like him, you will see the impossible done in your life and in the lives of those around you.

Ezekiel didn’t question the command, but obeyed and prophesied to the dry bones, and something miraculous happened. We read in verses 7-8, “There was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone.  And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above.” The bones went from being dry bones on the ground to being bodies. If you are one who simply looks to God in faith and obeys, then you can relate to the prophet, and like him, you will see the impossible done in your life and in the lives of those around you.

The Wind

Though the bones became bodies, the conclusion of verse 8 informs us that “there was no breath in them.” God again commanded Ezekiel, telling him this time to “prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord God; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live” (verse 9).

At times in the Scriptures, wind is used to symbolize the Spirit of God. One such example is found in Acts 2:2 where “there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind.” If the Lord is working in your life, and if the Spirit flows through you to others, then you might relate to the wind in this account. Those who are filled with the Holy Spirit are empowered to carry the Gospel out into the world, taking it into their schools, their workplaces, and the neighborhoods where they live. Just by living godly lives, they are testifying and bringing the Light of the Gospel to the lost around them.   

The Lord is the commander of the wind. Ezekiel was to say to the wind, “Thus saith the Lord God . . .” when we are filled with God’s Spirit, we are to be witnesses wherever we go. Sometimes, we may think we are not qualified to answer the Lord’s call to carry the Gospel message to others, but He knows what we are capable of with His help. Do not trust in your own strength, but lean on Him, and He will provide the means. If you are filled with the Spirit, you can identify with the wind and witness to those around you.  

The Dry Bones

Jesus once said to the scribes and Pharisees, “Ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness” (Matthew 23:27). Outwardly, those men appeared to be godly because they followed the letter of the Law, but inwardly they did not have the Spirit of God in their hearts and were dead. If you have not received salvation, you are spiritually dead. But there is hope! God is able to bring dead bones to life, and He is able to give you new life. Repent and surrender your heart and life to Jesus.

Maybe you are saved, but your relationship with God is lagging, and you are feeling spiritually dry. Perhaps you have been going through a trial or have been seeking an experience for a while without receiving it. If this is the case, let God breathe new life into your spirit.

How do we know God is able to revive our spirits? We have witnessed the Jewish people returning to their land after 1900 years. Israel has become a nation again. It stands as a testament to the power of God, and offers proof that He keeps His promises. This prophecy in Ezekiel is not something we read and wonder about; it is something we are witnessing. The fulfillment is taking place in our lifetimes. If you lack faith, let the nation of Israel be a reminder that God can breathe new life into dry bones. If you are spiritually dry, then like the dry bones in this account, you are in need of revival. Humble yourself, fully surrender your all to God, and receive new life. He will revive you as He did the nation of Israel.

Where do we fit in?

May we be like the prophet, looking to God in faith and obedience as He does the impossible in our lives and in the lives of others around us. May we seek to be filled with His Spirit that His love will flow through us to others, so they can see that He offers life.

 


1 Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Address by PM Netanyahu at Auschwitz concentration camp,” Press Release, (January 27, 2010), http://www.mfa.gov.il/mfa/pressroom/2010/pages/address_pm_netanyahu_at_auschwitz_27-jan-2010.aspx

2Israel Today, “Iron Dome Operator: God Moved Missile We Couldn't Hit,” (August 3, 2014), http://www.israeltoday.co.il/NewsItem/tabid/178/nid/24811/Default.aspx

About the author

Tony Boyce is a minister of the Apostolic Faith Church in Dallas, Oregon.