Ezekiel 11:14-16 (NIV) 14 The word of the LORD came to me: 15 “Son of man, your brothers–your brothers who are your blood relatives and the whole house of Israel–are those of whom the people of Jerusalem have said, ‘They are far away from the LORD; this land was given to us as our possession.’ 16 “Therefore say: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Although I sent them far away among the nations and scattered them among the countries, yet for a little while I have been a sanctuary for them in the countries where they have gone.’
On verses 14-16: The Jews in Judah were captured and taken to Babylon in three stages: the first group was brought to Babylon in 605 B.C., the second in 597 B.C., and the third in 586 B.C. According to scholars, Ezekiel was part of the second group that was taken to Babylon in 597 B.C. When this second group was captured and taken to Babylon, the Jews who remained in Jerusalem assumed that God was giving them the entire land (“They are far away from the Lord; this land was given to us as our possession” – v15b). Little did they know that another attack was on its way and that many of them would also be captured and deported within the next decade.
Seeing the presumption of those who remained in Jerusalem against those who were captured, the Lord responds by clarifying that although He sent those captured to far away nations, He has remained “a sanctuary for them in the countries where they have gone” (v16). In other words, though He disciplined them by sending them far away, He also protected them in every place where He sent them.
What can we learn from this?
God is merciful, compassionate and protective of His people, even when He disciplines them.
Even when you seem far away from God, God will still find ways to love you and watch out for you. You are never too far from God’s sight. He is watching out for you in ways you don’t even know.
Ezekiel 11:17-21 (NIV) 17 “Therefore say: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will gather you from the nations and bring you back from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you back the land of Israel again.’ 18 “They will return to it and remove all its vile images and detestable idols. 19 I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. 20 Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God. 21 But as for those whose hearts are devoted to their vile images and detestable idols, I will bring down on their own heads what they have done, declares the Sovereign LORD.”
On verses 17-21: God promises to gather His exiled people from the countries where they have been scattered and give them back the land of Israel (v17). In addition to physically restoring them to their homeland, God also promises to bring a spiritual awakening amongst the returning exiles, such that they will do away with their idols (v18), have an undivided heart, a new spirit, and a heart of stone instead of a heart of flesh (v19), so that they will follow God’s commands, make Him their God and be His people (v20). As long as the exiled Jews are willing and open to trust in God, God would do this for them, while those who cling to idols would continue to be punished (v21).
What can we learn from this?
For as long as you live, God never gives up on you. You can be far away from God, but God’s heart will always be to bring you back home to Himself. He loves you with an everlasting love.
We ourselves do not have the power to obey God’s commands, so God gives us “a new spirit”, His Holy Spirit, to live in us and enable us to do what our own flesh is unable to do. Without the Holy Spirit, the Christian life is not just hard; it’s impossible. But we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.
God can give us a new heart as long as we are willing and open to Him. However, if we are closed-minded and cold-hearted toward God, we give God no room to do any of the restoring work He wants to do and will simply be brought down further by our idolatry. In this way, you have a choice:you can either let God bring you home or you can let God bring you down (v21).
Ezekiel 11:22-25 (NIV) 22 Then the cherubim, with the wheels beside them, spread their wings, and the glory of the God of Israel was above them. 23 The glory of the LORD went up from within the city and stopped above the mountain east of it. 24 The Spirit lifted me up and brought me to the exiles in Babylonia in the vision given by the Spirit of God. Then the vision I had seen went up from me, 25 and I told the exiles everything the LORD had shown me.
On verses 22-25: In his vision, Ezekiel sees the glory of God, along with the cherubim and the wheels, leaving the city of Jerusalem and stopping above the mountain east of the city. Ezekiel’s vision ends with the Holy Spirit taking him back to Babylon in his vision. With the vision having ended, Ezekiel goes and tells the exiles in Babylon about it.
What can we learn from this? When the glory of God departs the city of Jerusalem in Ezekiel’s vision, it symbolizes how our sin drove out God’s presence from our lives. However, through Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross, our sins are forgiven and we gain access to God’s presence once again. Because the blood of Jesus covers our sins always, making us righteous in His sight, we can claim for ourselves the promise that never will the Lord leave us or forsake us. The greatest gift we can know is the gift of God’s presence in our lives.
Heavenly Father, thank You that for as long as You live, You will never give up on me. Thank You that no matter how far a person is from You, You will keep trying to find a way to bring them back to You. Thank You that as long as their heart is open and willing, You will bring them home to be Your own, and give them a new heart and a new spirit. Thank You for the gift of Your presence which You bought with the blood of Your Son Jesus. And thank You that because Jesus’ blood covers us always, You will never leave us or forsake us.
I pray for my friends who are far from You and who have yet to open their heart to You. May they open up their hearts to You today, receive the gift of Your forgiveness and presence, and come home to You. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!