The Hope of Israel Part 2


We will now consider the second part of Ezekiel chapter 37, the re-uniting of God’s holy nation under one King – a descendant of David (My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd). This is unquestionably a prophecy of the Messiah who would establish an everlasting covenant of peace and would reign on David’s throne forever. We have already shown how the first part of Ezekiel’s prophecy was fulfilled in the outpouring of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost when the glory of the Lord returned to the temple (the new temple of living stones). We will now consider the prophecy in the second half of chapter 37, bearing in mind that the unity envisaged follows the rebirth of the nation by the Spirit of God described in the preceding verses.

The word of the LORD came to me: “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, ‘Ephraim’s stick, belonging to Joseph and all the house of Israel associated with him.’ Join them together into one stick so that they will become one in your hand.

“When your countrymen ask you, ‘Won’t you tell us what you mean by this?’ 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, making them a single stick of wood, and they will become one in my hand.’ Hold before their eyes the sticks you have written on 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. 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. 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, and I will cleanse them. They will be my people, and I will be their God.

“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. They will live in the land I gave to my servant Jacob, the land where your fathers lived. They and their children and their children’s children will live there forever, and David my servant will be their prince forever. 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 them forever. My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. Then the nations will know that I the LORD make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever.’”(Ezekiel 37:15-28)


There have been many attempts by world leaders to bring about unity between the nations. The first of these was when men attempted to establish themselves as one united people to keep themselves from being scattered throughout the earth. At that time the whole world spoke the same language (Genesis 11:1). They began to build a great capital city with a tower that would reach to the heavens, symbolic of the unity and strength of mankind. However, such unity was in defiance of God’s will and purpose:

The LORD said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so that they will not understand each other.” So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called babel – because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth (Genesis 11:6-9).

The potential of a united humanity in rebellion to its creator is very dangerous and destructive. We may despair over the constant friction and strife between nations, but it is all the result of man’s rebellion against God. The Lord requires all men to submit to him and to be united IN HIM! The Lord uses all things to accomplish His purpose and he has subjected the creation to frustration in hope that the creation will be liberated from its bondage to decay and be brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God (Romans 8:20-21).

Although God confused the people’s language and scattered them over the face of the whole earth, his purpose was always to create one holy nation under one king – the Messiah. The Lord declares:

Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed One. “Let us break their chains,” they say, “and throw off their fetters.” The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, “I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.” I will proclaim the decree of the LORD: He said to me, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You will rule them with an iron sceptre; you will dash them to pieces like pottery” (Psalm 2:1-9).

When the Lord called Abraham he said that he would make him the father of many nations and that through his Seed (i.e. the Messiah), all the nations of the earth would be blessed. Israel was called to be the priestly nation through whom God’s purpose for the redemption of the whole world would be revealed. When the Lord delivered the Israelites out of their slavery in Egypt and led them into the land of Canaan they were used by the Lord to bring judgement on the wicked and idolatrous nations in the land. However, God is not a respecter of persons. The book of Romans makes it clear that the condition to which those nations had degenerated was not simply due to ignorance of the one true God (Romans 1:18-32) and the Lord warned Israel not to become self-righteous and proud lest they too fall into sin and be “vomited out from the land like the nations before them” (Leviticus 18:28). The Lord also warned that if any Israelite became defiant and disobedient to the covenant he was to be completely cut off from God’s holy assembly.

God will give to each person according to what he has done. To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honour and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honour and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favouritism (Romans 2:7-11).

The Lord had told Israel that they would be an example to the nations who would say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him? And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?” (Deuteronomy 4:7). Instead the Israelites wanted to emulate the ways of the nations. Israel was unique, having a theocratic government with the Lord himself as their King, but the people wanted an earthly King to rule over them. The Lord acquiesced to their request but warned them that a human king would oppress them and lord it over them as did the kings of the nations.

Israel’s first king, Saul, though coming from humble beginnings, soon became proud and fiercely jealous of his position as King, which led to his downfall. He was replaced by King David, who typified the Messiah King in that he was anointed by Samuel while still a humble shepherd. Like David, the Messiah was anointed by God to be ruler and shepherd over Israel. He would be a descendant of David and, as David defeated the enemies of Israel, the Messiah would overcome the enemies of God’s holy nation.

Nathan prophesied to David of the Messiah King:

“…the LORD will build a house for you: …I will raise up your Seed to succeed you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. I will never take my love away from him, as I took it away from your predecessor. I will set him over my house and my kingdom forever; his throne will be established forever” (1 Chronicles 17:11-14).

Although the immediate context has reference to Solomon, it is apparent that Solomon was also a type of the promised Messiah who would establish true peace and whose Kingdom would endure forever. So King David assigned the building of the earthly temple to his son Solomon:

David said to Solomon: “My son, I had it in my heart to build a house for the Name of the LORD my God. But this word of the LORD came to me: ‘You have shed much blood and have fought many wars. You are not to build a house for my Name, because you have shed much blood on the earth in my sight. But you will have a son who will be a man of peace and rest, and I will give him rest from all his enemies on every side. His name will be Solomon, and I will grant Israel peace and quiet during his reign. He is the one who will build a house for my Name. He will be my son, and I will be his father. And I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever.” (1 Chronicles 22:7-10).


King Solomon built the earthly temple, the house of prayer for all nations, and extended the Kingdom during a reign of peace and rest, but he was only mortal and he was not the one who would reign upon the throne of David forever. He was led astray by his many foreign wives to worship foreign gods, provoking the jealous anger of the God of Israel. God told Solomon that due to his unfaithfulness the kingdom would be divided:

The LORD said to Solomon: “Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates. Nevertheless, for the sake of David your father, I will not do it during your lifetime. I will tear it out of the hand of your son. Yet I will not tear the whole kingdom from him, but will give him one tribe for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem, which I have chosen” (1 Kings 11:10-13).

Rehoboam, who succeeded Solomon as King of Israel, followed the pattern of the corrupt worldly rulers who rule by oppression. He rejected the advice of his elders and was instead persuaded by foolish young men to rule with excessive force. They advised him,

Tell these people who have said to you, “Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but make our yoke lighter”–tell them, “My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist. My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions” (1 Kings 12:10-11).

Compare this with Jesus’ word to his disciples:

“You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:42).

King Rehoboam’s disobedience and oppressive rule led to the split between the ten northern tribes and Judah and Benjamin. Rehoboam nevertheless remained King of Judah for the sake of God’s promise to David, for from the tribe of Judah would come the Messiah King and Redeemer of the world. The downward spiral into apostasy and idolatry resulted in first the ten northern tribes being taken captive by the Assyrians and finally the southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin being taken captive by the Babylonians so that eventually the entire nation had been sent into exile. However the Lord had promised, through the prophets, that he would restore the kingdom of Israel through the Son of David, His Anointed King and Redeemer. He would gather the faithful of the flock of Israel into true unity in him.


Following the Babylonian exile those who returned were indeed united under the banner of Judah so that they were all called “Jews” (cf. Nehemiah 11:20) – but this was merely symbolic of the unity and peace that was yet to be established by the Messiah, the Anointed King of Judah in fulfilment of Ezekiel’s vision of the joining of the two sticks.

Would this restoration and unification at the hands of the Messiah be accomplished by destroying all their external enemies? The lesson that we may learn from the kings of Israel and Judah, including Solomon, Rehoboam and Jeroboam, is that all men have sinned and that even God’s holy nation was scattered among the nations as a result of rebellion against God. Our real enemy, through which the god of this world takes us captive, is our own corrupt sinful nature. It is our sinful nature that needs to be put to death, not our external enemies. Israel only fell prey to her enemies when she fell into disobedience, thus forfeiting the promise of divine protection.

All these curses will come upon you. They will pursue you and overtake you until you are destroyed, because you did not obey the LORD your God and observe the commands and decrees he gave you. They will be a sign and a wonder to you and your descendants forever. Because you did not serve the LORD your God joyfully and gladly in the time of prosperity, therefore in hunger and thirst, in nakedness and dire poverty, you will serve the enemies the LORD sends against you. He will put an iron yoke on your neck until he has destroyed you (Deuteronomy 28:45-48).

Through sin and unfaithfulness even Israel became God’s enemy (Isaiah 63:10). God’s purpose in sending the Messiah was not to destroy Israel’s external enemies, but to destroy him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death (Hebrews 2:14). If Jesus came to condemn sinners, then not even one Israelite would have escaped judgement, but Jesus said, “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:17). Men are alienated from God and from one another through sin, but Jesus bore in his own body the punishment which brought us peace with God and with one another. “…he was pierced for our transgression, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him . . .” (Isaiah 53:5).

The unity that the Messiah would establish would be accomplished by the making of an everlasting covenant of peace that would reconcile people of all nations to God and destroy the enmity that existed between people of different nations. It would be characterised by the abiding presence of the Lord among his redeemed people.

In fulfilment of the prophecy in Ezekiel chapter 37, Jesus said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel” (Matthew 15:24). But Jesus came to reconcile the humble and meek of all nations to the God of Israel and that is why he also said:

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me– just as the Father knows me and I know the Father– and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd” (John 10:14-19; 26-30).

This is the Gospel (i.e. the Good News of the Kingdom of God), that was announced in advance to Abraham (Galatians 3:8) – the Messiah King would be the blessing to all nations. Jesus, the Shepherd King is gathering one flock from all nations. Jesus prayed to the Father for ALL who would believe the gospel:

“…that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:23).

The Lord’s purpose in sending his Anointed Redeemer was much grander than the salvation of the descendants of Jacob alone:

It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth (Isaiah 49:6).

No one is deserving of God’s mercy. Whether we were born Jew or Gentile makes no difference for God has handed all men over to disobedience. Those who think that their status according to the flesh makes them more deserving of God’s mercy will find themselves put to shame because no flesh will glory in the presence of God.

I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God… (1 Corinthians 15:50).

The things that divide humanity, especially religious and racial pride, are shattered when we look upon him who was pierced. There is no longer any distinction between Jew and Gentile for those who are redeemed through faith in Jesus.

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:16).

Unity in the Messiah is not founded in any of the things where men usually find common identity – race, language, class, nationality. Our common identity in Christ is founded solely on the recognition that we are all sinners saved by the unmerited love and mercy of God demonstrated in the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.

Through the cross God has destroyed the barriers and dividing walls which once separated Jew from Gentile, priest from Israelite, men from woman etc. To those who were Gentiles by birth but who had come to faith in Christ, the Apostle Paul wrote:

…remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility (Ephesians 2:12, 3:1).

Peter addressed the redeemed in Christ as those who, in this present age, still live as exiles scattered among the nations, using the same terms ascribed to Israel in Exodus 19:6 – a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (1 Peter 2:9). They become members of the holy nation through the new covenant which is an everlasting covenant of peace (Ezekiel 37:26). “He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near” (Ephesians 2:17). There is only one holy nation: the Israel of God comprised of Jews and Gentiles who have been reconciled to the God of Israel. This Holy nation is what God purposed to create through the Messiah from the beginning of time.

The true Israel was never defined by natural descent, but by faithfulness to the God of Israel (see for example Isaiah 56:3 and Psalm 87). Faithfulness is impossible without believing in the One whom he has sent. The proud and unbelieving are cut off from God’s holy nation for as long as they persist in unbelief. As Paul taught in his letter to the Romans there is one olive tree from which some natural branches have been cut off while other wild branches, contrary to nature, have been grafted in.

The Shepherd King is presently gathering his flock from all nations through the proclamation of the gospel of peace. This gathering is not a physical gathering like that which was typified with the return of the exiles. The apostles referred to the gathering and uniting of all the nations under the One and only King whom God has installed on Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem (Psalm 2:6 cf. Hebrews 12:22), as the rebuilding of David’s fallen tabernacle. This is the assembly of true worshippers who worship the Lord in spirit and in truth through the living and abiding presence of God. The geographical location of the place of worship no longer matters for wherever they gather in his Name he is present in their midst (see Acts 15:16 referring to Amos 9:11). Jesus said, “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20).

While the rulers of the world, like Rehoboam, continue to put a heavy yoke on the people, provoking strife and hostility among men in their effort to secure their own kingdoms, Jesus, the King and Good Shepherd of God’s people, says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest (He is the Son of David of whom the Lord spoke when he said ‘You will have a son who will be a man of peace and rest’)… For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

The redemption of the world was a mystery that was spoken of through the prophets but which has been clearly revealed through Jesus Christ and his apostles. The apostle Paul wrote:

In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets (Ephesians 3:4-6).

And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment–to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. (Ephesians 1:9-10)

This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

We, to whom this mystery has been revealed, must proclaim this message of reconciliation. Jesus is the Shepherd King who has established an everlasting covenant of peace. He dwells in the midst of his people who are assured of an eternal inheritance because he reigns forever. His kingdom can never be destroyed and his dominion endures forever.

Daniel was given a vision of God’s Anointed King being led into the very presence of God to be seated at the right hand of the Father:

He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshipped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and whose kingdom is one that will never be destroyed” (Daniel 7:14).

Through Jesus the Messiah, God is reconciling the world to himself and we have been given the ministry of reconciliation – to proclaim the good news; “Your God reigns!” There is one nation united under one King!