MILLENNAL RESTORATION TRANSFORMS WORSHIP AND GLORIFIES GOD
Note that the familiar Recognition Refrain marks the end of each of the three segments of this section of the book (vs. 38, 42, 44). Ezekiel now looks ahead to the end times scenario when the nation of Israel will be judged and purged in order to be regathered and restored to the land for God’s reign in the Millennial Kingdom. Then worship will be transformed as the Jews finally bring offerings that are acceptable to God and as they maintain loyalty to their covenant bonds. They will manifest appropriate loathing for their previous rebellious hearts and actions and will genuinely know God in a way that enhances His reputation among the nations.
Daniel Block: the primary motivation behind divine activity is revelatory—that the world may know who Yahweh is. In the individualistic and hedonistic Western world it is difficult to understand, let alone accept, that the universe does not revolve around oneself. God, the source and sustainer of all things, is also the goal of all things. When he intervenes in earthly affairs he does indeed respond to human needs, but the nature of his response is set by his own character. His reactions are never arbitrary or capricious, but driven by his internal consistency. We may be grateful that grace is a significant element in that character, and that in his struggle over human rebellion his justice is tempered by mercy. But even when he acts with compassion, his concern is the manifestation of his holiness.
. . . as a corollary, the divine reputation depends on the fate and welfare of his people. All of God’s dealings with Israel were public—before the eyes of the nations. Israel was to be the agent through whom the nations would come to know that he is Yahweh. Nothing has changed. Jesus reminded his disciples that their prayers should be different from the self-seeking petitions of the Gentiles (Matt. 6:5–15). Concern for the sanctity of his name and the glory of his kingdom remains the mark of God’s people.
Leslie Allen: The prophet Ezekiel straddled two eras, the grim era of the past and present which culminated in double exile and—in prospect at least—a glorious era to be inaugurated by a new work of God. In this chapter both these aspects are set side by side so that it presents an epitome of his total message.
Wiersbe: The experiences described in verses 33-44 cannot be applied to the return of the Jewish exiles to the land of Judah in 538 B.C. This was not an exodus from many countries nor did it result in the glorious restoration of the Jewish nation. We have to apply this paragraph to that time in the future that Ezekiel describes in chapters 33 to 48, when Christ will return and the promised kingdom will be established.
I. (:33-38) MILLENNIAL RESTORATION REQUIRES PREPARATORY JUDGMENT AND PURGING
A. (:33) Assertion of Powerful Sovereignty over Israel
“‘As I live,’ declares the Lord God, ‘surely with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm and with wrath poured out, I shall be king over you.’”
Daniel Block: The people’s determination to be like the nations meets with an equally resolute response from Yahweh. With a strong asseveration, he announces he is not willing to let Israel sink to the level of other nations by serving other gods. The absence of references to divine kingship elsewhere in Ezekiel renders his declaration, I will reign over you as king (ʾemlôk ʿălêkem), all the more significant.
Peter Pett: ‘As I live.’ This is in direct contrast with the gods of ‘wood and stone’. He is the living God. And because they are dealing with the living God they will be treated differently from others. He will come as their sovereign overlord to His rebellious subjects (just as Nebuchadnezzar would come against Jerusalem), and with power and vengeance, to take His rightful place as their King and to receive their submission. And this because it is His purpose.
Note how these words are a threat rather than a promise. They had wanted to be absorbed into the nations with their idolatry but it would not be allowed. God will not let them go. They will be called to account and then their future will depend on their response.
B. (:34-36) Adaptation of Former Historical Experiences
1. (:34) New Exodus
“And I shall bring you out from the peoples and gather you from the lands where you are scattered, with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm and with wrath poured out;”
Leslie Allen: There is thus a typological contrast between the old Exodus and the new version by which Yahweh was to inaugurate a new era of salvation. It is followed here by a comparison between the wilderness experience after the Egyptian Exodus and a parallel one after an “Exodus” from the Diaspora.
David Thompson: Israel today is scattered all over the world. I just read a statistical breakdown of Israel and she is the most scattered nation in the world. Jews are scattered and live in 137 nations of the world. When Christ returns, He will regather the Jews (Matt. 24:31).
2. (:35) New Wilderness Experience
“and I shall bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there I shall enter into judgment with you face to face.”
Daniel Block: Yahweh will lead his people out into the desert. The expression desert of the peoples (midbar hāʿammîm) refers to a no-man’s-land, a land of wandering and death, through which many tribes and peoples pass but which none recognizes as a homeland. Isolated from the nations, Yahweh may engage his people without interference and distraction. This meeting is described as a face-to-face encounter between deity and people. pānîm ʾel-pānîm recalls the manner in which Moses used to meet with God (Exod. 33:11; Deut. 34:10). However, here the emphasis is not on the intimacy of the relationship between deity and human but on the directness of the encounter. This time there will be no cloud or mediator to shield Israel from the awesome divine majesty.
Peter Pett: Note the emphasis that this will be in ‘the wilderness’. This will be a new Exodus, but here it also stresses that they will still be in barrenness (compare Hosea 2:6; Hosea 12:9). Their future blessing will depend on their response. There He will plead with them face to face, just as He had at Sinai in the wilderness. But many will not respond (Ezekiel 20:38) and will stay in the wilderness, just as the previously rebellious Israel in the time of Moses had died in the wilderness and had never seen the Promised Land.
3. (:36) New Confrontation in Judgment
“’As I entered into judgment with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so I will enter into judgment with you,’ declares the Lord God.”
C. (:37-38a) Abandonment of Covenant Transgressors
1. (:37) Passing under the Rod of Examination and Discipline
“And I shall make you pass under the rod,
and I shall bring you into the bond of the covenant;”
Lamar Cooper: Reference to those who ‘pass under my rod’ was first an allusion to the tithe (Lev 27:32). Every tenth animal that passed under a ‘rod’ held over the sheep was separated and declared to be holy. The purification of the exile, likewise, would separate the righteous and the wicked. The ‘rod’ also was an instrument of discipline, correction, and punishment. This was another way of communicating the purpose of the exile, which was to ‘purge’ and purify those who rebelled against God (v. 38).
Feinberg: As a shepherd’s staff is employed to count the sheep (Jer. 33:13), so the Lord will bring the entire flock under the rod, this time with the purpose of separating the godly from the wicked. The godly will be brought more firmly into the bond of the covenant, whereas the rebels will be purged out; those who have transgressed against the Lord will be brought out of the land of their sojourn but denied admission to the land of promise. Just as in Matthew 25 in the judgment on the nations (an event which takes place in the same general prophetic period of the latter days for Israel) there is separation of sheep individuals from goat individuals, so in this purging judgment on Israel. This is an exclusive judgment on Israel which will take place during the time of Jacob’s trouble, probably at the end of the period.
Ralph Alexander: the idea of shepherd possession seems the basic idea expressed by this phrase.
Peter Pett: ‘The bond of the covenant.’ The new covenant would be binding. It was not something that could be entered into lightly. Once they accepted it they would be bound by it.
2. (:38a) Purging the Revels
“and I shall purge from you the rebels and those who transgress against Me; I shall bring them out of the land where they sojourn,
but they will not enter the land of Israel.”
Daniel Block: Yahweh will purge the rebels from his people. If the obligation of the covenant applied to those who had passed Yahweh’s examination, v. 38 deals with those who fail. The rebels (mōrĕdîm) and revolutionaries (pôšĕʿîm) are removed, yielding a purified people who acknowledge Yahweh and with whom he can start anew.
D. (:38b) Recognition Refrain
“Thus you will know that I am the LORD.”
II. (:39-42) MILLENNIAL RESTORATION FEATURES TRANSFORMED WORSHIP – UNIFIED AND PURIFIED
A. (:39) Service No Longer Profaned
“‘As for you, O house of Israel,’ thus says the Lord God, ‘Go, serve everyone his idols; but later, you will surely listen to Me, and My holy name you will profane no longer with your gifts and with your idols.’”
Feinberg: The viewpoint that takes the verse as irony explains that God would have them open and out-and-out idolaters rather than the hypocritical patronizers of His worship which they have been thus far (see I Kings 18:21; II Kings 17:41; Amos 5:21-22, 25-26; Matt. 6:24; Rev. 3:15-16).
David Guzik: What God did not want from Israel was a divided heart. When they brought Yahweh worship from hearts also given to idols, it profaned God and His name. In New Testament phrasing, God called Israel to be hot or cold, but no longer lukewarm (Revelation 3:15-16).
B. (:40-41) Series of Dramatic Reversals
1. Change in Venue
“’For on My holy mountain, on the high mountain of Israel,’
declares the Lord God,”
Daniel Block: Israel’s superficial and partial obedience will be replaced by wholehearted service to Yahweh. V. 40 highlights the place where this new relationship will be expressed; not in Egypt, in the desert, or in exile, but in the homeland (bāʾāreṣ). The expression signals the normalization of all covenantal relationships: deity, nation, and land are finally reunited.
Feinberg: So blessed will it be then to live in the land, that Ezekiel refers to the land six times in verse 40.
2. Change in Corporate Loyalty
“there the whole house of Israel, all of them, will serve Me in the land;”
MacArthur: The promised regathering in Messiah’s earthly kingdom is to the very same land – literal Palestine – from which they were scattered (v. 41), expressly the land given to their fathers (36:28; Ge 12:7). They will “all” be there, repentant (v. 43) and saved (Ro 11:26, 27), serving the Lord wholeheartedly, a united nation engaged in purified worship (cf. 27:22, 23; Is 11:13).
3. Change in Divine Favor and Acceptance
“there I shall accept them,”
4. Change in Approval of Offerings
“and there I shall seek your contributions and the choicest of your gifts, with all your holy things.”
Constable: At that future time, all Israel would serve the Lord, specifically on the holy mountain where the temple stood (cf. Isa. 27:13; 56:7; 66:20; Joel 2:1; 3:17; Zeph. 3:11; Zech. 8:3). Then the Lord would accept their offerings of worship, their special gifts to Him, and all the things that they devoted to Him because they had repented (cf. chs. 40—48).
5. Change in the Positive Receiving of Scattered Peoples
“As a soothing aroma I shall accept you, when I bring you out from the peoples and gather you from the lands where you are scattered;”
6. Change in Divine Reputation
“and I shall prove Myself holy among you in the sight of the nations.”
Daniel Block: There I will accept them (šām ʾerṣēm) functions as a title for vv. 40b–42. In the marks of the new acceptance one may recognize a series of dramatic reversals.
– First, instead of Yahweh’s present refusal to receive the inquiry of the exiles, he will request their offerings.
– Second, in place of Israel’s past defilement (hiṭṭammēʾ) through idolatrous practices (vv. 7, 18), their offerings, specified as contributions (tĕrûmôt), and choice gifts (rēʾšît maśʾôt, lit. “the first/choice lifted up ones”) will be accepted as genuinely holy (qodāšîm).
– Third, instead of the people provoking Yahweh with their pagan rites, including their “soothing aromas” (v. 28), Yahweh will accept the people themselves as a soothing aroma (rêaḥ nîḥōaḥ).
– Fourth, instead of defending the honor of his name before the nations through restraint, viz., by not destroying his people, Yahweh will vindicate his holiness publicly by affirmative action on Israel’s behalf: the new exodus from the peoples and countries where they are dispersed.
– Fifth, instead of living in Egypt (cf. vv. 5–9), the desert (cf. vv. 10–26, 35–38), or the diaspora (vv. 30–34), Israel will finally be brought to their own land, in fulfillment of Yahweh’s ancient promises to the ancestors.
C. (:42) Recognition Refrain
“And you will know that I am the LORD, when I bring you into the land of Israel, into the land which I swore to give to your forefathers.”
John Taylor: A purified remnant will worship the Lord on his holy mountain, Mount Zion, the ordained centre for his worship and the place of his dwelling. The choicest offerings will be made, the people’s worship will be accepted, and this will prove to be a manifestation to all the nations of Yahweh’s holiness (41). av, rv render this, I will be sanctified in you, which means ‘I will be recognized as God among you’, and this, more than any personal concern for his rebellious people, remains God’s ultimate aim. At the same time, the people will be overcome with shame for their past sins (43) and presumably their repentant spirit will also testify to the nature and holiness of God. It is precisely at this point, for their lack of a sense of shame and a spirit of repentance, that the elders are shown to be guilty and found unworthy to receive a word from a holy God.
Charles Dyer: God’s restoration of Israel will produce several changes: (1) The first change will be a new realization of here God. God said that Israel will know that I am the Lord. “LORD” (Yahweh) is God’s personal name, revealed to Israel (cf. Ex. 3:13-15). It stresses God’s self-existence and His covenant-keeping faithfulness. Israel will come to understand the true meaning of God’s name (and character) when He brings her into Palestine. This promise does not depend on her faithfulness, for she had been extremely unfaithful. The promise, made by God, depends on His faithfulness. He will demonstrate His covenant loyalty by fulfilling it (cf. Ezek. 20:44).
III. (:43-44) MILLENNIAL RESTORATION MANIFESTS A HEART OF REPENTANCE AND TRUE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD
A. (:43) Heart of Repentance
“And there you will remember your ways and all your deeds, with which you have defiled yourselves; and you will loathe yourselves in your own sight for all the evil things that you have done.”
Feinberg: In that hour Israel will review their long career and dwell on their past deeds and pollutions with sincere conviction of heart and loathing for their past transgressions (16:61). To look at God in His holiness and majesty is to abhor self with all its sinful ways (cf. Job in Job 42:5-6 and Isaiah in Isaiah 6:5). So loathsome will be their past history of defection that they will never return to idolatry. They will see it in all its stark reality for what it really is: suicide of the soul. They will realize too that the foundation of all God’s dealings with them has been in grace and solely for His glory.
B. (:44) Recognition Refrain – True Knowledge of God
“’Then you will know that I am the LORD when I have dealt with you for My name’s sake, not according to your evil ways or according to your corrupt deeds, O house of Israel,’ declares the Lord God.”
Daniel Block: The portrait of Israel painted in vv. 43–44 represents the antithesis to the arrogance and defiance that Ezekiel finds among his compatriots. Three elements of their response to Yahweh’s actions on their behalf are cited.
– First, Israel will remember their corrupt past. As elsewhere zākar does not mean simply “to recall to mind,” but “to acknowledge, take account of, accept responsibility for,” their conduct (dĕrākîm). For Ezekiel’s audience this implied ceasing to blame past generations (cf. ch. 18) or God for their misfortune, and recognizing their sin for what it was: provocative deeds or wanton behavior (ʿălîlôt) that was self-defiling (niṭmāʾ), evil actions (rāʿôt), and corrupt, or vile, deeds (nišḥātôt). If Yahweh acts on the nation’s behalf, it is in spite of, rather than because of, the people’s desert.
– Second, the memory of this sordid past will evoke in Yahweh’s people utter disgust, an intense self-loathing. There is no room for pride here, only the humble acknowledgment of one’s shameful past.
– Third, Israel will recognize Yahweh, specifically that he is faithful to his covenant oaths (v. 42), that his actions involving them are motivated by a concern for his own honor, and that they run contrary to what they deserve. If Yahweh’s original election of his people had been unmerited, how much more would their restoration be. Despite a history of rebellion, Yahweh’s personal integrity and his jealous concern for his reputation triumph over his wrath.
Morgan: Israel would have new understanding of Jehovah, and come to know that the perpetual reason for His operation was the glory of His name, and not merely punishing them for their evil ways, that is to say, the punishment of Jehovah was never merely vindictive, but always a process moving toward the realisation of His original intention of good to the nations of the earth.