And You Shall Be Clean

"Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols." (Ezekiel 36:25)

The Lord promises to sprinkle clean water on the children of Israel following their return to the Land. From what will the people of Israel need to be cleansed?

The people of Israel are not like any other nation. They are the people of God. However, when they arrived in the countries where they were scattered, they were treated with contempt. "When they came to the nations, wherever they went, they profaned my holy Name – when they said of them, 'These are the people of the LORD, and yet they have gone out of his land.'" (Ezekiel 36:20)

Since the people of Israel refused to walk in the ways of God they were evicted from the Land and scattered to the nations. The Land had been specially chosen and prepared by God so that His people Israel could reflect Him as the one true God, and demonstrate His holiness to the nations. But they disobeyed preferring to walk in their own ways, thus, defiling the Land which ultimately resulted in their exile.

The nations trampled the people of God, which inturn defiled God's holy Name. The people of Israel endured centuries of abuse, even death, at the hands of hostile Gentile dictators and regimes. But the LORD promised He would vindicate His holy Name by bringing the people back to the Land of Israel. "And I will sanctify my great name . . . for I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries and bring you into your own land." (Ezekiel 36:23, 24) We are witnesses to the fulfilment of this prophetic word today.

Whilst dispersed among the nations, the children of Israel became even more unclean. The profaning of God's Name was just the beginning. Where they could, Jewish communities endeavoured to establish themselves while adjusting to the new cultures. But in most cases, pressure was applied immediately on the Jewish people forcing them to conform to the hosting nation's laws and customs.

Unable to return to the Land, the Jewish communities succumbed, in order to survive. In the best situations, they were not permitted to fully follow the Torah, but were required to accommodate Gentile laws. In the worst scenarios, and on numerous occasions, the local Jewish community was given an ultimatum–be conformed, be expelled or face death–some were not even given an ultimatum. Furthermore, the scenarios could change at any moment, depending on who the King/Ruler/Leader was at the time.

Despite the many centuries of Israel's dispersion, the dispersion was only ever intended to be temporary. The Jewish people would eventually return to the Land to fulfil their calling. The fact that they have survived, and have maintained their identity as a people, is testament to the truth that God has been with them, even in their dispersion. The Lord God of Israel has not rejected His people, nor has He forsaken them. Indeed, the living reality is that they are returning to the Land in order to fulfil God's purpose for them–to be the light of the world.

For this reason, Israel can not remain among the nations. Inevitably, they must be separate. They are a sanctified people for God.

Inevitably, they will return to the Land. The consequence of living among the nations, however, will require the people of Israel to be cleansed. The Gentile laws imposed on them have diminished the beauty of God's law. The Gentile customs have forced them to the walk in the ways of men and traditions, rather than in the Life of the Torah.

Before his departure, Moses urged the people that if they wanted to experience Life and Good–the reward of keeping the Lord's commandments–then they needed to stay loyal to the Lord and to His ways.

"See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments, his statutes, and his judgements, that you may live and multiply; and the LORD your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess." (Deuteronomy 30:15-16)

The good news is that when the people of Israel return home, to the Land promised to their ancestors, they will be cleansed of all the rubbish that they picked up whilst living among the Gentiles. For the Lord says, "I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols." (Ezekiel 36:25)

The Spirit of God is portrayed in Scripture as clean or holy water. Water is needed most in a dry and thirsty land. The people of Israel are returning home, dry and thirsty. Water can be poured into a vessel, and yet it can overflow beyond the container. In the same way, the Spirit of God can nourish a seed of truth, fallen through the crack and hidden deep within. The Spirit of God can fill, as well as overflow. He has the power and the presence to make clean because the Spirit of God teaches and gives understanding to the Word of God. He brings life to the letter of Torah–God's instruction.

The prophet Joel also spoke of "those days" when the people of Israel would return to the Land, which is typical of today. The picture the prophet described was that of the Spirit of God being poured out. The prophet sees the day when the people of Israel would be renewed and cleansed.

"And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. And also on my menservants and on my maidservants I will pour out my Spirit in those days." (Joel 2:28-29)

The cleansing process is a work-in-progress. While the Lord could immediately revive His people in an instant; and while He could bring them home without delay, He has allowed them to return at intervals. Aliyah (immigration to Israel) continues today. This is one step in the cleansing process.

The cleansing is also a combination of various processes working together. The Lord could have made their return much easier, yet, the people of Israel have encountered hardship, even at home. These times of distress are another phase of the cleansing process. Israel is being cleansed of her desire to be like the nations.

"What you have in your mind shall never be, when you say, 'We will be like the Gentiles, like the families in other countries, serving wood and stone.'

"'As I live,' says the Lord GOD, 'surely with a mighty hand, with an outstretched arm, and with fury poured out, I will rule over you.'" (Ezekiel 20:32-33)

Living among the nations, the Jewish people have endured the pain of Gentile laws and customs, but could do nothing–they were strangers in a foreign land. But being at home in the Land of Promise brings a different dimension, and opens the gates for them to experience their spiritual heritage. Accordingly, the Jewish people are more inclined toward the ways of God. "I will cleanse you from all your filthiness . . ." (Ezekiel 36:25) This is another step in the cleansing process.

Living among the nations, Israel has grown suspicious of Gentile advances. The recycling of spurious claims, down the centuries, the defaming of the Jewish people has only hardened their heart and made them more skeptical of Gentile promises. Significantly, when the people of Israel return they will receive a new heart. "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh." (Ezekiel 36:26) Israel's new heart is one that is passionate for the Lord, and His kingdom of righteousness. Their new heart may not improve their relationship with the nations but it will significantly move them closer to their God and to fulfil His purpose, and for the return of the Messiah.

Israel is the Land where their forefathers walked. This is where the promises are fulfilled. This is where they belong as the covenant people of God. This is the place where God's purposes through them will be fulfilled. They are home. This is where they will be a light to the nations. This is where their light will shine brightest. This is where they will flower and be fruitful to the ends of the earth. This is where the Word of God comes alive. This is where the Jewish people's passion for the Word of God is renewed and awakened.

These steps are only part of the cleansing process. The people of Israel are being washed clean of centuries of Gentile influences and stains. They are being turned toward the Lord their God, and they are rediscovering His goodness.

"I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you will keep my judgements and do them." (Ezekiel 36:27)

In contrast to when they were dispersed among the nations, the Jewish people returning to the Land will begin to walk in the ways of God. They will cast aside the traditions of men, and spurn the culture of the Gentiles. Determined to return to the Lord, they will keep His judgements and walk in His statutes.

"Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be my people, and I will be your God. I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses. I will call for the grain and multiply it, and bring no famine upon you. And I will multiply the fruit of your trees and the increase of your fields, so that you need never again bear the reproach of famine among the nations." (Ezekiel 36:28-30)

We live in troubled times. The return of the Jewish people to the Land of Promise is significant. No more will they roam homeless among the nations. No longer can the nations ridicule their wandering plight, or say that the Land is desolate. They have returned to be cleansed, to be given a new heart and spirit. They will be the people of the Lord, and will walk in His ways. All the while, the Land will flourish and be fruitful, exactly as prophesied.

May the Lord bless us with understanding for our time.