Day 197 – Thru the Bible
Today we continue in Ezekiel.
Ezekiel 37 – Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones is perhaps the most famous passage in the book. Coming after God’s promise in chapter 36 to give His people new hearts and a new spirit, the dry bones illustrate the magnitude of the miracle that will be required if God’s people are to be saved. The bones Ezekiel sees are “very dry”, emphasizing the fact that there is no life whatsoever in them. The chance that they will ever live again is zero.Nevertheless, God asks Ezekiel a shocking question: “Son of man, can these bones live?” The obvious answer is no, and yet Ezekiel has learned never to presume on God’s power and intentions. So he answers, “O Lord God, you know.”God’s next instructions to Ezekiel would be comical if it were not the life-giving God who gave them. He tells Ezekiel to “prophesy over these bones”—in other words, to preach to them! God wants Ezekiel and the whole nation of Israel to know that it is His word that brings life. In the most hopeless of situations—even in a valley full of death—God’s word is powerful to bring resurrection life.
We as Believers can take heart, even in our darkest struggles with sin. Just as God spoke the creation into existence, just as Jesus called Lazarus out of the tomb with only a word, just as Ezekiel preached to the dry bones, God’s word gives life. The supreme word from God, the gospel message itself, tells us not what we must do to earn life but what God has done, in Jesus, to give life.
Beginning in verse 11, God explains the vision of the dry bones. It is not simply that God gives physical life; it is that He gives spiritual life in the midst of death. That, in its essence, is the message of the gospel of Jesus. Christianity is not at its heart about ethical teaching or social engagement; it is the message that though we are dead in our sins, Jesus gives us life through His own life, death, and resurrection on our behalf (Romans 6:1–4; Ephesians 2:8–10; 1 Thessalonians 5:9–10; Titus 3:4–7).
This passage should also be encouraging to Believers who may have given up hope that God can bring restoration and renewal to certain areas of their lives. Whether a long struggle with sin, or broken relationships, or even hard affliction, life’s circumstances can often blind us to God’s life-giving power. The vision of the dry bones, however, should remind us that our God truly is in the business of giving life where everything seems hopelessly dead.
God gives Ezekiel another vision of broken Israel being restored. In verse 22, two sticks representing the divided kingdom are made one again. Verse 24 promises yet again a single king, a descendant of David, to rule over God’s people, and verse 26 reiterates God’s promise to make a new covenant of peace with His people. (See also Jeremiah 31:31–34)“But I will save them from all the backslidings in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God.” This is God’s settled, covenantally bound determination. In Jesus, this saving, this cleansing, this restoration of His people to Himself, is decisively achieved (Colossians 1:21–22).
Such great news of how God brings life to spiritually dead people–how do you celebrate the life you’ve been given by Jesus?
Ezekiel 38 & 39 – Interpretation of these two chapters has given Believers enormous difficulty. The main point of them is clear enough: God’s people will be put under dire threat by the powers of this world, but God will rescue them in the end. Exactly who is described here, however, or what historical event might be in view is hard to determine. One of the most important truths to realize, though, is that this great battle between God’s people and their enemies is instigated and orchestrated by God Himself. In 38:3–4, God tells Gog, the ruler of the enemy army, that He will decisively defeat Gog. This, in fact, seems to be the purpose for which God incites Gog against his people in the first place.
Scholars have not been able to agree about who Gog actually is. Several ancient kings had names that suggest possible parallels—Gugu, Guges, Gagu—but none of those kings quite fit the historical bill. One intriguing possibility is that the kingdom of Gog represents Babylon, the nation in which the Israelites were suffering exile. This possibility is commended by the fact that, strangely, Babylon does not make an appearance in chapters 25–32, where God is meting out judgment against His people’s enemies. It may be that these two chapters are the crowning act of that universal judgment—Babylon, too, is destroyed under God’s righteous wrath.
If, however, Gog does represent Babylon, it would not be simply sixth-century-b.c. Babylon in view. It would be Babylon standing as a symbol of humanity in rebellion against God. This would not be the only time in the Bible that Babylon plays that symbolic role. The very founding of the city took place with the hubristic act of building the Tower of Babel (= Babylon), and in the book of Revelation, the fall of Babylon represents God’s overthrowing of all human pride and rebellion (e.g., Revelation 17:5; 18:2). Adding weight to this interpretation—that Gog ultimately represents all of rebellious humanity—is the fact that in Revelation, Gog and Magog represent all the nations of the world being led by Satan in one final battle against Jesus’ people (Revelation 20:8).
These chapters are not merely symbolic, however. As prophecy so often does, they describe while also pointing beyond their immediate historical circumstances. In Ezekiel, the vision points to the opposition Israel will continue to face from the nations once God resettles them in their land. But by the time the Bible’s story reaches its culmination in Revelation, Gog and Magog—the symbols of human rebellion against God—are said to have “marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints” (Revelation 20:9), that is, the people of Jesus. Thus, what Ezekiel saw in seed form, Revelation gives us more fully. The people of God—embodied by national Israel in Ezekiel’s vision, but shown to be Jesus’ people in Revelation—are brought to the brink of destruction until God comes spectacularly to their defense.In Jesus, He has.
How has Jesus rescued you?
What other thoughts or questions does today’s reading bring up?
Some of these notes are from the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible study notes. We highly recommend this study Bible.
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