Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!'" Ezekial 37:4
Revival. An improvement in the condition or strength of something. An instance of something becoming popular, active, or important again.
We’ve all seen revival of some sort in our lives. Perhaps it has been a cultural revival. The toys you played with in childhood are once again on store shelves, or have been pulled out of closets, for a new generation to discover and enjoy. A style of clothing is back in favor. Decorations and paint colors, once mocked for how “dorky” they were, are considered cool, inspired, and cutting edge for a new season.
Perhaps you have experienced revival in your relationships. Maybe you have been, or currently are, in a marriage on the brink of falling apart only to find rediscover the love you have for your partner and find a way forward. Perhaps you have been able to reconnect with a friend you lost contact with for several years to discover that your bond of friendship has remained and now continues to be strengthened. Or maybe you have been estranged from your family for some reason and for some length of time but have since reconnected and reconciled.
Many of us hope and pray for revival in our personal faith and in our churches. Feeling like the dry bones in the valley, feeling like God is far away, distant, and hard to connect with isn’t a feeling most of us enjoy. We want to feel like our faith is alive and meaningful. We want to see God working in our immediate circumstances. We want to see, as Ezekial did, the miraculous happen and life to come when our faith feels dead or our church is considering if it should close its doors.
If you read the story found in Ezekial 37, you’ll see that two things were required for the bones long absent of life to live again. First, in verse 7, Ezekial speaks words of life to the bones. As he speaks, they come together and flesh appears but they have no breath in them. Yes, an amazing work of revival has begun but, were it to stop there, what would the point truly be? The valley would soon become known not as a place filled with dry, weathered bones but as a placed with lifeless bodies.
Verses 9 and 10 make all the difference. Ezekial is told to prophesy breath over these bodies which started out as no more than dry bones. Once they receive the breath of the Holy Spirit, they came to life and became a vast army ready to fight on behalf of the one who gave them breath.
This image of the breath of God being key in bringing life is what has inspired this week’s song: Great Are You Lord by All Sons and Daughters.
The song started out with a single line: “Its Your Breath, In Our Lungs, So we Pour Out Our Praise.” As they meditated on this single line, they happened to hear a sermon by Loue Giglio where he was talking about how, when we worship God, we give back to him the breath He has given us. From there, the song was born as a response to the breath God has revived us in giving us a new life.
So as you listen to this song, I want to invite you to think of the times where God has brought revival into your life. Where God has breathed new life into your experience.
Personally I can’t help but ponder a period of several years starting in mid-2004. I had been working in church ministry for 4 years and was burnt out to the extreme. I had found myself working in two different churches which had some serious leadership issues and, as is too often the case, the youth ministry program became collateral damage. So I made the hard choice to leave ministry for a time, let me heart heal, focus on some stuff going on in my family, and try to figure out where God was in the midst of the mess.
In the next few months, I got two big phone calls. The first was informing me that at my first church, the pastor who cut my program was being forced out of the church as he was found to be having an affair. The second was that the one of the pastors from my second church, who was transferred shortly before I left, had committed suicide after being informed he was the prime suspect in a murder investigation. Turns out he had some serious secrets of his own he wasn’t willing to face.
God felt very, very far away.
For as sure as I was that I was following God’s leading to do ministry in those locations a few years before, I was just as doubtful God even cared when I walked away from full time ministry.
It took several years, and it came slowly, but revival did come to my heart. I won’t ever say I want to repeat that season in my life but I do know my faith is deeper and stronger for having been through it. No longer am I uncomfortable when faced with the deep, serious questions and doubts about God and faith. I’ve learned about how deep God’s love is for each of his children. My heart and my faith have experienced “an improvement in condition or strength.”
Having come through that period in my life makes this song so much more powerful than it would have been in teen years. What times has God the light in your darkness? Given you hope when there seems to be no hope to be found? What has God restored in your life? For every moment you have experienced the life giving breath of God, pour out your praise to Him.
God didn’t revive the dry bones to be spectators in life but an army with an active mission. To what purpose has God revived the dry times in your life? How are you striving to live out that purpose?
Often times when God feels far away, it helps to speak those things you know to be true. What are 2 or 3 things you know to be true about God no matter what you are feeling or going through at any particular moment?
Often we wish for and pray for revival to happen in our church but don’t stop to consider how we can truly be part of making that happen. What are you willing to see changed in how your church worships to make way for God to do something new? How are you willing to be part of a new work of God in your congregation?