God wants us to understand that He alone is Sovereign over all things. Unfortunately, we humans have a very hard time understanding the concept of His Sovereignty.
In the book of Ezekiel, God commissioned Ezekiel to be His mouthpiece to the Israelites at a very sorrowful point in the life of the Hebrew nation. The majority of the nation was in Babylonian captivity, but some remained in Israel and were being ministered to by the prophet Jeremiah. Ezekiel was taken into captivity during the second siege of Jerusalem around 597 B.C. King Nebuchadnezzar, ruler of Babylon, destroyed Jerusalem in 586 B.C., in his third and final siege of the city. Daniel, who was very close in age to Ezekiel, was taken captive during the first siege of Jerusalem in 605B.C.
The exiles hoped they would return to Israel, but it was Ezekiel’s task to relay God’s message of judgment. While the information was hard to hear, wrapped within it was a message of hope for Israel’s restoration to the land sometime in the future.
In Ezekiel 11: 16-21(NLT) the Bible reads: “Therefore, tell the exiles, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Although I have scattered you in the countries of the world, I will be a sanctuary to you during your time in exile. 17I, the Sovereign Lord, will gather you back from the nations where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel once again.’”
What can we know today from the message given to the captives?
Let’s look at history. We know Israel was taken into captivity, scripture tells us that fact as do historical documents. Over the centuries since the exile, Israel has indeed been scattered among the nations of the earth. However, the fulfillment of the prophesy in Ezekiel 11:16-21 occurred on May 14, 1948, when Israel became a nation once again. God, as Sovereign Lord, kept His word. He always does.
Israel learned they could worship God anywhere, even in captivity and in lands other than their own. They didn’t have to have their promised land to worship God. God was the Lord of Israel no matter where Israel dwelled. Israel’s problem was they were hard-hearted, stubborn, seeking after their own ways, wanting to worship God according to their prescriptions instead of God’s. God pointed out their idolatry in Ezekiel 13 and 14, and what would be the result, the destruction of Jerusalem (Ez. 14:12 ff). God didn’t punish Israel for the sake of punishment, but to get their attention. He wanted them to see He was indeed Holy, Righteous, and their only Provision. God desired to be their first love, not themselves, other nations, or other gods. God was (and is) the Sovereign Lord over Israel.
Think about this: Don’t we try to worship God after our own way? Kinda like that old adage about both having and eating our cake. In pulling Israel away from what was known, and into the unknown, God wanted Israel to know He was their only Satisfaction. We either serve God, or we don’t. With God there is no pretending. He isn’t fooled. He wants us 100%. God wanted Israel 100%.
But even in the punishment He is provision given through His mercy. There were so many instances where Israel played the harlot. She took what was holy unto God and used those things in idol worship. Israel went after the gods of her neighbors when she had the One true God pursuing and loving her (Ezekiel 16). God remembered His covenant (Ez. 16:60) with Israel. It was an everlasting covenant, and He made it with Himself. Even in Israel’s rebellion, God was committed to His covenant relationship with her.
Let’s take a look at two different Scriptures.
Old Testament: And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee and to thy seed after thee. (Gen 17:7, NASB)
New Testament: Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ. (Galatians 3:16, ASV)
Do you get that? God established an everlasting covenant with Abraham (who represented Israel, after all he is the Father Abraham). The everlasting covenant wasn’t the Mosaic Law, which Israel clearly couldn’t keep, but the covenant was sealed with the promise of THE Seed, the ONE who is Jesus Christ. God made a covenant with Himself, using His Son, the Christ, the second person of the Trinity. (Yes, I know the word “Trinity” isn’t in the Bible per se, but the concept of the Trinity is indeed scriptural. Yes, God is three in one, and no, not three gods, but One God in three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. I’ll leave this topic for a future post.) In essence God provided a way (His mercy) for Israel to be saved (grace), and what more He didn’t just provide it for Israel, but all humankind. By ONLY one name under heaven can a man (or woman) be saved; His name is Jesus Christ (see: Acts 4:12). That’s grace imparted to all through His glorious mercy.
And if you look in verse 62 of Ezekiel 16 you will find these words: “And I shall establish My covenant with you. Then you shall know that I am the LORD (NKJV).” The people of the exile knew what Ezekiel was referring to here: the Covenant God made with Abraham. God tells them further in verse 63, they would remember all of this and be ashamed, and would have an atonement ( who was Jesus) provided for them.
Ezekiel 37 establishes with a great word picture the rebirth of Israel as a nation. The dry bones will be made flesh and Israel will dwell in the Promised Land once more, and they do today, partially. Many Jews are returning (called aliyah) to their beloved Israel from all nations of the world. What was once desolate, dry, and dead is alive again, and one day Jesus will return and rule the nations from His throne on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
I’ll leave you with these words from Ezekiel 37: 25-28. It is a promise the Sovereign Lord has made, and it will come true, and He will establish Himself in their (Israel’s) midst forever.
25They will live on the land that I gave to Jacob My servant, in which your fathers lived; and they will live on it, they, and their sons and their sons’ sons, forever; and David My servant will be their prince forever. 26I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will place them and multiply them, and will set My sanctuary in their midst forever. 27My dwelling place also will be with them; and I will be their God, and they will be My people. 28And the nations will know that I am the Lord who sanctifies Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forever.”’” (NASB)