The Breath of Life

Psalm 33:6 “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.”

 

Are you breathing?

Of course you are; if not, you wouldn’t be conscious for long or even alive, much less reading this article. But how often do you think about the slow, regular breaths that keep you alive every minute of every day? To become more aware, let’s try something: Take a deep breath and hold it.

 

 

keep holding…

 

 

keep holding…

 

 

Are you starting to feel like something’s missing?

Your chest is probably feeling heavy. You might feel a sense of panic twirling in your stomach, and pretty soon your brain will be screaming for air. If you don’t relent, dark edges may start to creep into the edges of your vision. Before you pass out, breathe!

It’s amazing how we can be reduced to an oxygen-starved, distracted, dying creature in minutes without breath. In the same way, without the sustaining “breath” of God, we would be dead—physically and spiritually.

Breath is the life-giving gift of God. In Genesis 2:7 we read “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” God created every mountain, river, bird, and blade of grass by speaking, but for mankind, He used breath. Throughout the Bible, the fact that something breathes is the characteristic used to indicate life, and even today, respiratory rate is one of the four vital signs checked by any medical professional to determine whether someone is alive.

The average adult breathes 12-16 times per minute. That’s at least 17,000 breaths a day. With each breath, a large muscle in your abdomen, your diaphragm, contracts, letting air rush through your trachea and into your lungs where it pools up in millions of sacs, designed by God to maximize the surface area over which blood can flow. Blood cells passing over the lungs can then drop off carbon dioxide, pick up oxygen, and carry this life-giving element to cells throughout the body. This happens over and over and over again as long as you are alive. Breathing is incredible!

Not only does God orchestrate the laws of physics and the complex processes of our bodies to give us life through breath, he sustains us spiritually every day through the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. Scripture makes a close connection between the Holy Spirit and breath. In Job 27:3-4, Job confesses, “All the while my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils; my lips shall not speak wickedness, nor my tongue utter deceit.” He later says in Job 33:4: “The spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.”

In the New Testament, when Christ appears to his disciples after the resurrection, we read, “Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:”

God breathed into man’s nostrils to give him life. In the same way, the Holy Spirit has breathed into us new spiritual life through the work of regeneration. And just as we must breathe regularly to survive, we must constantly rely on the Holy Spirit to turn from our old man of sin towards new obedience to God.

It is a blessing that we don’t have to consciously think about breathing every couple of seconds of every day. Can you imagine if we did? We couldn’t focus on anything without fear of forgetting to breath. We couldn’t sleep!

Yet it is worth considering that every breath we take is a reminder of God’s all-powerful creation, His sustaining grace, and His spirit by which we have the power to turn from sin and love Him.

Breathing is incredible. The fact that God breathes life into us dead sinners is beyond words.

Elizabeth Ensink

Walking through the Stages of Life: Babies (1)

In the next few weeks, we will be studying the various stages of one’s life.  The Bible has much to say about each age – encouragement, warnings, pictures, and exhortations.  Today, we begin with the earliest stage – babies.

Father and mother find out they are expecting a baby, and the whole process begins.  For nine months, the Creator carefully forms the baby with His own hand, shaping and forming little arms, hands, legs, and feet.  Fearfully and wonderfully made, since the moment of conception!  So much for the horrid, disgusting sin of abortion.  Instead of killing an “unwanted thing” in the womb, our response at the news of pregnancy is, “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made”!

Finally, after nine joyful, but also wearying months, the nervous parents pack what they need and travel to the hospital.  The labor pains progressively become worse.  The mother-to-be clasps the rail of her bed, sweating, pain stitched across her face, exhausted, but determined to deliver the baby.

Such pain does a woman endure during labor, that the Bible often uses the pain of childbirth in other contexts.  The apostle Paul described his labors among the Thessalonians as a woman in travail (I Thess. 2:9).  He labored among the church day and night, preaching the gospel of God.  In John 16, we read that Jesus would leave His disciples for a time – they would weep and lament, as a woman in travail.  But then, when they would see Jesus again, their hearts would rejoice, just as a woman rejoices at the birth of her child.

Then the baby is delivered.  New life!  A miracle!  A living, breathing, thrashing, crying baby has come into the world.  Intricately woven and fashioned for nine months, finally a beautiful human life emerges.

Birth is a breath-taking picture of the reality of regeneration (John 3).  Every elect child of God is born again – raised from the deadness of sin, and given new life.  If you ever question whether regeneration is God’s work alone, or man’s work plus God’s work, look upon a baby – helpless and needy; what does a baby have to do with its own conception and survival?  Neither do we raise ourselves from the dead.  This is God’s work – a miracle!  Think upon these things the next time you see a baptism, or hold a baby in your arms.

Now born, the baby craves the nourishing milk of his/her mother.  Without this milk, the baby cries and fusses.  But with regular feedings, the small child grows, develops, and builds up its defenses against sickness and disease.  When the hungering stomach is filled again with food, the baby can sleep contentedly and peacefully.

God’s Word, picking up on this familiar activity of breastfeeding, commands us to desire the sincere milk of the word, that we might grow by it (I Peter 2:2).  Are we hungering and thirsting after the Word of God as a newborn babe?

May God use pregnancy and childbirth to stamp upon our hearts and minds the spiritual realities to which they point.

RB