In these last two posts about Ezekiel, we’ve seen a lot that is wrong with God’s people. Their sin ultimately led the nation to judgment from God. We’ve seen in their decline and destruction that sin leads to death. The same is true for us today. Our sin leads to death. Like them, we can’t manage our sin problem on our own.
What hope is there for our world in the face of our evil? Well, chapter 34 of Ezekiel is where the book starts getting really good. God has incredible things for those who realize they need Him, those who realize their sin is leading them to death.
Addressing Sin at the Heart Level
In chapter 34 we find hope for God’s people through a new ruler, a new King David, whom God promises would rule over and shepherd them. Ezekiel 34:25 says that God will make a covenant of peace with them. He would restore them and bless them. In verses 30-31, God says,
“Then they will know that I, the Lord their God, am with them, and that they, the house of Israel, are My people… As for you, My sheep, the sheep of My pasture, you are men, and I am your God.”Ezekiel 34:30,31
Chapters 35 signals destruction for Israel’s enemy Edom, who joined in with Babylon in destroying Israel. In chapters 36 and 37 God assures His people of their coming restoration and He tells them again (see 11:17-20) how He is going to do it. In 36:25-27 God declares:
“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. 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.Ezekiel 36:25-27
Using the symbolism of clean water, God promises that He would cleanse His people from all their filthiness and idols. God promises that He will forgive them fully. Moreover, in verse 26, God promises to give them a new heart and a new spirit. He says that He will do a “heart transplant,” removing their callous, stubborn, hard heart of stone and replacing it with a heart of life, a heart of flesh. And verse 27 is the kicker: God’s Spirit in them. God’s presence with His forgiven people. And what’s the result of God’s Spirit indwelling? They would live rightly. Their sin and their rebellion would be no more, it’s power broken.
In chapter 37, Ezekiel is given a vision of a valley of dry bones. Israel’s sin has led to death, and so God asks Ezekiel, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And he answered, “O Lord GOD, You know” (v. 3). Yes, they can—but not on their own. In the vision God turns those bones into people and breathes the breath of life into them. Those who are dead are given the life of God!
God’s solution to Israel’s sin and rebellion is nothing less than new life, transformation from the inside out. He’s not interested in putting a band aid on their sin, simply keeping it at bay. God goes to the root of the problem—rebellious hearts and spiritual death that leads to physical death. His solution is new life! Resurrection! Israel fell short of God’s glory. They traded it for their own sin. But now, incredibly, God promises to remake them.
We see these promises to God’s people begin to come to fruition in their Messiah Jesus and the New Covenant. Jesus came to cleanse us with clean water. He offers forgiveness to all through His sacrificial death on the cross. Jesus experienced the death that our sin deserves.
But death could not hold Him! The Spirit of God raised Jesus from the dead. And the resurrected Jesus shares His new life with all who would follow Him, those who were once dead in their trespasses and sins. The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead is the Spirit who lives in His followers, the Spirit who gives true life. The Apostle Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 3:18 should come to mind:
We… are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
For followers of Jesus, forgiveness is only the beginning of the Christian life. We are God’s masterpiece, created new in Jesus for good works, to walk in them, to live a new kind of life—a new creation. That’s God’s plan.
In the final movement of the book of Ezekiel, chapters 38-48, we see the culmination of God’s plan. God has accomplished redemption through His Son, Jesus Christ. This inner transformation, image bearers coming into right relationship with their Creator, has been spreading ever since. God is securing for Himself a people, not just from Israel, but from every tongue, tribe, and nation.
In chapters 38-39, Ezekiel tells us of a future time when God defeats what remains of humanity’s rebellion against Him. Those who resist their Creator are led by an evil ruler called Gog. God crushes him and all who follow in his reckless mutiny. With that last breath of rebellion decisively destroyed and God’s people remade and transformed, the way is cleared for all that God intended.
Can you guess how Ezekiel ends? Restoration is complete! God’s presence with his people. In chapters 40-48, we find Ezekiel’s vision of a new Temple City, the place of God’s special presence in Israel. In chapters 40-42, we get a detailed description of this new Temple, and then in 43:1-5 we read:
“The he led me to the gate, the gate facing toward the east; and behold, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the way of the east [the direction it departed to earlier in the book]. And His voice was like the sound of many waters; and the earth shone with His glory. And it was like the appearance of the vision which I saw, like the vision which I saw when He came to destroy the city. And the visions were like the vision which I saw by the river Chebar; and I fell on my face. And the glory of the LORD came into the house by the way of the gate facing toward the east. And the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court; and behold, the glory of the LORD filled the house.”Ezekiel 43:1-5
God will again dwell with His people fully.
There has been much ink spilled over what we should make of this vision of a future Temple. Some believe that it is symbolic of God’s presence with His people. Others believe that it is in fact a literal Temple that will be constructed when God’s Kingdom is established fully on earth. While these viewpoints are quite different, both point to the same future reality, namely, God with us.
In these chapters, Ezekiel describes a vision of the restoration of Israel’s worship and a new spiritual center. In chapter 47 we see that there is also a restoration of the land. The arid desert will blossom. From this new Temple, Ezekiel sees a river flowing that restores the barren wilderness. Verse 8 says that the Dead Sea, so pack full of salt that creatures in it can’t survive, will become fresh and teeming with life, a sign to us that the brokenness of our world will be mended. We will be at peace with God in His restored creation, enjoying all that He is, trusting in His goodness and care. The final verse of Ezekiel, in 48:35, tells us the name of this new city, Yahwah-Shammah, which means “The LORD is there.”
What a hope for God’s people! What a hope for us. Even in the face devastating sin and rebellion, God promises to transform and restore His people. And the same is true for every follower of Jesus. God is working to transform us, and He has promised a complete restoration. We have much to look forward to. Humanity’s rebellion will come to an end. God will fully dwell with us. We can live now with joy, knowing that God’s victory is sure. The best is yet to come!