Message, October 4, 1998, through v. 14.
 

The Dead Bones

Ezekiel 37:1-14

I must admit that I found Ezekiel from this chapter to the end of the book inconsistent with the New Testament until I checked Patrick Fairbairn's (1805-1874) book on Ezekiel. Though I did not read all his comments on Ezekiel, I found enough to establish some things to clear up the inconsistencies between Ezekiel 37-48 and the New Testament. Since that time, I have found chapter 37 one of the most encouraging chapters in Scripture.

The purpose of Ezekiel's vision was to counter the feeling of despair among God's people, v. 11. Sin had done its disastrous work. There was a dark foreboding of impending distress and ruin. The people felt as if they were on the brink of total destruction with one foot in the grave. They felt they were no better than a pile of dried bones. The prophets had promised many times a better future, but none of those things seemed to be coming to pass. Sin and despair was the order of the day, particularly as the people saw the strength of the enemy around them.

The clear understanding of this vision is that God's Spirit could and would overcome the miserable condition of the Israelite nation. The promise here is that the Spirit would reestablish Israel into its covenant relationship with the Lord, where it would be blessed by the Lord.

The following is based upon Paul's statement::

Galatians 6:11, Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand. 12 As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. 13 For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh. 14 But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. 15 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. 16 And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God. 17 From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. 18 Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.
We will not spend the time looking at Galatians, but the argument throughout the book is that heirship to Abraham and heirship to his promised blessing is by faith. From the beginning, God's people were justified and identified by their faith, 3:6, 7.

Thus when we see Ezekiel in light of the New Testament, Galatians 6:16, that the Israel of God after Christ is the Gospel Church, here is what we find. For time's sake, I will restrict our examination of corresponding New Testament passages, for there are multitudes.

1) Vv. 1, 2, Ezekiel is carried by the Spirit to a large valley of bones. The bones turned out to an exceeding great army, so evidently the dead bodies were the result of a great war. It was obvious that the "owners" of those bones were dead. The bones had been there for quite some time, for they were well bleached by the elements.

A) The war started in the Garden, and Eve was the first casualty, and Adam was its second. The Tempter said, thou shalt not suerly die, but they did. From that time on:

Romans 5:21 2 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: 13 (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.
We are told by the Spirit that all are born dead in trespasses and sins. We are surrounded by the dead, though they are alive and walking.
1 Timothy 5:6 But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth.
We are living among people who are madly seeking the pleasures of this world.

It is obvious that the dead can do nothing their dead condition. No dead person ever raised himself from the dead, except Christ.

2) V. 3, in the midst of this grave yard, the Lord asked Ezekiel if the dead people there could live. To the natural man, the chance of the bones living was none. This was a very silly question, to which any of us would have answered, "NO way, Lord." However, Ezekiel answered the question wisely, thou knowest.

He placed the impossible in the Lord's hands. Only the Lord knows who will be raised from the dead. It was not Ezekiel's choice.

Ephesians 2:1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; 2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) 6 And hath (present, not future) raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
It is impossible for the heart of stone to change itself by its own strength. (Ezk. 11:19, 36:26, 2 Cor. 3:3.) Ezekiel knew it was impossible for the dead to raise themselves, so he placed the impossible in the Lord's hands. Only the Lord knows who will be raised from the dead.

We are surrounded by dead people. We live and move in a grave yard, where the vast majority of the people are dead. Those people are hardened in sin, as we were at one time. Can they be reached for the Lord? Can they be brought to new life in Christ? Only the Lord knows, and that is not our responsibility.

The fact is that they are dead while they live. How can we expect them to act?

3) V. 4, Ezekiel was told to prophesy to the dead people around him.

If any action seemed to be wasted breath, this was. There is a grave yard situated on a high hill north of our house. This is the highest hill around, and you can see for miles from its location. I like to go up there just to look out over the county. What Ezekiel was told to do would be like going up there and preaching the life-giving gospel of Christ.

Revelation 19:10 And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.
The clear command to God's people in the New Testament is to prophesy to a bunch of dead people. We are commanded to offer the the testimony of Jesus to every dead person in the world.
Mark 16:4 Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen. 15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
4) Vv. 5, 6, the Lord told Ezekiel that the Spirit of God would cause the dead to live.
John 5:21, For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will. 22 For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: 23 That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him. 24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. 25 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. 26 For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; 27 And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.
It was not Ezekiel's responsibility to bring life to the dead.

It was not Ezekiel's responsibility to look around at the dead people and wonder how in the world the Lord could do anything with them.

It was not Ezekiel's responsiblitiy to decide which of the dead would live. He was to preach to every creature.

5) Vv. 7, 8, Ezekiel did what the Lord told him to do. He spoke the word of God.

If there were ever a hopeless situation, Ezekiel faced it. If there ever was a time that all effort seemed foolish, this was it. He had been told to preach to a bunch of dead people.

1 Corinthians 1:20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. 22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: 23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; 24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: 27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: 29 That no flesh should glory in his presence. 30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: 31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.
These men around Ezekiel were dead, but they were brought to life by the power o f God.
2 Corinthians 13:4 For though he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but we shall live with him by the power of God toward you.
Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
1 Corinthians 1:18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
1 Corinthians 1:24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
God uses prophecy to bring life to the dead. The testimony of Jesus, the preaching of the cross of Christ, is the power of God that brings life to the dead.

6) Vv. 9, 10, the result of Ezekiel's prophecy to these dead people was that the Lord God sent his Spirit into the dead men, and brought them to life.

John 20:22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:
Acts 2:2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
Romans 8:9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
Ephesians 1:13, 14 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.
The Holy spirit is compared to a mighty wind. (Jn. 3:8.) That mighty wind enters into those who were once dead in trespasses and sins, giving them life.

We get our baptismal formula from Romans 6. We are told there that we died to sin with Christ and we are resurrected with him to walk in newness of life, symbolized by baptism.

7) V. 10, these men who were brought to life are brought to life for a purpose, an exceeding great army.

1 Timothy 1:18 This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare;
1 Timothy 6:12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.
2 Timothy 1:13 Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.
2 Timothy 4:7,8 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
Jude 1:3 Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.
There was a reason for the Lord bringing life into them is to fight the good fight of faith.
Matthew 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Those who expect the resurrected new life in Christ to be a life of ease will soon find out otherwise. Christianity is at war with the world, flesh and the devil. And right now, the whole world lies in the wicked one. So everything around us today is at war against our faith.

8) Vv. 6, 13, 14, three times we are told that a result of the life would be that those who were once dead would know that the Lord is the true God.

Acts 2:32 This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. 33 Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. 34 For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, 35 Until I make thy foes thy footstool. 36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.
9) V. 14, the promise here is that God's Spirit would be placed in those raised from the dead --- the reference to the Holy Spirit indwelling the believer could not be clearer. The promise of the indwelling Spirit could not be fulfilled until after Christ ascended into heaven. (Jn. 16:7-15, &c.) Those raised from the dead would also be placed in their own land -- that is, the promised land.
Hebrews 4:1 Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. 2 For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. 3 For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4 For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works. 5 And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest. 6 Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: 7 Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. 8 For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. 9 There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. 10 For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. 11 Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. (See also, Heb 11:10-16.)
The Author of Hebrews is clear: The promised land of Canaan, or Palestine, was not the final location of rest promised to Abraham, and Abraham knew that. The promised land of blessings is Christ. For those of us who are God's redeemed, he is our promised land of blessing.
Galatians 3:9 So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.
Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
Conclusion:

1) God's people have been commanded to preach the gospel of Christ in a grave yard. We live among the dead. Though they live and move, God's word clearly tells us they are dead in trespasses and sins.

2) Our command is to testify of Christ. We are to prophecy to the surround dead people. Our job is not to determine who will live. That is the Lord's job, and he alone can bring life. He brings life through the preaching of the gospel. He alone can raise those who are dead in trespasses and sins, and give them new life in Christ. He alone can breath into them the breath of life.

3) The Lord promises to bring life from death. He does that through the prophesying of his people. He does that through the preaching of the gospel. And we are commanded to be faithful in offering that gospel no matter how hopeless the situation appears.

Only the Lord knows who will respond and who will not. Therefore we must prophecy to everyone.

Vv. 15-28.

UNITY IN CHRIST

The second part of this prophecy runs through the end of the chapter. The clear theme of this section is "the reunion of the formerly hostile members of the community." (Fairbairn.) Here the Prophet is told to take two sticks, representing two nations. He is told to put both in his hand, and the two will become one. When those watching ask him what is meant by the two sticks becoming one, he is to tell them it pictures the Lord God uniting different people under one king.

Who are the different nations to be united? What is the time frame, or when will this unity take place? There are several verses that will bring understanding to Ezekiel's prophecy. As we look at them, I will try to place them in a proper order. (As we will see, Ezekiel's prophecy is built upon the promise given to David in 2 Samuel 7:10-16. Neither of the two will stand alone.)

Because of the context of Ezekiel 37:1-14, the understanding of this section must be the nations of "Jews" and Gentiles united in Christ. However, a good "preaching" version is those who were once in bondage to Satan (Satan's kingdom, or nation) are now united in Christ (Christ's kingdom, or nation). (Col. 1:12-22.)

First, vv. 17, 19, 22. (and they shall be one in mine hand.) The two nations are made one nation BY THE LORD, not by man.

20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; 21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. 22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: 23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. (Jn. 17:20-23.)
The two formerly divided peoples shall be united under one king and under one government:
14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; 16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: 17 And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. 18 For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. 19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: 22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. (Eph. 2:14-22. See also, Ac. 10:28, 1 Cor. 12:12, Gal. 3:26-29, Eph. 3:15, 4:5 [One Lord, one faith, one baptism.], 16, Col. 1:20, 3:11, Heb. 13:20, &c.)
Though Ezekiel is clearly prophesying of uniting Jews and Gentiles in Christ, this also looks forward to the unity, i.e., likeminded, of his people in him. (Phlip. 2, 1 Pet. 3:8, 9.)

"For the true covenant-people must form but one body, as they can only have one Head..." (Fairbairn.)

As a result of David's sin, under Jeroboam God divided his covenant-people into two distinct kingdoms, viz. Judah and Israel. This prophecy calls for a union of two people into one, under a common king, but the two nations are not Judah and Israel.

Second, v. 21, I will gather them...

And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad. (Jn. 11:52.)
The children of God are identified in Christ, and they are gathered from the four corners of the earth by the Spirit into him. (Gal. 3:26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. See also, Rom. 8:16, 21, 9:8, 1 Jn. 3:10, 5:2.)

Third, v. 21, and bring them into their own land, the land of Israel.

Isaiah calls Christ Israel:

And said unto me, Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified. (Isa. 49:3. See also Isa. 42:1, 52:13, Zech. 3:8. See below, Additional Note II, for Isa. 49:4ff.)

V. 22, into their own land.

The physical land of the covenant to Abraham, Canaan or Palestine, was fulfilled under Joshua, David and Solomon. (Josh. 21:43-45, 23:14, 15, 1 Kgs. 8:54.) One nation was united in one land, but that nation was divided and scattered because of sin. To some extent, there was a return in unity, as recorded in Ezra and Nehemiah, but that was not a literal return as suggested by v. 21. The return from Babylon was not under their own king, but under the authority of other kings. Therefore, the return from Babylonian captivity cannot be construed as fulfilling v. 17. That "unity" existed in Christ's day, but even then it was under Rome.

The promised land of Israel, the promised land of rest to where God's people are gathered is clearly Christ. (Heb. 4.)

Fourth, v. 22, one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel, which is the Gospel Church of the firstborn. Christ is the ensign of the mountains, to whom all the Israel of God is drawn by the Spirit of God. In Christ, they are made one, no matter what race or nationality they might represent.

22 But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, 23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel. (Heb. 12:22-24. See also, Isa 11:10ff., 18:3 [...when he lifteth up an ensign on the mountains ...], 56:8 [The Lord GOD which gathereth the outcasts of Israel saith, Yet will I gather others to him, beside those that are gathered unto him.], Jn. 3:14, 12:32 [And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.], 34, &c.)
Fifth, v. 23, Neither shall they defile themselves any more...

The promise was that God would draw his people unto himself, and he would give them a new heart, i.e., born again. (Jn. 3.) The new heart would cause them to desire not to defile themselves, but to serve and please him.

31 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: 33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. (Jer. 31:31-34. See also 32:37-41, Ezk. 11:19, 20.)
7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. 8 For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: 9 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. 10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: 11 And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. (Heb. 8:7-11.)
In fulfillment, the Spirit of God writes his laws upon the hearts of his people; thus they have new desires.
2 Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: 3 Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart. (2 Cor. 3:2, 3.)
The Lord makes his people a new creature --- that is, a new man. (2 Cor 5:17, Gal. 6:15.)

Sixth, 23, I will save them...

Will save, future tense. It is a prophecy of what the Lord is going to do in the future from Ezekiel's time.

But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD. (Jonah 2:9.) And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call. (Joel 2:32.)
And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. (Acts 2:21.) For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. (Rom. 10:13.)
Seventh, v. 23, my people,... their God.

Paul quotes Ezekiel 37:23, and his clear reference is to the Gospel Church.

16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, 18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. (2 Cor. 6:16-18. See Rom. 15:7.)
Eighth, v. 24, David my servant shall be king over them.

God's united people shall have one king. According to the Davidic covenant, the king is Christ, not David --- God did not promise David that he, David, would rise from the dead to rule God's people; God did promise that the Son of David would rule God's people with a righteous, everlasting rule. (2 Sam. 7:4-17.) Moreover, the very first gospel message preached after Christ's resurrection gives us the clear understanding of Ezekiel's prophecy, i.e., David my servant is Christ, the Son of David. In fact, Peter made it clear that the Old Testament prophecies that spoke of a literal David referred to Christ, not to the man David. (Acts 2:14-36.) Hence, Ezekiel 37:24 must refer to either literal David bodily raised from the dead --- as some wrongly say must yet take place --- to exercise rule over God's people or it must refer to Christ, the Son of David.

The promise was of a "perpetual sovereignty", which only Christ can fulfill. 2 Samuel 7:13 (He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever.) expressly tells us that Christ is the one who receives that Divine appointment. David, the center of the old covenant, reigne over God's people was only a dim shadow of the substance of Christ's, the center of the new covenant, reign over God's people. When the latter came, the former passed away.

The promise to Abraham was immediately and literally fulfilled in Canaan --- David was given rule over all of God's people in the land of Canaan. Christ's, David's Son, rightful heritage over God's people is over the whole world, not just a small portion, Canaan. The seed is Christ, and the promise that he should be heir of the world was made to those who have faith in Christ. (Rom. 4:12, 13.)

31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. 32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: 33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. (Lk. 1:31-33.)
Prophecy, including Ezekiel 37, must always point to Christ; using anything else as the fountainhead of prophecy must deny the centrality of Christ. The king over God's people must be Christ.

Ninth, v. 24, one shepherd. Christ made it clear in John 10 that he alone is the one shepherd :

11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. 16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
The one shepherd over God's people must be Christ.

Tenth, v. 24, shall walk..., observe..., do, viz. they will willingly obey the command-word of their king. Thus Ezekiel prophecies of the grace of God that was to come through Christ.

Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. (Phil. 2:12, 13. See also Rom. 8:9-16, 1 Cor. 3:16, Gal. 5:16-23, Eph. 1:13, 14, 2 Thes. 2:13, Tit. 2:11-14, 3:3-6, Heb. 13:21, 1 Pet. 1:2, 22, 1 Jn. 1:6, 7, 3:24, 2 Jn. 1:6, &c. )
The willingness to do of his good pleasure is a work of God's Spirit of grace that came by Christ. (Jn. 1:17, 1 Cor. 1:4, &c.)

Eleventh, v. 25, land... given unto Jacob. There are several options that fit here:

1) Of course, the most accepted option today is a literal understanding, the literal land of Palestine, or Canaan, as promised to Abraham. However, this understanding presents some problems that cannot be Scripturally resolved:

a) Canaan was totally possessed by Abraham's seed according to the promise. (See above.)

b) Christ and the new Israel of God, his church, must be "laid aside," replaced in God's plan by a literal nation.

c) If the land is literal, so must be my servant David. David must be raised from the dead to literally reign. Such an idea is totally contrary to the Davidic covenant. (See above, 2 Sam. 7:4-17.)

d) The eternal rule over God's people was not promised to David, but to Christ. Christ is identified as Messiah the Prince (Dan. 9:25), the Prince of Life (Acts 3:15), and as a Prince and a Saviour :

30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. 31 Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him. (Acts 5:30- 32.)
Note that Peter, after saying that Christ was to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins, said, whom God hath given to them that obey him. Thus he identifies the Israel of God as all who obey the Gospel, which is what Paul said in Galatians. (Gal. 6:16. See also, Eph. 1:7, Col. 1:14.)

In other words, David shall be their prince for ever fits only Christ's everlasting rule, and cannot be David as required by a literal understanding. (See Lk. 1:32, Isa. 9:7, 16:15.)

2) A second option could refer to the present world as was promised to Abraham and his seed, Christ (i.e., Israel),

For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. (Rom. 4:13.)
Though the saints are promised persecution (2 Tim. 3:12, note the But between v. 12 and 13, indicating a contrast), they are promised possession of the kingdom:
But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever.Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom. And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him. (Dan. 7:18, 22, 27.)
3) A third option could refer to Christ as the land. (v. 21) which would be almost identical to:

4) A fourth option could be the heavenly city. The promised land, the city Abraham and his descendants looked for was not a literal city, but the spiritual, heavenly city, the New Jerusalem:

10 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. 11 Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable. 13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14 For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. 15 And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. 16 But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city. (Heb. 11:10-16. See also, 12:22, 13:14, 2 Cor. 5:1.)
The evidence is that the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever, which is done through the successful expansion of the gospel world-wide.

Twelfth, v. 26, an everlasting covenant of peace :

8 Thus saith the LORD, In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee: and I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages; 9 That thou mayest say to the prisoners, Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Shew yourselves. They shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in all high places. (Isa. 49:8, 9.)
For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; (Eph. 2:14ff, above. See also, Jn. 14:27, Heb. 13:20, 21, &c.)
Christ is the covenant of peace, and the covenant is made with the new nation, the Israel of God. Only those in him by faith have that covenant of peace with God.

Thirteenth, vv. 26, 27, my sanctuary, my tabernacle.

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt [to fix one's tabernacle...] among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (Jn. 1:14.)
To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: (Col. 1:27. See also, Jn. 14:17-23, 15:5, Rom. 8:10, 1 Cor. 3:16, 2 Cor. 6:16, Gal. 2:20, Eph. 2:22, 3:17, 1 Jn. 4:4, &c.)
The BRANCH, Christ, is the one who shall build the temple of the LORD. (Zech. 6:12, 13.) If we have a literal tabernacle, then men are implied to do the building out of bricks and mortar. The promise is of Christ dwelling in and among his people. Shall be my people --- see above.

Fourteenth, v. 28, the heathen shall know that I the LORD do sanctify [consecrate, dedicate, prepare, set apart...] Israel... The purpose of the new man is to glorify God before the world.

34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. (Jn. 13:34, 35. See also Jn. 17:21, &c.)
17 Sanctify [consecrate, dedicate to God] them through thy truth: thy word is truth. 18 As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. (Jn. 17:17-19. See also Eph. 5:26, 1 Thes. 5:23, &c.)
Those in Christ are dedicated to God by the Spirit to be cleansed from their sins by the working of his Spirit of Grace for his holy purpose.

The clear conclusion is that the united people in this prophecy must be the Gospel Church under the one king, King Jesus; the people under the one shepherd must be the Gospel Church under the good shepherd, who gave his life for the sheep. (Jn. 10:11.)

The two peoples are the Jews and Gentiles, united into one body, the body of Christ. And the one body has unity in faith:

1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 2 ¶ With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. (Eph. 4:1-5.)
Moreover, notice Ezekiel's prophecy:
21 And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land: 22 And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all: (37:21, 22.)
Compare God's word to Ezekiel with the promise given to David:
10 Moreover I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own, and move no more; neither shall the children of wickedness afflict them any more, as beforetime, 11 And as since the time that I commanded judges to be over my people Israel, and have caused thee to rest from all thine enemies. Also the LORD telleth thee that he will make thee an house. (2 Sam. 7:10, 11.)
The promise given to David of place of their own, and move no more, is Christ, the Son of David. Hebrews 4, as mentioned in Ezekiel 37:14, plainly tells us that the promised land of peace and safety for God's people is Christ. I cannot reiterate the fact enough, viz. all prophecy revolves around Christ.

Old Testament Israel produced Christ, the new David, according to God's plan.

But there their distinctive honour ceases--not as if their real privileges and blessings were lost, but because these must henceforth be shared in common by the household of faith. (Fairbairn.)

No more than Mary and his brothers and sisters could gain special heavenly privilege with the Father by their physical connection with Christ, can the old Israel gain special privileges with their physical connection with Abraham. Hearing and doing the words of Christ makes one his relative. (Mk. 3:34, Lk. 8:21.) Christ broke the fleshly bond to Abraham, and firmly established the spiritual bond: All who have the faith of Abraham are Abraham's seed, and heirs to the promises of Abraham.

The prophet Ezekiel could only speak in terms of what he was familiar with; however, his prophecy must be understood in light of the New Testament and Christ. Prophecy points to Christ, for he is the theme of Scripture.

Unity must be around Christ, not around "prophecy."

Additional Note I:

Unity: Eph 4:1ff.

Endeavouring to keep unity. Work at keeping the unity of the body of Christ.

Endeavouring, to exert one's self, or give diligence. Work at it.

1) v. 1, this is our call

2) v. 2, this is done:

Lowliness, modesty, humility, humble opinion of one's self. Contentions come from thinking ourselves better than others.

Meekness, gentleness, mildness.

Longsuffering, or patience, perseverance, slowness in avenging wrongs. (Let the Lord take care of it.)

Forbearing, to bear or endure. We will not agree with everything everyone does every time, yet we are commanded to endure those things. Not sin, obviously, but areas of difference of personalities and personal opinions.

Love, brotherly love, affection, good will. How much should we tolerate in a physical brother or sister whom we love and respect?

3) v. 3, the unity is of the Spirit, not unity in personalities nor in agreements with everything.

4) v. 3, we are bound together in peace, peace with God through Christ, and peace with one another in a common goal, to glorify God.

5) vv. 4-6, the common faith in our unity, not common likes and dislikes and opinions.

6) v. 7, we are various people with different ideas, personal goals, personalities, AND DIFFERENT measures of grace, different gifts from God and different responsibilities before God.

7) v. 12, the common goal is to help one another be what the Lord would have us to be, mature in Christ.

8) v. 13, the process is a growing process; it will not be obtained all at once. Why do we demand that everyone be on the same high, obtained spiritual level we feel that we have obtained?

9) vv. 15, 16, it is Christ who is the head; it is to Christ every person must answer, Romans 14:4 Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.

Additional Note II:

Then I said, I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain: yet surely my judgment is with the LORD, and my work with my God. (Isa. 49:4.)

yet...my judgment...with the Lord --Ultimately, God will do justice to My cause, and reward (Margin for "work," compare #Isa 40:10 62:11) My labors and sufferings. He was never "discouraged" (#Isa 42:4 50:7,10). He calmly, in spite of seeming ill success for the time, left the result with God, confident of final triumph (#Isa 53:10-12 1Pe 2:23). So the ministers of Christ (#1Co 4:1 -5 1Pe 4:19). (JFB.)

Gill comments thusly on this verse:

Ver. 4. Then I said, &c.] The Messiah said, by way of objection, in a view of what treatment he should meet with, or when entered on his work, and which he found by experience, what follows:

I have laboured in vain; this is not to be understood of the travail of his soul, or of his sufferings and death, which were not in vain, but issued in the redemption and salvation of his people; but of his ministry and miracles, and fatiguing journeys among the Jews; which, with respect to them, were in vain, as to their conversion and reformation; they rejecting the Messiah, slighting his doctrines and miracles, refusing to be gathered by him, being a faithless and perverse generation:

I have spent my strength for naught, and in vain; by frequent preaching and working of miracles, and travelling from place to place: the same thing is designed as before, repeated in other words, to express the certainty of it, to chew the ingratitude and wickedness of the people, and to utter the complaints of his mind:

yet surely my judgment is with the Lord; or is manifest before the Lord, as the Targum; the Lord knew that he had called him to his office; how prudently, diligently, and faithfully he had executed it; and what was his right and due, and which would be given him; and with this he corrects his former complaint, and makes himself easy, and quiets and satisfies his mind:

and my work with my God; or the reward of my works is before my God, as the Targum; and before himself also, #Isa 40:10 as his work was assigned him by the Lord, so his reward was promised him, and which he knew he should have; and having done his work, be asked for his reward, and had it, #Joh 17:4,5 Php 2:9,10.

Geneva presents the case well:

[Isa.] 49:4 Then I said, I have {f} laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing, and in vain: [yet] surely my judgment [is] with the LORD, and my work with my God.

(f) Thus Christ in his members complains that his labour and preaching take no effect, yet he is contented that his doings are approved by God.

Christ himself complains that his labours have no effect. Yet he knows he is doing God's will and his labour is approved by God, so he is content.

V. 4 describes most pastors I know, myself included. It seems as though our hard work has no effect on our people, nor upon sinners in general. If we look at the results of our efforts, not a one of us would stay in the ministry. However, because we know that our efforts are approved by God and that we will meet him some day, we stay.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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