The Hebrew prophet
Ezekiel was a captive in the land of Babylon during
the seventy years of exile. Nebuchadnezzar had
carried him away when the nation of Judah was taken
captive. Ezekiel is the first prophet of the exile
in Babylon. Daniel, somewhat younger than Ezekiel,
lived during the second part of the exile.
Ezekiel saw the terrible
sin of Judah and the punishment caused by forsaking
the LORD God. "The soul that sins will surely die"
(18:4) is equivalent to the Apostle Paul's summary,
"The wages of sin is death."
The New Testament book of
Revelation is full of Ezekiel. The apostle John saw
four living creatures, the throne of God and a man
on the throne. The LORD God reigns upon His throne.
Ezekiel and John both see the power and majesty of
the sovereign Lord. Even though Ezekiel may not have
understood all the significance of his mission, he
did see the glory of God in the face of Jesus
Christ. God reveals Himself through Jesus Christ and
Ezekiel saw the revelation of God in Jesus. The Old
Testament prophets often spoke more than they knew.
Because of the progressive revelation of God in the
New Testament we have the privilege of seeing much
more in Ezekiel than Ezekiel was privileged to see.
He saw the promise; we see the fulfillment realized
in Jesus Christ.
EXILE IN REVERSE
God promises to return
His people to their own land. The return of Judah to
their land in 535 B.C. after the Babylonian exile is
promised by the LORD. "For I will take you from the
nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you
into your own land" (36:24). However the passage
before us, and the next chapter of Ezekiel reaches
far beyond the return from the Babylonian exile.
Many Bible scholars
understand the prophet saw a gathering of Israel
from “all nations” that looked beyond the first
return after the Babylonian captivity. He sees the
regathering from all nations of the world (Ezekiel
11:16-17; Isaiah 11:12; Jeremiah 15:15).
restoration is more than a physical restoration to
the land of Israel. We will say more about this
later. God promised spiritual restoration as well.
A CLEANSED PEOPLE
"Then I will sprinkle
clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will
cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all
your idols" (v. 25). The sprinkling of clean water
symbolized cleansing from sin. It has nothing to do
with baptism. In the Old Testament sprinkling and
washing with water pictured cleansing from
ceremonial defilement. God will purify Israel from
her sins and God will impart new life.
The Hebrew scholars Keil
and Delitzsch write, "Cleansing from sins, which
corresponds to justification, and is not to be
confounded with sanctification, is followed by
renewal with the Holy Spirit, which takes away the
old heart of stone and puts within a new heart of
flesh, so that the man can fulfill the commandments
of God, and walk in newness of life (vv. 26-28)."
The writer of Hebrews saw
the fulfillment of this cleaning in the blood of
Jesus Christ. "But when Christ appeared as a high
priest of the good things to come, He entered
through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not
made with hands, that is to say, not of this
creation; and not through the blood of goats and
calves, but through His own blood, He entered the
holy place once for all, having obtained eternal
redemption" (Hebrews 9:11-2). Then he adds, "the
blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit
offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your
conscience from dead works to serve the living God .
. . all things are cleansed with blood, and without
shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" (v. 14).
Because of the finished
work of Christ "we have confidence to enter the holy
place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way
which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that
is, His flesh . . . having our hearts sprinkled
clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed
with pure water" (Hebrews 10:19-20, 22). We have
been saved "according to His mercy, by the washing
of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,
whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus
Christ our Savior, that being justified by His grace
we might be made heirs according to the hope of
eternal life" (Titus 3:5-7).
However, that is not all
God does for His rebellious people.
A NEW HEART FOR NEW
A "new heart" and "new
spirit" is the promise of spiritual regeneration.
"Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new
spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of
stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to
walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to
observe My ordinances" (vv. 26-27).
Jeremiah also spoke of
this spiritual change in the heart of sinful man
(31:31). The change is in the heart that will cause
the people to turn to the Good Shepherd. The people
receive a new heart that desires to please the LORD.
The "new spirit" (v. 26) is "My Spirit" in v. 27. He
is referring to the Spirit of Yahweh (Ezekiel 37:14;
39:29; Joel 2:28-29). Only the Holy Spirit can
empower man to fulfill the word of God. There are
twenty-five references to the Holy Spirit in the
book of Ezekiel. A new heart and a new spirit are
themes Ezekiel reflects on several times.
Jesus may have had this
passage in mind when He spoke to Nicodemus one night
in Jerusalem. To this upright, moral, spiritually
sensitive man Jesus said, "Truly, truly, I say to
you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the
kingdom of God" (John 3:3). Nic asked, "How can a
man be born again when he is old?" Jesus replied,
"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of
water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the
kingdom of God. . . Do not marvel that I said to
you, 'You must be born again'" (3:5, 7).
Reflecting on that work
of God in the human heart, the apostle Paul wrote:
"Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new
creature; the old things passed away; behold, new
things have come" (2 Corinthians 5:17).
The Holy Spirit changes
the heart to cause the individual to "follow" the
Lord (v. 27). The Spirit enables and creates the
desire in the heart of the person to do what is
humanly impossible. The only way to live a life
pleasing to the Lord is by the indwelling presence
of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16-26).
The Holy Spirit dwelling
in the heart of the believer will "cause you to walk
in My statutes and you will be careful to observe My
ordinances" (v. 27). What Moses law could not do God
does through His "Spirit within you." His dwelling
within enables the "new heart." The heart of stone
has been removed and replaced with a "new heart" and
"a new spirit."
Only the sovereign grace
of God can do that. As the believer yields to the
Holy Spirit He enables us to "walk" in the statutes
of God and carefully observe His "ordinances." The
holy life is an exchanged life.
One of the most
intriguing ideas is the people will return to the
land and live in it permanently. The meaning is to
"live" or dwell as permanent residents and is the
opposite of the non-immigrant or alien. "You will
live in the land that I gave to your forefathers; so
you will be My people, and I will be your God" (v.
How strange that this
promise becomes a stumbling block to some students
of God's word when the greater miracle is the
radical change in the heart of believing sinners. If
we take verse 28 for what it says God will take care
of the logistics. He will bring the people back to
"the land" "from the nations, gather you from all
the lands, and bring you back into your land" (v.
24). The problem is not God's doing it, but is our
accepting the impossibility of man doing it. God
will do it in His own way in His own time. The
people "will live in the land" as permanent
residents. This will be a God sized accomplishment;
not something brought about by politicians.
Not only will He bring
his people cleansed, forgiven with a new heart and
new spirit to their land, but also He promises
fruitful agricultural production. Observe who
instructs the increase in the fruit trees, grain,
crops, etc. There will be no more famine for the
people in the land. God's fruitfulness will cause
the people to see His glory and repent (vv. 29-30).
God instructs the grain to produce and the crops to
yield abundantly. "I will call for the grain and
multiply it, and I will not bring a famine on you.
And I will multiply the fruit of the tree and the
produce of the field, that you may not receive again
the disgrace of famine among the nations." The LORD
God will also restore the land to better than the
original. It will be like the Garden of Eden before
sin invaded it.
How will you know that it
is for real? The result will be a radical change in
the heart. "Then you will remember your evil ways
and your deeds that were not good, and you will
loathe yourselves in your own sight for your
iniquities and your abominations" (v. 31). True
repentance will have taken place in the core of
their being. The people will "remember" their evil
ways and will "loathe" their iniquities. They will
not secretly want the opportunity to be tempted to
sin again. They will no longer be ready to sin when
the temptation comes. They will see their former
life style and feel the revulsion. That is what
every true believer should experience when they
pause and silently reflect upon their sins of the
past in the sight of God. God is holy, and His
holiness should cause us to loathe our past sins.
His holiness should produce a desire in our hearts
to be holy.
Modern man needs the
message of this passage in its context. God will not
do it because He loves us or for our sake. He does
it out of "concern for My holy name" (vv. 21, 32).
His name is holy and He does it for His glory alone.
"It is not for your sake . . . that I am about to
act, but for My holy name . . . " (v. 22). "I will
vindicate the holiness of My great name . . . the
nations will know that I am the LORD . . . when I
prove Myself holy among you in their sight" (v. 23).
This reveals God's purpose. He "will take you from
the nations, gather you from all the lands, and
bring you into your own land" (v. 24). The purpose
is so His holy name will be redeemed.
This restoration will
vindicate the name of the LORD. His reputation is at
stake! He will demonstrate to the nations that He is
the sovereign Lord over the nations by bringing
Israel back to the land He gave her (36:21-23).
What God does for Israel
as well as non-Jews is an act of sovereign grace. No
one deserved these restoration promises (v. 32). A
sovereign holy God reached down to Israel in His
amazing grace to save and restore. God chose to save
for Himself a holy people. He did this out of grace
and mercy. We have been redeemed by the shed blood
of the Lamb of God.
Have you personally
experienced this "new heart" and "a new spirit"?
Jesus Christ came to give you eternal life. Here is
A Free Gift for You. All you have to do is receive
36:22-32 A New Heart and a New Spirit
Christ in the Old Testament