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Ezekiel continues his encouraging messages. He has so far expressed hope for the future in terms of new leadership for the people (Ezekiel 34) and judgment on their enemies (Ezekiel 35). Now he is going to speak of the restoration of Israel to the land (Ezekiel 36).
The Invaders Driven Out
Ezekiel is to prophesy to “the mountains of Israel” (Ezekiel 36:1). He has been given this command before, but then to proclaim judgment (Ezekiel 6). Now the LORD says to the land that it will again be filled with people (Ezekiel 36:10-1 Kings :; Ezekiel 36:37-Zechariah :). This prophecy is contrasted with the prophecy about Mount Seir, which is Edom, for which there is no future (Ezekiel 35).
Israel is called to hear the word of the LORD. The occasion for the prophecy is what the enemy has said about Israel (Ezekiel 36:2). The enemy referred to consists of the nations that have taken the land, such as Ammon and Tyre (Ezekiel 36:3; cf. Ezekiel 25:3; Ezekiel 26:2), with Edom mentioned separately (Ezekiel 36:5; cf. Ezekiel 35:10; Ezekiel 25:12).
The enemy, in his pride, thinks he can take possession of Israel. He speaks of “the everlasting heights” (cf. Genesis 49:26; Deuteronomy 32:13) having become his possession. “The everlasting heights” is a beautiful description for Israel, which God has chosen for His everlasting possession. The enemy thinks that he can take possession of Israel because the people are scattered and therefore seem to have no right to the promised land (Ezekiel 36:3). The enemy has no eye and no heart for God’s promises for His people.
The nations use big words about God’s land and speak ill of it (cf. Numbers 13:32). It is the rhetoric of people who proud of themselves because of their own righteousness, while portraying the people they want to attack as evil. With it they motivate themselves to go and take possession of the land. In their haughty thoughts, they have already given themselves the land. But God knows their foolish posturing. To Him their words are nothing more than hollow drivel.
He tells the mountains of Israel that He knows how the nations think about the land (Ezekiel 36:4-Deuteronomy :). Of all the nations whisper of God’s people, only Edom or Esau is mentioned by name. He is the ringleader. The nations have appropriated for themselves the LORD’s land – He calls it “My land” in Ezekiel 36:5 (Leviticus 25:23). What joy they take in it. With all their hearts they rejoice over this annexation. They already see their flocks grazing on Israel’s pasture land.
Only fools think and speak this way, people who do not take God into account. God does not address them in His answer, but His land. The attitude of the nations is the occasion for Him to pronounce a prophecy about His land in its entire expanse (Ezekiel 36:6). He is wroth at the insults which the nations have brought upon His land and which His land has endured (cf. Zechariah 1:13-Nehemiah :). Therefore, He says to His land, those nations will themselves endure their insults (Ezekiel 36:7).
Israel Bears Fruit and Is Populated
Unlike the nations (Ezekiel 36:7), His land will no longer bear shame, but it will bear fruit (Ezekiel 36:8). The land will bear fruit for the people of Israel, for the time for the return of the people is at hand, that is, according to the LORD, for to Him the future is present (cf. 2 Peter 3:8). In order to work the blessing, He assures them that He is for them and He will turn to the land. The land will be cultivated and sown (Ezekiel 36:9). This is a wonderful reference to the coming of the Messiah to His people whereby the land will also share in His glory.
There will be people in the land again, who together will form the house of Israel (Ezekiel 36:10). It will be one, with nothing missing. The cities will be inhabited again and the ruins rebuilt (cf. Isaiah 58:12; Isaiah 61:4; Amos 9:11; Amos 9:14). Man and beast will be numerous and increase in number (Ezekiel 36:11). The former times will be revived and even surpassed by the goodness of God. Then the mountains will know that He is the LORD. His people will walk over the land and take possession of it, never to lose it again (Ezekiel 36:12). This situation will be worked and maintained by the Messiah in the realm of peace.
The LORD will turn all that has been said for evil of His land to good (Ezekiel 36:13). His land has been accused of devouring its own people (cf. Numbers 13:32) and of bereaving its own nation of their children. This is due to their unfaithfulness (Leviticus 18:24-Lamentations :; Leviticus 18:28). Their children died in multitudes in the wars, as well as by being sacrificed to idols by their parents. It will be no longer the case, says the LORD (Ezekiel 36:14). He will deprive the nations of any reason to ever utter another word of insult over the land (Ezekiel 36:15). How He will do that, He says in the next section.
Concern for His Holy Name
The word of the LORD comes to Ezekiel (Ezekiel 36:16). The LORD reminds him of the time Israel lived in their land and what they did then (Ezekiel 36:17). Their ways they have gone and their deeds they have done are clearly before Him. They have defiled themselves, so He has had to treat them like a woman who is a secluded one because of her uncleanness. This means that He has had to break off dealings with this people (Leviticus 15:19-Daniel :).
Instead of being able to show His love to the people, He had to pour out His wrath on them (Ezekiel 36:18). They caused it by their violence and their idolatry. Therefore, He removed them from their land and sent them into the scattering and dispersing them throughout other lands (Ezekiel 36:19; Ezekiel 20:23; Leviticus 26:33). It is the judgment they have earned by their ways and by their deeds.
Among the nations to which they were scattered and dispersed, they behaved no better than in their land (Ezekiel 36:20). There, too, they profaned the holy Name of the LORD (Romans 2:24; Isaiah 52:5). From the exile and scattering, the nations draw the conclusion that God has dealt faithlessly with His people and has been unable to protect His people. Thus they profaned the Name of the LORD. But the cause lies with Israel, which has turned away from the LORD in such a way that He did have to deal with them in this way.
However, the LORD Himself will take care for the holiness of His Name before the nations (Ezekiel 36:21). Therefore, He will not give up His people, however guilty they may be, to extermination. That would result in new and greater slander from the nations. However, He will remove all ground for reproach by being merciful to His people, that is, a remnant, by sparing them and redeeming them.
A New Heart and a New Spirit
Ezekiel is to tell Israel not to think that they owe their redemption and return to their land to themselves (Ezekiel 36:22). The LORD does it solely for His own holy Name’s sake. Never does God’s mercy on man lie with man, but God’s mercy always finds its origin in Himself in spite of man. When the LORD sanctifies His great Name, it is to let the nations know that He and He alone is the LORD.
To accomplish this, He vindicates the holiness of His great name in His people (Ezekiel 36:23). He vindicates in them His Name before the nations by bringing them back to their land, through which He shines as the God of truth and faithfulness. The nations will come under the impression of His greatness, as He reveals Himself to His people as the Holy One, Who at the same time maintains His justice and lets His grace prevail.
He Himself will take the initiative and gather His people from all nations and bring them to their land (Ezekiel 36:24). The returned people will experience a tremendous spiritual renewal (Ezekiel 36:25). The LORD Himself will sprinkle clean water on them, making them clean, cleansed from all their filthiness and abominations. Water is a picture of God’s Word and of God’s Spirit (Ephesians 5:26; John 7:38-Malachi :). God’s Word, under the working of God’s Spirit, makes them aware of all their sins so that they will confess them.
Confession cleanses and creates room for God to give them “a new heart” and to put “a new spirit” within them (Ezekiel 36:26). He will remove their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. A heart of stone speaks of depraved insensitivity to the LORD. The heart is as hard as stone (cf. 1 Samuel 25:37). A heart of flesh speaks of receptivity to the Word of God.
In their hearts of flesh God will give His Spirit (Ezekiel 36:27). They will not only receive a new spirit in the sense of a new inner being, but God will give them His Spirit. Their hearts of flesh will be open to God’s Word. As a result, they will walk in the statutes of the LORD and obediently keep His ordinances by observing them.
If everything is in harmony with the will of God, they will also be able to enjoy the rich blessing of living in the land. The greatest blessing, though, is that they will be a people to Him and He will be a God to them (Ezekiel 36:28).
The Lord Jesus refers to these verses (Ezekiel 36:25-Hosea :; John 3:5-Joshua :) in His conversation with Nicodemus about the new birth. He is surprised that Nicodemus does not understand Him, since surely Nicodemus could have known from this section of the book of Ezekiel what He is talking about. The new birth happens through water and the Spirit. The new birth is entirely God’s work through His Word and His Spirit. It is only through this that people are born of God and become His children. No one can do anything about being born of God by themselves. And once a person is born of God, no one can change it.
The situation Ezekiel describes will not be a temporary one, but a continuous and unchanging one. This is because the LORD has saved them from all their uncleanness (Ezekiel 36:29). He will call an abundance of blessing over the trees and the field for them instead of the former famine. That famine He had to impose on them because of their constant forsaking Him and sinning against Him. The abundant fruit of the trees and of the field will also result in them no longer receiving the reproach of famine among the nations (Ezekiel 36:30).
The abundant blessing will be in stark contrast to the evil ways they have gone and to their evil deeds (Ezekiel 36:31). The contrast will bring them to loathe themselves. When we receive goodness from God, we may also experience how unworthy we are of that goodness. Then it again dawns on us that the Lord does not bestow His goodness on us because of who we are, as if we were any better than others, but that He does so because of Who He Himself is (Ezekiel 36:32). Then with gratitude there is also shame. The awareness that we are unworthy of the LORD’s goodness is also an evidence of true repentance.
The Sole Purpose: The Glory of the LORD
On the same day that the people are cleansed, the LORD will bestow all the deferred blessing on the people (Ezekiel 36:33). The cities will be inhabited and the ruins rebuilt. The devastated land will be cultivated to bring forth food and fruit (Ezekiel 36:34). The land will remind all who passes by of “the garden of Eden”, paradise (Ezekiel 36:35). The people who pass through the land will be those who first scoffed that the LORD had not been able to preserve His people from destruction (cf. 1 Kings 9:8-1 Samuel :; Jeremiah 18:16; Ezekiel 5:14; Ezekiel 16:15).
So it will be in the realm of peace, when the Lord Jesus reigns as Messiah. The surrounding nations that did not perish in the great tribulation will know that He is the LORD, because He has rebuilt what was ruined and planted that which was desolate (Ezekiel 36:36). He will do it, because He has spoken it.
Israel will then be in perfect harmony with the LORD. They will ask Him things that He gladly answers (Ezekiel 36:37). They may think that there are only a few of them, a rest, a remnant, remaining. Therefore, they will ask Him to multiply the people. He will. He will make them as numerous in people as there are sheep. Sheep are sacrificial animals. The comparison shows that His people will be made up of people who dedicate themselves to Him as a living sacrifice (cf. Romans 12:1).
They will be like sanctified sheep being sacrificed to the LORD on the appointed times (Ezekiel 36:38). Every day of their lives will be like appointed time for them, a day of dedication and sacrifice to the LORD. The formerly destroyed cities will be filled with “flocks of men” (cf. Ezekiel 34:31). What a joy that will be to the LORD! He will receive all the glory for it, for He has done it.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Ezekiel 36". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany