So it is in Chapter 35 against Mount Seir; against the land of Gog in Chapter 38; and against Gog again in Chapter 39. These chapters consist entirely of strong judgments of God.
But in Chapters 36 and 37, something completely different occurs.
In Chapter 36, God commands Ezekiel to prophesy to the mountains of Israel, not against them. During God’s judgment of Israel, the mountains have become desolate – stripped of vegetation, wild life, and God’s children. He speaks to them almost as a remnant of his people and offers a glorious picture of restoration:
“But you, O mountains of Israel, shall shoot forth your branches and yield your fruit to my people Israel, for they will soon come home. For behold, I am for you, and I will turn to you, and you shall be tilled and sown…I will let people walk on you, even my people Israel. And they shall possess you, and you shall be their inheritance…” (36:8-9, 12, ESV).
The mountains, of course, played a pivotal role in Israel’s abjectly despicable worship of man-made idols and child sacrifices. This was the central disobedience that led to God’s raging judgment poured out on them. It was so bad that even the land needed restoration.
Ezekiel is commanded again:
“Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came” (36:22).
Has God suddenly lost his never-ending love for his people?
Who has not had a father who tried to teach you something important; but you were not mature enough yet, your father got disgusted, and in frustration pushed you aside saying, “Let me do it”? The shame from that moment lasts a lifetime.
God pushed Israel aside and talked to the mountains instead; but God is not finished with them yet – suddenly he stops talking to the mountains!
“And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name…And the nations will know that I am the Lord…when through you I will vindicate my holiness before their eyes” (36:23).
Watch closely how God will reignite his sense of never-ending love, which seems to have gone out like a flickering candle in a gale:
“…I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the hearts of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules” (36:26-27).
The heart of stone is the heart of tempted, disobedient, and disunified men and women in the absence of the One who took all our sins, and sent us the Holy Spirit upon our repentance and confession of him as Lord and Savior.
This is the only way to receive a heart of flesh that learns how to unblock the flow of the Spirit every minute of every day. God's never-ending love is alive and well. It is we who block it, not he who rescinds it!
Chapter 37 is the famous prophesy of the “dry bones” in the valley of death:
“Then he said to me, “Son of Man, these bones are the whole house of Israel” (37:11).
God then breathes life into them in the same way he did in Chapter 36 – by giving them the Spirit; that is, the Holy Spirit.
“My servant David shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd…I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them” (37:24, 26).
The next verse sneaked up on me; how about you?
“My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (38:27).
God’s residence, the temple in Jerusalem had been profaned by his children so badly by temptation, disobedience, and disunity that God had allowed it to be completely destroyed.
Now, through the coming of the King – Jesus as the Son of David – God will take up residence in the heart of every believer through repentance and restoration of his never-ending love!