Ezekiel Bible Study (A New Heart)

Ezekiel 35-36, Radical Inheritance


The end of Ezekiel’s prophecy gives pictures of the God’s promise of the Spirit that will radically change his people and radically change the world. In Ezekiel 34 we saw that God has the heart of a shepherd for his people. God himself will come and shepherd his people, healing them and helping them because they were scattered. When Jesus comes he calls himself the good shepherd who knows his sheep. We are also told that Jesus had compassion on the crowds because they people were like sheep without a shepherd. We considered that the writer of Hebrews concludes his book reminding us that Jesus is the great shepherd of the sheep by the blood of the eternal covenant so that we can be equipped to do everything that is good. The first picture God presents is that nothing can happen until God himself comes and shepherds his people, establishing a covenant of peace with them (34:25). This will allow God to shower his blessings on the people and make the people be a blessing to the world (34:26). In Ezekiel 35-36 God will now describe a radical inheritance that will take place when the Spirit comes.

A Coming Restoration (35:1-36:15)

Ezekiel 35:1-36:15 is a section of this prophecy that I want to come back to later in this lesson. But for the moment I want us to quickly scan this section to see the nature of this prophecy and some of its big ideas. Ezekiel 35 begins with a prophecy against Mount Seir, which is the land of Edom. You can see that this is the connection in Ezekiel 35:15 where God says that prophecy against Mount Seir and all Edom. Now this is a curious location for the prophecy. Here is what I mean by that. Prophecies have already been declared against Edom in Ezekiel 25:12-14 and 32:29. Further, the location of this prophecy is curious because it is not in a section where the judgment of nations is listed like in Ezekiel 25-32. Instead, this prophecy is located between the coming of God to shepherd his people and the coming of the Spirit in chapter 36. Keep this question in your mind about its location in the prophetic book.

Chapter 35 describes a complete desolation of Edom. This carries into chapter 36 and broadens out to not only be against Edom but all the nations (36:5). The enemy thought they were going to capture the land and make it their possession (36:1-3). But God is speaking against Edom and all the nations who desired to possess God’s land (36:4-6). Ezekiel 36:6 is a prophecy concerning the land of Israel. Now the surrounding nations will suffer reproach (36:7). Now listen to the imagery regarding the land in verses 8-15. The mountains will bear fruit (36:8). The people will be multiplied on the land, the whole house of Israel (36:10). People and animals will multiply on the land and be fruitful. Also, God will do more good toward them than ever before (36:11-12). The people of Israel will walk on the land, possess the land, and the land shall be the inheritance of God’s people (36:12). Also, the land will never deprive them of their children. The people who are on the land will no longer experience loss, will no longer be devoured, and will no longer experience mocking or shame (36:13-15). So here is the big question: what is all of this pointing to? What is the long section about the destruction of Edom and nations and the restoration of the land mean? We will come back and answer this at the end of the lesson. But to help answer this question we need to read the rest of the prophecy. Jump down to Ezekiel 36:24-32.

Restoration Expectations (36:24-32)

We will have to come back to this section in our next lesson. But let me quickly observe what God is going to do. First, God is going to gather his people from the nations and bring them into their own land (36:24). Please notice that another land image is given in the promise. We already read some of the ideas of what this means earlier in the chapter. We will talk more about that later in the lesson. Second, God will sprinkle clean water and make the people clean (36:25). Third, God will give the people a new heart and new spirit (36:26). Fourth, God will put his Spirit in his people to cause the people to walk in his ways and be careful to keep his rules (36:27).

Fifth, God will make the land fruitful for his people (36:28-30). The people will return to the land. Notice that this means that, “You shall be my people, and I will be your God.” There is a restoration of the relationship with God when the people are restored to the land. You will also notice that there will be no famine on the land. This helps us see that we absolutely do not have any view any part of Israel’s physical return from Babylonian exile. We are told in Haggai 1 that God was withholding the fruit and produce of the land because they had forgotten him and his work. Further, we read in Acts 11:29 that there was a severe famine in Judea. This paragraph cannot be pointing to the people returning from exile in 536, 485, or 445 BC. Nor can this paragraph be talking about the physical land in the first century since we know that there were still famines in Israel. Verse 30 confirms that we are looking to something more because God says the people will never suffer the disgrace of famine among the nations again. The trees and land will be fruitful. The grain will be abundant. Finally, God restoration will cause the people to be repentant (36:31-32).

Restoration Results (36:33-38)

Now God will explain the results of his restoration work. Notice in verses 33-38 God return to pictures about the land. When God cleanses the people from their sins, the cities and the places laid waste will be rebuilt (36:33). This is an important time marker. When did God cleanse the people of their sins? We know that this was the wonderful work of Jesus on the cross. So when the people’s sins are forgiven through the cross, the land will also be restored. It will no longer be a desolation. In fact, look at verse 35 and notice what the world will think about the land. The land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden. Of course this also is not talking about the actual land of Israel since this did not happen when Christ came either. There is a restoration of paradise being pictured. Notice the other result In verses 37-38. The people will increase like a flock. The cities will be filled with flocks of people and they will know that the he is the Lord.

Why the Emphasis on the Land?

So let’s spend a moment talking about why there is such emphasis on the land. We can certainly point to the fact that the prophets proclaimed that the law would go forth from Zion (Isaiah 2:3), the foundation of God’s rule would be in Zion (Isaiah 28:16), the ransomed would return to the Lord at Zion (Isaiah 51:11, and that the redeemer would come from Zion (Isaiah 59:20). So we know that God was going to use Jerusalem as the key start for his kingdom.

But I want us to think about the images we have read in these two chapters of Ezekiel. Is God really picturing that his great promise and his great goal for the earth is bound up in about 8000 square miles between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River? Even if we count the boundaries of Solomon’s rule we would come up with about 24,000 square miles. Is this what God is fighting for? To ask this another way, when God makes these promises about the land like in Ezekiel 35-36 and in other prophetic scriptures, does God only have in mind those original boundary markers that were given to Abraham in Genesis 15:18-21?

One of the pictures is scripture is that the borders of God’s kingdom keep expanding. When we get to Numbers 34 we seem to read that the borders were already broader than what was given to Abraham. But we know the borders kept extending because two and a half tribes occupied the land east of the Jordan River in Numbers 32 which was outside the original boundary markers before the conquest. If you grew up in the pews you might have heard it taught that of Abraham’s three promises: the land promise, the great nation, and the seed promise, only the seed promise had not yet been fulfilled by the time we come to the first century. However, I believe the scriptures show that none of the promises had been fulfilled before Christ’s arrival as God had envisioned. What we see regarding any fulfillment of these promises beforehand was just a small deposit of the big idea that was to happen. Allow me to submit as proof what the writer of Hebrews said.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. (Hebrews 11:8–10 ESV)

Did Abraham think it was just this sliver of land? Abraham was looking for something far more important, something far bigger. Abraham has an eternal country in mind when he is receiving the promises from God, not just 8000 square miles. Notice how the writer of Hebrews capitalizes on this idea:

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11:13–16 ESV)

They were not in their homeland but were still seeking it though they lived in the physical promised land. They were looking for a heavenly country, not the physical land. This is why Jesus did not say that the meek will inherit the promised land. Rather, Jesus said that the meek will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5).

Radical Inheritance

Ezekiel is describing the fulfillment of the promises made to Abraham. Look at Ezekiel 36:10-11. God will multiply the people, the whole house of Israel. This is what God promised to Abraham. Notice what is says in verse 11. The people are going to be fruitful and multiply. This echoes what God said to Adam and to Noah. God told Adam and Eve to be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it (Genesis 1:28). God told Noah and his sons to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth (Genesis 9:1). The inheritance was always something bigger and it could not be received until God himself came as the good shepherd to establish a covenant of peace with us so that we could enjoy the shower of blessings (cf. Ezekiel 34:25-26). Listen to the writer of Hebrews.

15 For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. 16 In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, 17 because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living. 18 This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood. (Hebrews 9:15–18 NIV)

What did the blood of Christ do for us as the mediator of a new covenant? The writer of Hebrews says that those who are called may received the promised eternal inheritance. Where was the promise of an eternal inheritance given? I submit to you all the way back to the beginning. The promise is that God’s kingdom rule would fill the earth and be eternal.

This is why Edom and the nations are listed in judgment in chapters 35-36. God’s kingdom must come up against and destroy all enemies of God and his people because God’s kingdom rules over heaven and earth. Listen to Psalm 2 which says that this is the work of the Lord and his Christ.

I will declare the LORD’s decree. He said to me, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance and the ends of the earth your possession. You will break them with an iron scepter; you will shatter them like pottery.” (Psalm 2:7–9 CSB)

The nations are the inheritance. The whole earth is the possession of our Shepherd. Jesus even proclaimed such when he rose from the dead and said that all authority on heaven and earth had been given to him. Jesus rules from heaven on the throne, shattering the enemies that stand against him with an iron scepter. We must have this visualize of the kingdom that we are presently are enjoying under the reign of Jesus.

Peter proclaimed our hope in this way:

Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:10–11 ESV)

Paul proclaimed our hope in this way:

The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen. (2 Timothy 4:18 ESV)

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:28–29 ESV)

Our radical inheritance gives us hope and gives us the cause to worship and serve the Lord with reverence and awe. God has shown that he shatters wicked nations. God has shown that the kingdom that we have entered is an eternal kingdom that cannot be shaken or overthrown. God has declared that we have received the promised eternal inheritance, reserved for us in heaven (1 Peter 1:4). It is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. We belong to this kingdom in which God said he will do more good to us in this kingdom than he ever has in the past (cf. Ezekiel 36:11). Now you go out and be representative of Christ’s kingdom, ambassadors in his service, shining as lights in the darkness, telling the world that our shepherd king Jesus rules and has blessings to give to all who will belong to the kingdom of heaven.

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