“But ye, O mountains of Israel, ye shall shoot forth your branches, and yield your fruit to my people of Israel; for they are at hand to come. For, behold, I am for you, and I will turn unto you, and ye shall be tilled and sown: And I will multiply men upon you, all the house of Israel, even all of it: and the cities shall be inhabited, and the wastes shall be builded.” — Ezekiel 36:8-10
On May 18, 1980, after weeks of seismic and volcanic activity, a 5.1 earthquake caused Mount Saint Helens in the State of Washington to erupt in a cataclysmic explosion and the entire north face of the mountain to collapse. Gas and ash shot up into a sixteen-mile-high column, and winds carried the ash hundreds of miles into eleven U.S. states. The lava, hot ash, and stone that blasted laterally from the side of the mountain leveled four billion board feet of timber in a few moments of time, and mudflows and floods caused by ice melt swept across a huge area. Parks, buildings, bridges, and roads were destroyed, and fifty-seven people lost their lives.
On Pumice Plain, north of the eruption crater, nothing survived. The vegetation in other areas around the blast soon began to recover, but it was two years before the first plant was found on Pumice Plain. That plant was a prairie lupine, a purple-blue wildflower that can take nitrogen from the air rather than getting it from the soil. The lupine attracted insects and trapped blowing leaves and debris, and as the organic material died and decomposed, it began to enrich the soil. Gophers tunneled underground and mixed the nutrients into the earth, and other plants began to grow, including Indian paintbrush, which attracts elk. Elk hooves broke the crust on the ground and mixed more nutrients into the soil, and their droppings deposited the seeds of other plants. Today, much of Pumice Plain is covered by grasses, flowering plants, and willows.
What occurred on Pumice Plain is an object lesson illustrating how recovery can come after desolation. Just as restoration occurs in a devastated and ruined landscape, God can restore a devastated nation or a ruined individual. In today’s text, God extended hope to the Israelites by promising a future renewal, though at the time of this prophecy, their situation was grim.
God’s message of hope through Ezekiel offers assurance and comfort to us as well. No matter how devastated and ruined a life may look, there is hope in God. He can take situations that look impossible and turn them around. In fact, based on verse 11 of our text, we understand that He can make them better than they were at the beginning! Pumice Plain and all of nature around us is a reminder of God’s power and His desire to make something beautiful out of what appears to be hopeless.
Today if you are facing an “impossible” situation or praying for someone who seems far from the Lord, take hope. Consider the prairie lupine, and remember that nothing is too hard for God!
Today’s text continues the discourse that began in the preceding chapter concerning the restoration promised by God to Israel. While this portion was also directed to the exiles in Babylon, there is a change in tone in this chapter from the previous one. There, the prophecy was against Mount Seir (Idumea or Edom). Here, in verses 1-21 of chapter 36, the prophecy was to the “mountains of Israel” (representing the whole of Israel), and reveals God’s faithfulness and affection toward His people. Though Israel was the key nation in God’s plan for the ages, her apostasy had to be judged and punished. However, God was not done with Israel. At this point in the nation’s history, God began to reveal His plan for her in His Millennial Kingdom.
Ezekiel’s ministry took place during a time of God’s judgment through the subjugation of Judah and the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians. During these years, rival nations (including the Edomites) took advantage of the military vulnerability of Israel to occupy important locations on the high ground (mountains) from which they raided surrounding territory. “Aha,” voiced by Israel’s foes in verse 2, is an expression of joy mixed with contempt. This attitude provoked God’s “jealousy” for Israel in verse 5, showing the ardor, zeal, and passion He felt for His people.
The degree to which Israel had been demolished makes the restoration described in verses 8-15 all the more remarkable. Ezekiel foretold that the dispersed people of Israel would one day be regathered. The “fruit” prophesied in verse 8 will be the result of the Lord himself turning toward His people and taking their side, and of the tilling and sowing that He will perform (verse 9).
The root word for “bereave” as used in verses 12, 13, and 14 is the opposite of “fruitful.” It is often used in Scripture in connection with the death of children, and is indicative of great emotion resulting from tragic loss. Its usage here indicates that God was promising to personally intervene and end Israel’s tragic losses.
Verses 20-21 indicate how Israel’s behavior had defiled her inheritance and profaned the Lord’s name. The third commandment taught the Jewish people to be extremely careful about using God’s name, to the extent that they refrained from saying His name aloud for fear they would bring reproach to it. During Ezekiel’s time, it is likely that only the high priest on the Day of Atonement could say the sacred name of the Lord, and then only under certain circumstances. However, in spite of this outward regard for God’s name, they had defiled His name by their actions. As a result, they had been judged. God’s intention was for Israel to be a testimony of God’s power to the surrounding nations. Instead, those nations were questioning God’s power because Israel had “gone forth out of his land” — her neighbors had overrun her and carried away her people.
IV. The consolation of Israel
A. Prophecies of Israel’s restoration
4. The restoration of Israel
a. The judgment of the nations (36:1-7)
b. The growth of Israel (36:8-15)
c. The judgment of Israel (36:16-21)
God is the greatest Restorer. He can turn around any situation and help with every need.