25 “I will make with them a covenant of peace and banish wild beasts from the land, so that they may dwell securely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods. 26 And I will make them and the places all around my hill a blessing, and I will send down the showers in their season; they shall be showers of blessing. 27 And the trees of the field shall yield their fruit, and the earth shall yield its increase, and they shall be secure in their land. And they shall know that I am the Lord, when I break the bars of their yoke, and deliver them from the hand of those who enslaved them. 28 They shall no more be a prey to the nations, nor shall the beasts of the land devour them. They shall dwell securely, and none shall make them afraid. 29 And I will provide for them renowned plantations so that they shall no more be consumed with hunger in the land, and no longer suffer the reproach of the nations. 30 And they shall know that I am the Lord their God with them, and that they, the house of Israel, are my people, declares the Lord God. 31 And you are my sheep, human sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Lord God.” – Ezekiel 34:25-31 ESV
Despite the absence of godly leadership that led to a centuries-long pattern of sin, God had not given up on His rebellious people. Their lack of faithfulness had not diminished His unwavering commitment to His covenant. Early on in this book, Ezekiel recorded Yahweh’s promise to keep His covenant promises.
“I will give you what you deserve, for you have taken your solemn vows lightly by breaking your covenant. Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you when you were young, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you.” – Ezekiel 16:59-60 NLT
Their failure to hold up their end of the covenant commitment would not deter God from fulfilling His promises. He would do all that He said He would do. That included their judgment, in the form of the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem, as well as their future restoration. There would be many dark days in the wake of Judah’s fall, but they would be followed by a glorious and bright future.
As Ezekiel addressed the Jews living in forced exile in Babylon, he was dealing with a doubly defeated audience. They had already experienced the pain and degradation of captivity and had lived for years as refugees in a foreign land. But they managed to endure their humiliating circumstances by dreaming of a day when they would return to the land of Canaan. So, when they received the latest news that Jerusalem had fallen and the temple had been destroyed, they were left in a state of abject despair. All was lost. They had no king, no country, no temple, and, therefore, no hope. Yet, God wanted them to know that He was still in control and had great plans for their future. And He will reiterate that plan repeatedly.
“I will make a covenant of peace with them, an everlasting covenant. I will give them their land and increase their numbers, and I will put my Temple among them forever. I will make my home among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” – Ezekiel 37:26-27 NLT
Imagine the impact of those words on a people who had just learned that their beloved temple had been destroyed by the Babylonians. They were still reeling from the news that their homeland was now a vassal state of a foreign power and their capital city lie in ruins. The news that God was going to return them to their land and restore their temple would have been music to their ears. And almost as if to silence any doubts they may still have harbored, God stated His intentions yet again.
“I will end the captivity of my people; I will have mercy on all Israel, for I jealously guard my holy reputation! They will accept responsibility for their past shame and unfaithfulness after they come home to live in peace in their own land, with no one to bother them. When I bring them home from the lands of their enemies, I will display my holiness among them for all the nations to see.” – Ezekiel 39:25-27 NLT
To a captive people who hailed from a now-defeated country, this was almost too good to be true. The thought of ever returning to the land would have seemed impossible to them. Even if they could return, how would they ever survive in such abysmal conditions? Yet, God was promising their return to a land of peace and plenty. In the place of the demolished temple, there would stand a glorious new temple. Rather than living as the underlings of the Babylonian king, they would serve the King of kings, Jehovah Himself.
But this divine promise of a bright future has yet to be fulfilled. While a remnant of the Babylonian captives eventually returned to the land of Judah, they did not find it in the glorious state that God described. Some 70 years after the first wave of Jewish citizens arrived in Babylon as captives, Nehemiah would lead a small contingent of Jews back to the land of Judah, arriving sometime in the year 445 B.C. And what they found was far from idyllic or encouraging.
After dark I went out through the Valley Gate, past the Jackal’s Well, and over to the Dung Gate to inspect the broken walls and burned gates. Then I went to the Fountain Gate and to the King’s Pool, but my donkey couldn’t get through the rubble. So, though it was still dark, I went up the Kidron Valley instead, inspecting the wall before I turned back and entered again at the Valley Gate. – Nehemiah 2:13-15 NLT
Nehemiah was appalled by what he saw. Yes, he had returned to the land but he did not find a restored Jerusalem and a rebuilt temple. After his inspection, he reported his findings to the Jewish leaders.
“You know very well what trouble we are in. Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire. Let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and end this disgrace!” – Nehemiah 2:17 NLT
Thanks to Nehemiah’s organizational skills and the hard work of the people, the walls of the city were eventually restored, the gates rehung, and the temple rebuilt. But when the dust settled, Jerusalem was just a shadow of its former glory. And over the centuries, Judah would never regain its former status as a powerful nation-state. It would remain under the heavy hand of foreign powers, all the way up to the coming of Christ when the Romans ruled over the land of Palestine.
But regardless of Israel’s current conditions, these promises of God remain. Nothing has changed. His commitment to their future restoration has not expired or been abrogated. God speaks of a time when their chains will be removed and their fortunes reversed. The land will provide for all their needs. They will enjoy peace and prosperity.
“They will live in safety, and no one will frighten them.” – Ezekiel 34:28 NLT
They will suffer no more famines or foreign invasions. Instead, they will enjoy the permanent presence of God in their midst. And with God living amongst them, they will receive a new capacity to serve and worship Him alone.
“But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel after those days,” says the Lord. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the Lord.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know me already,” says the Lord. “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.” – Jeremiah 31:33-34 NLT
This unprecedented day lies somewhere in the future. It has yet to occur but comes with a divine guarantee of fulfillment. God has promised it and, therefore, it is as good as done.
The book of Isaiah also speaks of this future day, adding the important aspect of an heir of King David who will come to sit on the royal throne in Jerusalem.
In that day the heir to David’s throne
will be a banner of salvation to all the world.
The nations will rally to him,
and the land where he lives will be a glorious place.
In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time
to bring back the remnant of his people—
those who remain in Assyria and northern Egypt;
in southern Egypt, Ethiopia, and Elam;
in Babylonia, Hamath, and all the distant coastlands.
He will raise a flag among the nations
and assemble the exiles of Israel.
He will gather the scattered people of Judah
from the ends of the earth. – Isaiah 11:10-12 NLT
This heir is none other than Jesus Christ himself. After His second coming, He will ascend to the throne and rule for a thousand years in the city of David. The end of His millennial reign will usher in the eternal state as He completes God’s plans for man’s redemption and the renewal of all creation. The victorious Christ will willingly relinquish His authority in an act of reverence to His Heavenly Father.
After that the end will come, when he will turn the Kingdom over to God the Father, having destroyed every ruler and authority and power. For Christ must reign until he humbles all his enemies beneath his feet. And the last enemy to be destroyed is death. For the Scriptures say, “God has put all things under his authority.” (Of course, when it says “all things are under his authority,” that does not include God himself, who gave Christ his authority.) Then, when all things are under his authority, the Son will put himself under God’s authority, so that God, who gave his Son authority over all things, will be utterly supreme over everything everywhere. – 1 Corinthians 15:24-28 NLT
In that Millennial Kingdom, Jesus, the son of David, will rule over the restored people of Israel in a revitalized land. He will reign in righteousness and usher in a time of peace and prosperity. Many of the promises found in the book of Ezekiel will be fulfilled at that time. But even that will not be the end. There will be yet another phase to God’s grand redemptive plan that includes a new heaven and a new earth. At the end of the thousand-year reign of Christ, Satan will be defeated and the eternal state will begin, and its arrival will be marked by the New Jerusalem. The apostle John described this epic event in the book of Revelation.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” – Revelation 21:1-4 NLT
God will be with them. The same God who founded them as a nation, set them apart as His own, and eventually punished them for their sins, would restore them to their former place at His side. The covenant-making God would prove Himself to be the covenant-keeping God.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.