_ _ Here are more exceedingly great and precious promises made of the happy state of the Jews after their return to their own land; but they have a further reference to the kingdom of the Messiah and the glories of gospel-times.
_ _ I. It is here promised that Ephraim and Judah shall be happily united in brotherly love and mutual serviceableness; so that whereas, ever since the desertion of the ten tribes from the house of David under Jeroboam, there had been continual feuds and animosities between the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah, and it is to be feared there had been some clashings between them even in the land of their captivity (Ephraim upon all occasions envying Judah and Judah vexing Ephraim), now it should be no longer, but there should be a coalition between them, and, notwithstanding the old differences that had been between them, they should agree to love one another and to do one another all good offices. This is here illustrated by a sign. The prophet was to take two sticks, and write upon one, For Judah (including Benjamin, those of the children of Israel that were his companions), upon the other, For Joseph, including the rest of the tribes, Ezekiel 37:16. These two sticks must be so framed as to fall into one in his hand, Ezekiel 37:17. The people took notice of this, and desired him to tell them the meaning of it, for they knew he did not play with sticks for his diversion, as children do. Those that would know the meaning should ask the meaning of the word of God which they read and hear, and of the instituted signs by which spiritual and divine things are represented to us; the ministers' lips should keep the knowledge hereof and the people should ask it at their mouth, Malachi 2:7. It is a necessary question for grown people, as well as children, to ask, What mean you by this service, by this sign? Exodus 12:26. The meaning was that Judah and Israel should become one in the hand of God, Ezekiel 37:19. 1. They shall be one, one nation, Ezekiel 37:22. They shall have no separate interests, and, consequently, no divided affections. There shall be no mutual jealousies and animosities, no remembrance, no remains, of their former discord. But there shall be a perfect harmony between them, a good understanding one of another, a good disposition one to another, and a readiness to all good offices and services for one another's credit and comfort. They had been two sticks crossing and thwarting one another, nay, beating and bruising one another; but now they shall become one, supporting and strengthening one another. Vix unita fortior Force added to force is proportionally more efficient. Behold, how good and how pleasant a thing it is to see Judah and Israel, that had long been at variance, now dwelling together in unity. Then they shall become acceptable to their God, amiable to their friends, and formidable to their enemies, Isaiah 11:13, Isaiah 11:14. 2. They shall be one in God's hand; by his power they shall be united, and, being by his hand brought together, his hand shall keep them together, so that they shall not fly off, to be separated again. They shall be one in his hand, for his glory shall be the centre of their unity and his grace the cement of it. In him, in a regard to him and in his service and worship, they shall unite, and so shall become one. Both sides shall agree to put themselves into his hand, and so they shall be one. Qui conveniunt in aliquo tertio inter se conveniunt Those who agree in a third agree with each other. Note, Those are best united that are one in God's hand, whose union with each other results from their union with Christ and their communion with God through him, Ephesians 1:10. One in us, John 17:21. 3. They shall be one in their return out of captivity (Ezekiel 37:21): I will take them from among the heathen, and gather them on every side, and bring them together incorporated into one body to their own land. They shall be one in their separation from the heathen with whom they had mingled themselves: they shall both agree to part from them, and take their affections off from them, and no longer to comply with their usages, and then they will soon agree to join together in walking according to the rule of God's word. Their having been joint-sufferers will contribute to this blessed comprehension, when they begin to come to themselves and to consider things. Put many pieces of metal together into the furnace, and, when they are melted, they will run all together. It was time for them to strengthen one another when their oppressors were so busy to weaken and ruin them all. Likewise their being joint-sharers in the favour of God, and the great and common deliverance wrought out for them all, should help to unite them. God's loving them all was a good reason why they should love one another. Times of common joy, as well as times of common suffering, should be healing loving times. 4. They shall all be the subjects of one king, and so they shall become one. The Jews, after their return, were under one government, and not divided as formerly. But this certainly looks further, to the kingdom of Christ; he is that one King in allegiance to whom all God's spiritual Israel shall cheerfully unite, and under whose protection they shall all be gathered. All believers unite in one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. And the uniting of Jews and Gentiles in the gospel church, their becoming one fold under Christ the one great Shepherd, is doubtless the union that is chiefly looked at in this prophecy. By Christ and partition-wall between them was taken down, and the enmity slain, and of them twain was made one new man, Ephesians 2:14, Ephesians 2:15.
_ _ II. It is here promised that the Jews shall by their captivity be cured of their inclination to idolatry; this shall be the happy fruit of that affliction, even the taking away of their sin (Ezekiel 37:23): Neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, those detestable defiling things, no, nor with any of their former transgressions. Note, When one sin is sincerely parted with all sin is abandoned too, for he that hates sin, as sin, will hate all sin. And those that are cured of their spiritual idolatry, their inordinate affection to the world and the flesh, that no longer make a god of their money or their belly, have a happy blow given to the root of all their transgressions. Two ways God will take to cure them of their idolatry: 1. By bringing them out of the way of temptation to it: “I will save them out of all their dwelling-places wherein they have sinned, because there they met with the occasion of sin and allurements to it.” Note, It is our wisdom to avoid the places where we have been overcome by temptations to sin, not to remain in them, or return to them, but to save ourselves out of them, as we would out of infected places; see Zechariah 2:7; Revelation 18:4. And it is a great mercy when God, in his providence, saves us out of the dwelling-places where we have sinned, and keeps us from harm by keeping us out of harm's way, in answer to our prayer, Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. 2. By changing the disposition of their mind: “I will cleanse them (Ezekiel 37:28); that is, I will sanctify them, will work in them an aversion to the pollutions of sin and a complacency in the pleasures of holiness, and then you may be sure they will not defile themselves any more with their idols.” Those whom God has cleansed he will keep clean.
_ _ III. It is here promised that they shall be the people of God, as their God, and the subjects and sheep of Christ their King and Shepherd. These promises we had before, and they are here repeated (Ezekiel 37:23, Ezekiel 37:24) for the encouragement of the faith of Israel: They shall be my people, to serve me, and I will be their God, to save them and to make them happy. David, my servant, shall be king over them, to fight their battles, to protect them from injury, and to rule them, and overrule all things that concern them for their good. He shall be their shepherd, to guide them and provide for them. Christ is this David, Israel's King of old; and those whom he subdues to himself, and makes willing in the day of his power, he makes to walk in his judgments and to keep his statutes.
_ _ IV. It is here promised that they shall dwell comfortably, Ezekiel 37:25, Ezekiel 37:26. They shall dwell in the land of Israel; for where else should Israelites dwell? And many things will concur to make their dwelling agreeable. 1. They shall have it by covenant; they shall come in again upon their old title, by virtue of the grant made unto Jacob, God's servant. As Christ was David, God's servant, so the church is Jacob, his servant too; and the members of the church shall come in for a share, as born in God's house. He will make a covenant of peace with them (Ezekiel 37:26), and in pursuance of that covenant he will place them, and multiply them. Note, Temporal mercies are doubly sweet when they come from the promise of the covenant, and not merely from common providence. 2. They shall come to it by prescription: “It is the land wherein your fathers have dwelt, and for that reason you cannot but have a special kindness for it, which God will graciously gratify.” It was the inheritance of their ancestors, and therefore shall be theirs. They are beloved for their fathers' sakes. 3. They shall have it entailed upon them and the heirs of their body, and shall have their families built up, so that it shall not be lost for want of heirs. They shall dwell therein all their time, and never be turned out of possession, and they shall leave it for an inheritance to their children and their children's children for ever, who shall enjoy it when they are gone, the prospect of which will be a satisfaction to them. 4. They shall live under a good government, which will contribute very much to the comfort of their lives: My servant David shall be their prince for ever. This can be no other than Christ, of whom it was said, when he was brought into the world, He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever, Luke 1:33. Note, It is the unspeakable comfort of all Christ's faithful subjects that, as his kingdom is everlasting, so he is an everlasting King, he lives to reign for ever; and, as sure and as long as he lives and reigns, they shall live and reign also. 5. The charter by which they hold all their privileges is indefeasible. God's covenant with them shall be an everlasting covenant; so the covenant of grace is, for it secures to us an everlasting happiness.
_ _ V. It is here promised that God will dwell among them; and this will make them dwell comfortably indeed: I will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore; my tabernacle also shall be with them, Ezekiel 37:26, Ezekiel 37:27. 1. They shall have the tokens of God's special presence with them and his gracious residence among them. God will in very deed dwell with them upon the earth, for where his sanctuary is he is; when they profaned his sanctuary he took it from them (Isaiah 64:11), but now that they are purified God will dwell with them again. 2. They shall have opportunity of conversing with God, of hearing from him, speaking to him, and so keeping up communion with him, which will be the comfort of their lives. 3. They shall have the means of grace. By the oracles of God in his tabernacle they shall be made wiser and better, and all their children shall be taught of the Lord. 4. Thus their covenant relation to God shall be improved and the bond of it strengthened: “I will be their God and they shall be my people, and they shall know it by having my sanctuary among them, and shall have the comfort of it.”
_ _ VI. Both God and Israel shall have the honour of this among the heathen, Ezekiel 37:26. “Now the heathen observe how Israel have profaned their own crown by their sins, and God has profaned it by his judgments; but then, when Israel is reformed and God has returned in mercy to them, the very heathen shall be made to know that the Lord sanctifies Israel, has a title to them and an interest in them more than other people, because his sanctuary is, and shall be, in the midst of them.” Note, God designs the sanctification of those among whom he sets up his sanctuary. And blessed and holy are those who, enjoying the privileges of the sanctuary, give such proofs and evidences of their sanctification that the heathen may know it is no less than the almighty grace of God that sanctifies them. Such have God's sanctuary in the midst of them, the kingdom of God within them, in the principles of the spiritual life, and shall have it so for evermore in the enjoyments of an eternal life.