Some Phases of the Future Restoration of Israel - Ezekiel Chapters 36-37
F. Cundick, Luton
In the former article one phase of restoration has been considered, namely, the restoration of the monarchy. Under the kingship of God’s appointing, there will be a great change from national division to national unity. That phase and the others that follow in chapters 36-37 are indisputably futurist in character. Five other aspects of restoration remain to be considered.
1. The Restoration of the Land, 36. 1-15. from barrenness to fertility.
For purposes pertaining to the future phase of the kingdom of God in power, the land will be delivered from the dominion of Gentile power to become “a plantation of renown”, 34. 29 R.V. The paragraph presents three items of interest, (i) Cultivation. “Ye shall be tilled and sown”, v. 9. The fertility of the land will abound, so that the whole world will say, “This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden”, v. 35. This fertility will not be due merely to human agricultural schemes. Isaiah announced that the land will be “married to Jehovah”, and therefrom comes its fertility and luxurious beauty, see Isa. 62. 4. Nature is but the servant that does the bidding and will of its divine Master as the words of the new covenant imply, “I will call for the corn, and will increase it”, Ezek. 36. 29. (ii) Reconstruction, “and the wastes shall be builded”, v. 10. The ruins of long centuries shall vanish. This mark of God’s displeasure at His people’s sin will be removed, (iii) Rehabilitation. “I will multiply upon you man and beast; and they shall increase and bring fruit”, v. 11. This promise involves the removal of blights, famines, disease and bereavements so that Israel will be “better than at your beginnings”. God has given to Israel in the past both the revelation of Himself and holy men, strong men, stately buildings - all outstanding in the history of the world, but the best wine is to come.
The reason for these changes are supplied, (i) The promise of God. Although the people are dispersed, the land is still recognized as belonging to them. Four times the “mountains of Israel” are mentioned, vv. 1, 4, 8. Other peoples may clamour for possession, but the title deeds are written and sealed by God, see Gen. 15. 18. (ii) The honour of God, “prophesy and say, Thus saith the Lord God; Because they have made you desolate, and swallowed you up on every side . . . and ye are taken up in the lips of talkers, and are an infamy of the people: therefore . . . hear the word of the Lord”, Ezek. 36. 3-4. The intervention of God will remove the contempt of nations, and establish His honour. The jealous wrath of God is a factor in world affairs that none can withhold. His delays in moral re-actions may be long, but the issues are sure and effective. (iii) The people of God. Israel’s disobedience to God is the cause of the barrenness in the land. This barrenness will continue until the people are restored to the Lord. Whatever men may devise in the meantime will have no vital part in the abundance of fertility that God has promised.
2. The Restoration of the People to the Land, 36. 16-24. from scattering to regathering.
The greatness of these statements of prophecy provide an invincible argument for the inspiration of Scripture. Note the facts that Ezekiel records regarding Israel’s scattering among the nations, (i) The cause, “they defiled it (the land) by their own way and by their doings”, v. 17. The presence of God in the land made it holy, but Israel’s constant practice of idolatry and violence was obnoxious to Him. The figure and language employed to express God’s loathing is taken from Leviticus 15. 15-19, to which the reader’s attention is directed to sense the divine feelings of repulsion. The people were removed from the land, as we have said repeatedly, not by force of arms merely, but as rejected by God. (ii) The consequence, “when they entered unto the heathen, whither they went, they profaned my holy name”, v. 20. Not understanding the principles of His ways much less His true character, these nations spoke reproachfully of Israel’s God. Failure in obedience to God marred the testimony that Israel was called to bear to the glory of God. This is always the sad issue of disobedience to God’s word and will in every day and age. (iii) The conclusion, “say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord God; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for my holy name’s sake ... I will take you from among the heathen”, vv. 22-24. After centuries of time, God’s name will yet be sanctified before the nations of the world. Apart from world politics, diplomacy or covenants of nations, God will restore His people with a working that will profoundly affect all nations, and cause them to acknowledge Him as the living God. We are left to imagine the consternation that will then befall the proud peoples who now defiantly persist in their idolatrous practices so opposed to the revelation of the true God.
3. The Restoration of the People to the Lord, 36. 25-38. from rebellion to response.
The when and how of these great changes that we are tracing are not left to guess-work; references to this are found in the passages. The new covenant replaces the old which was “weak through the flesh”, Rom. 8. 3. The perfect plumbline of the law will never straighten out the irregular wall of man’s heart. Therefore a new work is required. Since they were cast out as an unclean people, it would be a compromise of justice were they allowed to return and remain in the land in their former state. At the end of the age God will vindicate His name, and display the meaning of His holiness and government under conditions not of law but of grace. This will be the great turning point in the affairs of the world. The blessings of the new covenant are: (i) A New state, “ye shall be clean”, Ezek. 36. 25; God will remove defilement from His people, (ii) A new nature, “A new heart”, v. 26; the stony heart of rebellion will be changed to a “heart of flesh”, soft and impressionable to divine commands, (iii) A new desire, “a new spirit”, v. 26. The spirit, the ruling factor in a man will be in accord with the will of God, and will motivate his conduct, (iv) A new power, “I will put my Spirit within”, v. 27; the great, irresistible power is the blessed Spirit of God, the very blessing promised also in Joel 2. 28. (v) A new behaviour, “and (I will) cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them”, v. 27. Obedience will be the bent of life, (vi) A new fellowship, “and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God”, v. 28, a fellowship based upon the eternal redemption wrought through the cross of Christ, (vii) A new evaluation, “and (ye) shall loath yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities”, v. 31. Abhorrence of sin, producing self-abasement before the God of infinite holiness, will then be known. These promises reveal how divine love persists, working on toward victorious consummation.
4. The Restoration of Israel’s Nationality, 37. 1-14. from death to life.
This well-known Scripture does not teach the resurrection of individuals who have died, but rather future national resurrection. The language employed in the vision comes from the lips of the exiles themselves. In despondency they said, “Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts”, v. 11. All national hope was dead. Cast off by God and driven from their land, they had been stripped of flesh. The Chaldeans had been used for that. As a political organization they were now disjointed, dismembered, and deprived of national spirit. The “bones”, unburied, signify their exposure to reproach and crushing contempt of other peoples.
Despite this hopeless condition, national restoration is promised. In the vision Ezekiel sees the restoration of the bodily frames which is followed by the impartation of life. The imagery follows the order in the original creation of man as described in Genesis. The resurrection of the lifeless bodies, an act of creative energy, points to the operation of the power of God in the restoration of Israel. This is the power that gave procreative power to Abraham the illustrious father of the nation; see Rom. 4. 19 R.V.; Isa. 51. 2. This power is now working through the preaching of the Gospel in raising the spiritually dead to newness of life in Christ; see Eph. 1. 19 to 2. 6. In the future it will operate in the actual resurrection of the physical bodies of mankind. Again it will work for Israel in bringing “life from the dead”, Rom. 11. 15. “God is able”, wrote the apostle Paul when dealing with this great theme. Regardless of past disasters, and present dissenters, faith repeats his word. Included in this vision is the return to the land, v. 14. The placing of Israel there will not be the result of political agitation as some interpret the “shaking” of verse 7 to mean. There will be no disputes when the power of God will operate!
5. The Restoration of National Unity, 37. 15-28. from division to unity.
The symbolical action of the joining of the two sticks or sceptres sets forth the reunion of the kingdoms of Judah and Ephraim under one kingship. The kingdom which had been consolidated under David’s rule divided when Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, became king. Two tribes formed the so-called Southern Kingdom, and the other ten the Northern Kingdom. The ten-tribe kingdom is sometimes designated Ephraim because its first king, Jeroboam, came from the tribe of that name. The cleavage lasted for centuries. Spiritual men in the nation grieved over this but the rivalry generally persisted. The sticks made one in the hand of the prophet signifies that the sad division will end. Two great facts are declared, (i) The union will be openly recognized “And the sticks whereon thou writest shall be in thine hand before their eyes”, Ezek. 37. 20. All hatred and strife will be overcome by the love of God. The distinctions peculiar to each tribe will be accepted as part of God’s beautiful design for blessing, (ii) The reunion will be permanent. Four times the thought of unchangeableness is expressed., “they shall dwell therein (the land) ... for ever”, v. 25. The Abrahamic covenant will be realized. “And my servant David shall be their prince for ever”, v. 25; “I will make a covenant of peace ... an everlasting covenant”, v. 26. Enmity against Israel will cease. “My sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore”, v. 28. The glory will remain with them. The blessed unity is the result of the removal of Israel’s iniquity. Herein the true principle of unity lies. Disruption is removed when disobedience to the will of God ceases, otherwise, what is called unity is but the uniformity of compromise.