LIGHT TO THE NATIONS
Lord, let me never defile Your name among the unsaved.
Read EZEKIEL 36:16–38
Israel’s Restoration Assured
16 Again the word of the Lord came to me: 17 “Son of man, when the people of Israel were living in their own land, they defiled it by their conduct and their actions. Their conduct was like a woman’s monthly uncleanness in my sight. 18 So I poured out my wrath on them because they had shed blood in the land and because they had defiled it with their idols. 19 I dispersed them among the nations, and they were scattered through the countries; I judged them according to their conduct and their actions. 20 And wherever they went among the nations they profaned my holy name, for it was said of them, ‘These are the Lord’s people, and yet they had to leave his land.’ 21 I had concern for my holy name, which the people of Israel profaned among the nations where they had gone.
22 “Therefore say to the Israelites, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: It is not for your sake, people of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. 23 I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I am proved holy through you before their eyes.
24 “‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. 28 Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God. 29 I will save you from all your uncleanness. I will call for the grain and make it plentiful and will not bring famine upon you. 30 I will increase the fruit of the trees and the crops of the field, so that you will no longer suffer disgrace among the nations because of famine. 31 Then you will remember your evil ways and wicked deeds, and you will loathe yourselves for your sins and detestable practices. 32 I want you to know that I am not doing this for your sake, declares the Sovereign Lord. Be ashamed and disgraced for your conduct, people of Israel!
33 “‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: On the day I cleanse you from all your sins, I will resettle your towns, and the ruins will be rebuilt. 34 The desolate land will be cultivated instead of lying desolate in the sight of all who pass through it. 35 They will say, “This land that was laid waste has become like the garden of Eden; the cities that were lying in ruins, desolate and destroyed, are now fortified and inhabited.” 36 Then the nations around you that remain will know that I the Lord have rebuilt what was destroyed and have replanted what was desolate. I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it.’
37 “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Once again I will yield to Israel’s plea and do this for them: I will make their people as numerous as sheep, 38 as numerous as the flocks for offerings at Jerusalem during her appointed festivals. So will the ruined cities be filled with flocks of people. Then they will know that I am the Lord.”
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“May the bright light of Christ enlighten my heart, shine in my mind and direct my journeying, and give light to the world” (David Adam, Walking in the Light, 14).
In this chapter we see the focus of God’s purposes. First, that his name should be known among the nations. God’s name is more than just a name. It is rich in meaning because his whole character inheres therein. Second, the Israelites were called to be a blessing and a light to the nations. Ever since the pivotal moment in the history of the Hebrews when Abram was commissioned by God to father a great nation which in turn would bless all peoples on earth (Gen. 12:1–3), they struggled to fulfill this. Here again they are bringing God’s name into disrepute. Their exile as a result of their dogged disobedience means that God’s name is “being dragged through the pagan gutters of Mesopotamia” (Christopher Wright, The Message of Ezekiel, 291). Consequently, he tells them he is going to take action so that “Then the nations will know that I am the Lord… when I am proven holy through you before their eyes” (23).
This is the core of Ezekiel’s salvation theology. He tells us not only what God will do but why he feels this way. He retells the story of Israel’s sin and punishment and then goes on to describe the promise of glorious transformation of the people’s everyday lives. Cleansing from sin and idols plus restoring their land will precede waste areas cultivated, cities rebuilt, abundant crops and fruit harvests brought in, and rapid population growth. At the heart of it will be a new and vibrant relationship with God through his Spirit. These will be seen as signs of God’s blessing upon his people and a witness of his favor to the surrounding nations.
The role of the people of God today remains unchanged. We too are bearers of his name and called to be a blessing and a light to all people (Matt. 5:13–16; John 17:22,23).
Pray about what aspect of God’s character you’d like to shine into the lives of people you encounter today. Ask God to help you bless them.
Lord, teach us to be a light in the midst of a darkened world as we exhibit Your character and nature through our lives.
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