Ezekiel 38-39 – Evil in the Hands of the Living God

Ezekiel 38-39 are two of the more difficult chapters in Ezekiel. They have been used and misused since they were inked or otherwise ignored. The problem is, that when we come to chapters like these we want to be able to identify who Gog is, where Magog is, when the events described here happened and what the overall result was. Sadly no one has been able clearly to identify historical events connected with the descriptions in these chapters. That doesn’t mean they are pretend or wrong, just that perhaps they are not historical in the literal linear sense. Our bigger problem as we come to these chapters is that our groups may feel fatigued by Ezekiel 1-37 and they may want to rush in for quick easy answers. The answers are there but they may not be quick to find.

Can I encourage you to remember two things as you seek answers from these chapters:

  1. The OT is about Jesus (John 5:39-40; Luke 24:44-48). Ask yourself, how do these chapters testify to Jesus.
  2. Bible reading does take effort and the effort you put into these chapters as a group will reap rewards.


1. SharingQuestion

Thinking specifically about today or tomorrow, what would make it a bad day? LINK: Despite the restoration and joy pictured in Ezekiel 37, Ezekiel 38-39 say that a bad day is coming for Israel, a day on which Gog from Magog will come and attack them. Despite the promise of Ezekiel 37:27-28, everything is not yet perfect.

2. READ both chapters

It will be best for you to print out both chapters and have them for people to write on with pens and highlighters. As you hand them out, have people take notice of:

  • The story itself
  • Repeated ideas
  • Allusions to other Old Testament passages
  • What God does
  • What Israel does
  • When these events will happen
  • The reason these events take place

Some help for you along the way…

• The story itself

God is going to raise up Gog (38:4, 39:2), a mighty ruler with vast armies at his disposal (38:15-16), to come out against his people in battle (38:8) together with other rulers and nations (38:6). This will all happen in future years, at a future time, in days ahead but it will be in God’s timing (38:7, 16), according to Gog’s plans (38:10) when God’s people are at peace and not expecting any evil (38:16). 

When Gog and the forces come upon the land, God will thoroughly defeat them (38:18-22). Their carcasses will be eaten by animals (39:4, 17-20), their weapons taken by Israel for firewood (39:9) and their bones buried in the Valley of Hamon Gog (39:11). Israel will send people around to collect the leftover bones and bury those too so the land will be clean (39:14-16).

• Repeated ideas

God in charge, Nations against God’s people, large armies and more

• Allusions to other Old Testament passages

38:4, 15 – Horses and vast armies – Exodus 14
38:9 – nations going up to Israel – Isaiah 2:2-4 (note the reversal of expectation)
38:15 – a mighty army – Ezekiel 37:10 – could be a connection with the valley in which the bones Gog and the hordes are placed too.
38:20 – Description of creation – Genesis 1:27-30
38:22 – Plagues – Exodus 7-11
39:17-20 – the feeding of the people to the birds – 1 Samuel 17:45-47 (David and Goliath)

What do these and other passages add to our understanding of what is going on here?

• What God does

He raises up Gog.
He defeats Gog.

It is fascinating isn’t it that God brings Gog against his people. No doubt there will be some consternation in your group about this. But why does it do this to us? Is God not free to do as he pleases? Has God promised you peace and calm every day of your life? Cannot God use both the righteous and the unrighteous to bring about his plans? Consider the cross!

• What Israel does

All Israel does is mop up after the battle is over.

• When these events will happen

38:8, 10, 14 – it is all very vague. It points to “later” which is odd given the language in Ezekiel has been to this point all immediate – soon, now, it is happening.There is something very different in the language here. Note too that the use of the OT allusions and the broad cosmological language of creation, plagues, feasting birds and armies like clouds points to something bigger. They are all clues for what is being described here, it is not something specific, it is something bigger and more significant. It is not about an event, it is about a reality.

• The reason these events take place


Looking in detail at these passages does unlock the question of why God does what he does. I would spend a fair bit of time looking at these passages.

3. Summarise in a sentence what the chapters are saying

I have come up with something like this:

Evil will still come upon God’s saved people but it is never out of God’s control and God’s people are never left to fend for themselves because God always wins.

One commentator helpfully says:

“The point of Ezekiel 38-39 is not that at some point in the distant future in history that these particular nations will attack Israel and that others will rally to her aid. Rather, these 7 nations from the ends of the earth, from all 4 points on the compass, represent symbolically a supreme attempt by the forces of evil to crush God’s people and destroy them. God will not let that happen. […] Therefore the message of Ezekiel 38-39 is not a coded message for those who live in the last days… It is a word of encouragement to all the saints of all times and places that no matter what the forces of evil may do, God’s purpose and victory stands secure. If God can defeat the combined forces of Gog and his allies and turn them into fodder for the birds, how much more can he take care of us!”

It is a powerful message of hope for God’s saved people.

4. How does this testify to Jesus?

I wonder if this gives us some insight into the defeat of Satan at the cross?
Colossians 2:15
Ephesians 2:1-4
Hebrews 2:14-15

God does the work of defeating even Satan and we have nothing to do with that? While evil prevails it is like a chained lion, dangerous to those who would close to it but completely safe if you stay away.

5. What does this mean for us?

(a) Although bad things happen in the world as we await our ulimate salvation, God is in control. It is critical that Christians get this right and believe it in the good times because God does not change just because your circumstances have. When bad things happen, God has not abandoned you. Pastorally, this is hard to hear when things are difficult. Gog comes intent to plunder but he can only do what God’s plans and purposes allow. This means we must reject trite summaries of the Christian life.

  • Nothing can go wrong, I trust Jesus: WRONG.
  • God loves me and has wonderful perfect plans for my life: WRONG.

God does love you and nothing eternally can go wrong, but in this world, right now, God’s plan for you might be that you undergo terrible struggles and trials so that you might display his glory through your trust in him. This is a wonderful plan of God too. God’s plan for you might be that you are put to death in a foreign land for being a Christian. This too is God’s wonderful plan for you. He is always in control.

In face of the reality painted in these chapters, can you see how foolish the following statements sound:

Meditate on the good things, at least you are alive.
Don’t worry, God will rescue you and make your life great again.

Too often we think in very earthly and temporal terms. We need to see the bigger picture of God’s victory over Gog and our real permanent home in heaven. If we actually had the mind of Christ, life in all its joys and disasters would make more sense and be easier to deal with.

May the mind of Christ my Saviour
Live in me from day to day
By his love and power controlling,
All I do and say, All I do and say.

(b) No matter what happens, God always wins and his love always prevails. This may seem trite but the reality is that no matter how big or organized or powerful the opposition is, or how paltry our faith is, ultimately the plans of God’s enemies come to nothing. Nothing can stop God from loving you and nothing will stop God from saving you and nothing can steal you out of Jesus’ hands.

Read Romans 8:31-39 and John 10:25-30 (just do Romans if you are out of time).

Ezekiel 37:15-28 – One King and One Temple


TIP: When you pick up a book and read it from where you last left off, say chapter 10, you want to recall all that’s happened previously otherwise chapter 10 won’t make any sense. You don’t begin reading a book at chapter 10! But you don’t need to recall everything – you only need to recall the things pertinent to chapter 10. So, recalling context for a bible passage doesn’t require spewing out every fact you know about the book so far, but to recall the bits that will shed light on the section you are looking at. That’s why we start with context and choose to talk about the bits we do.

Abraham had a son named Isaac who, in turn, had a son named Jacob. Jacob came to be known as Israel, therefore, Jacob and Israel are the same man. Jacob/Israel had twelve sons (and a daughter) who later made up the twelve tribes of Israel. So, the nation of Israel consisted of twelve regions. See Genesis 35:23-26 for a list of the twelve sons including who their mothers were. It might help if you draw up a family tree.

While David served to rule as king over all of Israel, David’s grandson, Rehoboam, created a division in the kingdom which resulted, under God’s sovereignty, in two kingdoms: the Southern Kingdom and the Northern Kingdom.

The Southern Kingdom contained two tribes: Judah and Benjamin.

The Northern Kingdom contained the other ten tribes including Joseph whose son was Ephraim. (Small confusion: the twelve sons included Levi and Joseph but the land division excluded Levi, since his was the priestly line and was given no land – Joseph had no land named after him but his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, were given land each. So there are 12 sons and 12 land divisions but Levi and Joseph are substituted with Manasseh and Ephraim.)

The Southern Kingdom was known as Judah and followed the kingly line of David while the Northern Kingdom was known as Israel and followed the kingly line of Jeroboam, an Ephraimite (1 Kings 11:26).

The Northern Kingdom (Israel) was destroyed and scattered in 722BC. The Southern Kingdom (Judah) went into exile in 586BC and this is who Ezekiel is speaking to.

Ezekiel 25 and 33 marked the day that the Southern Kingdom with the Temple was destroyed by Babylon.

I see that this is a lot of info to digest but it makes the reading of Ezekiel 37:15-28 much easier to understand. Judah and Joseph became heads over two divided kingdoms. But they were both brothers under Israel.


  • Verses 15-17 – A visual prophecy
  • Verses 18-23 – The visual prophecy explained
  • Verses 24-28 – One King and One Temple!

Verses 15-17

“Take a stick of wood…” Earlier in Ezekiel, the prophet was instructed to perform various tasks which would be a sign to the people he prophesied to. They were all for the warnings against Israel and their idolatry. Now, the prophet is asked to make a sign which is for the blessing of Israel. As an exercise to get people in your group talking, you might ask for a list of things Ezekiel has previously been asked to do.

“Belonging to Judah/Belonging to Joseph…” See the context for the explanation of how this refers to the Southern Kingdom and the Northern Kingdom respectively.

“to Ephraim…” again, see the context above.

“…and all the Israelites associated with him…” In both cases, both sticks ultimately represent two halves of the one kingdom: Israel! Whether Northern or Southern, all have family ties back to Israel (Jacob).

“Join them together…” The conclusion of Ezekiel’s demonstration is for the two sticks to become one stick. The visual prophecy is pretty straight forward: there will no longer be two kingdoms but one. The rest of the passage will amplify this simple message by expanding on the implications.

Verses 18-23

The first few verses here, 18-20, are straight forward. Given the context above, I see nothing to add to these verses.

“I will…” Firstly notice who will make this happen: The Sovereign LORD. Simple point worth making.

“…take the Israelites out of the nations where they have gone.” Both sticks are a representative of Israel as a whole. Both the North and the South have been taken one way or another – by being scattered abroad, by taken captive in exile in Babylon, by a very small remnant fleeing from attack. But God will see them as two kingdoms no more!

“…back into their own land…” This brings back the covenant made by God to Abraham which included both a great nation and a promised land. God is not changing his mind but remembering his covenant.

“…one nation…one king…never divided…” Verse 22 is the key verse I suppose. Taking up the heart of what will happen as well as the key to the unity – they will be under one king. Verses 24-28 will take up this further.

“…I will save them from all their sinful backsliding and I will cleanse them. They will be my people and I will be their God.” This is a wonderful promise but raises the question of how God will do it. These are exactly what went wrong with Israel to begin with. They backslid and became mixed with the other nations and defiled by their practices. They let go of the covenant relationship and committed adultery with other so-called gods. How will God prevent this from happening again?

Verses 24-28

“My servant David will be king over them…” Without declaring that Judah was right, God sets straight that the kingdom that he had established was David’s. So, the heir to the throne is in the line of David and not Jeroboam. But more importantly, we are told that David will be the king. Now, since he has been dead for hundreds of years, what could this mean? It is to do with the promise to Judah (Genesis 49) and to David (2 Samuel 7) that there will be a forever king on the throne. When he comes, the throne will never be taken away from him. It is impossible for the kingdom to divide once the true Davidic king comes. His name is Jesus (Philippians 2).

“…they will live in the land of Jacob…” Remember that it is no longer two kingdoms called North and South but one kingdom now – the whole land of Israel.

“I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant.” God promises peace that is eternal. Jesus will be the king and peace will be the flavour of the kingdom.

“…and I will put my sanctuary among them forever…” Now, if this promise were literal, then we would find King David being the king – risen from the dead and seated on his throne. We would also see the Temple or sanctuary of God rebuilt and forever remaining. Neither of these things have come to pass in a literal sense. But the purpose of the sanctuary was to illustrate that God is dwelling with his people. Therefore he says, “My dwelling place will be with them…” Ezekiel 10 described the withdrawal of God from the Temple to show his disgust with the people of the promise. Now he promises eternal peace, with an eternal king ruling the one kingdom forever. And in this kingdom, God himself will dwell with the people. And there will be no end to this promise.


God promises to reverse the many years of idolatry and rebellion by recovering his people into one nation with one king and the return of the sanctuary with God dwelling there forever. God will gather his people from everywhere to be the holy people of Israel.

New Testament Perspective

Now, in 2015, Jews are scattered all over the world, Israel is a war zone, no king is seated on any throne in Israel, the Temple is torn down and peace is quite unlikely in any age. But there is one man who is descended from David (Matthew 1) who is called Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), God With Us (Matthew 1:22), and who John spoke of as “the Word become flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14).

When Jesus spoke about the kingdom of God he said that it is here (Mark 1:15) and called people to repent. He spoke with a Samaritan woman from the northern region of Israel and said, “Woman, believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem…a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” In saying this, Jesus declared that no mountain or building will be the sanctuary of God but that every true believer will know the presence of God. The fulfilment of Ezekiel 37:15-28 is not to be found north, south, east or west of here but with the Spirit of God dwelling in us. This was the promise of Ezekiel 37:14. This is how God will cease the backsliding and rebellion. It will not be the kingdom of God based on human descent but by the Spirit. See Paul’s words on this in Romans 9! “…it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.”

The promise goes beyond the nation of Israel and into the whole earth. Anyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved. The people of God will be one people with one King and one eternal destiny which is called ‘peace’.


  1. Ezekiel 37:15-28 is a key passage used by the Mormon church (Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints) to show that the book of Mormon is also part of God’s word. They say that one of the sticks represents the scriptures of Judah and the other stick represents the scripture of Ephraim and those Israelites who ventured to America. By telling Ezekiel to perform this prophecy, he is letting us all know that these two scriptures are part of the one word of God. Do you think they have a good argument? Which makes more sense: that the sticks represent two books or two kingdoms? One lesson from this passage is that the true people of God will come together because of the one king, one shepherd, one promise. The Mormon church does not represent this kingdom. Their church claims to be part of the Christian faith but their teaching discredits them. One commentator on Ezekiel, Iain Duguid writes, “We are not to welcome all professing Christians indiscriminately, as if what you believe was a matter of small importance. Instead, the New Testament teaches us that we are to refuse to have anything to do with those who teach false doctrine (2 John 10-11).”
  2. Jesus and the believer as the Temple. John 1:14 tells us that God became flesh and dwelled among us. It says that God “tabernacled” among us. Jesus compared himself to the Temple when he told the Jews to tear down the Temple and he would rebuild it in three days. We know that he was referring to himself (John 2:19). Jesus was transitioning our thinking away from bricks and mortar and to himself as the very place where God dwells since he himself is God. Believers are said to be the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19) because the Spirit has made us alive in Christ. As we read through the book of John later this year, we will hear Jesus promise the coming of the Holy Spirit to dwell within the believer. This all points to the incredible closeness between God and his saved people. Our backsliding and rebellion can indeed be stopped because God is working in us to be his new creation (Ephesians 2:8-10). We don’t need to worry about what is going on in any particular place in the world as if God will recreate something special there because God is recreating something tremendous right here in our hearts.
  3. Jesus as our King. This is where our unity is found and where division flees away. When the true body of Christ looks to the head, then we can be united and get busy building one another up in Christ! We don’t find unity in common language or social backgrounds. Not in personal likes or hopes to make a better world. No, our unity comes when we call on the name of Jesus as King. Is Jesus your King? Do you salute him, listen to him, talk wisely about him, share the good news about him, rejoice with others who also call him their LORD. Every small obstacle is laid flat when we stand together to call Jesus the King. Our opinion on matters is not what is king – Jesus is King. Our connections with people is not what defines us as a people – King Jesus calls you to live in peace with him. The activities we do at church do not make us the people of God – Jesus is our King who saved us to gather as the people of God and worship him in Spirit and in truth. Knowing how to serve Jesus and how to know him in truth is the only way to inherit eternal life.

Prayer for the week

Father of all creation, we give you thanks and praise for your promises to all mankind – that in Jesus Christ your Son, we can know and find peace. Please teach us to live in peace and unity with each other in the church because we call on the name of Jesus to be saved.  Thank you that Jesus is our peace, our saviour, our shepherd and the very presence of God. Teach us to love and obey you, through your word, by your Spirit and through your Son. Amen.

Ezekiel 37:1-14 – I will put my Spirit in you


In chapter one we are told that the hand of the LORD was on Ezekiel and from that moment on, Ezekiel has been directed by God to do and say as the LORD instructs. The overwhelming message has been that God is now pouring his wrath out on Israel for turning their backs on Him and worshipping the so-called gods of the other nations. By the Sovereignty of God, Babylon will lay siege on Jerusalem and totally wipe them out. Everybody will be killed either by the sword or by famine. The image we must have of Israel after the attack is like a scene from a post-apocalyptic film where there is no life and no hope.

In chapters 33-36, the message is of hope and God’s glory returning to Israel. Here’s a string of verses which capture this message:

  • 34:12-13 “I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land”
  • 34:16 ” will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy”
  • 34:31 “You are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Sovereign Lord”
  • 36:8 “But you, mountains of Israel, will produce branches and fruit for my people Israel, for they will soon come home”
  • 36:10 “The towns will be inhabited and the ruins rebuilt”
  • 36:26 “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh”
  • 36:27-28 “And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God”
  • 36:35 “They will say, “This land that was laid waste has become like the garden of Eden; the cities that were lying in ruins, desolate and destroyed, are now fortified and inhabited”

Also in these chapters is the clear message that God is not repenting of his wrath but promising to restore for His name’s sake. Consider these two quotes from chapters 33 and 36.

  • 33:31-32 “My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to hear your words, but they do not put them into practice. Their mouths speak of love, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice”
  • 36: 20-21″And wherever they went among the nations they profaned my holy name, for it was said of them, ‘These are the Lord’s people, and yet they had to leave his land.’ I had concern for my holy name, which the people of Israel profaned among the nations where they had gone”

Before we get to chapter 37, we have a vision of Israel as dead and wiped out. A nation totally destroyed because of their unrighteousness. God has abandoned them because they abandoned their God. Yet, God promises to bring this nation back to life! He will give them a new heart and will put His Spirit in them so that they will be careful to listen and obey the LORD.


  • Verses 1-3 – Can God undo desolation?
  • Verses 4-8 – Speak to the bones!
  • Verses 9-10 – Speak to the breath!
  • Verses 11-14 – The vision explained.


Verses 1-3

The hand of the LORD was on Ezekiel just as described in 1:3 before he saw the great vision of God’s glory. The vision he is shown this time is of a valley full of dry bones. When the whole passage (1-14) is considered, it would appear that this is just a vision, although very real to Ezekiel. So real that he can be led to the valley and led back and forth through it.

The vision is like the aftermath of a great battle. Having the siege of Jerusalem and the promised slaughter in mind works – it’s not hard to think that these bones belong to the people of Israel.

The bones are many and they are very dry. This is quite literally a valley of death.

The problem in this short passage is not that there are dead people – this is clearly the result of the wrath of God. The problem is the question posed: can these bones live?

Ezekiel’s answer shows true wisdom: to God, nothing is impossible, so we’ll ask him!

Verses 4-8

Try and picture the scene from verses 1-8. Ezekiel is in a remote valley filled with bones and, supposedly, nobody else about. Then he is told, like many times before in Ezekiel, to prophesy and speak the words of the LORD. But he is told to speak to a valley of dry bones. Can you picture him speaking to the bones?

The promise given to the bones is that they will be given tendons, flesh and skin but the important ingredient is breath. Breath is the first thing promised in 5 and is the only ingredient not provided by verse 8.

There are many ways to define what a dead person is – it was an exercise I did in high school to try and work out when a person moves from life to death. A stopped heart? No brain activity? No breath? Maybe it’s all of the above and for a duration? I don’t remember what the conclusion of our class lesson was, but the bible here, without making the passage too scientific, reminds us that bones with tendons and flesh and skin does not make a person alive. Only when there is breath can we say that life has begun.

You’ll remember that in Genesis 2:7, “the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” The significance of leaving the breath till last and delaying it may be to emphasise the importance of the breath. God is not reforming empty shells but bringing a people back to life.

Verses 9-10

Again, try and picture the scene. At the end of verse 8, we don’t have a vision of zombies – the walking dead – but simply bones given tendons, flesh and skin. The valley is no longer a valley of dry bones but a valley of dead bodies.

Next, Ezekiel is told to speak the word of God to the breath! If speaking to dry bones seemed weird, speaking to thin air must have felt weirder?

The four winds mentioned here may speak of the fulness and force and deliberate power of the breath. Simply adding to the visual image of this act. Not a small breath, but a powerful force.

When the breath entered the bodies, they became alive and stood and were called: a vast army. They would be united – not for a social club but for battle. Strengthened bodies, full of life and energy and equipped for the fight. Ephesians 6 comes to mind here.

Now, it is important to talk about this breath…

The NIV footnote to verse 5 says, “The Hebrew for this word can also mean wind or spirit.” This means that one Hebrew word has these three definitions: breath, wind and spirit. So, the context tells us whether the word in English ought to be breath, wind or spirit. If we had one English word which means all three, we might see the one word launch out at us over and over and over. You might like to re-read the 14 verses and substitute all of the uses of breath, wind and spirit with one of those three. So, Ezekiel was brought out by the breath of the LORD(v1)! The LORD promises to make wind enter the bones (v5) and so on! At times, it seems clear which of the three to use such as verse 1 – the Spirit is needed. And verse 9 is difficult to understand if there are four spirits being winded or spirited into the slain. The NIV translaters have chosen which English word works best in the sentence. But remember what God had promised in 36:27 – he would put his Spirit in them. What is needed is more than wind or breath to enter the bodies but the Spirit that brings life!

Verses 11-14

“I will put my Spirit in you and you will live!” That’s the point of the passage. These fourteen verses are not primarily about Christian resurrection but about Spirit filled re-creation. The rebirth that Jesus spoke to Nicodemus about in John 3; the changed new creation spoken of in Colossians 2 and 3; and the celebration that anyone in Christ is a new creation in 2 Corinthians 5:17.

What is it that Ezekiel meant to the readers in his day? Surely it was not about eternal resurrection but about the restoration of the Kingdom of God. They had in mind, as it says in this section, that their hope is gone because they have been cut off from God (v11). But God promises to restore them and give them His Spirit. The audience of this story is not the slain victims of God’s wrath but the Jews in exile, scattered and who, although they were alive, were really dead – cut off from God.
As verse 11 states, “these bones are the people of Israel.” The nation and people of God are like dead people who are so dead and lost that their bones are bleaching in the sun. They have no hope and no future. But because of the grace of God, they will be restored and given the Spirit of God. Where is this promise fulfilled? Surely it is the very thing in Ephesians 1:3 which says that God has blessed us in the heavenly realm with every spiritual blessing in Christ. And again in Galatians 5:22-23 which lists the benefit and product of the Spirit’s work is being able to enjoy Christian virtues that were previously dead in us. And again in Romans 8 which compares the mortal life of the flesh with the life giving life of the Spirit! Without the breath of God, we have no future or hope.


Like a valley full of dried up bones has no life, hope or future; the people of Israel have been sent in exile and have no life left in them. But the LORD will bring the people of God back from an impossible situation and the people will know that it is the LORD who has done this.

A New Testament Perspective

The Spirit of God gives those who are dead, even though they are alive, new life. Christians are a new creation. Ephesians 2:1-3 describes our lives before coming to Christ as dead. Dead in our trespasses and sins. Dead because we did what we ought not to do and we failed to do what we ought to have done! We were not just imperfect as if to say, ‘nobody’s perfect’ but we were DEAD as if to say, ‘everybody’s lifeless like dried up bones.’ Ephesians 2:4-5 says that because of God’s great love, he has made us alive with Christ. God has done that! By the death and resurrection of Christ, God has done that.

Christianity is not about living better! It’s about admitting that we are dead without Christ! And confessing this with your heart and mouth is testimony to the work of the Spirit!


  1. Our sin means that everybody outside of Christ is dead. Not that we are naughty or wounded or struggling to do right – we are dead. Before anyone is made alive in Christ, even if they look like they are healthy and wealthy, they are dead, cut off from God and without hope. Do you see the world as this? The contrast between a follower of Christ and everybody else is as different as a living being and a dead, rotted corpse. The former is alive. The latter is helpless and lost.
  2. The promise of God is new life in Christ. Jesus died and was buried but on the third day, he became the first-fruit of the resurrection. He has unlocked the door of death that was locked since the first sin in Adam. People are now able to live – truly live – as God’s people because of his death. And when we are alive with Christ it is because we have first of all died with him (Colossians 2). By the power of the Holy Spirit, we are able to put to death the misdeeds of the body and put on love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.
  3. To cross from spiritual death to life is not by accident. It happens when we confess our desperate need for a saviour. There is the image of the Black Knight in the Monty Python movie: The Holy Grail. He was defeated in battle with his arms and legs hacked off but refused to admit that the battle was over. The world we live in is filled with Black Knights who will not admit that they are broken and the world they inhabit is too. At some point, we need to confess our sins, admit that we need Gods help and say goodbye to our old selves to embrace a new life in Christ.
  4. Even though this passage is not primarily about the resurrection, it is easy to spend some time meditating on it. Directly, the passage is about God restoring Israel as his possession full of blessing by His Spirit. Indirectly, it adds to the language in the Old Testament of God being able to raise from the grave. The question asked in verse 3 is can these bones live? The answer given in the rest of the verse is to the effect of, “of course he can, but will he?” We know that the answer in the New Testament is the same: of course he can but will he? Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even though he dies.” It’s not death that will separate us from God, it is the rejection of the Christ that will separate us. The acceptance and rejection into heaven occurs now as we choose to accept or reject Christ. Jesus also said, “this is eternal life: that they know God and Jesus Christ.” We don’t need anybody to tell us whether heaven is real or not – Jesus has told us. What we need is to wake up and see that Jesus is also the only way to eternal life!

The above four applications are awfully similar I confess. Recognise we are dead. Know that God is the giver of life. Do something about it. Put your hopes in Jesus, the resurrection and the life! On coming to Christ and entering our new life (recreated) we now go on in the Spirit to start living. This is exactly why we’ve titled our discipleship course, Start Living!

Prayer for the week

Lord of all creation, thank you for life and hope and joy that can only be truly found in the Lord Jesus Christ. Please show us how to live through the Spirit you give us. May we be sober minded when it comes to life and death and know that there is no life outside of Christ. Amen.