Our reading today with God repeating to Ezekiel that He has appointed him as watchman for the nation (see 3:16-27). We see again that each person is responsible for his own sin (33:4-5). But we also see that God calls His own to warn of the coming judgment if they do not repent (v. 6). This is what the church is for the world. Ezekiel is the watchman that God has chosen to carry His message to Judah (vv. 7-9). And it is a message of repentance (v. 11). In verse 12, we see that repentance saves where a man’s personal righteousness cannot. Because one sin means he has fallen short of righteousness (v. 13). In fact, repentance is the only act that can result in righteousness (vv. 14-16). Therefore, one cannot expect salvation when they rely on their own righteousness (v. 17), for each one will be judged according to his deeds (v. 20).
In verse 21, we see the fulfillment of 24:26-27 begin. Jerusalem has fallen, and Ezekiel’s mouth has been unbound (v. 22). He is to prophesy against the false belief that physical lineage means the people deserve the land (v. 24). They are idolaters (v. 25) and sinners (v. 26), and they will be judged (v. 27). Judah will become a wasteland (v. 28) and they will know that God gave them what they deserved (v. 29). And since Ezekiel has prophesied to them that this will happen – even though they don’t want the truth but want their ears tickled and to be told they are righteous – they will know that Ezekiel has spoken the truth (vv. 30-33).
Chapter 34 begins with an indictment against the kings (shepherds) of Israel and Judah. The kings’ responsibility is to take care of the people, but they have chosen to take care of themselves (34:2). The king is to uphold justice and strengthen the weak. But they have not done this (v. 4). It is because of their failings that the people have fallen into sin and have been judged (vv. 5-6). So God is removing the shepherds (there is no king in Israel/Judah after Zedekiah) (v. 10). God will rescue His sheep Himself (see Isa 40:11). He will seek them Himself (v. 11). This is exactly what Christ did, beginning in Israel (see Matt 15:24). But He also sought His sheep from all the world (“all the places where they have been scattered” – v. 12).
We see that this also carries with it a prediction of the final salvation of God’s people, and the final judgment of the wicked. The day of “clouds and thick darkness” is a reference to the judgment (see 30:3). In that day, God will bring all of His people together into the New Heaven and the New Earth (v. 13). And Christ will be our King (v. 15). He will seek and finally and forever save the lost (v. 16 – see Luke 19:10). He will do all that a righteous King should!
In verse 17, God makes a distinction between the physical people and the spiritual people (sheep and sheep/rams and goats/lean sheep and fat sheep). The physical sheep destroy what God has given them (v. 18) and oppress the true sheep (v. 19). So God will judge between the physical sheep and the spiritual sheep (v. 20). He will gather His true spiritual sheep from among His physical people (v. 22). And the Shepherd over them will be the greater Son of David (v. 23 – see Psalm 23). He will make a new covenant with us and restore the wasteland (v. 25). This speaks of our final salvation, as do verses 26-31.
Chapter 35 revisits the judgment of Edom (see 25:12-14). God is against Edom and will make it a wasteland (35:3), because they aided Babylon in their siege (v. 5). Note that God calls this the “final punishment” of the physical people. We see that Edom had hopes of taking the land from Judah and Israel (v. 10). But it was always God’s land, not Israel’s. God will bring on them what they brought against Judah (v. 11), and they will know Who He is (v. 12). Their deeds against Judah were really deeds against YHWH (vv. 12-13).
Chapter 36 applies this same judgment to Judah. Just like God pronounced judgment against “Mount Seir” (35:1) who “”magnified” themselves against God (35:13), so the “mountains of Israel” (36:1) were punished, a metaphor for their self-exaltation. As the nations around Israel rejoiced in her fall, so will those nations likewise fall (vv. 2-7 – see chapter 25-27). God is lumping in Israel and Judah with the rest of the nations – they are no different.
But there is hope. The mountains of Israel will yield fruit for the remnant that will return (v. 8), because God is for them and will turn to them (v. 9). The wasteland will be reinhabited (v. 10). God will multiply the remnant and do good to them (v. 11). That Israel will be the inheritance of the nation shows us that this is the spiritual remnant. They will no longer be the reproach of the nations (v. 15 – see 5:14 and 22:4). This section is the promise to reverse the judgments of 6:1-14.
In verses 16-21, we see that God had concern for His holy name because the people of Judah continued to profane it even in captivity. So it is not for their sake, but for the sake of His own name that God will act for His spiritual people (v. 22). God will vindicate Himself (v. 23) by gathering those from all nations as His own (v. 24). He will Himself wash them from their sin (v. 25) and will give them a new heart and spirit (v. 26 – see 11:19-20). And this “new spirit” will be the very Spirit of God (v. 27) Who will cause the spiritual people to walk in holiness. It is these that will be God’s people (v. 28). God will deliver them from their sin and abundantly bless them (v. 29) and they will repent of their sin (v. 31). God will do this all for the sake of His own name (v. 32).
On the day God cleanses us from our sin (v. 33), He will bless us rather than punish us – He will make the wasteland inhabited (v. 34). And we will be like the Garden of Eden – the place where God dwells with man – where heaven meets earth (v. 35). And all the nations will through us know Who He is (v. 36). The flock will expand beyond physical Israel (v. 37 – see John 10:16). Verse 38 literally says “like a flock of holiness.” This is what the church is called to be. Because we are the watchman of the whole world (see 33:1-9).