Whole Life Whole Bible Day 24
Ezekiel 36:24-28 (NASB)
24 For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land. 25 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. 26 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. 27 I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. 28 You will live in the land that I gave to your forefathers; so you will be My people, and I will be your God.
23: All change
Even while the exile takes its toll, warnings of judgment give way to promises of restoration. Under God’s direction, the prophets who addressed the people with words of condemnation now bring words of comfort. They do so in order to provide hope where there is no hope, and reassurance where there is remorse; and they do so in terms that the people will understand.
Thus it is that Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Isaiah between them envisage a return to the land, a return that will be a replay of the exodus, as God’s people come back home. They will benefit from the wise reign of a king from the line of David, who will be a good shepherd to them. The temple will be restored, with everything in its place and God himself once again dwelling with his people.
But something more fundamental than land, kingship and temple is required. At the heart of God’s promises is the restoration of the people themselves — an inward renewal, which God himself will bring about, as he pledges to cleanse his people and give them a new heart and a new Spirit. The fact that this is nothing less than a resurrection is confirmed to Ezekiel in a powerful vision, showing how God can bring piles of dry bones together, put flesh on them and breathe his Spirit into them, just as he did with Adam at creation.
The words ‘You will be my people, and I will be your God’ (v. 28) express in a concise formula the covenant between God and his people; Jeremiah likewise sees the goal of restoration to be a re-establishment of the covenant relationship, with a new covenant written on the heart (31:31–34). This is an internal rather than external reality, available to all.
Of course, with restoration will come recommitment and responsibility — to be the servant community, a light for the nations. No wonder the final chapters of Isaiah envisage not just the rebuilding of Jerusalem, but a city filled with the glory of God that finds itself at the center of a new heaven and a new earth — reminding us once again that the prophets hold out a vision of hope not just for the people of God but for the nations as well; and not just for the nations but for the whole of creation.
How good is the God we adore!
For further reflection and action
Given the very specific context in which this promise of restoration is given, how far is it legitimate to use the words of Ezekiel to convey hope today? What sorts of contemporary situations might count?
From the period of exile flow predictions of judgment, cries of lament, pleas for forgiveness, instructions to build, warnings of persecution, promises of restoration, and more. Think about when it might be appropriate to take up these different types of language in prayer, and draw on them this week as you read magazines, watch the news on TV or engage with colleagues, or as you reflect on your local church situation or the place you’re at in your own walk with God.
Other promises about restoration speak of a coming figure who is described variously as a ‘shepherd king’, a ‘servant of the Lord’, and one ‘like a Son of Man’. Think about how these resonances carry through to the New Testament, where they inform Jesus’ understanding of himself and his mission.
Visit LICC to find out more or get an overview of the Biblical narrative and the ways it can shape us by reading the Introduction to Whole Life, Whole Bible from the Whole Life, Whole Bible book.