What a beautiful sunny morning. It may be that summer is finally sneaking into this corner of the world, like a breath of fresh air. And inside the sanctuary we were greeted warmly as well, Pastor Brad reminding us of our current theme: the Holy Spirit, who strengthens and gifts us to do God's work.
Chief among the announcements was that this week is VBS. A time of worship was followed by today's Scripture readings.
I Sam. 15:34 to 16:13
After a time of prayer the congregation sang Be Thou My Vision and then Brad stepped to the pulpit.
Breath of Life
Brad began the message by asking us to indulge him a moment. Sit up straight and take a deep breath, then just let it out. "It's funny how something that simple can help you relax and make you feel more alive."
Whereas breathing is something we all do without giving much thought to it, there are actually some people who have studied it extensively and are experts in breathing. Singers, divers, and many athletes devote a lot of time to learning how to breathe better.
Breathe out, breathe in. Exhale the bad things, take in the good and the necessary.
It's interesting, Brad noted, that in both Hebrew and in Greek, the word for breath that is used in each language is also the same word for spirit. In Hebrew the word is "ruha" and the first time it appears in the Bible is in Genesis 2:7.
7 the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
Why did God create us this way? God breathed in us the breath of life and man became a living soul. Why didn't God just snap his fingers or say a word. No, God breathed into the man. God's ruha.
In the Old Testament, where the spirit is present there is life. For example, in Psalm 104 the writer said, When you hide your face, they are terrified; when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust.
An interesting turn of phrase. When you take away their breath they die. That is what sin does to people. It makes them forget how to breathe.
The manner in which the Spirit worked in peoples' lives in the old Testament was different from today. The Spirit of God would come upon people and work in exceptional ways through them for specific purposes. David was granted empowered and also given wisdom. In the same manner Gideon likewise led Israel like a mighty warrior when the Spirit rested on him. When the Spirit came upon Samson in the book of Judges, he had extraordinary strength. It is written that on one occasion he struck down a thousand men. King Saul, when he began ruling there are evidences he felt dependent on God to rule.
Pastor Brad cited another interesting passage, this one in Exodus 31:1-5. It was interesting because it shows how the Spirit not only gave supernatural strength, God's Spirit gifted men to be craftsmen.
1 Then the LORD said to Moses, 2 "See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 3 and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts- 4 to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, 5 to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship.
Gifted by God's spirit to build a new tent of meeting. Craftsmen, breathed on by God... empowered to design, and build by His Spirit.
Brad took this opportunity to go sideways and remind us of our own building project, that we should seek God's spiritual empowerment, should pray for his wisdom to produce a "tent of meeting" that bears witness to something bigger than ourselves. This may be our moment... a way to remind people in out community of God's presence here.
God was not AWOL in the Old Testament. He just manifest Himself differently. In the Wilderness God led Israel in the form of a pillar of fire. God ministered through the priesthood. There were a few people who prophesied, too, but Moses expressed a bigger vision when he said, "I wish all the Lord's people were prophets." I wish everyone had the Spirit he was saying. Moses knew God's heart.
And in Joel 2:28 we see this theme projected to a future day as the Lord said through Joel, "And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions." This became the great dream of God's people... and ultimately, this is what happened. Unlike the Old Testament where there was a single pillar of fire, on the Day of Pentecost when the Spirit rushed in that fire separated, split apart and rested on every individual.
There are other stories of the power of God's breath. Brad then cited the passage where Ezekiel was shown the valley of dry bones. God asked Ezekiel, "Son of man, can these bones live?"
God's breath has power. If God can make life from a lump of clay, and make dead bones live, He can do it for you.
Breathing matters. This is the whole reason Jesus came, to usher in the era of the Spirit. And to breathe on us God's air. John the Baptist said, "I baptize with water, He will baptize you with the Spirit."
Breathe... We must breathe out the bad stuff, rid ourselves of judgementalism, guilt, anxiety, and breathe in life. Breathe in the Holy Spirit. Carbon dioxide isn't the only toxic substance inside of us. Self-preoccupation, fear, guilt over unconfessed sin... breathe it out. Breathe in the breath of life. Breathe in His grace, mercy and healing.
Brad closed by leading us to consider Ephesians 6:18 where Paul wrote, "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests."The Spirit of God is with us, in us, when we pray. On all occasions, stop and breathe.