After last week’s post on the first part of the breath and Ezekiel 37, here’s the “end of the story.” Ezekiel 37:15-23–
15 The word of the Lord came to me: 16 “Son of man, take a stick of wood and write on it, ‘Belonging to Judah and the Israelites associated with him.’ Then take another stick of wood, and write on it, ‘Belonging to Joseph (that is, to Ephraim) and all the Israelites associated with him.’ 17 Join them together into one stick so that they will become one in your hand.
18 “When your people ask you, ‘Won’t you tell us what you mean by this?’ 19 say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am going to take the stick of Joseph—which is in Ephraim’s hand—and of the Israelite tribes associated with him, and join it to Judah’s stick. I will make them into a single stick of wood, and they will become one in my hand.’ 20 Hold before their eyes the sticks you have written on 21 and say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will take the Israelites out of the nations where they have gone. I will gather them from all around and bring them back into their own land. 22 I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. There will be one king over all of them and they will never again be two nations or be divided into two kingdoms. 23 They will no longer defile themselves with their idols and vile images or with any of their offenses, for I will save them from all their sinful backsliding,[b] and I will cleanse them. They will be my people, and I will be their God.
24 “‘My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd. They will follow my laws and be careful to keep my decrees. 25 They will live in the land I gave to my servant Jacob, the land where your ancestors lived. They and their children and their children’s children will live there forever, and David my servant will be their prince forever.26 I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant. I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among themforever. 27 My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. 28 Then the nations will know that I the Lord make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever.’”
Notice that God’s initiative still stands here: “I will, I will, I will…” God is the one who does these things. But the key word of part 2 is not ruach anymore, it’s echad: one. This is obviously significant to Israel, who has been broken into two kingdoms and further exiled into fragments.
Echad, one, is also the same word as used in the following two verses:
1. The Shema: Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one (Deut. 6:4).
2. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh (Gen. 2:24).
There is a whole-ness to this “one.” A completeness. God, in Godself, is echad, one. There is a relationship in the Trinity that is echad. And this is reflected in marriage, where there is a wholeness and completeness in that relationship, when it’s healthy. This is what God will do in Israel: echad. One. The two kingdoms of Israel will be one kingdom that is whole and complete.
The other element of this echad comes close to the end of the chapter, where God says, “I will put my sanctuary among them forever” (24). This is the capstone of restoration: the rebuilding of the temple. Chapters 40-48 in Ezekiel are about the new Temple. Not only does God breathe new life into Israel, but God also makes Israel whole and reestablishes God’s presence. God makes the renewal complete.
As a sidenote, I would argue that when the New Testament says, “perfect,” like “be perfect as our father in heaven is perfect,” I think it means this kind of echad wholeness. I don’t think it means perfect in our culture’s sense of the word that leads to perfectionism. But I digress.
When we’re dealing with prophesy, we’ve got to look at what comes to pass and in what time frame. Israel is released and does rebuild a kingdom. Ezra and Nehemiah rebuild the temple. King David does not come back to be a king. There’s a utopian ideal at the end of chapter 37 that reminds me of the book of Revelation. Apocalyptic literature. It’s even stickier than prophecy to figure out. The best we can do here is know that parts of this came true in Israel, and parts of it will wait to become true. Parts were fulfilled in Jesus, and parts will wait until His second coming. There’s a both/and, and now & then paradox in this chapter.
Parts I & II of chapter 37 go together for a few reasons. One is that there is a physical ascent that happens here: Part I is in a valley, Part II raises Israel to the mountains in verse 22. In Part I, God declares “so that you will know that I am the Lord” to Ezekiel, then to Israel His people, and lastly, at the end of chapter 37, to the nations. So, there are a couple of progressions, here, and a couple of applications.
I think Ezekiel’s message here is to three different people groups: to the individual, to the corporate, and to the nations.
God says this to the Individual—to __(insert your name here)__: “I will breathe into you and make you alive. I will make you whole. I will put my spirit in you.” There is a now and then element to this. We have God’s breath, God’s ruach, breathing inside us. God’s spirit is in us, reviving us, continually making us whole. Now there are elements of this that will not come to pass until the end. But this is God’s intention: that we are whole in God’s ruach.
God says this to the corporate: to Israel, and thus—through the metaphor of covenant theology—to the church: “I know you are broken and fragmented, and I will open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live.” The church will be made whole. Our Church is broken into so many branches, divisions, denominations… and God’s desire is for the church to be made whole.
And God says this to the Nations, to creation: “So that you will know that I am the Lord.”
These two blog posts were originally two halves of a sermon I gave at the Open Door, and I titled it, “The gospel according to Ezekiel.” In studying this chapter, we’ve reached from Genesis to Revelation. Ezekiel is in the middle. Jesus comes shortly afterward and gives His spirit after he ascends to heaven.
This is the miracle Jesus died to restore: the Spirit of God living in us, breathing new life into our dry and weary bones, enabling us to be whole so that the nations may know that God is. That God exists. That He is God. This is what I remember when I practice breathing: I remember wholeness.
So I invite you to practice breathing. To close your eyes and find your breath. Where do you need his breath? Play with deepening your breath, breathe into your belly. your diaphragm. your heart. Does any piece of your body hurt? Breathe ruach into it. Does any piece of your mind hurt? Breathe ruach into it. Does any piece of your spirit or soul hurt? Breathe ruach into it. And breathe in His intention of making you whole: echad.