R1373-62 Bible Study: Promise Of A New Heart

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LESSON XI., MARCH 13, EZEK. 36:25-38

Golden Text—”A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you.”—Ezek. 36:26

In our last lesson we saw Judah in distress, her crown removed, her holy city and temple in ruins, and her people given to the sword and to captivity. The expostulations and warnings of the prophet Jeremiah had not availed to turn them from their evil course, and consequently the wrath of God was visited upon them, as it had been previously visited upon her sister Samaria (the ten tribes). But although multiplied were their iniquities and their crimes, the Lord did not utterly cast away his people, but in great mercy remembered them, even in the land of their captivity, where he was represented in their midst by the prophet Ezekiel, who for twenty-two years delivered unto them the Word of the Lord—words of reproof and denunciation, and also words of promise and hope, of which those of this lesson are a pleasing sample. As we peruse these words of promise and call to mind the miserable idolatries, licentiousness and ingratitude of this hard-hearted and stiff-necked people, let us not fail to mark the loving kindness of our God, his mercy and faithfulness, his slowness to anger and his plenteous grace. And while we do so, let us not forget the typical character of his dealings with Israel—that in chastising and correcting and forgiving and restoring and promising to bless and fully re-instate them in his favor, he is illustrating his great love and mercy and his everlasting kindness toward the whole world whom he so loved as to give his only begotten Son to redeem, and whom he purposes in due time to bring to a knowledge of the truth and to a full opportunity, under the most favorable conditions, of securing everlasting life. (1 Tim. 2:4-6.) The final restoration and blessing of Israel here predicted is only the first-fruits of that abundant grace which is in store for all the world, to be manifested in due time.

This prophecy has not yet been fulfilled, but clearly relates to the final restoration of Israel to the land of promise and to the favor of God, when the long period of their chastisement unmixed with favor (Jer. 16:13-18) is ended, and when he who redeemed all and “whose right it is” to reign over Israel and the world shall have come again and taken the dominion.

The words of the Prophet previous to the promises of blessing in this lesson (verses 16-24)

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recall the numerous sins of Israel as the cause for their dispersion among the heathen, and remind them of how they had brought disgrace upon the name of the Lord in all the countries whither they went, and that they have no claim upon the mercy and forbearance of God. But, notwithstanding all this, he declares the Lord’s purpose to gather them out from among the heathen, and out of all the countries, into their own land, and “then” to cleanse and bless them; and in this great exhibition of his forbearance and love to a notoriously stiff-necked and rebellious house, to exalt his great name among the nations—a name in which they, as well as Israel, may safely trust, since the ample provisions of his plan are for the salvation of all, of whatever tribe or nation, who trust and obey him when brought to the full knowledge of the truth.

Verse 24. “For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land.” This unquestionably refers to the literal and final regathering of Israel to Palestine—the land which God promised to Abraham, saying, “Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art, northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward; for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it and to thy seed forever.” (Gen. 13:14,15; 17:8.) It is the land of which Stephen said (Acts 7:5) Abraham never owned a foot, but in the confident hope of which he died. Such a promise, made to Abraham, as well as to his seed, and made by God who cannot lie, and which Abraham never realized before he died, manifestly implies the resurrection of Abraham, as well as of that large proportion of his seed which has gone down into the grave, in order to the receiving of the land. Nor was “the land” here used in a mystical sense: it was plainly—”all the land which thou seest,” and, as stated in Gen. 17:8, “the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan.”

Such an interpretation of this promise is amply supported by the Prophet in the succeeding chapter (37:12-14), where he says, “Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Behold, O my people [Israel—verse 11], I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am Jehovah when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, and shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I Jehovah have spoken it and performed it, saith Jehovah.” It is also in perfect harmony with the words of Paul and of our Lord Jesus—”There shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.” “Marvel not at

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this: for the hour is coming in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice [the voice of the Son of Man], and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment”*—trial.—Acts 24:15; John 5:28,29.

*The Greek word krisis here rendered “damnation” in the Common Version is more properly “judgment” in the Revised Version and in the Emphatic Diaglott. The same Greek word is translated “judgment” in thirty-nine instances, and in only two others is it rendered “damnation”—a word to which modern theology has attached the unwarrantable idea of eternal torment, but which otherwise signifies simply judgment or trial, including, of course, the result or sentence, to either life or death, at its close.

This great regathering of all Israel to the land of promise, which shall by and by include their risen dead as well as the living, is already begun in the remarkable exodus thither of their living representatives which is attracting the attention of the whole civilized world. And God’s expressed purpose of driving and gathering them out of all the lands whither he had scattered them (Jer. 16:15) is being accomplished in this our day.

It is on this promise of the receiving again of Israel into divine favor that Paul bases an argument for the resurrection of the world, saying, “If the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world [the breaking down of the middle wall of partition between Jew and Gentile (which previously excluded the Gentiles from any share in the typical reconciliation, effected for Israel only under their Law Covenant), and the opening of the New Covenant to all—to the Jew first and also to the Gentile] what shall the receiving of them [back to divine favor] be [imply] but life from the dead” [—a resurrection of the dead ones]? (Rom. 11:15.) It will imply that the whole world, of which Israel is to be a first-fruit, is shortly to receive the gracious opportunity of restitution or resurrection which the death of Christ purchased, and which the exaltation and glorious reign of Christ and the Church shall accomplish.

If some think they have reason still to doubt the restitution of wicked Israel, the first-fruits, and of the wicked world (whom they represented in type) back to divine favor and life and to the possession of the earth for an everlasting inheritance, let them turn to Ezek. 16:46-63 and see how God promises to restore even the wicked Sodomites; and let them remember also the word of the Lord Jesus (Matt. 10:15), that in that day of judgment when he is governor over the nations “it will be more tolerable for Sodom” than for Israel—the chastisement

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and discipline necessary to their restoration to righteousness will be less severe for them than for some who are of the natural lineage of Abraham.

Verse 25. “Then will I sprinkle clean water [pure truth and righteous influences] upon you, and ye shall be clean. From all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.” There will be no desire, nor incentive, nor temptation to idolatrous worship then. Satan shall be bound and shall deceive the nations no more, and the knowledge of the Lord shall fill the whole earth.

Verse 26 promises a new heart—a heart of flesh, subject to the blessed influences of truth and righteousness, and no longer callous and indifferent alike to the appeals of love and the claims of justice. The word “new” might properly be translated renewed or repaired as the same word is frequently rendered. The heart or disposition of man was not hard and bitter and selfish originally: when fresh, newly created, he was declared to be the image of the God of love. Sin, disobedience, brought the penalty, death, which has impaired the image of God, and in every way degraded man. (Rom. 5:12.) The creating of man was a momentary act, but the re-creating, the re-generation, the re-newing, the re-storing of his heart will be a gradual work and will require and have the Millennial age or times of restitution for its accomplishment. (Acts 3:19-21; Matt. 19:28.) The creation of Adam, and the race provided for in him, was without choice to the creatures; but while the way, the truth and the life of regeneration are provided for all freely, in Christ, none will be regenerated contrary to his own will and choice. God in Christ has paid the penalty of Adam’s sin for him and all in him, and has provided the coming times of restitution in which to make known his favor to every creature, through the Church, selected during the Gospel age. But after he has made the provision for all, only those who accept of those New Covenant favors will be recognized by him as “my people.”

Verse 27 promises that the spirit of God and of Christ, the spirit of love, as distinguished from the spirit of selfishness, shall dwell in them to inform and assist them to do right. He will cause them to walk in his statutes—inclining and enabling them to be obedient.

Verses 28-30 promise the divine protection and cleansing and abundant provisions of corn and fruit and the increase of the field, and no more famine while the restored Israelites dwell safely in the land which God gave unto their fathers. Let us not forget, however, the double application of this prophecy. As Israel signifies those who are blessed and favored of God and includes all such, with the natural seed as a first-fruit, so the land of Israel in its larger sense will be the renewed earth, Paradise restored.

Verses 31 and 32 remind the restored ones of their unworthiness of all these favors—the free, unmerited gifts of God, and show the confusion and shame and repentance of all who will constitute the Israel referred to.

Verses 33-35 declare that the long barren and desolate land of Palestine shall be cultivated, inhabited, its cities rebuilt, and made so flourishing that those who pass through it then shall say, “This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden”—and the entire earth shall blossom as the rose.

Verse 36 shows that as these blessings progress, all will be witnesses of God’s faithful goodness to his people.

Verses 37 and 38 point out the necessity for co-operation on the part of any who would enjoy the blessings promised—prayer being a token of the soul’s sincere desire—and promises the remarkable increase of the Lord’s holy flock at that time. This reminds us of the words of our Lord, “Other sheep I have that are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.” (John 10:16.) Every soul that longs for the truth is one of the Lord’s lost sheep; and every such one will be found during the Millennial age, and will be brought into harmony with all God’s sheep in heaven and on earth. All will be consecrated to the Lord and all will walk in his ways. And so changed will be the public sentiment of that day, that even upon the bells of the horses will be inscribed, “Holiness unto the Lord.” (Zech. 14:20.) Blessed assurance! Glorious day! when not only Israel, the first fruits, but all who are feeling after righteousness and the true God shall be recovered from present blindness; and, recognizing the reign of Christ begun, shall say, “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of Jehovah.” For evidence of its close proximity see MILLENNIAL DAWN, Vol. II., The Time Is At Hand.


— February 15, 1892 —