Ezekiel 36: Among The “Great Chapters” of the Bible
A number of years ago I had in my library a book titled Great Chapters of the Bible. The author was the late Dr. G. Campbell Morgan, a renowned British biblical scholar and pastor. I don’t recall whether or not Ezekiel 36 was included in that volume. It if was not, it should have been. This passage is among the most broad-ranging prophetic revelations in the entire Word of God. It takes the reader from the restoration of scattered Israel to the Promised Land, to heralding the truth of God and His Word to the far reaches of the Gentile nations. In the process we find virtually every issue to be faced in the last days exposed to our view.
Among Christians today there seems to be an excessive amount of apprehension about the events occurring around us. A companion factor—perhaps a causative one—is the lack of understanding of how the prophetic time clock is moving and how this is all going to come out in the end. Ezekiel 36 provides the answers.
“But ye, O mountains of Israel, ye shall shoot forth your branches, and yield your fruit to my people of Israel…Yea, I will cause men to walk upon you, even my people, Israel” (vv. 8, 12).
The prophet makes an unequivocal declaration of ownership in these verses. His statements were not made lightly, nor should they be taken lightly by believers today. It is extremely important for us to be mentally and spiritually armed to face the onslaught of propaganda that is being launched against the Jewish people, who hold the title deed to the land that is, as we shall see, uniquely “His land.” This being true, God is able to assign the particular piece of territory we know as Israel to whomever He chooses—here, definitively, the Jewish people.
I stress this issue once again on these pages because there is a perceptible drift in some Christian circles away from a serious commitment to the rights of the nation of Israel to the area now being contested by the Palestinians and their apologists. Yasser Arafat makes no bones about it. He wants an alliance between Christians and Muslims that will, in the end, drive Jews from the land. Failing this, they will live as a subjugated remnant of survivors stripped of their rights and dignity as a people. Unfortunately, Arafat and others in the Muslim community have been successful in their efforts to change many minds about Israel.
Bearing witness to this dismal observation is the fact that Israel’s adversaries lay claim to the lion’s share of the land and bitterly contest every brick laid by Jews in areas they wish to dominate. Near universal backing by the United Nations, with the exception of the United States, not only hinders negotiations between the two parties—Israel and the Palestinians—but emboldens Israel’s foes to make even more excessive demands. Fortunately, God has spoken on the matter, and we can rest assured that He will have the final word.
We must be forcefully reminded that Genesis 17 identifies the heirs of Abraham to whom the land of Israel has been given. They are his descendants through Isaac, not Ishmael. “And God said, Sarah, thy wife, shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him” (v. 19). A large portion of the covenant promise passing to Isaac—“and with his seed after him”—relates to the land of Israel.
Designation of the land as the property of the Jewish people does not indicate that they are superior and their adversaries inferior. Genesis 17 also speaks of the extensive land grants given to Ishmael and his people after him. “And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation” (v. 20). The problem Jews and Palestinians face today is simply that those claiming to be Ishmael’s descendants are not satisfied with what they possess, which is far in excess of the land occupied by tiny Israel. Call it a family feud if you choose. Maybe that best describes it after all—like a spoiled child claiming the entire back seat of the family car. “He’s sitting on my side. Make him move over!” So it seems with Israel’s fractious cousins. There is never enough of the seat—in this case, the land—for them.
Not Superior, But Chosen
The Lord makes a very strong statement about His chosen people in Ezekiel 36. “Therefore, say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord Gᴏᴅ: I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name’s sake, which ye have profaned among the nations, to which ye went. And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the nations” (vv. 22–23a).
We get the picture. God has specifically chosen the nation of Israel through which to glorify His great name. They have been chosen for a divine purpose, to the end that one day the entire created universe will proclaim the greatness of the Lord. Thus, Israel and its people are not designated as superior, but they are proclaimed to be His chosen vessel.
As Christians, let’s remember this. From time to time some believers tend to project an attitude of superiority. This is often evidenced clearly when we encounter those tainted by a measure of anti-Jewish sentiment. Christians are not superior, but they are redeemed. That is an extremely vital consideration—and, I might add, a humbling one. Looking at both camps—Israel and the church—through this perspective will keep our focus in the right place and allow us to view the God of our mission as the imperative, and not ourselves.
To Israel’s Persecutors: Beware!
Peter Colón***ADD LINK speaks of this matter in more detail in his article. But we must touch upon it here because it is central to the entire sweep of the passage. It also bears repeating due to the displeasure God feels about any person or group of people who take it upon themselves to bring suffering to those whom He has chosen.
“Therefore, thus saith the Lord Gᴏᴅ: I have lifted up mine hand. Surely the nations that are about you, they shall bear their shame” (v. 7).
Those with a distaste for Jewish people chafe at being reminded of the words of the Lord to Abraham in Genesis 12:3: “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” But we must hear it—until we hear it!
Will H. Houghton, former president of Moody Bible Institute, said it in the words of a short poem—one that should speak for all true Christians.
Say not a Christian e’er
would persecute a Jew;
A Gentile might, but not a
In Tune With What God is Doing
If the supreme objective of history is to bring glory to God, how does He propose to do it? Three of the most important indicators are found in Ezekiel 36: restoration, reconciliation, and affirmation.
The land He has chosen—Israel—will experience a kind of restoration never before experienced in the history of planet Earth.
“And I will multiply upon you [the land] man and beast, and they shall increase and bring fruit; and I will settle you according to your old estate, and will do better unto you than at your beginnings; and ye shall know that I am the Lᴏʀᴅ” (v. 11).
How much better does He intend it to be?
“And the desolate land shall be tilled, whereas it lay desolate in the sight of all that passed by. And they shall say, This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden, and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are become fortified, and are inhabited” (vv. 34–35).
The restoration of the glory of the land of Israel to a state superior to Eden is as important as it is exciting to contemplate. The fact that the land will be restored makes the issues faced today loom even larger. But there is something else. The restoration of the land is directly tied to God’s plan to reconcile His wayward people. Restored Israel will become a physical testimony of the return of the nation to Jehovah.
Deuteronomy speaks of the reasons for the desolation of the land and what it conveyed to the nations over the centuries when Israel, as a nation, was far from God and dispersed among the nations.
“Even all the nations shall say, Wherefore hath the Lᴏʀᴅ done thus unto this land?…Then men shall say, Because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lᴏʀᴅ God of their fathers, which he made with them when he brought them forth out of the land of Egypt” (Dt. 29:24–25).
The restoration of the land, however, will trumpet a new day in Israel—a day when that nation will, at long last, give God His rightful place among His beloved people.
Ezekiel 36:28 expresses it succinctly:
“And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.”
As surely as the nations making inquiry about the desolate state of the land were told why, the land will testify to the grace and glory of God in the reconciliation of Israel.
It is fascinating to compare the contrasts between Deuteronomy 29 and Ezekiel 36.
Remember the previous quotation from Ezekiel 36:35? “This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden.” In verse 36 the full reversal of fortunes for the land and its people is revealed:
“Then the nations that are left round about you shall know that I, the Lord, build the ruined places, and plant that which was desolate. I, the Lord, have spoken it, and I will do it.”
God, in His faithfulness, performs what He promises, and His glory, wisdom, and honor are put on display among the nations.
Should Ezekiel 36 be placed among the “great chapters” of the Bible? I’m sure that after this brief walk through its wonders, you will agree with me that it should!