4 March 2017Ezekiel 37:24-28
“They shall live in the land that I gave to my servant Jacob, in which your ancestors lived; they and their children and their children’s children shall live there for ever, and my servant David shall be their prince for ever. I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; and I will bless them and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary among them for evermore.” (vv. 25-26)
Psalm: Psalm 118:19-29
These words of Ezekiel must have been music to the ears of a vanquished and exiled people. It was essentially a vision of a utopian future, which would have been everything that their present was not.
The king of Judah had rebelled against his overlord, the king of Babylon, who, in response, had destroyed Jerusalem and the temple. The exiles had no home, no shrine, no king, and seemingly no future. But God had plans for them.
God promised them, first of all, a king. Not just any king, but King David. This harked back to the heyday of Israel's life, when David was on the throne, and looked forward to another great king of his lineage. This Davidic king might be literally descended from David, but more crucially would be the same kind of ruler, ruling according to the same kind of principles. This was highlighted by the image of the shepherd; just as David was taken from tending the sheep, to shepherd the nation, so the nation would again be protected by "one shepherd" (v. 24).
Secondly, God promised them their land - "the land that I gave to my servant Jacob" (v. 25) - to live in for ever, under the Davidic, messianic king.
The third promise is for the renewal of their covenant with God, again with the commitment that it would last for ever. This is an interesting promise, as it was the people, not God, who had broken the covenant. God seems to be promising that the people would be faithful. Perhaps this should be seen as a promise of grace and sanctification - that is, God would give them the gift of holiness and worship.
Which brings us to the fourth promise - the temple (God's dwelling). Once again, there would be a place of worship and ritual, a centre for the cultic, religious life of Israel. Above all, the temple represents God's presence in their midst. If, in exile, they felt far from God, in the promised future they would be close to God, and the relationship would be close and lasting.
- How might this passage be read sensitively, in the context of modern day conflicts and competing claims surrounding the Holy Land?
- What are your hopes and dreams for the future, and in particular for your relationship with God?