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Bible Commentaries

Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

Ezekiel 36

Verse 22


‘I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for Mine holy name’s sake.’

Ezekiel 36:22

There was an ineffaceable distinction between the mountains of Israel and Mount Seir, because the chosen people were in living covenant with Jehovah. He was for them, and would multiply men over the waste lands. He would even do better for them than at the beginnings. This is God’s way with His own. If it is needful to chastise them, He does not permanently reject, and He is particularly careful to bring them up out of their graves into a royal and wealthy place.

I. God’s reason of mercy is in Himself.—You cannot find the reason of God’s perpetual restoring mercy in anything that is in your heart. He loves us, because He will love us: He restores us, because His honour is implicated; He will at last bring us to glory, because it must never be said by His foes and detractors that He undertook more than He could complete. It would be to His eternal dishonour, if it could be said that evil was too strong for Him to cope with it; and the creature whom He had made, too weak and helpless for Him to redeem.

II. The return of Israel to Canaan was a small thing compared with the gracious work of inward renewal.—They had been commanded to make a new heart and spirit ( Ezekiel 18:31). Here God promises to do what He had enjoined. He will do this for us all, sprinkling our heart from an evil conscience, cleansing us by the indwelling fire of the Holy Spirit from all filthiness and idols, replacing the stony, unimpressible heart with a humble, teachable, and tender one. His grace can turn stones into living flesh, and the result shall be floods of penitential tears. Let us pray for these blessings to be ours, that those around us may acknowledge His hand.


‘I have climbed, let me suppose, through a narrow mountain-pass. It was “glad, confident morning” when I started, and with every step I took the scene became more enchanting, and my spirits rose. But the prospect contracted. The hills closed in on me. The sun was hidden. A cold wind swept through the defile. My spirits drooped, and I could only doggedly plod along. But, by and by, the mountains opened out again; the pass was over; and under my feet stretched a fairer landscape than that which thrilled me at the first.

To-day I may be in the gloomy chasm. My spiritual youth lies behind, and I am walking through an unlovely land. But my God is able and willing to conduct me forth from the pass into a region of fertility and beauty. Let me pray Him to do it. It will delight His own heart to respond to my cry.’

Verse 26


‘A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you.’

Ezekiel 36:26

I. If your soul is open and recepitve, it is marvellous how full the world becomes to you of Divine voices.—They come upon you unexpected, unsought, sending through your heart some illuminating flash of surprise, so that you wonder at your previous dullness; they strike you with the sudden shock of some new knowledge or insight, and make you feel, as never before, the true nature of your daily conduct or your duty and your relation to other men; or they come as the unresting presence of some new thought, which, once roused, haunts and troubles you with questions which you cannot answer, or feelings which you cannot get rid of.

Sometimes these Divine voices in our ears bring it home to us how much we are losing out of our life’s higher possibilities, if from sinful or selfish habit, from dullness of spirit, or lack of sympathy, we cut ourselves off in thought and feeling and interest from the great needs, the great sorrows, the great pulsations of the larger world.

These calls that come to you, whether invited or not, and that stir your heart, speaking to you out of the multitudinous life of the time you live in, are like the watchmen on the walls of Jerusalem, which never hold their peace day nor night.

If you hear no such voices, if the phenomena of life make no such impression upon you, if you are deaf to all these calls, and care for none of these things, then it is clear that your soul is not yet awake in you; you are living with a dull or darkened heart. It is a sort of cave life, or subterranean life, you lead in such a case, a life of lower rank and lesser hopes.

Yet these voices from above, that come as the witness of the Divine Spirit with our spirit that we are the children of God, never fail us. They do not belong only to times far off. We are not to think of them merely as enshrined in the Bible and peculiar to it; but as living voices that are speaking to us to-day out of the depths of the Divine life, in which our life is sustained.

II. But we have always to bear this in mind, that the Divine voices speak to men with most stirring effect in every generation when they speak to them through the pressing needs of their own day.—To the Jews the voice of God came in the inspired language of their deliverers and prophets—in their unceasing warnings, and their impassioned appeals, and their revelations of new truth. To the first generation of Christians these same voices came in the shape of strong Advent hopes.

Christ was very near to the Apostolic Christians. As the eastern sky brightened every morning they felt that it might be the light of His coming; and so it came to pass that this expectation made those first believers, those humble followers of Christ, those Galilæan fishermen, those obscure provincials, instinct with that great life which lifts men above the world, and constitutes them a new power in it.

Our lives are largely influenced by the thought of slow development; but we miss a great deal of the secret of all higher life if we forget this wonderful exaltation of the poor and ignorant and obscure by this gift of the Spirit and the inspiration of Divine hope. It was not by any method which we could have forecast that those men found out this charm which takes the heart captive and regenerates the life. In their presence we feel the force of the prophet’s words, ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord.’

III. But then there rises the question, How are these Divine influences to become powerful in us also?—There are two things which we should keep clear in our minds concerning them. One, that they must be based upon our feeling of the living influence of Christ and the working of the Holy Spirit; and the other is that the voices of the Spirit must come to us out of the needs of our own life and of the time we live in if they are to lead us to practical issues. When we look out upon the world and its life we feel that Advent hopes must take some new form if they are to preserve reality and to be fulfilled.

We have these hopeful signs for the future rising around us, even where things look darkest, that the great problems of humanity are felt in our day to be above all things its social and religious problems. And seeing that the aspirations of the time—the feelings, the purposes, the aims, and hopes that lift men—grow out of the needs of the time and the problems of its life, we look forward—we have good ground for looking forward—to a generation of men who shall be distinguished by religious earnestness and by social enthusiasm.

But if this be so, what will your share be in this coming life?

Bishop Percival.

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Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Ezekiel 36". Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary. 1876.