Forum Class #9
THE HISTORY OF ISRAEL'S CORRUPT LEADERSHIP (20:1-23:49)
SUMMARY Eleven months had passed since Ezekiel so eloquently shattered Judah's optimistic hope that judgment would not really come upon her. [8:1] The leaders in the exile had put forth their best arguments as to why Jerusalem and Judah should be spared, but Ezekiel had rebutted each point. These eleven months were undoubtedly months of silence and despair.
Suddenly in the late summer of 591 B.C. the news of an Egyptian victory in the Sudan and Psammetichus II's potential victory march into Palestine reached the exiles. Zedekiah was looking to Egypt for help, as the leaders of Judah often did. Had not Egypt just demonstrated that she was capable of recovering Palestine as one of her vassals? Zedekiah repudiated his allegiance to Babylon in favor of Egypt somewhere between the end of 591 B.C. and the summer of 589 B.C. It was ill-timed in light of the Pharaoh's illness in 589 B.C. and the resulting weakening of Egypt's potential power.
The query of the Jewish exilic elders was probably conceived in this historical context. Though they never expressed their question, it may well have been "With Zedekiah's current overtures to Egypt succeed so that Nebuchadnezzar will be defeated soon, and we can return to our homeland?" Ezekiel's reply to the exiles implied that such a request was probably on their minds, though God refused to hear their direct inquiry. Ezekiel's response to their unasked question was threefold:
1. Look at the history of Israel and observe that she and her leadership have persistently rebelled against God. The contemporary rulers of Judah are no different (chap. 20).
2. Be prepared for a final judgment upon Jerusalem, for it will be coming soon by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar. More captives will be brought to Babylon (chap. 21).
3. Why does the leadership deserve this judgment? Look at their abominations and corruption. They are so perverted that Yahweh cannot even find one leader to point His people to Him in order that He might spare them. Instead, the leaders have prostituted their realm through foreign alliances with nations which they hate.
The result: Judgment, for the sake of correction in seeking to bring Yahweh's people back to His ways (chap, 22-23).
THE PAST CORRUPTION OF ISRAEL AND HER LEADERSHIP (20:1-44)
A delegation from the Israelite leadership in the captivity came to Ezekiel at a time when there was a growing attempt by some segments of the Jerusalem population to cast off the yoke of Babylon by turning to Egypt. which was beginning to show some strength.
The phrase "to inquire of Yahweh" is an idiom frequently employed by the prophets to introduce a request for a prophetic audience in which individuals would ask a prophet to determine the outcome of a specific event. These representatives of the elders were making such a request. Their unasked query sought a positive reply to their hopes that Judah, with the potential aid of Egypt would throw off the dominion of Babylon. Then they, the exiles, could return to Israel.
Yahweh refused to hear yet another query, for He only desired their repentance. In His omniscience He knew what they desired. He had repeatedly announced through Ezekiel in the preceding chapters that judgment was now inevitable and imminent. There was no hope in Egypt except in repentance. Therefore God would not listen to the elders' request. Yahweh declared, "Will you judge them, Ezekiel?" This phrase is tantamount to saying, "'Set forth the case before them." God would recount for them, in a very factual way, what He previously declared in parables: Israel's history was one of rebellion against the Lord. A summary of Israel's history follows in verses 5 through 44.
It All Started in Egypt (20:5-9). Israel's case history ironically began in the land of Egypt, the same nation upon which she was presently relying. Though the creation of the nation of Israel covered the period of time from Jacob' through the conquest of the land of Canaan, there is a real sense in which Israel was "born" in Egypt. It was here that the people from whom the nation would be made came into being. It was here that Yahweh swore by an oath (which is the meaning of the phrase "Lifted up the hand") that He would be Israel's God and that He would bring them out from the oppression of Egypt into the land of Canaan (cf. Ex. 3:13-18; 6:1-9; Deut. 7:6-11). It was also in Egypt that God's people first turned aside after idols and defiled themselves. Though Yahweh exhorted them to flee idolatry, Israel refused to listen and continued in pagan worship (cf. Lev 17:7; Josh. 24:14; Deut. 29:16-17; Lev. 26:30; 18:3), swing a pattern which she found difficult to break throughout her history. Yahweh disciplined Israel through the oppressions in Egypt in order to turn her back to Himself and to encourage her nor to establish these idolatrous habits, but to give a proper testimony of His name before the nations (cf. Ex. 7:5-6; Ps. 106:8-12). Instead, Israel became increasingly stubborn in her wicked ways.
The Exodus and the Mosaic Covenant (20:10-12). God's compassion responded to the cry of His people in Egyptian bondage and brought them Out of Egypt under the leadership of Moses (Ex. 12-14) as He had promised (cf. Gen. 15:13-16). He took His people to Mount Sinai where they received their constitution: the Mosaic covenant. This covenant set forth the way in which they, as God's covenant people, were to live (cf. Deut. 10: 12-21 ). The sign and seal of this covenant was the Sabbath (cf. Ex. 20:8-11; 31:13, 17; Neh. 9:14), which portrayed the covenant maker, God, as the Creator, perfectly in keeping with the face that He was presently creating a nation.
Rebellion in the Wilderness Wanderings (20:13-26). The generation which came forth from Egypt (20:13-16) rebelled against Yahweh in the wilderness. This was most vividly demonstrated in their refusal at Kadesh-Barnea to go in and take the land of Canaan which God had promised to give them (cf. Num. 11, 13-14; Ps. 106:13-15, 19-23). Also they rejected the Mosaic covenant and its stipulations; they would nor walk in God's ways, the ways that God said were for their own good (cf. Deut. 10: 13). They profaned the sign of the covenant, the Sabbath, through failure to observe it (cf. Num. 15:32). Because of their sin, Yahweh disciplined them so that His name might nor be profaned before other nations (cf. Num. 14:11-16; Ps. 106:24-26; Deut. 1:34-35); that generation would not enter into the promised land.
Yet that judgment did not encompass the entire nation. Those under the age of twenty would live. God desired that they would walk in His ways (Eze. 20:17-26). Though Yahweh warned this new generation not to walk in their parents' sinful ways, but rather to live according to the Mosaic covenant, they also rebelled in the wilderness (cf. Ps. 106:16-18,28-46) just as their fathers had done (cf. Eze. 20:24; Num. 25:2-9). Then God threatened to destroy the people entirely, but Moses interceded on their behalf (cf. Num. 16:21-22; 17:9-11; Ps. 106:23). Then Yahweh announced that He would disperse them among the nations (cf. Lev. 26:33; Deut. 28:64; 32:26-27; Ps. 106:26-27) and cause Israel to live under the heathen statutes which were not designed for good. This concept is clarified by the context (Eze. 20: 26) which argues that God gave Israel over to the perverse ways and statutes of the nations around her that she might see that only God's ways were right (v. 39; cf. Ps. 81:12; Is. 63:17; Rom. 1:24-25). However, Israel became more defiled through the abominable and corrupt practice of devoting her firstborn children to pagan deities (a Canaanite practice and part of the foreign worship of Molech). Yahweh allowed this to drive Israel to the logical end of her perversion: astonishment at herself. Then she might realize that God was Yahweh and turn to Him (v. 26).
Rebellion in the conquest and Settlement of the Land (20:27-29). Even though Israel blasphemed God in the wilderness by acting unfaithful toward Him the grace and faithfulness of God still brought them into Canaan. In the Abrahamic covenant (Gen 12:7) God had promised that He would give Israel the land of Canaan. What God promises, He will perform. There in the land of Canaan, Israel continued to carry on her abominable practices at the "high place." The "'high place"' may refer to the high place at Gibeon which was a prominent religious place in Israel during her early worship in that land (cf. I Ki. 3:4; I Chr. 16:39; 21:29; 2 Ch. 1:3, 13; I Sam. 9). However, the religious center of the nation serried in Jerusalem under the reigns of David and Solomon.
Contemporary Israel (20:30-44). Contemporary Israel of Ezekiel's day was acting no differently than Israel had acted in the past "Are you not defiling yourselves in the ways of your fathers by going after idols and offering up your sons?" asked Yahweh. "You have not repented nor changed at all. And you want to know if the judgment will be suspended? The answer is emphatically 'no!' (see 20:20-31). Then Ezekiel proceeded to outline God's future dealings with Judah according to His promises (20:32-44). This passage truly demonstrates God's grace. Despite Judah's wickedness and rebellion, God pursued her in order to accomplish His purpose for that nation (cf. Phil. 1:6). Yahweh refused to let Judah be like the other nations as her spirit desired (v. 32). Rather, He would rule over her as a father, with a hand of discipline through the Babylonian exile (v. 33), though He would ultimately regather His people from Babylon (v. 34). He also announced that there would be another dispersion (in addition to the Babylonian captivity) into the "wilderness of the people" (v. 35) just like when He took Israel into the wilderness from Egypt (v. 36). This future dispersion of Israel would be for the purpose of disciplining her (through purging) in order to bring her into a covenant bond where she would finally know that God is Yahweh (vv. 37-38).
The covenant mentioned in this context appears to be the new covenant (cf. Jer. 31:31-34). In verse 39 God declared that He would turn Israel over to her own ways if she so desired, but ultimately He would make sure that she no longer profaned His name. That would occur when He (1) accepted Israel, (2) restored her, and (3) set Himself apart (sanctified Himself) through the true witness Israel would give of Yahweh before the nations. The basis of this would be God's grace, not what Israel deserved by her evil ways (v. 44). Israel, in turn, would (1) serve Yahweh in the land of Israel, (2) worship Him with the required offerings, (3) acknowledge Yahweh and His faithfulness in keeping the Abrahamic Covenant through restoring her to the land, and (4) genuinely come to Yahweh in contrition for her sins. This passage strikingly parallels Deuteronomy 30:1-10 and the new covenant of Jeremiah 31:31-34. In other words, verses 35-44 are describing a future dispersion and regathering, much in keeping with the prophetic concept of the Day of the Lord (cf. Joel 2-3).
THE RESULTING JUDGMENT ON CONTEMPORARY ISRAEL AND HER LEADERSHIP (20:45-21:32)
The impending judgment by Babylon is described in three different ways: a fire burning the southern forests of Palestine, the slaughter of Jerusalem and Judah with an unsheathed sword, and the immanency of Nebuchadnezzar's coming.
The Burning of the Southern Forest (20:45-21:7). The southern forests of Palestine are those in the hill country of Judah. A parable pictures a fire that would consume the forests and not be extinguished. In case the exiles missed the significance of the parable, it was interpreted in 21:1-7, in which the judgment was likened to a sword which would affect both the righteous and the wicked in Jerusalem and Judah. Of necessity the repercussions of any judgment always touch everyone in a country--the righteous and the unrighteous. The distressing effects of this judgment were demonstrated through Ezekiel's drama. Everyone would faint and become weak-kneed when this judgment came, and it was coming!
A Song of Judgment (21:8-17). In the Hebrew text this section is in poetic form and may have been a common lament song sung in times of coming judgment, or a song sung by Ezekiel in light of these specific events. The song declares that a sharp and polished sword, placed in the hand of a warrior, would be wielded against God's people Israel. All would be touched by the sword, especially the leaders and kings of Israel (cf. vv. 12-13). They were the responsible ones who had led the nation astray by failing to lead her to God. The present offender was Zedekiah! Verse 13 is somewhat ambiguous in some English translations. The idea is that the sword had been tested and was capable of accomplishing its purpose against the king (the "'scepter" or "rod") who was despising Yahweh. Perhaps the reference to the sword having a triple effect in verse 14 implies the three deportations of Judah. Two had already occurred in 605 and 597 D.C. The third and final deportation would occur in 586 B.C. When that one came, Yahweh would cause His wrath to cease.
Babylon Would Judge Jerusalem Now; Ammon Would Be Judged Later (21:18-32). Then the sword of the previous two sections was identified. The king of Babylon was pictured as standing at the fork in the road toward Canaan which lies near the ancient town of Riblah. Ammon and Judah had both conspired against Babylon in 593 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar was employing the common means of divination to determine which kingdom he should subdue first. First, there was the process of marking arrows with names, placing them in a quiver, whirling them about, and the first one to fall out was the answer of the god. Second, idols (teraphim) were consulted; and third, the liver of a dead sheep was examined, and the answer from a god was determined by the color and markings of the liver. It appears that Nebuchadnezzar employed all three methods with the same result lay siege to Jerusalem. The inhabitants of Jerusalem thought that the divination must be incorrect. Yet Yahweh reminded Judah that He was using Babylon as His instrument of judgment because of Judah's iniquities. Zedekiah, Jerusalem's weak leader just prior to the Babylonian captivity, would be taken off the throne (vv. 25-26). "'Overturn, overturn, overturn" in verse 27 is for the sake of strong emphasis in the Hebrew language, nothing more. Destruction was coming upon Jerusalem. Destruction and lack of leadership would continue until the Messiah came, to whom the scepter belongs, and to whom Yahweh would give it (v. 27). This chapter closes with the announcement of future judgment by the sword upon Ammon. That judgment was not imminent however, it would come. For the present the drawn sword was returned to its sheath, in respect to Ammon's judgment (vv. 28-32).
VINDICATION OF YAHWEH'S JUDGMENT UPON THE LEADERS OF ISRAEL (22:1-31) Yahweh began with "Will you judge the city?" or "Set forth the case against the city." His purpose was to declare the specific reasons for the impending judgment. God warmed to make sure Israel understood why judgment was coming. Jerusalem's idolatrous leaders and the resulting abominations were the major reasons for her judgment.
"Jerusalem" was Synonymous with the Leaders of Judah Since it was their Capital City (22:1-5). A summary of the leadership's abominations was made in these verses. Jerusalem, whose leaders were shedding blood indiscriminately, was described as confused and defiled by idols.
This wickedness was making Jerusalem the derision and mock of all the nations. When one follows the world's ways, the world often ends up laughing at him.
What Had the Leaders of Judah Done to Cause These Judgments (22:6-12)? Ezekiel delineated the evidence of the case: The leaders deliberately had broken the specific demands of the Mosaic covenant. Each one misused the strength of his position to have people put to death unjustly (v. 6, forbidden in Ex .20:13). The leaders treated their parents with contempt ignoring the rightful honor and respect due to parents and the home (v. 7a, forbidden in Ex 20:12). Strangers were oppressed in Judah, and they did nothing about it (v. 7b, forbidden in Ex. 22:21; 23:9). The leaders took advantage of and maltreated those without a defender: widows and orphans (v. 7c, forbidden in Ex. 22:22-24; Deut. 24:17). Judah's officials despised the holy things of God and His Sabbaths (v. 8, forbidden in Ex 20:8). The leaders fostered corrupt government and organized crime whereby they encouraged murder based on slanderous accusations (v. 9a; cf. Lev. 19: 16:1 Ki. 21). They engaged in pagan religious rituals, worshiping on the mountains and high places of the pagans (v. 9b, forbidden in Deut. 12: 1-3; 16:21-22). Judah's public officials had engaged in sexual perversion, being exhibitors, adulterers, and those committing incest (vv. 10-11, forbidden in Lev. 20:10-21; 18:6-23). They employed bribery (v. 12a, forbidden in Ex 23:8; Amos 5:12; Deut. 27:25), exorbitant taxes and interest rates (v. 12b, forbidden in Deut. 24:6, 10-12; 23:19-20), and oppression (v. 12c). All this was aptly summed up in verse 12d: "But you have forgotten Me," declared the Lord. The above list is also a commentary on many government officials in the world and in our country today.
The Response of the Lord to the Rebellion by Judah's Leaders (22:13-22). Yahweh would remove all that Judah's leaders had gained through their evil practices. He would reveal the true attitude of their hearts and deeds of their hands. Despising His ways was despising Him. Therefore Yahweh would bring judgment to purify Judah and her leaders just as one would purify ore. Judah was likened to raw ore. Jerusalem was portrayed as the furnace (ignited by Babylon). Yahweh smelted the ore in the furnace. Judah and her officials then came forth as dross that is, impure. Yet, through this judgment Yahweh made Himself known as the Holy God whose ways were to be obeyed. He revealed Himself through judgment to those who had forgotten Him. Judgment was for the good of these people since it caused them to understand who Yahweh is.
Would No Leader Take a Stand for God (22:23-31)? "Let
Me be specific," declared the Lord. The leaders to whom the
people of Israel should have come for help and direction in times
of chaos--the prophets and priests--were the very ones who were
oppressing them. In a time of impending judgment when they needed
the blessing of true leadership, there was no one to stand. There
was no blessing (rain) in the day of indignation, With the exception
of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, the prophets of the day (vv. 25-28) were
like vicious lions devouring the people. They were taking the
wealth and possessions of desperate people who were anxiously
waiting for the prophets to give a word of encouragement from
God. Probably these riches were taken in payment for the false
prophecies which these counterfeit prophets gave. These prophets
frequently announced that the nation should go to war when God
had not so directed, causing many warriors to be slain, which
increased the number of widows in the land. The empty "visions"
of these prophets were very attractive (whitewashed) so that the
people did not discover the lies that were spoken. The prophets
ascribed their messages to God, although God had not spoken. These
false prophets find their counterpart among many contemporary
ministers and religious leaders. The priests (v. 26) did violence
to the Law of God (Mosaic Covenant) by disobeying and disregarding
it (e.g., Sabbaths). Instead, they had misused (polluted) God's
holy ways so that no one knew right from wrong. The truth of God
was perverted by what they taught. There were no absolutes; all
was relative. Instruction in the true Law was obviously lacking.
The officials of the land acted like ravenous wolves devouring
the people for their own gain (v. 27). Regrettably the common
people followed the ways of their leaders--ways of extortion,
robbery, and social and legal injustice (v. 29). What chaos! God
was desperately looking for a man to step forth and be a leader
who would intercede before Him in behalf of the nation of Israel
at this point in her history, just as Moses had done in his day
(cf. Ps 106:23), but He could not find anyone! (v. 30). The whole
nation was corrupt! Therefore, the fire of God's wrath would be
poured our. The ways of the nation would be placed on their heads,
that is, they would be held accountable for their deeds (v. 31).
(From Ezekiel, by Ralph Alexander, Moody Press, 1976)
1 Praise the LORD!
Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.
2 Who can utter the mighty acts of the LORD?
Who can declare all His praise?
3 Blessed are those who keep justice,
And he who does righteousness at all times!
4 Remember me, O LORD, with the favor You have toward Your people;
Oh, visit me with Your salvation,
5 That I may see the benefit of Your chosen ones,
That I may rejoice in the gladness of Your nation,
That I may glory with Your inheritance.
6 We have sinned with our fathers,
We have committed iniquity, We have done wickedly.
7 Our fathers in Egypt did not understand Your wonders;
They did not remember the multitude of Your mercies,
But rebelled by the sea--the Red Sea.
8 Nevertheless He saved them for His name's sake,
That He might make His mighty power known.
9 He rebuked the Red Sea also, and it dried up;
So He led them through the depths, As through the wilderness.
10 He saved them from the hand of him who hated them,
And redeemed them from the hand of the enemy.
11 The waters covered their enemies; There was not one of them left.
12 Then they believed His words; They sang His praise.
13 They soon forgot His works;
They did not wait for His counsel,
14 But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, And tested God in the desert.
15 And He gave them their request, But sent leanness into their soul.
16 When they envied Moses in the camp, And Aaron the saint of the LORD,
17 The earth opened up and swallowed Dathan, And covered the faction of Abiram.
18 A fire was kindled in their company; The flame burned up the wicked.
19 They made a calf in Horeb,
And worshiped the molded image.
20 Thus they changed their glory Into the image of an ox that eats grass.
21 They forgot God their Savior, Who had done great things in Egypt,
22 Wondrous works in the land of Ham, Awesome things by the Red Sea.
23 Therefore He said that He would destroy them,
Had not Moses His chosen one stood before Him in the breach,
To turn away His wrath, lest He destroy them.
24 Then they despised the pleasant land; They did not believe His word,
25 But complained in their tents, And did not heed the voice of the LORD.
26 Therefore He raised up His hand in an oath against them,
To overthrow them in the wilderness,
27 To overthrow their descendants among the nations,
And to scatter them in the lands.
28 They joined themselves also
to Baal of Peor,
And ate sacrifices made to the dead.
29 Thus they provoked Him to anger with their deeds,
And the plague broke out among them.
30 Then Phinehas stood up and intervened, And the plague was stopped.
31 And that was accounted to him for righteousness To all generations forevermore.
32 They angered Him also at
the waters of strife,
So that it went ill with Moses on account of them;
33 Because they rebelled against His Spirit,
So that he spoke rashly with his lips.
34 They did not destroy the
Concerning whom the LORD had commanded them,
35 But they mingled with the Gentiles And learned their works;
36 They served their idols, Which became a snare to them.
37 They even sacrificed their sons And their daughters to demons,
38 And shed innocent blood, The blood of their sons and daughters,
Whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan;
And the land was polluted with blood.
39 Thus they were defiled by their own works,
And played the harlot by their own deeds.
40 Therefore the wrath of the
LORD was kindled against His people,
So that He abhorred His own inheritance.
41 And He gave them into the hand of the Gentiles,
And those who hated them ruled over them.
42 Their enemies also oppressed them,
And they were brought into subjection under their hand.
43 Many times He delivered them;
But they rebelled in their counsel, And were brought low for their iniquity.
44 Nevertheless He regarded
their affliction, When He heard their cry;
45 And for their sake He remembered His covenant,
And relented according to the multitude of His mercies.
46 He also made them to be pitied By all those who carried them away captive.
47 Save us, O LORD our God,
And gather us from among the Gentiles,
To give thanks to Your holy name, To triumph in Your praise.
48 Blessed be the LORD God of Israel From everlasting to everlasting!
And let all the people say, "Amen!" Praise the LORD!
Ezekiel clearly indicates that God will one day judge the entire nation of Israel through all of her long history, and He will at that time separate believers ("true Israel") from the non-believing majority.
Then Israel will at last realize her appointed role as chief of all the nations with King Jesus ruling the earth from Jerusalem on the throne of his father David. From Ezekiel 20:33-44:
"As I live, says the Lord GOD, surely with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and with wrath poured out, I will be king over you (Israel). I will bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you are scattered, with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and with wrath poured out; and (then, after that) I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there I will enter into judgment with you face to face. As I entered into judgment with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so I will enter into judgment with you, says the Lord GOD. I will make you pass under the rod, and I will let you go in [to the land] by number. [The term the wilderness of the peoples, v35, as used in the Bible often refers to Edom, in what is now Southern Jordan. The term pass under the rod appears in Leviticus 27 and symbolizes a separation of the consecrated and the unconsecrated animals of the flock.]
I will purge out the rebels [apostates] from among you, and those who transgress against me; I will bring them out of the land where they sojourn (Edom), but they shall not enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the LORD. "As for you, O house of Israel, thus says the Lord GOD: Go serve every one of you his idols, now and hereafter, if you will not listen to me; but my holy name you shall no more profane with your gifts and your idols. "For on my holy mountain, the mountain height of Israel, says the Lord GOD, there all the house of Israel, all of them, shall serve me in the land; there I will accept them, and there I will require your contributions and the choicest of your gifts, with all your sacred offerings. As a pleasing odor I will accept you, when I bring you out from the peoples, and gather you out of the countries where you have been scattered; and I will manifest my holiness among you in the sight of the nations. And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I bring you into the land of Israel, the country which I swore to give to your fathers. And there you shall remember your ways and all the doings with which you have polluted yourselves [see Zechariah 12:10-14]; and you shall loathe yourselves for all the evils that you have committed. And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I deal with you for my name's sake, not according to your evil ways, nor according to your corrupt doings, O house of Israel, says the Lord GOD." (Ezekiel 20:33-44)
At first glance it might seem that Ezekiel is talking about the return of the Jews from their Exile in Babylon. But this passage obviously goes beyond that near-term event in Israel's history. The final regathering of Israel will involve the supernatural agency of angels. The coming of Jesus to the Mount of Olives (with His people Israel) will be associated with Israel's final national repentance, compare Matthew 24:29-31:
"Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken; then will appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory; and he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect [Israel] from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." (Matthew 24:29-31)
Reading ahead in Ezekiel, in Chapter 36, the prophet continues speaking of God's plan for the final redemption of Israel.
But I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel caused to be profaned among the nations to which they came. "Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them; and the nations will know that I am the LORD, says the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.
Ezekiel says the following about God's mercy, grace and compassion coming on the nation of Israel at the close of the age:
For I will take you [Jews] from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land. [Then] I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. [This is an announcement, similar to Jeremiah 30-31, of God's intention to bring the people of Israel into the New Covenant which Jesus put into effect with his 11 disciples at the Last Supper.]
You [Jews] shall dwell in the land which I gave to your fathers; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. And I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses; and I will summon the grain and make it abundant and lay no famine upon you. I will make the fruit of the tree and the increase of the field abundant, that you may never again suffer the disgrace of famine among the nations. Then you will remember your evil ways, and your deeds that were not good; and you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominable deeds. [Here is the future national repentance of Israel as also described in Zechariah 12:10-14.]
Ezekiel then describes Messiah's reign over all the nations, from Jerusalem, and the millennial prosperity He will bring to all mankind, through Israel:
It is not for your sake that I will act, says the Lord GOD; let that be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel. "Thus says the Lord GOD: On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will cause the cities to be inhabited, and the waste places shall be rebuilt. And the land that was desolate shall be tilled, instead of being the desolation that it was in the sight of all who passed by. And they will say, `This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are now inhabited and fortified.' Then the nations that are left round about you shall know that I, the LORD, have rebuilt the ruined places, and replanted that which was desolate; I, the LORD, have spoken, and I will do it. "Thus says the Lord GOD: This also I will let the house of Israel ask me to do for them: to increase their men like a flock. Like the flock for sacrifices, like the flock at Jerusalem during her appointed feasts, so shall the waste cities be filled with flocks of men. Then they will know that I am the LORD." (Ezekiel 36:21-38)
Regarding the scattered believing remnant of Israel at the end of the age--just prior to the Second Coming of Jesus--they will be gathered under the care of the Great Shepherd of the Sheep at Bozrah,
"I will surely gather all of you, O Jacob, I will gather the remnant of Israel; I will set them together like sheep in a fold, like a flock in its pasture, a noisy multitude of men. He who opens the breach will go up before them; they will break through and pass the gate, going out by it. Their king will pass on before them, the LORD at their head." (Micah 2:12-13)
The Lord's return to earth (at the rapture , i.e., the parousia)--to care for his remnant at Petra precedes His leading them safely back to Jerusalem by way of Bozrah is then compared by Isaiah with God's care for the Jews through the wilderness in the days of Moses. Jesus, then is Israel's "greater Moses" who will bring the believing Jews into Israel at the time of the Second Coming. At that time He will make Himself known to the entire world. From Isaiah 63:7-19,
I will recount the steadfast love of the LORD, the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD has granted us, and the great goodness to the house of Israel which he has granted them according to his mercy, according to the abundance of his steadfast love. For he said, Surely they are my people, sons who will not deal falsely; and he became their Savior. In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence (cp. 1 Cor. 10:3) saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.
But they rebelled and grieved his holy Spirit; therefore he turned to be their enemy, and himself fought against them. Then he remembered the days of old, of Moses his servant. Where is he who brought up out of the sea the shepherds of his flock? Where is he who put in the midst of them his holy Spirit, who caused his glorious arm to go at the right hand of Moses, who divided the waters before them to make for himself an everlasting name, who led them through the depths? Like a horse in the desert, they did not stumble. Like cattle that go down into the valley, the Spirit of the LORD gave them rest. So thou didst lead thy people, to make for thyself a glorious name.
Now follows a prayer of Isaiah on behalf of the remnant of Israel--calling on Yahweh for deliverance:
"Look down from heaven and see, from thy holy and glorious habitation. Where are thy zeal and thy might? The yearning of thy heart and thy compassion are withheld from me. For thou art our Father, though Abraham does not know us and Israel does not acknowledge us; thou, O LORD, art our Father, our Redeemer from of old is thy name. O LORD, why dost thou make us err from thy ways and harden our heart, so that we fear thee not? Return for the sake of thy servants, the tribes of thy heritage. Thy holy people possessed thy sanctuary (the Temple) a little while; our adversaries have trodden it down. We have become like those over whom thou hast never ruled, like those who are not called by thy name." (Isaiah 63:7-19)
The Return of the Jewish Remnant from Edom to Jerusalem
In the Olivet Discourse Jesus warned all those who were to believe in Him--to flee to Edom at a future day when the Third Temple would be desecrated by the Man of Sin at the mid-point of the tribulation period. (See http://pbc.org/dp/stedman/ olivet/oliv03.html). What happens to this believing remnant which had fled to Petra earlier? One vivid Old Testament picture is that of Messiah coming from Bozra (near Petra) to Jerusalem with blood-soaked garments--with the remnant. Isaiah foretells this event. (Isaiah 63). The imagery is that of Yeshua as the greater Moses nurturing the flock of Israel at Petra and bringing them back into the land for the last time. (Micah 2:12-13)
God's Dialogs with the Messiah
The latter chapters of Isaiah contain a remarkable series of dialogs between God the Father and His servant the Messiah, or between the prophet and Messiah. In Chapter 42, Messiah is God's humble servant who will not only save Israel but aid the Gentiles and bring world-wide justice:
"Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his law the islands will put their hope." (Isaiah 42:1-4)
In Isaiah 43-44, Messiah is seen as restoring Israel by forgiving them of all their sins and delivering Jacob from all his enemies. In Chapter 44, Cyrus the Mede is designated and called by name (!) many decades before he was born. God chose him to aid in the restoration of the Jews from their captivity in Babylon. Messiah gives a personal description of his commission from the Father and contains an intimate discussion between God and His Messiah which reveals much about the content of the prayers of Jesus with His Father during his time on earth which would come 700 years later.
In Isaiah 50, Messiah is the true Israel who fulfills all that the nation had failed to attain because of persistent rebellion and disobedience. In Isaiah 52:13 through 53. Messiah is the suffering servant of the Lord whose death and resurrection are vividly foretold.
In Isaiah Chapter 59, Messiah is seen as Israel's goel, or kinsman-redeemer:
Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey. The LORD looked and was displeased that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm worked salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him. He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head; he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak.
According to what they have done, so will he repay wrath to his enemies and retribution to his foes; he will repay the islands their due.
From the west, men will fear the name of the LORD, and from the rising of the sun, they will revere his glory. For he will come like a pent-up flood that the breath of the LORD drives along.
"The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins," declares the LORD.
"As for me, this is my covenant with them," says the LORD. "My Spirit, who is on you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will not depart from your mouth, or from the mouths of your children, or from the mouths of their descendants from this time on and forever," says the LORD. (Isaiah 59:15-21)
Finally, in Isaiah Chapter 63, the dialog takes the following form: Isaiah as the observer appears to be standing on the Mt. of Olives in Jerusalem in the midst of the final battles there:
ISAIAH: Who is this coming from Edom, from Bozrah, with his garments stained crimson? Who is this, robed in splendor, striding forward in the greatness of his strength? (Isaiah 63:1)
MESSIAH, THE WARRIOR KING AND KINSMAN-REDEEMER: "It is I, speaking in righteousness, mighty to save."
ISAIAH: Why are your garments red, like those of one treading the winepress? (Isaiah 63:2)
MESSIAH: "I have trodden the winepress alone; from the nations no one was with me. I trampled them in my anger and trod them down in my wrath; their blood spattered my garments, and I stained all my clothing. For the day of vengeance was in my heart, and the year of my redeemed has come." (Isaiah 63:3-4)
The blood spattering His garments is not the blood of His crucifixion, for that work on the cross was completely finished and ended 2000 years earlier. The blood is that of His enemies, slain in battle, in this case the blood of apostate Jews who have joined the armies of Antichrist to oppose Him. (see http://pbc.org/dp/stedman/revelation/4206.html) Micah foretold the same event.
"I will surely gather all of you, O Jacob; I will surely bring together the remnant of Israel. I will bring them together like sheep in a pen, like a flock in its pasture; the place will throng with people.
One who breaks open the way will go up before them; they will break through the gate and go out. Their king will pass through before them, the LORD at their head." (Micah 2:12-13)
The Final Conversion of Israel
Israel's national prayer for their Messiah to come and to forgive them is found in Hosea Chapters 5 and 6. Many scholars believe this prayer must be prayed by the nation as a precondition for their national salvation in the coming of Yeshua the Messiah to save them:
Then I [Yahweh] will go back to my place until they admit their guilt. And they will seek my face; in their misery they will earnestly seek me."
"Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him.
As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth." (Hosea 5:15-6:3)
Jeremiah's words at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians have a double fulfillment at the time of the end. Here is the beginning of chapter 4:
"If you will return, O Israel, return to me," declares the LORD. "If you put your detestable idols out of my sight and no longer go astray, and if in a truthful, just and righteous way you swear, `As surely as the LORD lives,' then the nations will be blessed by him and in him they will glory." (Jeremiah 40:1-2)
Romans 11:25-36 covers this same ground about the final deliverance of Israel. Paul is careful to make clear that he is not speaking of each and every Jew being converted, but true Israel is limited to those who ultimately believe in Yeshua within the nation. Just how many Jews will be saved at the very end of the age? Zechariah seems to give the clue:
Israel's National Mourning for Yeshua
"In that day the LORD will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; the one who is feeble among them in that day shall be like David, and the house of David shall be like God, like the Angel of the LORD before them. It shall be in that day that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.
"And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. On that day the weeping in Jerusalem will be great, like the weeping of Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. The land will mourn, each clan by itself, with their wives by themselves: the clan of the house of David and their wives, the clan of the house of Nathan and their wives, the clan of the house of Levi and their wives, the clan of Shimei and their wives, and all the rest of the clans and their wives. (Zechariah 12:8-14)
And it shall come to pass in all the land," Says the LORD, "That two-thirds in it shall be cut off and die, But one-third shall be left in it: I will bring the one-third through the fire, Will refine them as silver is refined, And test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, And I will answer them. I will say, 'This is My people'; And each one will say, 'The LORD is my God.'" (Zechariah 13:8-9)
The Final Outcome of Christ's Glorious Return to Jerusalem
Jesus will come back to our planet soon for the purpose of literally reigning on the Earth. He will first annihilate all the ungodly so that He may begin His reign with people who trust in Him. When Jesus returns to Jerusalem, to the Mount of Olives, He will bring the believers of true Israel with Him from His flock in Petra and Bozrah. They will be united with last-minute Jewish converts living in the land of Israel. He will bring also with Him His bride, the church. All the prophets of Israel anticipate this glorious future for God's covenant nation Israel. The New Testament adds additional information on the role of the church in ruling and reigning with Christ during the coming Millennial age.
(Excerpted from the book "Thy Kingdom Come" by Ron Graff and Lambert Dolphin, http://ldolphin.org/kingdom/)
March 14, 2004
Ezekiel Forum Class series with audio MP3 messages: http://ldolphin.org/ezekiel/