6 MINUTE READ
(with permission from the Good Book Company)
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” (Genesis 1:1-2)
“Spirit’’, “breath” and “wind” are all the same word in Hebrew and Greek. So “the wind of God”, breathed out from God, is blowing over the waters.
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. (Genesis 1 v 3)
God spoke and the world came into being. The writer of Psalm 33 says, “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.” (Psalm 33:6). The word of God comes on the breath of God, bringing light and life and beauty. God separates and orders. He separates light from dark. He separates the waters to create dry land, and fills that land with vegetation and animals.
Then God shaped the dust into a human form. But it’s lifeless – like a shop mannequin – until God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life (or the spirit of life), and the man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). “All creatures look to you,” says Psalm 104:27-30, and “when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust. When you send your Spirit, they are created, you renew the face of the ground.” The Spirit animates all creation. Everything has life through the Spirit.
By the time we get to Noah, humanity is deeply wicked. So God sends death in the form of a flood. Noah and his family are left floating in the ark on an endless ocean, surrounded by death. There appears to be no prospect for terrestrial life. But then God “sent a wind over the earth, and the water receded.” (Genesis 8:1). This is the story of creation all over again. The wind or spirit of God blows over the water to separate the waters and land again, to give hope for life.
“The word of God comes on the breath of God, bringing light and life and beauty.”
Fast-forward in the story. God’s people have been enslaved by the Egyptians. But God sent ten plagues and the Egyptians have freed God’s people. But now Pharaoh has changed his mind and sent his army to recapture them. God’s people
are cornered. In front of them is the sea. Behind them is the Egyptian army. “Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided (or separated), and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.” (Exodus 14:21-22). It is the same story again. The wind or the Spirit of God is blowing across the waters, separating the waters to create the ground. The Spirit leads God ‘s people to life and freedom.
The spirit of God sets the prophet Ezekiel in the middle of the valley. As Ezekiel stands there, all around him are dry bones – skulls, vertebra, sterna, ribs, clavicles, scapulae, pelvises, femurs, tibias. The bones represent God’s spiritually dead people.
Ezekiel is told to prophesy: “Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!” (Ezekiel 37:4). The bones come together, flesh forms on them and skin covers them, “But there was no breath in them.” (Ezekiel 37:8). They are like the lifeless clump of clay in Eden. Ezekiel is surrounded by inanimate clay forms like the Terracotta Army of the first Chinese Emperor.
So God tells Ezekiel to “prophesy to the breath”. He is to call on the breath or the Spirit of the God. I imagine Ezekiel feeling a gentle breeze, a gust of wind on his cheeks. Then gradually it increases in strength until a mighty wind is blowing through the valley – the wind of God. God breathes the breath of life, “and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet – a vast army.” (Ezekiel 37:10).
Fast -forward again to the first century AD and enter a tomb. There in the gloom you see the dead body of Jesus. Psalm 104 said, “When you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust.” (Psalm 104:29). There before you is the body of Jesus returning to the dust – a lifeless, rotting corpse.
And then the spirit of the Wind of God blows through the tomb and breathes life into the body of Jesus (Romans 1:4, 8:11). The heart starts to beat again. The lungs draw in breath. The eyes open. The Word that was silenced on the hill at Calvary speaks again.
“At the heart of your conversion was an act of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit breathed life into your dead heart.”
Later that day Jesus appears to his followers, “As the Father has sent me,” he says, “I am sending you.” Then Jesus breathes on them, saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit,” (John 20:21-22). The Son of God breathes the breath or Spirit of God into the fearful, powerless hearts of his followers. It is a picture of what will happen seven weeks later when a violent wind blows through the building where the disciples are gathered. (Acts 2). It’s the Wind, the Breath, the Spirit of God. Tongues of flame appear over their heads and they praise God in the languages of many nations. They are filled with power to proclaim Jesus as God and Saviour.
A few days later, the authorities tell them to stop evangelising, so they gather to pray. “Enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness,” they pray (Acts 4:29). “After they prayed the place where they were meeting were shaken.” The Wind of God again blows through the building, “And they were all filled with the Holy spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.” (Acts 4:31).
Forty years ago I was dead. You wouldn’t know it to look at me – I was a young child, full of life. But spiritually I was dead. I didn’t need a more persuasive argument or a more moving meeting. I was dead. I needed an act of resurrection or rebirth.
Then one evening I was talking to my mother about Jesus. I wanted to follow him. So she called for my father and together we prayed. The room didn’t shake. There was no violent wind. But the Spirit or Breath of God has breathed new life into my heart. I was reborn. I was resurrected.
If you’re a Christian, then you have a similar story to tell. The details may be very different. But at the heart of your conversion was an act of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit breathed life into your dead heart. He opened your blind eyes to the glory of the Christ. He gave you the gift of faith.
Dr Tim Chester is the pastor of Grace Church Boroughbridge, North Yorkshire; a faculty member of Crosslands Training; and the author of many books.
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