Today’s selected reading continues in the Old Testament prophetic book of Ezekiel the son of Buzi, which began in the fifth year of the captivity of Jehoiachin king of Judah. More specifically, today’s passage is found in chapters thirty-eight through forty-one of this Old Testament book. THE HAND OF THE LORD WAS UPON ME, AND CARRIED ME OUT IN THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD, AND SET ME DOWN IN THE MIDST OF THE VALLEY WHICH WAS FULL OF BONES! AND CAUSED ME TO PASS BY THEM ROUND ABOUT! BEHOLD, THEY WERE VERY MANY IN THE OPEN VALLEY! THEY WERE VERY DRY! SON OF MAN, CAN THESE BONES LIVES? O LORD GOD, THOU KNOWEST! PROPHESY UPON THESE BONES, AND SAY UNTO THEM! O YE DRY BONES, HEAR THE WORD OF THE LORD! THUS SAITH THE LORD GOD UNTO THESE BONES; BEHOLD I WILL CAUSE BREATH TO ENTER INTO YOU, AND YE SHALL LIVE! I WILL LAY SINEWS UPON YOU, AND WILL BRING UP FLESH UPON YOU, AND COVER YOU WITH SKIN, AND PUT BREATH IN YOU, AND YE SHALL LIVE, AND YE SHALL KNOW THAT I AM THE LORD! SO I PROPHESIED AS I WAS COMMANDED! AS I PROPHESIED THERE WAS A NOICE! BEHOLD A SHAKING! THE BONES CAME TOGETHER, BONE TO HIS BONE! WHEN I BEHELD, LO, THE SINEWS AND FLESH CAME UP UPON THEM, AND THE SKIN COVERED THEM ABOVE! THERE WAS NO BREATH IN THEM! PROPHESY UNTO THE WIND, PROPHESY SON OF MAN, AND SAY TO THE WIND! THUS SAITH THE LORD GOD; COME FROM THE FOUR WINDS, O BREATH, AND BREATHE UPON THESE SLAIN, THAT THEY MAY LIVE! SO I PROPHESIED AS HE COMMANDED ME, AND THE BREATH CAME INTO THEM, AND THEY LIVED, AND STOOD UP UPON THEIR FEET, AND EXCEEDING GREAT ARMY!
SON OF MAN, THESE BONES ARE THE WHOLE HOUES OF ISRAEL! BEHOLD, THEY SAY, OUR BONES ARE DRIED, AND OUR HOPE IS LOST! WE ARE CUT OFF FOR OUR PARTS! THEREFORE PROPHESY AND SAY UNTO THEM, THUS SAITH THE LORD GOD! BEHOLD, O MY PEOPLE, I WILL OPEN YOUR GRAVES, AND BRING YOU INTO THE LAND OF ISRAEL! AND YE SHALL KNOW THAT I AM THE LORD, WHEN I HAVE OPENED YOUR GRAVES, O MY PEOPLE, AND BROUGHT YOU UP OUT OF YOUR GRAVES! AND SHALL PUT MY SPIRIT IN YOU, AND YE SHALL LIVE! I SHALL PLACED YOU IN YOUR OWN LAND! THEN SHALL YE KNOW THAT I THE LORD HAVE SPOKEN IT, AND PERFORMED IT!
BEHOLD, I WILL TAKE THE STICK OF JOSEPH, WHICH IS IN THE HAND OF EPHRAIM, AND THE TRIBES OF ISRAEL HIS FELLOWS, AND WILL PUT THEM WITH HIM, EVEN WITH THE STICK OF JUDAH, AND MAKE THEM ONE STICK, AND THEY SHALL BE ONE IN MINE HAND!I WILL TAKE THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL FROM AMONG THE HEATHEN, WHITHER THEY BE GONE, AND WILL GATHER THEM ON EVERY SIDE, AND BRING THEM INTO THEIR OWN LAND! I WILL MAKE THEM ONE NATION IN THE LAND UPON THE MOUNTAINS OF ISRAEL! ONE KING SHALL BE KING TO THEM ALL! THEY SHALL BE NO MORE TWO NATIONS, NEITHER SHALL THEY BE DIVIDED INTO TWO KINGDOMS ANY MORE AT ALL! NEITHER SHALL THEY DEFIL THEMSELVES ANY MORE WITH THEIR IDOLS, NOR WITH THEIR DETESTABEL THINGS, NOR WITH ANY OF THEIR TRANSGRESSIONS! I WILL SAVE THEM OUT OF ALL THEIR DWELLING PLACES, WHEREIN THEY HAVE SINNED, AND WILL CLEANSE THEM! SO SHALL THEY BE MY PEOPLE, AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD! AND DAVID MY SERVANT SHALL BE KING OVER THEM! THEY SHALL HAVE ONE SHEPHERD! THEY SHALL ALSO WALK IN MY JUDGMENTS, AND OBSERVE MY STATUTES, AND DO THEM! AND THEY SHALL DWELL IN THE LAND THAT I HAVE GIVEN UNTO JACOB MY SERVANT, WHEREIN YOUR FATHERS HAVE DWELT! THEY SHALL DWELL THEREIN, EVEN THEY, AND THEIR CHILDREN, AND THEIR CHILDREN’S CHILDREN FOR EVER! MY SERVANT DAVID SHALL BE THEIR PRINCE FOR EVER! MOREOVER I WILL MAKE A COVENANT OF PEACE WITH THEM! IT SHALL BE AN EVERLASTING COVENANT WITH TH EM! I WILL PLACE THEM, AND MULTIPLY THEM, AND WILL SET MY SANCTUARY IN THE MIDST OF THEM FOR EVERMORE! MY TABERNACLE ALSO SHALL BE WITH THEM! I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE! THE HEATHEN SHALL KNOW THAT I THE LORD DO SANCTIFY ISRAEL, WHEN MY SANCTUARY SHALL BE IN THE MIDST OF THEM FOR EVERMORE!
When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find the final portion of the prophetic book of Ezekiel that deals exclusively with the people Israel themselves. In chapters forty and onward you will find a powerful prophetic vision and revelation given unto Ezekiel concerning the Temple and sanctuary which would once more stand in the midst of the people of God within the land of Israel. In fact, what’s so incredibly interesting about the final progression of the chapters of the prophetic book of Ezekiel is the picture it paints concerning the house of Israel returning to the land—and not only returning to the land, but also their returning to the land and the Temple and sanctuary of the LORD once more standing in the midst of the land. When these chapters were revealed unto the prophet Ezekiel the children of Israel had been removed from the land of Israel and had been living and dwelling in the land of the Chaldeans for quite some time. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of that which is found within these chapters, for by this time the defenced cities of the land of Judah had been captured and taken control by the army of the Chaldeans. By this time the wall of the city of Jerusalem had been broken through and burned with fire together with the gates which were found in the midst of the walls. What’s more, is that by this time the enemy and adversary had already marched straight up into the city of Jerusalem and had cast fire into the sanctuary and Temple of the living God, thus reducing it to a pile of ruin, rubble and ashes. The people of Judah and Jerusalem had either been killed by the sword, the pestilence or the famine within the city of Jerusalem, or they had been carried away captive into the land of the Chaldeans, or that remnant which remained and returned to the land of Judah after its destruction would have gone down into the land of Egypt where they believed they would have found shelter, safety and refuge from the sword of the king of Babylon. At this point in time the land of Judah had been completely and utterly invaded by the enemy and adversary, the wall of Jerusalem had been broken down, the gates of the city consumed and burned with fire, and the Temple and sanctuary of the LORD had been burned and consumed with fire. The land of Judah would now be desolate and would experience the rest and sabbaths it should have experienced from the time the house of Israel had entered into the land during the days of Joshua the son of Nun.
The chapters which are before us at this particular juncture describe the LORD’s promise to visit the remnant of the house of Israel and Judah which had been scattered among the nations and countries of the earth, and His promise to rescue them from the midst of those nations and countries. You cannot read these chapters without encountering and coming face to face with the awesome and powerful truth that the LORD was speaking unto the house of Israel and the house of Judah concerning a divine rescue that would take place at the appointed time when the LORD would rescue them out of those nations into which they had been scattered that He might bring them back to the land which He had removed them from and cast them out of. Through the prophet Jeremiah the LORD had already decreed that seventy years had been appointed for their captivity and exile, and at the end of those seventy years the LORD would not only visit His people to rescue them, but He would also visit the Babylonians and Chaldeans to judge them for the great evil and atrocities they had committed against His people, against His land, and especially against His Temple. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this awesome and powerful reality, for Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah had already prophesied on two separate occasions that seventy years had been decreed for the captivity and exile of the house of Israel, and that once those seventy years had been completed the LORD would come to them that He might bring them forth from the midst of the land, and cause them to dwell in the midst of their own land. No more and no longer would the house of Israel and Judah dwell in the midst of foreign and strange lands which they knew not, but they would return unto their own land and would once more inhabit those cities which they had once dwelt in. The houses they had built in the land of the Chaldeans would no longer be lived in, while the vineyards they had planted in that same land would no longer be gleaned that they might partake of the fruit in the midst of them.
I am absolutely and completely convinced that in order to truly understand the words which are found in this passage of Scripture of the prophetic book of Ezekiel it is necessary that we turn and direct our attention first and foremost to the words which are found in the Old Testament prophetic book of Jeremiah. If and as you read the words found in the prophetic book of Jeremiah you will find two distinct and two very specific places where the ancient Hebrew prophet would speak unto the house of Judah and Jerusalem and declare unto them that seventy years had been appointed for their captivity and exile before the LORD would rise up from His place and visit them in the midst of their bondage, their labor, their affliction, their oppression, their captivity and exile. Of course Scripture seems to provide every indication that the captivity and exile in the land of the Chaldeans was not like the slavery, bondage and oppression of the land of Egypt, for the people of Israel would not be cruelly oppressed by taskmasters who would violently mistreat and abuse them. It was indeed true that the children of Israel would be forced to live as captives and exiles in the midst of the land of the Chaldeans, and that they would be forced to live and dwell in a strange and foreign land which wasn’t their own, however, with that being said—the children of Israel would not endure the same pressure(s), the same burden(s) and the same affliction(s) they experienced within the land of Egypt. During these times the house of Israel and the house of Judah would be scattered among the nations and countries of the earth as the house of Israel would be the first to go into captivity and be removed from their land, while the house of Judah would itself be carried away captive out of the land and brought into the land of the Chaldeans where they would live as captives and exiles. What’s more, is that the LORD of hosts had decreed and appointed seventy years for the house of Israel to dwell as strangers and pilgrims in a land that was not their own until that time which had been ordained by God for them to come forth from the midst of the land that they might once more dwell in the midst of and inhabit their own land. The prophet Jeremiah prophesied concerning the destruction of Jerusalem and Judah, and the prophet Jeremiah prophesied concerning the destruction of the Temple and sanctuary of the living God, and yet in the midst of those prophetic words he would also prophesy that the captivity and exile would last seventy years before the LORD would eventually and ultimately visit them.
What makes this reality and concept concerning seventy years so incredibly captivating is when you think about and consider the fact that the prophet Jeremiah would proclaim these words twice unto the house of Judah. What’s more, is that not only would the prophet Jeremiah prophesy and proclaim these words unto the house of Judah still in the midst of the land, and write it in a letter which was sent unto the captives which were actually living in the midst of the land of the Chaldeans, but the prophet Daniel would discern and understand from reading the words of the prophet Jeremiah that seventy years had been decreed for the house of Israel to be scattered among the nations and countries of the earth, and that seventy years had been decreed for the captivity of the people of God before the LORD would visit them to rescue them from and out of the midst of that land, as well as judge and punish that nation, that kingdom, that empire, and that people which had stretched forth its hand against the heritage of the people of God, as well as the Temple and sanctuary of the living God. We must not lose sight of this incredibly awesome and powerful reality, for the words which you find in the prophetic book of Ezekiel concerning the LORD visiting His people takes on an entirely different meaning when you consider it in light of the prophetic decree and declaration spoken by Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah concerning seventy years which had been appointed for the captivity and exile of the house of Israel, as well as Daniel’s understanding of these seventy years according to the words he read in the writings of Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah. Oh I can’t help but wonder what it must have been like for Daniel to read those writings of Jeremiah in the land of the Chaldeans and recognize and understand that seventy years had been decreed, ordained and appointed for the captivity and exile of the house of Israel before the LORD would visit them that He might rescue them from the midst of the land and bring them forth from the midst of the land into the land which He swore on oath unto Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all those generations before in times past. It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the words which Jeremiah had spoken unto the house of Judah in the midst of the land, as well as the words which Jeremiah wrote and sent in letter form to the remnant of the house of Judah which were living as captives and exiles in the land of the Chaldeans, and even the narrative that reveals Daniel’s coming to understand these seventy years being decreed for the captivity and exile of the house of Israel:
“The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, that was the first year of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon; The which Jeremiah the prophet spake unto all the people of Judah, and to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, From the thirteenth year of Josiah the son of Amon king of Judah, even unto this day, that is the three and twentieth year, the word of the LORD hath come unto me, and I have spoken unto you, rising early and speaking; but ye have not hearkened. And the LORD hath sent unto you all His servants the prophets, rising early and sending them; but ye have not hearkened, nor inclined your ear to hear. They said, Turn ye again now every one from his evil way, and from the evil of your doings, and dwell in the land that the LORD hath given unto you and to your fathers for ever and ever: and go not after other gods to serve them, and to worship them, and provoke me not to anger with the works of your hands; and I will do you no hurt. Yet ye have not hearkened unto me, saith the LORD; that ye might provoke me to anger with the works of your hands to your own hurt. Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Because ye have not heard my words, Behold, I will send and take all the families of the north, saith the LORD, and Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and will bring them against this land, and against the inhabitants thereof, and against all these nations round about, and will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonishment, and an hissing, and perpetual desolations. Moreover I will take from them the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones, and the light of the candle. And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. And it shall come to pass, when seventy years are accomplished, that I will punish the king of Babylon, and that nation, saith the LORD, for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans, and will make it perpetual desolations. And I will bring upon that land all my words which I have pronounced against it, even all that is written in this book, which Jeremiah hath prophesied against all the nations. For many nations and great kings shall serve themselves of them also: and I will recompense them according to their deeds, and according to the works of their own hands” (Jeremiah 25:1-14).
“Now these are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem unto the residue of the elders which were carried away captives, and to the priests, and to the prophets, and to all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon; (After that Jeconiah the king, and the queen, and the eunuchs, the princes of Judah and Jerusalem, and the carpenters, and the smiths, were departed from Jerusalem) by the hand of Elasah the son of Shaphan, and Gemariah the son of Hilkiah, (whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent unto Babylon to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon), saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all that are carried away captives, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem unto Babylon; Build ye houses, and dwel in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them; Take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; that ye may be increased there, and not diminished. And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace. For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Let not your prophets and your diviners, that be in the midst of you, deceive you, neither hearken to your dreams which ye cause to be dreamed. For they prophesy falsely unto you in my name: I have not sent them, saith the LORD. For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the LORD: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the LORD; and I will bring you again into the place when I caused you to be carried away captive” (Jeremiah 29:1-14).
“In the first year of Darius the son of Ahuasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, which was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans; In the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by the books the number of the years, whereof the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem. And I set my face unto the LORD God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes: and I prayed unto the LORD my God, and made my confession” (Daniel 9:1-4).
It is quite clear and obvious when reading the words which are found in these passages of Scripture that the prophet Jeremiah proclaimed according to the word of the LORD that seventy years had been decreed, appointed and ordained by the LORD of hosts concerning the Chaldeans—and not only concerning the Chaldeans, but also concerning the house of Israel and Judah who would live as captives and exiles in the midst of the land of the Chaldeans. It’s actually something worth considering that Jeremiah would hear from the mouth of the LORD that seventy years would be decreed by Him for the captivity and exile of the house of Israel before the LORD would visit the king of Babylon, and that nation and land which had invaded His land, destroyed His sanctuary, and carried His people captive out of the land, that He might fulfill and bring to pass all that Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah had prophesied and proclaimed during his generation. What’s more, is that when those seventy years had been completed and fulfilled—not only would the LORD punish the king of Babylon, as well as the nation and kingdom of Babylon for the great atrocities it had committed within and against the land of Judah, but the LORD would also visit His people to rescue them from the midst of the land, and bring them forth unto their own land once more. The word of the LORD would be spoken unto Jeremiah concerning these seventy years which had been decreed and ordained by the LORD concerning their captivity and exile, and Jeremiah would even write these words in a letter which he would send unto the residue and remnant of the captives which had been carried away into the land of the Chaldeans. In fact, I would dare say that the words which the prophet Daniel read might not have only been this letter which Jeremiah had sent unto the captives and exiles in the midst of the land, but also the entire book which the word of the LORD commanded and instructed Jeremiah to write, which Baruch the son of Neriah would read in the court of the house of the LORD in the hearing of all the people who came unto the Temple and sanctuary to worship before the LORD.
When you read the words which are found within the prophetic book of Ezekiel—specifically those words which are found in these final chapters—you will find the word of the LORD speaking unto the house of Israel and Judah and emphatically declaring unto them that He would surely and would indeed visit them that He might rescue from the midst of their captivity and exile that He might bring them back into the land which He had sworn on oath unto Abraham, unto Isaac and unto Jacob. The prophet Ezekiel would begin speaking and proclaiming unto the house of Israel that the LORD would visit them, and that the LORD would rescue them from the midst of the land of the Chaldeans that He might bring them forth and return them unto their own land. What makes this reality all the more intriguing and interesting is that it would be in the midst of the land of the Chaldeans the LORD would watch over, protect and preserve the house of Israel that at the appointed time He might bring them forth from the midst of the land and once more cause them to dwell in their own land. What’s more, is the LORD would essentially bury the house of Israel in the land of the Chaldeans—almost as if the entire land of the Chaldeans were a grave—that the LORD might cause them to be raised from death to life at the appointed time. The more I think about and the more I consider the words which are found within these chapters the more I can’t help but be drawn to the awesome and incredible reality that the land of the Chaldeans was essentially a divine burial ground where the LORD would cause His people to be buried that He might watch over them until the appointed time when He might visit them and cause them to come forth from that grave and live. In the New Testament Jesus our Christ and Lord spoke of a seed falling into the ground, and how unless it falls into the ground it abides alone, but that that seed would eventually bud and spring forth producing a great tree in the midst of the earth. The seed itself would be buried in the ground, and it would be there in the ground the seed would begin to undergo and experience a powerful transformation as it would produce roots, and would eventually and ultimately grow into and produce a tree which would stand in the midst of the land. That seed which would be buried in the ground and would be hidden and concealed from the eyes of men would abide alone, yet in the process of time it would eventually cause life to break through the soil and break through the ground that a tree might ultimately spring up and spring forth from that place.
I cannot help but think about and consider the house of Israel and Judah, and how even though they would live as captives and exiles in the midst of the land of the Chaldeans, they would essentially and ultimately be a divine planting of the LORD, as the LORD would plant them in the midst of the land that at the appointed time life might begin to break the surface of the ground, and ultimately produce that great tree which would be the house of Israel. What’s more, is that I would even dare say the LORD allowed the land of Israel to lie fallow and remain at rest to enjoy all the sabbaths it had not been able to enjoy in order that when that seed which had been planted and buried in the land of the Chaldeans was ready to burst forth from the ground, it might be carried by the LORD from that place and planted in the fertile soil of the land of Israel. There is not a doubt in my mind that both the land and the people were prepared and preserved by the careful and watching eye of the LORD that at the appointed time the people might once more be planted in the midst of the land of Israel. The soil which was found in the midst of the land of Israel would be carefully watched over and faithfully preserved by the LORD in order that at the appointed the LORD might cause that which He had planted in the land of the Chaldeans to break through the ground and bring forth life that that life might be brought back into the place it belonged that it might once more thrive and become a nation and people in the midst of the nations of the earth. The LORD would plant the seed of His people in the land of the Chaldeans, and the LORD would carefully watch over it that it might begin to bring forth life, and when that life would begin to break through the surface of the ground in the land of the Chaldeans the LORD might visit them and bring them back unto the land which was theirs as an inheritance. With this in mind, I invite you to consider the words which are found in the latter portion of the thirty-sixth chapter of the prophetic book of Ezekiel which the LORD would reveal unto Ezekiel, and which he would faithfully proclaim unto the remnant and residue of the house of Judah in the midst of the land. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the thirty-sixth chapter of this prophetic book beginning to read with and from the sixteenth verse:
“Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, when the house of Israel dwelt in their own land, they defiled it by their own way and by their doings: their way was before me as the uncleanness of a removed woman. Wherefore I poured my fury upon them for the blood that they had shed upon the land, and for their idols wherewith they had polluted it: and I scattered them among the heathen, and they were dispersed through the countries: according to the way and according to their doings I judged them. And when they entered unto the heathen, whither they went, they profaned my holy name, when they said to them. These are the people of the LORD, and are gone forth out of His land. But I had pity for mine holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the heathen, whither they went. Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the LORD God; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name’s sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither they went. Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the LORD God; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name’s sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went. And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, saith the LORD God, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes. For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statues, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God. I will also save you from all your uncleannessess: and I will call for the corn, and will increase it, and lay no famine upon you. And I will multiply the fruit of the tree, and the increase of the field, that ye shall receive no more reproach of famine among the heathen. Then shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings that were not good, and shall lothe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and for your abominations. Not for your sakes do I this, saith the LORD God, be it known unto you: be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel. Thus saith the LORD God; In the day that I shall have cleansed you from all your iniquities I will also cause you to dwell in the cities, and the wastes shall be builded. And the Desolate land shall be tilled, whereas it lay desolate in the sight of all that passed by. And they shall say, This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are become fenced, and are inhabited. Then the heathen that are left round about you shall know that I the LORD build the ruined places and plant that was desolate: I the LORD have spoken it, and I will do it. Thus saith the LORD God; I will yet for this be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them; I will increase them with men like a flock. As the holy flock, as the flock of Jerusalem in her solemn feasts; so shall the waste cities be filled with flocks of men: and they shall know that I am the LORD” (Ezekiel 36:16-38).
The words which you find within this passage of Scripture bring you face to face with the awesome and incredible reality that the LORD had every intention, every desire, and every motivation to visit His people while in the land of the Chaldeans that He might rescue them out of that land and bring them back into and unto their own land. The truth of the matter is that the LORD would take the seed of His people and plant them in the earth in the land of the Chaldeans that He might watch over, protect and preserve them until the appointed time would come when He might take that seed and once more bring it into the land of Israel and plant it that it would grow into a tree that would be within and among the nations. There is not a doubt in my mind that the LORD caused His people—or at least a remnant and residue of His people—to be buried in the midst of the land of the Chaldeans in order that at the appointed time He would be able to bring them back to life, and from that place of life restore them in the midst of the land sworn and given unto their fathers. The more I think about and consider this awesome reality the more I can’t help but encounter and come face to face with the awesome and powerful reality that the land of the Chaldeans was for all intents and purposes for the children of Israel a grave where they would be buried—and not only be buried, but be buried for seventy years. SURVIVING A SEVENTY YEAR BURIAL! AT THE END OF SEVENTY YEARS THE GRAVES WOULD OPEN! What I so appreciate when reading the words which are found in the prophetic book of Ezekiel—specifically the thirty-seventh chapter—is not only that the LORD would cause the dry bones to live again, and not only that the LORD would cause the graves to open, but also that the LORD would unite His people in the process of restoration. In all reality, the resurrection and restoration the children of Israel would experience at the end of those seventy years would not only result in their being planted in the land of their ancestors and fathers, but it would also cause them to once more be a unified people. Although the house of Israel would enter into captivity first at the hands of the Assyrians, and although the hoes of Judah would enter into captivity at the hands of the Babylonians, the process of resurrection would bring both people together in one single resurrection. There would not be one resurrection for the house of Israel, and there wouldn’t be one resurrection for the house of Judah, but there would be one resurrection which both would enjoy and experience during those days at the end of the seventy years.
I find the words which were written and recorded in the thirty-seventh chapter of the prophetic book of Ezekiel truly remarkable and astounding when you take the time to think about and consider them, for in the first portion of the chapter we find the declaration of resurrection, while in the second portion of the chapter we find the declaration of unity and restoration. It’s important to note that the resurrection of the children of Israel would essentially have two distinct phases of restoration, as the first phase of restoration would be the restoration of the people as one people, while the second phase of the restoration would be that one people once more living and dwelling in the midst of the land of Israel. The house of Israel and the house of Judah would no more be divided, and they would both live together in unity in the midst of the land. It is absolutely powerful to think about and consider the fact that the children of Israel would be divided between the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah from the days and times of Rehoboam and Jeroboam until the days of Hoshea king of Israel and Hezekiah king of Judah when the Assyrian army would invade the land, would capture Samaria, and would carry away the people of God captive into the nations and countries within that empire. The house of Judah would remain in the land until the days of Jehoiachin king of Judah, and would ultimately be destroyed during the days of the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah. It is something worth noting and pointing out that when the people of God were resurrected in the midst of the land of the Chaldeans and brought back to life, that resurrection would not only bring about a restoration of the people as a united and unified people, but it would also bring about their restoration in the midst of the land.
As I sit here today thinking about and considering this awesome and wonderful reality, I can’t help but be drawn and captivated by the fact that the resurrection of the house of Israel—the opening of their graves and their being brought forth out of those graves—would bring about the restoration of the people as one single people, and would also ultimately result in their being restored in the land from which they were cast out of. It is truly something wonderful, powerful and beautiful to think about and consider the fact that the resurrection of the children of Israel after being dead in a strange and foreign land of captivity and exile would accomplish two distinct purposes in the heart and mind of Almighty God—namely, bringing the people back together once more, and bringing that single, unified people into the land. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this reality, for the main and underlying truth surrounding Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones was the opening up of the graves of the house of Israel, which had been closed for seventy years. For seventy years the children of Israel had been buried in those graves in the midst of the land of the Chaldeans, and according to Scripture there was at least one—perhaps only one—who recognized and understood the seventy year window of burial in the midst of the land of the Chaldeans. What makes the prophet Daniel’s understanding and discerning so incredibly powerful and unique is when you think about how it did not come during the days of Nebuchadnezzar, nor did it come during the days of Belshazzar, but rather, it came during the days of Darius the Mede. Perhaps even in the same year Babylon fell and was given into the hands of Darius the Mede and the army which was with him Daniel would understood by the writings of Jeremiah that seventy years would be accomplished for the captivity and exile of the people of God. Scripture seems to provide no indication that there were any other members of the house of Israel, nor of the house of Judah who were paying attention to the times and the seasons, and who were actually seeking to understand the times in which they were living. The only thing most of them knew was that they were living as strangers, captives and exiles in a strange and foreign land, and that all hope had seemingly vanished. The truth of the matter, however, is that had the people read and understood the writings of the prophet Jeremiah they would have recognized the LORD had set an appointed end date for their captivity and exile, and that at the appointed time He would visit them, would open their graves, and would cause them to come forth out of those graves an exceeding great army that would march out of the land of the Chaldeans, and return unto their own land.
In the thirty-seventh chapter of the prophetic book of Ezekiel we encounter and come face to face with the awesome and powerful reality that the bones which the prophet saw—the bones which were very many and which were very dry—would represent the house of Israel. What’s more, is that not only did the bones represent the house of Israel, but the condition of the bones represented the general and overall mindset of the house of Israel during those seventy years of captivity and exile. It’s quite intriguing to think about and consider the fact that the declaration of there being “very many” bones speak of the house of Israel as a whole, while the declaration of the bones being “very dry” spoke to the general and overall mindset of the people of Israel. This is something which must be understood and recognized when seeking to understand these final chapters, for the house of Israel had undoubtedly felt they were decaying and rotting in the midst of that strange and foreign land, and that there was perhaps no hope of escape or coming forth from the land. The words of the prophet Ezekiel point to and reveal the absolutely wonderful and beautiful truth that despite their hopelessness, despite their despair, and despite their anguish and sorrow, the LORD would indeed visit them, the LORD would indeed raise them from death to life again, the LORD would unite them once more as one people, the LORD would bring them forth out of the land of the Chaldeans and restore them into the land of their ancestors and fathers. Not only this, but as you read the words found within these chapters you will find something else that would take place after the children of Israel would return unto their land—namely, the rebuilding of the Temple and sanctuary of the living God. The prophet Ezekiel would see the people of God returning unto the land of their ancestors and fathers, and would see them being restored unto the land, however—almost synonymous with their restoration in the midst of the land would be a great enemy and adversary that would march against and invade the land seeking to completely and utterly destroy them. It’s truly something astonishing to consider the fact that the prophet Ezekiel saw a resurrected and restored people in the midst of the land of Israel, and although he would see a Temple of the LORD standing in the midst of the people, he would see a great enemy, a great adversary and host marching up against the house of Israel that they might seize plunder and take a spoil. Before you think about that, I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the first and second portions of the thirty-seventh chapter of this prophetic book:
“The hand of the LORD was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones, and caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry. And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O LORD God, thou knowest. Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus saith the LORD God unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live: and I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the LORD. So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone. And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them. Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the LORD God; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breath upon these slain, that they may live. So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army. Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts. Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the LORD God; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, and shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the LORD have spoken it, and performed it, saith the LORD” (Ezekiel 37:1-14).
“The word of the LORD came again unto me, saying, Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions: and join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand. And when the children of thy people shall speak unto thee, saying, Wilt thou not shew us what thou meanest by these? Say unto them, Thus saith the LORD God; Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in mine hand. And the sticks whereon thou writest shall be in thine hand before their eyes. And say unto them, Thus saith the LORD God; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land: and I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all: Neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions: but I will save them out of all their dwelling places, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them: so shall they be my people, and I will be their God. And David my servant shall be king over them; and they shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them. And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children’s children for ever: and my servant David shall be their prince for ever. Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them: yeah, I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And the heathen shall be my people. And the heathen shall know that I the LORD do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore” (Ezekiel 37:15-28).
The words which are found in each of these passages are absolutely incredible when you truly take the time to think about and consider them, for in the process of opening up the graves of the house of Israel—graves which were present in the land of the Chaldeans—the LORD would not only restore them as one people, but the LORD would also bring them back into their own land, Although the house of Israel left the land which was sworn unto their ancestors and fathers divided, they would return united as a people once more. IT is absolutely necessary that we pay close and careful attention to these words, for the prophet Ezekiel saw a time coming when the living and eternal God would visit His people in the midst of the land of the Chaldeans, and when the LORD would open their graves, cause them to come forth from those graves, find and experience hope once again, and make the beautiful journey back to the land which was theirs as an inheritance. How absolutely amazing it is to think about the fact that captivity and exile would and could not deprive the house of Israel from that land which was rightfully theirs by inheritance and promise. For seventy years the LORD would faithfully watch over the people who were living as captives and exiles in the midst of the land of the Chaldeans, and He would also faithfully watch over and preserve the land. At the appointed time the LORD would open the graves of His people in the midst of the land of the Chaldeans, and would cause them to burst forth from those graves and return unto the land as an exceeding great army, and as a unified people. AN EXCEEDING GREAT ARMY, A UNITED PEOPLE! We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of these truths, for the opening of the graves of the house of Israel would accomplish much in the hands of the one true and living God. It would be through the opening of their graves the living God would restore the people together as one people, and would bring them into the midst of their land. How truly wonderful and amazing it is to think about the fact that in the process of resurrection the LORD would bring about one people who would emerge from the land of the Chaldeans—and not only emerge from the land of the Chaldeans, but would emerge from their graves with the sole purpose of returning unto the land that was theirs as an inheritance. The LORD would cause the graves of the house of Israel to open—much like the graves opened upon the death of Jesus—and the LORD would cause them to burst forth.
RESURRECTION IN CHALDEA, RESTORATION IN ISRAEL, REBUILDING OF THE SANCTUARY! As you read the words which are found within this passage of Scripture you will quickly encounter a powerful resurrection that would take place in the land of the Chaldeans—one that would cause graves to open and a resurrected people bursting forth—and a resurrected people who were very much alive on the move back to their own land. What a truly powerful and extraordinary picture it is to consider a resurrected people who were very much alive departing from the land of captivity and exile—much like the children of Israel marched up out of the land of Egypt when Moses and Aaron led them forth into the wilderness. At the end of seventy years which had been decreed by the eternal God the house of Israel—now very much alive and as one people—would return unto the land where they would once more be the people of God, and where the LORD of hosts would once more be their God. We cannot and must not miss and ignore this absolutely remarkable reality, for not only was the LORD willing to restore them in the midst of their land, but the LORD was also willing to be their God, and have them be His people. Even more, the LORD would once more dwell among them as they would rebuild the Temple which the enemy and adversary had destroyed seventy years earlier. What a tremendous sign it must have been as the wall of the city of Jerusalem began to be rebuilt, as the gates began to be repaired, and as the Temple began to rise from the ashes. A WALL REBUILT, GATES REPAIRED, AND A TEMPLE RISING FROM THE ASHES! Like a phoenix rising from the ashes the Temple of the LORD would once more rise in the midst of the land out of the ruin, rubble and ashes, and the house of Israel would rise from their graves in the land of the Chaldeans that they might return unto the land which was STILL theirs as an inheritance. Despite captivity and exile, despite ruin and rubble, and despite being buried in graves in the land of the Chaldeans, the living and eternal God would preserve the land of Israel for His people. No length of time, nor their graves being closed could keep the house of Israel from returning unto the land—and even before they departed the land the LORD had already decreed their return unto and their restoration in the midst of that land. Oh what a beautiful picture it is to think about the house of Israel being brought forth out of the land of the Chaldeans to once more dwell in the midst of and inhabit the land—and not only inhabit and dwell in the midst of the land, but also engage themselves in the process of rebuilding and repairing.
As I prepare to bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to draw your attention to the progression of chapters thirty-seven through the remaining chapters of the book, for in the thirty-seventh chapter we find the people being raised from death to life, returning unto the land, and rebuilding the Temple, however, in between the return and the rebuilding, or in between the return and the rising there is the conflict with the single greatest enemy and adversary the house of Israel ever faced. The thirty-eighth and thirty-ninth chapters of this prophetic book have long baffled and confused scholars and students of the Bible alike, as much speculation has been given to understanding who Gog and Magog are. There have been a number of different theories on Gog, and what this adversary could in fact represent, and yet the truth of the matter is that to date I don’t believe anyone truly knows or understands who this enemy and adversary is. Suffice it to say that in between the return and the rise there is the conflict—and not just a conflict, but the single greatest conflict the house of Israel would ever face. While I will not attempt to try and convey who Gog and Magog are, I feel it is absolutely necessary to point out that upon reading these words you will find that even though this would be the single greatest adversary and enemy the house of Israel has ever faced, they would not need to lift a hand, nor would they need to raise a sword or shield against this adversary, for just as the angel of the LORD would destroy one-hundred and eighty-five thousand Assyrians in a single night, so also would the LORD fight for the house of Israel that He might deliver them out of the hands of this great adversary. IN between the return and the rise there is the conflict, and yet in the midst of that conflict the living and eternal God would indeed fight for His people, and would deliver them out of the hands of the mighty enemy and adversary. Despite the size and strength of this enemy the LORD would rise up as a roaring Lion and would completely and utterly shatter this powerful foe that would dare raise itself up against His people. Much like Moses would instruct the children of Israel to stand still and see the salvation of the LORD, for the enemy they saw before them at the Red Sea they would see no more, so also would the house of Israel need only to stand still and see the salvation of the LORD. Much like Hezekiah faced the insurmountable odds of the Assyrian army outside the walls of the city of Jerusalem and trusted in the LORD to deliver the people of God, so also would the LORD deliver the house of Israel from the hands and threat of this foreign enemy that would seek to invade the land of Israel.