Holy God, Holy People

God has promised to sanctify His great Name, which has become defiled among the nations. How did this happen? When the Jewish people were exiled from the Promised Land, and were scattered throughout the nations, the nations shamefully treated them and did not honour them as the people of God. This attitude and behaviour toward the Jewish people has subsequently reflected badly on God's Name. Nevertheless, God will restore the holiness of His great Name.

"Son of man, when the house of Israel dwelt in their own land, they defiled it by their own ways and deeds . . . So I scattered them among the nations, and they were dispersed throughout the countries . . . When they came to the nations, wherever they went they (the nations) profaned My holy Name–when they (the nations) said of them (Israel) , 'These are the people of the LORD, and yet they have gone out of the land.'

"But I had concern for My holy Name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations wherever they went. Therefore say to the house of Israel, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: "I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy Name's sake, which you have profaned among the nations wherever you went.

"And I will sanctify My great Name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst; and the nations shall know that I am the LORD," says the Lord GOD, "when I am hallowed in you before their eyes."'" (Ezekiel 36:17-23)

Clearly, God is able to sanctify His great Name because He is holy. At the same time, God will restore His people Israel. Both the Jewish people and the holiness of God's Name are indelibly linked. Just as His great Name was profaned when Israel was mistreated by the nations, so too, when His great Name is sanctified, Israel likewise will be restored.

Therefore, the measure for the sanctification of God's Name will be reflected in the return of the Jewish people–it is the process of sanctification.

"For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land." (Ezekiel 36:24)

Comforting words to a scattered and abused people. And the Jewish people have been exactly that. Scattered throughout the nations since 597 BCE, Israel has constantly been persecuted. It is a miracle that Israel has survived, let alone become a modern nation. Whilst the dispersion is not yet over, the re-establishment of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948, has finally given the Jewish people a place that is not just another country of exile; they have finally come home.

The promise, "I will take you . . . " conveys an element of surprise. One or two will be taken from a group. Surprised that one of its members would be even thinking of returning to Israel, the group struggles to understand: "Why live in Israel? What is wrong with living here? What about all the violence, the war, the terrorism? Do you really want your children growing up in such an environment?" The reply, "It's the Land of the Patriarchs!" just doesn't seem to carry sufficient weight to convince friends, or even family. It's difficult to explain, and there doesn't appear to be a logical reason to justify such a bold move, and yet, there is something . . . an inner prompting to go . . . "I will take you . . . " says the Lord.

The element of surprise is not just for those "at home", but there is also something quite extraordinary which awaits those who finally settle in the Land. In addition to the freshness associated with a new start, there is a treasure both rare and ancient to be discovered. The treasure is truly magnified when those returning are not fully aware of the deep significance of their return. They have lived in the diaspora all their lives; their ancestors have lived in exile for centuries. They have not known what it is like to possess their Land. They have not experienced what it is like to live in the Land of the Patriarchs, and call it home. It is as if the Lord is saying, "I will take you . . . " and show you what you have missed. I will show you what living in the nations cannot give you. Come, see for yourself." The Rabbis speak of the Land coming alive. This is something beyond fairytale. It is more than magical or mystical. This is a land responding to her people. And the Lord says, "For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land." (Ezekiel 36:24) If a voice were to be given to the innate objects, the rocks would cry out, "Welcome home!", and the dust would shout, "Messiah is coming," and the trees would rejoice, "Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord."

From a multitude of different cultures and nations, the Jewish people have been gathered, and like a flock listening to the voice of their Shepherd, they are returning to the Land of the Fathers.

"Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your descendants from the east, and gather you from the west; I will say to the north, 'Give them up!' and to the south, 'Do not keep them back! Bring my sons from afar, and my daughters from the ends of the earth . . . '" (Isaiah 43:5-6)

Despite the logistical problems associated with resettling such enormous numbers, the Land and People of Israel have coped and flourished. Against the odds, the Jewish people are once again an independent nation. "For I . . . will bring you into your own land." (Ezekiel 36:24)

"'For behold, the days are coming,' says the LORD, 'that I will bring back from captivity My people Israel and Judah,' says the LORD. 'And I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it.'" (Jeremiah 30:3)

The return of the Jewish people to the Land of the Patriarchs is only part of the process of sanctifying God's holy Name. Another aspect, equally important and precious, is the process through which the returning exiles become the people for which God has purposed–a light unto the nations.

In conjunction with the return to the Land, the Lord says, "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) This is a reference to the removal of all that the Jewish people have 'picked up' (borne as a consequence of) while in exile. In order to live among the Gentiles, the Jewish people have been compelled, coerced and forced to adapt their laws and customs. At times, when death was imminent, the only place of refuge was a neighbouring country, but here too, they would again be subject to foreign culture and customs.

But now in their own land, the Jewish people will no longer be under the threat of the Gentiles, and can be rid of foreign ways and customs. For the first time in centuries, the Jewish people can choose to serve God according to His ways, without having to look over their shoulder to see if the Gentile is watching.

At home in the Land of the Patriarchs, the Word of God is like a fountain of living water springing forth with cleansing streams for the sons and daughters of the ancient people. Sprinkled with clean water–the untainted Word of God–the Jewish people will be cleansed from all the Gentile customs and ways.

Arriving from many different cultures from around the world, and being cleansed by the Word of God, the Jewish people will replace their Gentile clothes with garments of righteousness and praise. "I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness . . . " (Isaiah 61:10)

"And 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)

The heart of stone is a consequence of living among the nations. Centuries of bitter experiences, and the sheer necessity and daily struggle to survive have dimmed the Light, and hardened the once-sensitive heart. The fear of man–of what the Gentiles might do to them–has consumed and stolen their fear of the Lord. But "a new spirit" and "a heart of flesh" will restore and revive the covenant people to a life pleasing to their Heavenly Father. A life in which they will " . . . do justly, . . . love mercy, and . . . walk humbly with your God?" (Micah 6:8)

"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 their own land, Israel will be free to express their loyalty and obedience to the One who has created them, and called them to be a light unto the nations. At that time . . .

"Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God." (Ezekiel 36:28)

The return of the Jewish people to the land of their fathers, the Promised Land, is a fulfilment of prophecy. God, the Creator of heaven and earth, who is the Sovereign King over all, whose dominion continues from generation to generation, and whose kingdom alone endures, promised He would remember His covenant with the Patriarchs of Israel, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and that their descendants would return to the land of their inheritance–it belongs to them.

"O seed of Abraham His servant, you children of Jacob, His chosen ones! He is the LORD our God; His judgements are in all the earth. He remembers His covenant forever, the word which He commanded, for a thousand generations, the covenant which He made with Abraham, and His oath to Isaac, and confirmed it to Jacob for a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant, saying, 'To you I will give the land of Canaan as the allotment of your inheritance.'" (Psalm 105:6-11)

Their return heralds the sanctification of God's great Name. It is a process in which He will cleanse His people and restore them to be the bearers of His light unto the nations. And all this so that the nations may know that the Lord God of Israel is the One True God and His Name is holy.

May we see many Jewish people cleansed and restored, to the glory of God, and for the sanctification of His great Name.