Just as, in the Old Testament, the mountains and hills of Palestine were places where the revelations of God were given to the prophets, the prophecies themselves convey information for the benefit of the saints, which is understood only when those prophecies are properly interpreted.
In his dream at Bethel, Jacob saw a ladder on the earth, reaching to heaven, with angels ascending and descending upon it. [Genesis 28:10-19] Why would angels be going up and down a ladder? Perhaps, to convey revelations of God to men; and to convey the prayers of men to God. And in his dream, God promised to give the land to Jacob, and to his seed. God said to him, "...the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed." [Genesis 28:13-14] The promise of the land was associated with the ladder reaching to heaven, which connected the land with a spiritual and heavenly purpose.
Subsequent history showed how this was accomplished; over several centuries, the land was the subject of many prophecies, and in it, further revelations about the gospel were given. These revelations are represented by mountains, hills, valleys, and rivers, features included in the promised land.
In Ezekiel 36, the mountains and other geographical features are pictured as possessed by an enemy, and they have become desolate, and are "are taken up in the lips of talkers, and are an infamy of the people." [Ezekiel 36:3] They are "a prey and derision to the residue of the heathen that are round about." [Ezekiel 36:4]
I suggest the prophecy may be applied in our time, to the many flawed interpretations of prophecy, for example some of the gloomy interpretations proposed by dispensationalists, and their failed predictions, including predictions of a rapture, and their habit of setting dates for the end of the world. They also often make sensational claims about wars in the Middle East, even nuclear war, and an invasion of Israel by a Russian led coalition including Iran. This is based on a misinterpretation of Ezekiel 38-39.
6 Prophesy therefore concerning the land of Israel, and say unto the mountains, and to the hills, to the rivers, and to the valleys, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I have spoken in my jealousy and in my fury, because ye have borne the shame of the heathen:
7 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; I have lifted up mine hand, Surely the heathen that are about you, they shall bear their shame.
8 But ye, O mountains of Israel, ye shall shoot forth your branches, and yield your fruit to my people of Israel; for they are at hand to come. 9 For, behold, I am for you, and I will turn unto you, and ye shall be tilled and sown:
10 And I will multiply men upon you, all the house of Israel, even all of it: and the cities shall be inhabited, and the wastes shall be builded:
11 And I will multiply upon you man and beast; and they shall increase and bring fruit: and I will settle you after your old estates, and will do better unto you than at your beginnings: and ye shall know that I am the LORD.
12 Yea, I will cause men to walk upon you, even my people Israel; and they shall possess thee, and thou shalt be their inheritance, and thou shalt no more henceforth bereave them of men.
The mountains are to shoot forth branches, and bring forth fruit. This suggests, if the mountains represent prophecies, that those prophecies had been misinterpreted, but that now, things that were previously obscure will be understood, and take on new meaning for the church.
This may also be pictured in several prophecies by Isaiah, under different figures.
The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing: the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon, they shall see the glory of the LORD, and the excellency of our God. Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees.
The author of Hebrews quotes the phrase "feeble knees" in Hebrews 12:12, where it is referring to prayer. This prophecy was clearly meant for the church. Isaiah continues:
Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert.
The eyes of the blind being opened is clearly a metaphor, referring to spiritual blindness. In the NT, many of the people who saw the miracles of Jesus were described as blind.
But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him.
The blossoming of the desert is a metaphor; in my view, this is not referring to the wilderness areas of Palestine becoming more fertile, but the scriptures, that have been previously meaningless, becoming clear, and making sense.
Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.
The landscape, pictured as a desert and a wilderness, will blossom. What else could this mean, but that obscure scriptures will be understood?
22 Therefore say unto the house of Israel, thus saith the Lord GOD; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name's sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went.
23 And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, saith the Lord GOD, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes.
24 For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land.
25 Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.
26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.
27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.
I suggest, dwelling in the promised land is not about returning to Palestine, but understanding the scriptures, which agrees with the new covenant idea suggested by the promise of "a new heart and a new spirit." Jesus said, in his conversation with the woman of Samaria, that neither the mountain of the Samaritans nor Jerusalem were preferred places for worshipping God, but "they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." [John 4:19-26]
A literal approach to Ezekiel's prophecy misses its spiritual meaning; it may even appear in a superficial way to support Zionism, and the settlement of Palestine by Jews. But there is little evidence that Ezekiel 36:22-29 is being fulfilled in the Jewish state, but the contrary, yes. Jesus said "by their fruits you shall know them." To dwell in the land, requires faith in Christ, not a ticket to Tel Aviv.
28 And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God. 29 I will also save you from all your uncleannesses: and I will call for the corn, and will increase it, and lay no famine upon you.
The prophet Amos foretold a famine of "hearing the words of the LORD."
Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD:
I suggest, this is the kind of famine that Ezekiel refers to in Ezekiel 36:29. When he says that God will "lay no famine upon you," it implies the words of the Lord will be available to men.
Copyright © 2010, 2012, 2013 by Douglas E. Cox
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