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Born Of Water And Of The Spirit
We have seen already that Israel’s glorious future as a nation settled in the land of Palestine under Messiah’s beneficent and righteous rule, depends primarily upon the return of the remnant to God. Not until they are regenerated by the Spirit and the Word will they be prepared to enter into fulness of blessing. This comes out very clearly in the present chapter. Undoubtedly our blessed Lord had this portion of Scripture in mind when, after informing Nicodemus of the importance of new birth by water and the Spirit, He gently reproved him for his ignorance in not knowing these things; for had he but apprehended the teaching given here he would have understood what the Saviour meant when He spoke of the new birth of water and of the Spirit in order that one might enter into the kingdom of God.
The first part of our chapter has to do with the coming restoration of the people to the land-a restoration which, as we know, has begun even now, although in unbelief, and will never bring settled peace to Israel until they return in heart to the Lord Himself.
“And thou, son of man, prophesy unto the mountains of Israel, and say, Ye mountains of Israel, hear the word of Jehovah. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Because the enemy hath said against you, Aha! and, The ancient high places are ours in possession; therefore prophesy, and say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Because, even because they have made you desolate, and swallowed you up on every side, that ye might be a possession unto the residue of the nations, and ye are taken up in the lips of talkers, and the evil report of the people; therefore, ye mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord Jehovah: Thus saith the Lord Jehovah to the mountains and to the hills, to the watercourses and to the valleys, to the desolate wastes and to the cities that are forsaken, which are become a prey and derision to the residue of the nations that are round about; therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Surely in the fire of My jealousy have I spoken against the residue of the nations, and against all Edom, that have appointed My land unto themselves for a possession with the joy of all their heart, with despite of soul, to cast it out for a prey. Therefore prophesy concerning the land of Israel, and say unto the mountains and to the hills, to the watercourses and to the valleys, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Behold, I have spoken in My jealousy and in My wrath, because ye have borne the shame of the nations: therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah: I have sworn, saying, Surely the nations that are round about you, they shall bear their shame”-vers. 1-7.
Observe that in this message the prophet is commanded to address himself directly to the mountains of Israel: that is, he speaks rather to the land itself than to the people, and this of course that the people may learn from his message what God has in store for Palestine in the latter days. In the light of what has happened within the last thirty years we can almost apply these words literally to the present time, but they will have a more complete fulfilment later on. Already has that land, which lay desolate so long, begun to answer to the description given in this chapter of what God is yet to do for it.
Throughout the long centuries of Gentile dominion Palestine has been made desolate; the enemies of Israel have swallowed her up on every side, and one great power after another has dominated the land of which Jehovah said so long ago, “The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is Mine” (Leviticus 25:23). Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Grecian, Egyptian, Syrian, Roman, Turk, and other powers have fought for pos- session of Palestine. God has taken note of all the bitter enmity that these nations have manifested toward Israel, and He will never overlook the manner in which they have made Palestine a prey. Their attitude toward the land of the people of Jehovah’s choice has stirred the fire of His jealousy, so that He has declared His judgments against all nations that seek to take possession of that land and bring His people into bondage. He has sworn in His indignation and concern for Israel, that as they have borne the shame of the nations so the nations themselves, who have been the cause of Israel’s distress, should be put to shame in the coming day of the Lord. At that time the land will be freed from the treading down of the Gentiles, and the remnant of Israel will return to it, a chastened and repentant people.
“But ye, O mountains of Israel, ye shall shoot forth your branches, and yield your fruit to My people Israel; for they are at hand to come. For, behold, I am for you, and I will turn unto you, and ye shall be tilled and sown; and I will multiply men upon you, all the house of Israel, even all of it; and the cities shall be inhabited, and the waste places shall be builded; and I will multiply upon you man and beast; and they shall increase and be fruitful; and I will cause you to be inhabited after your former estate, and will do better unto you than at your beginnings: and ye shall know that I am Jehovah. Yea, I will cause men to walk upon you, even My people Israel; and they shall possess thee, and thou shalt be their inheritance, and thou shalt no more henceforth bereave them of children. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Because they say unto you, Thou land art a devourer of men, and hast been a bereaver of thy nation; therefore thou shalt devour men no more, neither bereave thy nation any more, saith the Lord Jehovah; neither will I let thee hear any more the shame of the nations, neither shalt thou bear the reproach of the peoples any more, neither shalt thou cause thy nation to stumble any more, saith the Lord Jehovah”-vers. 8-15.
Still addressing the mountains of Israel, Ezekiel predicts that in God’s due time great forests shall once more cover them and orchards yield their fruit to the people of Israel, for they are at hand to come.
For two millennia the mountains of Israel have to a great extent been denuded of their forests, only a few groves have remained of the once famous cedars of Lebanon, but during the past three decades, under the British mandate, a great movement has been set on foot for the reforestation of the mountains, and millions of trees have been planted-all this in preparation for the coming back to their own land of God’s ancient people.
If we did not know that God has something more for Israel than simply her restoration as a nation, we might think that these verses are now having a complete fulfilment. That which we see is in perfect accord with what is presented here, but it is simply a beginning of that which God has in mind, and which will have complete fulfilment after the great tribulation is past and Messiah has appeared in glory. Then the city shall be inhabited, and the waste places shall be builded. That land which lay desolate, a great desert with just here and there a fruitful oasis, will increase in abundance with orchards, vineyards, dairy farms and other evidences of the divine pleasure. At the present time such renewed conditions are the wonder of the world, but we must remember that the time of Jacob’s trouble is in the future. Much that is being done will be undone because .of the wars that are to ravage that land in the time of the end; but eventually all will be literally fulfilled as indicated here, and Israel shall possess their former inheritance and never again be bereaved of her children.
Because of the manifold conflicts in which Palestine has been involved, the nations have considered it a devourer of men, and it has seemed as though there was no possibility of Israel’s rehabilitation, but God’s Word is sure, and He will see that every prophecy is fulfilled to the letter. In the coming day of glory the land shall be able to sustain in abundant measure a great population who, through the entire kingdom age, will flourish in peace and happiness. The nations of the world will no longer reproach Israel nor cause them to stumble, but will recognize the fact that they are indeed the people of Jehovah.
All their past sufferings and those which they are yet to undergo in that awful hour of the great tribulation when the vials of the wrath of God will be poured out upon the earth, are the result of the sins to which they have given themselves.
“Moreover the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, when the house of Israel dwelt in their own land, they denied it by their way and by their doings: their way before Me was as the uncleanness of a woman in her impurity. Wherefore I poured out My wrath upon them for the blood which they had poured out upon the land, and because they had defiled it with their idols; and I scattered them among the nations, and they were dispersed through the countries: according to their way and according to their doings I judged them. And when they came unto the nations, whither they went, they profaned My holy name; in that men said of them, These are the people of Jehovah, and are gone forth out of his land. But I had regard for My holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations, whither they went”-vers. 16-21.
When God gave Palestine to Israel in the beginning, He warned them against following after the customs of the nations out of which He had delivered them, and of those nations that surrounded their territory, but they paid no heed to this, and so the land became defiled by their evil ways and their wicked actions. Because of this, God poured out His wrath upon them. Innocent blood had been shed in libation to their idols, thus defiling the land even more: therefore God gave them a baptism of blood in righteous retribution. He scattered them among the nations and dispersed them through the lands of the earth, judging them according to their evil ways. When thus scattered among the Gentiles, instead of returning in heart to Him, they profaned His holy name, even as the Apostle Paul tells us in the Epistle to the Romans, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you” (2:24). Though they had thus dishonored Him, He still preserved His watch over them and made it impossible for their enemies to destroy them utterly.
“Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: I do not this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy name, which ye have profaned among the nations, whither ye went. And I will sanctify My great name, which hath been profaned among the nations, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the nations shall know that I am Jehovah, saith the Lord Jehovah, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes. For I will take you from among the nations, and gather you out of all the countries, and will bring you into your own land. And I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and ye shall keep Mine ordinances, and do them. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be My people, and I will be your God. And I will save you from all your uncleannesses: and I will call for the grain, and will multiply it, and lay no famine upon you. And I will multiply the fruit of the tree, and the increase of the field, that ye may receive no more the reproach of famine among the nations. Then shall ye remember your evil ways, and your doings that were not good; and ye shall loathe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and for your abominations”-vers. 22-31.
Not for their own sake was Jehovah to act but for the glory of His holy name which they had profaned. In order to sanctify that great name He pledged Himself to carry out the promise of restoration. When the day comes that His Word in this regard is fulfilled all nations will recognize the fact that Jehovah has kept His covenant, and thus His name will be sanctified before their eyes. Note the particularity of the promises in regard to their regeneration. The Lord has declared, “I will take you from among the nations, and gather you out of all the countries, and will bring you into your own land.” Then in accordance with our Lord’s words to Nicodemus, He declares, “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols.” We know from other scriptures that this refers to the washing of water by the Word. In Psalms 119:9 we read, “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to Thy word.” When that Word is received by Israel and takes effect, it will result in the cleansing of their ways and thus fit them to enter again into fellowship with God.
“A new heart,” He says, “will I give you,” and “a new spirit will I put within you.” This is the new birth of which Jesus spoke to Nicodemus. Had Nicodemus been as careful a student of the Prophets as his profession implied, being a doctor of the law, he would not have been bewildered when Jesus spoke of being born of water and of the Spirit. He would have understood that the Word of God was to be applied to the hearts and consciences of the people in the power of the Holy Spirit. The stony heart of unbelief would be taken from them, and God would give them a heart of flesh. Moreover, He promised to put His own Spirit within them and cause them to walk in His statutes and delight in His ordinances. Just as truly as Scripture teaches the second coming of Christ so it predicts the second coming of the Holy Spirit. He came at Pentecost to baptize believers into one Body and to dwell in the Church, empowering it for testimony. He will be poured out from on high in the day of Israel’s restoration, and will indwell the regenerated people who will then be gathered back to their land, never more to be rooted out of it. In that day God will own them as His people, and He will be their God. The Lo-Ammi sentence of Hosea 1:9 will then be repealed, and those whom He refused to acknowledge as His own during the long dispersion will be recognized by Him again when they have come back to Him in confession of sin and recognition of His righteousness. Thus, they will be saved from all their uncleannesses, and it will be the delight of Jehovah to pour out upon them every temporal mercy as well as spiritual blessing: then they will look back over the years of their wanderings, and as they remember their evil ways and their doings, they will loathe themselves in their own sight because of these iniquities and abominations.
“Not for your sake do I this, saith the Lord Jehovah, be it known unto you: be ashamed and confounded for your -ways, O house of Israel. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: In the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will cause the cities to be inhabited, and the waste places shall be builded. And the land that was desolate shall be tilled, whereas it was a desolation in the sight of all that passed by. And they shall say, This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are fortified and inhabited. Then the nations that are left round about you shall know that I, Jehovah, have builded the ruined places, and planted that which was desolate: I, Jehovah, have spoken it, and I will do it”-vers. 32-36.
All God’s dealings in regard to Israel’s future blessing will be in pure grace; nothing will be on the ground of merit, for they have merited only judgment. They will be ashamed and confounded as they reflect on their failures and His manifold mercies. The Lord will show by His care for them in temporal things how fully He has cleansed them from their iniquities and forgiven all their sins. Their cities will be inhabited; their waste places will be built; their former desolate lands will be covered with fruitful farms and orchards; and the nations that once looked upon them with contempt will exclaim with amazement as they behold the land that was once desolate, and as they see formerly ruined cities rebuilt and inhabited, “It is become like the garden of Eden.” It is an unimpeachable testimony to the power and the faithfulness of Jehovah the God of Israel, who never calls back His word, but who declares, “I, Jehovah, have spoken it, and I will do it.”
“Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: For this, moreover, will I he inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them: I will increase them with men like a flock. As the flock for sacrifice, as the flock of Jerusalem in her appointed feasts, so shall the waste cities be filled with flocks of men; and they shall know that I am Jehovah”-vers. 37, 38.
In view of these manifold promises of future blessing, God would have His people Israel take all these things to heart and turn to Him even now, confessing their sin and looking to Him to hasten the fulfilment of His Word. This should ever be the effect of prophetic testimony upon the soul. It was never the thought of God simply to occupy the people with future events, what we might call the political aspect of prophetic fulfilment, but rather that the promises made might exercise the heart of those who read them and humble them before God, turning them to Him in contrition of heart and confession of sin, that thus they might enter even now into the reality of the blessedness of iniquities forgiven, and fellowship with God enjoyed.
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Ezekiel 36". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/
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