For thousands of years, if someone stopped breathing and their heart stopped beating, there was almost nothing that could be done to save them.
Unless they somehow started breathing again on their own, they would almost certainly die. Then, in the mid-1800s, a British doctor by the name of H.R. Silvester developed a method of resuscitation that involved raising the victim's arms above his or her head and pushing them down onto their chest, sort of like a pump. Apparently, the Silvester method didn't work very well, but at least some people were revived.
But by the 1950s, a new method of resuscitation was developed. This method involved alternating between breathing into the mouth of the victim and pushing down on their chest with both hands. Eventually, it would come to be known as cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR for short. Countless thousands of people who otherwise would have died are alive and well today thanks to CPR.
As amazing as the results of CPR can be, there is a resuscitation that is even more dramatic. This method takes lifeless bodies and breathes life into them. The one who performs this amazing act is none other than God the Holy Spirit.
In the Book of Ezekiel, there is a dramatic illustration of this. In chapter 37, the prophet describes a rather chilling scene: A valley filled with the bones of dead humans. But at the command of God, Ezekiel prophesied to them, that is, he spoke God's word. And instantly, breath entered these lifeless bones, so that they came together, bone to bone, with sinews and flesh covering them. Now that's something not even the most proficient practitioner of CPR could possibly do.
In order to understand what that amazing scene was illustrating, it's helpful to understand that the Hebrew word for breath is the same word for spirit. So when Ezekiel reported that "breath" entered these dry, lifeless bones, he literally was saying, "the Spirit" entered them.
This dramatic feat is has been repeated millions upon millions of times throughout history. In fact, if you count yourself among those who know, love, and trust in the Lord, the Holy Spirit has performed this "CPR" on you. You see, we all come into this world as dead as those sun-bleached piles of bones in Ezekiel's vision. Oh, sure, our hearts were beating and our lungs were functioning. But were dead as far as our relationship to our creator was concerned. St. Paul wrote to the Ephesians Christians, "You were dead in your transgressions and sins." Sin cuts us off from the Holy God. And we sinners can do nothing to revive ourselves.
But through the gospel, the Holy Spirit breathes life into our dry, lifeless bones. Through the gospel, he creates faith. Through our faith, God forgives us our sins. And when that happens, we are alive. Truly alive. Alive to God. Alive to his promises. Alive to serve him and each other. Alive to enjoy the blessings of this life. And alive to enjoy the blessings of the eternal life to come.
Thank God for CPR. Without it, many people alive today would be little more than a tragic statistic. But thank God even more for the "CPR" the Holy Spirit performs. Through his working in our hearts, we are more than just statistics; we are alive.
- Brent Merten is pastor of Mountain Valley Lutheran Church, 802 Brush Creek Terrace, Eagle.