Middle East Meltdown 003 – Ezekiel 36Ezekiel 36:12-21 • Dr. Andy Woods • January 16, 2022 • Middle East Meltdown
The Middle East Meltdown 003 – Ezekiel 36
By Dr. Andy Woods – 01/16/2022
Father, we are grateful for the cooler weather, at least I am, and grateful for a new day, grateful for the fact that Your mercies are new every morning and we just do pray, Lord, that the Holy Spirit would have His way today in Your church, in all areas where particularly Your word is taught. We do pray for the ministry of illumination which is something that you promised in the Upper Room that the spirit would come and guide Christ’s followers into all truth. So we do pray for that ministry today. If there is anything, Lord, that’s inhibiting that ministry, we just take a brief moment of silence to confess our sins to you personally. We remain grateful for the promise of 1st John chapter 1, verse 9 (1 John 1:9), that if we confess our sins, you are faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. We do, Lord, understand that particular verse not as a salvation verse but sometimes something that’s needed for the believer to restore broken fellowship; and we do ask, Father, that You would have your way today. We ask these things in Jesus’ name. God’s people said, Amen. 1:52
Alright! Well, good morning everybody! Let’s take our Bibles, if we could, and open them to the book of Ezekiel chapter 36.
- Ezekiel recommissioned (33)
- False shepherds removed (34)
- Edom destroyed (35)
- Israel’s restoration: physical & spiritual (36)
- Israel’s restoration illustrated (37)
- Means of restoration: Northern invasion (38)
- Results of the Northern invasion: conversion (39)
- Millennial Temple (40‒46)
- Tribal land allotment (47‒48)
Ezekiel chapter 36 and we just started a new series in the New Year, I think this is our third lesson, here in Sunday School entitled the Middle East Meltdown, which basically is an in depth study of four pivotal chapters in the book of Ezekiel chapter 36, 37, 38 and 39 and what’s going on in chapter 36 is the physical and spiritual restoration of Israel; and we’ve entitled this series the Middle East Meltdown because we believe that these are the chapters that are currently in play. In play in the sense that you would probably be hard pressed to find any part of the Bible where the hand of God is working so aggressively today to set the stage for the drama that’s described in these chapters. So you know, I’m someone that actually tries to keep up with this and I have to be honest with you that the pieces are moving so fast in the Middle East, it’s hard to keep track of everything. In fact, for me to do it right, I’d have to quit everything else I’m doing and just study the Middle East full time, which I don’t have time to do, but I do my best to try to keep up with it. But I just share that, to let you know how fast things are moving. 4:05
So we’ve been working our way verse by verse through Ezekiel, 36. Ezekiel, 36 has three parts:
- Israel to prosper again (Ezek 36:1-15)
- Israel’s sins inhibiting prosperity (Ezek 36:16-21)
- Israel to be restored: physically & spiritually (Ezek 36:22-38)
Israel will prosper again verses 1 through 15 (Ezek 36:1-15), and then you have verses 16 through 21 (Ezek 36:16-21), which is a description of the sins that are inhibiting Israel’s prosperity under God, verses 16 through 21. These are the same sense that to a large extent are harassing the nation of Israel right now, because even though they have been re-gathered into their land, they’re still in unbelief. So if you want to know what God is going to purge before He can bring in the rest of these chapters, verses 16 through 21 is a description of what’s holding up the show, so to speak; and then finally, you get down to verses 22 through 38 (Ezek 36:22-38) and you have those prophecies about how Israel is going to be restored again, physically and spiritually. So we were working our way through verses 1 through 15 (Ezek 36:1-15) last time and if memory serves, we left off, we completed verse 11; and so take a look, if you could, at 12. Ezekiel chapter 36, verse 12 (Ezek 36:12), God says: Yes, I will cause men— My people Israel— to walk on you and possess you, so that you will become their inheritance and never again bereave them of children… So you’ll notice the repetition here of “My people Israel”. It kind of reminds us back in verse 5 where God kept calling the land of Israel, if you look at verse 5, “My land”. So, make no mistake about it, the nation of Israel is a nation that belongs to God. Why do they belong to God? Because they are elected unto God. Now, when I use that word election, choice, everybody gets very nervous and the way I’m using it right now is God made a sovereign choice of a nation. Most people when they want to talk about the whole subject of election and free will, they want to get into individual salvation and that’s not how I’m using the word here. The way I’m using it here is God made a sovereign choice of a nation. So God decided to use a particular nation to be His vehicle of blessings to planet earth; and this is why God keeps saying “My land” “My people”. 7:05
So one of the clearest verses on the election of Israel nationally is the book of Deuteronomy chapter 7, verses 7 and 8 (Deut 7:7-8), which says of Israel: The LORD did not make you His beloved nor choose you because you were greater in number than any of the peoples, since you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the LORD loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the LORD brought you out by a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt… So there it specifically says, Deuteronomy, 7, verses 7 and 8 (Deut 7:7-8), is God made a, what we would call an unconditional choice to use a nation and He didn’t pick them because of some kind of merit in them. You know, gee, the Jews are so good with money, I’ll pick them. You know, gee, the Jews are so good with banking, I’ll pick them. Gee, the Jews are so good with having IQ, I’ll pick them. He just picked them because He wanted to pick them and He didn’t pick them on any other grounds, because other nations were more qualified to be selected. In fact, when it says that in the book of Deuteronomy, it says you were actually the fewest of all the peoples. So God didn’t pick them cause they were the biggest or the brightest or the most literate, He just made a sovereign choice and here that sovereign choice is used of a nation; and that’s why when you get into Matthew, 24, and 25, which we’ve taught in our prior series on the rapture, we did an extended discussion of Matthew, 24, and 25; and the reason we went into that is everybody wants to find the rapture in Matthew, 24, and 25, but the rapture is not in Matthew, 24, and 25 cause God is dealing with Israel; and that’s why when you move through Matthew, 24, and 25, it keeps saying “the elect”. “The elect” there is the nation of Israel. God’s choice of a nation. Matthew, 24:22 (Matt 24:22), it says: If those days had not been cut short, no life would be saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short… Elect there is Israel, nationally. Matthew, 24:24 (Matt 24:24) says: For false Christs and false prophets will arise and provide great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect…. The elect there is Israel, God’s choice of a nation. Matthew, 24:31 (Matt 24:31) says: He will send forth His angels with A GREAT TRUMPET BLAST, HE WILL GATHER TOGETHER His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other… The elect there is the nation of Israel, God’s choice as a nation; and the reason I bring that up is most of the time when you hear the Scriptures quoted, they want to pretend it’s dealing with the church or they want to get into some kind of discussion about, you know, election versus free will, individually and my point is those things are totally alien to the context. The elect here is God’s choice of a nation, the nation of Israel. 11:08
So you go from there down to Ezekiel chapter 36, verses 13, and 14 (Ezek 36:13-14) it says: Thus says the Lord GOD, Because they say to you, You are a devourer of men and have bereaved your nation of children… Verse 14: …therefore you will no longer devour men and no longer bereave your nation of children, declares the Lord GOD… So the nation of Israel, prior to her rebirth into the land of Israel, was basically childless. Childless in the sense that there was no Jewish population living inside that land and God says that’s about to change; and there’s a lot of information here about how God is going to re-populate that land with the Jewish people; and then you move into verse 15 (Ezek 36:15) it says: I will not let you hear insults from the nations anymore, nor will you bear disgrace from the peoples any longer, nor will you cause your nation to stumble any longer, declares the Lord… So you’ll notice here that God takes these verbal attacks against his people, kind of the whispering campaign that’s described earlier in the chapter, we talked about it last time, as the Jews are coming back into the land, Ezekiel predicts kind of a whispering campaign amongst the nations of the earth, meaning that’s not Jewish land, the Jews don’t belong there, that’s someone else’s land. God takes those as insults. I mean, when you make statements like that and they make them all the time on CNN, etc., God takes it as a personal insult, because it’s His people and His land and anything to the contrary is simply to defy what God’s word says. 13:24
So you step back from verses 1 through 15 (Ezek 36:1-15) and you try to get the big idea and it’s a prophecy that Israel in her land is going to prosper again. Well, what’s holding up the show?
- Israel to prosper again (Ezek 36:1-15)
- Israel’s sins inhibiting prosperity (Ezek 36:16-21)
- Israel to be restored: physically & spiritually (Ezek 36:22-38)
Well, verses 16 through 21 (Ezek 36:16-21) is what’s holding up the show. God is not in the business of simply recycling people into their land in unbelief, so they can continue on with the same sins that caused them to go into the dispersion in the first place. God is interested in a twofold re-gathering. The first part of it is to recycle them into the land. The second part of it is to bring about the circumstances through which by the time you get to the end of the tribulation period, every single Jew living on planet earth will be a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, which is an astounding prophecy. I don’t know, you know, you talk about the great revivals of church history, I don’t know of any revival that’s been so extensive that every single person living in a country is a believer and that basically is the end game, this is what God is going to do for Israel. He’s not going to do that for any other nation and the reason He’s not going to do it for any other nation but is only going to do it for Israel is because He made a sovereign decision to choose them as a nation, Deuteronomy, 7, verses 7, and 8 (Deut 7:7-8). So verses 16 through 21 (Ezek 36:16-21) is what God wants to get rid of in the people, so that He can bring about the circumstances described in verses 1 through 15 (Ezek 36:1-15).
So notice if you will, verse 16 (Ezek 36:16): Then the word of the LORD came to me saying… Now, you have to pay attention to that, particularly in Ezekiel’s writings, because when Ezekiel says: Then the word of the Lord came to me… That’s a new oracle or a fresh prophecy is being given. You might remember that the same thing was said, almost the same thing, back in verse 1 (Ezek 36:1): And you, son of man, prophesy… So that was oracle number one, verses 1 through 15 (Ezek 36:1-15); and then you get right to the middle of the chapter, give or take, verse 16 (Ezek 36:16) and it says: Then the word of the LORD came to me saying… Now, here’s oracle number two; and then if you drop down to verse 22 (Ezek 36:22), for just a moment, it says: Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD… So this outline that I have here on the screen, I didn’t just come at this and say, Hey! Here’s a cool way to outline this chapter, let’s pick three points; and of course, if I were Baptist, I’d try to make all the points rhyme (laughs). You know, these are the three R’s of Christianity or something. So the outlines that we’re coming up with here, are outlines that are derived from the biblical text and when you outline a chapter, you want to pay attention to structural clues within the text where there’s breaks. Otherwise, the only thing you’re getting on a Sunday morning is just someone’s rhyme of the day, you know, to get you to memorize something easier, which I guess has its place in certain times and places. But the outlines that we produce here are basically derived from the biblical text itself by looking at structural clues within the text; and one of the key structural clues that you see here is this repetition of, verse 16 (Ezek 36:16), “The word of the Lord came to me” or a comparable expression. 17:36
So we are into a new oracle and He’s dealing with the sins that are holding up the show, so to speak. Verse 17 (Ezek 36:17): Son of man, when the house of Israel was living in their own land, they defiled it by their ways and their deeds; their way before Me was like the uncleanness of a woman in her impurity… So you’ll notice that when they were living in their own land, so again the eight hundred years that they had experienced in the land from the time of Joshua, all the way to the Babylonian captivity, a time period of eight hundred years, their presence in the land was never second guessed by God. God always looked at it as their land even while they were living in open rebellion to him and if you want to see that open rebellion against him just read… My daughter and I are doing kind of a chapter a night reading through the Bible… Just read 1st Kings and 2nd Kings and 1st Chronicles and 2nd Chronicles and we finally finished the other night 2nd Chronicles and moved into Ezra and I have to be honest with you, I am so glad we finished that section because it’s just one sin after another. One bad king after another, so this goes on for eight hundred years, God never second guesses whether that land was theirs cause it was, but it was just open rebellion against God and He says it’s like a woman in her uncleanliness during that time period. A cross reference would be Isaiah chapter 64, and verse 6 (Isa 64:6): For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our unrighteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf… And so this is actually imagery from the menstrual cycle of a woman and that process is being used to describe the sin. So it’s like a visual imagery of the sin that was taking place during that eight hundred years. So what did God do during that eight hundred years? He brought His wrath against his own people; and you see that in verse 18 (Ezek 36:18): Therefore… In other words, what God did is a response to verse 17… Therefore I poured out My wrath on them for the blood which they had shed on the earth, because they had defiled it with their idols… So you notice here this expression “wrath”. God poured out His wrath on His own people. People will use arguments like this that say, you see, the church of Jesus Christ is not exempted from God’s wrath therefore the church is going into the tribulation period. Wrong! This is dealing with the nation of Israel. God deals with Israel and the church on a separate basis. The church doesn’t even exist yet. The church is a mystery and what God said is because of that eight hundred years of disobedience, I actually poured out My wrath on My own people; and I would understand “wrath” here as the cycles of divine discipline. 21:31
When you go to the book of Deuteronomy, you don’t have to turn there, but what you’ll see in the book of Deuteronomy is the book of Deuteronomy is laid out like a Suzerain Vassal Treaty.
Six Parts of a Suzerain-Vassal Treaty in Deuteronomy
- Preamble (Deut 1:1-5)
- Prologue (Deut 1:6–4:40)
- Covenant obligations (Deut 5–26)
- Storage and reading instructions (Deut 27:2-3; 31:9, 24, 26)
- Witnesses (Deut 32:1)
- Blessings and curses (Deut 28)
Now, this is very different than the Abrahamic Covenant, which we’ve been studying in our Genesis series. The Abrahamic Covenant gave the nation of Israel unconditional ownership of the land of Israel, among other things. About six centuries later at Mount Sinai, God entered into another covenant with Israel called the Mosaic Covenant, which is laid out based on the archaeology of the day like a Suzerain Vassal Treaty. It’s a fancy name, but Suzerain Vassal has a simple definition. Suzerain, just remember, “S”, Suzerain-superior. The Suzerain is the superior. The vassal would be the who? The inferior. So this a… and we have a lot of archaeological remnants of these kind of covenants, but it’s a very common covenant in the time of Moses, where the suzerain or the superior came alongside a vassal or an inferior and said, I will guarantee your perpetuity, I will guarantee your prosperity, if you do something in return. You have to obey the covenant text. So when the vassal broke his word to the suzerain, the suzerain, if you look down there at the very end bottom, there’s a section there for blessings and curses, the suzerain would pour out divine discipline, as was spelled out in the Suzerain Vassal Treaty, on the vassal. When the vassal obeyed the suzerain, the suzerain would pour out Deuteronomy 28, real tangible blessings on the vassal. So God at Mount Sinai entered into this identical relationship with the nation of Israel. It’s a Suzerain Vassal Treaty structure. When the nation of Israel was in obedience to the covenant text and the covenant text is basically the ten commandments. six hundred and thirteen commandments total, in the Mosaic Law, amplifying those ten commandments, then God would tangibly bless the nation of Israel. There are blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. The blessings are spelled out in Deuteronomy, 28, verses 1 through 14 (Deut 28:1-14). Things like… You’re going to go out, you’re going to fight your battles and you’re going to win. You’re going to be the lender and not the borrower. You’re going to be the head and not the tail. Your crops are going to prosper. You’re going to have a great, great progeny, innumerable descendants, all of these blessings. 25:02
However, when you get to verse 15 through 68 and by the way, the journey through verses 1 through 14 is a lot shorter, you’ll notice, than verses 15 through 68. God spent a lot more time describing the curses for disobedience than He did the blessings for obedience. It’s almost as if God knew what was going to happen nationally. But when you get to do Deuteronomy verses 15 to 68 the opposite is going to happen. You’re going to go out, you’re going to fight your battles and you’re going to lose, you’re going to be the borrower and not the lender, you’re going to be the tail and not the head, your crops are going to be cursed, the fruit of your womb is going to be under a curse; and it goes on like this for, I don’t know how many verses that is, verses 15 through 68. A parallel passage is Luke, excuse me, Leviticus, 26, verses 14 through 46 (Lev 26:14-46). So, Deuteronomy, 28 and Leviticus, 26, both parts of the Mosaic Law, are what many would call the spine, if you will, of the Old Testament. If you want to see everything that’s happening in the King’s books and the Chronicles books, just read Deuteronomy, 28 and Leviticus, 26 and you’ll see it very clearly. God specifically said, when the nation of Israel steps out of line, here are the curses that she can expect to experience. However, when she experiences these curses, God… and this is where the misunderstanding lies with Replacement Theologians, who think that God has clipped Israel’s cord and He’s finished with Israel forever. When these curses are poured out, God does not tell the nation of Israel, Clip, haha, you’re not My people anymore. Just because they’re under discipline, doesn’t mean they don’t own the land anymore. They do own the land, because of which covenant? The Abrahamic Covenant. So what you have in the Mosaic Covenant is not a condition for ownership or lack thereof, that’s already been settled with the Abrahamic Covenant. What is dealt with in the Mosaic Covenant at Mount Sinai is essentially the cycles of divine blessings for obedience, the cycles of divine cursing for disobedience and the discipline can be very, very severe. But at the height of its severity, God never tells the nation of Israel, you’re no longer My people; and so because most people don’t have any teaching on these covenants, the Abrahamic versus the Mosaic, they come up with all these doctrines that God is finished with Israel because she is unbelief. That is not true. Israel for the last two thousand years has been under severe discipline. But God never says, Oh! Guess what? You’re not my people anymore. He can’t do that because of what He’s obligated Himself to do under the Abrahamic Covenant; and if you want sort of an outworking of how this relates to you as a church age believer, it’s sort of the same concept, you are… the moment you place your faith in Jesus Christ for salvation, you are eternally secure. Nothing can vitiate that, nothing can undo it, any more than God with Israel can undo the Abrahamic Covenant. However, whom the Lord loves the Lord what? Chastens, Hebrews, 2, verses 5 through 13 (Heb 2:5-13); and when you step out of line as a Christian, God can and will and take it from personal experience for myself, if nothing else, God will like any loving parent step into your life with the rod of divine discipline; and the rod of divine discipline at times can seem so severe that you might think to yourself, well, I guess God is finished with me and through with me. No! That can’t be the case, because of the doctrine of eternal security. So that’s the pattern that God is using with the nation of Israel and once you understand this pattern, suddenly the books of 1st and 2nd Kings make perfect sense, the Chronicles books makes perfect sense; and this is why we still believe that the nation of Israel is God’s elect choice of a nation, in spite of the severe discipline that they have been under for the last two thousand years and even prior to that. 30:29
The truth of the matter folks is God loves us too much to see us destroy our lives in sin and He will send a storm into your life to correct you, to correct us. I guess I should say this, there are basically two kinds of storms that come into the life of the Christian. There are storms of correction, that’s what I’m speaking of here. But you shouldn’t assume that every single trial you face as a Christian somehow relates to the fact that you must have stepped out of line and become subject of divine discipline, because there are also storms, not of correction, but storms of perfection. Storms where God is just trying to take you to the next level of maturity and according to the book of James chapter 1, verses 2 through 4 (James 1:2-4), some of the greatest tools that God uses to do that are basically tribulations of life. So if you find yourself in a storm, you know, is it a storm of correction? It could be. I think Jonah went through a storm of correction. He was, as you know, swallowed up in the belly of the fish, he was put as we like to say in modern day vernacular, he was put in time out for his attitude to change. I’m not sure if his attitude really did change by the way, as you read the rest of the Book of Jonah, but he grudgingly did what God wanted. So that would be an example of a storm of correction. But then there’s other things that happen to us, that God is just saying, I love you too much to see you at this same level of growth. I mean, you’ve been at this plateau for a long time and it’s now time to deepen your faith; and I say to the Lord, well Lord, I like the plateau. I’m really comfortable on the plateau and God says, no! I’ve got something better for you, so I’m going to send you into a storm, not so much of correction but a storm of perfection. So as I’m trying to explain the Mosaic Covenant here and its outworking in the book of Ezekiel, these are basically storms of correction, these are cycles of discipline that God put the nation of Israel through and God had every right to do it, because they entered into, bilaterally, this covenant with God at Mount Sinai. So, that’s how to understand the word “wrath” here in verse 18 (Ezek 36:18), because of the sins verse 17 (Ezek 36:17) very bloody, it says verse 18: Therefore I poured out My wrath on them for the blood which they had shed on the land, because they had defiled it with their idols… And there’s two things that make God very upset in those eight hundred years, when the nation of Israel was in the land. Number one: It was blood. That’s why the imagery going back to verse 17 is very bloody. I’m upset about the blood. Well, what blood? Murders, and in particular, child sacrifice where they were taking their own children and they were putting them into a fire to satisfy the god of prosperity, god little g, the god of Molech. You know, God doesn’t like it when innocent blood is shed. Just go read Genesis, 4 and you’ll see that. Remember when Cain murdered Abel? Remember what God said? I think it’s around Genesis, 4, verse 8 (Gen 4:8): ..the blood of your brother is crying out to me from the ground… Proverbs, 6, talks about these are the six things the Lord hates, no seven. One of the things that is mentioned there is hands that shed innocent blood; and that’s why one of the ten commandments is “thou shalt not murder”. God is very pro-life, okay? He’s very interested in protecting the life of the innocent and the nation of Israel eight hundred years basically said, Oh! We’re just going to do things our own way. These children you’ve given us, Oh! We’ll sacrifice some; and God says, that’s why I poured out discipline on you, as described here as wrath. The second sin that really got God upset was idolatry; and you read through the 1st Kings, 2nd Kings and Chronicles, that’s what every single wicked king did, as far as I can tell. They basically became idolaters. They set up these, you know, Asherah poles constantly, they were always bowing down to these false gods, little g; and when a nation does that, particularly God’s elect nation, I mean, they’re really missing the boat, because what are the first two commandments in the decalogue of the ten commandments? Exodus, 20, verse 3 (Exo 20:3): You shall have no other gods before Me… That’s command number one. Command number two, Exodus, 20, verse 4 (Exo 20:4): You shall not make for yourself an idol, or likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. So God in the ten commandments, right out of the gates, says if you guys become idolaters that basically means you hate me; and so when the nation of Israel became idolaters for eight hundred years, I mean, they were only violating the first two commandments God ever gave them and so they totally missed the boat; and add to the mix all of the blood that was flowing, because of the innocent people they were killing, not the least of which was the prophets. I mean, every prophet had a pretty short career, because the prophet spoke out against the kings who were doing these things and the problem is the king had the political power. So the political king could cancel the prophet. You know, cancel… you want to talk about cancel culture? I mean, all the prophets got canceled to the point where most of them, as far as I can tell, you know, Isaiah was sawn in half, if you can imagine that, some of the goriest ways possible and God was keeping a record of all of the blood that was spilled from the blood of the innocent prophets and all the other blood I’ve tried to describe; and so finally He brought His wrath in terms of divine discipline, according to the terms of the Mosaic Covenant which Israel itself had entered into with God. So God had every right to do to them what He said He would do and this is what Ezekiel, 36, and verse 18 (Ezek 36:18) is talking about and God sent them into the Babylonian captivity, because of these blessings and cursing.38:28
Chapter 28 of Deuteronomy, He sent them 350 miles to the east so that they would get rid of the idols.
So when the nation of Israel came back from that captivity and we’re studying that time period on Wednesday evenings in the book of Zechariah, they did a lot of things wrong when they came back, but you know, there’s one sin they never went back to. They never went back to idolatry. In fact, when you look at Romans 2:2, you don’t have to turn there, but God is speaking of Israel in the New Testament and He says: You who say that one is not to commit adultery, do you commit adultery?… and then He tells the Jews… You who loathe idols, do you rob temples?… So actually, as God is condemning Israel in Romans, 2, He throws in a positive that you do hate idols. Why did the nation of Israel hate idols? Well, the seventy years in the Babylonian captivity taught them to hate idols; and this is where the Pharisees come from. The Pharisees were essentially people that started off on the right foot, because they said, violating the Sabbath and idolatry, got us thrown into the Babylonian captivity, so we’re going to create a system of rules, called the Mishnah and the Talmud, and there were actually in the course of time two Talmuds, the Palestinian Talmud so called and the Babylonian Talmud from where they were created. The Babylonian Talmud probably doesn’t come into existence until later in the New Testament period, but it’s an intense set of regulations and rules. In fact, in seminary, I had to read through a lot of that and it’s just mind numbing, the amount of detail that they were put under; and all of that stuff started off on the right foot, because it was designed to say, we’re not going to allow idolatry or Sabbath breaking to occur anymore, cause that’s what God has thrown into the captivity; and this body of men arose, called the Pharisees, whose job it was to enforce the rules. The problem is over the course of time. The tail started to wag the dog and the rules became more important than the principles of God and this is why when you get into the New Testament era, you find Jesus healing someone on the Sabbath. I mean, what could be greater than a healing? A man receives his sight, a man is cleansed from leprosy and the Pharisees, and this is a tremendous example for us of what legalism does, and Jesus of course is allowing His disciples to eat on the Sabbath and all of these kinds of things; and the Pharisees are just totally upset about this. I mean, how could you be upset about a man’s healing? The Pharisees were upset because Jesus was violating their rules and this is where Jesus says, in Mark, 7, verse 13 (Mark 7:13): You have made null the word of God through your traditions… In other words, you put the nation under so many regulations which started off well intentioned, but in the process, you suffocated the true meaning of God as expressed in the ten commandments that your rules are designed to protect initially. So, Jesus is always directing the Pharisees back to the original intent of the ten commandments. I think Jesus would have the authority to do that, since He’s God and He always says the Sabbath was designed to be a blessing to men. So, if I heal a man on the Sabbath, it should be of no consequence to you. If I allow my disciples to eat on the Sabbath, it should be of no consequence to you. But that’s not how the Pharisees thought. The Pharisees were upset about the rules that they had created that Christ was violating. 43:13
So you have to monitor a couple of things very, very carefully in the life of the body of Christ. You don’t want to move into licentiousness and into liberalism; and I think in the Bible Church Movement, we’re pretty good at keeping an eye on that one. But you also have to monitor the rules that people want to bring into existence to prevent the church from going liberal, because what will happen in Bible Church circles is the rules become actually more important than the principles of God’s word and eventually what happens is the tail starts to wag the dog; and so there are two ditches you want to stay out of. You want to stay out of licentiousness but you also want to stay out of legalism, because what the Pharisees did is they built a fence around the law. That was a common expression in Phariseeism, a fence around the law. In other words, we’re so afraid that we’re going to violate the Sabbath, which will send us back into the captivity. We’re going to pass rule after rule after rule after rule after rule, telling you what you can and can’t do on the Sabbath. Started off well-intentioned but it was like building a fence around the law; and the very first person in the Bible that built a fence around the law was Eve, because remember God had originally told Adam, we can’t eat from the tree of knowledge. Remember what Eve said when she was tested by the serpent? We can’t eat of it, anybody know, or touch it. Well, God never said you couldn’t touch it. God just didn’t say don’t eat of it. So what did Eve do? She was so afraid of violating the commandment, that she added a commandment of her own. That’s building a fence around the law and when you build a fence around the law, like the Pharisees had done, the danger in that, although it starts off very well intentioned, is the tail starts to wag the dog and the traditions become more important than the principles of God’s word. 45:37
So we have to stay out of the legalistic ditch and it’s a very real ditch and we have to stay out of the liberal licentiousness ditch as well. The liberal licentiousness ditch, most people in our circles can see pretty clearly, what we are blind to is the opposite, is the legalistic side; and so it’s a very delicate balance in the spiritual life. This is why Charles Ryrie, who wrote about these things in title one of his books, I think it’s called “Balancing the Christian Life”, it’s a balancing act. Stay away from licentiousness but you also need to stay away from legalism and you need to stay with the principles of God’s word. So the Pharisees had come into existence later and it’s a reaction to what God did here in terms of disciplining His people. So what did the discipline look like? If you look at verse 19 (Ezek 36:19) that says: I also scattered them among the nations that were dispersed throughout the lands. According to their ways and their deeds I judged them… Now, this scattering is mentioned in Deuteronomy, 28. God said to the nation in the Mosaic Covenant, if you step out of line and disobey the covenant text, then curses are going to start to pile on and they’re going to sort of start to roll like a snowball and the apex of these curses is I will bring a foreign nation against you to disperse you from your own land. You see that in Deuteronomy, 28, verses 49, and 50 (Deut 28:49-50). All the way back at Mount Sinai, God laid out the conditions of the covenant very clearly, he says: The Lord will bring against you from afar from the end of the earth as the eagle swoops down, A nation whose language you will not understand, a nation with a defiant attitude, who will show no respect for the old nor show favor to the young… That’s how you recognize Paganism. It doesn’t respect what God respects. Showing compassion for the vulnerable, the old or the young and of course, a little tangent on that, I’ve already gone on massive tangents, might as well go on one more. This is how you know the United States is descending into Paganism and you can track it by its policies towards two groups of people: The young or the old. People that God always cares about cause they’re defenseless. So when a nation moves into abortion on demand, an attack on the young who can’t defend themselves and when it moves into euthanasia, so to speak, which is misnamed, where the elderly are told you’re kind of a drain on society, so grandma we have a few extra pills we’re going to put into your orange juice, mindset. You say, that could never happen in the United States, look at Europe! This kind of thing is starting to become normal, that’s Paganism. That’s when Paganism has taken over. So when God says, you’re going to be invaded by a nation who will show no respect for the old or the young, He’s basically saying, I’m going to allow you to be disciplined by a godless power; and this is the wrath of God poured out on His people. This happened in Israel several times. It’s not a shock, it’s not a surprise, cause God said all the way back at Mount Sinai, this is what I’ll do in the Mosaic Covenant.
- Division of the kingdom in 931 B.C. (1 Kgs. 12)
- Assyrian judgment in 722 B.C. (2 Kgs. 17)
- Babylonian captivity in 586 B.C. (2 Kgs. 25)
- Rome Diaspora in A.D. 70 (Luke 19:41-44)
Solomon stepped out of the line at the end of his life and did he ever, God brought discipline by dividing the nation between the north and the south in 931 BC. The northern kingdom of Israel, the ten tribes continued on in their wickedness and by the way, that’s what the Old Testament prophets are doing. All the Old Testament prophets are saying stop! Turn around or these curses are going to get worse and you’re going to actually be evicted from your land; and the kings who had the political power cancelled the prophets, typically. So the northern kingdom continued its downward descent and they were scattered by the Assyrians in 722 BC. You want to talk about a wicked group of people? That was the Assyrians. I’ve got some Assyrian inscriptions I could come in here and read you. It was absolutely grotesque what the Assyrians did to people in terms of death where they were paled and their skin was torn off them and it was the Assyrians that actually invented the crucifixion. Rome later popularized the idea and this is why Jonah hated the idea of grace coming to the Assyrians, because the Assyrians were rotten to the core and yet God used the Assyrians to scatter the northern kingdom. It’s right there in 2nd Kings, 16 and you would think that the southern kingdom would have learned their lesson? But they actually got worse and so God brought Babylon against them and took them into the captivity in 586 BC, 2nd Kings, 25; and then the nation of Israel comes back into the land with idolatry now a thing of the past and they’re waiting for their Messiah and their own Messiah shows up and the leadership of the nation says to Jesus, Yeshua, thanks but no thanks. They reject him nationally; and so what does God do? He brings a power against them, this time Rome in AD 70, which pushes them into what is called the diaspora, where the Jews would be scattered all over the world. They wouldn’t just be contained in one locality, as was the case with the Babylonian captivity, but they would go into worldwide dispersion; and when you look at this, particularly verse 19 (Ezek 36:19), you can see Ezekiel, two thousand six hundred years ago predicting this. Back to verse 19 (Ezek 36:19) it says: Also I scattered them among the nations… Plural. This is not talking about just the captivity in Babylon, this is talking about the diaspora worldwide dispersion, which would begin to take place in AD 70 about forty years after the time of Christ. 53:12
So what is being described here is not the Babylonian captivity, that was being taken to a place. What’s being described here is AD 70, which is worldwide dispersion. Charles Feinberg of these verses, says:
Charles L. Feinberg – The Prophecy of Ezekiel: The Glory of the Lord, Paperback ed. (Chicago: Moody, 1969; reprint, Chicago: Moody, 1984), 207.
“These prophecies, especially those in verses 12-15, could not have been fulfilled in the return from Babylon…Thus many take the primary reference to the return from Babylon. But the predictions will not be completely fulfilled until the future restoration, of which the return from Babylon was a foreshadowing.”
These verses, especially those in verses 12 through 15, could not have been fulfilled in the return from Babylon. Thus many take the primary reference to the return from Babylon. But the predictions will not be completely fulfilled until the future restoration, of which the return from Babylon was just a foreshadowing… So when they came back from Babylon after seventy years, that’s not a fulfillment of these prophecies, that’s just kind of a prefigurement of what God is going to ultimately do. What God says ultimately is going to happen is they’re going to be pushed out into every nation; and then in My providence and timing, I’m going to bring them back into their own land. So did the scattering in every nation actually happen? Yes, it did, it’s a historical fact. It’s gone on for the last two thousand years. So everything Ezekiel said has happened and if what Ezekiel has said, concerning the scattering, has happened, Gee whiz… Maybe we can trust what He says about the… what? The regathering from worldwide dispersion. By the way, I hope you see in this the sarcasm of God. God is very sarcastic, particularly as He deals with His own nation in divine discipline. For example, every plague that came upon Egypt, as described in the book of Exodus, was designed to mock each aspect of the Egyptian polytheon that the Egyptians were worshiping. They worshiped the Nile, God says, let’s turn the whole thing to blood. They worship frogs, God says, okay you guys like frogs, here’s so many frogs you won’t know how to deal with them anymore; and we know this just basically from background archaeology, when you get into Egyptology and those sorts of subjects. They actually worshiped their own first born and what did God do all over Egypt? He killed the firstborn all over Egypt, except when He saw the blood applied to the door posts in the Hebrew homes in what is called Passover. So there’s tremendous sarcasm here in verse 19 (Ezek 36:19). God says, you like the nations? You want to be like the nations? You want to imitate the nations? Then go join them; and this really is the problem with Israel is they basically wanted to be like everyone else and when they said, we want to be like everyone else, they were forgetting their calling, which was to be a light to the nations. So they wanted a king, right? They picked Saul, who wasn’t a very good choice by the way, amen. Why did they want Saul as the king? It says in 1st Samuel, 8, verse 5 (1 Sam 8:5): and they said to him, Behold (To Samuel) you have grown old… And I hope when I grow old, I don’t have a bunch of people telling me I’ve grown old. I mean, it is hard enough to grow old without everybody saying, you are old! But that’s what they did to Samuel… They said to him, Behold, you have grown old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint us a king to judge us… Here’s the catch, 1st Samuel, 8, verse 5… like all the nations… There is the beginning of the downfall. We want to be like everybody else. Everyone else has a king, we want a king; and so this mindset continues on for eight hundred years and God says, okay! You want to be like the nations? Well, why don’t you just go and live amongst the nations; and you go down to verse 20 (Ezek 36:20) and it says: When they came to the nations where they went, they profaned My holy name, because it was said of them, These are the people of the LORD; yet they have come out of His land… So wherever they went, they trashed the name of God in every nation that they went into. This was the special nation that was supposed to be a light to the nations, God pushed them into the nations. They continued on with many of their detestable practices, trashing God’s name wherever he went, which by the way, is one of the consequences of sin, particularly public sin, because the God haters out there, are going to take note of it and they’re going to say, well, so-and-so is just like everyone else. I mean, they laugh at all the same jokes we laugh at. They watch all the same movies we watch. They spend their weekends exactly like we spend our weekends. There’s not much to Christianity; and the name of God is dragged through the mud. This is what David was confronted for in 2nd Samuel, 12, verse 14 (2 Sam 12:14) Nathaniel said: However, because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme… Just think what David Letterman is going to do with what you just did. Think of the comics and the talk show hosts and the Howard Sterns. I mean, look at how they’re going to take your public sin and they’re going to put it on their shows and say, there’s nothing to this Christianity thing. 59:47
The same accusation is raised in Romans, 2, verse 24 (Rom 2:24), Paul speaking to the Jews said: For THE NAME OF GOD IS BLASPHEMED AMONG THE GENTILES BECAUSE OF YOU… So there is this profaning of His name wherever they went; and it’s very interesting as you look at verse 20 (Ezek 36:20), it says… Now this is the unbelievers talking, if I’m understanding the context. These are the people of the LORD; yet they have come out of His land… Even the pagans understand who that land belongs to, on their most sober moments; and so God has concern for His name. You see it there in verse 21 (Ezek 36:21), I think this is the last verse we’ll cover, because we’re at the end of the section, it says: But I had concern for My holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations where they went… Notice God’s concern. God’s primary concern is for His own name and you say, well, Gee, that’s egotistical. Well, what you have to understand is God is perfectly upright. He is perfectly moral and He works in history to glorify Himself. That’s why, and these subsequent verses will unfold this, that’s why God is going to do what He’s going to do in the end times to vindicate His own name. In fact, sneak peek there into verse 22 (Ezek 36:22): Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD… Now, this is now describing the regathering… It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went… Sneak peek into verse 32 (Ezek 36:32), look at the repetition here: I am not doing this for your sake, declares the Lord GOD, let it be known to you. Be ashamed and confused for your ways, O house of Israel!… So it’s very clear that when God does this regathering, it’s not for Israel’s sake. God’s primary concern is for the sake of His name, which His people have essentially allowed to be trashed everywhere they went in the diaspora. I mean, exactly the opposite of what God had for Israel, Israel is now experiencing in these prophecies. They were supposed to be a light to the nations, Isaiah, 42, verse 6 (Isa 42:6) says that. They were supposed to be a light to the nations Isaiah, 49, verse 6 (Isa 49:6) says that. God wanted to use them to bless the rest of the world, Genesis, 12, verse 3 (Gen 12:3) says that. But that’s not what you did, you did the exact opposite; and because of your sin My name is profaned and then when I let you join the nations, cause you were so happy with them, you kept trashing My name everywhere you went. So my name is being dragged through the mud all over planet earth and so God says, when I fix this problem which has been very well described for us, verses 16 through 21, I’m going to get rid of this problem where My people keep trashing My name and in the end, I’m going to get the glory, which is God’s right, because God’s purposes in human history are not to save souls. Did you hear me on that? Reformed Theology basically teaches that God’s purpose in history is salvation. It is not. God’s purposes in history are to glorify Himself. When a lost sinner gets saved, who gets the glory? God does. So even the soteriological purposes of God are subsumed under the doxological purpose of God, which is to glorify Himself. Isaiah, 42, verse 8 (Isa 42:8) says: I am the LORD, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, Nor My praise to graven images… And that’s why this restoration is going to begin in Ezekiel’s prophecies, verses 22 through 38 (Ezek 36:22-38).
- Israel to prosper again (Ezek 36:1-15)
- Israel’s sins inhibiting prosperity (Ezek 36:16-21)
- Israel to be restored: physically & spiritually (Ezek 36:22-38)
So Israel will prosper again, verses 1 through 15 (Ezek 36:1-15). What’s holding up the show, if I can use that verbiage, is the sins in verses 16 through 21 (Ezek 36:16-21), which God is going to get rid of. Verses 22 through 38 (Ezek 36:22-38) which is going to lead to a physically and spiritually restored Israel. So we’ll pick it up there with verse 22 next time. 1:05:04
Father, we’re grateful for your truth, your word, your ancient prophecies. Help us to grow in our understanding concerning your plan and your program in these last days. We’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name and God’s people said, Amen. Happy intermission.