“Thus saith the Lord GOD; In the day that I shall have cleansed you from all your iniquities I will also cause you to dwell in the cities, and the wastes shall be builded. And the desolate land shall be tilled, whereas it lay desolate in the sight of all that passed by.” — Ezekiel 36:33-34
The playground at the park was alive with laughter as the sun shone down on children on swings, slides, and an aboveground tunnel. As a local resident, I felt a sense of pride as I strolled along the paved walkways that threaded between towering fir trees and beautifully maintained bushes. How different the area looked on this lovely day compared to its appearance the previous winter when a severe ice and windstorm had ravaged our area! By the time the last of the ice had melted back then, many of the trees in this park had been damaged by the weight of the ice, and others had been completely uprooted. The whole park had been littered with debris and broken branches.
Then one day, about a month after the storm, I noticed dozens of cars and trucks on the street alongside the park. A number of warmly clothed individuals were busily sawing up branches, loading trucks with debris, and hauling away rubble. They continued cutting, cleaning, and replanting for several days, despite the poor weather. Now, as I walk through the restored park, I marvel at the change.
In our text today, God explained His plan to restore Israel after that nation failed Him and profaned His holy Name. As a result of their rejection of Him, the people had been scattered among the heathen. However, God looked with compassion upon them, and in our focus verses, He promised a future regathering of Israel. He assured the people that one day the desolation caused by sin would be reversed, and the land would be tilled and made fruitful again.
This account provides a lesson for us as well. The ruin and destruction in the park, and the desolate and waste condition of Israel, are similar to the condition of people’s hearts before they come to the Lord seeking forgiveness. They are full of the “debris” of dashed dreams and sinful habits. The “ice and snow” of the world has left them cold and broken. But when the Lord saves them, in an instant of time, He removes the brokenness and rubble left by sin, and the change is apparent right away. The new life God gives is beautiful and clean; sin has been removed and all things have become new.
Only God can bring about this initial transformation in a life. However, as believers we can encourage and nurture the subsequent spiritual growth process. Like the residents of our city who offered their time and efforts to aid in the restoration of our neighborhood park, God is looking for laborers in the Gospel. He needs people who are willing to support, encourage, and teach new believers. This task may not always be easy and we will probably grow weary at times. However, our efforts will be rewarded when we see individuals who were once ruined by sin grow and become mature and thriving Christians.
This portion of Ezekiel 36 continues the theme of restoration that began in chapter 35. It was God’s plan to reveal His name (representing His character and nature) to the world through the Jewish people. He provided for, protected, and led them. No other nation had the privileges or the knowledge of God that Israel had. However, Israel had profaned God’s name to the heathen nations around them, and as a result, those nations questioned whether Israel’s God could really be the one true God.
Verse 22 reveals the manner in which God would vindicate His name to the heathen. The Hebrew word translated “heathen” is frequently rendered “nations,” and is a plural word meaning all nations and peoples other than Israel. To prove His power to the nations around Israel, God promised to gather the Israelite people from the nations into which they had been dispersed, bring them back to their own land, and reestablish them as a nation.
In addition to promising restoration, God promised to cleanse Israel of her corruption. In verse 25, to “sprinkle clean water upon you” was a reference to the purification ceremony for priests and Levites (see Numbers 8:7). Since Ezekiel was a priest, he would have been very familiar with the principle of cleansing.
God also promised to renew Israel spiritually. The statement in verse 26 that “a new heart also will I give you” indicates the people would be given new desires and a new will to serve God. The promise in the following verse that “I will put my spirit within you” marked a change from the external obedience that was previously required, to an internal desire to be pleasing to God.
Along with the promised spiritual restoration, Ezekiel also foretold a physical restoration of the land of Israel. Verses 33-38 describe the transformation of what was called “waste and desolate” to “become like the garden of Eden.” This restoration would be seen by all nations, and as a result, all would know the power of God to restore.
IV. The consolation of Israel
A. Prophecies of Israel’s restoration
4. The restoration of Israel
d. The purification of Israel (36:22-38)
(1) The vindication of the Lord’s name (36:22-24)
(2) The redemption of Israel (36:25-32)
(3) The restoration of the land (36:33-38)
God’s power to renew and restore what was once broken and desolate is truly amazing.