Notes on Ezekiel 36:16-38

Ezekiel 36:16-38
In the next message of Jehovah the moral reasons are stated why the land of Israel was left desolate, and themselves dispersed among the nations; the dishonor they did to His name even there; finally His restoring grace with its effects on the heart and ways of Israel, as well as His power in renewing their land to more than pristine prosperity and fruitfulness, Jehovah being sanctified by all before the nations.
“And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, when the house of Israel dwelt in their land, they defiled it by their own way and by their doings: their way was before me as the uncleanness of a removed woman. And I poured my fury upon them for the blood that they had shed upon the land, and for their idols wherewith they had polluted it; and I scattered them among the heathen, and they were dispersed through the countries: according to their way and according to their doings I judged them. And when they entered unto the heathen, whither they went, they profaned my holy name, when they said to them, These are the people of Jehovah, and are gone forth out of his land.” (Ver. 16-20.) Such was Israel's way in the land and out of it, everywhere a shame to Him who chose them as His own, idolatrous corruption and murderous violence in Canaan, profaning His name among the nations. And what did He against whom they had sinned? He is Jehovah and changes not: therefore were they not consumed. Nay, He had pity for the name which they had outraged and would sanctify His name and be sanctified in them. As He says here, “But I had pity for mine holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the heathen, whither they went. Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name's sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went. And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am Jehovah, saith the Lord Jehovah, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes. For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land.” (Ver. 21-24
When and how this work of divine grace was to be wrought, we need not conjecture; nor does it now want elaborate discussion to determine. There are landmarks which make the answer quite plain. The return from Babylon was no fulfillment, but at most an earnest; for then only a numerically inconsiderable remnant returned. Ezra 9 in no way takes the same ground nor claims to be what the faithful looked for, any more than later still Neh. 9. They speak in one of “our bondage,” in the other of being “servants this day; and for the land that thou gavest unto our fathers to eat the fruit thereof and the food thereof, behold, we are servants in it; and it yieldeth much increase unto the kings whom thou hast set over us because of our sins: also they have dominion over our bodies, and over our cattle, at their pleasure, and we are in great distress.” How far this falls short of what is pledged by Ezekiel should require no argument. “For I will take you out from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land.” The mass of Israel remained after the decree of Cyrus up and down the nations.
But there is a further and clearer proof that it has not yet been fulfilled, for it is added, “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.” (Ver. 25-28.) Was the Jew, not to speak of Israel, then cleansed from all his filthiness? Malachi tells a different tale; and so in fact did our Lord prove in person. Here when fulfilled we have no less a blessing promised than the new birth of the Jewish people. God will give them a new heart and a new spirit, take away the heart of stone, and give a heart of flesh. He will Put His Spirit within them, and cause that they shall walk in holy obedience, they His people, and He their God. It is the grossest exaggeration to assume that this has ever yet been accomplished, though in addition to this is an allusion to these verses in our Lord's words in John 3:55Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. (John 3:5): most real, yet wholly distinct from its predicted application.
But there is more. For the prophet proceeds to say that this blessedness in store for Israel will include outward favor and earthly abundance in a way never known before. “I will also save you from all your uncleannesses: and I will call for the corn, and will increase it, and lay no famine upon you. And I will multiply the fruit of the tree, and the increase of the field, that ye shall receive no more reproach of famine among the heathen.”
It is in vain to fritter this prediction of restored and increased fertility, or to treat it as either incredible or not an effect of Divine power extraordinarily shown, as beneath the attention of God. The New Testament shows us the principle in Rom. 8. The groaning creation is yet to be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God. But this is under no message of the gospel, but a fruit of Divine power when Christ is no longer hidden but appears in glory and the sons of God are revealed too. The difference here is that the apostle connects this blessed deliverance with the revelation of the risen saints, the prophet with the restoration and renewal of Israel. But further, it is grace alone which, applied by the Holy Spirit to the soul, produces true fear of God and judgment of self. “There is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.” It is this too which as here leads Israel to abhor and confess their past iniquities with a full heart. How glad are they to bow to His sovereignty who uses it in saving mercy! “Then shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings that were not good, and shall loathe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and for your abominations. Not for your sakes do I this, saith the Lord Jehovah, be it known unto you: be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah; In the day that I shall have cleansed you from all your iniquities I will also cause you to dwell in the cities, and the wastes shall be builded. And the desolate land shall be tilled, whereas it lay desolate in the sight of all that passed by. And they shall say, This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are become fenced, and are inhabited. Then the heathen that are left round about you shall know that I Jehovah build the ruined places, and plant that that was desolate: I Jehovah have spoken it, and I will do it. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah; I will yet for this be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them; I will increase them with men like a flock. As the holy flock, as the flock of Jerusalem in her solemn feasts; so shall the waste cities be filled with flocks of men: and they shall know that I am Jehovah.” (Ver. 29-38.) Thus will Jehovah wipe off all reproach from without to the praise of His own name, while He works feelings and ways suitable to repentance in Israel. Nothing approaching this was experienced by the returned remnant; and those who were brought under the gospel were called into other and better blessings which induced many to get rid of their houses and lands. There was no rebuilding of the once desolate cities as a part of their heritage. But God will surely make good every word when the day comes to restore the kingdom to Israel. Under the law Israel was ruined; under the gospel there is neither Jew nor Greek, but union with Christ in heaven; when the kingdom is manifested in power, they will be restored to their land and cities, no longer waste but under the blessing and glory of Jehovah.