From Ezekiel 37-39
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
In the beginning of Ezekiel 37 a valley full of dry and very dead bones becomes a living nation. The LORD promises to restore Israel to spiritual life. This requires a miracle. In today’s passage we see the LORD promising a bigger one.
16 “Son of man, take a stick and write on it, ‘For Judah, and the people of Israel associated with him’;
then take another stick and write on it, ‘For Joseph (the stick of Ephraim) and all the house of Israel associated with him.’
17 And join them one to another into one stick, that they may become one in your hand.
18 And when your people say to you, ‘Will you not tell us what you mean by these?’ 19 say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I am about to take the stick of Joseph (that is in the hand of Ephraim) and the tribes of Israel associated with him. And I will join with it the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, that they may be one in my hand. (Eze 37.15-19)
Ezekiel is commanded by the LORD to gather two sticks and join them together in his hand. Like many times before people are watching him to see what the LORD will say through him.
The two sticks represent Judah and Israel (Joseph-Ephraim). They have been at war with one another for hundreds of years. They are not likely to reconcile and merge together as one.
But this is what the LORD promises he will do.
20 When the sticks on which you write are in your hand before their eyes, 21 then say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will take the people of Israel from the nations among which they have gone, and will gather them from all around, and bring them to their own land. 22 And I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel.
And one king shall be king over them all, and they shall be no longer two nations, and no longer divided into two kingdoms. 23 They shall not defile themselves anymore with their idols and their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions. But I will save them from all the backslidings in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God. (Eze 37.20-23)
The LORD’s promise involves bringing his people back into the promised land, establishing one king over them, permanently removing their idolatrous worship and cleansing them. The LORD will again be their God and they his people.
24 “My servant David shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd.
They shall walk in my rules and be careful to obey my statutes.
25 They shall dwell in the land that I gave to my servant Jacob, where your fathers lived. They and their children and their children’s children shall dwell there forever, and David my servant shall be their prince forever.
26 I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them.
And I will set them in their land and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore. 27 My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
28 Then the nations will know that I am the LORD who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is in their midst forevermore.” (Eze 37.24-28)
The king will be a descendant of David’s. He will shepherd his people.
The LORD promises a future messiah uniting his people as one.
The LORD promises to make a new covenant of peace with them, multiply them and dwell with them. When the nations around them see all this they will know it is the LORD’s doing.
“As a contextual theologian, Ezekiel could even more easily have decided that northern Israel had cut itself out of the olive tree. Instead he, too, affirms that Yahweh cannot have finished with it. Not only the northern Israelites who had associated themselves with Judah and thus kept in touch with the king and the temple, but northern Israel as an entity, must have a place in the future of God’s people. After all, God gave that land to Jacob and through him to the descendants of his twelve sons, not just to one or two of them. It is part of God’s acting for the sake of the name that God should continue to be faithful to people even when they have not been faithful. That is why it is inevitable that 37:24–28 ‘foresees a fourfold honoring of ancient promises—ruler, land, covenant, and temple’ (Blenkinsopp).”(Goldingay, J.A., 2003. Ezekiel. In J. D. G. Dunn & J. W. Rogerson, eds. Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, p. 657.)
The LORD’s promise to unite his people as one under one king is fulfilled in the work and person of Jesus Christ. In Jesus’ high priestly prayer he asks the LORD to unite all those under his rule as one.
20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (Jn 17.20-23)
Some elements of the LORD’s promise have been fulfilled. We have one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father (Eph 4.4-5).
But do you think all God’s people are united as one? Are there still some elements of this promise yet to be fulfilled? Is this something you and I need to work on?
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