Read the books of the major and minor prophets and you will witness God lashing out judgment after judgment. There is no escape from the pricking expressions of His anger against the ghastly sins. Yet, at the pinnacle of His anger, we find grace, love and mercy. God told Hosea, “I will cure you of idolatry and faithlessness, and my love will know no bounds, for my anger will be forever gone” (Hosea 14: 4). He told Isaiah, “In a moment of anger I turned my face a little while; but with everlasting love I will have pity on you, says the Lord, your Redeemer”(Isaiah 54: 8). He told Jeremiah, “I will end your slavery and restore your fortunes.” (Jeremiah 29: 14). He told Ezekiel, “I will end the captivity of my people and have mercy upon them and restore their fortunes” (39: 25). He gave Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Joel and Amos the same message of hope for people who are in the ruins, because we were not made for the ruins.
Despite that, Ezekiel made it clear that God does not restore because of who we are, but because of who He is. Angered by the broken promises of His people, God told them, “You will know you don’t deserve this gracious act, for you did not keep my covenant. He then adds, “I am bringing you back again, but not because you deserve it; I am doing it to protect my holy name, which you tarnished among the nations” (Ezekiel 36: 22).God has a reputation and Holiness to preserve. Yes, the ruins reveal that He is Lord of Judgment, but the restoration proves that He is lord of everlasting love and mercy. Here’s what He’s offering you.
- Spiritual Restoration: Only God can grant true revival in the hearts of those battered by the ruins. He says, although you are filthy, although you committed such sins against me, “it will be as though I had sprinkled clean water on you, for you will be clean—your filthiness will be washed away, your idol worship gone. And I will give you a new heart—I will give you new and right desires—and put a new spirit within you. I will take out your stony hearts of sin and give you new hearts of love. And I will put my Spirit within you so that you will obey my laws and do whatever I command” (Ezekiel 36: 25-27). Spiritual restoration precedes all others, we must have a new heart to have a new walk and a new relationship with God. Only His Spirit can do this work of restoration.
- Economic Restoration: Jerusalem was in a state of devastation. Nehemiah wept because of the horrid details he had heard about the city. God would be the only one to help them rebuild the ruins. He is the one who can bring back abundance. He says, “See, I am for you, and I will come and help you as you prepare the ground and sow your crops” (Ezekiel 36: 9). He restored the population, “Your birthrate will rise, and your infant mortality rate will drop off sharply” ( Vs 14). He multiplied their flocks and herds, “I will cleanse away your sins. I will abolish crop failures and famine. I will give you huge harvests from your fruit trees and fields” (vs 29- 30). God who takes, also gives, He would restore everything the people had lost.
- Personal Restoration: After the repentance, after the cleansing, God declares, “I am ready to hear Israel’s prayers for these blessings and to grant them their requests. Let them but ask, and I will multiply them like the flocks that fill Jerusalem’s streets at the time of sacrifice. The ruined cities will be crowded once more, and everyone will know I am the Lord” ( Ezekiel 36: 37 – 38). Isaiah tells us that iniquities will separate us from God so much that He will not hear our prayers. However, Ezekiel brings a promise that when God has done the cleansing, when He has taken care of the sprinkling, taken away our filthiness and given us new hearts, then He is ready to hear our prayers and requests for blessings. God is waiting for true surrender while you are in the ruins, so that He can clean up the mess, rebuild the ruins and restore your fortunes. He says He’s ready to hear, so all you have to do is ask.
- Relational Restoration: More than anything, God wants to mend the broken promises of faithfulness and commitment. Despite all that God had done, the people disregarded their covenantal relationship with Him to be His people. They went to other gods, and did so many offensive things in His sight, but with His love and mercy, He pursued the people and brought them back to Him. His motive is to keep that covenantal relationship clean. God keeps His promises to us regardless of whether we keep ours, but His ultimate goal is for us to have an eternal covenant of love, reverence and holiness towards God and the things of God. The hand that guided the people of Israel through the ruins of diseases, circumstances, choices, famine and failure is the same God that guides your life through the ruins. His loving hands has not left us in the ruinous mess but like the true shepherd seeks after His wandering sheep, He pursues His people, and carries them back safely to the fold. Who can avoid rising to the heights of love with a God whose love has no heights.
- Restoration of true Worship. Nehemiah left his princely robes to work in the ruins, rebuild the walls and restore true worship in the Temple. God is very sentimental when it comes to the temples where He dwells. He is very particular about the preservation of holiness in the temple. As a part of the restoration, we see Him giving clear instructions for worship and restoration of the temple, No spot of sin can soil the fabric of holiness. No contamination of the evil can befoul the temple of God. The people of Israel defiled God’s temple with idols and evil sacrifices. Intermingled with the corruption of men, God said, “I will destroy my lovely, beautiful Temple” (Ezekiel 24: 20). Destruction loomed over the temple that belonged to the one and only God. No man can serve two masters. No two masters can rule one heart. The temple as God’s sanctuary is God’s, holy, set apart, as the dwelling place of His presence. Our own hearts as the temple of God, bears the same demands and standards for holiness. The ruins must purge out greed, pride, lewdness, selfishness and sin. When God restores, He restores a spotless temple, an uncontaminated heart, because only there can true worship dwells.
When God restores, He doesn’t give back so that the ruins can be revived. He gives so that eternity can occupy the hearts and lives of His people. Those who cling fast to the cords that draws us closer to holiness will not fall back to the ruins, but rise higher and higher to the restoration of holiness, reverence and worship unto God.
Jeremiah 30: 18 – 22, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I will restore the fortunes of the tents of Jacob And have compassion on his dwelling places; And the city will be rebuilt on its ruin, And the palace will stand on its rightful place. ‘From them will proceed thanksgiving And the voice of those who celebrate; And I will multiply them and they will not be diminished; I will also honor them and they will not be insignificant.”
Artwork: Donald Keefe ( Used with Permission)