Thursday, July 26, 2012

Israel Restoration from Humiliation Introduction We see that the priest, the prophet Ezekiel is the penman of this book. Ezekiel was from an upper middle-class family. At the time of his prophecy, the northern kingdom had already been in captivity about 100 years. The first part of this is prophecy directed at the southern kingdom of Judah and Benjamin. We will discover that Ezekiel is in Babylon when this prophecy is given. Historians tell us that he lived in Tel-Abib in the land of the Chaldeans. He was, probably, about 30 years old when he began to prophesy. Those who worked in the temple usually began at about 30 years of age. Jesus' formal ministry began when He was 30 years old. It is believed by many that Ezekiel began to prophesy in about 595 B.C. Ezekiel was a prophet of a priestly family, which was carried captive to Babylon in 597 BC, who prophesied intermittently until 571 BC. He was about 25 years old when he was taken to Babylon. Ezekiel was called to the prophetic ministry five years after arriving, and ministered to the captives who dwelt by the river Chebar at Tel Abib. His home was quite often a meeting place. Ezekiel was married to a woman who was "the desire of his eyes". One of the saddest notes of his life was the death of his wife. The prophet was told that his wife would die as the armies of Babylon laid siege against the holy city of Jerusalem. Ezekiel’s sadness at the death of his wife was to match the grief of God for the sin of Jerusalem. During his ministry he glimpsed extraordinary visions, and he performed symbolic prophetic acts, which made him somewhat of a curiosity to his contemporaries. Some of the greatest prophecies regarding future events occur in the Book of Ezekiel (chapters 33-48. The book of Ezekiel is broken down into 5 sections that reveal the glory of the Lord. 1. Manifested to reveal and reprove sin (chapters 1-8) 2. Withdrawn from the defiled Jerusalem temple (chapters 9-11) 3. Departed, resulting in desolation and doom (chapters 12-24) 4. Promised with divine intervention (chapters 25-39) 5. Restored in the new temple and the new Holy Land (chapters 40-48) The key phrase in the book, "son of man" is used ninety three times. Jesus used the terms "Son of man" and "Son of God" to show that He had the characteristics of both deity and humanity. Prophecies directly relating to Israel in the End Times begin in chapter 34 and 36. Israel’s restoration is shown in chapter 37 in the vision of the "dry bones" that came to life. Chapters 38 and 39 deal with the future invasion of Israel from the North and Israel’s victory over Gog and Magog known as World War 111 which can take place anytime now as the world of anti-Semitism of the Jews is so prevalent before us. The Rapture of the Church out of this world and the remaining world goes into the Tribulation Period will also take place in the future. Ezekiel’s 1,273 verses include 821 verses of predictions, which amount to 65% of the total and the largest amount of predictive prophecy to appear in any Bible book. Ezekiel 36:1-7 The People Blessed Eze_36:1-38 is set in antithesis to Eze_35:1-15. When God intervenes on Israel’s behalf, the “mountains” of Israel’s enemies will be judged (Eze_35:1-3, Eze_35:8) but the “mountains of Israel” (cf. Eze_35:12) will be blessed (Eze_36:1). In Eze_36:1-7 Edom is again pictured as representing all nations who seek Israel’s harm (cf. Eze_36:5, Eze_36:7). The first section of the prophecy (Eze_36:1-15) uses the “because/therefore” format to compare the judgment on the nations with Israel’s restoration. The second section of the prophecy (Eze_36:16-38) moves from the mountains of Israel to the people of Israel who will be the personal recipients of God’s blessing. The fact of Israel’s future restoration seemed so remote after her fall to the Roman Empire in 70 AD and 135 AD that God put great emphasis on His personal character rather than external circumstances as the basis for the fulfillment. Ten times the prophet stated, “This is what the Sovereign Lord says” (Eze_36:2-7, Eze_36:13, Eze_36:22, Eze_36:33, Eze_36:37). Israel’s mountains to prosper Ezekiel contrasted Israel’s present humiliation before her enemies with her future glorification. God promised to punish Israel’s enemies for their sin in hounding, slandering (Eze_36:3), plundering (Eze_36:4-5), rejoicing over, and having malice against Israel. The people are just sure that the land of Israel will belong to them. The land of Israel had been ravaged of all its wealth, but the greatest wealth it had, was its natural resources. They were still there. Edom was opposed to Israel, and even pleased, when their calamity came. They saw this as an opportunity to take the Promised Land for themselves. The lips of talkers were saying that Israel could finally belong to them. "Infamy" means slander. Therefore God swore with uplifted hand (a gesture accompanying an oath; cf. Eze_20:5, Eze_20:15, Eze_20:23; Eze_47:14) that the nations who had scorned her (Eze_36:6) will also suffer scorn. Surrounding nations seemed to have triumphed, but their victory was merely temporary. They would suffer for their sin. Ezekiel 36:8-12 In contrast with the judgment about to be inflicted on Israel’s enemies, Israel herself could look forward to restoration and blessing. In a reversal of the catastrophe that God had earlier called against the mountains of Israel (Eze_6:1-7), He said the mountains will produce branches and fruit for His people… will soon come home. When God created the heavens and the earth, He caused the fruit trees to bear, and the grass to grow in preparation for man. This is what God is doing here. He is preparing the land for the children of Israel to come into. He has provided for their needs, when they get home. God will restore the land so that it can provide for the restored remnant. God’s blessing will involve numerical growth, for the number of people will be multiplied. The nation that had been decimated in the land (Eze_6:3, Eze_6:5-7) will replenish it. Israel’s latter state will be far superior to her former. When God finally restores the people to the land He will prosper the land; He guarantees the permanence of this arrangement. Once Israel is restored to the land her inheritance will be secure. The land will never again deprive Israel of her children. Rather than being a cruel wilderness with drought, famine, and death (cf. Lev_26:18-22; Num_13:32; Deu_28:20-24), it will be a place of blessing. Ezekiel 36:13-15 Besides punishing Israel’s enemies (Eze_36:1-7) and restoring Israel’s land (Eze_36:8-12), God will also remove Israel’s reproach (Eze_36:13-15). The mockery and humiliation (taunts and scorn) Israel had been forced to endure (Eze_36:3-6) will cease (cf. Eze_16:57-58). There are many nations who hate Israel. Their hate is more in the form of jealousy. Even today, the Jews, who are coming back to the land, are many times, those with high technical training. The land they leave does not want to give them up. In this sense, it would bereave the nation that lost them. God had, also, blessed them in battle. The other countries were afraid of Israel, because they were afraid of Israel's God. She will once again be restored to her position of prestige as God’s Chosen People (cf. Deu_28:13; Zec_8:13, Zec_8:20-23). Israel will live at peace with God and man. This verse is looking beyond the return from captivity in Babylon. There was not, at that time, a total restoration. There have been other times, when the Hebrew was in exile in foreign lands, as well. This is speaking of the return that is going on in Israel today. A partial fulfillment was in the days after the Babylonian captivity, but it certainly speaks, also, of the return going on today. Ezekiel 36:16-21 Israel’s people to be regathered After discussing Israel’s sinful past (Eze_36:16-21), Ezekiel discussed (in three parts, each beginning with “This is what the Sovereign Lord says,” Eze_36:22, Eze_36:33, Eze_36:37) the nation’s future restoration. Before dwelling on Israel’s future cleansing, Ezekiel reminded the exiles of their past sin which caused their judgment. When they were… in the land, they defiled it by their conduct and actions (cf. Eze_36:19). This profaning was like a menstrual discharge that rendered a woman ceremonially unclean and defiled everything she touched (cf. Lev_15:19-23). How did the people defile the land? By bloodshed and idolatry (cf. Eze_33:25). As a result God removed them from the defiled land. Yet even when scattered among other nations, they profaned God’s holy name. We must continue to realize that God thought of Israel as His wife. When she lived in the land, she had gone after false gods. God thought of this as spiritual adultery. All of the things that happened to Israel in the siege, and in the captivity, were from a jealous husband, who still loved His wife. This Scripture is going back to the time, before they went into captivity in Babylon. God explains, through Ezekiel, that the punishment was not because He did not love Israel. He punished her, to teach her not to be unfaithful. This is explaining that God's judgment on Israel was just. He had ample cause to judge her thusly. They profaned the name of the LORD, because the heathen would, now, think of Him as not being able to protect His people. This is the same embarrassment caused to God, when someone commits a terrible crime and proclaims to the world he is a Christian. Even in dispersion, Israelites tainted God’s honor in the sight of the heathen, who concluded that the Lord of this exiled people was not powerful enough to keep them in their land. The Israelites, as well as the Christians of today, should be a sign to the world of the greatness of God. Everything we do, and say, should glorify Him. We should never do, or say, anything that would turn people away from God. Jesus is the Light of the world. We are to have that Light brightly shining within us, so the world can see the Light in us. We are to dispense Light, not darkness. We believers affect the way the world feels about God. Ezekiel 36:22-23 Other nations viewed the sovereign God through the actions of Israel, thus besmirching His holy name. Therefore God said He would restore Israel… not for her sake… but for the sake of His holy name. Israel had no intrinsic value which prompted God to act on her behalf. He would restore the nation because His character was at stake. He would show the holiness of His great name (cf. Eze_20:41; Eze_28:22, Eze_28:25; Eze_38:16; Eze_39:27). God had shown His justice when He punished Israel for her sin; He will show His grace and faithfulness when He restores her and renews His covenant promises. Ezekiel 36:24-32 The means God will use to show His holiness are explained in these verses. He will first restore the nation physically: He will gather her from all the countries and bring her back into her own land (Eze_36:24). Headlining God’s future program will be the restored nation of Israel. However, Israel’s restoration will be more than physical. God promised I will sprinkle clean water on you and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. This did not refer to water baptism. In Old Testament times sprinkling or washing with water pictured cleansing from ceremonial defilement (cf. Lev_15:21-22; Num_19:17-19). Since Israel’s sin was like the ceremonial impurity of menstruation (Eze_36:17) her cleansing was now compared to the ceremonial act of purification. The point is that God will purify Israel from her sins. This cleansing will be followed by the impartation of new life. God will give the converted nation a new heart and… a new spirit. In place of a heart of stone He will give Israel a heart of flesh (cf. Eze_11:19). With God’s Spirit indwelling them (cf. Eze_37:14), they will be motivated to obey His decrees and laws (cf. Eze_37:24). God’s restoration will not simply be an undoing of Israel’s sin to bring her to a state of neutrality. Rather it will involve the positive implanting of a new nature in Israel’s people that will make them righteous. Jeremiah called this work of God the “New Covenant” (cf. Jer_31:31-33). Implanting God’s Spirit in believing Israelites will produce a new relationship between Israel and her God: You will be My people, and I will be your God (cf. Eze_11:20; Eze_14:11; Eze_37:23, Eze_37:27). God will extend all His graciousness to His people. Being delivered from their sin, they will experience the bountiful provision of the land including grain… fruit, and crops (cf. Eze_34:27) without famine (cf. Eze_34:29). When Israel reflects on God’s grace and her former character (her evil ways and wicked deeds), she will realize she does not deserve His favor. In fact she will loathe herself because of her detestable practices, looking back in horror at them. The blackness of her past actions will contrast starkly with the light of God’s grace. In the future, when Israel recalls her past actions, she will recognize that God had not saved her because of her merit. God will be doing this not for her sake, but to magnify His own name. Ezekiel 36:33-36 When Israel is restored and the land… cultivated, people will note that this wasteland will be like the Garden of Eden. Israel’s cities, formerly in ruins, will be fortified and inhabited. This is speaking of a time of prosperity that God has brought. God wants the cities to, again, be thought of as they were before the captivity. To the surrounding nations Israel will become an object lesson of God’s grace. They will be forced to acknowledge God’s sovereign power in restoring His people: they will know that I the Lord have rebuilt what was destroyed. At one time, the passerby had thought the land to be totally uninhabitable. Now, it will bloom like a flower in the desert. This had two fulfillments. This happened, when they returned from Babylon, and will again happen in the millennium. The one that says this is the heathen lands around Israel. God caused the Garden of Eden to grow, and furnish their needs. God is causing it to grow, again, as He did in Eden. Their efforts are not bringing this about. God's blessings are bringing it about. Millennial conditions will be similar (not identical) to those in Eden. We are seeing this happen, after the heathen have been destroyed, and there will be few left. Those left will recognize the hand of the LORD in this. It would be nothing at all for Creator God to restore this land it is happening presently. He took nothing, and made the world. God spoke, and the world became. God will speak and the ruined places will be built again He is letting this happen now in front of our very eyes today. Ezekiel 36:37-38 God will also cause the nation to increase numerically. This was considered a sign of God’s blessing (cf. Gen_12:2; Gen_15:1-6; 1Sa_1:5-6; 1Sa_2:1-11; Zec_8:4-5). God will sovereignly work this return/renewal, yet give Israelites the human privilege of praying for it to be realized. This prophecy was to stir up the people’s prayers. “Increase them”: There will be an increase in the population during the Millennium. We can see the mass of increase of Gods people even today. When the male population came to Jerusalem, they brought vast numbers of animals for sacrifice. That was small compared to future kingdom conditions. Ezekiel, a priest, compared the swelling population of Israel to the numerous… flocks of sacrificial animals gathered for the feasts in Jerusalem. As tightly packed herds jostle for space because of their vast numbers, so Israel’s ruined cities and then empty and desolate, will be filled with flocks of people. The temple in Jerusalem had been a place for people from other areas to come to and worship. Many times, the streets were overcrowded with these people. The time will be when just the Israelites will be as large as those numbers had been. God will enlarge their numbers greatly and will enlarge their love for God, as well.