Ezekiel 36

Ezekiel 36
by Pastor David Groendyk

This last great section of Ezekiel, from chapter 33 to chapter 48, focuses primarily on God restoring his people from judgment and exile. Especially chapters 34–37 are all about renewal. The old shepherds are weeded out, and God himself will shepherd his people and place his Chosen One on the throne (ch. 34); the old covenant made with Judah will be made obsolete at the creation of a new covenant of peace (ch. 34); the enemies and predators of Judah will have curses poured out on them while the people of God will have blessings poured out on them (chs. 35–36); new life and resurrection are promised (chs. 36–37). Something new and something big is happening in and to Judah.

You’ve likely heard or read part of Ezekiel 36 before. Verses 25–27 are well-known for their description of God’s saving work in a believer, but it’s important to read those verses in context. Verses 16–20 use very strong language to emphasize the utter depravity of Judah and their complete inability to be righteous and obey. They were an embarrassment to the Lord and defiled both his name and their own names. They besmirched their Creator, King, and Savior. So repeated over and over again is God’s zeal to vindicate for his own holy name (four times in verses 21–23). In fact, it’s quite shocking how the Lord says that it’s not for his people’s sake that he is going to renew them, cleanse them, and restore them; it’s for his own glory’s sake! There is nothing that animates God more than his own glory being stolen or his holiness being treated lightly. His own glory drives him to redeem his people and give them a new heart.

It’s only in light of Judah’s total incompetence that we can understand the Lord’s cleansing. There is nothing we can do to save ourselves; it’s only by God’s own work that we can be saved and live righteously. You cannot give yourself a new heart. You cannot give yourself a new spirit. You cannot put the Holy Spirit within yourself. You cannot sprinkle clean water on yourself. You cannot forgive yourself of your sin on behalf of God. Those are the components necessary to have a right standing with God and be saved for all eternity. To put it all another way, in the words of Jesus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). In fact, Jesus goes on to say that to be born again means to be “born of water and the Spirit” (John 3:5), which is a direct reference to Ezekiel 36:25–27. To be born again is equivalent to having God sprinkle you clean, give you a new heart, and put the Holy Spirit within you. What an amazing and sure salvation we have!

What practical effect does this have on us? God’s salvation must lead to careful obedience (v. 27) and a hatred and loathing of former sin (v. 31). You cannot look back fondly on your old life, and you cannot let pet sins linger. There must be whole-hearted devotion and pursuit of God’s glory and his statutes. We must be as zealous for God’s glory in our own personal lives as he is. That’s the goal of his great salvation.