The present chapter is entirely devoted to the consolation
parts are derived from two separate “words” of Jehovah:
verse of the preceding chapter;
of the first part is the
comfort offered to
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
say, Ye mountains
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
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
peoples (vs. 3, 5) is expressly declared to be the jubilation over the
to themselves her forsaken land. Aha! Exulting over
(compare ch.25:3; Psalm 40:16). The ancient high places,
probably “the everlasting hills” of Genesis 49:26 and Deuteronomy
33:15, the principal mountains of
witnesses and indestructible monuments of that ancient blessing spoken
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
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
prematurely; for they did not reckon on a possibility of a restoration. This
is like the triumph of evil over the ruined world.
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
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
the darkest period in Jewish history.
The wickedness of later days. The story of
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
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 –
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.
He delivered all
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
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
intended to treat.” As it were, the prophet’s emotion is so strong, and his
times in succession begins to prophesy to the mountains of
each occasion breaks off before he can get his message told, to expatiate
upon the wickedness of
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
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
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
that had mocked
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.
wickedness, more especially of the Edomites, that excites the prophet’s
indignation. They had not only concluded that
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
(Gesenius), “empty out” (Keil) or “drive out” (Ewald, Smend) its
inhabitants (so as to get it) for a prey.
(Kliefoth), that their suburbs should be a prey” (Hengstenberg) “on
account of its pasturage for a prey” (Schroder).
6 “Prophesy therefore concerning 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
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
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
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
and yield your
fruit to my people of
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
change of dispensation implied no mutation in God, but merely that, as
God had previously visited
henceforth would He visit her with grace on condition of repentance. I will
turn unto you. Always it is
Returning Prosperity (vs. 8-9)
PROSPERITY. During the
absence of the captives in
fell into decay. The mountains which had been carefully terraced for vines
were neglected, just as they are today on the hills about
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.
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.
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
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
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
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)
(Thus the asinine abortion of
55 million children by the
Government and its facilitating populace! – CY – 2014) God
makes this promise to the house
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
is a step in the Progressive
attempt to change
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
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
Ø Unworthy living. (Today, the effects of the drug culture, and the
sexual revolution has not only had a devastating effect on the
also on the
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.”
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
idea of a
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 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).
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
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
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
was often afterwards subjected to reproach and oppression under heathen
powers. At the same time, the homecoming from
ensued thereupon were partial fulfillments of the blessings here promised.
the prophet (vs. 16-20) shows by briefly rehearsing the
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
her cities should again be inhabited and her fields cultivated, the prophet is
(1) to explain that the ground of this would not have in any worthiness
Jehovah should behold in
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
(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
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
thinks that “while grammatically the words may refer to either the heathen
or the exiles of
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
but of the house of
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
21 “But I had pity for mine holy name, which the house of
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.
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.
Israelites; He caused them to be “dispersed through the countries” (v.
19). The evil which they
positive. They were not ill treated there. The misery of it lay in its
unhomeliness. They were far from
their own land — from
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.
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
witness for God, for the
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
do not this for
your sakes, O house of
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
any more than she had at first to be put in possession of
(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
were these qualities in God the ultimate grounds to which
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
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 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
signify what God is talking about here since
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
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
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
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
“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)
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 God’s 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 God’s 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 God’s 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
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.
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:
§ works, or
“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
next referred to.
Clean Water (v. 25)
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
needed recovery was not
To be cleansed from their idolatry and brought into a condition of spiritual
worship was their greatest
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
(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
spiritual change proposed to be inwrought on
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.
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
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
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.
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,
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.
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.
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.
EFFECTS. We need not look for mystical signs like the incorruptible light
which the monks of
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
Ø Graces. There are given to every soul, and consist in the illuminating,
sanctifying, strengthening influence of the Holy Spirit. Thus God
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.
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
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).
28-31) describe the results which should follow in
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
(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
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
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.
offensive nature of sin is symbolized in Scripture by uncleanness of body.
Of the sins with which
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)
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.
“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
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)
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
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
they have been converted to Christianity; so that the whole promise must
be regarded as receiving its highest fulfillment in the experiences of the
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
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
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
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:
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.
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.
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
(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.
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
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.
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!
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
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.
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.”
MEN TO REFLECTION AND TO SELF-KNOWLEDGE.
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
LIGHT, LEADS TO SELF-LOATHING.
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.
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
ground of God’s gracious dealing with
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
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.”
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
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
Ø Idolatry’s 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.
Ø A discharge of God’s 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
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
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.
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
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
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
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 God’s 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
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)
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
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
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
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
ruined cities, on which the passers-by who visited
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
The new heart (v. 26) is to be followed by a new
is to be changed when the inner world is renewed, and that sweet, fair
be once more seen on earth, when men are renewed in nature. The new
Adam brings the new
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 human brotherhood, and
Without these five things progress languishes. They constitute the very air
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
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. (
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
37 “Thus saith the Lord GOD; I will yet for this be enquired of by the
I will yet for this
be inquired of by the house of
(ch.14:3; 20:3), Jehovah had declined to be inquired of by the hypocritical and
idol-loving elders of
(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
remained in the land-could not see how
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
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.
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 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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
heaven’s first law.” In nature and in human nature, God works from the
soul is a center — a center for himself, his family, his fortunes, his
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
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
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.
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
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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