Ezekiel 37

 

 

This chapter embraces, in its earlier section (vs. 1-14), the concluding portion of

theword of God” begun at ch.36:16; in its later section (vs. 15-28), an additional

word,” to which the former naturally leads. The earlier, under the figure of a

resurrection of dry bones, beheld by the prophet in vision, describes the political and

religious reawakening of Israel; in the later is depicted, by means of a symbolic action,

the reunion of its two branches. The first divides itself into two parts — the vision

(vs. 1-10) and its interpretation (vs. 11-14). The vision was to all appearance

designed to meet the objections the preceding picture of Israel’s future

glory might naturally be expected to call forth. It was true that in the past

Israel had often suffered a decline in her national life, and as often

experienced a revival. But with the fall of her capital, the burning of her

temple, the slaughter of her people, and the expatriation of her nobles, her

life was henceforth extinct; and to speak of returning prosperity to her in

such a condition was like talking of the restoration of vitality to withered

bones. Besides, the exiles were, comparatively speaking, only a handful,

and to picture Judah’s waste cities as being filled with flocks of men was

like mocking the dejected with hopes certain to be dashed to the ground.

The Exposition will show how the vision was fitted to dispel such

despondent reflections. Yet diversity of sentiment prevails as to whether

the vision was intended to predict an actual resurrection of the physically

dead at the end of time, or merely to symbolize an ideal resurrection of

Israel, then nationally dead.

 

  • The view, that what the prophet beheld in vision was the final

resurrection of mankind, though favored by Jerome, Calovius, and

Kliefoth, must be abandoned, not because the doctrine of a general

resurrection would not have been a powerful consolation to the pious-

hearted in Israel, or because that doctrine was not then known, but

because, in the prophet’s own explanation, the bones are declared to be

those, not of the whole family of man, but merely of the house of Israel. At

the same time, those interpreters are right who, like Hengstenberg, Keil,

and Plumptre, hold that, even if the doctrine of a general resurrection had

not been current in Ezekiel’s time, this vision was enough to call it into

existence, and even to lend strong probability to its truth.

 

  • Accordingly, the view is commonly preferred that, while an objective

reality to the prophet’s mind, and by no means a mere rhetorical garb for

its conceptions, the vision was designed as a symbolic representation of

Israels resuscitation; though here again opinions diverge both as to what

formed the mental background for the prophet’s use of such a symbol, and

as to how it served to suggest the thought of Israel’s revival. While some,

like Jerome and Hengstenberg, as above indicated, regard “the doctrine of

the proper resurrection” as “the presupposition of the expanded figurative

representation,” others, with Havernick, find its historical basis in such

instances of raising from the dead as were performed by Elijah and Elisha,

and perhaps also in such passages as Isaiah 26:19. If Smend thinks the

vision was intended to assist Israel merely by suggesting that “the

unbelievable might happen,” and Havernick that it was designed to inspire

hope by presenting to the mind a lively picture of the creative, life-giving

power of God, “which can raise even dead bones to life again,” Ewald

finds its chief power to console in the thought “that the nation or individual

which does not despair of the Divine Spirit will not be forsaken of this

Spirit in any situation, but will always be borne on by it to new life.”

(Whatever the view, let us remember God is El Shaddai!  I recommend

 

1 “The hand of the LORD was upon me, and carried me out in the

spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley

which was full of bones,” The hand of the Lord was upon me. The absence of

the customary “and” (compare ch. 1:1, 3; 3:14, 22), wanting only once

again (ch.40:1), appears to indicate something extraordinary and

unusual in the prophet’s experience. In the words of Ewald, “such a never-beheld

sight one sees freely (by itself) in a moment of higher inspiration or

never;” and that in this whole vision the prophet was the subject of a

special and intensified inspiration is evident, not alone from the contents of

the vision, but also from the language in which it is recorded. And carried

me out in the Spirit of the Lord. So the Vulgate and Hitzig — a

translation which Smend thinks might be justified by an appeal to ch.11:24,

in which the similar phrase, “Spirit of God (Elohim),” occurs; though, with

Grotius, Havernick, Keil, and others, he prefers the rendering of the

Septuagint, “And Jehovah carried me out in the Spirit.” The

Revised Version combines the two thus: “And He carried me out in the

Spirit of the Lord.” Keil suggests that the words, “of God,” in ch.11:24,

were omitted here because of the word “Jehovah” immediately

following. And set me down in the midst of the valley. As the article

indicates, the valley in the neighborhood of Tel-Abib, where the prophet

received his first instructions concerning his mission (ch. 3:22). Which (literally,

and it) was full of bones; i.e. of men who had been slaughtered there (v. 9;

compare ch.39:11), and whose corpses had been left unburied upon

the face of the plain (v. 3), so that they were seen by the prophet.

Whether these bones were actually in the valley, or merely formed part of

the vision, can only be conjectured, though the latter opinion seems the

more probable. At the same time, such a plain as is here depicted may well

have been a battle-ground on which Assyrian and Chaldean armies had

often met.

 

2 “And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there

were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry.”

And he caused me to pass by them round about. Not over,

but round about them, so as to view them from every side. The result of

the prophet’s inspection of the bones was to excite within him a feeling of

surprise which expressed itself in a twofold behold; the first occasioned by

a contemplation of their number, very many, and their situation, in the open

valley, literally, upon the face of the valley; i.e. not underground, where they

could not have been seen, but upon the surface of the soil, and not piled up

in heaps, but scattered over the ground; and the second by a discernment of

their condition as very dry, so bleached and withered as to foreclose, not the

possibility alone, but also the thought of their resuscitation.

 

3 “And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I

answered, O Lord GOD, thou knowest.”  Son of man, can these bones live?

Whether or not this question was directed to meet despairing thoughts

which had arisen in the prophet’s own mind, it seems reasonable to hold that

the question was addressed to him as representing “over against God the people,

and certainly as to this point the natural and purely human consciousness of the

same, to which Israel’s restoration appeared as unlikely an occurrence as the

reanimation of the withered bones that lay around. The extreme improbability,

if not absolute impossibility, of the occurrence, at least to human reason and

power, is perhaps pointed at in the designation “Son of man” here given to the

prophet. The prophet’s answer, O Lord God, thou knowest, is not to be

interpreted as proving that to the prophet hitherto the thought of a

resurrection had been unfamiliar, if not completely absent, or as giving a

direct reply either affirmative or negative to the question proposed to him,

but merely as expressing the prophet’s sense of the greatness of the

wonder suggested to his mind, with perhaps a latent acknowledgment that

GOD ALONE HAD THE POWER by which such a wonder could, and

 therefore alone also the knowledge whether it would, be accomplished

(compare bRevelation 7:14).

 

4 “Again He said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto

them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.”

Prophesy upon (or, over) these bones. This instruction —

which shows Jehovah regarded the prophet’s answer as equivalent to an

admission that the revivification of the bones lay within His (Jehovah’s)

power — was not a mere command to predict, as in ch.6:2 and

11:4, but an injunction to utter the Divine word through which the miracle

(of creation, as it really was) should be performed. “The significance of the

command lies in the fact that it taught the prophet that he was himself to be

instrumental in the great work of resuscitation. He who had been so often

troubled with the sense of impotence and failure, who had heard the people

say of him, ‘Doth he not speak parables?’who had been to them as the

lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and nothing more than that,

was at last to learn that the word of the Lord, spoken by his lips, was

mighty, and would not return to him void.

 

5 “Thus saith the Lord GOD unto these bones; Behold, I will cause

breath to enter into you, and ye shall live:” I will cause breath to eater into you;

literally, I am causing breath (or, spirit) to enter into you. The real agent, therefore,

in the resuscitation of the bones was to be, not the prophet or the word, but

Jehovah Himself; and that the end aimed at by the Divine activity was “life”

shows the breath spoken of (ruach) was not to be the wind, as in v. 9, or

the Spirit, but the breath of life, as in Genesis 6:17 and 7:22 (compare Ibid.

ch. 2:7; Psalm 104:30; Isaiah 26:19).

 

6 “And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you,

and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live;

and ye shall know that I am the LORD.”  The process of revivification is

now divided into two stages — a preliminary stage which should effect the

reconstruction of the external skeleton, by bringing together its different

parts and clothing them with sinews, flesh, and skin (compare Job 10:11);

and a finishing stage, which should consist in animating, or “putting breath in”

the reconstructed skeleton; corresponding so the two stages into which the

process of man’s original creation was divided (Genesis 2:7). The result would

be that the resurrected and reanimated bones, like newly made man, would

know the Lord.

 

7 “So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there

was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together,

bone to his bone. 8 And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came

up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in

them.”  So I prophesied as I was commanded. The words uttered

were without doubt those of vs. 4-6. The effect produced is depicted in

its various steps.

 

  • First, there resulted a noise — literally, a voice — which the Revisers

take to have been “a thundering;” and others, “a sound” in general;

but which Ewald, Hengstenberg, and Schroder, with more propriety, regard as

having been an audible voice, if not, as Kliefoth supposes, the trumpet-blast

or “voice of God,” which, according to certain New Testament passages, shall

precede the resurrection and awaken the dead (John 5:25, 28; I Corinthians

15:52; I Thessalonians 4:16); perhaps, as Plumptre suggests, the

counterpart” thereof.

 

  • Next, a shaking, σεισμὸςseismos - Septuagint;

which the  Revisers understand to have been an earthquake, as in

I Kings 19:11; Amos 1:1; Zechariah 1:1; 14:5 (compare Matthew 27:51), and

Ewald explains as “a peal of thunder running through the entire announcement,”

as in ch. 3:12-13 and 38:19-20; but which is better interpreted by Keil, Smend,

and others as a rustling proceeding from a movement among the bones.

 

  • Thirdly, the bones came together in the body as a whole, and in particular

bone to his bone; i.e. each bone to the bone with which it was designed

to be united, as e.g. the upper to the lower part of the arm.

 

  • Lastly, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin

covered them above; or, as in the Revised Version, there were sinews

upon them, and flesh came up and skin covered them above; precisely

as Jehovah had announced to the prophet would take place (v. 6).

Yet, though the external framework of the bodies was finished, there

was no breath in them ruach having still the same import as in v. 5.

With this the preliminary stage in the reanimating process terminated.

 

9 “Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of

man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Come from

the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they

may live.”  The finishing stage began by the prophet receiving a command

to prophesy unto the wind (better, breath, or spirit), and to summon it

from the four “breaths,” or “winds” (in this case the preferable rendering),

that it might breathe upon the slain. “Four winds” are mentioned to indicate

the four quarters of heaven (compare ch.5:10,12; 12:14; 17:21), and perhaps

also to suggest the immense quantity of vitalizing force demanded by the

multitude of the dead, “the fullness and force of the Spirit’s

operations, or the notion that the Spirit, in resuscitating Israel, would

make use of all the varied forces that were then working in the world.

The designation of the dead as slain reveals that the resurrection intended

was not that of men in general, but of the nation of Israel.

 

10   “So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into

them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding

great army.” An exceeding great army. This harmonizes with the feature

in the vision which describes the bones as those of slain men, while also it

may be viewed as foreshadowing the future destiny of Israel. The bones of

the slain on the field of battle, having been brought together, clothed with

flesh, and a new life breathed into them, now they stand up, not as ‘a mixed

multitude,’ but as ‘an exceeding great army’ prepared to take their part in

the wars of Jehovah under new and happier conditions. (On the phrase,

“to stand upon the feet,” compare ch.2:1; Zechariah 14:12; Revelation 11:11.)

 

Vs, 11-14 contain, according to most commentators, the Divine interpretation

of the vision,

 

11 “Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole

house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope

is lost: we are cut off for our parts.”  These bones are the whole house of Israel.

On the principle that “God is His own best interpreter,” it should not be difficult

to see that, whatever foreshadowings of the final resurrection of the just may be

contained in the vision, its primary intention was to depict the political and

national restoration of Israel (Ephraim and Judah) whose condition at the

time the field of withered bones appropriately represented. Behold, they say.

The complaint was manifestly taken from the popular sayings current among

the people of the exile. Broken up, dispersed, expatriated, and despairing,

the members of what had once been “the whole house of Israel felt there

was no hope more of recovering national life and unity. The cheerless

character of the outlook they expressed by saying, Our bones (not the

bones of the dead, but of the living) are dried — meaning, “The vital force

of our nation is gone” (the bones being regarded in Scripture as the seat of

the vital force compare Psalm 32:3) — our hope is lost — our hope, i.e., of

ever again returning to our own land or regaining national existence — and

we are cut off for our parts; literally, we are cut off for ourselves; which

Gesenius explains to mean, “We are lost,” taking סעךתתסאנוךלפ סעשׁ

לתאד א סא לָנוּ as a datlvus pleonastteus ; Hitzig, “We are reduced to

ourselves;” Delitzsch and Keil, “We are cut off from the land of the living,”

i.e. it is all over with us; Hengstenberg, “We are cut off — a sad fact for us;”

Revised Version, “We are clean cut off;” any one of which renders the force

of the words (compare Lamentations 3:54).

 

 

The Cry of the Hopeless (v. 11)

 

“Our hope is lost: we are cut off to ourselves” (Fairbairn’s translation); i.e.

we are “cut off from the source of power and influence, and abandoned to

ourselves. Taking these words apart from their connection (though quite

in accordance with their spirit and tenor), our attention is directed to –

 

  • THE HOPELESS, BECAUSE THE ABANDONED. Many are they

who have had, or still have, occasion to utter this most sad exclamation

“Our hope is lost: we are cut off to ourselves”.   It has been:

 

Ø      The remnant of a moribund race; or a dishonored community (like

Israel in Egypt or in Babylon); or a people held in hopeless slavery

or a company of men and women doomed to lifelong exile

(Cayenne or Siberia).

 

Ø      Individuals, or families, or small groups of those who have once

cherished hopes, perhaps high hopes, of a happy life, but who find

themselves hopeless, cut off, away from all their resources, abandoned

to themselves, with nothing but misery and death in view; it may be

the marooned or castaway, left on some lonely island to pine and die;

or it may be the condemned felon when the last effort to obtain a

reprieve has failed; or it may be the family in the great city allowed

to perish for lack of food; or it may be the helpless straggler whom

the army has left behind to fall into the hands of a barbarous enemy.

Sad and pitiable in the last degree is the fate of those who have to

lament that they are “cut off (and abandoned) to themselves.”

Distinguished from these are:

 

Ø      The spiritually hopeless. Those who are perplexed and distressed in

heart, because:

 

o       they cannot satisfy their minds as to the reality of sacred

truths, as to the soundness of Christian doctrine; or because

 

o       they cannot find the peace and rest of heart they have been

long seeking; or because

 

o       they fancy that they have sinned beyond forgiveness and

restoration.  These souls cannot find the help they need;

it seems to them that “no man careth for their soul”

(Psalm 142:4), or can enter into their feelings, or go down

to the dark depths of their necessity. They do not know

what to do in their extremity; everything and every one

has failed them; their “hope is perished;” they are

cut off” and abandoned.

 

  • THEIR ONE RESOURCE. When man fails us, we can turn to God and

trust in Him. In Him the helpless and the hopeless find their Refuge. “I am

alone, and yet not alone, for the Father is with me,” said our Lord (John

16:32).  And many thousands of His disciples have gained relief WHERE

THEIR MASTER SOUGHT AND FOUND IT!  The great and supreme

fact that God “remembered us in our low estate”  (Psalm 136:23); that

when we were as a race utterly undone, “cut off” from all resources, with

no hope whatever in man, He had compassion on us, and stooped to save us;

this is the strong, unfailing assurance that God will not desert us, even though

we abandon one another. However low be our condition, and in whatever

sense we may be hopeless, we may confidently count upon:

 

Ø      the near presence of God;

Ø      the tender sympathy of our Divine Friend;

Ø      His gracious and timely succor.

 

His will come to us, indeed, in His own time and way, which may not be

after our choice or according to our expectation. But IT WILL COME,

for it is impossible that the eternal Father will abandon His children,

that the once-crucified and now exalted Savior will leave to their fate

those for whom He died, and who turn earnest eyes to Him for help

and for salvation.

 

12 “Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD;

Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to

come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.”

 

From Death to Life (vs. 1-12)

 

The primary reference Of this prophecy is placed beyond all doubt by the

passage itself (see v. 12).  Israel was in a forlorn and hopeless condition in her

dispersion and captivity; she seemed to be irrecoverably lost; as a nation she was

as one dead, if not buried.  But God had a gracious purpose concerning her.

He intended to exercise His Divine power on her behalf; the dead should be

revived; the lost should be found; the scattered should be restored and united.

That which seemed so hopeless is seen to be accomplished; instead of “a

valley full of bones” (v. 1) is “an exceeding great army” (v. 10); instead

of a “lost hope” (v. 4) is a revived, and recovered nation (v. 12). The

true analogue to this vision of the prophet is the revival of the lost and

dead human soul under the renewing and inspiring power of the Spirit of

God. What is suggested here on this vital theme is:

 

  • THE FATAL AND HOPELESS CONDITION TO WHICH SIN

REDUCES US. Could we see our sin-stricken humanity as it appears in

the sight of God, then where now we look upon fair scenes and shows of

beauty or activity, we should see a “valley full of dry bones”a valley of

death. Let “the dead bury their dead” said the Master (Matthew 8:22; Luke

9:60). “She that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth said his apostle

(I Timothy 5:6). To be separated from God in thought and sympathy; to be

living in selfishness, in vanity, in sin; to be forfeiting our fair heritage of

righteousness and holy service, and to lose our life in human gratifications

or earthly acquisitions; — this is to be lost to God and wisdom; it is to have

entered at least the outer shadows of the valley of death; and when sin has

 done its worst, when it has led the man or the community down to its

nethermost abyss, then is he (or it) in such a state of SPIRITUAL

DEATHFULNESS AND HOPELESSNESS that all recovery seems

impossible, as impossible as for a great mass of dry and disarticulated

bones scattered on some broad valley to be readjusted and to be reanimated

with life.  (Will this not be our plight?  “Our bones are scattered at the

grave’s mouth, as when one cutteth and cleaveth wood upon the earth.

But mine eyes are unto thee, O God the Lord:  in thee is my trust; leave

not my soul destitute.” – Psalm 141:7-8 – CY – 2014).    “Can these bones live?

No,” human intelligence replies, “they are dead beyond all recovery.” Yet is it

well to remember that “The things which are impossible to man ARE

POSSIBLE WITH GOD!”   (Luke 18:27)   (He is El-Shaddai – I recommend

Genesis 17 – Names of God – El Shaddai by Nathan Stonethis website –

CY – 2014) and it is well to make reply, as in the text, “O Lord God, thou

 knowest.” For God’s reply is not in the negative. He summons to activity;

and we have -

 

  • THE THREEFOLD AGENCY CALLED INTO EXERCISE.

 

Ø      The human teacher. He said unto me, Prophesy,” etc. (v. 4). “So I

prophesied as I was commanded” (v. 7). It is the bounden duty, the

sacred privilege, of the human teacher — in the house, in the sanctuary,

in the school, in the street, anywhere and everywhere that men will listen -

 

o       to summon the lost ones to return,

o       the fallen to rise,

o       the slumbering to awake and

o       to return unto the Lord their God.

 

Ø      The sinful souls themselves. “As I prophesied there was a noise, and

behold a shaking,” etc. (v. 7). Men may seem as dead, and in a sadly

serious sense they may be “dead in sin;” yet they are not so absolutely

lifeless that there is no possible response in them when the word of

Divine truth is spoken. On the contrary, they will respond; there is the

spiritual movement which begins in being aroused, and which ends in

the actual return of the heart unto its Divine Father, and its entrance

into eternal life.

 

Ø      The Divine Spirit. “Prophesy unto the wind, breathe upon these slain,

that they may live” (v. 9). What the breathing wind in the prophet’s

image wrought, that now works the Holy Spirit of God. Vain the

words of the teacher, the movement of the fallen and lost spirit,

without the renewing and reviving energy that comes from God.

But that does come.  God waits to work with us and for us; and

when there is honest effort accompanied’ with earnest prayer, the

breath of the Divine Spirit is not wanting; then comes -

 

  • THE BLESSED ISSUE IN NEWNESS OF LIFE. “They lived, and

stood up... an exceeding great army [or ‘force’]” (v. 10). The glorious

issue of this agency, human and Divine, is

 

Ø      life, — life in God’s view, life in God, life unto God, life now and

evermore with God; it is:

 

Ø      largely extended life, — an exceeding great army, innumerable,

stretching over all lands and through all the centuries; it is

 

Ø      powerful life, — the word translated army might be rendered force.

The multitude of them that believe, and that have life by faith in

Jesus Christ, should be a great force or power for good. If it did but

realize its resources, and knew how strong it was in Christian truth

and the power of God which is at command, it would do far

greater works” than any it has yet accomplished for its Master

and for mankind.  (John 14:12)

 

13 And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your

graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves,

14 And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place

you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the LORD have

spoken it, and performed it, saith the LORD.”  I will open your graves.

That this is not exact interpretation of the foregoing symbol may be argued

from the fact that in the vision no mention is made of graves; yet the discrepancy

to which it is supposed to point is more apparent than real. If the prophet was

to see the bones, it was requisite that these should be above ground rather than

beneath. On the other hand, when one speaks of a grave, it is not needful

to always think of an underground tomb. To all intents and purposes a

person is in his grave when, life being extinct, his body has returned to the

dust. So, the opening of graves promised in Scripture is not so much, or

always, the cleaving asunder of material sepulchers, as the bringing back to

life of those whose bodies have returned to the dust. (Job’s testimony gives

me great hope and courage “For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that

He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:  And though after my

skin worms destroy this body, YET IN MY FLESH SHALL I SEE GOD:

WHOM I SHALL SEE FOR MYSELF, AND MINE EYES SHALL

BEHOLD, AND NOT ANOTHER; Though my reins be consumed within me.”  -

Job 19:25-27 – CY – 2014)  Hence the opening of Israel’s graves could only

signify the reawakening of the politically and religiously dead people to national

and spiritual life. This was the first step in the restoration of the future held up

before the minds of the despairing people. The second, indicated by the clause,

and shall put my Spirit in you, pointed, as in ch.36:26-27, to their future

endowment with higher moral and spiritual life than they had previously

possessed, and not merely, as in vs. 5-6, to their political and national

resuscitation. The last step, the re-establishment of the reconstructed nation

in Palestine, was guaranteed by the word, I will place you in your own land.

The circumstance that this is twice repeated (vs. 12, 14) shows that whatever

view be entertained of the ultimate occupation of Canaan by Israel, this

was the goal towards which the vision looked. That it received partial,

limited, and temporary fulfillment of a literal kind in the restoration under

Zerubbabel and Ezra, is undeniable; that it will ever obtain historical

realization of a permanent sort is doubtful; that it will eventually find its

highest significance when God’s spiritual Israel, the Church of Christ, takes

possession of the heavenly Canaan, is one of the clearest and surest

announcements of Scripture.  (However, Israel became a nation again in

1948 and got control of Jerusalem in 1967 in the Six Days War – Jesus said

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

Gentiles be fulfilled.”  How literal or what fulfillment, they represent,

in time be known! – CY – 2014)

 

On the above nine verses we can scarcely fail to find, in our Lord’s words

in John 5., something like an echo of Ezekiel’s teaching. There also, though

 the truth of the general resurrection is declared more clearly, the primary

thought is that of a spiritual resurrection. Further, we may note that the

complement of Ezekiel’s message is found in the language of Daniel 12:2.

Taking the two together, we find both reproduced in the teaching of John 5.

 

The “word” embodied in the next section (vs. 15-18) was probably

communicated to the prophet at the close of the preceding vision. Its

connection with this is apparent, treating as it does of the union of the then

severed branches of the house of Israel, and of the subsequent prosperity

which should attend united Israel under the rule of the Messianic King of

the future. That this oracle, like the former, had only a temporary and

partial accomplishment in the return from captivity is so obvious as to

stand in no need of demonstration. Its true fulfillment must be sought in the

future ingathering of Israel to the Christian Church. (Or in the “end times”

-          CY – 2014)

 

 

The Valley of Dry Bones (vs. 1-14)

 

  • A VISION OF RESTORATION. Undoubtedly, the restoration of Israel

is the immediate thought in the mind of Ezekiel. He sees his people stricken

to death. The nation is virtually dead. The exiled citizens of Jerusalem have

lost all spirit and energy. But with the restoration will come a restored

energy to the people. The nation also will once more rise up as from the

dead. These resurrections of communities have been seen more than once

in history; e.g. when papal Rome rose on the ashes of imperial Rome, when

Germany was reunited under the Emperor William, when France

astonished the world by her renewed strength and prosperity after the

terrible invasion of 1870. But while this material form of national

resurrection is not infrequent, a moral resurrection is more rare.  A true

national restoration is only possible as A WORK OF GOD!  Degenerate

nations need more than liberation from external tyranny THEY

NATIONAL REGENERATION!

 

  • A VISION OF REDEMPTION. The people could not be truly restored

unless they were reformed and renewed in heart and character. Hence the

strange and striking form in which the promise of restoration is given. It

appears as a resurrection. What happened to ancient Israel happens to all

the people of God. They are restored to true life and prosperity by means

of a spiritual resurrection. Souls are dead in sin. The world is like a valley

of dry bones — ugly in its wickedness, helpless in its confusion, utterly

unable to save itself. But Christ has come to give new life to the souls of

men. His resurrection is a type of the soul’s resurrection. Paul assumes

that Christians are “risen with Christ” (Colossians 3:1). The gospel is

thus supremely a message of life. It comes to us in our most degraded,

desolate, despairing condition. It brings life and incorruptibility to light.

 

15 “The word of the LORD came again unto me, saying,

16 Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it,

For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take

another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim

and for all the house of Israel his companions:  17 And join them one

to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand.”

Take thee one stick, and write.  The symbolic action thus prescribed to the

 prophet was manifestly based on the well-known historical fact that the tribes

of Israel, in Mosaic times, had been represented by a rod, on which was inscribed

the name of the tribe (Numbers 17:2); but whether the stick Ezekiel was instructed

to take was a staff, ῤάβδος hrabdosrod; scepter; staff - (Septuagint) or a

block, or simply a piece of wood on which a few words might be traced, cannot be

decided. On the first stick the prophet was directed to write, For Judah,

and the house of his companions; i.e. for the southern kingdom and those

of the northern tribes who adhered to it, as e.g. Benjamin, Levi, and part of

Simeon, with those devout Jehovah worshippers who from time to time

emigrated from other tribes and settled in the land of Judah (II Chronicles

11:12-16; 15:9; 30:11, 18; 31:1.  On the second stick also the prophet

was directed to write; but whether For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim and for

(or, of) all the house of Israel his companions (Authorized and Revised

Versions), or “For Joseph and the whole house of Israel”, or simply “For Joseph”,

cannot be determined. Each interpretation can be supported by quite reasonable

considerations. For the first may be pleaded that it best accords with the natural

sense of the text; for the second, that the phrase, the stick of Ephraim, appears to

be explanatory of and in opposition to “For Joseph;” for the third, that all the

house of Israel stands, like “Ephraim,” under the regimen of “stick.” The

introduction of Joseph as the representative of the northern kingdom rests,

not on the fact that Joseph’s was the most honorable name among the ten tribes

but on the circumstance that the tribe of Joseph, as represented by Ephraim and

Manasseh, constituted the main body of the northern kingdom. The addition of

Ephraim’s name is best accounted for by remembering that in his hand lay the

hegemony of the kingdom. “All the house of Israel his companions” signified

the rest of the ten tribes. That the two sticks, when joined together in the

prophet’s hand, were to become one cannot signify that they were then and

there to be miraculously united.

 

18 “And when the children of thy people shall speak unto thee, saying,

Wilt thou not shew us what thou meanest by these?

19 Say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the

stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of

Israel his fellows, and will put them with him, even with the stick

of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in mine

hand.  20 And the sticks whereon thou writest shall be in thine hand

before their eyes.”  Wilt thou not show us what thou meanest by these?

literally, what these (two pieces of wood) are to thee. The suggestion that

such a request would be referred to Ezekiel makes it clear he was meant

to perform the symbolic action in public. That his countrymen should fail to

understand this action accorded with their proverbial dullness of

apprehension (compare ch.12:9; 24:19). In explanation, the prophet

was enjoined to say unto them, while holding the sticks in his hand, that

just as he had made the sticks one in his hand, so would God make one in

his hand the two kingdoms symbolized by the sticks. The union of the

sticks was to be Ezekiel’s work (v. 17, “in thy hand”); the union of the

kingdoms should be Jehovah’s (v. 19, “in my hand”). The separation of

the kingdoms had been Ephraim’s doing (“in the hand of Ephraim”); their

combination should be God’s (“in my hand”). Their severance had been

effected, on the part of Ephraim, by an unlawful breaking off from the

house of Judah, and the establishment of an independent kingdom; their

unification should be brought about by the putting down of Ephraim, and

the confirming of the crown rights of Judah. The translation, And will put

them with him, even with the stick of Judah, signifying “And will put

the tribes of Israel with him.” i.e. the tribe of Judah, supported by the

Septuagint is superior to that of the Revised Version margin, “And will

put them together with it, unto [or, ‘ to be’] the stick of Judah.”

 

Vs. 21-28 explain how the unification of the two kingdoms should be

brought about. The first step should be the bringing of the people home to

their own land (vs. 21-22); the second, their purification from idolatry

(v. 23); the third, the installation over them, thus united and purified, of

one King, the ideal David of the future, or the Messiah (vs. 24, 25); the

fourth, the establishment with them of Jehovah’s covenant of peace (v. 26),

and the permanent erection amongst them of Jehovah’s temple (vs. 27-28).

 

 21 “And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD;

Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen,

whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring

them into their own land: 22 And I will make them one nation in the

land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all:

and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into

two kingdoms any more at all.” I will take the children of Israel from among

the heathen. That this promise was intended to find an initial and partial

fulfillment in the return from Babylon is undoubted. That it was also

designed to look across the centuries towards the final ingathering of

God’s spiritual Israel into their permanent inheritance, the heavenly

Canaan, an examination of its terms shows. These clearly presuppose a

wider dispersion of Israel than had then, i.e. in Ezekiel’s day, taken place;

and that Israel has never yet been made one nation upon the mountains

of Israel, is incontestable. Nor is there ground for expecting she ever will

be. Not even after the exile closed did all Israel return to Palestine. Nor did

it ever come true in their experience that one king was king to them all,

since, in point of fact, they never afterwards had an earthly sovereign at all

who was properly independent. If, therefore, the prince who in the future

should shepherd them was not to be a temporal monarch, but the Messiah,

the probability is that the Israel He should shepherd was designed to be, not

Israel after the flesh, but Israel after the spirit, who should walk in His

judgments and observe His statutes, and who, in the fullness of the times,

should develop out into the Christian Church. Hence it seems reasonable to

conclude that their own land, into which they should eventually be

brought, would be not so much the veritable soil from which their

ancestors had been expelled, as the country or region in which the new,

rejuvenated, reunited, and reformed Israel should dwell, which, again,

should be a territory cleansed from sin and idolatry, so as to render it a fit

abode for a people devoted to righteousness. Viewed in this light, their

own land was first Canaan, in so far as after the exile it was cleansed from

idolatry; now it is those portions of the earth in which the Christian Church

has been planted, so far as these are influenced by the holy principles of

religion; finally, it will be the new heavens and the new earth, wherein

dwelleth righteousness (II Peter 3:13; compare ch. 34:24; 36:24).

 

 

 

The Two Sticks (vs. 15-22)

 

Under the image of two sticks that are joined together, Ezekiel is to

symbolize the reunion of Israel and Judah that is to take place in the great

restoration. We may see here illustrated a great principle, viz. that reunion

accompanies restoration. It was so as a fact in the history of Israel After

the restoration we no longer meet with the rivalry of the two nations that

made the previous history one long quarrel. The people return to their land

as one nation, for no doubt there were representatives of the ten tribes

(Luke 2:36) as well as people of Judah in the caravans that traveled

back from the Captivity. This must have been understood in Christian

times. Thus James writes to “the twelve tribes” (James 1:1; cf. also

I Peter 1:1). Christ restores man to Himself and to God. In doing so He

reunites man to his fellow-men. Let us see how this happy result is brought

about, observing some of its causes.

 

  • A COMMON SORROW. Here the foundation of the reunion was laid.

Both of the rival nations were driven into captivity.

 

Ø      Sorrow should soften animosity. In our proud prosperity we may

foolishly imagine that we can afford to quarrel. There then seems to

be an immense reserve of resources, and we can be lavish in

squandering what should be regarded as the riches of friendship.

But in truth we need friends, and we desire to cherish them.

Ø      Trouble subdues pride.

Ø      Trouble elicits sympathy. They who have passed through the deep

waters of affliction are usually most ready to sympathize with their

sorrowing brethren. If we are “partners in distress,” we are the more

naturally drawn together. Perhaps this result will give us one

explanation of the mystery of sorrow.

 

  • A COMMON BLESSING. The call to return is for all Israel. All men

are called to share in the restoring mercies of Christ. Christians who have

responded to the gracious invitation of the gospel and entered into the joy

of the new life have all one experience in common. That was a happy day

in which hearts leaped for joy when the beloved hills of Palestine came into

sight in the blue distance. Surely all old feuds would be forgotten as the

restored captives actually walked on their own land and built the cities and

planted the vineyards while their gladness overflowed. “When the Lord

turned again the captivity of Zion,” they said, “we were like them that

dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with

singing: then said they among the heathen, The Lord hath done great things

for them. The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad”

(Psalm 126:1-3). That was no time for reviving old feuds. Sharing the

common blessings of the gospel, we should forget our old quarrels.

 

  • A COMMON RELIGION. Religion, which should be the great bond

of union, has become the great divider of men. People who could agree to

live together peaceably on all other accounts fall out about their religion

and stand apart in hopeless divisions on this one ground. Thus Israel and

Judah were divided by their religion. Israel was jealous of the temple

privileges of Jerusalem, and Judah was indignant at the calf-worship of

Israel. But now the idolatry is over, and a new temple is to be built at

which all parties can work. Christ is our Peace (Ephesians 2:14). He

breaks down distinctions of race and party. It is the Christlessness of

religion that makes religious differences. If we all had more of Christ we

should all be more united; for He is the one center of union in the Christian

Church.

 

23 “Neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, nor

with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions:

but I will save them out of all their dwelling-places, wherein they

have sinned, and will cleanse them: so shall they be my people,

and I will be their God.” 

 

 

The Fascination of Idolatry (v. 23)

 

Idolatry was a besetting sin of Israel. No sooner were the people delivered

from Egypt by the great unseen God than they made a golden calf.

Intercourse with the Moabites led to idolatry in a later stage of the

wilderness-wanderings (Numbers 25:1-9). The story of Micah and his

god gives us a glimpse of the gross popular superstition that was to be

found in Israel during the days of the judges (Judges 17:4) Solomon in

all his glory was lured to idolatry by foreign heathenish wives (I Kings

11:4). The separated northern tribes emphasized their schism by setting up

calves at Dan and Bethel. The prophets were compelled to denounce

idolatry, and the doom of the Captivity was largely earned by this sin

(ch. 14:7). What is its essential character? and whence does it draw

its singular fascination?

 

  • THE SURVIVAL OF ANTIQUITY. Joshua reminded the people that

their fathers worshipped “other gods” (Joshua 24:2). The Hebrews

cannot be described as an originally and naturally monotheistic race.

Monotheism does not seem to be innate in any branch of the Semitic

family. On the contrary, it is much more readily traced in the early history

of the Aryan races. The Semitic instinct rather points to cruel and lustful

nature-worship, accompanied by gross idolatry, although by the inspiration

of their prophets the Hebrews were called out of this low form of religion

to the worship of the holy Jehovah. Superstitions of idolatry linger long

after a more spiritual worship .is established. This is seen in missionary

lands; and even in Europe heathenish customs are mixed up with Christian

belief. Much of the corruption of Christianity in Romanism is just the

perpetuation of the old paganism under Christian names.

 

  • THE CONTAGION OF EXAMPLE. The Jews were surrounded by

heathen peoples. They were called to a lonely destiny of separation. But

they did not always realize their vocation. Their later idolatry was an

importation from their neighbors. Men are much influenced in religion:

 

Ø      by what is called “the spirit of the times,”

Ø      by the fashion of the day,

Ø      by the stream of prevalent customs and

Ø      by popular opinion (polls – CY – 2014).

 

It is hard to make our religion a continual protest against popular ideas

and practices.  (“If the foundations be destroyed, what can the

righteous do?”  - Psalm 11:3)

 

  • THE CHARM OF THE SENSUOUS. Idols were visible, tangible

objects. It was so much easier to offer worship to such things than to the

unseen God of heaven. It is our perpetual temptation to neglect the

spiritual for the material. We do not prostrate ourselves before calves of

gold; but we are tempted to worship coins of gold. Our idol-temples are

the marts of commerce, New York Stock Exchange, Wall Street.  The

whole tendency of life is towards absorption in things temporal, concrete,

visible — eating and drinking, clothing and building, merry-making and’

amusements. Even in religion we tend to degenerate to the sensuous, and

music and pageantry threaten to supersede worship and meditation. The

visible ritual endangers the invisible devotion. All this is idolatry.  (Does

the visual screen in contemporary Christianity have anything to do with

this?  - CY – 2014)

 

  • THE COMFORT OF A LOW IDEAL. The intellectual strain of

spiritual worship is not its most exacting characteristic. God is not only

unseen; He is holy, and He can only be approached with clean hands and a

pure heart. The religion of Israel was a religion of holiness. This was its

most marked feature in contrast with heathenism. It was possible to satisfy

all the demands of idolatry and yet to remain in sin. Nay, much of the

monstrous ritual of idol-worship consisted in the indulgence of licentious

passions. It was much easier to worship idols than to worship the holy

God. A worldly life is compatible with a low moral standard. Hence the

temptation to be satisfied with this life. But Christ calls us to the loftiest

ideal and to a warfare against sin. We must take up the cross if we would

follow Him.

 

24 “And David my servant shall be king over

them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my

judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them.”  The dwelling-places

wherein they have sinned, from which Jehovah promises to save them, are in

accordance with the views expressed above, not the dwelling-places of

the exile in which the people then were, but the dwelling-places in Canaan

in which they had formerly transgressed, but would in future be preserved

from transgressing. The idea is the localization of transgression which is viewed

as proceeding from the dwelling-places in which it is committed; or, the

conception is that, as their habitations had formerly been contaminated by their

detestable things, “the worship of teraphim and such like, if not worse,” so

Jehovah would save them from that contamination.

 

25 “And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my

servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell

therein, even they, and their children, and their children’s children

for ever: and my servant David shall be their prince for ever.”

The phrase, my servant David (compare ch.34:23-24; Jeremiah 33:21-22,26;

Psalm 78:70; 89:3, 20; 144:10), goes back to the Messianic promise of II Samuel

7:12-16, and cannot be satisfactorily explained as signifying the Davidic house,

or as pointing to “a line of true rulers, each faithfully representing the ideal

David as the faithful Ruler, the true Shepherd of His people” (ch.34:23),

inasmuch as Israel, after Ezekiel’s day, never possessed any such line of rulers,

and certainly no such line continued forever. The only feasible exegesis is that

which understands Jehovah’s servant David to be Messiah, or Jesus Christ,

of whom the writer to the Hebrews (1:8) says.  “Thy throne, O God, is forever

and ever.”

 

 

Christ the King (vs. 24-25)

 

  • THE KINGSHIP OF CHRIST IS A GLORIOUS FACT. In Ezekiel it

is only predicted. To Christians it is an accomplished fact. Christ has come

and has realized the ideal of ancient prophecy.

 

Ø      He is of the line of David. He was welcomed as the Son of David

(Luke 18:38). He gathers up the old traditions of Israel’s golden age,

and lifts their promises to a higher fulfillment.

 

Ø      He is a Shepherd. Aristotle quoted Homer to show that the true king

should be a shepherd. Christ rules tenderly and with regard to the

welfare of His people, not like the cruel, selfish, despotic monarchs

of heathen empires.

 

Ø      He is God’s Servant. Therefore:

 

o       it is God’s will that we should have Christ as our King, and

o       Christ rules according to the will of God.

 

  • THE KINGSHIP OF CHRIST IS A CENTER OF UNITY. “And they

all shall have one Shepherd.” Judah and Israel are to have but one King,

and are to be united under the reign of this new David. “The envy also of

Ephraim shall depart….and Judah shall not vex Ephraim,” etc. (Isaiah 11:13)

The supreme advantage of the institution of a monarchy is that it cements the

people under it into a consolidated unity. Christ is the Head of the body, and

as such He harmonizes the movements of all the limbs. It is strange that

Christendom should be broken up into innumerable mutually antagonistic

factions. But Christ is not responsible for those divisions. On the contrary,

it is just the loss of Christ in the Churches that leads to their severance.

 

  • THE KINGSHIP OF CHRIST IS AN INSPIRATION FOR

OBEDIENCE. “They shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my

statutes to do them.” It is more difficult to obey an abstract law than to

serve a living person. Christianity by no means gives us a dispensation from

the obligation of obedience. Our Lord expects His disciples to “exceed the

righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees” (Matthew 5:20), and it is

possible to do this by His new method. No longer painfully toiling along the

dreary road of formal legalism, Christians are inspired by an enthusiasm for

their Master which fires their love and zeal to do or suffer on His behalf;

and this glorious, loving service of Christ is just the obedience and

righteousness transformed into a new and attractive shape.

 

  • THE KINGSHIP OF CHRIST IS A FOUNDATION OF SOLID

PROSPERITY. Under the new David the people will live at peace in the

possession of their land. The service of Christ introduces all Christians to a

splendid inheritance. The Christian life is not a wild knight-errantry. It is

the enjoyment of a happy and peaceful kingdom. When Christ’s reign is

universal, society will be happy and prosperous. Even now inward peace

and rich treasures of Divine grace are the portion of His people on earth,

while they are cheered with the prospect of entering into a wonderful

inheritance of the saints in light” (Colossians 1;121) when the present

life is over.

 

  • THE KINGSHIP OF CHRIST IS TO BE ETERNAL. “My Servant

David shall be their Prince forever.” “Of the increase of His government

and peace there shall be NO END!” (Isaiah 9:7)  The reign of Christ was

never so widespread as it is in this nineteenth century. His sun dawned

nearly two thousand years ago. It is still climbing to its meridian. Sunset

CHRIST SHALL NEVER HAVE!   The Light of the world is the light

of the ages — “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and forever”

(Hebrews 13:8).

 

26 “Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an

everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them,

and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore.  27 My

tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall

be my people.”  With the people thus:

 

  • gathered (v. 21),
  • united (v. 22),
  • purified (. 23), and
  • established under the rule of Messiah (v. 25),

 

Jehovah makes a covenant of peace (see on ch.34:25; and compare Psalm 89:3),

further characterized as an everlasting covenant; or, covenant of eternity (see on

ch.16:60; and compare Genesis 17:7; Isaiah 55:3; Jeremiah 32:40); which guarantees

the continuance between Him and them of undying friendship, conjoined with

the bestowment on His part and the enjoyment on theirs of the highest

social and religious blessings. First, national existence and secure possession of

the soil. I will place (literally, give) them, either to their land, as in ch.17:22,

or to be a nation, or perhaps both. Next, steady increase of population — I will

multiply them (compare ch.36:37; Leviticus 26:9). Thirdly, perpetual

residence of Jehovah amongst them, I will set (or, give) my sanctuary

(mikdashi, conveying the idea of sanctity) in the midst of them for

evermore (compare Leviticus 26:11); my tabernacle (mishkani, the idea

being that of residence or dwelling) also shall be with them; or, over them

— the figure being derived from the elevated site of the temple, which

overhung the city (Psalm 69:29), and intended to suggest the idea of

Jehovah’s protecting grace. That this promise was in part implemented by

the erection of the second temple in the days of Zerubbabel may be

conceded, and also that Ezekiel himself may have looked forward to a

literal restoration of the sanctuary; but its highest realization must be

sought for, first in THE INCARNATION (John 1:14), next in God’s

inhabitation of the Church through the Spirit (II Corinthians 6:16), and

finally in His tabernacling with redeemed men in the heavenly Jerusalem

(Revelation 21:3, 22). The last blessing specified is the intimate

communion of God with His people, and of them with HimYea, I will

be their God, and they shall be my people. This, which formed the

kernel of the old covenant with Israel (Leviticus 26:12), became the

essence of the new covenant with the Israel of the restoration (ch.11:20;

36:28; Jeremiah 30:22; 31:33; 32:38; Zechariah 8:8; 13:9), but only attained to

complete realization in the relation of Christian believers to the Father of

our Lord Jesus Christ (II Corinthians 6:16).

 

 

God’s Tabernacle (v. 27)

 

  • GOD IS IN THE MIDST OF HIS PEOPLE. He is not a distant divinity

seated on cloud-capped Olympus or hidden in remote heavenly regions. He

visits the earth and even dwells there. We recognize His presence in the

beauty of spring and the wealth of autumn; we hear His voice in the

thunderstorm, and we see His glory in the sunshine. He haunts the cathedral

aisles of the forest; He unveils His glory beneath the blue dome that covers

the fair fields of nature. Assuredly He is in our homes shedding peace and

love; He draws very near to our souls in the night of sorrow; and He smiles

upon us in our innocent joys. Moreover, while God is thus universally

present, He manifests Himself especially to His people as He does not unto

the world (John 14:22-23). This is not on account of any unreasonable

partiality, any unfair favoritism. He says justly, “I love them that love me;

and those that seek me early shall find me” (Proverbs 8:17).

 

  • GOD’S PRESENCE IS A PROTECTION FOR HIS PEOPLE. He

says that His tabernacle shall be not merely “with them,” but “over them,”

as the phrase should be rendered. We think of a sheltering tent protecting

the people from the heat of the sun by day and from the frosts by night. In

the olden times the tabernacle was planted in the midst of the camp, but the

people generally were not admitted to its covered shrine, which was

reserved for a privileged priesthood. Now, however, the veil is rent, and

now all God’s people are priests, as the apostle to the Jews declared

(I Peter 2:9). Now, therefore, God’s tabernacle is not only in the midst of the

camp, gazed at with admiration by a surrounding host. It is spread over the

people of God, because they are allowed to enter its most holy place. Our

safety lies in our nearness to God, and when we truly seek to enter into

close communion with Heaven we find that there is a sense of security and

peace that can be found in no other way.

 

Ø      God protects from trouble, even when the blow falls, by

strengthening us to bear it.

Ø      He protects from temptation by giving us a joy greater than that of

the pleasures of sin.

Ø      He protects from the guilt of the past, by taking away our sins and

giving free forgiveness.

Ø      He protects from the fear of the future, by assuring us that He will

Never leave us nor forsake us.  (Hebrews 13:5)

 

  • GOD’S PRESENCE WITH HIS PEOPLE SECURES THEIR

UNION WITH HIM. “Yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my

people.” It is difficult to love and trust an absent Being, but nearness

stimulates affection and confidence.

 

Ø      The people own God. He is “their God.” This signifies willing

acceptance following deliberate choice. No man has a true experience

of religion until he can say from his heart, “THE LORD IS

MY GOD!”

 

Ø      God owns His people. They are His by right of creation; they are still

more His by right of redemption“ bought with a price.”

(I Corinthians 6:20)  God’s ownership implies:

 

o       His right to do as He will with his people;

o       His care to preserve His possession;

o       His joy in dwelling among His children.

 

·         Observe, in conclusion:

 

Ø      Sin removes the tabernacle of God from our midst. When Israel sinned,

the tabernacle was pitched outside the camp.

 

Ø      Christ brings Goal back into closest association with us. In Christ He

pitches his tent among us” (John 1:14).

 

28 “And the heathen shall know that I the LORD do sanctify Israel,

when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore.”

This describes the effect which such a glorious transformation of

Israel’s character and condition, should produce upon the heathen world.

They should recognize from His presence amongst His people, symbolized

by the establishment in their midst of His sanctuary, that He had both the

power and the will to sanctify them, by making them inwardly as well as

outwardly holy; and, recognizing this, they would seek admittance to the

congregation and fellowship of God’s spiritual Israel.

 

 

The Tabernacle of God with Men (v. 27)

 

There can be no question that one great purpose of the appointment, first

of the tabernacle, and then of the temple, as the center of the national and

religious life of Israel, was to familiarize the people with the thought of

God’s constant presence in the midst of them, as well as to provide means

and opportunities for special intercommunion between the Divine King and

His subjects. The coming of Christ whose body was the temple of Deity,

the coming of the Holy Spirit whose abiding indwelling constitutes the

temple, the Church, of God, did away with the necessity for a local and

temporary dwelling-place of God upon earth, but secured the permanent

reality of the fellowship of which such a dwelling-place was the symbol and

the means.

 

  • GOD’S TABERNACLE WITH MEN REMINDS US OF THE

UNIVERSAL PRESENCE OF THE DEITY UPON EARTH

THROUGHOUT ALL TIME.

 

  • AND OF HIS SPECIAL AND CONGENIAL PRESENCE AMONG

AND WITH HIS OWN PEOPLE.

 

  • AND OF HIS GRACIOUS PURPOSE TO REVEAL UNTO THEM

HIS OWN CHARACTER AND WILL.

 

  • AND OF HIS CONSTANT WILLINGNESS TO RECEIVE THEIR

WORSHIP AND HOMAGE.

 

  • AND OF HIS DESIRE TO MAINTAIN CLOSE AND UNBROKEN

RELATIONS OF CORDIALITY AND KINDNESS WITH HIS PEOPLE.

 

The privilege of fellowship with God should be reverently cherished, prized, and

cultivated. The means and occasions of such fellowship should not be mistaken for the

fellowship itself. The truest dignity and sacredness of this earthly life consists in the

opportunity it offers of communion with the unseen but ever-present God and Savior.

The strongest attraction of the life to come lies in the prospect of a closer

approach to God, a more uninterrupted fellowship with God, and a nearer

assimilation to HIS PERFECT AND GLORIOUS CHARACTER!

 

 

The Sanctification of the Church a Gospel for the World (v. 28)

 

  • THE SANCTIFICATION OF THE CHURCH.

 

Ø      Its form. Sanctification is essentially a being set apart for God. This

involves two ideas.

 

o       Separation. The Jews were separated from the heathen.

Christians are called out from the world. Christ founded

the Church partly in order that Christians might realize the

brotherhood of a family within its borders, and partly that

they might be divided from the heathenish world. The

superficial Christianizing of the world, and the more than

superficial worldliness of the Church, have combined to

obscure the old lines of demarcation. But we cannot

afford to neglect them.

 

o       Dedication. The separated people are set apart for God, as

young Samuel was separated from his house and given to

the Lord. This is the explanation of the separation; here we

see its purpose. The separation does not take place for the sake

of making a difference, but in order that the people of God

may wholly give themselves to His service.  (C.H. Spurgeon

said  The purpose of Christianity is to sanctify the secular.” –

CY – 2014)

 

Ø      Its character. Though the pure idea of sanctification is formal rather

than moral, and means essentially a setting apart for God, it is only

realized in the experience of personal holiness.

 

o       We can only be separated from the world by giving up the sin

of the world. The mark of separation is purity of character.

 

o       We can only be devoted to God by purity of heart. Only thus

can we see God (Matthew 5:8). Only thus can our service be

acceptable in His sight. Thus sanctification comes to be

equivalent to making pure and holy.

 

Ø      Its cause. God sanctifies His people. They must desire and seek the

sanctification, but they cannot create it. Men may separate themselves

from the world in external profession and habit, living as hermits in the

wilderness, immuring themselves in cloistered monasteries, repudiating

conventional manners with Puritan precision; and all the while they may

remain worldly at heart. They may offer themselves formally for the

service of God, and take office in the Church, and yet be only self-

seekers and servants of sin. As purification is essential to sanctification,

sanctification must be A DIVINE ACT!   THIS IS THE GREAT

WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT!   God separates, consecrates, and

purifies His people through the action of His Spirit in them.

 

  • THE INFLUENCE OF THE SANCTIFICATION OF THE CHURCH

ON THE WORLD. The heathen shall know that God sanctifies Israel. This

fact will be a witness to the pagan world of the power and character of

God. It will be a great sermon in history, a preaching in events. No

preaching can be more powerful. The greatest hindrance to missionary

work consists in the wicked conduct of persons from Christian lands who

visit heathen countries. The example of the Christian life is its best help.

Christ preached by His life more than by His words. His cross on Calvary is

more eloquent than his Sermon on the Mount. If we desire to give a new

impulse to missionary enterprises we must begin at home. We must first of

all consecrate our own hearts and lives afresh to our Master; we must seek

a new baptism of the Holy Ghost for the sanctification of the Church. The

Pentecost that brought a spiritual blessing to the little company in the

upper room at Jerusalem started the great evangelistic triumphs of the

apostolic age. While it may be well to discuss missionary methods, we

much more need to seek a spiritual revival of the home Churches, that a

new impulse may be given to the most fruitful form of missionizingthe

living influence of A CONSECRATED PEOPLE!

 

 

The Blessed Kingdom (vs. 21-28)

 

Understanding this Divine promise to find its true and complete fulfillment

in the kingdom of Christ, we may recognize some of the features of that

kingdom as it will one day be constituted.

 

  • ITS ONE ACKNOWLEDGED HEAD. The ideal “David (vs. 24-25)

is found, not in any future ruler like Judas Maccabaeus, but in JESUS

CHRIST, in Him who is exalted “to be a Prince and a Savior  (Acts 5:31),

the Lord and Sovereign of His people everywhere. A far Greater than David

is he (see homily on ch. 34:23-24). He will have no rival in the day of the

Lord, when all the Churches of Christ shall know and love the truth, and

exalt Him in the eyes of the world.

 

  • ITS UNITY. (vs. 21-22.) The time will come when the Divine Head

of the Church will look down upon a united people. There may be a great

variety of organizations, but there will be no discord or disunion; none,

because, while there will be no uniformity of method, but every order of

spiritual life, there will be everywhere prevalent the spirit of a benignant

charity, of Christ-like confidence, and love; all Churches and all hearts

owning one Savior, teaching one redeeming truth, breathing one spirit,

living one life, moving towards one goal, and looking for one prize.

 

  • ITS HOLINESS. (v. 23.) There shall be nothing to defile. What the

entire absence of idolatry signified in the case of Israel is realized by the

Church in the absence of all worldliness and iniquity of every kind from its

pale. It is “cleansed” by the truth and power of God, so that vice and

violence, oppression and injustice, covetousness and selfishness,

uncharitableness and inconsiderateness, are banished from its midst.

(It will be a place “wherein dwelleth righteousness.”  (II Peter 3:13)

 

  • ITS GLORIOUS MAGNITUDE. “I will multiply them.” If the largest

promises made to Israel had been fulfilled to the letter, that fulfillment

would have been small and slight indeed when compared with the

realization they have had in the establishment and the growth of the Church

of Christ. And it is extending its borders still, indeed much more rapidly

now than in any century but the first. It has attained to a noble magnitude,

and wilt “multiply and still increase,” until that little stone of

Nebuchadnezzar’s dream shall have rolled and grown till it “fills the whole

earth.”  (Daniel 2:35)

 

  • ITS JOY IN GOD. God’s “sanctuary is to be in the midst.” His

tabernacle shall be with them.” He will “be their God, and they shall be

His people” (vs. 26, 27). The picture is one of happy, holy converse between

God and man.  It is a great thing for a nation to rejoice because the Holy

One is near, is known and felt to be near. In the “glorious future time,”

when the kingdom of Christ shall be established on the earth, it will be the

very near presence of God that will be felt to be the source of the deepest

satisfaction, of the largest and truest enrichment. To be with Him, coming

into His nearer presence in all the ordinances of religion, to live in the spirit

and habitude of devotion, to walk with God all the day long, to be guests

at His table, to lift up the face unto Him as unto the heavenly Father, to lean

on Christ as on the unfailing Friend of the heart and life, — this is the

heritage of the good in the blessed kingdom of our Lord.

 

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