‘Reflections’ on the Writing Prophets 38
E Z E K I E L
Ezekiel 34:1 to 37:28
The nature of the prophetic message given to Ezekiel changes dramatically. We ended last week with exile from the land imminent, and future desolation prophesied. And so it was. In the event, approximately 1,800 years of debilitating drought, causing catastrophic desolation. And there remain serious issues with the “shepherds of Israel”. Those who should have been leading the people into safety, feeding them properly, spiritually, with the teachings given to Moses on the mountain centuries earlier. “Thus says the Lord GOD: ‘Behold, I am against the shepherds (of Israel), and I will require MY flock at their hand; I will cause them to cease feeding the sheep, and the shepherds shall feed themselves no more; for I will deliver My flock from their mouths, that they may no longer be food for them’.” Blunt, direct, unambiguous, final. Those appointed by God to be teachers and leaders are subject to a stricter judgment than those who are not (James 3:1). It was true in Ezekiel’s day, and it is true today. The penalty for leading people falsely, or selfishly, by seeking gain for oneself at the expense of the ‘flock’, is frightening. Yet, even today, hierarchical church structures, operating on the classic modern business model, are rife with it. In His letters to the “ekklesia” in Revelation, Yeshua described it as the “doctrine of the Nicolaitans”, which He hates.
The people had been scattered as a result of the neglect (for which God blamed the shepherds) of their covenant responsibilities. Firstly, they were exiled to Babylon, and from there, many returned about 70 years later. But this prophetic announcement of Ezekiel goes way beyond that exile. “Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out … and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day … and will bring them to their own land”. And that prophecy, my dear friends, we see being fulfilled before our own eyes in this generation. Consider this. No country can prosper without rain, and God controls the weather. After the exile by the Romans, Israel did not begin to have any meaningful rain again until about 1878. (In 1867, Mark Twain, in his book “Innocents Abroad” had described the country as “desolate and uninhabitable”). Then in 1897, Theodore Hertzl, at the age of 37 years, organised the first Zionist Council in Basel Switzerland. He died 7 years later, but the return of Jews to the Land had now began. In 1947, the United Nations agreed to grant Israel rights to the Land again. That very year, rainfall reached a new level. Another peak in 1967, when Jerusalem was restored to Israel. In 1973, when Israel successfully fought off the challenge of the “Yom Kippur” war, another rainfall peak occurred. In 2020, the ‘Sea of Galilee’ was a mere 21 cm below its ‘dangerous’ red line level, causing the authorities to contemplate opening the dam to release water from it!! AND, Jews “making Alyia” (going up) to Israel continued unabated. This friends, is what the LORD showed Ezekiel in our prophetic reading today. What a mighty God we serve. “I will establish one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them - My servant David. He shall feed them and be their shepherd”. Now clearly, king David had died about 400 years earlier. But his dynasty was established ‘for ever’ (2 Samuel 7: 12 -16). An unmistakable reference to Messiah Yeshua, and an event still future to us today. But there is MORE. “I will make a covenant of peace with them”. This is the NEW COVENANT, sealed with the ‘Blood of the Lamb’ which Jeremiah detailed, and which is to be made with ‘the house of Israel and the house of Judah’. (Jeremiah 31: 31-34) Gentiles may be included in that covenant by “grafting in” as Paul described in Romans 11. And that my dear friends, has privileges and responsibilities!! “Thus they shall know that I, the LORD their God, am with them, and they, the house of Israel, are My people”. It seems that God is focussed on ensuring that both by His own people, and by the world, that HE alone is known as God, and there is no other.
This whole theme of restoration of the scattered people of Israel to the land of God’s promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and His reason for so doing, is continued in Chapter 36. “Thus says the Lord GOD; ‘I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy name’s sake, which you have profaned among the nations wherever you went …. And the nations shall know that I am the LORD … when I am hallowed in you before their eyes’.” It is a work in progress. A population of about 800,000 in 1948 has become 9,250,000 in 2020. Can anyone deny that God is fulfilling the prophecy of Ezekiel? ALL of it in my lifetime. And it is not finished. There are still about 6 million Jews not living in Israel. And a very small proportion of Jews have faith in Yeshua as Messiah. And so we come to the amazing prophetic message of Ezekiel 37. DRY BONES. “Can these bones live?” Ezekiel answered “O Lord GOD, You know”. Please read the prophetic words of Chapter 37 again, understanding that the process has already begun.
The nations of Israel and Judah, separate at the time when Ezekiel lived, are to “become one stick” again (v 19), as they were under the rule of king David. They will be ONE nation again, never to be divided (v 22). They will be ruled by the dynasty of David (Messiah Yeshua) (v 24). They will be united in Torah observance (v 24). And they will have a “New Covenant”. “The nations will know that I, the LORD, sanctify Israel, when My sanctuaries in their midst forevermore”.
The question that remains in my mind is .. why are believers in Yeshua today so ignorant of God’s eternal plan for His people, Israel? It is unfolding before our eyes.