The Gracious Restoration of the People
Ezekiel 20:39-44
As for you, O house of Israel, thus said the Lord GOD; Go you, serve you every one his idols, and hereafter also…

As for you, O house of Israel, thus saith the Lord God; Go ye, serve ye every one his idols, etc. It is here distinctly recognized that not at once would this reformation and restoration be accomplished. The house of Israel is told to "go, serve ye every one his idols." These words are spoken of as an "ironical conversion" (cf. 1 Kings 22:15; Amos 4:4; Matthew 23:32). They are also described as" the holy irony of him who knows that mercy is laid up for the future." It is important to bear in mind that the words were addressed to the dissimulating elders of Israel. They had come to Ezekiel to inquire of the Lord through him, while in their heart they were resolved to "be as the heathen... to serve wood and stone" They received such an answer as they were fitted for: "Go ye, serve ye every one his idols." Not quickly are men of such character separated from their sins. Not quickly are the stern lessons of chastisement truly and thoroughly learned by them. Moreover, this ironical concession of their idolatry would perhaps impress them more deeply with the evil thereof than a renewed prohibition or denunciation of it might have done. Then follows the assured declaration of their restoration through the mercy of the Lord God. Of this restoration the more prominent features ate these.


1. The renunciation of their idolatry. (Ver. 39.) The rendering of the margin of the Revised Version seems to us preferable: "Go ye, serve every one his idols, but hereafter surely ye shall hearken unto me, and my holy Name shall ye no more profane with your gifts, and with your idols." Hengstenberg and the 'Speaker's Commentary' take this view of the verse. "You have pretended," says Greenhill, "that by your idols set up in my stead, and the gifts you have offered to them, or by them to me, that you have honoured my Name, but by joining them and me together, you have polluted my Name." And he declares that this pollution shall cease; that they will abandon their idols. And since their release from the Babylonian captivity, the Jews have never been guilty of idolatry like that mentioned in ver. 32 - the service of wood and stone; they have never since then forsaken the Lord God for the idols of heathenism.

2. Their consecration to the Lord Jehovah. '" For in mine holy mountain, in the mountain of the height of Israel, saith the Lord God, there shall all the house of Israel, all of them in the land, serve me." Notice:

(1) The scene of this service. "In mine holy mountain, in the mountain of the height of Israel." After the return from the exile the temple at Jerusalem was rebuilt by the Jews, and there they worshipped God. But in the largest and grandest fulfilment of this prophecy the holy mountain is to be understood spiritually (cf. John 4:20-24). "The spiritual worship of the New Testament," as Schroder observes, "can be well described in the phraseology of the Old Testament worship, by which it was symbolized and prefigured. We still speak of the heavenly Jerusalem" (cf. Isaiah 2:2, 3; Galatians 4:24-26; Hebrews 12:22).

(2) The universality of this service. This is very emphatically expressed here. "There shall all the house of Israel, all of them, serve me." Partially this was fulfilled on the return from the exile. "When the Jews had returned from Babylon under Zerubbabel and Ezra, along with those who adhered to then, from all the tribes, they formed a unity, possessed a temple at Jerusalem, and became a single people under the same presidency "(Cocceius). But the prophecy yet awaits its complete fulfilment. "All the seperation between Israel and Judah shall cease. This points to times yet future, when in Messiah's kingdom Jews and Gentiles alike shall be gathered into one kingdom - the kingdom of Christ (comp. Jeremiah 31.; Malachi 3:1, etc.; also Romans 11:25, 26; Revelation 11:15). Jerusalem is the Church of Christ (Galatians 4:26), into which the children of Israel shall at last be gathered, and so the prophecy shall be fulfilled (Revelation 21:2)" ('Speaker's Commentary').

(3) And as for the nature of this service; they shall worship the living and true God as the only worthy Object of adoration, and they shall obey him as their sovereign Lord.


1. The acceptation of themselves. "There will I accept them... As a sweet savour will I accept you." This acceptation includes:

(1) The full forgiveness of all their offences. That he receives the sinner is an evidence that he will remember his sins against him no more.

(2) The gracious reception of themselves: that God would regard them with complacency, and enrich them with his favour. When God accepts man he does it heartily and with a glad welcome, even as the father received his prodigal son (Luke 15:20-24). When we pray," Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously." he speedily answers, "I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him."

2. The acceptation of their worship. "There will I require your offerings, and the first fruits of your oblations, with all your holy things." When the worshippers are themselves accepted, their worship will be accepted also. But when the worshippers are insincere and wicked, the Lord demands of them, "To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me?" etc. (Isaiah 1:11-15). It is the contrite and believing heart of the offerer that commends the offerings unto God. Where this state of heart is we may say, with David, "Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness," etc. (Psalm 51:19).


1. Gathering them from their exile. "When I bring you out from the peoples, and gather you out of the countries, wherein ye have been scattered." The Lord does not lose sight of his people when they are scattered abroad. He does not cease to care for them or to protect them. Not one of them shall be lost through any failure on his part (cf. ch. 34:11-16; John 10:28).

2. Restoring them to their own land. "When I shall bring you into the land of Israel, into the country which I hired up mine hand to give unto your fathers." The Jews were restored to their own land after the exile in Babylon. That restoration was a remarkable fulfilment of many prophecies, There is perhaps in the text a reference to another and yet future restoration thither. God by the gospel restores man to his forfeited inheritance. By sin man was exiled from Eden; by the grace of God in Christ Jesus he is introduced into a holier and more beautiful Paradise. "When Divine grace renews the heart of the fallen sinner, Paradise is regained, and much of its beauty restored to the soul."

IV. THEIR GRACIOUS RECOGNITION OF GOD, AND SINCERE REPENTANCE OF THEIR SINS. (The points which arise under this head we have already noticed in our homily on Ezekiel 6:8-10.)

1. Their gracious recognition of the Lord God. "And ye shall know that I am the Lord," etc. (vers. 42, 44). This knowledge does not spring from his judgments, but from the experience of his gracious dealings. It is a sympathetic and saving acquaintance with him.

2. Sincere repentance of their sirs.

(1) Here is a prerequisite to true repentance. "There shall ye remember your ways, and all your doings, wherein ye have been defiled."

(2) Here is an essential characteristic of true repentance. "And ye shall loathe yourselves in your own sight for all your evils that ye have committed." in genuine penitence the sinner reproaches himself because of his sins.

V. AND IN ALL THESE FEATURES OF THIS RESTORATION WE HAVE AN IMPRESSIVE AND BEAUTIFUL ILLUSTRATION OF THE UNMERITED GRACE OF GOD. "Ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have wrought with you for my Name's sake, not according to your wicked ways, nor according to your corrupt doings, O ye house of Israel, saith the Lord God." All our blessings flow to us from the inexhaustible fountain of the grace of God. Mankind has merited no good from him. Our "evil ways and corrupt doings" have deserved his unmixed wrath. But in his infinite mercy he has pared our guilty race, enriched us with many physical and mental blessings, and provided for us an eternal and glorious salvation through the gift of his beloved Son. And as this restoration of his people originated in his grace, it shall redound to his glory. "I will be sanctified in you in the sight of the nations" (ver. 41); "I have wrought with you for my Name's sake" (ver. 44); "In them as a holy people, anew consecrated to God, shall be exhibited to the heathen the holiness of Jehovah." And the redemption of man by Jesus Christ shall issue in the eternal glory of the God or all grace (Galatians 1:5; 2 Timothy 4:18; Hebrews 13:20, 21; 1 Peter 5:10, 11; Revelation 7:9-12).

"Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us,
But unto thy Name give glory,
For thy mercy, and for thy truth's sake." W.J.

Parallel Verses
KJV: As for you, O house of Israel, thus saith the Lord GOD; Go ye, serve ye every one his idols, and hereafter also, if ye will not hearken unto me: but pollute ye my holy name no more with your gifts, and with your idols.

WEB: As for you, house of Israel, thus says the Lord Yahweh: Go, serve everyone his idols, and hereafter also, if you will not listen to me; but my holy name you shall no more profane with your gifts, and with your idols.

The Bond of the Covenant
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