Ezekiel was a prophet living in Babylonian captivity. The first part of his book explains that the Israelites lost their land because of their sin; the middle part chronicles how other nations will experience judgment for their sins as well. Beginning in Chapter 33, God begins to unveil for Ezekiel what revival and restoration will look like. We will begin in Chapter 36, verse 16:
“When the people of Israel were living in their own land, they defiled it by their conduct and their actions…I dispersed them among the nations, and they were scattered through the countries; I judged them according to their conduct and their actions. And wherever they went among the nations they profaned my holy name, for it was said of them, ‘These are the Lord’s people, and yet they had to leave his land.’ I had concern for my holy name, which the people of Israel profaned among the nations where they had gone.”
“I had concern for my name” seems like an understatement. God’s people show up places, and everybody around them says, “What a bunch of losers. Their own God kicked them out.” They had broken a key commandment: “Don’t take God’s name in vain.” God is not pleased. And yet…
“Therefore say to the Israelites, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: It is not for your sake, people of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I am proved holy through you before their eyes.”
That’s an astonishing passage. After all that God has just said about them profaning his name (his character and reputation), God says He will be show His holiness of His great name through them so much so that everybody who sees them will know that the God of the Israelites is God.**
“‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God. I will save you from all your uncleanness…"
God is going to gather up a profane people who defiled the land he gave them, clean them up, give them a new heart, give them His Spirit, and put them back in a land they didn’t deserve – and then he will proudly claim them as His own. Israel is terrible. This wasn’t like The Voice, where Israel is auditioning while God’s chair is turned around, and He’s waiting until they hit the right note to turn His chair and beg them to be on his team. That’s just not Israel.
God's not doing this because Israel is awesome. He’s doing this because He is awesome.