Bones and Branches

Posted: November 10, 2016 in Ezekiel, Uncategorized

Ezekiel 37, “Bones and Branches”

Name that tune: “Back bone connected to the shoulder bone – Shoulder bone connected to the neck bone – Neck bone connected to the head bone – Now hear the word of the Lord.”  Dem Bones, James Wheldon Johnson (1st recorded February 1928).  It’s a famous song, but the background is unknown to most, as it’s based on the first of two signs given in Ezekiel 37. 

Two signs; one message.  There is the sign of the bones revived into living beings, and there is the sign of the sticks (branches) unified into one.  Both symbolized God’s promise to regather & revive the Kingdom of Israel, giving hope to His people currently stuck in Babylonian captivity, and giving them a promise of a glorious future with Him.

Do you ever find it difficult to hold to the promises of God?  The longer it takes, the more difficult it can become.  We know Jesus is coming to rapture us as the church, but we wonder how much longer we need to wait.  We know that Jesus promised to judge the enemy, but when?  We know Jesus promised never to leave us nor forsake us, but sometimes it just feels like we’re utterly alone.  If it’s difficult for you, just imagine what it felt like for ancient Israel!  They had the promises of a Davidic King ruling over them in their own homeland, but after they were taken to Babylon in a crushing defeat, those promises seemed long gone.  With their nation destroyed and dead, what hope could they have?  What could God possibly do for them?

The answer: anything.  God could do each and every single thing He promised them.  It didn’t matter how far gone they were as a nation.  It didn’t matter how divided they seemed to be.  It didn’t matter how far impossible the promises of a Davidic King appeared.  God promised it, so God would do it.  Giving life to the dead is not an obstacle to the Almighty God – He does it every single day.  God promised to give life and eternal peace to the nation of Israel, and that is exactly what He would do.  Nothing is too dead for God not to give it life.  He is the life-giving God.

Ezekiel 37

  • The Bones (1-14)
  • Vision of the Valley (1-3)

1 The hand of the LORD came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones. 2 Then He caused me to pass by them all around, and behold, there were very many in the open valley; and indeed they were very dry.

  • We’re not given a timeframe for the vision, and thus it seems that it comes on the heels of the previous chapter (remember chapter breaks are not inspired), where God promised to regather the nation of Israel for His own name’s sake, multiplying them again as a nation (36:22-38).  It was an incredible promise, seemingly impossible to perform.  What would it look like?  It would be like this vision of dry bones.
  • What exactly happened Ezekiel is uncertain.  Was he physically removed to a desert – or was this a spiritual vision of sorts?  Whatever took place, it seemed literally real to Ezekiel, and that’s how he recorded it.  Like John being called up to the throne room of God (Rev 4), or Paul experiencing a vision of heaven either in or out of the body (2 Cor 12), so was Ezekiel taken to this “valley…full of dry bones.”  It would have been desolate, yet still gruesome – like an old battlefield where the bodies lay scavenged & unburied, dried out by the sun.  These aren’t skeletons laying out neatly ordered, but a mass of bones everywhere you could look.  Something truly horrible had taken place, and God caused the prophet to inspect it all.
  • There is an emphasis on the bones being “very dry.”  All the moisture had been removed, so long had they been sitting there.  The idea is that this was barren.  Not only was everything dead, it looked as if it had been abandoned for years on end.  If God wanted Ezekiel to get a picture of a situation long past dead, this was it.

3 And He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” So I answered, “O Lord GOD, You know.”

  • At first blush, this sounds like a cryptic question & a cop-out.  “Might they come to life, these bones?”  Obviously they weren’t living at the time!  Out of human power or any natural effort, life to the bones was utterly impossible.  They were scattered about & completely dried out, but more than that…they were bones!  Life was already long-gone from these bones, by definition.  They wouldn’t be seen otherwise.
  • Even so, Ezekiel gave a good answer!  By themselves, the bones wouldn’t have life, but God was involved, as God was the one asking the question.  For Ezekiel to turn it back around onto God isn’t a cop-out; it’s the truth.  Only the Lord God Almighty knows what is possible, for whatever is in His will is possible.
    • Take a moment and consider the faith involved with this.  Can the impossible become possible?  God knows.  Can my atheist family member come to faith in Christ?  God knows.  Can our nation experience true repentance?  God knows.  What seems utterly impossible becomes possible based on the involvement and will of Almighty God.  Ezekiel did not know the answer, but he understood that if the great I AM, the ever-existent Lord of Israel got involved, then whatever He wanted done would come to pass.  Ezekiel simply needed to trust God & see what God would do.  Likewise with us.  We don’t need to fret about the impossible; we need to trust the God for whom all things are possible.  If it is in His will, it will be done.
  • Word to the bones (4-10)

4 Again He said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! 5 Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: “Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. 6 I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the LORD.” ’ ”

  • Would it seem silly to speak to a bunch of dead, inanimate objects?  Perhaps – but God was at work, and He wanted His word proclaimed.  God’s word was declaring God’s Spirit.  God’s Spirit gives life!  These bones would not remain bones – they would become bodies.  And these bodies (like ancient Adam in the Garden of Eden) would receive the breath/spirit of God, and they would live.  God had a plan for these dead bones: life!
  • And the result?  Testimony.  Once more, we read the refrain of Ezekiel, “Then you shall know that I am the LORD.”  God’s action among the bones would not be ignored or denied.  When God gives life, people know it!

7 So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to bone. 8 Indeed, as I looked, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them over; but there was no breath in them.

  • Miraculous regathering!  Can you imagine it in your mind?  Ezekiel spoke to the bones as God commanded him to do, and there was a stirring.  We can almost hear the echoes of his voice falling silent, when another sound arises from the boney battlefield.  One bone leaps to the next, and to the next, to the point where bones are flying all around, being reunited with their original partners, assembling into full skeletons.  Yet it doesn’t stop there.  As soon as the bones are reassembled, muscle, tendons, ligaments, and organs grow as the bodies become covered with flesh and hair.  Soon enough, it’s no longer a valley of dry bones, but a valley full of people – fresh & clean, as if they had all simply fallen asleep upon the ground.
  • Even here, it’s only part done.  Although what happened was a miracle, Ezekiel was still looking upon a field filled with corpses.  The bodies were assembled, but lifeless.  Not for long…

9 Also He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” ’ ” 10 So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army.

  • Notice the emphasis on “breath” and “winds.”  The Hebrew for each of those words is the same single word as it is for “spirit”: ruach (ר֜וּחַ ).  Just as Ezekiel spoke to the bones, he was to speak to the spirit/breath/wind.  These bodies needed breath in order to breathe.  More than that, they needed THE Breath/Spirit in order to have life.  (The definite article is employed more than once, pointing out a specific wind/breath/spirit.)  Just like God breathed HIS breath/Spirit into Adam for the first man to receive life in the Garden of Eden, so did this multitude of men needed the breath of God to come to life.  Without it, the miracle was only half-done – it was still ultimately doomed to fail.  Without God’s Spirit, it might look wonderful, but it was lifeless.
  • The Holy Spirit isn’t optional!  Too often, the 3rd Person of the Trinity gets treated like an add-on.  As if when you purchase a car, you know you need a transmission – the only question is whether you want manual or automatic.  Or if you want to spend the extra money for power steering, it’d be nice but not absolutely necessary.  That’s not how it is with the Holy Spirit!  He is not optional in the life of a believer.  He isn’t the part of God that simply sits on the sidelines, waiting for whether or not a Christian wants to receive of Him.  Without the work of the Holy Spirit, there are no believers!  It is the Holy Spirit who convicts us of our sin, the righteousness of God, and the coming judgment, showing us our need to repent. (Jn 16:8)  More to the point of Ezekiel’s vision, it is the Spirit Himself who gives us life.  As Jesus said, we have to first be born of the Spirit to even see the Kingdom of God. (Jn 3:5)  The Holy Spirit is the One who gives us new life, who is Himself our spirit of adoption (Rom 8:15), and who Himself is our guarantee of eternity (1 Cor 1:22).  Without the work and presence of the Holy Spirit, there are no born-again Christians.
    • That said, there is a work of the Spirit of which too many Christians sadly rarely partake: His ongoing filling & empowerment.  Paul exhorted the Ephesians to be continually filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18), which implies that this is something that is volitional.  Just as Jesus said we could ask for the Holy Spirit (Lk 11:13) – just as the disciples showed that they were repeatedly filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4, 4:8, 4:31, etc.) – so can we ask, and be repeatedly, continually filled.  The key is to remember that the Spirit is essential.  We needed His work simply to be saved – certainly we need His work to continue in our salvation, walking in the will of God.  He is essential for us.
  • What was the result?  Life!  Life for everyone.  There weren’t just a few risen to their feet; it was “an exceedingly great army.”  The Hebrew is interesting – a literal rendering might be: “an army great, exceedingly exceedingly.”  Those who were slain were no longer slain.  They now stood to their feet in true life, and their numbers were more than Ezekiel could easily count.  Not a single person was left out.
    • Does God have power to give life?  Absolutely – to everyone!  The Spirit of God & His salvation is not limited to only a select few, with everyone else left out in the cold; it is available to all who ask!  The only way someone is left out of the salvation of God is if they never come to faith in Jesus Christ.  Otherwise, it doesn’t matter what your background might be – how “dead” in your sins you might have been.  We were all dead in our sins & transgressions (even if some testimonies seem more dramatic than others).  All of us need the life of the Spirit through faith in Jesus, and that life is available to everyone…even if the numbers who ask are exceedingly great.
  • OK – that was a great sign.  What did it all mean?  God explains it…
  • Interpretation: Israel revived (11-14)

11 Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, ‘Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!’

  • Like the parables of Jesus, we’re not looking for a solid analogy to every single element.  There is a main point to be made, and God explained it directly to Ezekiel.  The bones were the nation of Israel – both northern and southern kingdoms, “the whole house of Israel.”  Both kingdoms had been defeated by enemies, carted off into captivity, or seemingly bred out of existence.  The former Davidic kingdom of Israel was long dead, with its “bones” completely dry.  The people of Israel knew it & believed it was too late.  They thought their hope was lost, and that God’s promises concerning their future were null & void.
  • Was it?  No!  When God’s will is involved, is it ever too late?  Never!  There are times we might miss our opportunities to freely repent towards God, but does God ever turn His back on those who do repent?  Never – to the praise of His glory!  It was in their captivity that Israel finally recognized the consequences of their sin & desired to turn back to God.  Though they had lost much, it was not too much for God to regain.  God had a plan for His people, and He would see it surely come to pass.

12 Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. 13 Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves.

  • Equivalent to reassembling the bones.  God would reassemble the nation of Israel from the dead.  Just like the bones were scattered amidst the valley, so were the Israelites scattered among the nations.  And God had a plan for them, even there.
  • Was Israel dead?  Yes, by any available metric.  Their capital city was destroyed, their king removed.  They were physically removed from their homeland.  They were scattered throughout a vast empire, surviving in ghettos among the other nations.  They had no opportunity to fully practice their religion, as the temple was destroyed & they were far removed even from the ruins of it.  They were forced to speak other languages, adapting to the language of the Babylonians, rather than the older Hebrew.  What was left?  Apart from a miracle of God, the Jews would be otherwise destined for the dustbin of history – just like many other cultures before them.  Apart from a miracle of God, they were dead.  But the miracle of God made all the difference.
  • Not only did God guard their national identity, but God actually brought the nation back together.  He promised to reassemble the people, just as He reassembled the bones.  Though tribes and families were split apart, God knew where each was & who needed to be rejoined to whom.  God could open up the metaphoric graves, and lead His people in a national regathering.
    • BTW – This promise is one reason why we have every reason to interpret the national regathering of Israel in Revelation 7 as literal.  The apostle John becomes a witness to a heavenly census of the 12 tribes of Israel upon the earth, as 12,000 people from each tribe are sealed to endure the trials of the Great Tribulation. Some scoff at the idea that these 12 tribes will literally exist during that time, because so many genealogical records are lost, and there’s hardly any way for Jews to be absolutely certain of their historic tribe.  They may not know, but God knows.  When God brings forth His nation from the grave in the future, He knows exactly where each individual belongs.  Thus the census in Revelation 7 should not be written off as being purely symbolic.  God knows who belongs in Messianic Israel & who are other saints believing in Jesus – and He has a plan for each.

14 I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken it and performed it,” says the LORD.’ ”

  • Like the dead bodies, the nation needed more than reassembled bones & reconstituted flesh to have life.  Breath was required, and God promised to give it through His Spirit.  Has this been fulfilled?  Yes & no.  Like many prophecies in the Old Testament, there are aspects of it with a near fulfillment, and others with a far fulfillment.  Yes, God promised His people currently in Babylonian captivity that they would be brought out of that land & back into their “own land.”  Yes, He would reform the nation.  And yes, to some extent, He would even give them His Spirit when Jesus came to earth, rose from the dead, and sent the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  At the same time, it cannot be said that the nation of Israel as a whole received the Holy Spirit, as they did not receive Jesus as their Messiah.  And of course, the nation was allowed to be scattered once more, having been miraculously regathered fairly recently in modern history (1948 to the present).  Today, although there are Messianic Jews as a remnant who have the Spirit of God, the majority of Jews still reject Jesus – thus they are without life.
  • But that will change!  God promised them a time when they “shall live,” and they shall!  The nation has been placed back in their own land once more – a miracle performed once again by the Living God.  All that is needed now is for them to come to faith in Jesus, seeing Him as their Messiah.  And that will happen!  Romans 11:25–27, "(25) For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. (26) And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; (27) For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.”"  Does it seem impossible?  God is the God who makes all things possible!  God promised to bring them back from the dead & grant them life – and that is exactly what He will do.
    • What an amazing God we serve!  Whatever God promises, He will perform.  No promise is too far removed, too far gone.  He is able to do it…trust Him!
  • The Branches (15-28)
  • Sign of the sticks (15-20)

15 Again the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 16 “As for you, son of man, take a stick for yourself and write on it: ‘For Judah and for the children of Israel, his companions.’ Then take another stick and write on it, ‘For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel, his companions.’ 17 Then join them one to another for yourself into one stick, and they will become one in your hand.

  • God gives His instructions to Ezekiel.  He was to find two sticks, identify them with the two kingdoms, and combine them into one as Ezekiel held them in his hand.  Judah and Ephraim represented the southern & northern kingdoms, respectively (Joseph being the father of Ephraim).
  • Why a “stick”?  Technically, the word here isn’t specifically a “stick,” but “tree.” (עֵ֣ץ )  Depending on the context, it is normally translated as “tree, wood, forest, etc.”  The idea of the “stick” comes from the image of Ezekiel being able to hold a piece of it in his hand.  It also fits well with the previous idea of the dead bones.  Think about it: what is a “stick,” other than a dead piece of a tree?  It’s a remnant of a tree that is left behind.  Even if this is simply some piece of wood (perhaps a flatter piece that could be written upon, such as a piece of lumber), it’s still a dead portion of tree.  The original life has been removed.  That sort of picture is fitting for the two kingdoms of Judah & Ephraim.  The nation of Israel as a whole is often referred to as a tree throughout prophecy (the vine of Isaiah 5 – the fig tree of Habakkuk – the olive tree of Romans 11, etc.), thus to see God tell Ezekiel to take two trees/sticks and make them one has national significance for His people.  (And if there were any doubt, God even tells the prophet to label the sticks/trees as the kingdoms!)  Earlier, God had promised restored life – now, He shows what He will do with that life. 
  • What was it?  That’s what God goes on to explain.  Vs. 18…

18 “And when the children of your people speak to you, saying, ‘Will you not show us what you mean by these?’— 19 say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Surely I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel, his companions; and I will join them with it, with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they will be one in My hand.” 20 And the sticks on which you write will be in your hand before their eyes.

  • The whole event was to be a sign for the people.  God wanted the people to see these things and wonder.  Signs were always a bit curious, and God had Ezekiel perform his share of them (the clay tablet – lying on his side, etc., Ch. 4).  The purpose was to get the attention of the people, and cause them to ask Ezekiel what it was all about.
    • When people ask about the works of God, it is a good thing!  The key is getting them to ask.  Live your life in such a way that arouses the curiosity of the people!  Give them a taste of the love of God, that they may wonder.
  • God does give an explanation for Ezekiel to share, although God will go into greater detail with the prophet that when the people.  Even so, what God tells Ezekiel to share is fairly straightforward.  Out of the two nations will be one.  God would work a miracle of unity.  They’d have seek the Lord to find out more than that.  Vs. 21…
  • Interpretation: revival of nation and covenant (21-28)

21 “Then say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Surely I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, wherever they have gone, and will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; 22 and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all; they shall no longer be two nations, nor shall they ever be divided into two kingdoms again.

  • Reiterates the regathering.  That was already pictured with the bones; now it is stated plainly.  Wherever the Israelites had gone, from whatever kingdom they originated, God would surely “gather them from every side and bring them into their own land.”  Be they in Babylon, Persia, Assyria, or anywhere in-between, they were not lost in the eyes of the Almighty.  He would (and could) gather them to Himself.
  • More than a regathering; it’s a reunification.  There will be “one nation” with “one King,” something that God will address in more detail in a moment.
  • How will it all take place?  By the miraculous hand of God.  “I will take…will gather…I will make.”  This isn’t political negotiation – this isn’t accidental circumstance – this is the intentional powerful act of God.  Keep in mind, historically and politically speaking, what God spoke of here was absolutely impossible.  No nation taken into captivity was restored back to its former glory…much less one that had already been divided by civil war nearly three centuries earlier.  Again, if God didn’t do it, it wouldn’t happen.  But because God willed to do it, it would.  There is nothing God cannot do!
  • How long will it last?  Forever!  Never again would they be divided.  Never again would there be a split between north & south, between Israel & Judah.  There would be one kingdom, joined by God forever.
    • God unifies His people.  We see that even in the church today, as Jew & Gentile are joined together in one church.  Paul wrote of the former divisions between Jew & Gentile done away with in Christ: Ephesians 2:14–16, "(14) For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, (15) having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, (16) and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity."  The law of Moses separated Jew & Gentile, and prior to the cross there was an inviolable wall between them.  After the cross?  The wall is abolished!  There are not two people of God today, but one.  We live in the Church age today, and all people who come to faith (irrespective of their cultural background) are made part of the church.  There are Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians, but one Church – one body of Christ.  We are unified in the cross and resurrection of our Lord Jesus!
    • Keep in mind, unity doesn’t mean there are no distinctions whatsoever.  Today there is one body, but will there be a difference between Israel and the Church in the future?  Yes.  The Church will have been raptured prior to Jesus’ 2nd Coming, whereas the nation of Israel will be fully reconstituted & revived with the Spirit of God at Jesus’ 2nd Coming.  The kingdom of Israel will literally exist upon the earth during the Millennial rule of Christ, while the Church as Jesus’ Bride rules & reigns alongside Him.  That said, while we have different backgrounds & roles, we still only have one King: King Jesus.
  • Unity isn’t the only thing that Israel will experience into eternity.  They will also have forever purity as well.  Vs. 23…

23 They shall not defile themselves anymore with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions; but I will deliver them from all their dwelling places in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them. Then they shall be My people, and I will be their God.

  • Forever pure in worship, free from idolatry.  The history of Israel is a sad one, filled with all kinds of idolatry and departure from the singular worship of the Living God.  Not so in the future!  During the Millennial Kingdom, they will worship God in truth, as God always intended for them.
  • Forever pure in action, free from transgression and sin.  Idolatry wasn’t the only temptation to Israel away from God (though it was one of the most prevalent).  There’s some textual questions about the phrase “their dwelling places,” as some ancient texts have two Hebrew letters switched, making it read “their backslidings,” which might make more sense in the context.  Either way, God made it plain that they had sinned & needed to be cleansed.  God promised that it would come, and they would always be clean.
  • Forever pure in service, free from slavery of the nations.  Whose people would they be?  God’s own.  They would know Him in truth, finding their identity in Him alone – again, as God always intended for them.
  • Notice that what is promised for future Israel is presently available to every New Testament believer in Christ.  We are free from idolatry, in that we worship the Living God!  We are free from sin, being cleansed from its past stain upon us!  We are free from slavery, finding our liberty in the Lord Jesus!  Not only are we forgiven & cleansed from our past, but we have power to live for the glory of God in the present.  We are free!
    • Don’t give that up for anything!  When Christ has set you free, you are free indeed! (Jn 8:36)
  • Who will that reconstituted reunited Israel will serve?  Jesus!  Vs. 24…

24 “David My servant shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd; they shall also walk in My judgments and observe My statutes, and do them. 25 Then they shall dwell in the land that I have given to Jacob My servant, where your fathers dwelt; and they shall dwell there, they, their children, and their children’s children, forever; and My servant David shall be their prince forever.

  • As the Son of David & heir of the Davidic promise, Jesus is the forever King of Israel.  Although resurrected-David will surely have a role in the kingdom (as will all of the resurrected saints), the most likely interpretation is the Lord Jesus Himself.  He is the King of kings – He is the Good Shepherd – He is the ultimate King of Israel, and one day all of Israel will see Him as Lord.
  • Ultimately, God is describing the fulfillment of the Davidic covenant.  Remember the famous “Christmas” prophecy of Isaiah: Isaiah 9:6–7, "(6) For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (7) Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this."  The King to rule in the seat of David is none other than the Son of God Himself, who will personally oversee a perfect kingdom inhabited by the nation of Israel.  They will walk in His ways, and He will lead them in justice and majesty.
    • Considering the tumultuous week of a national election, it’s worth remembering that we will spend far more time in the Kingdom of God than in the United States of America.  No matter whom we voted for in the past, the very best leader is the Lord Jesus.  No one compares with Him!
  • Not only will the covenants of Abraham, Moses, and David be fulfilled in the Millennium – there is also a new covenant on the horizon: a “covenant of peace,” vs. 26…

26 Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them, and it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; I will establish them and multiply them, and I will set My sanctuary in their midst forevermore. 27 My tabernacle also shall be with them; indeed I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 28 The nations also will know that I, the LORD, sanctify Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forevermore.” ’ ”

  • This new covenant of peace (shalom) has already been alluded to by God to Ezekiel.  Ch 36:26-27 spoke of the “new heart and new spirit” God would put in His people, as they will walk according to His ways.  This is the same promise God gave to Jeremiah about a new covenant He was making with His people, that His law would be written upon their hearts and minds (Jer 31:31-34).  Unlike the covenant of Moses, which had stipulations for both parties (God and Israel), this is a one-sided covenant, upon which God bore all the burden.  This was His promise to His people, and one that He would see come to pass.
    • BTW – what Israel awaits in the future is what we enjoy today!  When we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we celebrate with the cup of the new covenant (Mt 26:28).  Jesus shed His blood precisely so that we may be brought into that covenant relationship with God, so now we are His people, having been given an eternal peace (shalom) with Him!
  • What is included with this new covenant?  The presence of God.  God repeatedly mentions His Tabernacle/sanctuary, as a symbol of His dwelling place among them.  This will be described in far greater detail in the latter chapters of Ezekiel, as the dimensions & duties of the Millennial temple are given.  For now, it is the promise of God’s presence which is emphasized.  How comforting this would have been to the captive Jews!  They were far from their home, and they mourned the destruction of the Jerusalem temple.  Yet they could be assured that the destruction was not permanent.  Just as God promised to revive the nation, He promised to revive their worship.  His presence would be among them again, and they would know Him as their God.
    • Is the presence of God among us today?  Absolutely!  This is another one of the blessings of the Holy Spirit.  We are the temple of the Holy Spirit, and He will never be taken from us!
  • Finally, the prophecy ends with the nations bearing witness to God’s work & God’s presence. In that day, the Gentiles will know that the kingdom of Israel is set apart from the rest due to the presence of God’s sanctuary among them.  Favoritism?  Sure – but it is the fulfillment of the promise of God.  The salvation of God originates from the Jews & spreads to the rest of the world.  Gentiles will not be forbidden from coming to faith in Christ, and serving Jesus as their King.  Quite to the contrary!  Anyone willing to serve the Lord Jesus can serve the Lord Jesus.  They will simply see it exampled among Israel first.

Conclusion:
Does it all sound impossible?  Perhaps.  Bringing dead people back to life – dead nations back to life?  Reuniting kingdoms that were irreparably severed in centuries past?  These sorts of feats are indeed impossible for men.  We can’t even keep ourselves together, much less attend to miracles such as this.  But for God, nothing is impossible!  What God promises to do, He does.  Why should the resurrection of Israel seem impossible?  Our whole faith is based upon the resurrection of Jesus.  If the Son of God can rise from the dead, surely the kingdom of Israel can as well.  Never doubt the promises of God!  He is able!

For some, there may be things in your life that seem dead.  There may be promises of God that seem impossible.  They may seem that way, but they aren’t.  Trust God, according to His word!  What He has said, He will do.  Big or little, if it is a promise of God, we can be sure it will come to pass.  Let God be true & every man a liar!  Be done with your stress & anxiety over things that might or might not happen.  Trust God for His sovereign will, knowing that He will do all things according to His glory.

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