While listening to a christian minister via YouTube who has now passed away, I was introduced to something new. This christian minister spoke about the importance of proclamation or proclaiming. It isn’t required, but he made a practice of proclaiming passages of Scripture which he felt God wanted him to proclaim as part of his messages. Before listening to his explanation about proclaiming the Word of God, I had never thought about it.
When I heard him explain this idea, I did not take it as a new concept or idea to put in practice as a some kind of regular practice. Rather, I filed it away in my mind and heart as something that had a spiritual reality where a person could be prompted by the Holy Spirit to proclaim something from the Word of God as relevant, true and applicable to a certain time or situation.
Up to the point in my life that I heard this message, I could not think of a time where I had ever proclaimed something from the Word of God in a congregational setting. Surely, I had read verses aloud in church services, but nothing that seemed to matched what I heard from this christian minister’s message. I did not have any particular desire to experience this, but based on his message I knew there was a reality to making a proclamation from the Word of God that was for God’s people on a small or even a large scale.
Rising Early One Sunday Morning
In the Spring of 2014, woke early one Sunday morning. This is not unusual for me, but when I am awake long before others arise in my family I sometimes go out for a drive. We live near a mountain range, so I can reach one of a few lookout points where I am elevated above a valley below and I can look east and watch the night sky progressively transition to day. I have seen views of this that would be very difficult to capture in a photograph. In the east, the sun is rising but overhead and behind me in the west the stars are still shining. It is quite stunning. On this particular Sunday, I decided to go to one of these lookouts and watch the sun rise. I also have time to pray and fellowship with God while driving and watching this beautiful scene unfold.
This lookout is well known, so it is not unusual to be joined by a few others to watch the majesty of a sunrise in such a beautiful setting. Ninety-nine out of one hundred times, I don’t interact with others. We each park our cars in a line and watch from inside our cars. If the weather is nice, some will get out and stand watching this scene unfold.
Breathing Research Scientist in Recovery
This particular Sunday morning, there was only one other person there. He was standing in front of his car watching the sunrise. Rather than my usual introverted habit of steering clear of others, I decided to walk over and have a brief conversation.
As we spoke, this gentleman began to tell me that he lived in the valley below just a thousand feet of elevation below where we were standing. He then told me that he had not been able to come up to this lookout for multiple years. He had become ill and could not easily change his elevation to higher heights without having breathing (respiratory) issues. This was long before COVID, so his condition was something else. He did not share the details of his condition, but rather just expressed his satisfaction at finally being able to come and watch the sunrise from higher on the mountainside.
He continued on to tell me that his condition was a bit ironic because his profession was in the realm of studying breathing issues. He worked with a nearby university and continued on to tell me that his profession was a pretty small (niche) area of respiratory research.
I listened to him and responded in a nice exchange between two fellow watchers of the daily procession of the sun through its course up into the sky. We didn’t exchange names and I have never seen him again. I got back into my car and drove away thinking about the relatively unusual encounter.
This may seem superfluous to share, but it isn’t. What happens next leads to an experience in our church service a few hours later that will never leave me.
My Children Are Having Trouble Breathing Too
I continued driving on a winding road away from the lookout point and the encounter with this researcher of breathing who had been sick with some kind of breathing problem that did not allow him to change his elevation upwards even a thousand feet. As I drove, my thoughts kept returning to the unusual nature of the encounter. When I ponder like this, many times I will direct my thoughts towards God and I will talk to him in my heart with my thoughts, my questions and even my curiosities.
This is what I started doing as I drove. I began interacting with God. Almost immediately, a memory came to my mind. This memory comes from a story my mother told me about my birth and the few days following my birth. When I was born, I was taken immediately from my mother and placed into an incubator. I wasn’t breathing properly. My lungs were not fully working yet. My parents were very upset by this and years later my mother shared her testimony with me about the first 3-4 days of my life.
My mother was in constant prayer asking God to help me to be okay. A day passed. No change. She continued praying. Another day passed. No change. I wasn’t dying, but I wasn’t functioning normally and at that time, the best medical approach was to put me in an incubator and wait.
I do not remember the exact timing that my mother shared with me, but sometime during the second day or night of waiting my mother had a very memorable encounter with God. She recounts that as she prayed asking God to help me that God spoke to her heart saying, “my children are having trouble breathing too”. She had a very personal interaction with God at that point which I will not detail, but by the end she believed that God had spoken to her and showed her that I would be fine in the morning. The next morning, I was fine and my life continued from there.
I believe the Holy Spirit brought this memory back to my mind and connected it to the experience meeting this gentleman at this lookout early on a Sunday morning. I continued in fellowship with God as I drove considering my experience and the memory that came back to my mind.
It’s Sunday, Onward to Church Service
I returned home on this Sunday morning and finished preparing to go to our church service. We entered and sat down. Just after I sat down, a passage from Ezekiel came to my mind. I opened my Bible to Ezekiel 37:1-14. The worship time was about to start and I had a strong prompting from the Holy Spirit that I should share this passage and read it aloud to the congregation. As mentioned in some previous posts, it was acceptable for a member of this congregation to share some verses or a testimony at various points in the service. It was relatively common for this to happen during a service. It did not happen all of the time, but it was not uncommon.
Being an introvert, I did not want to stand up and share anything at the beginning of the service. I preferred to wait and see if others shared something and then fit in among others. I had always waited on previous occasions to avoid being the first person to share something on any given Sunday.
On this Sunday, I had a very strong sense and prompting of the Holy Spirit that I should not wait. I should share right away. Anytime I have a sense and/or prompting from the Holy Spirit to share something, I am clear that I am not required to do so. It is something done of a free will. So, I stood and began to read Ezekiel 37:1-14.
I believe I read one or maybe two verses and then I stopped and spontaneously said to the congregation, “I am not reading these verses, I am prophesying them”. In that moment, I entered the experience of “proclaiming” something from the Word of God that had a reality and truth to it that I could sense in the spirit. I knew that what I was saying was beyond just words on a page. To this day, I do not know the exact meaning or scope of what I prophesied from the Word of God. I know the topic of the verses, but their truth and application from that morning is not fully clear to me. I have some idea, but I have learned not to be presumptuous. Here is the passage.
1 The hand of Yahweh was upon me, and he brought me by the Spirit of Yahweh, and he let me rest in the midst of the valley, and it was full of bones. 2 And he led me all around over them, and look, very many on the surface of the valley, and look, very dry. 3 And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I said, “Lord Yahweh, you know.” 4 And he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and you must say to them, to the dry bones, ‘Hear the word of Yahweh! 5 Thus says the Lord Yahweh to these bones: “Look! I am bringing into you breath, and you will live! 6 And I will lay on you sinews, and I will let flesh come upon you, and I will cover you over with skin, and I will put breath into you, and you will live, and you will know that I am Yahweh.” ’ ” 7 And I prophesied just as I had been commanded, and there was a sound at my prophesying, and look! A rattling, and they came together—the bones! Bone to its bone! 8 And I looked, and indeed, sinews were on them, and flesh went up, and skin covered over them upward, but breath was not in them. 9 And he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and you must say to the breath, ‘Thus says the Lord Yahweh from the four winds, “Come, O spirit and breath, on these dead ones, so that they may live!” ’ ” 10 And I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they became alive, and they stood on their feet, a very, very large group. 11 And he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are all of the house of Israel; look! they are saying, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is destroyed; we are cut off as far as we are concerned.’ 12 Therefore prophesy, and you must say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord Yahweh: “Look! I am opening your graves, and I will bring you up from your graves, my people, and I will bring you to the land of Israel! 13 And you will know that I am Yahweh when I open your graves when I bring you up from your graves, my people! 14 And I will put my breath into you so that you may live, and I will cause you to rest on your soil, and you will know that I, Yahweh, I have spoken, and I will act!” ’ declares Yahweh.”Ezekiel 37:1–14 (LEB)
Part of the substance of these verses is about breathing which correlated to my experience on the side of the mountain a few hours before. I did not think of these verses while I was on the side of the mountain. The passage came to my mind at the beginning of service and I did not pre-read it before I read it. I knew the passage was about the “valley of dry bones” coming to life again, but I had not focused on the breathing aspects.
Spiritual Collaborator and Witness
After I concluded reading this passage, I sat down. One of the singers for the praise & worship team then shared the following. She said that she was amazed that I had just shared this specific passage and then gave a testimony to explain why. She recounted that starting the previous afternoon, that she and her husband were led to enter into prayer over the exact passage I had just read. They believed that God was bringing this passage in front of them and they were led to pray intently about the passage. After they concluded their time of prayer on Saturday afternoon, this sister in Christ shared with us that the passage stayed in her mind and heart. It was weighing on her with a sense of purpose from the Lord (some call this a “burden from the Lord”). She said that she did not sleep extremely well overnight and this passage stayed present within her and she continued to keep it in prayer. As her Saturday progressed into Sunday she was wondering and praying about whether she was supposed to share this passage on Sunday morning in our service. She was not clear to do share it, so she continued to hold it in prayer all the way until our service started.
She then told everyone that the moment I stood and read the passage the burden over this passage was lifted and she realized that God had called her into prayer because God wanted the passage shared, but she was not the one to do it. She said that she had a strong sense of agreement (“amen”) when I shared the passage. She believed that God had been guiding her to pray that this passage would be brought forth and shared (i.e. “proclaimed”) in our service.
This sister and her husband functioned as collaborators and a witness of what God was prompting me by the Holy Spirit to proclaim in our congregation.
I am choosing not to interpret the application of what I proclaimed through Ezekiel 37:1-14. I know the general idea of what the passage means and what various bible readers and scholars think about it. In general, I agree with the consensus view of this passage. I had some thoughts about the scope (for our congregation, for our area, for the whole body of Christ), but I was not given a clear interpretation that I feel I should share here. I will leave it to the reader to decide for yourself.
For me, it was a profound and unforgettable moment because I feel I was led by the Holy Spirit in preparation for sharing this passage. While I shared this passage, I experienced a kind of sight into the spiritual realm. It was a personal experience which I can best relate by part of a passage in Hebrews. Hebrews 12:1 says we have a “great cloud of witnesses surrounding” us. I had some kind of spiritual sight to “see” (not with physical eyes) what would best be described as a “great cloud of witnesses” listening to this passage be shared.
I know this description was my subjective experience. It left indelible mark on me. When I then heard that God had completely independently brought this same passage to someone else in our congregation and had given them an “assignment” to pray for this passage it left an even stronger indelible mark.