“The LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (Gen. 2:7). The first breath man took came straight from the mouth of God. As long as we have life, it is as if, as Job said, the breath of God passes through us (Job 27:3). When God chooses to take away the breath, we die (Ps. 104:29). God has used His breath to create (Ps. 33:6), save His people from an army (Ex. 15:10), judge the wicked (Is. 11:4), and impart His own Spirit to His disciples (Jn. 20:22).*
Even God’s name can remind one of a breath. We don’t know the original pronunciation of God’s name, YHWH, given to Moses at the burning bush, but the four letters, or the tetragrammaton, are each vowel-like consonants. Vowels are made by not closing the mouth, but instead shaping the mouth to make the sound. The sounds of Y, H, and W (or V as it would probably have been pronounced by Jewish speakers) are as close to vowels as any consonant can be.
Rabbi Lawrence Kushner is credited with saying (although I haven’t been able to find where):
“…in truth [these four letters] are unutterable. Not because of the holiness they evoke, but because they are all vowels and you cannot pronounce all the vowels at once without risking respiratory injury. The word is the sound of breathing. The holiest name in the world, the Name of the Creator, is the sound of your own breathing.”
Some have said in response to this that with the first breath, an infant breathes God’s name. Every breath throughout life could be a reminder of Him. On our deathbed, Jason Gray wonders, “do we breathe our last breath? Or is it that we cease to be alive when the name of God is no longer on our lips?” Since we don’t know exactly what God’s name sounds like, this is all speculation, but I do know that with the breath God has given us, we should be glorifying Him.
I love the song “Great Are You Lord” by All Sons & Daughters. In it, they sing, “It’s Your breath in our lungs, so we pour out our praise..to You only.” He is the one who gave us our breath, and He is gracious enough to let us continue to breathe and to even use our breath in His work of bringing more people to know Him. How could we do anything with our breath except praise Him, both directly, and indirectly in our choice of words to others?
We can use our breath to blast sinners with all they’ve done wrong, or we can use our breath to speak to them about the grace He’s shown us, for we are sinners, too. We can use our breath like a storm of anger at our children when they get in the way of what we want to accomplish, or we can use our breath to instruct and discipline our young ones with kindness and patience. We can waste our breath talking in frustration about someone behind their backs, or we can use it to find a way to edify the person instead.
I wish I could say that I’ve never used the breath God breathed into me in a way that dishonors Him, but I have more times than I can count. May we all keep His breath of a name, Yahweh, at the forefront of our thoughts. May we pour our breath out in praise to Him today.
*”Breath.” Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, 1998.
The last book I was giving away, I Wish He Had Come with Instructions by Mike Bechtle, will be going to Evelyn Cooke, if she sends me her contact information by Saturday, October 22. If not, I will be drawing a new name, so if you’ve recently subscribed to my blog or shared it if you’re already subscribed, keep posted!