God’s Design And Israel’s Destiny Ezekiel 36–37
A few short months ago, a bill was introduced in the Congress of the United States to recognize city of Jerusalem as Israel’s national capital and move the U.S. Embassy to the city by 1999. The bill was strongly opposed by administration as holding the potential of “a devastating impact on the peace process.” (Incidentally, recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was a campaign promise of President Clinton.) Israel’s adversaries were, once again, outraged by the proposal and wasted no time launching the type of assault that has successfully intimidated nations like the United States into withholding recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital since the modern State of Israel was born. The force of the argument points out once again that Jerusalem, Israel, and the Jewish people will increasingly be the center of controversy as we move further into the last days. Ezekiel 36 tells us why.
A Plan For The Land
A common experience of many of those who travel to Israel is to fall in love with the land and have an intense desire to return. Certainly, the Bible comes alive in a new and vibrant way. Places read about since childhood leap into view at every turn. And the sheer beauty of places like the Galilee beckons people back. Yet with all of these factors, and others, considered, there is something about the place that makes it different. Israel is indeed different because it is His land. It is not just an area steeped in history and tradition; it is a land with a divine destiny that sets it apart from any other nation on the planet.
Speaking of the Millennium, when the Messiah reigns on the earth, people will say, “This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden” (Ezek. 36:35). And again, in verse 11, “I will multiply upon you man and beast, and they shall increase and bring fruit; and I will settle you [Israel] according to your old estate, and will do better unto you than at your beginnings.” Thus, the Lord served notice to the universe that He has a plan for His land—a plan that will be one of the wonders of God’s creation.
Over the last several centuries, people have gone to the Middle East, toured the land they knew as Palestine, and asked an inevitable question that was anticipated in Deuteronomy 29:24: “Even all nations [after seeing the desolation of the land] shall say, Wherefore hath the Lord done thus unto this land?” In His good time, the Lord promises to make the “land that was desolate” like the garden of Eden.
So when we travel in a land restored to a measure of health and beauty by the nurturing hands of modern Israelis, there is a surge of expectancy. Better things are to come—such is the magnetism of the Land of Promise.
A People for the Land
“But ye, O mountains of Israel, ye shall shoot forth your branches, and yield your fruit to my people of Israel; for they are soon to come home … Yea, I will cause men to walk upon you, even my people, Israel; and they shall possess thee, and thou shalt be their inheritance” (Ezek. 36:8, 12).
The land is specified for a people. Who are they? The children of Abraham. The Bible is careful to indicate just who these children of Abraham are to be, for God reveals in the Book of Genesis the true son of the covenant: “thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him” (Gen. 17:19). In designating Isaac and his heirs as the people of the Book and of the land of Israel, the Lord in no sense discriminated against another son of Abraham, namely Ishmael. “And as for Ishmael … 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. But my covenant will I establish with Isaac” (Gen. 17:20–21).
Blessings to Ishmael, but the covenant with Isaac. So far as the Scriptures are concerned, the case is closed. Arabs may fulminate, the UN may vacillate, the Western nations may continue to seek to mollify Muslim anger to protect their oil supply and economic investments, but God has spoken—the land belongs to those who currently occupy it as Jews. Furthermore, their destiny as a people is inexorably linked to the Land and its designated destiny.
Warning Israel’s Enemies
Deity never takes lightly the designs of those who dare to conspire against Israel and the Chosen People. The Bible and history converge to bear a wealth of witness against which we cannot successfully argue. Ezekiel 36 contains yet another warning to people and nations with hostile intentions toward Israel: “Therefore, thus saith the Lord Gᴏᴅ: I have lifted up mine hand. Surely the nations that are about you, they shall bear their shame” (Ezek. 36:7).
We must be deeply concerned about the specter of malicious anti-Semitism currently rising in America. If we understand, even remotely, what is being allowed to fester among us, we must be extremely apprehensive. When, in the name of freedom of speech, the likes of a Louis Farrakan, Muslim radicals, neo-Nazis, and any number of others are allowed to vilify Jewish people and advocate, to say the least, militantly discriminatory actions against them, we are in serious difficulty. Whatever our Constitution may allow in the name of personal liberties, God’s thoughts about such diatribes against a people He has pledged to protect are another matter. We must question just how far the Lord will allow a nation to proceed along this course before dire consequences are encountered.
The Glory Of God
There is, unfortunately, even among some who profess to be Bible-believing Christians, an attitude encountered from time to time that seems to question just why Jews would be called “the Chosen People.” The line of reasoning seems to be that this somehow implies that Jews are a superior people, and others—Christians among them are a sort of “also rans.” Nothing could be further from the truth. There is a strong statement in Deuteronomy, which, while articulating His choice of Israel, also gives a factor that was not the basis of that choice: “For thou art an holy people unto the Lᴏʀᴅ thy God; the Lᴏʀᴅ thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people who are upon the face of the earth. The Lᴏʀᴅ did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people” (Dt. 7:6–7).
Although the Lord did not imply superiority over other people, He did say that the sons of Abraham were chosen, and that does, in fact, set Israel apart from everyone else on the planet. As we shall see, that setting apart is for a specific purpose. Scripture is specific regarding the fact that His choice of Israel was based on His self-initiated love for them and was, therefore, an act of grace, quite apart from anything the people possessed in and of themselves.
Those of us who are believers in Christ also possess the distinction of being set apart. Having received a grace gift from a loving God, who gave His Son for us, we are declared redeemed by the grace of God. Being a redeemed child of God, however, does not imply superiority. Quite the contrary, we are humbled by the knowledge that He would condescend to save us. And so we are not superior, but we are redeemed, and that makes all the difference for time and eternity.
In like manner, Israel is chosen. But to what end? Why has the Lord prepared such an elaborate plan for His Chosen People? Ezekiel 36:22–23 provides the answer: “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.”
The factor at issue in this divine choice of Israel and the Jewish people is the glory of God. In everything He will bring to pass in and through these people, glory will be directed exclusively to a sovereign Lord who promises and then faithfully performs His Word.
The Way To Glory
In Israel, He will bring about His glory in two specific ways. First, the Jewish people will be brought back into the land of their fathers in the last days. “For I will take you from among the nations, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land” (Ezek. 36:24). As surely as He led the nation across the wastes of the Sinai under the leadership of Moses in ancient days, the Lord reveals His intent to bring His people back to their land in the last days. The inescapable conclusion regarding the events occurring today is that we are witness to a portion of that return in our lifetime.
The initial return is only a preparatory phase. What is in view for Israel is the redemption of the nation: “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep mine ordinances, and do them. 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” (Ezek. 36:26–28).
Cleansing, reconciliation, and resettlement in His land are integral parts of the process when, in the final glorious phase of the nation’s illustrious history, “ye shall be,” the Lord says of Jewry, “my people, and I will be your God.” In that glorious era, every pent-up manifestation of God’s love and grace will be lavished upon a redeemed and regathered Israel, nurtured and ruled by the Messiah.
The Nations Shall Know
“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” (Ezek. 36:36). At least 12 times in Ezekiel 36–39 the Lord declares of Israel and/or the nations that “they shall know that I am the LORD.” A capstone is placed upon God’s plan for the land and destiny of the Chosen (People: “Therefore, thus saith the Lord GOD: Now will I bring again the captivity of Jacob, and have mercy upon the whole house of Israel … Then shall they know that I am the LORD, their God, who caused them to be led into captivity among the nations; but I have gathered them unto their own land, and have left none of them any more there. Neither will I hide my face any more from them; for I have poured out my Spirit upon the house of Israel, saith the Lord GOD” (Ezek. 39:25, 28–29).
The day will come when the Lord promises that He will not “hide [His] face any more from them.” In other words, a fulfilling day will dawn when they “shall … know that I am the LORD, their God.”
There is a very simple truth set forth in all of this—for Israel, yes, but for the nations as well. God’s desire in every age is that His name be made known. It is the constant commission spanning the centuries and millennia. But, in a unique way in this dispensation we know as the Age of Grace, He has commissioned His church to make Him known to all people, Jews and Gentiles, the world over. The command is inescapable; obedience to the commission to make Him known is, therefore, not an option. It is an obligation.