Category Archives: Ezekiel

Ezekiel 47 – Rivers and Rivers and Rivers and Jesus


This weeks study attempts to capture a “biblical theology of rivers” and show how the various rivers mentioned in the Bible are interconnected. It may take your group sometime to “get” this idea but it is relatively simple – because God is the ultimate author of all the Bible, he uses some images repeatedly to make significant points and connections throughout the big picture story of the Bible.

The theme of River is one of those. As you read the three passages you will be able to see the connections but it is the differences that often point to what we should learn from each passage. So make sure you focus in on the differences between the rivers on the Worksheet.

The significant feature of the Ezekiel River is that it is flowing from the temple and is transformative. It is transforming the land as it moves and continues to become bigger and deeper as it moves.

I have provided some questions to guide your enquiry on the Worksheet and some of my own reflections below. I’ve also given an indication of how I will run this study for you to copy or ignore!


Do you prefer to swim at the beach, in a river or in a pool and why?


Tonight we come to the last of our studies in Ezekiel and our eyes will be lifted to a new horizon. You can only imagine how the heads of the Exiles must have been spinning with all that Ezekiel had been telling them. Hopes and dreams for something better were being created! That something better is pictured again in Ezekiel 47.

READ Ezekiel 47:1-12


1. What does the river do?

I would work through the passage and make this a comprehension type question so that everyone catches on to what is going on in the passage. This is also where I would introduce the idea of transformation. The river flows from the temple creating change and a newness where ever it goes.

2. What is the end result of the flowing river?

An eternity (note “every month”) of flowing water and provision and healing for everyone and everything by the river. (v.10-12) This botanical miracle is and indication that something more than normal life is being pictured here. Your group members may either call this unreality or point towards this being a picture of heaven. Don’t rush to that conclusion! I think this passage points to an earthly transformation that preempts the heavenly transformation.

You may want to note that chapters 41-48 contains many instructions for the rebuilding of this temple and create an expectation that this temple will be on earth. The instructions are detailed and specific and given to them for the purpose of rebuilding God’s house. The original readers would have been thinking “earthly temple” and questioning the miracles rather than thinking “heavenly temple” and ignoring the building instructions.

3. What are the differences/ similarities between Genesis/ Ezekiel/ Rev rivers?


Look for differences particularly. One example is that the Genesis and Revelation rivers appear more static; the Ezekiel one is having an impact constantly. Those differences point to the meaning of the passage in light of other passages. I think the differences point to this being an expected earthly reality that points to the heavenly final reality of peace and healing.

4. What would the impact of hearing this be on the exiles by the Kebar River?

Hope. Expectation. Healing from the temple. The promise of the temple rebuild being a reality. Something better is coming.


1. Remembering that the OT points to Jesus, how might Ezekiel 47 do that?

You could look at both these passage or just one.

Consider together John 4:1-26 – particularly v.14. You may not want to read the whole passage but perhaps tell the story and then focus in on that section from v.13-26.

Consider together John 7:37-44. The connection here is perhaps stronger with waters flowing from Jesus for drinking and the water being the Spirit who transforms people to be more like Jesus.

Is Ezekiel 47 pointing towards the reality that from Jesus (our temple) flows the transforming power of the Spirit who equips us for living a transformed life on earth while we await our heavenly home? It certainly looks this way to me. And here you can see the connections between the rivers! The picture in creation is recreated in eternity and is pointed towards while we wait!

2. What sort of transformation and renewal might we expect for ourselves while we are on earth?

The work of the Spirit in us transforms us to be more and more like Jesus. You may want to ponder the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-26)

3. What is the impact upon you of hearing this vision and seeing its fulfillment? I will leave this for your group to ponder.

Concluding thoughts.

This is a more difficult and circuitous study but one that will reap positive rewards for your group as you invest the time thinking about how the passages inter-relate and then focussing on the out- pouring of the Spirit into us and for us that we might be transformed to live lives that honour Jesus.

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.