And as for you, O house of Israel, this is what the Lord GOD says: 'Go and serve your idols, every one of you. But afterward, you will surely listen to Me, and you will no longer defile My holy name with your gifts and idols.
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.
I. THEIR RENUNCIATION OF IDOLATRY AND CONSECRATION TO THE LORD JEHOVAH,
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.
II. THE ACCEPTATION OF THEMSELVES AND THEIR WORSHIP BY THE LORD JEHOVAH.
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).
III. GATHERING THEM FROM THEIR EXILE, AND THEIR RESTORATION TO THEIR OWN LAND.
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,
I will bring you into the bond of the covenant.
I. The MEANING OF BRINGING MEN INTO THE BOND OF THE COVENANT.
1. If we take the passage as referring to the work of grace, it signifies that they shall know under what covenant they stand. Oh, the blessedness of being under such a sure covenant! This is what is aimed at, that God may bring His own from under the law, and place them under the covenant of grace. Though as yet they care nothing about it, He will bring them to know and realise that they are standing in the covenant of grace, with Christ as their Covenant-Head.
2. They shall be led to see how this covenant binds them to God. O mighty grace, thou dost hold us with the cords of a man from which we never desire to escape. We are the Lord's people, and He is our God. He holds us, and we hold to Him.
3. To come under the bond of the covenant means also to come under the discipline of the covenant; for they that are in gracious covenant with God will find that He dealeth with them as with sons, and, inasmuch as He loves them, they shall know the truth of that word — "As many as I love I rebuke and chasten."
4. This coming under the bond of the covenant means surely that they yield to its restraint. Can grace ever be a fetter? Oh yes, it is the most blessed of all fetters, for it holds us fast, and yet never violates our liberty. It binds the very heart in willing captivity. This is the bond of the covenant.
5. It means also the security of the covenant. "I will bring thee under the bond of the covenant," must mean, I will bind thee to the Lord Jesus, thy Surety and Bondsman, and He shall secure thee forever.
II. THE EXPERIENCE OF SOME IN COMING UNDER THE BOND OF THE COVENANT. These Israelites had gone very far into sin, as Jar as ever they could go: they had been false to their promises, wicked in their lives, and rebellious in heart against their God. With many of this character the Lord deals with a singular severity of love. He strikes them with a sword, for so only can their sins be slain. Of those processes of grace we will speak now.
1. First, He will cause them to come out from their present company. You shall find in your old sins such death and corruption that you shall turn from them as a man turns, from a rotting carcase.
2. Note next, that God said He would bring them into distress and loneliness — "And I will bring you into the wilderness of the people." This is, indeed, a terrible wilderness; for you walk in the midst of crowds and yet you are perfectly alone; you mingle with the great congregation, and yet feel that none can enter into your secret, Where now your mirth and giddiness? Where now your comrades in iniquity? The Lord can soon make the gay worldling into the desponding solitary.
3. What does He say next? — "And there will I plead with you face to face." When the Lord becomes so realised to the guilty conscience that there seems to be nothing anywhere except God and that poor sinner face to face with one another, then there is a time of fear and trembling indeed.
4. The Lord further declares He will plead with them as He pleaded with their fathers in the wilderness. How did He do that? Why, very terribly indeed. Is God pleading with you in that fashion? Does He bring judgment after judgment upon you? Do His threatenings follow each other like peals of thunder? Has He burned up all your comfort? Has He scorched and withered all your confidence? Are you brought unto the dust of death?
5. What more does God do? Well, it is said, "And I will cause you to pass under the rod." I have frequently seen sheep when the shepherd has required to count them: he makes them pass through a half-opened gate, and there he numbers them. They would all come rushing through, but the shepherd blocks the way, and as they come out one by one, he touches them with his staff, and so counts them. The Lord makes His chosen to pass through a narrow place, even a strait gate, where only one can come at a time, and there and then He counts them, and causes them to give an account of themselves individually. Then mark this: as the shepherd by counting his own sheep declares and exercises his right of possession, so the Lord, when He wakens up our minds to feel our personality, causes us to recognise that we are not our own, but are bought with a price. Moreover, we come under the rod of rulership; for a rod in the old time was the usual sceptre of kings. It means, also, the rod of chastisement. "Happy is the man whom God correcteth."
III. THE ULTIMATE DESIGN OF ALL THIS.
1. The first design is to bind them to God. All the better crop comes in afterlife from having a deep ploughing before the seed is sown.
2. The next design of God is that He may entirely separate His people from the world. When God makes His servants bitterly to know the evil fruit of sin, then they no longer hunger for that forbidden fruit.
3. Furthermore, the Lord chastens His people, that thus He may bring them into their own land of promise, into the rest of His love.
4. The great end of all is that we may know the Lord. When a man has smarted because of his sin, and has been made to feel the burning coals of anguish in his own spirit; when the Lord has set him up as a target, and shot at him with arrows which drink up his life; and when afterwards he has been saved, and the splendour of infinite love has shone upon him, then he knows Jehovah. When God has brought the contrite man into the place of security, comfort, joy, and delight in Christ Jesus, then he knows the Lord.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
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