Just As He Promised Ezekiel 39:21–29
It is hard to believe that 2007 has arrived. Many use the advent of a new year as an opportunity to try to improve their habits or change their daily routines. But most New Year’s resolutions—those earnest declarations to amend our ways—made on January 1 are usually forgotten by January 2, and the important promise today is an abandoned idea tomorrow.
Not so with God. Unlike flawed, weak, changeable humanity, the Lord’s resolutions and declarations are sure and will come to pass exactly as He declares.
In Ezekiel 39:21–29, the Lord states His plan for the nations and for the future of His ancient, beloved Israel:
I will set My glory among the nations; all the nations shall see My judgment which I have executed, and My hand which I have laid on them (v. 21).
This word comes directly on the heels of God’s promised destruction of Israel’s enemy, Gog of the land of Magog. The Lord draws a figurative line in the sand and states clearly and concisely that He is serving notice on the nations of the world that they can expect to see judgment from His hand and His glory in their midst.
The Lord refers to the Time of Jacob’s Trouble (also called the 70th Week of Daniel and the Tribulation), which is foretold in the prophetic Word. Here the sovereign God declares His intent to bring the Gentile powers to their knees and ultimately to restore Israel to its Promised Land, “so the house of Israel shall know that I am the Lᴏʀᴅ their God from that day forward” (v. 22).
He also tells His chosen nation that the destruction of Gog’s confederation was God’s doing, so they would have no doubt who protected them from harm.
The Jewish people have struggled with trusting and loving the Lord their God throughout their history. Like so many of us, they saw His provision, ate and drank at His banquet table, and experienced His divine protection along with the numerous blessings that originate only from the one true God. Yet they did not realize where these benefits were coming from and found a way to miss the truth completely.
Where Israel Went Wrong
The Israelites were languishing in captivity in Babylon under Gentile domination when Ezekiel prophesied to them. The start of the Babylonian Captivity in 586 B.C. initiated the Times of the Gentiles to which Jesus referred in Luke 21:24, a period of history when Israel is oppressed by Gentile powers before the Messiah returns and restores it to first-class status by smashing the Antichrist’s rule and establishing God’s everlasting, Messianic Kingdom (Dan. 2:34, 44–45).
The Israelites were in Babylon for a reason: “According to their uncleanness and according to their transgressions I have dealt with them, and hidden My face from them” (Ezek. 39:24). Israel was exiled from its land because of its “uncleanness and transgressions.” The nation was intended to be God’s lighthouse to a lost and dying world and to show that, within its borders, one could find rest, peace, joy, mercy, and a relationship with the only true and living God. Israel was to make the Lord known to all.
King Solomon clearly understood this mission when he prayed at the dedication of the Temple,
that He may maintain the cause of His servant [Solomon] and the cause of His people Israel, as each day may require, that all the peoples [Gentiles, emphasis added] of the earth may know that the Lᴏʀᴅ is God; there is no other (1 Ki. 8:59–60).
The Lord loves all of humanity; we were created by Him and for Him. Israel was His chosen vessel to bring the knowledge of the Lord to the heathen. Instead, Israel became like the heathen and worshiped idols; sought mediums and wizards; worshiped the sun, moon, and stars; and baked cakes for the queen of heaven (Isa. 8:19; Jer. 7:18; 8:2).
God says, “I will be jealous for My holy name” (Ezek. 39:25). God expected Israel to make His great name known among the Gentiles and to represent Him in the world; instead, Israel forsook Him and went after the false gods of the pagans. Thus, God declared, Israel “profaned My holy name” (36:20).
Profanity can best be understood as “common” or “ordinary,” in contrast to the word holy, which means “unique, different,” or “separate.” God accused Israel of making His name—His unique identity—common and ordinary.
God’s names reference how multifaceted He is. He is the God Who Sees (El Roi), the Lord Our Provider (Jehovah Jireh), the Most High God (El Elyon). These names reveal merely a few of the character traits of the one great God and Savior. He is jealous for His name because to profane God’s name is to assault His character.
What God Promises
The dictionary defines grace as “unmerited divine assistance given humans.”1 Another suggested meaning is “a favor rendered by one who need not do so.”2 Both of these statements are true regarding God’s treatment of Israel and the church. Just as He extends grace to everyone (Jewish and Gentile) today to believe in Him, so will He someday extend grace to all Israel and restore His beloved people to their promised inheritance once and for all and to a right relationship with Him. And in doing so, He will glorify His name.
To make sure His message of grace reached His people, God not only spoke it through Ezekiel, who prophesied to the captives in Babylon, but also through Jeremiah, in the land:
For I will set My eyes on them for good, and I will bring them back to this land; I will build them and not pull them down, and I will plant them and not pluck them up. Then I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the Lᴏʀᴅ; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God, for they shall return to Me with their whole heart (Jer. 24:6–7).
Meanwhile, Ezekiel prophesied:
Therefore thus says the Lord Gᴏᴅ: “Now I will bring back the captives of Jacob, and have mercy on the whole house of Israel; and I will be jealous for My holy name. When I have brought them back from the peoples [Gentile nations] and gathered them out of their enemies’ lands, and I am hallowed in them in the sight of many nations, then they shall know that I am the Lᴏʀᴅ their God” (39:25, 27–28).
The Jewish people will experience three specific blessings as the Lord fulfills His plan and their destiny.
1. They Will Return. They will depart the nations where they have lived since the Times of the Gentiles began in 586 B.C. God promises to “gather” them out of these Gentile lands.
Many see the formation of Israel in 1948 as the start of this return. With its reestablishment as a nation in the Middle East, Israel has become home to many displaced Jewish people. Although thousands of pioneers arrived in the 1800s and 1900s, long before the Holocaust, immigration increased substantially following World War II. Jewish Ethiopians were airlifted to Israel. Russians immigrated by the thousands. In fact, Jewish people from across the globe have come back to their land—just as He promised they would.
But emigration from dispersion has yet to reach the future, epic proportion described by the prophet Jeremiah:
“Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lᴏʀᴅ, “that it shall no more be said, ‘The Lᴏʀᴅ lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of Egypt,’ but, ‘The Lᴏʀᴅ lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north and from all the lands where He had driven them.’ For I will bring them back into their land which I gave to their fathers” (Jer. 16:14–15).
2. They Will Worship. The Lord states that His people will hallow, or worship, Him. One day Israel “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” (Zech. 12:10). The Jewish people will recognize their Messiah is God and will worship Him, the Holy One of Israel.
3. They Will Understand. God’s Chosen People will understand why they have suffered so. Zechariah 12:11 explains, “In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem.” There will be a tremendous national mourning for sin and for past unbelief in the God of Israel. But sorrow will turn to joy, as He promises: “‘I will not hide My face from them anymore; for I shall have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel,’ says the Lord Gᴏᴅ” (Ezek. 39:29).
As the promised Millennial Kingdom begins, the Jewish people have God’s sure, unfailing promise that He will never hide His face from them again. He will be with them always. In that day, the Lord will reign over them, and they will always behold His loving countenance. What a wonderful day that will be.
- Merriam-Webster’s 11th Collegiate Dictionary on CD-ROM, s.v. “grace.”
- The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th ed. <answers.com/topic/grace>.