7.18 Ezekiel -- Restoration of Israel
Following the destruction of the invader nation Gog, God will display His glory before all nations and bring Israel back from exile. He will even pour out His Spirit on Israel (Eze 39:21-29).
Ezekiel has two types of messages concerning the return of Israel to her land. In one, the Lord will gather specifically the exiles deported to Babylonia in 597 and earlier, send them back to their own land, where they will know the Lord and be ashamed of all their sins. In the other, the Lord will gather "the whole house of Israel," apparently including the 10 lost tribes carried off by the Assyrians, "from the countries where you have been scattered," "not leaving any behind" (Eze 11:17, Eze 20:41, Eze 39:28). Theirs is a more hopeful, joyous, and triumphant future. These two messages intermingle; indeed, it is hard to classify any one passage as strictly near-term or strictly apocalyptic.
a. The Lord’s judgments will be removed forever, or turned against His people’s enemies. There will be no famine, no more plundering (34, 36). Israel will no longer bear the nations’ scorn, but those who maligned her will be punished (Eze 28:26). The mountains of Israel, once denounced for their idolatrous shrines and high places (Eze 6:2-7), will become fruitful and prosperous (Eze 36:1-15, Eze 17:23).
b. The Lord will do again the great, gracious, saving deeds of the past. As He spoke life over and into the helpless, outcast, newborn Israel (Eze 16:6), so He will speak life into slain, broken, scattered, unbelieving Israel (Valley of Dry Bones -- 37). As the Lord withdrew from Israel in stages, so His glorious presence will return (Eze 43:1-7, Eze 44:2-4). During the exile He has been their sanctuary (Eze 11:16); now "I will put my sanctuary among them forever" and "My dwelling place will be with them" (Eze 37:26-28).
c. As with other prophets, the theme of "the remnant" appears in Ezekiel, although it is not clearly defined. Sometimes the people left in Jerusalem before its destruction were thought to be the remnant -- but they were eventually exiled. In chapter 9, Ezekiel had a vision of God's plan to destroy the city:
The Lord called to the man clothed in linen who had the writing kit at his side and said to him, "Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it" (Eze 9:3-4).
Here, the remnant is those people who are spiritually in tune with God. Elsewhere, it is the exiles whom God will remember and gather again (Eze 11:16-17).
d. The Lord will remember His covenant with Israel, though she has despised and broken it. He will not merely renew it, but replace it with an everlasting covenant (Eze 16:59-62): "They will be my people, and I will be their God" (Eze 37:23-27, Eze 34:31). In this connection He speaks of the new heart of flesh and the gift of His Spirit:
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws (Eze 36:26-27).
I will no longer hide my face from them, for I will pour out my Spirit on the house of Israel, declares the Sovereign Lord (Eze 39:29).
e. There will be a Messiah, the prince to whom Zedekiah’s crown "rightfully belongs" (Eze 21:27). The Lord Himself will shepherd His people (Eze 34:11-16), but He will also set a Davidic servant over them as shepherd (Eze 34:23-24), one king over a single, united flock (Eze 37:22-24).
"David my servant will be their prince forever" (Eze 37:25).
f. A new nation of Israel will be established, with all tribes represented. Ezekiel devotes the last 9 chapters to a very detailed description of the vision of the new Canaan. In some ways, it recalls passages from Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, where Moses instructed the people about feasts, holy days, division of the land -- prior to their crossing the Jordan. But now the centerpiece is the Temple, from which flows a river:
"Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing" (Eze 47:12).
g. There is little mention of foreigners in this "new world order." Foreigners are prohibited from entering the temple (Eze 44:9). But, rather inconsistently, aliens who dwell with Israel are to be given allotments of land among the tribes:
"In whatever tribe the alien settles, there you are to give him his inheritance" (Eze 47:23).
But wasn't this the source of the original sin problem of Israel -- co-mingling with foreigners? Wouldn't this arrangement promote inter-marriage and lead to idolatry? How sad it is to allow the alien to dwell physically in the land and yet to be cut off from its very source -- worship of the true God.