generous spirit, a breath

By Charlie Osewalt | 5 June 2014

a blog for Pentecost, by Charlie Osewalt at Stewardship

The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry.  He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breathenter you, and you will come to life…I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’” Ezekiel 37, v 1-6

 

I will put my Spirit in you and you will live

 

In a desert environment all look for a breath, a wisp of air. As I walked slowly this spring up the ancient Israeli mountain fortress of Masada, I looked, waited and gasped for breaths of air. Masada is a steep plateau, an isolated rock cliff at the western end of the Judean Desert Valley overlooking the Dead Sea. I had just begun the 450 very steep metre climb to the top. The views were astonishing. So was the heat: 31°C.

 

Approaching the summit, I no longer looked for views, what I needed was water and shade. I stopped at a small fountain but I knew that after a pause I needed to keep moving.  It would have been too easy to sit and be satisfied without reaching the top. I needed to feel the heat, look for a breeze and understand Masada’s story.

 

Today, after Jerusalem, Masada is the second most visited site in Israel. In 66 AD the Jewish people overcame the Romans at this desert fortress and held it. In the spring of 74 AD there was a final Roman siege and when all was lost, the entire garrison committed suicide rather than surrender. Josephus tells the story of these warriors in his history ‘The Jewish War’.

 

As I stood on the western rim I overheard a tour guide describe a recent archaeological find: a Hebrew scripture found hidden, buried in the walls of the fortress’ synagogue dating back to the siege time. It was from Ezekiel 37, the 'these dry bones will live again' passage.

 

In the last moments before their collective death, in this Judean desert, the people buried this scripture in their holiest place. In doing so they were reaching for, requesting a breath, a breeze, the wind of the Spirit. They were requesting and expressing their belief in the Spirit of God, a generosity which fills and gives hearts life. Resurrection, new Spirit formed life.

 

In Jerusalem after Jesus’ Resurrection, the disciples were filled with concerns and questions; full of fear and feeling the embrace of death. Their bones were dry. But Jesus had given them a promise, a promise of spirit-filled life in John 16 before his death. A promise that dead bones will live again. And indeed it comes: Acts 2 describes the fulfilment of this promise, what we celebrate today as Pentecost,  ‘Suddenly a sound like a blowing of a violent wind came from heaven…they saw what seemed to be tongues of fire…All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.’

 

Pentecost celebrates the generous Spirit coming in us and for us. With Him, we live. Our dry bones live. Praise Him.

 

image by Kym Rohman, used under creative commons licence

Posted by Charlie Osewalt

Charles Osewalt is a husband, father of four children and former elder at Redeemer Church NYC. He has worked in schools for the last twenty years as principal in the Morrisanna section of the Bronx. He formerly worked as a content and curriculum specialist for Stewardship. He tweets at @charlesosewalt

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