EZEKIEL AND THE PROMISES
The exiles had two apocalyptic prophets of their own, Ezekiel and Daniel. Ezekiel saw the destruction of his beloved homeland and city and along with Daniel was taken to Babylon where he prophesied under the assumed identity as a “son of man” and “the watchman.” His denunciation of Israel’s sin and captivity was very graphic and severe and so were his predictions regarding the other nations Babylon had devastated. There is no direct attack on the enemy but the victims saw the enemy in the “windstorm from the north,” the ”cooking pot” and “Gog’ and “Magog.” The Valley of the Dry Bones was an image of the dead left behind by the enemy. In due time the “I Am” will deal with the devastators and restore His Name and Laws among his people. Hereinafter, each individual and not the nation as a whole would be held accountable (Ezek. 18:1-4). Hence, everyone had to repent in order to experience healing and restoration. God himself would bring back a remnant for his namesake (Ezek. 36:22-23), and not even Noah, Daniel or Job could alter Israel’s case (Ezek. 14:14). Ezekiel proclaimed a complete and pure restoration of the land, the cities, the temple, the priesthood and the sacrifices. These things took place under Ezra – Nehemiah but did not last. The Romans ended Ezekiel’s predictions. Ultimately, beyond that earthly Israel, was one that God himself would build into a global power. It is a forecast of one like Jesus (Immanuel) who came to announce that God’s reign was at hand (Mk. 1:15).
Ezekiel was a son of Buzi a Zadokite priest and destined to follow in his father’s shoes. He was well educated and very gifted in literature and poetry. He witnessed the destruction of the temple, Jerusalem and Judea. He was taken to Tel-Abib in Mesopotamia where he pastured a small Jewish congregation. His sorrow was increased by the loss of his wife. He spent much time in motionless meditation and began to have visions and fall into lengthy trances. A new world opened up with new insight and disclosures. In addition to being a priest he became a prophet of hope. His people were duly punished for their sins but God had not left them. He did not stay behind in the temple in Jerusalem but had moved with them to Babylon and put fear into the heathen that would end up shipping the Jews and their God back to Palestine. Daniel’s prediction of the fall of Nebuchadnezzar, his being saved from the lions, his three companions from the fire and Esther and Mordecai’s revenge were not unnoticed. However, the new or restored Israel would be somewhat Davidic with God taking a far more active role. No human king could fulfill God’s promises on earth. The resurrection o the dead bones could only come to live again in God’s world. A full or total restoration of could only take place beyond history. True justice will never be achieved in this life alone. In that sense, the book of Ezekiel became a prologue to apocalypticism.
Here are some of the key passages that stress God’s merciful interest in humanity, “I will gather you from the nations and bring you back from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you back the land of Israel again.” “They will return to it and remove all vile images and detestable idols. I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my Decrees and be careful to keep my Laws. They will be my people and I will be their God. But as for those whose hearts are devoted to their vile and detestable idols, I will bring down on their own heads what they have done,” declares the Sovereign God (Ezek. 11:17-21).
Furthermore, this is what the Sovereign Lord said, “I will deal with you as you deserve, because you have despised my oath by breaking the Covenant. Yet I will remember the Covenant I made with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting Covenant with you. Then you will remember your ways and be ashamed when you receive your sisters, both those who are older than you and those who are younger. I will give them to you as daughters, but not on the basis of my Covenant with you. So I will establish my Covenant with you, and you will know that I am the Lord. Then, when I make atonement for you for all you have done, you will remember and be ashamed and never again open your mouth because of your humiliation,” declares the Sovereign Lord (Ezek .16:59-63). “I myself will take a shoot from the very top of a cedar and plant it; I will break off a tender sprig from its topmost shoots and plant it on a high and lofty mountain. On the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it; it will produce branches and bear fruit and become a splendid cedar. Birds of every kind will nest in it and find shelter in the shade of its branches. All the trees of the field will know that I the Lord bring down the tall tree and make the low tree grow tall. I dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish” (Ezek. 17:22-24).
The Immanuel shall be the Good Shepherd (Jn. 10:1-21). “I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them; so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on the day of clouds and darkness. I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land” (Ezek. 34:11-14). Again “I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered. I will judge between one sheep and another. I will place over them one shepherd, like my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the Lord have spoken” (Ezek. 34:22-24).
The prediction of a spiritual rebirth of a nation that has yet to take place, unless it is the one Christ has come to introduce (Jn. 3:1-21). “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life'” (Ezek. 37:4-5) “‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live'” (Ezek. 37:9). “Son of man, these bones were the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ Therefore prophesy and say to them ‘this is what the Sovereign Lord says: O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord'” (Ezek. 37:11-14). That promise echoes the resurrection of mankind in the Risen Christ. It is apocalyptic – heavenly language indeed.
The recovering of the ten tribes is identical to the resurrection of the dead in The New Testament or new covenant. “I am going to take the stick of Joseph – which is in Ephraim’s hand – and of the Israelite tribes associated with him, and join it to Judah’s stick, making them a single stick of wood, and they will become one in my hand” (Ezek. 37:19). “I will take the Israelites out of all the nations where they have gone. I will gather them from all around and bring them back into their own land. I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. There will be one king over all of them and they will never again be two nations or be divided into two kingdoms” (Ezek. 37:21-22). “My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd. They will follow my Laws and be careful to keep my Decrees” (Ezek. 37:24). “My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. Then the nations will know that I the Lord make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever” (Ezek. 37:24-27). These Promises have yet to find fulfillment for the Jews; but for Christians, they have.
The “I Am” sent Jesus first to the lost sheep of Israel (Mt. 15:24). When Jesus spoke about being The Good Shepherd that was ready to lay down his life for his sheep, He said this, “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them in also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd” (Jn. 10:16). He instructed his disciples, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of this age,” (Mt. 28:19-20). “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth,” (Ac.1:8). The disciples were sent to fulfill what the dispersion and the exiles of the Jews were intended to do; they were to share the Gospel globally. God’s outreach is global. It is a moral or spiritual kingdom located in the hearts of the people and not in some edifice.