Metaphors of unbelief in Ezekiel
On Brian’s Blog, Brian commented on some verses in Ezekiel 11, and about the history of the Jews over the centuries, and their settlement in Palestine, that led to the formation of the Jewish state in 1948. He wrote:
In Ezekiel 11, Ezekiel is still experiencing the vision from God. God was executing judgment on all of Israel for their iniquities when Ezekiel asked…
“Ah, Lord GOD! Will you make a full end of the remnant of Israel?” Eze 11:13 ESV
God always spares a remnant. Look at the flood…God spared a remnant. Sodom and Gomorrah…God spared Lot and his family. Babylon…remnant lived throughout captivity. Holocaust…remnant still. In Ezekiel 9 there is a passage where God had a mark put on the foreheads of all those that had problems with the iniquity being done in Israel. Everyone that did not have the mark…died. Sounds almost like Revelation 9 doesn’t it? This also makes me think about those that believe the Church has become the new spiritual Israel. If Israel is done…if they aren’t in God’s plan anymore…how is it that they continue to be supernaturally protected? Israel becoming a nation again and their tumultuous beginning is surely something that a born-again Christian has to see God in don’t they?!
Back to the verse I was trying to get to…
“Therefore you are to say, ‘This is what the Lord GOD says, ‘Although I’ve removed them far away to live among the nations, and although I’ve scattered them throughout the earth, yet I’ve continued to be their sanctuary, even for the short time that they will be living in the lands to which they’ve gone.’ Eze 11:16 ISV
For me…this is yet more proof. Even though God has brought judgment upon them and scattered them among the nations (Diaspora), God says that He has continued to be their sanctuary through it all. God has not stopped loving this nation and He is not through with the nation of Israel. What does this mean for you and I? For me, it means that when we mess up and God takes us to the woodshed, He is still the Father that will protect us and comfort us. He is still the Father that loves us and has plans to prosper us (Jeremiah 29:11).
Brian would likely disagree with me about the meaning of Ezekiel’s prophecies. A metaphor used in scripture to represent the phenomenon of Christians having different beliefs and interpretations is captivity. Many of the saints are represented as captives in lands other than the land of Israel. This is illustrated in a prophecy of Joel:
For, behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem,
I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land.
And they have cast lots for my people; and have given a boy for an harlot, and sold a girl for wine, that they might drink.
In Egypt, Israel was oppressed, and in bondage. God brought them out of Egypt into the wilderness, where they wandered for 40 years, before they entered their promised land. Many perished without entering it. With this understanding of the metaphorical meaning of the promised land, as representing something that we ought to believe, the application of Ezekiel 11:16 to the church seems straightforward. Christians are “scattered throughout the earth,” among tens of thousands of denominations and sects. Even where Christians are not separated from one another by distance, they are separated by their various interpretations of scripture. In a major denomination, in a congregation, or even in a single family, there are often great disagreements about the gospel, and about eschatology. This is represented in Ezekiel’s prophecies by the people of Israel being taken captive in different nations, and in Revelation, by the figure of Babylon. John wrote:
And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.
Finally, I was just going to share something that I think ties in with what I was saying about how God is not done with Israel. I think this ties in with Ezekiel 37 and the passage about the valley of dry bones. You can check out my blog post on that chapter here.”Therefore you are to say, ‘This is what the Lord GOD says, “I’m going to gather you from among the nations, assembling you from the lands among which you have been dispersed. I’ll give you the land of Israel. When they return from there and cast away all of their loathsome things and detestable practices, then I’ll give them a united heart, placing a new spirit within them. I’ll remove their stubborn heart and give them a heart that’s sensitive to me. When they live by my statutes and keep my ordinances by observing them, then they’ll be my people and I will be their God. Eze 11:17-20 ISV
When I look at this, I see things that have been fulfilled and others that have not. The first verse…”I’m going to gather you from among the nations, assembling you from the lands among which you have been dispersed. I’ll give you the land of Israel”…I believe that was fulfilled when Israel became a nation back in 1948. If you look at the verse further, you have to see that the other things mentioned have not exactly happened yet.
For Ezekiel, I think, dwelling in the promised land meant something other than merely living within its boundaries. Ezekiel redefined the boundaries of the land assigned to each of the tribes, in the last part of chapter 47. The return to the land foretold in his prophecies was a metaphor. The return of the Jews in the time of Ezra did not fit what Ezekiel had said. Instead, Ezekiel’s prophecies were about believing the truth of the gospel, while non-belief is pictured by Israel’s captivity in other lands, or by their wandering in a barren wilderness. Ezekiel said, God will bring his people out of the countries where they were scattered, into a wilderness, and plead with them in the wilderness. Only the righteous will enter the land of Israel. The rebels will be purged out.
As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out, will I rule over you:
And I will bring you out from the people, and will gather you out of the countries wherein ye are scattered, with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out.
And I will bring you into the wilderness of the people, and there will I plead with you face to face.
Like as I pleaded with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so will I plead with you, saith the Lord GOD.
And I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant:
And I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against me: I will bring them forth out of the country where they sojourn, and they shall not enter into the land of Israel: and ye shall know that I am the LORD.
The “purge” did not happen during the return from exile in Babylon. There was no wilderness, that they had to pass through to get to Jerusalem. And neither has it happened during the modern migration of ethnic Jews from Russia and other countries to settle in the Jewish state in Palestine. The Jews do not pass through the wilderness; all they need is a passport, and a plane ticket to Tel Aviv. Rebels are not purged out from among them. Neither is the Spirit of God given to them. Rather, I suggest, Ezekiel’s prophecy applies to Christians. Coming into the promised land is a metaphor, representing believing the truth of the gospel. The church is pictured as a woman who flees to the wilderness, in Revelation 12:6 and 14. The dragon sends forth a flood from his mouth, attempting to carry the woman away by the flood. [Vs. 15] The land opens its mouth, to swallow up the flood. The land that swallows up the flood spewed out of the serpent’s mouth, a flood of flawed interpretations, and false teachings, is the truth. This is the spiritual promised land, into which Jesus said the Spirit will guide the saints. [John 16:13]