In Ezekiel 37:1, all he can see is a valley full of dry bones. It’s desolate, hopeless, and shocking. But just nine verses later, these bones are made to be an “exceedingly great army” (verse 10). What made the difference? The breath of God (verse 9).
God compares the dry bones to his people, at that time the “whole house of Israel”, who are dried up, without hope, and cut off. He tells Ezekiel to prophesy to them that he will (1) raise them to life (verses 12-13) and (2) put his Spirit within them (verse 14).
Fast forward to John 7:37-39 and we’re about to see this prophecy come true. Jesus, the one who has come to raise the dead to life, gives an invitation to the dry bones standing in front of him:
“if anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes is me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
The dry bones are still dry bones at this point but the water is coming. The dead are still dead but new life is coming.
Jesus brings that new life when he is crucified and then raised to life. Then in John 20:22 “he breathed on (his disciples) and said to them, “receive the Holy Spirit…” What a powerful picture. The very breath of God, present at creation (Genesis 1:2), given to particular people at particular times in the Old Testament, and speaking through the prophets, now breathed out on dry bones by God himself.
The Holy Spirit is who God uses to make what were once useless and cut off dry bones into an “exceedingly great army” for his glory (Ezekiel 37:10). The Holy Spirit gives that army its life (John 6:63) and power (Acts 1:8). The Holy Spirit leads the army into truth (John 16:12-15) and is its helper (John 14:16-17, 14:26, 15:26). He gives gifts (1 Corinthians 12:4) and dwells in us (Ephesians 2:22). I could go on.
In most of our congregations, or least the ones that I’ve observed (that’s a relatively small percentage, but go with me here…) my hunch is that our people might feel more like dry bones. And based on my conversations and relationships with other worship leaders over the years, what we see when we look out over our congregations during corporate worship might more closely resemble Ezekiel 37:1 than they do Ezekiel 37:10.
It’s not that they’re dead or hopeless (since Jesus has given us life!) but they sure do act like it. I think what’s missing is (1) an emphasis on, (2) an awareness of, (3) a desperation for, and (4) a boldness in the Holy Spirit. I’ve been convicted of this recently in my own life and in my worship leading – and I’ve had a growing sense that this is something that could use some highlighting in the worship leader world.
So part one was a lot of background to say that the Holy Spirit is the very breath of God in our very midst, present in creation, once reserved, and now poured out on all flesh. My point today is that the Holy Spirit turns dry bones into a great army and we can’t afford to ignore the Holy Spirit if we hope to look like one. My encouragement to myself and to other worship leaders is to reencounter the Holy Spirit if you’ve forgotten about him and the rest of the posts from here on out will be some practical ways we can do that.
Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down – that the mountains might quake at your presence! (Isaiah 64:1)