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THE PROMISE OF BETTER DAYS FOR ISRAEL. (Chap. 36)
EXEGETICAL NOTES.—Ezekiel 36:1. “Ye mountains of Israel”—in contrast to Mount Seir of the previous prophecy. They are here personified: Israel’s elevation is moral, not merely physical, as Edom’s.
Ezekiel 36:2. “The ancient high places.” “The perpetual heights are the natural mountains, as a figure of the unchangeable grandeur of which Israel boasted, because it had the Eternal for its protector, and in Him the security of its own perpetuity” (comp. Psalms 125:2).—Hengstenberg.
Ezekiel 36:3. “Made you desolate and swallowed you up”—laid you waste, and panted after you on every side; like wild beasts after their prey, implying the greedy cupidity of Edom as to Israel’s inheritance. “Ye are taken up in the lips of talkers”—literally, “Ye are made to go up on the lip of the tongue, i.e., on the lip of the slanderer, the man of tongue. Edom slandered Israel because of the connection of the latter with Jehovah, as though He were unable to save them.”—Fausset.
Ezekiel 36:4. “Thus saith the Lord to the mountains, hills,” &c. The mention of particulars is meant to point to the eye which observes all, the Divine care which beholds each and all, over which only a human eye weeps, or, on the contrary, rejoices. The completeness of the renewed blessedness of all parts of the land is implied.
Ezekiel 36:5. “With joy of heart, despiteful minds, to cast it out as a prey”—“with gladness of heart and deadly scorn, have appropriated My land to desolate and plunder it.”—Geikie.
Ezekiel 36:7. “Shall bear their shame”—shall bear their share of contempt in turn—a perpetual shame, whereas the shame that Israel bore from these heathen was only temporary.
Ezekiel 36:8. “Shall shoot forth your branches and yield fruit to My people, for they are at hand to come”—“shall shoot out your verdure and yield your fruits to My people Israel, for they will soon come.”—Geikie. “Leaves and branches come into view as food for cattle, while the fruit is for man. Of the seventy years Chaldean servitude twenty had already elapsed, so that many of those still living might yet see the joyful day.”—Hengstenberg.
Ezekiel 36:11. “Will do better unto you than at your beginnings”—“better than in your past. This was fulfilled when He appeared in the Holy Land who could say of Himself, ‘Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden,’ and who far outshone Solomon in all his glory.”—Hengstenberg.
Ezekiel 36:14. “Thou shalt devour men no more, neither bereave thy nations any more.” “The land of Israel had a dangerous position. It was a land of transit, an apple of discord for the Asiatic and African powers, and exposed to oppression by the surrounding nations of the wilderness, who always went to it for barter. On account of this dangerous position it is designated, even in Numbers 13:32, as a land that devours its inhabitants. Precisely such a land had God chosen for His people. They should always have occasion to look up to Him; and when they fell away the rods were also laid up. Peaceful seclusion would have produced a stagnant condition, the worst that can befall the people of God. It is essential to the Church in this world to be militant.”—Hengstenberg.
Ezekiel 36:19. “I scattered them among the heathen.” “The reason for their removal was their sin, which God’s holiness could not let pass unpunished.”—Fausset.
Ezekiel 36:20. “They profaned My holy name.” “The name of My holiness is not simply the holy name of Jehovah, but the name in which His holiness is manifest, so that by it man names His holiness, and hence the Holy God Himself.”—Lange.
Ezekiel 36:21. “I had pity for Mine holy name”—“I felt pity for it. God’s own name, so dishonoured, was the primary object of His pitying concern, then His people secondarily through His concern for it.”—Fairbairn.
Ezekiel 36:23. “I will sanctify My great name”—“i.e., My holiness as expressed in My name, securing due weight to it, so that it shall not simply be named as name, but evidently experienced as fact. In its being the name of His holiness lies the necessity, when the people who thus name God do not sanctify it, but, on the contrary, only contribute everywhere to its profanation, that then Jehovah should take in hand the sanctification of His name, and thereby of Himself.”—Lange. “Shall be sanctified in you before their eyes”—“or before your eyes. It must be done first before the eyes of the people who by their depravity had lost sight of God’s real character; and then what was seen by them experimentally would also be seen reflectively by the heathen who dwelt around.”—Fairbairn.
Ezekiel 36:25. “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean.” “The external restoration must be preceded by an internal one. The change in their condition must not be superficial, but must be based on a radical renewal of the heart.”—Fausset. “The immediate sense of the verse is: That Jehovah leads back Israel from exile into their own land, and consecrates them there to be a people, since the punishment, so characteristic for the sin that occasioned it, is shown to be removed by the bringing of them again into their own land, the forgiveness of sins thereby already proclaimed at once evinces and manifests itself as purification of the people, and the people put from them their old life, especially their idolatry.”—Lange.
Ezekiel 36:26. “I will give you a heart of flesh”—not carnal in opposition to spiritual, but impressible and docile, fit for receiving the good seed.
Ezekiel 36:27. “I will cause you to walk in My statutes.” “From the bestowment of the new heart flows the altered position toward the law of God.”—Hengstenberg.
Ezekiel 36:29. “I will also save you from all your uncleannesses”—the province of Jesus, according to His name (Matthew 1:21). To be specially exercised in behalf of the Jews in the latter days (Romans 11:26). “And I will call for the corn”—“as a master calls for a servant. All the powers and productions of nature are the servants of Jehovah (Psalms 105:16; Matthew 8:8-40.8.9).”—Fausset.
Ezekiel 36:31. “Then shall ye remember your own evil ways”—“with shame and loathing. The unexpected grace and love of God manifested in Christ to Israel shall melt the people into true repentance, which mere legal fear could not (chap. Ezekiel 16:61; Ezekiel 16:63; Psalms 130:4; Zechariah 12:10; Jeremiah 33:8-24.33.9).”—Fausset.
Ezekiel 36:35. “This land is become like the garden of Eden.” “We have here the clear counterpart of the night-piece (Joel 2:3). The comparison of this fundamental passage, according to which the figure of the land of Eden can only signify a prosperous state in general, shows how erroneous it is to find in this passage the restoration of Canaan to a really paradisiac glory, and to charge those who cannot find this in it with a spiritualising evaporation.”—Hengstenberg.
Ezekiel 36:36. “I the Lord have spoken it, and I will do it.” “I, Jehovah, whose name and nature afford a security that between speaking and doing no gulf can be fixed.”—Hengstenberg.
Ezekiel 36:37. “I will yet for this be inquired of”—“so as to grant it. On former occasions He had refused to be inquired of by Israel, because the inquirers were not in a fit condition of mind to receive a blessing (chap. Ezekiel 14:3; Ezekiel 20:3). But hereafter, as in the restoration from Babylon (Nehemiah 8:9; Daniel 9:3-27.9.23), God will prepare His people’s hearts to pray aright for the blessings which He is about to give (Psalms 102:13-19.102.17; Psalms 102:20; Zechariah 12:10-38.12.14; Zechariah 13:1).”—Fausset.
Ezekiel 36:37-26.36.38. “I will increase them with men like a flock, as the holy flock.” “The passover was the only one among the festivals in which there was a great accumulation of sheep, with which the fulness of men in restored Israel is compared. But the consecrated sheep are meant here, not any other gathering of sheep, because the people that is compared with the sheep is the people of the saints of the Lord. The fulfilment is to be sought in the Church of Christ still more than in the times between the exile and Christ.”—Hengstenberg.
HOPE FOR A RUINED NATION
In this chapter the prophet continues the theme with which his whole soul was possessed—the prospective revival and prosperity of Israel. In the darkest day of national desolation the lamp of prophecy glowed with a Divinely kindled flame. The land is smitten and helpless; but hope is still left, though that hope is enshrined for the time in the breast of one man, as in the fatal box of Pandora, from which issued all the evils that afflict mankind, hope was still left at the bottom. The keen spiritual insight of Ezekiel saw that, amid the prevailing ruin, Israel still retained an interest in the power and faithfulness of God which would bring about her future restoration, while the exulting hopes of the heathen that her downfall was permanent were doomed to disappointment. Observe—
I. That a ruined nation is an object of Divine compassion.
1. He sees its resources exhausted. “They have made you desolate, and swallowed you up on every side” (Ezekiel 36:3). The land is denuded of its inhabitants and its wealth. The hills are there, but they are no longer covered with grazing flocks and herds. The valleys are there, but the diligent husbandmen are gone, and the fields and vineyards degenerate into barrenness or are choked with the wild growths of untamed luxuriousness. The cities crumble to ruin and are forsaken. The hum of commerce is hushed, and the animated scenes of a thriving population are no longer visible. The garden has become a wilderness, the ground a grave in which the national life lies buried.
2. He sees its land possessed with strangers. “Even the high places are ours—a possession unto the residue of the heathen—which have appointed My land into their possession with the joy of all their heart, with despiteful minds” (Ezekiel 36:2-26.36.3; Ezekiel 36:5). The strangers had no right to the land; it belonged to God: nor would they have dared to seize it had His people, to whom it had been given as a heritage, remained faithful to Him. They were marauders, robbers, who pounced upon the land with the avaricious joy with which the wreckers plunder a stranded ship. It was “cast out for a prey.” It moved the compassion and indignation of Jehovah to see His heritage overrun and pilfered by those who fiercely hated both Him and His people.
3. He sees its ruin the sport and mockery of its enemies. “Aha, the places are ours—ye are taken up in the lips of talkers and are an infamy of the people—a prey and derision to the heathen” (Ezekiel 36:2-26.36.4). They gloat over the misfortunes of the nation they hated and dreaded. Israel had become a byword and a reproach. The foulest slander was freely circulated, and her enemies chuckled with a hideous satisfaction as they rolled the toothsome morsel in their mouths. Every taunt would rankle like a poisoned barb as the unhappy Israelite reflected it was a just recompense for his inveterate folly. This state of things was faithfully predicted (Jeremiah 24:9), and nothing was done to prevent it. The warning was despised. Abandoned by God and man, Israel was exposed to the pitiless contempt of the wicked. And yet the heart of Jehovah yearned with compassion towards His afflicted people.
II. That Divine Power can restore a ruined nation to prosperity.
1. He can do it speedily. “They are at hand to come” (Ezekiel 36:8). Though there were fifty of the seventy years’ captivity yet to run, it was near at hand in God’s determination. Fifty years is a long period in the life of an individual, but it is insignificant in the life of a nation. The time is near because it is sure to come. Though Israel was far from home, dispersed in many countries, and held in bondage by the power of her captors, she shall be brought again to her own land. Time is a trifling factor in the working out of eternal purposes; and yet many then living were privileged to witness the promised restoration. God is slow to punish; swift to bless.
2. He can do it effectually (Ezekiel 36:8-26.36.15). The waste places shall be tilled and sown (Ezekiel 36:8), the earth abound in fruitfulness (Ezekiel 36:8), the hills covered with flocks and herds (Ezekiel 36:11), the cities rebuilt and crowded with inhabitants (Ezekiel 36:10), commerce expand with ever-increasing activity (Ezekiel 36:11), the taunt of desolation silenced (Ezekiel 36:15), and the land that had cast out its people to perish shall support and cherish them on a scale of unexampled munificence (Ezekiel 36:11-26.36.15). When a penitent nation returns to God there is no blessing He will withhold: its grievances are redressed, its honour retrieved, its peace and prosperity ensured.
III. That the promise of Divine help inspires national hope. Israel was utterly prostrate. There was no country in that neighbourhood so desolate and forsaken. The laud of plenty was cursed with emptiness, and, like an unnatural mother, had cast out its children to perish. Browbeaten, calumniated, and oppressed by their enemies, the people lost heart and sank into the helplessness of despair. They had no more hope of revival than the salt-encrusted pine-logs that travellers tell us are strewn on the shores of the Dead Sea, saturated for centuries with brine. Left to themselves, there was no possibility of recovery. But they were not to be so completely abandoned. Gradually, and at first faintly, whispers of Divine help reached their ears. The impression grew in distinctness and strength that the promise was real, and at length out of the dark firmament of their miseries the bright star of hope once more shone forth. They had ample evidence, from past experiences, that what Jehovah promised He would surely perform. The worst of sinners need not despair; for him the hope of salvation shines, the promise is still in force. Let him but repent and cry for help, and all will yet be well.
1. That there is power in the midst of apparent impotency.
2. That national revival begins in the putting away of national sins.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Ezekiel 36:1-26.36.15. God and Nature.
1. God never forgets His absolute proprietorship in nature. His are the mountains, hills, rivers, and valleys, for He made them (Ezekiel 36:4-26.36.6).
2. Nature remains true to God when man is unfaithful. Man may desolate but cannot destroy nature. The unchanging continuity of its mountains, hills, rivers, and valleys rebukes his fickleness and infidelity.
3. Nature is honoured by signal displays of Divine power. “The mountains of Israel” had witnessed the miracles of God on behalf of His chosen people, and while the earth stands their voiceless testimony will abide.
4. Nature responds with grateful quickness to the touch of the Divine blessing. “Ye mountains shall shoot forth your branches and yield your fruit. I will multiply upon you man and beast, and will do better unto you than at your beginnings” (Ezekiel 36:8-26.36.11).
5. God will make nature a fruitful inheritance to the obedient (Ezekiel 36:12-26.36.15).
—Man and Nature.
1. Man regards nature as an opportunity to indulge a covetous spirit. “The places are ours in possession” (Ezekiel 36:2).
2. Man abuses the resources of nature by sinful extravagance. “They have made you desolate, and swallowed you up on every side” (Ezekiel 36:3).
3. It is an evidence of great moral debasement when man exults over the desolations of nature he himself has made. “The enemy hath said against you, ‘Aha!—Ye are taken up in the lips of talkers, and are an infamy of the people—a prey and derision—with the joy of all their heart, with despiteful minds, to cast it out for a prey” (Ezekiel 36:2-26.36.5).
4. When man violates nature he violates the laws of God, and suffers accordingly. “Thou land devourest up men, and hast bereaved thy nations” (Ezekiel 36:13).
5. When man obeys God, all the resources of nature minister to his enjoyment (Ezekiel 36:8-26.36.15).
Ezekiel 36:1-26.36.4. “The grand distinction between the people of God as Israel, and the people of the world as Edom, is, whereas the latter are finally given over to destruction, the former are only chastened for a time, and shall be finally and completely delivered. The people of the world may now seem exalted to a great height, but their elevation is of a carnal and material kind, and is therefore transitory. The elevation of the Israel of God is spiritual, and therefore permanent. Her hills are ‘the everlasting hills’ (Genesis 49:26). The Mount Zion, as the seat of God’s earthly throne, cannot be removed, but abideth for ever (Psalms 125:1). Therefore Edom’s shout of triumph over the fallen Israel shall be turned into wailing for her own fall. She had greedily thought to take possession of the ancient high places of the people of God. Nay more, she had turned into derision the promise of perpetuity which God had given to His people, as though that promise was now proved to be abortive, and had sneered at Israel’s connection with Jehovah as though He were unable to save them.”—Fausset.
Ezekiel 36:2. “Many were the enemies of God’s people, but they so conspired in one design, and were so one in their humours, enmity, and carriage, that the prophet speaks of them as one, and particularly of Edom.”—Pool.
—“The scorn of the world an old experience. Thus were the prophets and Christ reproached, and the Lord said that men would speak all manner of evil against His disciples (Matthew 5:11), and Paul, that we should be a spectacle to the world (1 Corinthians 4:9).”—Lange.
Ezekiel 36:3. “Ye are taken up on the lips of talkers, and are an infamy of the people.” Slander.
1. A vice of great talkers.
2. Is devoid of compassion for the unfortunate.
3. Delights in exaggeration and malicious innuendoes.
4. Is frequently employed to disparage and afflict the people of God.
—“Ye are made to ascend upon the lip of the tongue and upon the evil fame of the people. God takes it extreme ill that His people should be traduced and defamed, which hath been their lot in all ages, but He will not fail to vindicate them and to avenge them.”—Trapp.
—“God knows, sees, and hears the misery of His children: that must comfort them, therefore they cannot despair. How ready men often are not only to count up the sufferings of others, but also in their talk to exaggerate still more.”—Starck.
Ezekiel 36:4-26.36.6. The Divine Sympathy with Nature.
1. Because it is His handiwork and reflects His character.
2. Because it is the dwelling-place and training ground of man.
3. Because of the havoc wrought in it by the fury of His enemies.
4. Because it is ever faithful and obedient to His laws.
Ezekiel 36:6-26.36.7. Wrong-doing.
1. Rouses the Divine anger.
2. Is doomed while it rejoices in its brief triumph.
3. Will suffer the misery it inflicts on others.
4. Is certain to be Divinely punished.
Ezekiel 36:6. “To these lifeless creatures He directeth His speech to show that every creature groaneth and waileth for the redemption of our bodies. It fareth the better also in this life present, for the elect’s sake, as it was once cursed for man’s sin, and hath lain bedridden, as it were, ever since.”—Trapp.
Ezekiel 36:7. “The righteous God, to whom vengeance belongs, will render shame for shame. Those that put contempt and reproach on God’s people will sooner or later have it turned upon themselves; perhaps in this world, either their follies or their calamities, their miscarriages or their mischances, shall be their reproach; at furthest, in that day when all the impenitent shall rise to shame and everlasting contempt.”—M. Henry.
—“They shall be paid home in their own coin, be overshot in their own bow, be covered with their own confusion.”—Trapp.
Ezekiel 36:8-26.36.15. The Fertility of Nature.
1. A signal proof of the Divine blessing. “Behold I am for you. And I will multiply” (Ezekiel 36:8-26.36.9).
2. Evidenced in the abundant increase of fruit, cattle, men and wealth (Ezekiel 36:8-26.36.11).
3. Should be regarded by the people of God as a special blessing. “Even My people Israel shall possess thee, and thou shalt be their inheritance” (Ezekiel 36:12).
4. The more conspicuous because of former barrenness and decay (Ezekiel 36:13-26.36.15).
5. A type of the future prosperity of the people of God.
—“While Edom and Tyre rejoiced in their sins at the fall of Jerusalem, the jealousy of the Lord was roused to say that they should return, and as Jeremiah had said that fields and vineyards should again be sold in that city. The promises, like clouds of refreshing rain, scatter their blessings on every age. They were in one form or other continually repeated, and in all the glowing powers of Oriental language. But however justified the prophets might be in the use of hyperbole and metaphor, they could not exceed the truth, which would have been the case had their promises been restricted to the weak but rising times of Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. And if the waste places were rebuilt, why then, whole Palestina, dost thou lie very much in ruins to this day? Consequently the gracious cloud of covenant blessings only scattered its drops on Jewish ages, and gave showers to the primitive church, reserving its fulness, or the residue of the Spirit, for the mountain of His holiness in the glory of the latter day.”—Sutcliffe.
—“A certain fulfilment of the most literal kind began at an early period to be given to the prophecy. People of the stock of Israel did again possess the land of their fathers; by them the mountains of Israel were again cultivated, and for them the land yielded its fruit; there again, as of old, the seed of man and of beast did greatly increase and multiply, so that the region was known for ages as one of the most fertile and prosperous in Asia, and that too while the old and hereditary enemies of Israel in the neighbourhood sank into comparative insignificance and lost their original place in the scale of nations. Had Israel but seen in all this the hand of God, and viewed the whole in connection with His unchangeable righteousness, there should certainly have been nothing wanting to complete the correspondence between the description of the prophet and the facts of history. But the old relations of the covenant people with the kingdom of God give way; the outward Israel are no longer distinctively the covenant people—all the children of faith of every land become the seed of blessing and heirs according to the promise. And while it is only under the Gospel dispensation that we can expect the perfect realisation of the promised good, we must now no longer expect it after the old form, or according to the simply literal interpretation. The good is too great and expansive to be now shut up within such narrow limits, for since wherever there is a royal priesthood offering up spiritual services to God, there the incense and offerings of the temple are perpetuated (Malachi 1:11; 1 Peter 2:5), so wherever there are members of Christ there also are the mountains of Canaan, there are the people who have the promise of all things for their portion, on whom descends the blessing—life for evermore. Nor can the old evils properly return again, for the good is avowedly connected with nothing but a spiritual qualification, and is entirely dissevered from a merely ancestral relationship or a political existence in the world.”—Fairbairn.
Ezekiel 36:8. “Thus shall the ruined churches bring fruit, wine, and bread, that is, the mysteries of doctrine to the profit of the people, that they may no longer be rude and ignorant, but a people taught of God. Therefore the spiritual husbandmen, vine-dressers, till and sow diligently. With the plough of fear they turn up the soil of the heart in which they sow the new word of the Gospel, whereby the forsaken churches become planted anew; and these are the mountains which the Lord addresses.”—Heim-Hoffman.
Ezekiel 36:9-26.36.11. “The Lord declares to the people of Israel, ‘Behold, I am for you.’ Since God is ultimately to be for them, no power can avail anything that is against them. God will ‘turn to’ His people in mercy, and they shall at the same time turn to Him in repentance. The restoration to their own land is to be literal, and all things and all persons in the restored state of Israel are to share in the coming blessedness—‘the mountains, the hills, the rivers, the valleys, the desolate wastes, the houses, the cities, man and beast.’ So in the case of the spiritual Israel, the true Church: she is now a little and despised flock, but she shall at last be a multitude which no man can number (Revelation 7:9); whereas the anti-christian faction, and all the carnal, worldly, and unbelieving, who shall for a time seem to triumph over the Church of Christ (Revelation 11:7-66.11.11), shall perish awfully and everlastingly.”—Fausset.
Ezekiel 36:9. “It is a blessing to the earth to be made serviceable to men, especially to good men that will serve God with cheerfulness in the use of those good things which the earth serves up to them.”—M. Henry.
—“ ‘I will turn unto you.’ Look towards you with regard to what has been and is your estate, your sufferings, which were less than you deserved, yet were the greater because ye are mine. Your inhabitants gave me the back and sinned against me, and I turned the back on you and regarded you not: then all darkness covered you, now my face shall be towards you, and you shall prosper and be fruitful to the comfort of those that shall dwell in you and plough and sow you.”—Pool.
Ezekiel 36:10. “They are far wrong who consider a great increase of men as a curse because it gives rise to want and distress. God can nourish many as well as few, and we should live moderately, avoid endeavouring to surpass others in expenditure, and seek for concord in families.”—Luther.
Ezekiel 36:11. “God’s kingdom in the world is a growing kingdom, and His Church, though for a time it may be diminished, shall recover itself and be again replenished.”—M. Henry.
Ezekiel 36:12. “The promised good is always to be understood with the condition that men repent (Malachi 3:7). The self-evident condition is, that they do not fill up the measure of their sins anew. There is no charter of immunity against Ye would not. How often is the country or a district made to bear the blame when there comes a pestilence among men or cattle, when it should be known that sin gaining the upper hand provoked God’s wrath thereto.”—Lange.
SIN THE CAUSE OF NATIONAL RUIN
Once more the Jews are reminded of the reason for the calamities that had overtaken them: the root-cause was their sin. It might seem strange to them that they, of all people, should be so deeply humiliated; but such was the obstinacy of their rebellion that no other course was open but for Jehovah to vindicate the cause of righteousness by unmistakable marks of His displeasure. So far as they were concerned they had no reason to expect anything but a continuance of His righteous severity; but a supreme regard for His holy name, which had influenced Him in bringing about their downfall, is now to operate in promoting their recovery. Their restoration must begin in the conviction and acknowledgment of their sins.
I. Sin is a defilement of the national life (Ezekiel 36:17). It is so because it is a defilement of the individual life. Sin is the polluted heritage of universal man, for all have sinned; but it is intensely individual and personal. Its taint permeates every power and faculty of the man—“The whole head is sick and the whole heart faint: from the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it, but wounds and bruises and putrefying sores.” Its seat is inward, and it is often disguised under a fair and beautiful exterior; but attack it, and its impurities soon become actively manifest, as the cuttle-fish surprised by an enemy emits an inky fluid that darkens and befouls the most pellucid waters. The nation is defiled because the citizen is defiled, and instead of seeking cleansing has stirred up the muddy sediment in himself and others. “Let sin be your deepest sorrow, your heaviest grief, the spring of many tears, the burden of many sighs, the occasion of daily visits to the cross of Calvary.”
“Weep not for broad lands lost;
Weep not for fair hopes crossed;
Weep not when limbs wax old;
Weep not when friends grow cold;
Weep not that death must part
Thine and the best loved heart:
Yet weep—weep all thou can—
Weep, weep, because thou art
A sin-defilèd man.”
II. Sin is a profanation of the Divine holiness (Ezekiel 36:20-26.36.21). Sin is not only a degradation to man, but an injustice and injury towards God: it seems to drag Him to the level of man, and to rob Him of every attribute that constitutes Him Divine. The conduct and attendant miseries of the Israelites dishonoured Jehovah in the sight of the heathen, who naturally inferred that if this was all He could do for His worshippers, then He was no better than their own deities, and the morality of His people was in many respects inferior to that of their own. Do not think that your iniquities are unnoticed, or that you are the only one affected by them. The unbelieving world is watching you. The mere profession of religion is a caricature and a hypocrisy, and every act of sin is a defamation of the character of the holy God.
III. Sin is punished by national ruin (Ezekiel 36:18-26.36.19). The Jews were driven out of their own land because of their incorrigible wickedness. Their murders, idolatries, and injustice roused the anger of God, and “according to their way and their doings” He adjudged them to punishment. His hand scattered them, and no power could detain them in the land when His hand was against them, just as no power could have disturbed their security if they had remained faithful to Him. The nation that makes an enemy of God is doomed. The strongest fortifications must yield, the astutest policy be confounded, commerce decay, wealth give way to poverty, and the proudest people be humbled to the dust. The first step in national ruin begins in moral wrong.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Ezekiel 36:16-26.36.38. “There are mountain regions lying within the tropics where in the course of a single day the traveller finds every vegetable form peculiar to every line of latitude between the equator and the poles, and these all laid out in regular arrangement. Leaving the palms which cover the mountain’s feet, he ascends into the regions of the olive; from these he rises to a more temperate climate, where vines festoon the trees, or trail their limbs along the naked rock; still ascending, he reaches a belt of oaks and chestnuts; from that he passes to rugged heights shaggy with the hardy pine; by-and-by he enters a region where trees are dwarfed into bushes; rising above that his foot presses a soft carpet of lowly mosses, till climbing the rocks where only the lichen lives, he leaves all life below; and now, shivering in the cold, panting in the thin air for breath, he stands on those dreary elevations where eternal winter sits on a throne of snow, and waving her icy sceptre, says to vegetation—‘Hitherto shalt thou come, and no further.’ Like some such lofty mountain of the tropics there are portions of the Divine Word where in a space of limited extent—within the short compass of a chapter, or even part of it—the more prominent doctrines of salvation are brought into juxtaposition and arranged side by side almost in systematic order. This portion of Scripture presents an epitome or outline of the Gospel. Its details, with their minute and varied beauties, are here, so to speak, in shade; but the grand truths of redemption stand boldly up, much as we have seen from sea the summits of a mountain range, or the lofty headlands of a dim and distant coast. We are aware that the Mosaic economy, and many of God’s dealings with His ancient people, were but the shadows of good things to come; and when the things are come, why look at the shadow when you possess the substance? However valued in his absence the portrait of a son, what mother, when her boy is folded in her arms, and she has his loved and living face to gaze on, turns to the cold picture? What artist studies a landscape in the grey dawn when he may see it in the blaze of day? True. Yet such study has its advantages. It not seldom happens that a portrait brings to view certain shades of expression which we had not previously observed in the face of the veritable man; and when some magnificent form of architecture, or the serried ridges and rocky peaks of a mountain, have stood up between us and the lingering lights of day, we have found that although the minor beauties of fluted columns or frowning crags were lost in the shades of evening, yet, drawn in sharp and clear outline against a twilight sky, the effect of the whole was even more impressive than when eyed in the glare of day. Thus it may be well occasionally to examine the Gospel in the broad shadows and strongly defined outlines of an old economy; and through God’s government of His ancient people to study the motives, the nature, and ends of His dealings with ourselves. In this way the passage before us has peculiar claims upon our attention.”—Guthrie’s Gospel in Ezekiel.
Ezekiel 36:16. “Man’s previous course of action is the cause of God’s subsequent course of action. We shall have to give account not only because of the evil which we have done, but also for the good things which we have had. The world is perfect throughout where man does not come in to disturb it. Storms clear the air, an observation which bears application in regard to the judgments of God.”—Lange.
Ezekiel 36:16-26.36.17. “The word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man.” The Human Side of the Divine Message. “The rain in its descent from heaven falls upon the surface of our earth, percolates through the porous soil, and flowing along rocky fissures or veins of sand, is conveyed below ground to the fountain whence it springs. Now, although rising out of the earth, that water is not of the earth earthy. The world’s deepest well owes its treasures to the skies. So was it with the revealed will of God. It flowed along human channels, yet its origin was more than celestial, it was Divine. Those waters at whose pure and perennial springs faith drinks and lives, while conveyed to man along earthly channels, have their source far away—in the throne of God. No doubt God could have used other instrumentality. He might have commissioned angels on His errands of mercy, and spoken at all times, as He did sometimes, by seraph lips. With rare exceptions His ambassadors were men. The patriarchs, prophets, and apostles—those inspired missionaries of heaven—were all sons of men. In this arrangement observe—
1. The kindness of God to man. Who has read the story of Moses without feeling that it was a very great kindness both to the infant and his mother that he had her bosom to lie on, and that God in His providence so arranged matters that the very mother of the child was hired to be its nurse. Who else could be expected to treat the outcast so lovingly and kindly? And I hold it a singular kindness to man that he is selected to be the instrument of saving his fellow-men. If that parent is happy who has snatched a beloved child from the flood or fire, and the child saved and thus twice given him becomes doubly dear, what happiness in purity or permanence to be compared with his who is a labourer with God in saving souls!
2. The honour conferred on man. What dignity does this world offer, what glittering stars, what jewelled honours flash on her swelling breast, to be for one moment compared with those which they win on earth and wear in heaven who have turned souls from darkness to light? As yon planet worlds that roll above us draw bright radiance from the sun around which they move, so surely shall they shine who spend and are spent in Jesus’ service; they shall share His honours and shine in His lustre. It was the prayer of Brainerd, ‘Oh that I were a flaming fire in the service of my God!’
3. The wisdom of God. Mirabeau said of a man who addressed the French Convention for the first time, ‘That man will yet act a great part; he speaks as one who believes every word he says.’ Much of pulpit power under God depends on that. They make others feel who feel themselves. It is true a man may impart light to others who does not himself see the light. It is true that like a concave speculum cut from a block of ice, which, concentrating the rays of the sun, kindles touchwood or explodes gunpowder, a preacher may set others on fire when his own heart is cold as frost. Yet commonly it happens that it is what comes from the heart of preachers that penetrates and affects the hearts of hearers. Like a ball red-hot from the cannon’s mouth, he must burn himself who would set others on fire. If man may not feel what he preaches, angels could not. Man saved himself the more earnestly seeks the salvation of his perishing fellow-man. During a heavy storm off the coast of Spain a dismasted merchantman was observed by a British frigate drifting before the gale. Every eye and glass were on her, and a canvas shelter on a deck almost level with the sea suggested the idea that even yet there might be life on board. With all their faults no men are more alive to humanity than our rough and hardy mariners; and so the order instantly sounds to put the ship about, and presently a boat is lowered, and starts with instructions to bear down upon the wreck. Away after that drifting hulk go these gallant men over the mountain swell of a roaring sea; they reach it, they shout, and now a strange object rolls from that canvas screen against the lee shroud of a broken mast. It is hauled into the boat. It proves to be the trunk of a man, bent head and knees together, so dried up and shrivelled as to be hardly felt within the ample clothes—so light that a mere boy lifted it on board. It is conveyed to the ship and laid on the deck. In horror and pity the crew gather around it. These feelings suddenly change into astonishment. The object shows signs of life. The seamen draw nearer; it moves and then mutters—in a deep sepulchral voice, mutters—‘There is another man.’ Rescued himself, the first use the saved one made of speech was to try to save another.”—Guthrie.
Ezekiel 36:17. The Defiler. “
1. Sin a defilement. Look at sin, pluck off that painted mask and turn upon her face the lamp of God’s Word. We start, for it reveals a death’s head. I stay not to quote texts descriptive of sin. It is a debt, a burden, a thief, a sickness, a leprosy, a plague, a poison, a serpent, a sting—everything that man hates it is. Name me the evil that springs not from this root—the crime that lies not at this door. Hypocrite and dead professor! let us open thy bosom: full of all corruption, how it smells like a charnel house! We are driven back by the noisome stench—we hasten to close the door. It is a painted, putrid sepulchre, whose fair exterior but aggravates the foulness within.
2. The nature of this defilement. (a.) It is internal. Like snowdrift, when it has levelled the churchyard mounds, and glistening in the winter sun, lies so pure, white, fair, and beautiful above the dead that fester and rot below, a plausible profession may wear the look of innocence and conceal from human eyes the foulest heart-corruption. The grass grows green upon the sides of the mountain that holds a volcano in its bowels. Behind the rosy cheek and lustrous eye of beauty how often does there lurk a deadly disease, the deadliest disease of all. Like these maladies, sin has its seat within. It is a disease of the heart, and the worst and deadliest of all heart-complaints. (b.) It is universal. Although the hues of the skin differ, the form of the skull and the features of the face are cast in different moulds, the features, colour, and character of the heart are the same in all men. In Adam all have died—have sinned, and therefore died. Thus sin, like our atmosphere, embraces every region of the world. Like death, it is universal. The tree is diseased not at the top, but at the root, and therefore no branch of the human family can possibly escape being affected by sin. (c.) It is incurable. What moral effect had God’s judgments on His ancient people? As always happens in incurable diseases, the patient grew worse instead of better. As always happens when life is gone, the dead become more and more offensive. This internal and universal defilement is one which neither sorrows can atone for nor sufferings remove. I have seen the characters of the writing remain on paper which the flames had turned into a film of buoyant coal; I have seen the thread that had been passed through the fire retain in its cold grey ashes the twist which it had got in spinning; I have found every shivered splinter of the flint as hard as the unbroken stone; and let trials come in providence sharp as the fire and ponderous as the crushing hammer, unless a gracious God send along with these something else than these, bruised, broken, bleeding as thy heart may be, its nature remains the same.”—Guthrie.
—Man Sinning. “
1. Man is fallen. Compare man with any other of the creatures of God, and how directly we come to the conclusion that he is not, nor can be, the creature he came from his Maker’s hands. Turn to the bloody horrors of this battlefield. The trampled ground lies thick with the mingled brave, the air is shaken with the most horrible sounds, every countenance expresses the passions of a fiend. Covering her eyes, humanity flies shrieking from the scene and leaves it to rage, revenge, and agony. Fiercer than the cannon’s flash flames of wrath shoot from brothers’ eyes; they draw, they brandish their swords, they sheath them in each other’s bowels; every stroke makes a widow, every ringing volley scatters a hundred orphans on a homeless world. Sooner would I be an atheist, and believe there was no God, than that a man appears in this scene as he came from the hand of a Benignant Divinity. Man must have fallen.
2. Apart from derived sinfulness man has personal sins to answer for. You may deny original, but can any man in his senses deny actual sin? You may as well deny your existence; it sticks to you like your shadow. If every thread of life’s web were yet to weave, what man would make the future a faithful copy of the past] No man living would. 3 The guilt of these actual sins is man’s own. We attempt in vain to fix the blame on others—to lay the burden on any shoulders but our own. We talk of the strength, we plead the suddenness of temptation; but how often have we sinned designedly, deliberately, repeatedly? We have sinned when we knew we were sinning; we have repaired to scenes where we knew that we were to sin. We have done what the heathen never did, what Sodom and Gomorrah never did, what Tyre and Sidon never did—we have rejected a Saviour, and insanely refused eternal life.”—Guthrie.
Ezekiel 36:18-26.36.19. God’s Punitive Justice. “
1. God is slow to punish. No band of clock goes so slow as His hand of vengeance. Look, for example, on the catastrophe of the Deluge. There was a truce of one hundred and twenty years between the first stroke of the bell and the first crash of the thunder. Noah grew grey preaching repentance. The ark stood useless for years, a huge laughing-stock for the scoffer’s wit. Most patient God! God does pour out His fury; but His indignation is the volcano that groans loud and long before it discharges the elements of destruction and pours its fiery lavas on the vineyards at its feet.
2. The truth of God requires the punishment of sin. God has reiterated in a thousand ways the awful sentence—‘The soul that sinneth it shall die.’ Let sin go unpunished either in person or substitute; this saves the sinner—no doubt of that; but at what price? You save the creature’s life at the expense of the Creator’s honour. Your scheme exalts man, but far more than man is exalted is God degraded. By it no man is lost; but there is a greater loss—something more awful happens. The truth of God is lost; and in that loss His crown is spoiled of its topmost jewel, His kingdom totters, and the throne of the universe is shaken to its foundations.
3. The love of God requires the punishment of sin. Love for those who have the highest claim on a sovereign’s protection requires that justice take her course and the guilty die. That the community may live in peace, that the citizen may feel safe in the bosom of his family, that streets may be safe to walk on, that beds may be safe to lie in, that our country may be fit to live in, crime must be punished. Divine love is no blind Divinity, and God being as wise as tender, sinners may rest assured that out of mere pity for them He will neither sacrifice the interests nor peril the happiness of His people.
4. Unless sin is punished the language of Scripture appears extravagant. Let me beseech, implore you to read with tears and prayers those passages of Scripture that unveil the miseries of the lost. Blot not from your minds what you cannot blot out of the book of God. The sufferings and miseries which await the impenitent and unbelieving, God has painted in most appalling colours. They are such that, to save us from them, His Son descended from these heavens and expired upon a cross. They are such that when Paul thought of the lost he wept like a woman. The Gospel has in it elements of terror. But it is like our atmosphere—occasionally riven by the thunder and illumined by the fatal flash, at times the path of the stealthy pestilence, charged with elements of destruction and impregnated with the seeds of disease; but how much more a great magazine of health, filled with the most harmonious sounds, fragrant with the sweetest odours, hung with golden drapery, the pathway of sunbeams, the womb of showers, the feeder of fertilising streams, the parent of harvests, and the fountain of all earth’s life! And, just as in that atmosphere which God has wrapped around our globe there is much more health than sickness, much more food than famine, much more life than death, so in the Bible there is much more love than terror.”—Guthrie.
Ezekiel 36:19. “ ‘The scattering power of sin: in truth, it scatters the souls of men into the whole world, and that is already their judgment which sinners have to experience.”—Lange.
—“God frequently repeats that His judgments upon the Jews were no more than what their own ways or doings obliged Him to inflict. There was in His dealings with them no arbitrary exercise of sovereignty, but they were dealt with according to their own conduct. And thus God deals with mankind in general: His actions in regard to them are not founded in an arbitrary exercise of His absolute sovereignty over them, but in impartial justice, wisdom, and goodness; and He judges them according to their own ways, and not according to the dictates of an arbitrary will.”—Benson.
Ezekiel 36:20-26.36.21. The Name of God—
1. Is the expression of His immaculate holiness.
2. Is defamed by human sin.
3. Is misunderstood by those who witness the sufferings of His people.
4. Will vindicate to the universe its inviolable justice and righteousness.
Ezekiel 36:20. “They did profanely sin against those precepts of My law which heathens did know, venerate, and observe better than the Jews. Their heathen neighbours said, with taunt and cutting reprimand—‘These are the people of the Lord.’ These captive slaves, that are most forlorn of men, will have it that their God is the Lord, the mighty and the good God, the true and faithful One that gave them the land out of which they are driven. If He be good as they boast, how comes it to pass that His people are in such ill state? Was He weak and could not keep them in their own land, or doth He falsify His word? You miserable Jews, say what this meaneth. But by their impure life they opened the mouths of the heathens to blaspheme and call the holiness of God into question. When they saw His people so unholy they concluded—‘As is the people so is their God;’ and this, as it was a great offence and scandal to the heathen, so it was a great dishonour to God.”—Pool.
—“With the sinner goes also his curse, his other shadow.—Thus this chapter teaches us how the first petition of the Lord’s prayer should be understood. The name of the Lord is hallowed as well by the prosperity of the elect, which may obtain even under the cross, as by their purification from sin.—A bad life ought not to put good doctrine in question.”—Lange.
Ezekiel 36:21. “God His own justification in this world.—God sanctifies His name among men by benefits as well as by judgments and punishments.”—Lange.
I. Is bestowed as an act of unmerited Divine goodness (Ezekiel 36:22-26.36.24). Israel had forfeited all claim to the Divine pity; they had broken every clause in their part of the covenant. No injustice would have been done had they been passed by for ever and another nation selected to carry out the work in which they had so signally failed. But the Divine honour must be vindicated. The Lord had chosen Israel, had wedded Himself to them in closest union of both promise and blessing, had lavished upon them the love of His great heart and made them distinguished by miracles of power. Must all this go for nothing? Amid the general defection He did not overlook the fact that a few remained faithful. And yet, not for their sakes, nor for the sake of the people who had so cruelly disappointed and wronged Him, but for His own Name’s sake, He resolves upon the vindication of His honour. That vindication had been partially seen in the punishment, but is to be more fully displayed in the restoration and prosperity of His people. An old lesson, which the world in all ages has been so slow to take in, is to be again enforced—that spiritual good is superior to and the only sound basis of temporal good. Our smallest mercies are undeserved. How unfathomable is the goodness which continually surrounds us with spiritual riches!
II. Begins in a thorough renovation of the moral nature.
1. Sin is removed (Ezekiel 36:25). There is no possibility of the future being better than the present unless the heart is cleansed from sin. Man is powerless to do this (Jeremiah 2:22). It is an act of God. The ceremonial cleansing of the Law was typical of the spiritual cleansing of the Gospel. The Divine cleansing is thorough and complete—“Ye shall be cleansed from all your filthiness and from all your foul gods.”
2. A new nature acquired (Ezekiel 36:26). The old nature was full of idolatries; the new shall be clear of these. The old nature was stubborn, stolid, hard as stone; the new shall be soft, tender, impressionable, receiving the Divine impress as the melted wax receives the impress of the seal. The human shall be suffused, interpenetrated, and transformed by the Divine. It is a spiritual miracle. Man can mould the intellect and modify the disposition, but God alone can change and renew the heart.
3. The renovation evidenced by practical obedience (Ezekiel 36:27). In the spiritual world, as in the physical, every effect must have an adequate cause, and the effect must ever be in harmony with the nature and operative force of the cause. A life of moral obedience is the practical outcome of the influence of moral law acting at the centre of activity. Physical law is inflexible, and must ever produce the same class of phenomena with unvarying regularity. Moral law is not less unalterable, but it operates within the sphere of human freedom and cannot produce the same cast-iron sameness of results as is done in the unchanging operations of physical law: it respects the free, voluntary exercise of the human will. The Spirit of God so operates upon all the powers of the soul as to make obedience to God’s law not only possible, but cheerful, consistent, and acceptable. Enforced, mechanically regulated obedience is unworthy of man and displeasing to God. The reality of a spiritually transformed nature is seen in a constant endeavour to observe the Divine “statutes and judgments and do them.”
III. Is the only condition in which temporal prosperity can be truly appreciated and safely enjoyed (Ezekiel 36:28-26.36.30; Ezekiel 36:33-26.36.38). With the return of Israel to spiritual allegiance there is promised a return of temporal prosperity, and it is more than hinted in these verses that the outward prosperity should be proportioned to their moral obedience. Had they been more faithful, the promise of national restoration would have been more completely realised than history as yet has shown it to be. Temporal prosperity to the unbelieving is not only delusive, but dangerous. The success achieved by diligence and virtue has become a curse when the loss of rectitude has led to its abuse. The founders of the illustrious family of the Medici rose to affluence and power not only by their commercial genius, but by their philanthropy and virtue, John de Medici being honoured by his countrymen with the title of “the Father of the Poor;” and his son Cosmo has inscribed on his tomb the title of “Father of his country.” But with the decline of virtue in their descendants wealth and prestige vanished. Spiritual prosperity is the precursor of temporal prosperity. We never properly enjoy the good things of this life but as we use them in the fear and love of God, the all-bountiful Giver.
IV. Humbles the soul under a sense of personal unworthiness (Ezekiel 36:31-26.36.32). ’Tis ever so. Nothing humbles the soul more than a display of God’s condescending goodness. We are ashamed of the sins committed against beneficence so tender, so constant, so generous. We feel that such mercy is utterly undeserved. The goodness of God melts the heart into penitence, which a misconception of severity has hardened into indifference or reckless bravado (Romans 2:4-45.2.5). A genuine repentance is one of the most hopeful symptoms of spiritual prosperity. The glory of Divine grace is often seen to best advantage through the mist of tears.
V. Is secured by earnest and persevering prayer (Ezekiel 36:37). God had promised prosperity, and, apart from Israel’s deservings, had determined to bestow it, but none the less must it be sought by prayer and supplication. Whatever God has promised is a legitimate subject for prayer. Prayer is the language of conscious dependence; but how vast is the scope of the suppliant which is limited only by “the exceeding great and precious promises!” Those blessings are most highly prized, and bring the greatest spiritual enrichment, which are secured by earnest and agonising prayer.
1. God has a definite purpose in giving or withholding prosperity.
2. Spiritual prosperity is the highest kind, of prosperity.
3. The highest blessings are not secured without importunate prayer.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Ezekiel 36:22-26.36.24. The Divine Impartiality—
1. An essential characteristic of the Divine nature.
2. Exercised in the accurate distribution of punishment and reward.
3. Reveals the enormity of human ingratitude and sin.
4. Vindicates the integrity of the Divine name.
5. Seen in the generous treatment of the underserving.
6. A powerful motive to repentance and obedience.
Ezekiel 36:22. “It is not for any merit which God sees in His people that He has pity on them, for if God weighed their merits there could be nothing in them to recommend them to His favour; but it is in consideration of His own holy name and character as the God of covenanted grace, that so He may vindicate its sanctity before the nations from the reproach brought on it through the sins and the terrible punishment of the covenant people. Let us hence learn that the honour of His own holy name is the first grand end of all God’s dealings of wrath and mercy. Let us fall in with the purpose of God, and make the honour of His name our chief plea in our prayers for mercy and our influencing motive in all our acts.”—Fausset.
—“God’s Motive in Salvation.
1. Regard to His own glory.
2. In saving man for His own honour and glory God exhibits the mercy, holiness, love, and other attributes of the Godhead.
3. The doctrine that God is not moved to save man by any merit or worth in him is a truth of the highest importance to sinners.
4. It is as important for the saint as for the sinner to remember that he is not saved through personal merit, or for his own sake.
5. This doctrine, while it keeps the saint humble, will help to make him holy.
“Here, no ornament to park or garden, stands a dwarfed, stunted, bark-bound tree. How am I to develop that stem into tall and graceful beauty, to clothe with blossoms those naked branches and hang them till they bend with clustered fruit? Change such as that is not to be effected by surface-dressing, or any care bestowed on the upper soil. The remedy must go to the root. You cannot make that tree grow upwards till you break the crust below, pulverise the hard subsoil, and give the roots room and way to strike deeper down; for the deeper the root and the wider-spread the fine filaments of its rootlets, the higher the tree lifts an umbrageous head to heaven and throws out its hundred arms to catch, in dews, raindrops, and sunbeams, the blessings of the sky. The believer offers this analogy between grace and nature, that, as the tree grows best skyward that grows most downward, the lower the saint descends in humility the higher he rises in holiness. The soaring corresponds to the sinking.”—Guthrie’s Gospel in Ezekiel.
Ezekiel 36:23-26.36.24. “God Glorified in Redemption.
1. God might have vindicated His honour and sanctified His name in our destruction.
2. God sanctifies His name and glorifies Himself in our redemption.
3. God’s power, wisdom, holiness, justice, and mercy glorified in redemption.
4. In redemption God is glorified in the complete discomfiture of all His and our enemies.
“The effect of the wind is visible, not the element itself. The clouds scud across the sky, the trees swing their arms wildly in the air, aerial waves chase each other across the corn, and the boat, catching the gale in her flowing sheet, goes dancing over the billows. So, although in a sense infinitely higher, the Invisible is visible; and in His works we see One who, seeing all, remains Himself unseen God is lost, not in darkness, but in light; a sun that blinds the eye which is turned on its burning disc. Angels themselves, unable to sustain His glory, cover their faces with their wings and use them, as a man his hand, to screen their eyes from the ineffable effulgence. Unbeliever though he was, the great Laplace, in one of his last and not least memorable utterances, said—‘It is the little that we know; it is the great that remains unknown.’ On the consecrated spot, where the cross of salvation rose and the blood of a Redeemer fell, I find the centre of a spiritual universe. Here, in a completed arch, if I may so speak, locked fast by the key, all the properties of divinity meet; here, concentrated as in a focus, its varied attributes blend and shine.”—Guthrie.
Ezekiel 36:25-26.36.28. Heart-Renewal—
1. The work of the Divine Spirit.
2. Accomplished only by being cleansed from sin.
3. A thorough and self-conscious change.
4. Evidenced by an outward and practical obedience to the Divine law.
5. Puts the soul in its true relationship to God.
Ezekiel 36:25. “The mention of clean water to be sprinkled on the people as the means of purification can only be understood symbolically; it does not refer to any mere external rite, or to any specific ordinance of the old covenant, such as the lustration ceremony with water and the ashes of the red heifer, or to the ablutions connected with the consecration of the Levites. It is rather to be viewed in reference to the purifications by water collectively, which were all, in one respect or another, symbolical of the removal of impurity and the establishment of the worshipper in a sound and acceptable condition. This was no more of a merely formal and outward character in Old Testament times than it is now, as we may learn from the whole tenor of this prophecy. It was by their moral pollutions most of all that the people of Israel had profaned God’s name and drawn down His displeasure; and the purification which was to undo the evil and again to sanctify the name of God could be nothing short of a conformity to God’s own righteousness, which throughout all ages is the same.”—Fairbairn.
—Man Justified. “
1. God’s people are not chosen because they are holy.
2. In redemption, the saved are not justified by themselves, but by God.
3. We are not justified through the administration or efficacy of any outward ordinance.
4. We are justified, or cleansed from the guilt of sin, by the blood of Christ. The greatest of all questions, ‘What must I do to be saved?’ is one which admits of a short and plain answer. Capable of a wide expansion, it may yet be brought within a very narrow compass. The river, which there flows between distant wooded banks and yonder spreads itself out into a lake, reflecting on its mirror-face the bright heavens above and the dark hills around, is here—where its foaming waters flash past loud as thunder and quick as lightning, or creep sullenly along at the bottom of the deep, dark gorge—brought within narrow bounds; bounds so narrow that, with nerve enough, by one brave leap from rock to rock I could clear its breadth. Even so all the wide expanse of doctrines to be believed and duties to be done over which we might expatiate in reply to the question, ‘What shall I do to be saved?’ is contracted, compressed, comprehended in Paul’s brief address—‘Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.’ As salvation is the one thing needful for man, faith is the one thing needful for salvation.”—Guthrie.
Ezekiel 36:26. Man Converted. “
1. It is a great change—not a mere outward reformation.
2. It is a birth.
3. It is a resurrection. Our little child, watching with curious eye the apparent motion of objects, calls out in ecstasy and bids us see how hedge and house are flying past the carriage. You know it is not these that move; nor the fixed and firm shore, with its trees and fields, and boats at anchor, and harbours and headlands, that is gliding by the cabin-window. That is but an illusion of the eye; the motion is not in them but us.”—Guthrie.
—The Heart of Stone and the Heart of Flesh. “I. The heart of stone.
1. Stone is cold.
3. Dead. II. The heart of flesh a new heart.
1. By this change the understanding and judgment are enlightened.
2. The temper and disposition are changed and sanctified.
3. In conversion man gets a warm heart, a soft heart, a living heart.
4. By conversion man is ennobled. Near by a mass of rock that had fallen from the overhanging crag, which had some wild-flowers growing in its fissures and on its top the foxglove with its spikes of beautiful but deadly flowers, we once came upon an adder as it lay in ribbon-coil, basking on the sunny ground. At our approach the reptile stirred, uncoiled itself, and raising its head, with eyes like burning coals, it showed its venomous fangs, shook its cloven tongue, hissed, and gave sign of battle. Attacked, it retreated, and making for that grey stone, wormed itself into a hole in its side. Its nest and home were there. And in looking on that shattered rock, fallen from its primeval elevation, with its flowery but fatal charms, the home and nest of the adder, where nothing grew but poisoned beauty and nothing dwelt but a poisoned brood, it seemed to us an emblem of that heart which the verse describes as a stone, which experience proves is a habitation of devils, and which the prophet pronounces to be desperately wicked.”—Guthrie.
—“The heart of stone does not bear bending according to God’s will, whereas the heart of flesh is soft and of such a texture that God can impress into its understanding a living knowledge, into its will a voluntary obedience, and into the inclinations a holy order.”—Starke.
Ezekiel 36:27. The New Life. “I. It is a willing obedience to the law of God. II. It is a progressive obedience. ‘I will cause you to walk in My statutes.’ Other images convey the idea of progress, but this of progress achieved by exertion, progress the triumph of an intelligent mind and the reward of a determined will.
1. In this image God’s people find comfort and encouragement.
2. This image stimulates to exertion. III. This willing and progressive obedience is the sign and seal of salvation. IV. One of the most powerful means to accomplish the duty of the new life is to cultivate the love of Christ.
1. Love is the most powerful of all motives.
2. Love is a motive to duty as pleasant as it is powerful. V. A powerful motive to duty lies in the fact that by our obedience to these statutes the verdict of judgment shall be settled. The last day is God’s Day of settlement with a world that has had long credit. It is the winding-up of this earth’s bankrupt estate and each man’s individual interests. It is the closing of an open account that has been running on ever since the fall. It is the day when the balance is struck and our fate is heaven or hell. Our hands are now sowing seed for that great harvest.”—Guthrie.
—“I will put My Spirit, the great principle of light, life, and love, within you, to actuate the new spirit and to influence the new affections and passions, that the animal spirit may not become brutish, that the mental powers become not foolish. I will put My Spirit within you, so that as the new spirit may influence the new heart, so will My Spirit influence your new spirit, that each may have a proper mover; and then all will be pure, regular, harmonious, when passion is influenced by reason and reason by the Holy Ghost. And the cause shall be evidenced by the effects; for I will cause you to walk in My statutes—not only to believe and reverence My appointments relative to what I command you to perform; but ye shall walk in them, your conduct shall be regulated by them.”—A. Clarke.
—“First the inward and then the outward change is God’s order, while we men always proceed in the reverse order. What good a man does is not his, but God’s work in him.”—Starke.
Ezekiel 36:28. “To the heavenly among men there is no lack even on earth; to him who has what alone is worth having nothing shall be wanting.”—Lange.
Ezekiel 36:29-26.36.36. “Spiritual blessings were largely comprised in their temporal ones, as the kernel is enclosed in the shell. Hence Christian holiness and all the blessings of the new covenant are here principally implied. The Jews looked for the bringing-in of a better hope. They had a laver in which they washed; but David says, ‘I will wash my hands in innocency.’ They had the blood of sprinkling, but a better fountain was expected to be opened for sin and for uncleanness. They had circumcision; but the true circumcision was that of the heart. They had the law written on the tables of stone; but the Messiah who says, ‘Thy law is within Me,’ here promises to write it on the heart.”—Sutcliffe.
Ezekiel 36:29-26.36.30. The Productiveness of Nature—
1. A Divine gift. “I will multiply the fruit of the tree and the increase of the field.”
2. Promptly responds to the Divine voice. “I will call for the corn and increase it.”
3. A guarantee against famine. “I will lay no famine upon you—ye shall receive no more reproach of famine among the heathen.”
4. Is appreciated only by those who are morally cleansed. “I will save you from all your uncleannesses.”
Ezekiel 36:29. “ ‘I will call for the corn.’ All necessaries for aliment comprised in one, and these brought to them at God’s call, which they will hear (Psalms 105:16; Psalms 105:40; Hebrews 2:11-58.2.12). Famine is God’s arrow; He shoots it; where it is, He layeth it; but His people shall neither have it their misery nor their reproach any more.”—Pool.
Ezekiel 36:31-26.36.36. “Nothing so melts the sinner into repentance as the love and grace of God, where he could have looked only for wrath because of his sins. Let us, if we desire true repentance, receive it as the gift of God at the foot of the cross of Christ, where we see our sin forgiven at the cost of such an awful sacrifice, flowing from the gratuitous love of God. The terrors of the law can frighten, but the grace of God in Christ alone can melt the heart.”—Fausset.
Ezekiel 36:31-26.36.32. Conscious Sin—
1. The result of reflection on personal wrongdoing. “Then shall ye remember your evil ways and your doings that were not good.”
2. Humbles the soul in profound self-abasement. “Ye shall lothe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and for your abominations. Be ashamed and confounded for your own ways.”
3. Convinces the soul that all blessings have a Divine source. “Not for your sakes do I this, saith the Lord God.”
Ezekiel 36:31. “When I have given you My Spirit, renewed your hearts, brought you by miraculous mercy out of captivity in a strange land unto liberty in your own, ye shall call to mind, review and examine all your past life, your ways opposite to God’s, therefore both their own by choice and also evil in their very nature. Your mind shall abhor what you loved and deeply grieve at what you rejoiced in. When swine ye wallowed in mire; when made sheep you shall as much fear and flee from it.”—Pool.
—“There are some things we can hardly forget—our sorrows and our pleasures, as Esau; some things we can hardly remember—our faults and our friends, as Joseph’s butler. Augustine was famous for two of his works—his ‘Retractions,’ which are the confessions of his errors; and his ‘Confessions,’ which are the retractions of his life.”—Trapp.
—“In conversion man regains his memory. Loathing is not a sign of sickness only, but in matters spiritual it is a sign of convalescence. Our life must become sorrow to us, otherwise sorrow will not become life to us.”—Lange.
Ezekiel 36:32. “Grace works shame, and so much the more as it makes the wilderness a paradise, the beggar a king, and the sinner a priest. We boast of nothing in Christ and we boast of all things.”—Lange.
Ezekiel 36:33-26.36.36. Moral Reform—
1. The basis of temporal prosperity.
2. Can be accomplished only by Divine power.
3. An evidence to the world of the Divine veracity.
Ezekiel 36:36. “ ‘I the Lord have spoken it, and I will do it.’ The Security of the Believer.
1. The text announces a most important truth.
2. This truth imparts comfort to a true Christian. Through his confidence in this truth—
(1) he commits all his earthly cares to God;
(2) he is sustained amid the trials of life;
(3) he cheerfully hopes and patiently waits for heaven.
3. Both nature and providence illustrate the truth of the text. The voice of every storm that, like an angry child, weeps and cries itself to sleep, the voice of every shower that has cleared up into sunshine, the hoarse voice of ocean breaking in impotent rage against its ancient bounds, the voice of the seasons as they have marched to the music of the spheres in unbroken succession over the earth, the scream of the satyr in Babylon’s empty halls, the fierce shout of the Bedouin as he hurls his spear and careers in freedom over his desert sands, the wail and weeping of the wandering Jew over the ruins of Zion—in all these I hear the echo of this voice of God—‘I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it.’ ”—Guthrie.
Ezekiel 36:37-26.36.38. An Increasing Population—
1. An evidence of national prosperity.
2. A great national responsibility.
3. Should be instructed in the knowledge and worship of God.
4. An imposing spectacle when engaged in the praise and service of God.
Ezekiel 36:37. “Thus saith the Lord God.” The Divine Word—
1. Emphasised by frequent repetition. This the fourteenth time this expression is used in the present chapter.
2. The foundation and guarantee of blessing to man.
3. Should be devoutly pondered.
4. Is infallible alike in promise and threatening.
—“ ‘I will yet for this be enquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them.’ The Nature, Necessity, and Power of Prayer.
1. Nature herself teaches us to pray.
2. Some difficulties connected with the duty. The decrees of God render prayer unnecessary. From want of faith prayer must be useless.
3. Prayer must be earnest.
4. Prayer is powerful.
5. Prayer is confident. Child of God, pray on. By prayer thy hand can touch the stars, thy arm stretches up to heaven. Nor let thy holy boldness be dashed by the thought that prayer has no power to bend these skies and bring down thy God. When I pull upon the rope which fastens my little skiff to a distant and mighty ship, this feeble arm may not draw its vast bulk to me, but I draw myself to it, to ride in safety under protection of its guns, and in my want enjoy the fulness of its stores. And it equally serves my purpose and supplies my needs that, although prayer were powerless to move God to me, it moves me to God. If He does not descend to earth I ascend to heaven.”—Guthrie.
—“For all these blessings, whether of sanctification or of millennial glory, God will be enquired of in prayer; for the duty and the promise are everywhere connected in the sacred writings. It is remarkable that when St. Paul mentions holiness of heart at large, it is generally with the most fervent supplications for its attainment (Ephesians 3:14-49.3.19; 1 Thessalonians 5:23). This is still the only way for men to attain purity of heart and the mind of Christ.”—Sutcliffe.
Ezekiel 36:38. “Thus shall men multiply and fill the cities of replanted Judah. And the increase of the numbers of a people is then honourable when they are all dedicated to God as a holy flock, to be presented to Him as living sacrifices. Crowds are a lovely sight in God’s temple.”—Benson.
—“Such promises as those contained in this chapter cannot be taken in an absolute sense; they must be understood to some extent conditionally. They reveal the kind pro-pensions of God towards His people, what He is disposed and ready to do towards them, rather than what He will for certain accomplish at any stage or period of their history. So far the Word contains an absolute element, as God certainly pledges Himself to make provision for securing, in a larger measure than formerly, a proper regeneration of heart and conduct in His people, and also for giving palpable proof of this in their more flourishing and prosperous condition generally. The goodness of God was certainly to manifest itself for these ends; but it would do so to the full extent represented only if they continued in His goodness.”—Fairbairn.
—“There is no period of the Jewish history from that time until now to which this beautiful chapter can be applied. It must belong to the Gospel dispensation; and if the Jews will still refuse, contradict, And blaspheme, let no Christian have any fellowship with them in their opposition to this Almighty Saviour. Let none be indifferent to His salvation, let all plead His promises, and let the messengers of the Churches proclaim to the Christian world a free, a full, and a present salvation.”—A. Clarke.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Ezekiel 36". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany