Ezekiel 36 – A New Covenant for Israel’s Land and People
A. A promise to renew the land of Israel.
1. (1-5) A prophecy to the mountains of Israel.
“And you, son of man, prophesy to the mountains of Israel, and say, ‘O mountains of Israel, hear the word of the LORD! Thus says the Lord GOD: “Because the enemy has said of you, ‘Aha! The ancient heights have become our possession,’”’ therefore prophesy, and say, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Because they made you desolate and swallowed you up on every side, so that you became the possession of the rest of the nations, and you are taken up by the lips of talkers and slandered by the people”— therefore, O mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord GOD! Thus says the Lord GOD to the mountains, the hills, the rivers, the valleys, the desolate wastes, and the cities that have been forsaken, which became plunder and mockery to the rest of the nations all around— therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “Surely I have spoken in My burning jealousy against the rest of the nations and against all Edom, who gave My land to themselves as a possession, with wholehearted joy and spiteful minds, in order to plunder its open country.”’
a. Prophesy to the mountains of Israel: As before Ezekiel prophesied to the Mount Seir (Ezekiel 35:1-2), so now he prophesied to the mountains of Israel. What he said impacts the people, but the focus is on the land itself.
b. The ancient heights have become our possession: This was the taunt; the claim of the enemy of Israel. They thought that because the Jewish people were taken away in exile that the land could be theirs.
i. Swallowed you up: “The enemy intended to swallow the people of God, the verb meaning literally to pant or snuff up, a figure from the panting of wild beasts, as a wild beast ravenously smells after prey to devour it.” (Feinberg)
ii. Slandered: “Used elsewhere of the ‘bad report’ about his brothers that Joseph brought to his father (Genesis 37:2), of slanderous stories of plots against the righteous (Proverbs 10:18; 25:10; Psalm 31:13; Jeremiah 20:10), and of unfavorable (and faithless) reports resulting from an investigation (Numbers 13:32; 14:36–37).” (Block)
c. Thus says the Lord GOD to the mountains, the hills, the rivers, the valleys, the desolate wastes, and the cities: The clear emphasis in this section is on the land of Israel. There is certainly a connection with and an impact upon the people, but God’s enduring interest in the land of Israel is emphasized.
d. I have spoken in My burning jealousy against the rest of the nations and against all Edom, who gave to themselves as a possession: God spoke a solemn and powerful word against Edom and all the nations who sought to take the land of Israel to themselves. They set themselves against God’s purpose and will, when they, with spiteful minds hoped to plunder the country of Israel.
i. Burning jealousy: “Jealousy is hot as hell; [Song of Solomon 8:6] it is implacable, [Proverbs 6:34-35] and very vindictive.” (Trapp)
2. (6-12) The land of Israel restored from her shame.
“Therefore prophesy concerning the land of Israel, and say to the mountains, the hills, the rivers, and the valleys, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I have spoken in My jealousy and My fury, because you have borne the shame of the nations.” Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “I have raised My hand in an oath that surely the nations that are around you shall bear their own shame. But you, O mountains of Israel, you shall shoot forth your branches and yield your fruit to My people Israel, for they are about to come. For indeed I am for you, and I will turn to you, and you shall be tilled and sown. I will multiply men upon you, all the house of Israel, all of it; and the cities shall be inhabited and the ruins rebuilt. I will multiply upon you man and beast; and they shall increase and bear young; I will make you inhabited as in former times, and do better for you than at your beginnings. Then you shall know that I am the LORD. Yes, I will cause men to walk on you, My people Israel; they shall take possession of you, and you shall be their inheritance; no more shall you bereave them of children.”
a. Say to the mountains, the hills, the rivers, and the valleys: God continued His word directed to the land of Israel. Some feel uncomfortable with these prophetic passages that so clearly focus on Israel’s future in her promised land. They feel such promises contradict the principle that God is Lord over all the earth.
i. Taylor spoke well to this concern: “To those who feel that this is altogether too materialistic a concept of God and too constricting for the God of the whole earth, the enlightened Israelite would probably answer that it is no more unreasonable than that the God of all time should declare one day in seven as his own and that the God of all nature should claim a tenth of its produce for himself. Authority over the whole is witnessed to by the surrender of the part.”
b. You have borne the shame of the nations: God looked with compassion and care upon Israel, under so much attack, conquest, and hatred from the nations of the world. What was true in Ezekiel’s day has remained true through the centuries and up to the present day.
i. “The land has borne the insults of the nations long enough, and Yahweh’s own passion has been ignited. He will have the last word.” (Block)
c. The nations that are around you shall bear their own shame: In a solemn oath, God promised that He would vindicate Israel and the shame the nations hoped to place upon Israel would come upon Israel’s enemies.
i. The nations that are around you: “Moabites, Ammonites, and Idumeans shall be repaid in their own coin; I will, as sure as I am God, as sure as I can, so surely make them a taunt, a proverb, and a curse among men.” (Poole)
d. O mountains of Israel, you shall shoot forth your branches and yield your fruit: God promised to deal with Israel’s enemies, but He also promised to uniquely and powerfully bless the land of Israel. There would come a divine ecological and agricultural renewal to the land of Israel.
i. According to Israeli government statistics and reports, though only 20% of Israel’s land is suitable for farming, since the establishment of the modern state of Israel in 1948 they have more than tripled the amount of land used for farming and production has increased sixteen times. What used to be an agricultural wasteland is now a model for the world, and Israel produces 95% of its own food requirements and has a large agricultural export industry. We can regard these impressive developments as a mere beginning of the much greater fruitfulness promised in the fullness of God’s plan for Israel and her land.
ii. “The present great reforestation projects in the State of Israel, amazing as they are, are only harbingers of the reality to come.” (Feinberg)
iii. My people Israel: “What a welcome sound it should have been for Ezekiel’s audience to hear Yahweh referring to Israel endearingly as ammi, ‘my people,’ once again.” (Block)
e. Indeed I am for you, and I will turn to you, and you shall be tilled and sown: God specifically promised that He was and is for the land of Israel, not only the Jewish people. He promised blessing and renewal to the land, saying it would be tilled and sown.
i. “By a clever and unique wordplay, the hostile orientation formula hineni alekem, usually ‘I am against you,’ is transformed into a declaration of commitment: I am on your side.” (Block)
ii. There is a wonderful spiritual application from this literal promise. God can restore that which is dead and unfruitful. “Do you think that you will never be glad again; that shadow will always lie athwart your path; and that desolation shall hold undisputed empire? It shall not be so. O desolate mountains, ye shall shoot forth your branches, and yield fruit; and it is near to come.” (Meyer)
f. I will multiply men upon you: The blessed and renewed land would receive many more people, both from birth and immigration. The cities shall be inhabited and the ruins rebuilt.
i. “The phrase they will increase and be fruitful is an obvious echo of the divine blessing of beasts in Genesis 1:22 and humans in Genesis 1:28 as well as Genesis 9:1, 7.” (Block)
ii. In 1867 the American writer Mark Twain visited the land of Israel and was amazed at how small a city Jerusalem was: “A fast walker could go outside the walls of Jerusalem and walk entirely around the city in an hour. I do not know how else to make one understand how small it is” (TheInnocents Abroad). The population and vitality of modern Israel indicate at the very least the beginning of the fulfillment of this promise.
g. And do better for you than at your beginning: God promised not only to restore Israel but to bless them beyond previous times. This promise is focused on the land but certainly connected to the Jewish people as well.
h. No more shall you bereave them of children: As explained in the following verses, God would make the land of Israel a blessing to the Jewish people once again. In the worst days of the people, it seemed that the land was against them and actually took their dear children away. Such a curse would be reversed.
3. (13-15) The nations will see and tell of the blessedness of the land of Israel.
‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Because they say to you, ‘You devour men and bereave your nation of children,’ therefore you shall devour men no more, nor bereave your nation anymore,” says the Lord GOD. Nor will I let you hear the taunts of the nations anymore, nor bear the reproach of the peoples anymore, nor shall you cause your nation to stumble anymore,” says the Lord GOD.’”
a. You devour men and bereave your nation: This is what men formerly said of the land of Israel. It was a desolate and seemingly forsaken land. In many ways, this described the land of Israel from the Roman conquests of the first and second centuries until the Zionist movement starting in the 19th century. Scarcity, disease, and barrenness marked that land.
i. You devour men: The figure of speech uses the words spoken by the unfaithful spies in Numbers – that it was a land that devours its inhabitants (Numbers 13:32).
ii. “In a sense the land of promise was a bereaver of the nation, for it was subject, through the chastisements of God, to droughts (Jeremiah 14:1; Amos 4:7), to blasting and mildew (Amos 4:9), locust (Joel 1), and famine (Haggai 1:10-11; 2:17).” (Feinberg)
iii. In 1867 the American author Mark Twain toured the land of Israel and described it as a “desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds—a silent mournful expanse…. A desolation…. We never saw a human being on the whole route…. hardly a tree or shrub anywhere…. Even the olive tree and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil, had almost deserted the country.” (The Innocents Abroad)
iv. Spurgeon said in an 1864 sermon, “These words were addressed to the mountains of Palestine. Albeit that they are now waste and barren, they are yet to be as fruitful and luxuriant as in the days of Israel’s grandeur.”
b. You shall devour men no more, nor bereave your nation anymore: God promised to ecologically transform the land of Israel, making it a hospitable land of plenty once again. Today this can be seen; God working through the effort and ingenuity of the Israeli people, as well as through supernatural blessing.
c. Nor will I let you hear the taunts of the nations anymore: The work God would do for the land of Israel would be greater than ecological. He would also raise Israel’s status in the eyes of other nations, and give them a place of great security.
B. A promise of a new covenant, to renew the people of Israel.
1. (16-19) God’s judgment upon a disobedient Israel.
Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying: “Son of man, when the house of Israel dwelt in their own land, they defiled it by their own ways and deeds; to Me their way was like the uncleanness of a woman in her customary impurity. Therefore I poured out My fury on them for the blood they had shed on the land, and for their idols with which they had defiled it. So I scattered them among the nations, and they were dispersed throughout the countries; I judged them according to their ways and their deeds.
a. They defiled it by their own ways and deeds: Far back at the beginning of Israel’s history as a nation, God promised that their disobedience would bring a curse upon their land. In their disobedient ways and deeds it could be said that Israel defiled their own land.
i. “Had they continued faithful to me, they had never been removed from it: but they polluted it with their crimes; and I abhorred the land on that account, and gave both them and it up to the destroyers.” (Clarke)
ii. Like the uncleanness of a woman: “The prophet was not making moral judgments about women or human potential for good. Ezekiel was trying to convince the exiles that his message of restoration was worth listening to. Apparently his fellow exiles needed convincing.” (Vawter and Hoppe)
b. Therefore I poured out My fury on them for the blood they had shed on the land, and for their idols: Among the many sins of His people, God judged them for their crimes against one another (blood they had shed) and their crimes against God and His honor (their idols).
i. “When the prophet spoke of blood poured out, he was probably referring to murders, judicial violence and even child sacrifice in the worship of idols (see Ezekiel 16:36; 23:37).” (Feinberg)
c. So I scattered them among the nations: God long before, at the beginning of Israel’s history as a nation, promised that He would punish them with exile if they were to persist in their disobedience and rejection of Him. This eventually happened, and God judged them according to their ways and their deeds.
i. “In disciplining Israel in this manner, the Lord risked his own reputation in the world… when God scattered Israel among the nations, they perceived that Israel’s God was weak; thereby the name of the Lord was profaned among them.” (Alexander)
2. (20-23) God’s concern for His own holy name.
When they came to the nations, wherever they went, they profaned My holy name—when they said of them, ‘These are the people of the LORD, and yet they have gone out of His land.’ But I had concern for My holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations wherever they went. “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy name’s sake, which you have profaned among the nations wherever you went. And I will sanctify My great name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst; and the nations shall know that I am the LORD,” says the Lord GOD, “when I am hallowed in you before their eyes.
a. When they came to the nations, wherever they went, they profaned My holy name: When the Jewish people were exiled out of their land, they did not necessarily glorify God in those foreign places. The mere fact of their exile (yet they have gone out of His land) could be seen as God’s rejection of His people.
i. “The assertion that the Israelites have desecrated the name of Yahweh wherever they have gone might have led Ezekiel’s audience to expect another wave of judgment.” (Block)
b. But I had concern for My holy name: God’s promises of restoration to Israel were not only for the sake of Israel but even more so for His holy name. Israel profaned His name among the nations, yet God promised to sanctify His own name and reputation.
i. “He wants his name to be great, so that the nations may regard him not as an ineffective tribal god, but as the Lord of the whole earth. And Israel is to be the channel through which this vindication is going to be achieved.” (Taylor)
c. When I am hallowed in you before their eyes: When God was once again honored as holy among the people of Israel, it would reveal Yahweh to the nations (the nations shall know that I am the LORD).
i. “When the nations see Israel’s return to its land, they will draw only one conclusion: Israel’s national deity has acted to save the people. By restoring Israel to its land, God could uphold God’s own dignity before the rest of the world.” (Vawter and Hoppe)
ii. This is a promise to Israel but has some relevance to all who relate to God through the new covenant. “The church also finds it a difficult role to accept, but in an age when God’s power is all too often discredited by reason of his people’s failures, the church needs to be prepared to be treated harshly for the sake of God’s greater glory in the world.” (Taylor)
3. (24) A promise to gather scattered Israel.
For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land.
a. For I will take you from among the nations: When Ezekiel first gave this prophecy, Israel was practically desolate and her people were exiled. God promised to not only bring back His people from the Babylonian captivity, but a greater and more complete gathering to come.
i. “This does not relate to the restoration from Babylon merely. The Jews are at this day scattered in all Heathen, Mohammedan, and Christian countries. From these they are to be gathered, and brought to repossess their own land.” (Clarke)
b. And bring you into your own land: God promised to restore Israel to their own land. As with Ezekiel 11:16-17, this was a remarkable promise to make to post-exile Israel. This promise to gather Israel is a common feature of the promises of the new covenant God will make with Israel and invite the Gentile world to embrace. (as in Deuteronomy 30:1-6, Jeremiah 23:3, Jeremiah 32:37, and Ezekiel 11:16-17).
i. Into your own land: “God didn’t give them the land because of their righteousness (Deuteronomy 9:6), and He won’t restore the land because of anything good they have done. God in His grace gives us what we don’t deserve.” (Wiersbe)
ii. Throughout the Bible, God reveals His plan of redemption through a series of covenants. After the extended story of the fall and ruin of humanity in Genesis 1-11, the story of the covenants begins.
· The Abrahamic Covenant promised to Abraham and his covenant descendants a land, a nation, and a blessing to extend to all nations (Genesis 12:1-3).
· The Mosaic or Sinai Covenant gave Israel the law, the sacrifices, and the choice of blessing or curse (Exodus 19).
· The Davidic Covenant that promised an everlasting dynasty, a perfect ruler, and the Promised Messiah (2 Samuel 7).
· The New Covenant, where God’s plan of redemption through the covenants was completed and perfected. Over the span of Old Testament passages that announce the new covenant (such as Deuteronomy 30:1-6, Jeremiah 23:1-8, Jeremiah 31:31-34, Jeremiah 32:37-41, Ezekiel 11:16-20, Ezekiel 36:16-28, Ezekiel 37:11-14, and 37:21-28), we see the promises of a gathered Israel, of cleansing and spiritual transformation, of a new and real relationship with God, and the reign of the Messiah.
iii. “Therefore, the new covenant replaced the Mosaic covenant by adding those things that made it better, but not by eliminating the good, righteous, and godly Mosaic stipulations that described how to live a godly life.” (Alexander)
4. (25) A promise to cleanse filthy Israel.
Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.
a. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you: The new covenant promises a spiritual cleansing of God’s people, a cleansing made possible by the death of Jesus when the new covenant was instituted.
i. “Its symbolism is derived from ritual washings with water which were intended to remove ceremonial defilement (cf. Exodus 30:17–21; Leviticus 14:52; Numbers 19:17–19).” (Taylor)
b. I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols: The sin and corruption mentioned previously in Ezekiel 36:17-18 would be cleansed by God’s work through the new covenant. This would not be the mere covering of sin as accomplished by the imperfect sacrifices of the Old Testament, but a true cleansing of sin by the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross.
i. This reference to cleansing by the clean water of the new covenant is the likely connection Jesus had in mind when He spoke of being born of water in John 3:5. As Paul would later write of the believer, you were washed (1 Corinthians 6:11).
ii. “It is likely that Christ was calling the attention of Nicodemus to this passage when He spoke in John 3:5 of the new birth through water and the Spirit; the Ezekiel promise was about to be fulfilled.” (Wright)
iii. From all your filthiness is a large promise. “From all your actual filthiness, as well as from all your original filthiness, will I cleanse you. From all your secret filthiness, and from all your public filthiness; from everything that was wrong in the family; from everything that was wrong in the business; from everything that was wrong in your own heart — ‘From all your filthiness will I cleanse you.’” (Spurgeon)
5. (26-27) A promise to spiritually renew Israel.
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.
a. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you: This is the spiritual transformation promised in the new covenant. Instead of the law working from the outside in, God promised a new heart to work from the inside out.
i. “Israel will experience a real ‘change of heart’ and will become, by God’s gracious initiative, the kind of people that they have in the past so signally failed to be.” (Taylor)
ii. “True religion begins, then, with the heart, and the heart is the ruling power of manhood. You may enlighten a man’s understanding and you have done much, but as long as his heart is wrong, the enlightenment of the understanding only enables him to sin with a greater weight of responsibility resting upon him.” (Spurgeon)
b. A new heart and put a new spirit: Jesus referred to this great work of spiritual transformation through the new covenant when He spoke of being born again in John 3. Paul spoke of it when he wrote of believers being new creations in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).
c. I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh: God promised a new nature in the new covenant. In that covenant men and women are made new, with a new nature patterned after the nature of Jesus Himself (Ephesians 4:21-24).
i. “In the ancient world the heart was the center for volition and the intellectual catalyst for feeling and action. A ‘heart of stone’ implied inflexibility and willfulness, while a ‘heart of flesh’ meant submission and compliance.” (Vawter and Hoppe)
ii. The heart of stone: “Stubborn, senseless, untractable heart, that receives no kindly impressions from the word, providences, or Spirit of God in its ordinary operations and influences, that hardens itself in a day of provocation, that is hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Poole)
iii. A heart of flesh: “One that can feel, and that can enjoy; that can feel love to God and to all men, and be a proper habitation for the living God.” (Clarke)
d. I will put My Spirit within you: Another aspect of the new covenant is the promise of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Under the new covenant, the Spirit dwells in every believer (Romans 8:9), and is promised to fill the believer with special presence and power (Acts 1:5 and 1:8).
i. “Jeremiah [Jeremiah 31:33] and Ezekiel obviously have the same covenant renewal in mind, but what Jeremiah attributes to the divine Torah, Ezekiel ascribes to the infusion of the divine ruah.” (Block)
ii. “An incarnate God is a mystery, – the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us; but, here is another mystery, God dwells in every son of God. God dwelleth in us, and we in him.” (Spurgeon)
iii. “The Holy Spirit cannot dwell in the old heart; it is a filthy place, devoid of all good, and full of enmity to God. His very first operation upon our nature is to pull down the old house and build himself a new one, that he may be able to inhabit us consistently with his holy spiritual nature.” (Spurgeon)
e. Cause you to walk in My statutes: The spiritual transformation and indwelling Holy Spirit would help the believer to obey God’s law. Obedience would be more of a matter of being what God has already made the believer as a new man or woman in Jesus Christ, filled with God’s own Holy Spirit.
6. (28-30) A promise to bless the land and her agriculture.
Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God. I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses. I will call for the grain and multiply it, and bring no famine upon you. And I will multiply the fruit of your trees and the increase of your fields, so that you need never again bear the reproach of famine among the nations.
a. Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers: The promises of land and gathering to the land are part of the very fabric of the new covenant. It is a plain and serious error to subtract these promises from the new covenant itself.
i. “The return mentioned in this passage does not refer to the return to Canaan under Zerubbabel but to a final and complete restoration under the Messiah in the end times. The details of Israel’s reestablishment on her land set forth above simply did not occur in the returns under Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah.” (Alexander)
b. You shall be My people, and I will be your God: This phrase speaks of a restored and true relationship between God and His people. The cleansing and transformative work of the new covenant would make a depth and strength of relationship possible for all God’s people that only a select few knew before.
c. I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses: Though the people of God were stained by multiple uncleannesses, God’s provision through the Messiah’s sacrifice, and the new covenant instituted by that sacrifice, would truly cleanse God’s people. With new hearts, they would see their uncleannesses as things to be delivered from.
i. “No article of our creed is so much opposed by Satan, as that of the forgiveness of sin by Christ’s merits, which is the very life and soul of a Church. All the former articles of the creed are perfected in this, and all the following articles are effects thereof: hold it fast, therefore.” (Trapp)
d. I will call for the grain and multiply it: As was promised earlier in the chapter, God would send a revival of agricultural abundance upon the land of Israel (Ezekiel 36:6-12).
i. “Supernatural fertility of the land is one of the accompaniments of the kingdom (see v. 35; 47:1-12; Isaiah 35:1-2; 55:13; Zechariah 8:12).” (Feinberg)
7. (31-32) Israel’s response in light of their unworthiness for these promises.
Then you will remember your evil ways and your deeds that were not good; and you will loathe yourselves in your own sight, for your iniquities and your abominations. Not for your sake do I do this,” says the Lord GOD, “let it be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel!”
a. Then you will remember your evil ways: The outpouring of grace received from the new covenant would not make God’s people indifferent towards sin, even towards past sins. They would loathe themselves over their iniquities and abominations. The inner transformation promised in Ezekiel 36:26-27 would give them a sensitive conscience toward sin, both past and present.
i. “When some people remember their sins, they enjoy them again in the dirty depths of their imagination. This is evidence that they really haven’t judged them and repented. When true children of God remember their past disobedience, they’re ashamed of themselves and abhor themselves because of what they have done to the Lord, themselves, and others.” (Wiersbe)
ii. “Augustine was famous, saith another for two of his works: his Retractions, which are the confessions of his errors; and his Confessions, which are the retractions of his life.” (Trapp)
b. Not for your sake do I do this: Yahweh repeated the idea from Ezekiel 36:22-23. This outpouring of grace and restoration would be more for the glory and reputation of Yahweh than for Israel.
i. “Very impressive is the prophet’s insistence upon the fact that this is to be done, not for the sake of Israel, but for the sake of the Name of God.” (Morgan)
8. (33-36) A promise to restore the desolate places.
‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will also enable you to dwell in the cities, and the ruins shall be rebuilt. The desolate land shall be tilled instead of lying desolate in the sight of all who pass by. So they will say, ‘This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden; and the wasted, desolate, and ruined cities are now fortified and inhabited.’ Then the nations which are left all around you shall know that I, the LORD, have rebuilt the ruined places and planted what was desolate. I, the LORD, have spoken it, and I will do it.”
a. On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will also enable you to dwell in the cities: Once again, a key component of the new covenant promises is the gathering of Israel back to their land, and the blessing upon the land. The desolate land would be tilled again and made fruitful.
i. “There had been a day when the Lord refused to be inquired of by His disobedient people (Ezekiel 14:3; 20:3), but now the Lord would be accessible for their turning to Him in genuine repentance and would grant their requests.” (Feinberg)
ii. The repeated promises of the restoration of national and geographical Israel as part of the new covenant show us something important and often neglected. There is no doubt that the work of Jesus on the cross and His victory at the resurrection inaugurated the new covenant (Luke 22:20). Yet, there is a real sense in which the new covenant is not yet complete until these promised blessings upon Israel are fulfilled. We may say that the glorious return of Jesus, and the millennial kingdom He then establishes, will complete all the promises of the new covenant.
b. The nations which are left all around you shall know that I, the LORD, have rebuilt the ruined places: God’s work in Israel and through the new covenant would be a powerful testimony to a watching world. The full work of the new covenant would proclaim the greatness of Yahweh.
i. “The results of the restoration would be their repentance and the return of all that prosperity which through sin they had forfeited, and, consequently, a renewal of their witness to the nations round about of truth concerning Jehovah.” (Morgan)
ii. “Let her [the Church] also remember that her gifts and calling are not for her sake, but for the honour of the Name; that, being sanctified in her, God may make Himself known to the nations.” (Morgan)
iii. “God has yet to defend His name in this earth. There are a great many people who ridicule the church today and the people who are in it. They blaspheme God because of it. God is going to justify Himself in this earth, and He is going to sanctify His name down here.” (McGee)
c. I, the LORD, have spoken it, and will do it: To remove all doubt and to assure the trust of His people, Yahweh gave a solemn oath regarding these promises. One disregards or diminishes these promises in opposition to God’s solemn oath.
i. “How these prophetic promises will be fulfilled remains an open question. Nevertheless, to reduce these oracles to symbolic language and to restrict their fulfillment to the NT church is to annul the hope that the prophet was attempting to restore.” (Block)
9. (37-38) A promise to restore a relationship with God.
‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “I will also let the house of Israel inquire of Me to do this for them: I will increase their men like a flock. Like a flock offered as holy sacrifices, like the flock at Jerusalem on its feast days, so shall the ruined cities be filled with flocks of men. Then they shall know that I am the LORD.”’”
a. I will also let the house of Israel inquire of Me: The restored and deepened relationship in light of the new covenant would mean a new dynamic of prayer for Israel. They could take the privilege that Hebrews 4:16 says belongs to every believer under the new covenant: to boldly come to the throne of grace to find help in time of need.
i. “Though I have repeated so often my promise to return them, to rebuild, to multiply them, yet they shall know it is their duty to entreat it, to wait on me, and then I will give a merciful answer and do it. Thus Daniel prayed, when he knew the return was sure and near.” (Poole)
b. I will increase their men like a flock: Though a miraculous population increase was previously promised (as in Ezekiel 36:10-11), here Ezekiel presents its accomplishment as an answer to prayer (inquire of Me). This shows us that the increase of a flock is connected to prayer, and that God wants us to pray for what He has promised.
i. “I trust we all feel the missionary spirit; we all long to see the kingdom of the Lord come, and to see the converts in Zion multiplied. But God has appended to the granting of our desire that we should pray for it: we must plead and enquire, or else the increase will be withheld.” (Spurgeon)
ii. A flock offered as holy sacrifices: “Literally ‘flock of holy things’ and evidently refers to animals intended for sacrifice. Just as these filled Jerusalem in their thousands (cf. 2 Chronicles 35:7), so the rebuilt cities of Israel would be filled with throngs of men.” (Taylor)
iii. “The sacrificial simile would have come easily to Ezekiel the priest. It is tempting to wonder whether he thought beyond the mere numerical similarity to the picture of a people who were ready to be offered, like the sheep, as living sacrifices in the service of God.” (Taylor)
c. So shall the ruined cities be filled with flocks of men: The restoration of people, life and vitality to Israel is an important part of the new covenant. The new covenant is not only a work of spiritual restoration, it also promises the restoration of Israel in terms of both population and land.
i. The image of flocks of men speaks not only of the large number of the increase, but also of something more. “There is this additional beauty about the promise, that the sheep which were brought to Jerusalem on the solemn feasts were not only numerous, but they were the best sheep in the land, because no animal could be offered to God if it had any blemish.” (Spurgeon)