Two Nations, Two Destinies

Ezekiel 35-36

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
May 2018

We have been studying the Book of Ezekiel.  The next several chapters in the book of Ezekiel are extremely important.  If you are interested in biblical prophecy, they are some of the most important chapters in the book.  You do not want to miss any of them.  Next time we will look at the famous chapter on the valley of dry bones and the chapters after that deal with the topic of Gog and Magog.

Today, we are going to look at two amazing prophecies.  Let’s review the context of these chapters.  They were written after the Babylonian Captivity.  Jews were sent to Babylon.  Ezekiel was one of them.  They were living in refugee camps.  They were not happy that they were sent there but they all had hope that this was temporary. They believed that they were going home soon but a few years later Jerusalem fell and the Temple was destroyed.

Ezekiel predicted it.  No one believed him.  They thought he was crazy but everything he said came true.  Their hopes were completely dashed.  This meant that not only were they not going home but there was no home to go back to.  It was gone.  There was no nation.  It is in that context that we have these two chapters.  They seem a little strange.  They are prophecies to mountains.

The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, set your face against MOUNT SEIR, and prophesy against it, 3 and say to it, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I am against you, MOUNT SEIR, and I will stretch out my hand against you, and I will make you a desolation and a waste. (35:1-3 ESV)

“And you, son of man, prophesy to THE MOUNTAINS OF ISRAEL and say, O MOUNTAINS OF ISRAEL, hear the word of the Lord. (36:1-2 ESV)

The mountains are personified. They stand for nations (Edom and Israel).  The mountains of Israel stand for Israel and Mount Seir is a range of mountains (not just one mountain) in ancient Edom.  It stretches between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba.  It has an Arabic name (Jibāl ash-Sharāh).  It is in southern Jordan today.

We have in these two chapters prophecies of two mountains.  They are prophecies of two nations and two peoples. The two peoples were genetically related.  Edomites were descendants of Esau.  Esau was a grandson of Abraham.  These two nations have completely different destinies.  One nation is completely destroyed.  It is wiped of the map.

Give them this message from the Sovereign LORD: “I am your enemy, O Mount Seir, and I will raise my fist against you to destroy you COMPLETELY. (35:3 NLT)

I will make Mount Seir UTTERLY DESOLATE, killing off ALL who try to escape and any who return. (35:7 NLT)

I will make you desolate FOREVER. Your cities will NEVER be rebuilt. Then you will know that I am the LORD. (35:9 NLT)

One nation is annihilated.  It is wiped off the map.  The other nation will not only be preserved but completely restored, even better than it ever was in the past.  God is AGAINST one nation (35:3).  He is FOR the other nation (36:9) Here is the irony.  The Jews were no better than the Edomites.  They deserved the same punishment.

The Jews sinned in the land and God judged them and sent them out of the land and then he says that they profaned His name among the nations where they went (36:22) and yet Edom received judgment and the Jews receive mercy. Why?  One word, GRACE.  God does not restore the Jews because they are better but because of HIS NAME’S SAKE (36:21-22).

Then you will remember your evil ways, and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominations. 32 It is not for your sake that I will act, declares the Lord God; let that be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel. (Ezekiel 36:31-32 ESV)

God’s Word to Edom

Let’s talk about what God says to Edom.  The question that we have to answer about this chapter is this:  Has this prophecy been fulfilled or is it yet future?  The answer is BOTH.

The Edomites no longer exist.  There is no nation of Edom today.  It is impossible to punish a people who no longer exist, so it cannot refer to something in the future or can it?  This section of the Book of Ezekiel is dealing with the future (Ezekiel 33-48).  It is dealing with end-times.

Even if there are no Edomites in the future, Edom is representative of the enemies of Israel.  What God says about Edom in this chapter applies directly to Israel’s enemies today.  What God says here is not limited to Edom.

He says in the next chapter, “Therefore thus says the Lord God: I swear that THE NATIONS that are all around you shall themselves suffer reproach” (36:7 ESV).  This chapter is very relevant to our own day.  It is shocking how relevant it is.  The Arab countries in the Middle East which surround Israel are guilty of the same sins as ancient Edom.

The Sins of Edom

1) They had a perpetual hatred of the Jews

Because you cherished PERPETUAL EMNITY and gave over the people of Israel to the power of the sword at the time of their calamity, at the time of their final punishment (35:5 ESV)

Antisemitism is common in the Arab world.  It is widespread.  Jews are described as sub-human.  Kids as taught to hate the Jews when they go to school.  In a Jordanian history book states, “The Jews in Europe was persecuted and despised because of their corruption, meanness and treachery”[1]  A Syrian Junior high school textbook says, “The Jews are scattered to the ends of the earth, where they live exiled and despised since, by their very nature, they are vile, greedy and the enemies of mankind.”[2]

In 2010, the president of Egypt said that the Jews descending from monkeys and pigs.[3]  This type of propaganda is everywhere in Islamic countries.  This hatred is not only a common sin in that part of the world, it is also a generational sin.  It is perpetual.  Parents teach hatred of Jews to their kids and their grandkids.  This is a hatred that has lasted four thousand years.

2) They engaged in violence against the Jews

They hate the Jews.  They will never accept Israel’s existence.  They will never accept their right to the land and hatred leads to violence.  It leads to bloodshed.  Hate leads to hate crimes.  Murder starts in the heart and is just an outward expression of an inward heart attitude.  What was happening in Ezekiel’s day is still happening today.

For three sins of Edom, even for four, I will not relent. Because he pursued his brother with a SWORD and SLAUHGTERED the WOMEN of the land, because his anger raged continually and his fury flamed unchecked, 12 I will send fire on Teman that will consume the fortresses of Bozrah.” (Amos 1:11-12 NIV)

Because of the VIOLENCE against your brother Jacob, you will be covered with shame; you will be destroyed forever. 11 On the day you stood aloof while strangers carried off his wealth and foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem, you were like one of them.

12 You should not gloat over your brother in the day of his misfortune, nor rejoice over the people of Judah in the day of their destruction, nor boast so much in the day of their trouble. 13 You should not march through the gates of my people in the day of their disaster, nor gloat over them in their calamity in the day of their disaster, nor seize their wealth in the day of their disaster. 14 You should not wait at the crossroads to cut down their fugitives, nor hand over their survivors in the day of their trouble. (Obadiah 10-14 NIV)

You gave over the people of Israel to the power of the sword at the time of their calamity, at the time of their final punishment (Ezekiel 35:5 ESV).  They actually helped the Babylonians.  They killed Jews who were fleeing the Babylonians.

What was God’s punishment for Edom?  He said that the punishment would fit the crime.  You look at the ISIS fighters today who glorify blood and violence.  They like to chop heads off.  God says that blood will pursue them.

Therefore, as I live, declares the Lord God, I will prepare you for blood, and blood shall pursue you; because you did not hate bloodshed, therefore blood shall pursue you. 7 I will make Mount Seir a waste and a desolation, and I will cut off from it all who come and go. 8 And I will fill its mountains with the slain. On your hills and in your valleys and in all your ravines those slain with the sword shall fall. 9 I will make you a perpetual desolation, and your cities shall not be inhabited. Then you will know that I am the Lord. (35:6-9 ESV)

3) They tried to steal the Promised Land

“Because you said, ‘These two nations and these two countries shall be mine, and we will take possession of them’—although the Lord was there— 11 therefore, as I live, declares the Lord God, I will deal with you according to the anger and envy that you showed because of your hatred against them. And I will make myself known among them, when I judge you. 12 And you shall know that I am the Lord. (35:10-12 ESV).

As you rejoiced over the inheritance of the house of Israel, because it was desolate, so I will deal with you; you shall be desolate, Mount Seir, and all Edom, all of it. Then they will know that I am the Lord. (35:15 ESV)

They rejoiced when Israel fell and said, “Now is our chance. We can take over now” but they forgot that the Lord was there (35:10).  The nations today that are trying to take over the Promised Land are all Muslim. Israel is the world’s only Jewish state and their Muslim neighbors want to wipe them off the earth and to take their land. These are not Arab lands.  God calls it HIS LAND.

Therefore, thus says the Lord God: Surely I have spoken in my hot jealousy against the rest of the nations and against all Edom, who gave MY LAND to themselves as a possession with wholehearted joy and UTTER CONTEMPT (36:5 ESV)

When they fight to take over the Promised Land, they are fighting against the will and program of God.  God never promised to give it to them.  He promised to give it to the Jews.  What they did provoked God’s jealousy and His anger.

God’s Word to Israel

What does God say to the Jews?  He makes two promises to them.   They were living in Babylon as exiles.  They were discouraged.  Their hopes were completely dashed.  In the midst of their depression, they get a word from God.  God has something to say about their land and about them.

Promises about the Land

“But the mountains of Israel will produce heavy crops of fruit for my people–for they will be coming home again soon! See, I care about you, and I will pay attention to you. Your ground will be plowed and your crops planted. (36:8-9 NLT)

I will increase not only the people, but also your animals. O mountains of Israel, I will bring people to live on you once again. I will make you even more prosperous than you were before. Then you will know that I am the LORD. (36:11 NLT)

God says, “I will summon the grain and make it abundant and lay no famine upon you. I will make the fruit of the tree and the increase of the field abundant, that you may never again suffer the disgrace of famine among the nations.” (Ezekiel 36:29-30 ESV)

Then the nations that are left all around you shall know that I am the Lord; I have rebuilt the ruined places and replanted that which was desolate. I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it. (36:36 ESV)

What does God promise about the land?  He promises that it will be fruitful.  Today, when you think of Israel, you think of desert, just a bunch of sand and rocks.  One of the punishments of the Jews for disobedience was that the land would become a wasteland (Deuteronomy 28:38-42).  In the Millennium, the whole place will be fruitful.

The land will be fruitful.  The people will be fruitful.  The animals will be fruitful.  Not only will it be prosperous but the land will be more prosperous that at any time in its history.  There will be unparalleled prosperity.

And they will say, ‘This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden, and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are now fortified and inhabited’ (Ezekiel 36:35 ESV).  Isaiah 51:3 says that God “will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the LORD” (NIV). He says he will put roads in the wilderness and rivers in the desert (Isaiah 43:19).

Promises about the People

1) They will experience a RETURN to the land

I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. (36:24 ESV)

God promises to gather the Jews from countries they have been scattered to (not just Babylon) and return them to the Promise Land.  There will be a second exodus, an exodus from all the nations.  Isaiah predicted this would happen and he predicted it a hundred years before they were even dispersed.  Some believe that this has been fulfilled with the present state of Israel (so Frutchenbaum). It is a return in unbelief.

In that day the Lord will extend his hand yet a SECOND TIME to recover the remnant that remains of his people, from Assyria, from Egypt, from Pathros, from Cush, from Elam, from Shinar, from Hamath, and from the coastlands of the sea.  He will raise a signal for the nations and will assemble the banished of Israel, and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. (Isaiah 11:1-12 ESV)

2) They will experience REGENERATION

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (36:25-27 ESV)

After a return to the Land will be a return to the Lord.  This has yet to happen.  Only a transformed people can enjoy a transformed land, so God transforms them.  He not only forgives them; He cleanses them. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean (36:25 ESV).

Sin not only makes us guilty, it makes us dirty.  They will not be cleansed from some of their sins but all of them.  I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from All your uncleannesses, and from ALL your idols I will cleanse you.

3) They will experience RIGHTEOUSNESS

The Jews will follow God’s laws and walk in His commands.  They will be righteous (36:27).  The reason they are righteous is because of what Jeremiah calls “The New Covenant.”  They had God’s laws before but they broke them.  Now God will put his Spirit in them and they will keep them.  The Holy Spirit will give them the power to keep these commands.

4) They will experience RECOGNITION

And I will not let you hear anymore the reproach of the nations, and you shall no longer bear the disgrace of the peoples and no longer cause your nation to stumble, declares the Lord God.” (36:15 ESV)

Summary of Israel in the Millennium

1. They will be SAVED

They will have a new heart and a new spirit (36:26).  They will be regenerate.  The old heart and spirit will be gone.

2. They will be CLEANSED

Water will be sprinkled on them. They are made clean and cleansed from all their uncleanness (36:25).

3. They will be BLESSED

The Jews will get to live in the land that God gave their ancestors (36:28).  They will get their land back.  It will be a restored land, like the Garden of Eden (36:35). The waste cities be filled with flocks of people (36:38 ESV).

4. They will be HONORED

They will have a special place in the kingdom.  God says that they shall be His people, and He will be their God (36:28) and the nations will know it.  They will no longer be disgraced or mocked (36:15).  No longer will people make anti-Semitic statements.

5. They will be REPENTANT

They will not go around boasting how great they are.  They will remember their evil ways, and your will loathe themselves for their iniquities and abominations (36:31)

6. They will be OBEDIENT

They will have God’s Spirit in them and will have the power to keep His commandments (36:27). They will no longer be a stiff-necked and hard-hearted people.  They will have a soft heart.

Application for Today

How does this chapter apply to us today?  It is a great chapter about the future of Israel but what does that have to do with us?  What God did to Israel, He wants to do with others.  They were his people and he was their God.  God is calling out a people today for His name (Acts 15:14) and He is not just calling out just Jews.  He wants other people to have a personal relationship with Him.

He wants people other than Jews to be cleansed from uncleanness (36:25).  He wants people other than Jews to follow His decrees and keep His laws (36:27).  You say, “I thought it was just about a relationship and not about rules.  Rules have to do with religion and we are following Jesus and now religion.”  That is a false dichotomy.

We are to have a personal relationship with Christ but we are also to keep His commandments.  Jesus said, ‘If you love me, keep my commandments.” Part of the relationship is doing what Jesus says.  He is our Lord but we cannot keep his commandments unless we have his Spirit inside us (36:27). We have to have a new heart (36:26).

That was the problem with the Jews in the OT.  They had all kinds of commands (613) but they did not have the power to keep them.  We have to get a new heart, which will give us the power from the inside out to keep them.  We will keep his commandments because we want to, not because we have to.

Ezekiel is a spiritual cardiologist.  All of us are born with a bad heart.  We have heart disease.  This is the way we are born. we have inherited a defect that goes back to Adam.  Our hearts are hard as rocks. We are all rebels by nature.  We are part of a race of rebels.  We do not naturally love God.  We naturally love sin.

Our hearts cannot be repaired.  We need a heart transplant but it is not a problem we can fix.  We can’t do this surgery on ourselves.  We can’t perform open heart surgery on ourselves: cut open our chest, take our heart out, put a new one in and sew ourselves up.  God has to do it. God has to solve the problem.  God says, “I WILL give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I WILL remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”    

Jesus spoke to Nicodemus about the new birth.  He told him you must be born again.  In fact, he said, “If you are not born again, you cannot even see the kingdom of God.”  Nicodemus had no idea what he was talking about and he was a biblical scholar.  He taught the Bible.  Jesus called him “The teacher of Israel.”  Jesus said that he should have known about the new birth.  It comes right out of Ezekiel.

The new birth is not a NT revelation.  It is found in the OT.  It is found in Ezekiel, which was written six hundred years before Christ. When we accept Christ as Savior, we become radically transformed.  God gives us a new heart.  Without that new heart, we cannot be saved.

Do we give ourselves a new heart?  We do choose whether to accept or reject Christ.  Even Ezekiel taught that we have to turn to God (18:30).  He says to turn and live (18:32).  The same chapter of the Bible that says that “unless a man is born again, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” also says ‘whosoever believes in him has everlasting life.”

However, the Bible also teaches that the only reason we choose to believe is that God opens our eyes and our hearts (Acts 16:14).  The Holy Spirit works in our heart.  We do not believe completely on our own.  The Bible describes faith and repentance as gifts (Acts 5:31; 11:18; 18:27; Philippians 1:29).

The process starts with God and not with man.  God says, “I WILL give you a new heart.”  God is not passive in the process.  He does not sit back and wait until hard stony hearts come to faith.  Hard hearts will not believe on their own.  God is actively involved in the process. The nation of Israel will not accept Jesus on their own. God has to work.  Notice how Israel one day accepts their Messiah.

“And I WILL POUR OUT on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem A SPIRIT OF GRACE AND SUPPLICATION. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son” Zechariah 12:10 NIV)

[1] Modern World History, Jordanian Ministry of Education, 1966, p. 150.

[2] The Religious Ordinances Reader, (Syrian Ministry of Education, 1963-1964), p. 138.


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