God remembers. We forget, or we try to hide, the things we’re ashamed of. God doesn’t forget, though, and so we can never hide our sins.
Edom, the mountain kingdom bordering Israel, was a thorn in her side for centuries, never more so than when standing gleefully by as the Assyrians destroyed God’s Land. Very well, says God: she will be herself ruined (35.1-10). She saw the Assyrian attack as the perfect opportunity to take over the two kingdoms: now she will be desolate (vv.10-15). God remembers, He speaks, and He will act.
What about Israel, though? She has been judged, humiliated, stripped bare by the Assyrians. Well over a century has passed since that devastation, and the land still shows no signs of recovery. How could she, as the few who live there of Israelite descent are sure that God’s anger is still against them. Ezekiel speaks here to assure them that, though God’s zeal worked for their judgement, it is His time to work for the land, and to repay its enemies (36.1-7). So a picture of restoration follows, of a fruitful land, enjoyed by a returning people (v.8), knowing the favour of God (v.10), increasing in population and being rebuilt (vv.10-12). The exile t which the people were banished will come to an end (vv.13-21).
Better than a society renewed, Ezekiel promises that the people’s hearts will be renewed (vv.24-25). They will be washed, cleansed from their idols, and given a new heart and a new spirit (v.26). With their hearts of flesh, they will be given a spirit which longs to obey God. Nothing, but nothing in ourselves can make this change. No resolve, effort, prayer or desperate self-sacrifice can bring about this miracle. Only the Lord of grace Himself can transform people with the gift of new birth through the Holy Spirit, and that is a gift which Jesus alone died and rose again to bring us. Just imagine Ezekiel’s shock in heaven when he finally got to see and understand that!
And why all this grace promised to a sinful people? It is not because God is sentimental, though, nor because He has decided that His people are not worthy of His judgment. God is working, as always, for the sake of His Name, and to show the nations that He is the Lord (vv.23-24, 37). He is the Lord, afterall, and He has no lesser wish that all the nations should see and receive His glory in Christ. Trust Him. The alternative doesn’t even bear thinking about.