Ezekiel 36

 

The present chapter is entirely devoted to the consolation of Israel, though its

parts are derived from two separate “words” of Jehovah:

 

  • vs. 1-15 belong to the “word” which opened with the first

verse of the preceding chapter;

  • v. 16 begins another “word,” which only closes at ch.37:14. The subject

of the first part is the comfort offered to Israel in the destruction

threatened against the heathen, and in the blessings promised to her

land and people.

 

1 “Also, thou son of man, prophesy unto the mountains of Israel, and

say, Ye mountains of Israel, hear the word of the LORD:”

Prophesy unto the mountains of Israel. This prediction must

be read in contrast, first, to that delivered against the mountains of Seir in

the last chapter (35.), and, secondly, to that uttered against the mountains

of Israel at an earlier stage of Ezekiel’s activity (ch. 6.). That “the

mountains of Israel was a familiar expression for the land of Israel, see

ch. 6:2; 17:22; 33:28; 34:14; 37:22; 38:8; and compare Psalm 121:1; Isaiah 52:7.

 

2 “Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because the enemy hath said against

you, Aha, even the ancient high places are ours in possession:”

Because the enemy hath said against you. The ground of

Jehovah’s purposed proceeding against Edom and the surrounding heathen

peoples (vs. 3, 5) is expressly declared to be the jubilation over the

downfall of Israel, and the eagerness with which they sought to appropriate

to themselves her forsaken land. Aha! Exulting over Israel’s misfortune

(compare ch.25:3; Psalm 40:16). The ancient high places,

which Israel’s enemies fancied had become theirs in possession, were

probably “the everlasting hills” of Genesis 49:26 and Deuteronomy

33:15, the principal mountains of Palestine, which were the honorable

witnesses and indestructible monuments of that ancient blessing spoken

by Israel’s ancestor, and still resting on the people; and to assail which was,

in consequence, not only to sin against Jehovah, but to attempt an enterprise

foredoomed to failure and shame.  Considering the special significance of the

term bamoth in Ezekiel, the phrase should be held as referring to the sanctuaries

which stood upon those heights — including, of course, the chief sanctuary, or

temple; in support of which the dean cites the frequency with which the

enemies of Israel, as, for instance, the Assyrians and the Moabites, in their

inscriptions, boasted that they had captured these sanctuaries (see ‘Records

of the Past,’ 2nd series, tel. 1. p. 107; 2:203).

 

 

Premature Triumph (v. 2)

 

The enemies of Israel were triumphing over the fallen nation, but

prematurely; for they did not reckon on a possibility of a restoration. This

is like the triumph of evil over the ruined world.

 

  • THERE IS A TRIUMPH OF EVIL.

 

Ø      In the fall of man. When Adam fell it seemed as though the greatest

work of God had been hopelessly ruined almost as soon as it appeared.

No sooner was man made in the image of God than he groveled in the

dust, and marred the heavenly likeness with ugly stains of sins.

 

Ø      In the history of primitive man. So evil is man that the whole race, with

the exception of a single family, is swept off the face of the earth. (Noah

at the Flood) Once more the world is reduced to a desolate condition,

once more evil seems to have conquered.

 

Ø      In the troubles of the Hebrews. The people of God become oppressed

slaves in Egypt. “Where is the promise delivered to the fathers?”

 

Ø      In the failure to enter Palestine. The Israelites reach the borders of the

land, and are then driven back defeated, and compelled to wander in the

wilderness for forty years.  (See the illustration of their wanderings in

Hebrews 3 under vs.16-19 – this website – CY – 2014)

 

Ø      In the miserable days of the judges. When the land was at length

possessed, it was not found to be all milk and honey. War and wickedness,

sorrow and shame, make the first ages of the possession of Canaan almost

the darkest period in Jewish history.

 

Ø      The wickedness of later days. The story of Israel is a story of repeated

rebellions against God, and repeated Divine chastisements.

 

Ø      In the Captivity. When the two nations were driven into captivity, and

their territory devastated by the heathen, the triumph of the enemies of

the people of God seemed to be complete.

 

Ø      In the cruelty of later days. Eastern empires, the Seleucidae, and the

Romans successively triumphed over and oppressed the once favored

people.

 

Ø      In the cross of Christ. Here, indeed, the enemies of righteousness reach

their crowning triumph. Satan now exults over the sorrow and death of the

Son of man.  (“His blood be on us and our children.” – Matthew 27:25)

 

Ø      In the history of Christendom. This has not been a history of

continuous growth and victory over evil. First there were the great

persecutions. Then followed the great apostasy. The dark ages marked the

triumph of ignorance and cruelty. Today the powers of evil are mighty and

exultant.  (With drugs and carnal behaviors running rampant, we are

dealing with “spiritual wickedness in high places” – Ephesians 6:12 – CY –

2014)

 

  • THIS TRIUMPH WILL BE REVERSED. It is premature. We have

not yet reached the end of the story. The battle is still raging; it is too early

for the foe to sing his paeans of victory. All along the dark recital of

victories of evil there has been the alternative picture of Divine deliverance.

We make a mistake when we dwell only on the gloomy side of history.

God has been revealing Himself in history. Not only did He:

 

o       save the eight in the ark.

o       He delivered all Israel from Egypt.

o       He gave Canaan,

o       He gave restoration from the Captivity.

o       He sent His Son to save the world.

 

In the darkest hour when Christ hung dying on the cross while evil seemed

to be most triumphant, victory was really being won by that very death of the

world’s Savior. We have not seen the end yet. Perhaps we are on the fringe

of a great contest between the servants of Christ and His foes. But never

was the work of Christ more manifest than it is today in Christian activity

at home and in the harvest of the mission-field abroad. While the unbeliever

exults in what he thinks is the demonstration of the falsehood of

Christianity and the sure prospect of its speedy downfall, there are more

earnest active Christians at work than ever there were. By the grace of

God we may trust that, though the battle is still fierce, WE ARE

MOVING ON TO VICTORY UNDER THE CAPTAIN OF OUR

SALVATION!

 

3 “Therefore prophesy and say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because

they have made you desolate, and swallowed you up on every side,

that ye might be a possession unto the residue of the heathen, and

ye are taken up in the lips of talkers, and are an infamy of the

people:”  Therefore. Ewald calls attention to the fivefold repetition of

this conjunction, saying, “It repeats itself five times, the reasons [for God’s

judgments] against these enemies thrusting themselves forward, before the

discourse calmly dwells upon the mountains of Israel, of which it is strictly

intended to treat.” As it were, the prophet’s emotion is so strong, and his

indignation against Israel’s enemies so vehement, that, though he three

times in succession begins to prophesy to the mountains of Israel, he on

each occasion breaks off before he can get his message told, to expatiate

upon the wickedness of Israel’s foes. In the prophet’s estimation that

wickedness was so heinous as to inevitably carry in its bosom appropriate

retribution. Because — literally, because and because, or even because, a

reduplication for the sake of emphasis, as in ch. 13:10 and

Leviticus 26:43 — they have made you desolate, and swallowed you

up on every side; literally, wasting of and panting after you (are) round

about. Fairbairn, Ewald, and Smend, deriving שַׁמות from נָשַׁם, “to pant,”

rather than from שָׁמַם, “to lay waste,” translate, “because there is snapping

and puffing at you round about,” which Plumptre thinks “falls in better

with the context,” since “the prophet’s spirit seems to dwell throughout on

the derision rather than the desolation to which his country, the mountains

of Israel, had been subject.” And ye are taken up; literally, ye are made to

come, if וַתֵּעֲלוּ be an imperfect, niph. of hl"[;, “to go up “(Rosenmüller,

Schroder); or, ye are come, if it be imperf., kal of עָלַה,“to press, or go

in” (Ewald, Havernick); or, ye are gone up, if it be second pers. kal of

עָלַה (Hitzig, Smend). In the lips of talkers; literally, upon the lip of the

tongue — the lip being regarded as the instrument or organ with which the

tongue speaks. Havernick unnecessarily takes “the tongue” as equivalent to

“people” in the parallel clause — a signification לָשׁון has only in Isaiah

66:18; while Kliefoth views it as synonymous with “slander,” as in

Psalm 140:11, and translates, “upon the lip of slander and of the evil

report of the people.” Keil sees in “the tongue” a personification for the

“tongue-man” or talker of (Ibid.); and Gesenius considers the

two clauses as tautological.

 

4 “Therefore, ye mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord GOD;

Thus saith the Lord GOD to the mountains, and to the hills, to the

rivers, and to the valleys, to the desolate wastes, and to the cities

that are forsaken, which became a prey and derision to the residue

of the heathen that are round about;” The rivers (or, channels, bottoms,

dales) were the watercourses, wadies, or ravines through which mountain

streams flowed, as in ch.35:8; and the residue of the heathen were the

surrounding nations that had mocked Israel in her degradation, and were

then profiting by her fall (compare Psalm 79:4).

 

5 “Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Surely in the fire of my

jealousy have I spoken against the residue of the heathen, and

against all Idumea, which have appointed my land into their

possession with the joy of all their heart, with despiteful minds, to

cast it out for a prey.”  Surely. אִם־לא, the particle of adjuration, as in

ch. 5:11; 33:27; 34:8; 38:19. The fire of my jealousy. Zephaniah

(Zephaniah 1:18; 3:8) uses the same phrase. Similar expressions occur

in ch. 21:31, “the fire of my wrath;” and ch.38:19, “in my

jealousy and in the fire of my wrath” (compare Deuteronomy 4:24).

Against all Idumea. Edom. As in ch.35:15, so here, it is the

wickedness, more especially of the Edomites, that excites the prophet’s

indignation. They had not only concluded that Israel’s territory should be

to them for a possession, but they had done so with the joy of all their

heart, and with despiteful minds; or, with contempt of soul (compare ch. 25:6,15);

i.e. with deadly or hearty contempt. “The temper of the Edomites,” writes

Plumptre, “might almost serve as the regulative instance of the form of evil

for which Aristotle (‘Eth. Nit.,’ 2, 7, 15) seems to have coined the word

ἐπιχαιρεκακίᾳ - epichairekakia – the temper which rejoices in the ills that

fall on others. The concluding clause, to cast it out for a prey, has been

differently rendered.

 

  • Regarding מִגְרָשָׁהּ as an infinitive after לְמַעַן, “to spoil it,” i.e. the land

(Gesenius), “empty out” (Keil) or “drive out” (Ewald, Smend) its

inhabitants (so as to get it) for a prey.

 

  • Taking מִגְרָשָׁהּ as a noun, “for the sake of its possession for a prey”

(Kliefoth), that their suburbs should be a prey” (Hengstenberg) “on

account of its pasturage for a prey” (Schroder).

 

  • Changing לָבַז into לָבֹז, “in order to plunder its produce” (Hitzig) or

“pasturage” (Fairbairn).

 

6 “Prophesy therefore concerning the land of Israel, and say unto the

mountains, and to the hills, to the rivers, and to the valleys, Thus

saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I have spoken in my jealousy and in

my fury, because ye have born the shame of the heathen:

7  Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; I have lifted up mine hand,

Surely the heathen that are about you, they shall bear their shame.”

Because ye have borne the shame of the heathen (i.e. the

shame cast upon you by the heathen, see ch.34:29)… surely the

heathen that are about you, they shall bear their shame. Not the shame

which should be cast upon them by Israel, which would be retaliation, but

their own shame — the shame due to them in virtue of the Divine law of

retribution (ch.16:52), their own curses come home to roost,

Ezekiel seeming to distinguish between retaliation and retribution.  The

law [of retribution] is demanded by the absolute righteousness of God. The

judicial visitations of God cannot possibly be one-sided. Punishment can so

much the less strike Israel alone, as precisely in its punishment the deep

degradation of heathendom, its apostasy from God and its pride, has set

itself forth in the most striking way. The certainty that this

law would operate in the case of the heathen no less than in that of Israel,

the prophet expresses by representing Jehovah as having lifted up His

hand, or sworn that it should be so (compare ch. 20:5-6, 15, 23, 28;

47:14; Exodus 6:8; Numbers 14:30; Deuteronomy 32:40; and

Virgil, ‘AEneid,’ 12:195, “Teaditque ad sidera dextram”).

 

8 “But ye, O mountains of Israel, ye shall shoot forth your branches,

and yield your fruit to my people of Israel; for they are at hand to

come.”  For they are at hand to come.  The majority of expositors believe the

subject to be the people whose return from exile was in this way declared

to be approaching. Nor is there any reason why Ezekiel should not have

represented the return from exile as an event soon to take place, since of

the seventy years of captivity predicted by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 25:11) at

least twenty years had passed, if its commencement be dated from the

fourth year of Jehoiakim (ch. 33:21); and the fulfillment of

Jehovah’s promise was to the prophet so much a matter of certainty

(ch.11:17) that his fervent imagination conceived it as at hand.

 

9 “For, behold, I am for you, and I will turn unto you, and ye shall be

tilled and sown:”  I am for you. He had previously been against (ch.5:8;

13:8), but was now for Israel and against Seir (ch.35:3). This

change of dispensation implied no mutation in God, but merely that, as

God had previously visited Israel with judgment on account of sin, so

henceforth would He visit her with grace on condition of repentance. I will

turn unto you. Always it is presupposed that Israel turns unto Jehovah.

 

 

Returning Prosperity (vs. 8-9)

 

  • RESTORATION OF CHARACTER BRINGS A RETURN OF

PROSPERITY. During the absence of the captives in Babylon their land

fell into decay. The mountains which had been carefully terraced for vines

were neglected, just as they are today on the hills about Jerusalem, where

rows of stones mark the site of the ancient terraces. Sin ultimately ruins the

outer as well as the inner man, for the prosperity of the wicked is but

temporary, and though it may extend through an individual lifetime, it must

break down during the course of the longer life of a nation. (“Righteousness

exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to ANYpeople!” (Proverbs 14:34)

 But on the other hand, restoration to God undoes the ruin of the outer life.

This too may be a slow process. The individual man who has beggared himself

with sinful extravagance may never become rich; but the nation that has

returned to better ways of living will in time reap the good results of its

renovation of character even on earth. When we think not only of external

prosperity, but of inward blessedness, the result is seen sooner, and it is

found in every individual soul that is pardoned and renewed. No one need

despair of his present desolation. Repentance renews the face of the

penitent’s whole life.

 

  • THIS RETURN OF PROSPERITY IS CAUSED BY A RETURN OF

GOD. “For behold I am with you, and I will turn unto you.” God had

abandoned the guilty land. Therefore a blight had fallen upon it. If God

deserts a man, nothing can really prosper with him. He may still coin gold

in his business, but it will be a curse to him. When God smiles upon a

man’s life he brings, not necessarily wealth, but certainly welfare. It would

be well for everybody to ask himself — Is my business such that I dare ask

God into it? Can I regard my workshop as a temple, or my work as a

sacrifice? For these are the conditions on which true prosperity depends,

because they are the conditions of God’s gracious help.

 

  • THE RETURN OF GOD IS ACCOMPANIED BY A REVIVAL OF

HUMAN ACTIVITY. “And ye shall be tilled and sown.” That work will

not be done directly by God, nor will it be accomplished by the unseen

hands of angel-husbandmen. Men must till and sow. God’s blessing does

not dispense with man’s labor. Assuredly it is not an excuse for human

idleness. On the contrary, it is the inspiration of the highest activity. God

blesses by stirring men up to wise and earnest work. Paul teaches us

that God gives the increase after man’s sowing and watering (I Corinthians 3:6).

But Ezekiel shows that God’s great work does not only follow man’s smaller toil;

it precedes that toil, and is the spring from which the energy for it proceeds. We

are first told that God will turn unto His people, and not till after this is it said,

“And ye shall be tilled and sown.” This is the happiest way of giving prosperity.

(Witness our unhappy system of Welfare which has produced millions with

low self-esteem and often at the expense of disrespect and jealousy to others!

CY – 2014)  If all the glory is God’s, still the joy of service is man’s. The same

is true of spiritual prosperity. If we would reap a harvest in Christian work,

we must not only bring it to God and ask His blessing upon it; we must first

of all seek his presence in it, that it may be His work from the first. Then He

will be the Inspiration of His servants’ activity. We shall be able to till and

sow just because God is with us. The glorious prosperity will come from God

as a fruit of His gracious benediction, and it will come through us as the

human instruments who are called by God like laborers to work in His vineyard.

 

10 “And I will multiply men upon you, all the house of Israel, even all

of it: and the cities shall be inhabited, and the wastes shall be

builded:  11 And I will multiply upon you man and beast; and they shall

increase and bring fruit: and I will settle you after your old estates,

and will do better unto you than at your beginnings: and ye shall

know that I am the LORD.  12 Yea, I will cause men to walk upon you,

even my people Israel; and they shall possess thee, and thou shalt be

their inheritance, and thou shalt no more henceforth bereave them of men.

13 Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because they say unto you, Thou land

devourest up men, and hast bereaved thy nations:”  I will multiply men

upon you. Jehovah’s promise contemplated a return of both sections of the

Golah, the whole house of Israel, Ephraim as well as Judah (compare ch.20:40),

to the land from which they had been deported, and a restoration of the united

kingdom to a condition of prosperity in which its cities should again be

inhabited, its ruined homesteads repaired, its fields cultivated, and its flocks

and herds multiplied (see  ch.16:55; Isaiah 44:26; 54:3; 61:4) — a condition of

prosperity so great that it should surpass any measure or degree of good fortune

previously enjoyed (compare Deuteronomy 30:5; Job 42:12).

 

 

Multiplying Men (v. 10)

 

  • THE TRUE WEALTH OF A PEOPLE IS IN ITS POPULATION.

(Thus the asinine abortion of 55 million children by the United States

Government and its facilitating populace!CY – 2014)  God

makes this promise to the house of Israel, that He “will multiply men.” The

land is desolate for want of inhabitants, the fields untilled for want of

laborers, and the cities lying in ruins for lack of men to build up the waste

places, The restoration shall be signalized by a return of the captives and a

consequent increase of population. Now, the striking fact is that this

multiplication of the population is noted as a great good for the land. Other

things being equal, every country is strong in proportion to the number of

its able-bodied citizens. In times of war this is obvious; the strong nation is

one that can command a large army. (Perhaps abortion of the future

populace of the United States, an attempt to physically weaken her,

is a step in the Progressive attempt to change America which has been

very noticeable, both overtly and covertly,  in the last six years!

CY – 2014)  But in industrial relations the same is equally true. The more

producers there are the more wealth must be produced — either in the

form of food or in the form of commodities that may be exchanged for

food purchased elsewhere. These plain facts are obscured by bad social

habits.

 

Ø      Overcrowding in cities. The waste places should be built — not the

reeking fever-dens crammed with an overflowing population of sickly

creatures, who have no energy for work, and whose surroundings do not

permit decent living. One of the greatest evils of our day is the depletion of

our rural districts and the pressing of the population into the cities. (Written

two centuries ago – CY – 2014)  What is needed is not a reduction of the

population, but a scattering of it over the face of the land at home and

also throughout the colonies (states, today – CY – 2014). The mistake that

led to the building of the tower of Babel is still fatally prevalent.

 

Ø      Unworthy living.   (Today, the effects of the drug culture, and the

sexual revolution  has not only had a devastating effect on the

family, but also on the United States of America! – CY – 2014) 

Too many men are not doing men’s work: 

 

o       one group idle rich men who consume without producing, and

o       another, idle poor men who are always near the border-land of

crime, on the further side of which they would become positive

destroyers. (Remember the warning of Revelation 11:18 where

the Bible speaks of a segment of society “WHICH DESTROY

THE EARTH.”  Many of this group espouse the idea that

a lack of Green Earth policies or attention to GLOBAL WARMING

are bringing about the end of mankind, but I submit that

our DEVIANT LIFESTYLES AND OUR IMMORALITY

are bringing the worlds down a la [Revelation 6:12-17;

Matthew 24:29-31; Isaiah 34:4] a million times sooner

than problems associated with neglect of green earth

or global warming policies. This brings to the question:

Whose side are you on?  Are you gathering or are you

scattering?  Luke 11:23 – CY – 2014)

 

We cannot have too many true men, but they must be men indeed —

workers, not drones.

 

 

The Better Future (v. 11)

 

“And I will do better unto you that at your beginnings.”

 

  • THE BETTER FUTURE OF THE WORLD. There is a natural

tendency among men to say, “The former times were better.” Nations

cherish legends of an ancient golden age. People talk about “the good old

times.” But when we search history we cannot find these happy days. On

the contrary, writers in the very ages to which some of our contemporary

dreamers look back with sentimental regret deplore the degeneracy of their

days. Our own age is bad enough, but it is not easy to lay our finger on any

previous age that was not worse. (Well, “the times, they are a-changing” –

this written two centuries ago and we have a new candidate for depravity –

1960-2014 – I have mentioned we are really dealing with “spiritual wickedness

in high places”  - Ephesians 6:12 – CY – 2014)  This, however, is not the

principal question. Waiving the point as to whether the past history of our race

has been characterized by progress or by a process of degeneration, we have

still to ask whether the future may not be better than anything that has been

experienced in the past. Now, it is the distinct teaching of the Bible that it

will be so. “The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the

waters cover the sea.”   (Isaiah 11:9)  While men turn back wistfully to the

lost Eden, God promises a better heaven. We do not need to discuss the

idea of a Paradise regained, for we have the more glowing picture of the

heavenly Jerusalem.  Even if we grant the worst that has been said of man’s

continuous decline, the New Testament points to:

 

Ø      an arrest of this dreadful movement,

Ø      a redemption and more than a restoration, and

Ø      a perfection of humanity never

attained in the past.

 

  • THE BETTER FUTURE OF THE CHURCH. The Church, which has

the seed of Divine life in her, should be continually growing in grace. While

like the mustard tree she enlarges her size, she should also, like the rising

temple, become ever more radiant with the beauty of holiness. Perhaps

there is no sadder story than that of the history of the Church. No doubt

there have been ages of glorious zeal and devotion; no doubt God has been

continuously educating His people. But there have been awful times of

relapse. We think we can see progress in our own day — a wiser thought,

a larger charity, a more practical activity in the service of man. But we are

far indeed from realizing CHRIST’S GREAT IDEAL!  That ideal, however,

is the picture of the future, and the pattern after which we are to toil with the

utmost hopefulness. The New Testament promises a glorious future to the

people of God (Ephesians 2:21).

 

  • THE BETTER FUTURE OF THE SOUL. In our melancholy moods

we yearn after the old sweet days of childhood — their innocence, their

simplicity, their joyousness. We forget their limitations, their fears, their

infantine distresses. But perhaps we have fallen far from those early days.

Then we knew nothing of the world’s dreadful sin. Now we must confess

that we have not kept ourselves unspotted. And with the soul’s fall has

come the soul’s sorrow, and many disappointments and losses have made

the day which dawned in golden sunshine overcast with gloomy clouds.

Still, we have not reached the end. After bathing in the Jordan, Naaman’s

leprous flesh became healthy as that of a little child. The leprous soul may

he cleansed, the worn-out life renewed. “If any man be in Christ Jesus, he

is a new creature” (II Corinthians 5:17). Then the future is full of hope.

The victorious Christian, with all his scars, and even with his memory of

shameful unfaithfulness, stands higher than the unfallen because untried

child. God has a blessed future in the heavenly inheritance reserved for the

most weary souls. The secret of this happy prospect is in THE POWER

AND GRACE OF GOD!  It is He who will do better for His people than

at the beginning.

 

14  “Therefore thou shalt devour men no more, neither bereave thy

nations any more, saith the Lord GOD.”  Thou shalt devour men no more.

From the middle of v. 12 the form of address changes from the plural to the singular,

the whole country, mountains, and valleys being regarded as one land, as in

Deuteronomy 3:25. The charge preferred against the country by her

enemies was that she had been a land that devoured men and “bereaved its

nations” (or, “nation,” Revised Version); literally, an eater-up of men and

a bereaver of thy nations; i.e. of Israel and Judah, perhaps also of the

Canaanites, their predecessors, the image being that of a wild beast which ravages

the population and makes them childless, as in ch.5:17 and 14:15, rather than that

of an unnatural mother, a Rabenmutter, as in II Kings 6:29, who devours her

offspring. This charge, in which, perhaps, the prophet detected an allusion

to Numbers 13:32, had certainly in times past been true; not, however,

because the land had been “an apple of discord for the Asiatic and African

powers,” or because the tremendous restlessness, the excited push and hurry of

such a mentally active city must in any case have used up its inhabitants more

rapidly; but because of the judgments of sword, famine, and pestilence sent upon

the land by Jehovah for its sins. These judgments had so destroyed its inhabitants,

first the Canaanites, and latterly the two peoples of Israel and Judah, that

those who looked upon it deemed it a fatal land, which brought destruction to all

who should occupy it. In the golden age to which the prophet looked forward, no

such reproach should be possible. Not only should the laud not bereave its

nations (according to the Keri, followed by the Authorized and Revised

Versions, but (according to the Chethib)it should not even cause them (or it)

to stumble; i.e. should no more cause its inhabitants to lapse into those sins,

amongst which idolatry stood prominent, which entailed on them ruin.

 

15“Neither will I cause men to hear in thee the shame of the heathen

any more, neither shalt thou bear the reproach of the people any

more, neither shalt thou cause thy nations to fall any more, saith

the Lord GOD.”  Neither will I cause men to hear in thee let thee hear,

proclaim against thee (Revised Version); or literally, cause to be heard

against thee — the shame of the heathen any more; i.e. the

contemptuous speech uttered against thee by the heathen, equivalent to the

reproach of the people; or, peoples; i.e. the reproach cast upon thee by

the nations (see ch.16:57; 22:4; and compare Joshua 5:9; Micah 6:16).

This prophecy clearly looked beyond the return from exile under Zerubbabel

and Joshua, Ezra and Nehemiah, since under these leaders only a portion of

the whole house of Israel reestablished themselves in Canaan, while the land

was often afterwards subjected to reproach and oppression under heathen

powers. At the same time, the homecoming from Babylon and the prosperity that

ensued thereupon were partial fulfillments of the blessings here promised.

 

That Israel’s restoration should not be brought about on account of Israel’s merit,

the prophet (vs. 16-20) shows by briefly rehearsing the story of Israel’s demerit,

as the reason of her exile.

 

16 “Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,”

The oracle, commencing with this verse and extending to ch. 37:14, has an

ultimate connection with that which precedes.  Having predicted a golden age

in the future for Israel, when her people should have returned from banishment

her cities should again be inhabited and her fields cultivated, the prophet is

directed:

 

(1) to explain that the ground of this would not have in any worthiness

Jehovah should behold in Israel, who had rather in the past been punished

and dispersed (vs. 16-20), but only in the regard He, Jehovah, should

have for His own holy Name or character (vs. 21-24);

 

(2) to intimate that this glorious period should be accompanied by a moral

and spiritual renovation of the people, which, however, could and therefore

would be brought about only by God Himself giving them a new heart and a

new spirit, again for His own Name’s sake (vs. 25-32), and which, when

attained, should lead to a prosperity so unparalleled as to recall the pristine

splendors of earth’s paradisiacal condition, and convince the heathen that

should then be sharers in Israel’s felicity that Jehovah alone was God (vs.33-38);

and;

 

(3) to remove all doubt from the people’s minds as to the possibility of this

happening by the vision of the dry bones (ch. 37:1-14).

 

17 “Son of man, when the house of Israel dwelt in their own land, they

defiled it by their own way and by their doings: their way was before me as

the uncleanness of a removed woman.  18 Wherefore I poured my fury upon

them for the blood that they had shed upon the land, and for their idols

wherewith they had polluted it:”  Their way was before me. Their ways and

doings, i.e. their violent deeds and idolatrous practices (v. 18), were as morally

loathsome in Jehovah’s sight as the uncleanness of a woman in her separation

was materially disgusting. The comparison may have been derived from

Isaiah 64:6, but was as likely to have been original, seeing Ezekiel was

a priest-prophet, to whom the details of the Levitical Law must have been

familiar (compare ch.18:6; Leviticus 15:19).

 

19  “And I scattered them among the heathen, and they were dispersed

through the countries: according to their way and according to their

doings I judged them.”  According to their way and according to their doings I

judged them. The language hints at a correspondence between the

punishment and the crime. As a woman in her separation was not only

defiled, but separated from the congregation Leviticus 15:19), so

Israel, having defiled both herself and her land, required to be removed

from it (Ibid. ch.18:28). And she was! Jehovah scattered her among

the heathen and dispersed her through the countries.

 

20 “And when they entered unto the heathen, whither they went, they

profaned my holy name, when they said to them, These are the

people of the LORD, and are gone forth out of His land.”

They profaned my holy Name; or, the name of my holiness.

According to Kliefoth, the subject of the verb is “the heathen,” but

expositors generally regard it as “the house of Israel” of v. 17. Plumptre

thinks that “while grammatically the words may refer to either the heathen

or the exiles of Israel, possibly the sentence was purposely left vague, so as

to describe the fact in which both were sharers,” and cites in support of this

view similar constructions in Isaiah 52:5 and Romans 2:24. What

led to the profanation of Jehovah’s Name by the heathen was the arrival

among them, not of the news of the calamity which had befallen Israel,

but of the house of Israel itself; and the actual profanation lay in this, that,

having beheld the exiles, they said, These are the people of the Lord, and

they are gone forth out of His land. As the heathen recognized only local

divinities, they concluded Jehovah had either behaved capriciously towards

His people and cast them off (compare Jeremiah 23:40; 29:18; 33:24), or had

proved unequal to the task of protecting them so that they had been driven off

(compare ch.20:5-7r; Numbers 14:16; Jeremiah 14:9). In either case, the honor

 of Jehovah had been lessened in the minds and tarnished by the words of the

heathen, and inasmuch as this result had been brought about by Israel’s sin,

on Israel properly the blame lay.

 

21 “But I had pity for mine holy name, which the house of Israel had

profaned among the heathen, whither they went.”  I had pity for mine

holy Name. I will be sparing of my holy Name; i.e. I will care for

its honor.  God had made certain promises to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac,

and Jacob; and those promises He must needs fulfill. He has intentions of mercy

to mankind to be realized by means of the “children of promise,” and He will

not allow those intentions to be frustrated. He has His own faithfulness to vindicate,

His own moral attributes to manifest. By His Name must be understood His

character, especially as known among men; and, this being the case, it is not

difficult to comprehend the meaning of “having pity on His holy Name.”

 

 

God’s Name and Ours (vs. 16-21)

 

The most striking thought contained in these words is God’s regard for the

honor of His own Name. But there are two truths which claim attention.

 

  • TWO THINGS WHICH INCUR HIS HIGH DISPLEASURE. The

pouring out of His “fury” is, of course, language which is accommodated to

our human feelings; but it speaks of the Divine displeasure existing in a

very high degree; and the two evils which excite it are:

 

Ø      Perverted piety; the giving to another the glory due to Himself:

idolatry (v. 18).

 

Ø      Inhumanity. “They had shed blood upon the land” (Ibid.). The wanton

taking of human life is the darkest and saddest form of cruelty; but it is

by no means the only one which meets the severe rebuke of God. All

forms of unkindness or of wrong, by which men’s circumstances are

reduced or their spirits are wounded, call down His reproach and

bear their penalty.

 

  • ONE ESPECIAL FORM OF PENALTY. God scattered the

Israelites; He caused them to be “dispersed through the countries” (v.

19). The evil which they suffered in Babylon was negative rather than

positive. They were not ill treated there. The misery of it lay in its

unhomeliness. They were far from their own land — from Mount Zion and

its glorious temple, from the happy services and holy institutions which

made their childhood and their youth what they were; they were exiles,

dwelling in “a strange land.” This is the constant penalty of sin. It causes us

to dwell afar off from God; we lose our sense of nearness to Him; we are in

no spiritual home; we are in the hand and in the land of the enemy. It is not

that earth is far from heaven; it is that sin is far from righteousness; it is

that the disloyal subject, the unfilial child, is far from his gracious

Sovereign, far from his heavenly Father.

 

  • GOD’S SOLICITUDE CONCERNING HIS NAME. “They profaned

my holy Name” (v. 20); “I had pity for my holy Name” (v. 21). Why

should God be concerned thus “for His Name?” Knowing, as we do, that

God is love, and that He lives not for Himself, but for the good of His

universe, we cannot believe that this Divine solicitude has any selfishness at

the root of it. We conclude that its explanation is in the fact that it is of

vital consequence to the world that He should be rightly regarded and truly

honored. It is so in both aspects, affirmative and negative.

 

Ø      It is a boundless blessing when God is known and understood; when,

therefore, He is honored and obeyed; and when, therefore, all the

priceless blessings of obedience are secured.

 

Ø      It is an immeasurable evil when God is misrepresented and

misunderstood; when His Name is profaned, and men think of Him

as He would not be thought of; when His Name is associated with

weakness, or with indifference, or with injustice, or with any kind

of wrong. Then comes irreverence, and all the long train of evils that

accompany it — irreligion, disobedience, rebellion, degradation, ruin,

death. We may well pray, Hallowed be thy Name;” for as men speak

of God, and as they think of Him and know Him, so will they order their

lives and construct their character and choose their destiny. We ought,

similarly, to be concerned about our name. Not that it is the part of a

wise man to covet notoriety; that is weakness rather than wisdom.

To wish to be notorious is simply selfish, and to be notorious is to

stand on the same ground with many of the very worst men that

ever strove and sinned. But we should be concerned so to live that

our name, however far it may go, may be associated with all that

is pure and good and wise; that such influence as God gives us to

exert may all go into the right scale; that whenever and wherever

 we do speak or strike, we may speak what is true and strike for

justice and humanity; that the issue of our lives shall be a brave

and faithful witness for God, for the kingdom of Jesus Christ;

that no man shall find a shelter for anything that is base or immoral

behind our name; that many men may walk more steadily along the

path of life or work more devotedly in the fields of usefulness

because our name lends some strength to virtue and to holy service.

 

22 “Therefore say unto the house of Israel, thus saith the Lord GOD; I

do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy

name’s sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither

ye went.”  Not for your sakes… but for mine holy Name’s sake. Thus

Jehovah repudiates the claim of merit on Israel’s part (compare v. 32); and

if Israel had no claim on Jehovah for deliverance from the Babylonian exile

any more than she had at first to be put in possession of Canaan

(Deuteronomy 9:6), much less has fallen man a claim on God for

salvation from the condemnation and dominion of sin (Romans 11:6;

Ephesians 2:8-10). As the essential holiness and righteousness of God

were the real reason of Israel’s exile and dispersion among the nations, so

were these qualities in God the ultimate grounds to which Israel’s recovery

and restoration should be traced.

 

23 “And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the

heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the

heathen shall know that I am the LORD, saith the Lord GOD,

when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes.” I will sanctify my great

 Name; i.e. the name of my holiness (Deuteronomy 28:58; Psalm 8:1; Malachi

1:11). As Israel’s dispersion had caused that Name to be profaned, so Israel’s

restoration would secure that it should be magnified among the heathen

(ch.38:23), who should learn from this event that their previous ideas of

Jehovah, as a feeble and local divinity, had been wrong. The question

whether your eyes, as in the Hebrew text, or “their eyes,” as in many

ancient versions, should be read is debated. The latter reading appears to

be demanded by the usus loquendi of Ezekiel (see ch. 20:41;

28:25; 38:16; 39:27), and is adopted by both English versions as well as by

interpreters of eminence; but other expositors of equal name adhere to the

former reading on the ground that the sanctifying of Jehovah’s Name in the

eyes of Israel was an indispensable preliminary to its sanctification in the

eyes of the heathen.

 

24 “For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of

all countries, and will bring you into your own land.”  I will take you from

among the heathen; or, nations. The first step in the sanctification of Jehovah’s

Name. A promise already given (ch. 11:17; 20:41-42), and afterwards repeated

(ch.37:21). (I would say that in the 21st Century, that we should not ignore

the return of many Jews to Israel in the last half century.  Could this not

signify what God is talking about here since Israel became a nation again

in 1948?  - CY – 2014)  The mention of “all countries” shows the prophet’s

gaze to have been directed beyond the present or immediate future. The Israel

of Ezekiel’s time had not been scattered among and could not be gathered

from all, countries; yet in the years that have passed since then Ezekiel’s

language as to Israel’s dispersion has been literally fulfilled. Wherefore the

inference is reasonable that the reassembling to which Ezekiel refers is an

event that has not yet occurred (this having been written a couple centuries

back! – CY – 2014), at least in its fullest measure and degree, but will only

then be realized completely and finally when the scattered members

of the house of Israel shall have been received into the Christian

Church (Romans 11:25-26).  (Compare the words of Christ, “……

Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of

the Gentiles shall be fulfilled.”  - Luke 21:24 – I submit to you that

the Israeli’s reoccupied Jerusalem in 1967!  - Jesus also said,

“Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass away till all be

fulfilled!”  - CY – 2014).

 

 

God Saving for His Own Name’s Sake (vs. 21-24)

 

  • A PRINCIPLE OF DIVINE ACTION. We are here admitted to the

secret council-chamber of heaven. The inner motive of God’s activity is

revealed to us. He shows on what grounds He proceeds in redeeming man.

Man is redeemed FOR THE SAKE OF GOD’S NAME and not on account

of any human deserts and claims.

 

Ø      Gods faithfulness. A person’s good name is associated with his

keeping his word. If a man has put his name to a document, he

must not ignore its stipulations. A just person will swear to his

own hurt and not change. Now, God is the type and pattern of

all truth and fidelity. His eternal constancy lies at the root of the

order of the universe. What He has promised He will do, because

He is faithful. But He has promised redemption (e.g. ch.34:22-31).

Therefore He will redeem His people, that He may redeem His

word. Though it costs the sacrifice of His Son, nothing shall be

wanting to a faithful execution of His promise.

 

Ø      Gods character. The name is supposed to express the nature. God is

named after what He is. Now, God’s nature is essentially good and

gracious. With the New Testament before us, we know that God’s best

name is Love (I John 4:8). Jesus Christ has taught us to concentrate

our thoughts of God on His Fatherhood. God will act according to His

Name, i.e. according to His nature. Love must characterize His conduct,

and whatever He does He will do it “like as a father.” His fatherly

character will lead Him to redeem and save, irrespective of desert, for

sheer love and pity.

 

Ø      Gods glory. To get a name is to receive glory. When Christ is glorified

He is said to receive “a Name which is above every name” (Philippians

2:9). God’s Name is His glory. Now, God is glorified in many ways,

but in none so highly as in His saving the lost. The best song of heavenly

praise is the hymn of redemption (Revelation 5:9). There is glory in

creation; and the greatness, the order, the beauty, the life of the universe

praise God. There is glory in Divine government; and the manner in which

God rules all things and establishes righteousness displays Hhis glory. But

we know of no glory like that of GOD’S GRACE REVEALED AT

CALVARY!   This fact should help us to understand how God can ask

for His own glory without being selfish.  When men seek their own glory

they usually do so at the expense of, or to the neglect of, others. But

God’s glory shines out of HIS SUPREME SELF-SACRIFICE!

                        This is the secret of the highest glory.

 

  • ITS PRACTICAL CONSEQUENCES.

 

Ø      We can never hope to earn salvation. It is a gift of God, never a work

or reward of man.  (Ephesians 2:8-10)

 

o       This is a rebuke for pride.

o       It also warns us against the folly of seeking to establish some

claim with God by:

§         penance,

§         works, or

§         sacrifice.

 

“Nothing in my hands I bring;

Simply to thy cross I cling.”

 

Ø      We need never despair of salvation. If it were given for our own sakes

in any way, we might well torture ourselves with doubts as to whether

we should merit it, nay, we had better give up all hope at once, for we

could not earn it. But now the ground is shifted from ourselves to God.

The question is not as to what is in us, but as to what is in Him. The

most unworthy, those who have made the worst failures in life, the

 weakest or the most sinful, may yet dare to hope for FULL AND

PERFECT SALVATION THROUGH THE GREAT GRACE OF

GOD, FOR HIS NAME’S SAKE!.

 

Ø      We have the highest reasons for joy and adoration. The redemption is

offered to the worst sinners — to all men, on their repenting and

seeking the grace of God. Here is a glad fact and one to inspire eternal

praise.  Translating it into Christian language, we see that we are to

rejoice and glory in salvation given to us through Christ; for Christ is

“the Word” (John 1:1), i.e. the Name of God. God saves for the sake

of His Name when He saves for Christ’s sake.

 

25 “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean:

from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.”

Then (literally, and) I will sprinkle clean water upon you.

The second step in the sanctification of Jehovah’s Name, and one

absolutely necessary to render the preceding either permanent or valuable,

was the moral renovation of the people; and in this the first stage was the

forgiveness of the people’s sins. The image under which this is set forth,

“sprinkling with clean water,” would naturally present itself to a priest-prophet

such as Ezekiel. Jarchi, Rosenmüller, Hengstenberg, and others

suppose the allusion to be to the water of purification prepared by mixing

running water with the ashes of a red heifer (Numbers 19:17-19), and

in the account given of this rite the verb for “sprinkle” is that used by

Ezekiel, viz. qr"z;. Havernick prefers the rite performed in the consecration

of the Levites (Ibid. ch.8:7, 21). Smend, who holds the priest-code

had no existence in Ezekiel’s day, traces the image to Zechariah 13:1 or

Psalm 51:2. Hitzig, Kliefoth, and Currey think of the illustrations of the Law in

general; and perhaps this best explains the prophet’s language, since the element

sprinkled is not“blood” or “water mixed with ashes,” but “clean water,” “the

best known means of purification” (Schroder). As to whether legal or moral

cleansing were intended by the prophet, possibly Ezekiel drew no sharp

distinction between the two, such as the New Testament draws between

justification and sanctification; if he did, then the figure in the text must be

taken as alluding rather to the former than to the latter — rather to the

forgiveness of Israel’s sin than to the regeneration of Israel’s heart, which is

next referred to.

 

 

Clean Water (v. 25)

 

  • SOULS NEED CLEANSING FROM SIN. Here we come to the deeper

part of man’s need. The Jews perceived their external disasters only too

clearly. War, captivity, poverty, sickness, death, were visible evils. But they

did not so readily discern the unseen spiritual evils which were behind

those troubles, as their causes. The greatest calamity is not so bad as sin.

While we are eager to elude the consequences of wrong-doing, God sees

that the wrong-doing itself is our chief evil. The principal part of the

redemption required by Israel was not deliverance from the power of

Babylon, but deliverance from THE TYRANNY OF SIN  their most

needed recovery was not restoration to Palestine, but restoration to God.

To be cleansed from their idolatry and brought into a condition of spiritual

worship was their greatest salvation. Israel is restored if that is done, even

though she be stir far from possessing her land; she is not restored without

it, though she have the fee simple of every acre of Palestine.

 

  • THE CLEANSING OF SOULS WILL REMOVE BOTH THE GUILT

AND THE POWER OF SIN.

 

Ø      The guilt. Sin leaves a stain behind. Blame justly attaches itself to all

wrongdoing, and, though the deed of evil may be swiftly accomplished,

the blame lingers long. The stain of sin is not merely an ugly fact; it

produces dreadful consequences.

 

o       It excludes the soul from the presence of God. No stained

souls can be permitted to tread the courts of heaven.

 

o       The power. The evil is more than a stain upon the conscience.

It is a poison within the soul. It works harm by its corrupting as

well as its defiling influence. We need some antidote to this

poison, or some wonderful cleansing that shall completely purge

it out of our being — a real internal washing, not merely a

clearing of a darkened reputation.

 

  • GOD HAS PROVIDED CLEANSING WATER. What is needed is

clean water. New, this is just what is not to be got in places of defilement.

The foul soil stains and poisons the streams that flow through it. No human

thing is clean from the contamination of man’s great sin. Therefore there

can be no human fountain for uncleanness. But God has opened a fountain,

and the gospel of Christ introduces us to it. He is pure, and He can give

perfect purification. The water that flows from this rock is not defiled with

earth’s contamination. “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us

from all sin” (I John 1:7). Here we have the double cleansing. The guilt

is washed out by a Divine pardon given through the propitiatory sacrifice

of Christ, and the impurity is purged away by the Holy Spirit

communicated to us by the grace of God in Christ. The cross redeems from

all sin. The Lamb of God taketh away the sin of the world. There is perfect

cleansing of character, motive, heart, and soul in Christ.

 

  • THIS CLEANSING WATER IS SPRINKLED ON INDIVIDUAL

SOULS FOR THEIR CLEANSING. It is not enough that the water

exists, nor that we behold it, nor that it flows in a full, free torrent.

 

Ø      It must be applied to each individual soul — sprinkled. This great

fact is suggested by the rite of baptism. The future tense is here used.

The prophecy was written before the advent of Christ. But even now

the future tense must be used for all who are still in sin and earnestly

desire cleansing.  Christ’s atonement is finished; but His cleansing

must be continually given afresh to separate souls.

 

Ø      This cleansing is divinely given. “I will sprinkle,” etc. God Himself

cleanses souls. We have to repent and seek His mercy. Then He will

work directly in His pardoning and purifying grace.

 

26 “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within

you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I

will give you an heart of flesh.  27 And I will put my spirit within you,

and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments,

and do them.”  A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I

put within you. The third step in the progress of sanctifying Jehovah’s

Name (compare ch. 11:19, where a similar promise is made, and

ch.18:31, where the new heart is represented as a thing Israel must

make for herself). This antinomy frequently occurs in Scripture, which

never shrinks from holding man responsible for the production of that, as

e.g. faith, for which he is incompetent without the help of Divine grace.

Besides the cleansing of her guilt and her restitution in consequence to

Jehovah’s favor, Israel is promised such an inward renovation of her moral

and spiritual disposition as to secure that she shall in future adhere to the

worship and service of Jehovah. This change is described in a fourfold way.

 

(1) Negatively, as a removal of the old, stony, unsusceptible heart, which

     had remained impervious to all appeals and insensible to all higher feelings

     (Zechariah 7:12).

 

(2) Positively, as a new heart and a new spirit, called elsewhere “one heart”

     and “a heart of flesh” (ch.11:19; Jeremiah 32:39), “a heart to know God”

     (Ibid. ch. 24:7).

 

(3) Causally, its existence being traced to the indwelling of God’s Spirit,

      who writes God’s Law upon the new heart, and inclines it to a life of

      obedience thereto (Ibid. ch. 31:33).

 

(4) Practically, by its manifestation, walking in God’s statutes and keeping

     God s judgments (ch. 11:20). The account here furnished of the

     moral and spiritual change proposed to be inwrought on Israel corresponds

     exactly with that given in the New Testament of the regeneration

     of the individual soul (John 3:3-8; Romans 8:2, 5, 9; Galatians 5:22;

     Titus 3:5-6; I Peter 1:22).

 

 

A New Heart (v. 26)

 

We are here introduced to one of those profound utterances in which the

Old Testament anticipates some of the richest truths of the New. The grace

here promised was doubtless given in all ages to those who truly repented

and sought it. But reading these words in the light of the gospel, we are

able to see much more clearly what is their eternal significance.

 

  • THE ESSENCE OF SALVATION IS THE RENEWAL OF THE

HEART. The commonest mistake is to ignore this most significant fact.

People regard salvation too much as a change in the soul’s estate rather

than a change in its very nature. But while there is a change of condition,

and while the greatest possible external consequences flow from the

redemption of souls, that redemption does not consist in these things; they

are but of secondary importance. The primary fact is internal. To be saved

from the visible fires of a material hell, and to be carried aloft to the tunable

pleasures of a celestial Paradise, may satisfy the Mohammedan-minded

Christian, but it will not fulfill the great thought of Christ. Hearts are

wrong, foul, diseased. Men have false ideas, corrupt desires and affections,

evil imaginations, or perhaps a blank deadness of soul. Here is the seat of

the disease; here, then, the cure must begin. Sin is heart-disease; salvation

is heart-renewal.

 

  • THE OLD EVIL HEART IS OF STONE. A terrible and most

significant description.

 

Ø      It is hard. It does not respond to the call of God; it neither perceives

spiritual truth, nor feels Divine influences, nor responds to heavenly

voices.  (“the carnal mind….is not subject to the law of God,

neither indeed can be.”  Romans 8:7)  It has no sympathy with God.

It is inflexible and immobile.

 

Ø      It is cold. Not only does it not respond to the influences of God; in

itself and in its new condition it is unfeeling. (“Who being past

feeling have given themselves over to lasciviousness, to work

all uncleanness with greediness.”  Ephesians 4:19)  There is no

glow of generous affection in the sinful heart.

 

Ø      It is dead. The heart is the most vital organ. For this part of the body to

be petrified involves a fearful condition of utter death. The hands might

be turned to stone, and yet the man might live. But if he had a heart of

stone he must be dead. Souls are “dead in trespasses and sin” (Ibid.

2:1). Men fear a future death, but the Bible teaches that there is a

present death of godless souls.

 

Ø      It is unnatural. A heart of stone — what can be more monstrous?

Sin is all unnatural. It is contrary to nature not to have feelings of

love for our heavenly Father.

 

  • GOD GIVES A NEW HEART OF FLESH.

 

Ø      It is a new heart. There is no curing the old one. “Ye must be born

again” (John 3:3). To be in Christ is to be a new creature.” 

(II Corinthians 5:17)  Thus Christ gives COMPLETE RENEWAL!

 Now, the hope of the world lies in this great fact. We try to patch

up the face of society, but it is mortifying at the core; and Christ

goes at once to the root of the matter. With creative power He makes

the heart afresh, i.e. He gives quite new thoughts, feelings, and desires.

The most abandoned wrecks of society may take courage and

believe that even they can be saved in JESUS CHRIST!

 

Ø      It is a heart of flesh.

 

o       Tender. The old coldness and hardness pass away. Pride,

stubbornness, obstinacy, are broken down, the penitent

soul is melted. The softening of the hardened spirit is an

essential part of conversion.

 

o       Sympathetic. The renewed heart readily answers to the call

of God and to the joys and sorrows of men.

 

o       Living. This new heart beats, It drives life-blood through the

whole being. The fainting soul is invigorated. Energy springs

from the new heart. It pulsates with the vigor of a glad,

strong life.

 

o       Natural. The heart is of flesh, not of some foreign angelic

substance.  Sin is monstrous, goodness natural. The true

Christian is natural; he is intensely human. God’s work in

the soul brings a man into close sympathy with his fellows.

It restores true human nature.

 

 

The Indwelling Spirit (v. 27)

 

Three stages in redemption are successively brought before us. First,

cleansing: “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you,” etc.; second,

renewal: “A new heart also will I give you,” etc.; third, inspiration: “And I

will put my Spirit within you.” Let us now consider this third stage of the

grand process of redemption.

 

  • THE PRESENCE OF GOD’S SPIRIT DEPENDS ON THE

CONDITION OF MEN’S HEARTS AND LIVES. The third stage of

redemption is closely connected with those that precede. It cannot be

attained without them, any more than the top of the staircase can be

reached without passing over the lower steps. We cannot reverse the order.

Cleansing and renewal must precede inspiration. God does not dwell

equally with all men. There are God-haunted souls and there are God-

deserted souls. The Spirit of God entered into Samson (Judges 14:6),

but Satan entered into Judas (Luke 22:3). Here is one great motive for

our seeking to attain to the two earlier stages. They are the conditions on

which we may enter into the highest privileges of all religion.

 

  • GOD PUTS HIS SPIRIT IN THE HEARTS OF HIS PEOPLE. He

does not merely give gifts; He also comes in His own Spirit’s presence. The

good man walks with God (Genesis 5:24). He enjoys God’s abiding

presence. He is a temple of the Holy Ghost. These facts show us that

religion is not only a human experience of beliefs and devotion. Its

creeds and its worship are but one side of it. Its deeper character lies

on the other side, in the Divine action. In true religion God enters

the soul and touches its secret centers.

 

  • THE PRESENCE OF GOD’S SPIRIT IS MANIFESTED BY ITS

EFFECTS. We need not look for mystical signs like the incorruptible light

which the monks of Mount Athos imagined they were able to see as the

revelation of the very presence of God in our souls. We need not despair if

immediate consciousness does not give us a vision of God’s Spirit. The joy

of communion should be very real. Yet it is rather by the fruits of the Spirit

that we are to be assured of His presence (Galatians 5:22-23). They are of

two kinds.

 

Ø      Graces. There are given to every soul, and consist in the illuminating,

sanctifying, strengthening influence of the Holy Spirit. Thus God

helps us:

o       to understand His truth,

o       baptizes us with His holiness,

o       and breathes into us the power of the Divine life.

 

Ø      Gifts.  It is important to distinguish the graces of the Spirit from His gifts.

While the former are for all Christians, the latter are special and distinctive.

They vary in different ages and with different persons. There were gifts of

healing, of prophesying, of tongues, in the ancient Church (Romans 12:6-8).

Bezaleel had a gift for art (Exodus 35:30-31); Samson, a gift of

strength (Judges 13:25), etc. — all from the Spirit of God. Christ now

gives gifts unto men through His Spirit — not exactly those of New

Testament times, but such as the present age needs.

 

  • CHRISTIANS SHOULD ACT ON THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE

INDWELLING SPIRIT.

 

Ø      Making use of His aid. If we are Christ’s, we are not left to our own

resources. It is much to know that the gracious Spirit is with us to cheer

and help.

 

Ø      Not grieving Him away. We may grieve the Spirit (Ephesians 4:30).

We are to remember that we are temples of the Holy Ghost, and therefore

to keep the dwelling of God clear of all defilement (I Corinthians 6:19).

 

(Vs. 28-31) describe the results which should follow in Israel’s experience

when God should have thus gathered, cleansed, and renewed them. They

should then have:

 

(1) permanent occupation of the land (v. 28);

(2) covenant relationship with God as His people (Ibid.);

(3) protection against future lapsing into idolatry and immorality

     (v. 29);

(4) abundant supply for every want (vs. 29-30); and

(5) a deepening sense of self-humiliation on account of and

     repentance for past sin (v. 31).

 

 

Renewal (vs. 25-27)

 

It is observable that, in the view of the prophet, political revival and

national restoration are associated with moral and spiritual improvement

and renovation. No sooner has he uttered the prediction that the people of

Israel shall be delivered from their captivity and be brought back into their

own land, than, in a strain of singular beauty and eloquence, he proceeds to

assure his countrymen of the Divine favor revealing itself in a deeper and

more precious form. Jehovah promises to complete His work of mercy on

behalf of His chosen people. They shall not only be rescued from the

humiliation and reproach of banishment and servitude. They shall be saved

from the sin which was the occasion of their calamities. They shall

experience a spiritual renovation:

 

o       they shall be cleansed,

o       renewed, and

o       sanctified.

 

The change shall be within the spiritual nature, and it shall

manifest itself in the outer life, which shall be made a life of purity and of

obedience. The figurative language in which this Divine work of renewal is

described deserves careful attention; each several figure seems to present

the transformation in a new light; taken together, they exhibit the most

marvelous work of God in its true beauty and completeness.

 

  • GOD WILL GIVE FOR FOULNESS, PURITY. The defiling and

offensive nature of sin is symbolized in Scripture by uncleanness of body.

Of the sins with which Israel is especially charged, that of idolatry is

perhaps the most prominent and the most debasing, bringing in its train a

host of moral abominations. From idolatry and all its contaminations the

consecrated people must needs be delivered, as a condition of all other

blessing. With what simplicity and exquisite beauty is the gracious purpose

of the Divine -Purifier here expressed! “I wilt sprinkle clean water upon

you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols,

will I cleanse you.” The moral purity of the Divine nature is imparted to the

nature of man. The Holy Spirit produces the holy character, which

expresses itself in the holy life. Much of the religious observance practiced

among the Hebrews was intended to convey the idea and to cultivate the

practice of holiness. In the New Testament the greatest stress is laid upon

this disposition and habit: “Be ye holy; for your Father in heaven is holy.”

(I Peter 1:15)

 

  • GOD WILL GIVE FOR HARDNESS OF HEART, A TENDERNESS

AND SUSCEPTIBILITY. By hardness or obduracy we understand

insensibility to Divine appeals, to rebukes and to promises — a character

repelling all higher and holier motive. The stony heart is to be taken away,

and replaced by a heart of flesh, i.e. a heart sensitive to Divine goodness

and responsive to Divine appeals. The Israelites seem to have been

peculiarly hard and stubborn in character. The word addressed to them, if it

was to produce any impression, must needs have been “as a fire, and as a

hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces.”  (Jeremiah 23:29)  This was so

throughout long periods of the national history. When God dealt with them

in His mercy, He rendered their obdurate nature susceptible to gracious

influences. Under the Christian dispensation, the softer features of the human

character are brought out into prominence. The Spirit of Christ is a Spirit of

meekness and gentleness. The heart of flesh which He imparts is susceptible

to all that is good and winning, purifying and consolatory.

 

  • GOD WILL GIVE FOR OLDNESS, NEWNESS OF CHARACTER.

“A new heart also will I give you, and a new Spirit will I put within you.”

It is remarkable that we should find in Ezekiel’s prophecies so striking an

anticipation of the promises and privileges of Christianity. Living, as we

do, under the new covenant, we are especially able to appreciate this

gracious assurance. Old things pass away, all things become new, to him

who is “in Christ Jesus,” who is “a new creation.”  (II Corinthians 5:17)

The oldness of the letter, the oldness of disobedience, are left behind; and

spiritual newness opens up, in all its beauty and hopefulness, before us.

“Newness of life” is the plainest mark of a Christianity more than nominal

and formal.

 

  • GOD WILL GIVE FOR ALIENATION, ACCEPTANCE. Those who

had been afar off were to be brought nigh; those who had been estranged

by sin were to be restored to fellowship; those who had been in rebellion

were to be reconciled. The exiled should be brought home, and the cold

oppression and scorn of the foreign conqueror should be exchanged for the

acceptable services of the temple, and the smile of God upon His people

and their inheritance. A marvelous emblem of the restoration of God’s

people to Himself through Jesus Christ. For our Savior has “made peace,”

so that those who accept His mediation, from having been alienated and at

enmity, are reconciled, and enjoy the fellowship, the smile, the approval, of

their God.  (Ephesians 2:13-18)

 

  • GOD WILL GIVE FOR ERROR, OBEDIENCE, SUBMISSION,

AND CONFORMITY TO HIS WILL. “I will cause you to walk in my

statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” To feel the force

of this promise, we must remember how grievously the Israelites had erred,

and how far they had strayed from the path of true and acceptable service.

A renovation worthy of the name must include a thorough submission to

the will which had been defied, a thorough and cordial performance of the

service which had been neglected. As it was with the Israelites, so must it

ever be with all upon whom God has mercy. He puts His Spirit within them,

and thus the life which would otherwise have been impracticable becomes

the life deliberately chosen and consistently and perseveringly followed out.

 

28 “And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye

shall be my people, and I will be your God.”  Ye shall dwell in the land.

As the Jews who returned from Babylon did not permanently dwell in the land,

but were again ejected from it, the promise contained in these words must be

viewed as having been conditional on the realization of the moral and spiritual

purity above described. If, therefore, it be argued that inasmuch as this promise

must be fulfilled (II Corinthians 1:20; Hebrews 10:23), the Jews must yet be

restored to Palestine, the reply is that their return can only take place when

they have been converted to Christianity; so that the whole promise must

be regarded as receiving its highest fulfillment in the experiences of the

Church of Christ. That this view is correct is vouched for by the fact that

the words, Ye shall be my people and I will be your God (compare ch. 11:20:

Jeremiah 7:23; 11:4; 30:22), descriptive of the covenant relationship in which

Jehovah stood towards Israel (Exodus 19:5; Leviticus 26:12; Deuteronomy

26:17-18), have been chosen by New Testament writers to set forth the

relationship of God towards the Christian Church, first here on earth

(II Corinthians 6:16-18), and afterwards in the heavenly Jerusalem

(Revelation 21:3).

 

 

The Three Elements of Piety (vs. 26-28)

 

The Israelites were “profaning the Name” of Jehovah in the lands through

which they were dispersed. But this could not be permitted to remain. For

the sake of His own Divine Name, the sacredness of which was of such vital

moment to mankind, God would work a gracious revolution (vs. 21-23). And

what He would do is this:

 

1. He would work within their hearts an entire change of thought and

feeling, removing their strong stubbornness and replacing it with a childlike

sensibility.

 

2. He would thus lead them to live in purity and uprightness before the eyes

of those among whom they dwelt. Thus would He magnify His holy Name.

 

3. Then He would restore them to the old relation which they had forfeited

by their sin; they should be again His people, and He would be their God,

dwelling among them and ruling over them in peace and righteousness. We

have here the three constantly recurring elements of true piety:

 

  • INWARD RENEWAL. (v. 26.) Consisting of:

 

Ø      Sensibility taking the place of indifference or stubborn rebelliousness.

Instead of the “stony heart” is the “heart of flesh;” instead of an utter,

brutish disregard of Divine claims or a perverse and froward determination

to reject them, is the “new heart,” the “new spirit” of openness of mind,

willingness which ends in eagerness to learn of God, responsiveness of

feeling when He speaks, tenderness of conscience under the spoken

truth of Christ.

 

Ø      Humility taking the place of pride or careless unconcern; a sense of past

sin and of present unworthiness; the inward conviction that God has not

been remembered, reverenced, served, trusted, as He should have been,

and that life has been stained with many errors, faults, shortcomings,

transgressions; a spirit of true penitence and shame; a voice, not loud but

deep, says within the soul, “I have sinned.”

 

Ø      Consecration instead of selfishness. The heart turns away from

selfishness and from worldliness toward God, toward the Divine

Redeemer, whom it receives gladly and fully as the Savior of the soul,

as the Sovereign of the life.

 

  • OUTWARD RECTITUDE. “I will cause you to walk in my statutes,”

etc. (v. 27). The obedience which springs from mere dread of penalty is

of very small account; but that which proceeds from a loyal and a loving

heart is worth everything. The Divine Son, who was also a Servant, could

say, “I delight to do thy will;… thy Law is within my heart.” (Psalm 40:8)

And when the new spirit or the new heart is within us, we can speak in the

same strain.  Our piety passes, with perfect naturalness, from the reverent

thought to the right word; from the grateful feeling to the upright action,

from the consecrated spirit to the devoted and useful life. We obey God’s

word because we honor Himself; we keep the commandments of Christ

because we love our Lord (John 14:15, 21, 23). If the Spirit of God be in

us we shall bring forth the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Of the

commandments of Christ, to which, by His own words or by those of His

apostles, He has attached the greatest weight, as indispensable to the

Christian life and as the condition of His acceptance, we must include

purity, truthfulness, sobriety, honesty, reverence, love — the love which

forbears, which pities, which succors in time of need.

 

  • HEAVENLY FELLOWSHIP (v. 28.) While still inhabitants of

earth, our citizenship is to be in heaven (see Philippians 3:20). God is

to be our God, and we are to be His people. All human and earthly

relationships are to find their highest and best illustration in those which are

“in the heavens,” which are spiritual and eternal. Communion between

ourselves and our Father in heaven is to be common and constant — a

daily, an hourly incident through all our life and in all our circumstances

and conditions. Far below and far above all other things, we are to be the

children and the heirs of God, we are to be the servants of Jesus Christ, we

are to bear witness to His truth, we are to promote the coming of His

kingdom on the earth.  (“Even so, Come, Lord Jesus!”  - Revelation 22:20)

 

29 “I will also save you from all your uncleannesses: and I will call for

the corn, and will increase it, and lay no famine upon you.

30  And I will multiply the fruit of the tree, and the increase of the

field, that ye shall receive no more reproach of famine among the

heathen.”  From all your uncleannesses. The same word as in v. 25,

though with difference in meaning. From their uncleanness of the past they

have already been saved (v. 25); the present promise guarantees

preservation against future lapsing into uncleanness, i.e. the filthiness of

idol-service. With this, the necessity for temporal chastisements as a

corrective discipline should cease, and there would be nothing to check

the full outpouring of all material as well as spiritual blessings. With the

phrase, I will call for the corn, compare the similar expressions in II Kings 8:1;

Hosea 2:23, etc.; Jeremiah 31:12; Zechariah 9:17.

 

31 “Then shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings that

were not good, and shall loathe yourselves in your own sight for

your iniquities and for your abominations.”  Ye shall loathe yourselves in

your own sight (compare ch.16:61;. The last result of this enlarged

experience of the Divine goodness would be to quicken in the heart of

forgiven and renewed Israel a sense of shame and a feeling of repentance

(compare Romans 2:4).

 

 

Sad Memories (v. 31)

 

The restored people are to be cleansed, renewed, and inspired. Yet they

will still carry with them sad memories of their former sins.

 

  • THE PARDONED PENITENT CANNOT FORGET HIS PAST. The

hardened sinner may do so; or at least he may carry the memory of his ill

deeds with so light a heart that it will be no burden to him. While he thus

bears the whole weight of his sin, its guilt, and its hurtful influence, he is

scarcely conscious of it; but directly he begins to repeat, the sin grows into

an unbearable burden, and the sinner becomes keenly conscious of its

continuous presence. He carries about with him the vision of his life’s story

written in letters of fire. Now, after forgiveness and renewal, the burden

and stain of guilt are gone. (Hebrews 10:2  I still remember my sins and I

am embarrassed to think of them,  while at the same time I am free because

Jesus forgave me and my conscience does not hound me like before the

forgiveness.  CY – 2014)  Still the sin is not undone. The restored penitent

must feel that his was an evil past. God forgets his sin, but he cannot forget it

himself.

 

  • THE MEMORY OF PAST SIN SHOULD NOT BECOME A

HAMPERING BURDEN. It is possible that it may be so in a morbid

conscience. But if God has forgiven our sin, we need not feel continuous

distress at the thought of it. It is hard for the penitent ever to forgive

himself. Yet he may do dishonor to the grace of God by dwelling too

painfully on the memory of sin, so that he even forgets the wealth of

pardoning love with which it has been covered. We need courage to take

the grace of God, and to dare to go on our way rejoicing in the gladness

which it is meant to afford us.

 

  • SAD MEMORIES MAY BE TURNED TO WHOLESOME USES.

 

Ø      They may keep us humble. Though restored now, we cannot forget the

pit from which we have been dug. Let us, then, beware of falling back

into it. “The burnt child dreads the fire.” The soul that has fallen once

should fear temptation for the future.

 

Ø      They should make us grateful. Every time we remember past sins we

should also recollect the grace of God that has delivered us from them.

The memory of the disease should call up the picture of the good

Physician.  Christ’s love never shines so brightly as when it is seen

against the background of man’s sin.

 

Ø      They should drive us to Christ. Still do we need Him. Away from Him

our souls are saddened with dark shadows of the horrible past. A gloom

hangs over the earth when the light of Christ is withdrawn from it. Thus

we are kept back from too much earthly elation that tends to frivolity. It

may not be bad for us at times to be subdued to a sober sadness. Through

the experience of it there may steal over the soul a sense of deep peace in

God.  Then we can see that Christ is our Light and the Light of the world.

Life may be sunny still, but its light is FROM CHRIST!

 

  • WE SHOULD BEWARE OF SOWING THE SEED OF SAD

MEMORIES. This is a lesson for the young. During youth the memories

that will cheer or sadden age are created and stored up for use in years to

come. It is impossible to unwrite a soul’s history. Then let those who are

engaged on its early pages take heed what they set down upon them. It is

possible to sow very carelessly seeds that will spring up in a most bitter

harvest. If we would not have a gloomy old age of sad memories, let us

spend our early years wisely and purely. Though God may forgive the

follies of youth, old age will not forget them. In this sense, “Whatsoever a

man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Galatians 6:7.

 

 

Self-knowledge and Self-loathing (v. 31)

 

It is instructive to observe that this assertion that Israel shall remember and

loathe past sin is placed immediately after the promise of renewal,

purification, fruitfulness, and blessing. However this may’ seem out of

place, a little reflection will convince us that the juxtaposition is both

intentional and just. Men do not truly know the heinousness of their sin

until they have been turned from it. It is the holy character to which moral

evil is most repugnant.

 

  • SIN BLINDS MEN TO THEIR REAL CONDITION, AND FOSTERS

UNDUE SELF-SATISFACTION. It is when men are offending most

grievously that they are least sensible of their folly and guilt. They will not

think, they will not suffer conscience to speak, they will not listen to any

voice save the voice of passion and the voice of prejudice. They persuade

themselves, and they allow themselves to be persuaded by others, that they

are not to blame in following the dictates of “nature,” in conforming to the

usages of “society.”

 

  • GOD’S CHASTISEMENTS AND GOD’S MERCIES AWAKEN

MEN TO REFLECTION AND TO SELF-KNOWLEDGE. Israel came

to herself when she had passed through the discipline of defeat, of captivity,

of national humiliation. This was needed in order to open the eyes which

were blind to her own state. Yet even this was not sufficient. Restoration

and favor melted the heart to penitence and to gratitude. Sensible of God’s

mercies, she became sensible to her own faults. And it has often been

observed that, after forgiveness has been obtained and reconciliation has

been experienced, after Divine kindness has made its appeal to the better

nature, then men’s minds become alive to the magnitude and

inexcusableness of the transgressions which have been committed. In the

light of God’s forbearance and loving-kindness, sin is seen to be what it

really is.

 

  • SELF-KNOWLEDGE, BY REVEALING INIQUITY IN ITS TRUE

LIGHT, LEADS TO SELF-LOATHING. Israel, remembering her evil

ways, loathed herself in her own sight for her iniquities and for her

abominations. Now that she was restored to her own territory, now that

she entered again upon the enjoyments and privileges of her national life,

she reflected upon her past. The guilt and folly of her idolatry, her

unfaithfulness to Jehovah, her sensuality and pride, were apparent to her

conscience. She saw herself in some measure as her God saw her. And at

the sight she was filled with remorse and with self-loathing. What Christian

is there who has not passed through an experience somewhat similar to

this? There are times when we are comparatively insensible to the

blemishes and imperfections of our own character. And there are times

when God’s mercy in Christ comes home to our hearts; and then we feel

that to such a Being, who has so dealt with us, our sin must indeed be

distressing and offensive, and we hate ourselves because we are not more

what He would have us to be.

 

  • THUS SELF-KNOWLEDGE LEADS TO REPENTANCE AND TO

A BETTER LIFE. To repent of sin is to aspire after holiness. It is well that

we should have a conscience of sin; but it is not well to rest in this. This

should lead us to desire both to escape and to conquer sin in the future,

and to resolve, by God’s grace, that there shall not in that future be the

same reason for self-reproach as in the past. Thus the pardon of sin and the

victory over sin are made, by the appointment of Divine wisdom, the

means of progress in the spiritual life towards moral perfection. Explain the

mystery of sin, we cannot. But we are at liberty to remark how, in

Christian experience, even the prevalence of sin is made the occasion of the

manifestation of God’s grace to His people, and how in this manner evil,

ever remaining evil, is overruled for good, To love God and to loathe the

sinful self are very closely associated in the Christian experience. It is to be

desired by all of us that we may not be the victims of self-delusion; that we

may see and feel our sin, our need of a Savior; that all the motives of the

gospel may be brought to bear upon our nature, with a view to our swifter

progress in the Divine and holy life.

 

 

32 “Not for your sakes do I this, saith the Lord GOD, be it known unto

you: be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of

Israel.”  This verse repeats and emphasizes the thought of v. 22, that the true

ground of God’s gracious dealing with Israel should be found, not in their

merit, but in His grace. So far as their ways were concerned, there was

cause only for judgment on His part and self-humiliation on theirs.

 

 

A Vision of the True Golden Age (vs. 16-32)

 

Up to this point God had been revealing more clearly His active

righteousness to Israel; and this with a view to arouse their drugged and

drowsy consciences. The equity and justice of His scepter had been vividly

portrayed. The keen edge of His judicial sword had been felt. Some

movements of better feeling in the exiles were apparent. And now God

hastens to foster penitential sentiments with a promise of generous

kindness. Further revelations of His great nature are made. The excellence

of His grace is unveiled to the opening eye of the penitents. Stupendous

condescension is shown. God Himself will undertake the renovation of

human nature. He will go down to the very root of the evil. He will

transform the innermost principles in the minds of the people, and so

qualify them for national restoration and national prosperity. And He will

do this mainly that He may set before the world the wealth of goodness and

kindness which constitutes His glory. “I do this for my holy Name’s sake,

saith the Lord.”

 

  • ISRAEL’S ARRAIGNMENT.

 

Ø      The complaint of the accusation is idolatry. Than idolatry, no greater

affront can be put upon God, no greater evil can be wrought. God was

deposed from His rightful throne, and SENSELESS MATTER elevated

 into His place. The perfect will of God was set aside for the vain fancies

of wicked men. (Romans 1:21-32)  The devil was preferred to Jehovah.

 

Ø      Idolatry was a system of active vice. It did not represent merely a

change of belief; it was the enthronement and deification of vice. Public

sanction was given to lust and unchastity. The marriage-tie was

 dissolved.  The temple of God was desecrated with animal lust.

The barbarous rites of idolatrous worship served to crush every tender

feeling and to make men fiends. Wrong soon lost its hideous features

in the eyes of men. They became inhuman, cruel, quarrelsome,

murderous. Human life lost its sanctity, and the land was STAINED

WITH BLOOD!

 

Ø      Idolatrys fruits were most offensive to God. In order to convey to men

an approximate idea of this offensiveness, God was compelled to borrow

an illustration from the most loathsome thing familiar to men. As if he had

said, “Picture to yourselves the thing most repulsive to your senses; this

thing will feebly convey the idea of disgust I feel towards this monstrous

crime.” A common dung-hill is fragrance itself compared with the moral

foulness of idolatry; and dead to every virtuous instinct must be the man

who can endure it.

 

  • ISRAEL’S ARRAIGNMENT LED TO SEVEREST PENALTY.

 

Ø      A discharge of Gods anger. I poured out my fury upon them.” The

long-gathering storm of just indignation burst upon them as torrents

from a broken reservoir. This is God’s own account of His conduct, and

He speaks, as usual, after the manner of a man. The violent anger of a

man under a strong sense of injury has its correspondence in God, save

that in God it is filled with the element of righteousness, and is in

exact proportion to the sinner’s deserts.

 

Ø      It embraced the dissolution of the covenant. The covenant made with

Abraham and renewed with the Israelites was founded on a moral

condition. That condition had been broken and abandoned by the nation;

hence God publicly testified that He was no longer bound. The land of

Canaan ceased to be held by Divine covenant; and, as the result of the

broken compact, the Assyrians took possession. Pledges and contracts

between God and man, wantonly violated, are surely followed by

GRAVEST DISASTER. This should teach all men the reality and

the value of righteousness.

 

Ø      The penalty, though severe, was strictly equitable. “According to their

doings I judged them.” The fullest equity in God’s dealings is

guaranteed:

 

o       by the qualities of His nature and

o       by the well-being of all the moral intelligences of His kingdom.

 

Every act of loving obedience shall be rewarded. Every deed of rebellion

shall be punished according to the most equitable scale. And in this

category is registered every secret design, as well as every overt deed.

(Luke 12:2-3)

 

  • THIS MANIFESTATION OF JUSTICE OVERSHADOWED THE

BENIGNANT NATURE OF GOD. “They profaned my holy Name.” It is

a great responsibility to bear the Name of God — a great responsibility to

belong to His kingdom. We carry His reputation in our hands. Mankind will

judge Him by what they see in us. If they discover in us selfishness, avarice,

lust, they will conclude that our God is not over-righteous. If we, for our

sins, are chastised, men will shrink from serving such a Master. Such was

the case in the olden time among all the peoples that dwelt in the vicinity of

Palestine. They said contemptuously, “This Jehovah, who conquered

Canaan for His people, was, not able to retain it for them! Or else, He is a

God easily offended! He chooses a nation for His favor one day, and casts it

off on the morrow! Or else, His justice is so severe that we prefer to keep

aloof from Him!” Such were the judgments of men. But this was the result

of ignorance. This was derogatory to God. This prejudiced the public mind

against just conceptions of God. Now, it had been God’s high design to

unveil gradually to mankind all the fullness of His nature — His strong

affection, the riches of His mercy, His self-sacrificing grace. Did men but

know Him thoroughly, one great hindrance to confidence and obedience

would be removed. Most surely He deserves our allegiance; He is infinitely

worthy of our trust. Therefore God had pity upon His Name; for His Name

is the sum-total of His goodness. Men were suffering, because they did not

know God — were misled by erroneous views of His character. Hence God

resolved to adopt another plan — to make a grand experiment. He will

make a new covenant with the people, and will write His laws on the tablet

of their hearts. He will yet conquer their rebellions with His abounding

grace.

 

  • THE GRAND EXPERIMENT OF KINDNESS; viz. a gracious

renewal of human nature.

 

Ø      The first step is cleansing. “From all your idols will I cleanse you.” A

disposition of repentance was already apparent. Many were beginning to

ask how deliverance could be obtained; and, before they asked, the

remedy is announced. God will undertake to purge out the virus of

disease, and if He undertakes it, the change will be effectual. He will

go to the root of the matter. The love of idols shall be rooted out of

the heart; and, the root being killed, all the fruits will disappear.

The instrument to be employed is the Truth — the revelation of

Divine mercy. This is the “clean water” mentioned. To the same

effect David declared, “The Law of the Lord is perfect, converting

the soul.” (Psalm 19:7)  And Jesus the Christ affirmed, “Now ye are

clean, through the word which I have spoken unto you.” (John

15:3)

 

Ø      The next step is heart-renovation. “A new heart also will I give you.”

By the mystic power of His grace God produces gradually a complete

change in the moral principles of every penitent man. New light enters

the mind. Sin is seen in its loathsomeness. A gracious influence from

heaven softens the dispositions of the heart. Feeling becomes tender.

The tastes cluster round nobler objects. God is seen to be supremely

good, and new affections begin to entwine round him. Old habits of

evil are severed. New inclinations and aspirations are engendered.

Step by step the man rises out of his dead self into a new life.

“Old things pass away, and all things” within him “become new.”

(II Corinthians 5:17)

 

Ø      A further step is the indwelling of Gods Spirit in the man. This is an

anticipation of the new dispensation, more fully developed at Pentecost;

this is the highest, noblest gift God can impart. In a word, this is spiritual

evolution. On Adam God breathed, and he “became a living soul.” But

this is a new departure. The Spirit of God finds an entrance into the

human soul, and works therein a new creation. All the dispositions of

God are gradually reproduced. The man learns to think as God thinks,

to feel as God feels, to love as God loves, to act as God acts. Then

God’s will is done, and God’s image is reflected in the man as a face

is reflected in a mirror.

 

Ø      A further step is national restoration. The man who truly loves God

learns to love his fellow-man; and this bond of mutual love was the very

thing needed to weld the Hebrews into a nation. A people can safely be

trusted with national prosperity only when THEY ARE LOYAL TO

GOD!   The whole land of Palestine was a kind of enlarged temple,

and only a consecrated people are fitted for a consecrated place. The

old covenant, in its essential principles was to be restored. God would

give Himself to the people; they would give themselves up to Him.

 

Ø      Material prosperity. “I will call for the corn, and will increase it.” Soul-

prosperity is the foundation; temporal fortune is the superstructure. “All

things are ours if we are Christ’s” (I Corinthians 3:22-23)  “No good

thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.”  (Psalm 84:11)

In Palestine ‘the state of the harvest-field was a mirror in which men

saw the smile or the frown of God. To obedient Jews, land-fertility

was secured by an inviolable pledge of Jehovah. The windows

of heaven were opened; the vines were embellished with splendid

clusters; the very mountains seemed to send out rills of oil from

the olive-groves.

 

  • THE FINAL AIM OF THIS STUPENDOUS CHANGE; Viz. to reveal

God’s Name. In other words, to make known to the world HIS WEALTH

OF GOODNESS!   That the purpose and aim of Jehovah in this grand

experiment might be made clear, it is stated both positively and negatively.

“Not for your sakes do I this,’ saith God, “but for my holy Name’s sake.”

A full and accurate knowledge of God is hope and inspiration to men. If

only the state of feeling in a man’s heart be right, then in proportion as God

is known, He will be admired, trusted, loved, served. If the soil of the heart

be broken up and pulverized, the knowledge of God, like living seed, will

grow and flourish and bear a rich harvest of fruit. “They that know thy

Name will put their trust in thee:  for thou, Lord, hast not forsaken

them that seek thee.” This heart-knowledge of God brings eternal life.

Misunderstanding of God brings fear, bondage, misery, hell. The glory of

God and the good of men are twin-purposes — two sides of the same coin.

God’s will is man’s salvation. As we know God experimentally, we aspire

to be like God, we yearn to do His will, heaven is begun within.

 

Vs. 33-36 describe the effect of Israel’s restored prosperity on the

surrounding nations.

 

33 Thus saith the Lord GOD; In the day that I shall have cleansed you

from all your iniquities I will also cause you to dwell in the cities,

and the wastes shall be builded. 34 And the desolate land shall be tilled,

whereas it lay desolate in the sight of all that passed by.  35 “And they

shall say, This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden;

and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are become fenced, and are

inhabited.”  This land that was desolate is become like the garden of

Eden. (For the reverse picture, see Joel 2:3.) The thought of the first

Paradise >Genesis 2:8), in the history of which clearly Ezekiel

believed, was one on which his mind often dwelt (ch. 28:13; 31:9)

as an ideal of earthly beauty and fertility which should recur in the closing

age of the world — a hope which appears to have been shared by Isaiah

(Isaiah 51:3), and taken up by John (Revelation 2:7; 22:1-3). In the

day when that hope should be realized for Israel, the waste, desolate, and

ruined cities, on which the passers-by who visited Palestine gazed, should

be fenced and inhabited; literally, inhabited as fortresses. The three

predicates, “waste,” “desolate,”  and ” ruined,” have been distinguished as

signifying “stripped of its inhabitants,” “untilled in its lands,” and “broken

down in its buildings;” in contrast with which, in the golden era of the

future, the towns should be inhabited, the fields tilled, and the ruined

fortresses built.

 

 

A New Eden (v. 35)

 

The new heart (v. 26) is to be followed by a new Eden. The outer world

is to be changed when the inner world is renewed, and that sweet, fair

Paradise, the dream of which hovers on the distant horizon of history, is to

be once more seen on earth, when men are renewed in nature. The new

Adam brings the new Eden. Consider some of its features.

 

  • LIFE. The desolate land becomes like the garden of Eden. It was

desolate in death. Parched up and neglected, unwatered and untilled, the

ruined country resembles the wilderness. SIN REDUCES THE WORLD

TO A WILDERNESS!   But Isaiah had prophesied that the wilderness

should blossom like the rose (Isaiah 35:1). Heathenism is characterized by

deadness of civilization. The vitality and energy of the world are found in

Christendom.  The life of the earthly paradise of culture, art, science, invention,

manufacture, and commerce is concentrated in Christian lands. It is by no

means all in the lands of Christian men. But it flourishes in an atmosphere

of Christianity — some of the essential elements of which are

 

Ø      justice,

Ø      truth,

Ø      liberty,

Ø      human brotherhood, and

Ø      hopefulness.

 

Without these five things progress languishes. They constitute the very air

it breathes.

 

  • ORDER. The desolate place is in confusion; the garden is a well-ordered

scene of life and growth. Its perfection is largely dependent on its

perfect culture — well-kept paths, smooth lawns, flower-beds without

weeds, trees pruned and trim. Christ brings order to a world of confusion.

James wrote of the “perfect law of liberty” — for Christian freedom

observes its own lofty law. The great secret of disorder is selfishness.

Hence spring war and all strife and confusion. The great secret of order is

love; for love involves sympathy, and sympathy inspires harmony, and

harmony secures order. If human society is ever to become like an orderly

garden, it will not be by means of the fierce contests of competition; nor

owing to the rankling jealousy of class-differences between rich and poor,

landlord and tenant, employer and workpeople; it will be through the

spread of the spirit of Christian brotherhood. Thus Christ will bring “on

earth PEACE!”

 

  • FRUITFULNESS. The fruit-trees covering the walls of a rich and

fertile old English garden give to it great value. In the East a garden is

often just an orchard. The garden of Eden is described as a fruit-growing

place. The wilderness is barren; the garden is fruitful. Now, there are

various fruits that grow out of the redeeming work of Christ. The best and

choicest are spiritual — i.e. “the fruits of the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

But society also reaps external good in the activities and charities of the

Christian life. (America has.  Without Christianity America would have

lived in anarchy led by satanic influences like we have experienced

in the last fifty years.  A life like in the time of Judges – “every man

did that which was right in his own eyes.” CY – 2014)  A living Church

must be a boon to a neighborhood — like a fruit-garden planted

among weary men who sadly need its refreshing products.

 

  • BEAUTY. Whenever the name of Eden is mentioned, we think of a

picture of exceeding beauty. There are few more lovely sights than a

cottage garden, with its quaint old-fashioned flowers — its airy

columbines — its still, tall, white lilies — its sweet, rich roses.

 

“How the rose of orient glow

Mingles with the lily’s snow!”

 

Alas! for the scenes of city life contrasted with this fresh vision of beauty!

But Christ will plant a new Eden. He will bring beauty into faded lives, and

joy to the old, weary earth. Christ does not only give grace; He adds glory.

The beauty of the Lord is on His people. And this joy is not reserved for a

future heaven of departed souls. The new Eden, like the old one, is to

flourish on earth. Here Christ converts the wilderness into A GARDEN!

 

36 “Then the heathen that are left round about you shall know that I the

LORD build the ruined places, and plant that that was desolate: I

the LORD have spoken it, and I will do it.”  The heathen that are left round

about you. The language presupposes that at or before the time of Israel’s

restoration the judgments pronounced against the nations will have overtaken

them, so that only a remnant of them will be then in existence.  Some view this

remnant as those who shall have been converted out of heathendom and

become attached to the community of Israel, like “the nations of the saved”

in Revelation 21:24;  with more accuracy, we may regard  their conversion

as resulting from their recognition of the hand of God in building again the

wastes places of Jerusalem.

 

37 “Thus saith the Lord GOD; I will yet for this be enquired of by the

house of Israel, to do it for them; I will increase them with men like a flock.”

I will yet for this be inquired of by the house of Israel. On two previous occasions

(ch.14:3; 20:3), Jehovah had declined to be inquired of by the hypocritical and

idol-loving elders of Israel, who pretended to consult Him through His prophet

(for those who do not seek God today, I recommend Amos 8 – The Blank

Bible by Henry Rogers – this website – CY – 2014); now He makes it known

that in the future era no barrier of moral and spiritual  unfitness on their part

will prevent their free approach to His throne, but rather that they will come to

Him with fervent supplications for the very blessings He has promised. In answer

to their prayers, He engages, going back to the language of ch.34:22, to increase

them with men like a flock.  Thus God meets the despondency of those among

the exiles who, fixing their attention on the small number of them who should

form the new Israel — those who should return with those, perhaps, who still

remained in the land-could not see how Israel’s future prosperity was to

be secured.

 

 

Inquiry of God (v. 37)

 

Light is cast upon the function of prayer in the Divine economy by

observing that in this passage explicit promises of blessing are first given to

Israel; and then, afterwards, it is affirmed that, for this blessing, God

requires that His people should make supplication to Him. The fact is that

unless there be a basis for prayer in the explicit assurances of God, although it

may be a natural and instinctive, it can hardly be a reasonable, exercise.

 

  • THE PROMISES OF GOD ARE AN ENCOURAGEMENT TO THE

PRAYERS OF GOD’S PEOPLE. The fact that explicit promises have

been given is a fact familiar to every reader of Scripture. These promises

are numerous and repeated. They have respect to the varied wants of men,

and accordingly are characterized by a wonderful and very precious

variety. Blessings so valuable and so desirable may well be sought with

earnestness and importunity.

 

  • THE PRAYERS OF GOD’S PEOPLE ARE THE CONDITION OF

THE OBTAINING OF GOD’S BLESSING. This affirmation rests upon

the plain declarations of God’s Word. “Ask, and ye shall receive; seek, and

ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you.” (Matthew 7:7)  It rests

also upon reason. The best gifts of God are of such a nature that they cannot

be bestowed irrespectively of the moral condition, the spiritual attitude of the

recipient. They are not material, they are not conferred as by MECHANICAL\

PHYSICAL LAW!  God opens the heart that it may receive the benefits He

waits to bestow.

 

  • THE PRAYERS OF GOD’S PEOPLE ARE THE OCCASION OF

GOD’S CARRYING OUT HIS PURPOSES OF MERCY. We have

looked at the matter from the human side, but it must be regarded also

from the Divine side. The All-wise Himself propounds His own terms; He

carries out His intentions of mercy in the way that seems good to Him.

“For this moreover will I be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for

them.” For reasons which are only very partially within our powpers of

comprehension, this is the ordinance, the arrangement of Jehovah Himself.

We may be content to understand that which is within our range, to trace

the bearing of prayer upon our religious interests, and to learn from

experience its reasonableness as respects ourselves. And we must, in

childlike faith, accept upon God’s authority what is beyond our limited

powers with any completeness to comprehend.

 

  • THE PRAYERS OF GOD’S PEOPLE ARE REQUIRED AND

COMMANDED BY HIM WHO IS THE GIVER OF THE PROMISES.

With one hand our Father in heaven offers the gifts; with the other hand He

delivers to His Church His written and express command. “Ask, and ye shall

receive, that your joy may be full;” (John 16:24) “Pray without ceasing;” 

(I Thessalonians 5:17)  “If ye being evil know how to give good gifts unto your

children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good

things to them that ask Him!”   (Matthew 7;11)

 

38 “As the holy flock, as the flock of Jerusalem in her solemn feasts; so

shall the waste cities be filled with flocks of men: and they shall

know that I am the LORD.”  The people who should occupy the land of Israel

in the coming age should be as the holy flock — literally, as the flock of holy

things, or beasts; i.e. of sacrificial lambs — as the flock of Jerusalem in her

solemn feasts; literally, in her appointed times; i.e. her festal seasons (compare

Micah 2:12), referring to the three well-known annual occasions when

the male population of the land came to the sanctuary (Deuteronomy 16:16),

and when in consequence the flocks and herds poured into the

metropolis were well-nigh past reckoning (see II Chronicles 29:33;

35:7; and comp. Josephus, ‘Wars,’ 6:9. 3). Perhaps in addition to the idea

of the multiplication of the people, that of their dedication to the service of

Jehovah is suggested by the prophet’s language.

 

 

Prosperity Suspended on Human Prayer (vs. 32-38)

 

In the previous verses God has disclosed a new scheme of spiritual tactics.

He will lay siege to man’s heart with the artillery of love. He will touch and

melt his will. He will gently, yet powerfully, dispose him to obedience. Yet

God will not reduce man to a machine. He will not coerce his will. Men

shall not become passive instruments under God’s hand. There shall be

place for human thought, human choice, human effort. “I will yet be

inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them.”

 

  • GOD’S GIFTS ARE BESTOWED IN A DEFINITE ORDER. “Order is

heaven’s first law.” In nature and in human nature, God works from the

center outwards. Jerusalem was such a center. The home is a center. Man’s

soul is a center — a center for himself, his family, his fortunes, his

contemporary society.

 

Ø      Soul-cleansing is the root-blessing. This embraces cleansing from the

love of sin, the power of sin, the stain and curse of sin. The animal part

of our nature is kept in subjection to the spiritual. The old fountain of

evil is cleansed. The real man no longer lives in the cellar and scullery

of his nature; he prefers now to live and move in the capacious rooms

above — in the great halls of reason and conscience.

 

Ø      A better social life. They “shall dwell in the cities.” It is easier to live a

godly life in a garden than in a city, but that sequestered life would be

narrow and poor and weak. In the city temptations and hindrances

abound; and he who surmounts them is raised into a higher plane of life.

Men of pure and lofty tastes constitute a society that is fruitful in

goodness.  They shall be cemented in strong and vital ties for mutual

security and mutual help.

 

Ø      Agricultural fertility. The Jews were devoted to the pursuits of

husbandry; hence fertility in the field was their greatest earthly

prosperity.  This fertility would be the more highly prized because

of its contrast with recent desolation. That which had been like a

desert was to be prolific and beauteous as the virgin soil of Eden.

The last vestige of the curse was to vanish. With the smallest

measure of labor shall come the largest measure of increase.

 

Ø      Growing population. An unmistakable mark of national prosperity is

increase of men. The stalwart and athletic youth would not be slain on the

battle-plain, nor decimated by pestilence, nor destroyed by ruinous vice.

Just as the streets of Jerusalem were crowded with flocks in the time of the

Passover, brought thither for the Paschal feast, so should the towns and

villages teem with hale and sinewy men. “I will increase them with men

 like a flock.”

 

Ø      Renown among the neighboring nations. “The heathen shall know” that

Jehovah is the real Source of prosperity. They had learned to think of

Him as an austere Ruler, or as indifferent respecting His people’s weal.

Truer thoughts of God and of God’s goodness shall displace the old ideas.

They shall understand God’s high designs, and shall admire and praise.

To serve such a God will be counted true honor.

 

 

  • GOD’S GIFTS ARE SUSPENDED UPON HUMAN PRAYER.

 

Ø      This was an honor conferred upon men. God takes imperfect men into

partnership with Himself. Great though His power may be, He loves to

ally Himself with men, so that He may inspire them with a sacred

ambition, and lift them to a higher level of life. He would have us to

feel a responsibility respecting the welfare of mankind. This expands

both mind and heart.

 

Ø      Prayer itself is salutary. No other occupation of the human mind is so

salutary. There is hope for the lowest sunk, if he has begun to pray.

Prayer generates humility. It dissolves self-trust and fosters trust in God.

It enhances the value of God’s gifts if we have to ask for them. Prayer

serves to purify and elevate the nobler emotions. It brings our wills into

submission to the Eternal Will.

 

Ø      The most successful prayer is united prayer. The request must be made

“by the house of Israel.” This union of hearts in prayer promotes

sympathy, brotherly love, concord, cooperation. Social piety is fostered.

The whole people is prepared for the blessing. The furrows are opened

to receive the heavenly rain. This announcement forecasts that of the

New Testament — that if “two shall agree on earth as touching

 anything they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father

which is in heaven.”    (Matthew 18:19)

 

 

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