Ezekiel 36:33-38: Even More

How often the richest promises made good on by God
entail combinations of things
neither bargained for nor anticipated.
— Christopher R. Seitz (Isaiah 40-66)

I like animated movies—as long as they’re not too sentimental. (Cows crying about tragedy in their life does nothing for me.) One feature I did enjoy was Over the Hedge. You can interpret that film as an extended polemic against the folly of hoarding and consumerism. Do you remember when the raccoon determined to take only what he needed from the bear?

In this last part of Ezekiel 36, God decides to bless Israel with even more. After reading the “I will” lists that came before, it’s difficult to conceive of a greater blessing—yet here it is.

There are two more blessings for Israel that God will describe, neither of which are consumerist-driven. These are the type of things that symbolize a complete reversal of the curses under which Israel has suffered.

. . .

The main point of God’s restoration is clear: “On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities” (v. 33, NRSV).  This is the ultimate goal. God will cleanse Israel from sin—everything else is a consequence of that cleansing.

God lists two more consequences of his cleansing in the remainder of chapter 36.

Once I cleanse you, then . . .
. . . your land will be fruitful.

The terminology used in this paragraph (vv. 33-36) evokes the perfect splendor of Eden itself! God’s cleansing purposes will be so encompassing, the land itself will think it’s being tended in the perfection of pre-curse Eden.

The idea that the land itself suffers the consequence of sin and the curse is clear in the Old and New Testaments. In the Genesis account God said, “cursed is the ground because of [Adam]” (3:17, NRSV). All of the struggles of wilderness and desert that are so ingrained in Israel’s collective consciousness can be traced to human disobedience.

Paul looks at the restoration side of things in Romans 8:20-21:

The creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay. (NRSV)

Just as much as creation’s struggle is linked to humanity’s sin, creation’s future glory is linked to humanity’s restoration.

. . .

Once I cleanse you, then . . .
. . . your people will multiply.

In addition to the reversal of the curse on the land, God will reverse the curse of a reduced exilic population. Once Israel is cleansed from her sin, her numbers will grow so exponentially, they will look like the sheep on the clogged streets of Jerusalem during a festival.

The image of sheep adds yet another layer of meaning to this great promise. These were the animals that were brought to be dedicated to God and sacrificed for Israel’s sin. In what seems like a mixed metaphor, there is a foreshadowing of redemption in the suffering and death of Israel herself.

A few short centuries later, Jesus—the ultimate representative of Israel—was sacrificed like a lamb to provide restoration for humanity.

. . .

Lord, water in me the seed of perfect restoration that flows from a cleansed life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

< Ezekiel 36:24-32 | Heaping Coals

Ezekiel 37:1-3 | Very Dry >

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