Chapter 35 is another prophecy against Edom, which goes into much greater detail than the prophecy against them in chapter 25. These people were “the descendants of Esau, Jacob’s brother, who occupied the rugged country southeast of the Dead Sea.” The commentary from which this quote comes explains all the detail in the chapter. One thing stands out. The Lord promises in verse 9 that he will make it desolate, and its towns will not be inhabited forever. He has kept that promise to this day. The land this people once inhabited is a wasteland because they attempted to take advantage of Yahweh’s judgment on his people. Not a good idea.
Chapter 36 includes one of the great metaphors in all of scripture, the heart as stone turned to flesh. Ezekiel is fond of the phrase, the Sovereign Lord, and it’s used 15 times alone in this chapter! The word “sovereign” doesn’t exist in the Hebrew. Rather the phrase is God’s proper name, Yahweh Adonay. Most other translations use the Lord God. It is not a distortion at all, though, to say that the Lord God is sovereign because he is the creator and ruler of all things. He has the ultimate control of all things. I think that’s the idea Ezekiel is conveying here. Nothing happens with him controlling, willing, or permitting it, including transforming hearts of stone, lost, cold, rebellious hearts, to hearts of flesh, affection, and love. The following is from chapter 8 of my book, Keeping Your Kids Christian:
The Sovereign Lord tells Ezekiel to prophecy that God will restore Israel back to their land, and that they will once again prosper. In the middle of the prophecy we read these words:
24“‘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. 25 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. 26 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. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. 28 Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God.
Who does the acting here? Notice the seven “I will’s.” God does the work of saving his chosen people, and the eighth “I will” is the final result. And there are plenty more “I will’s” in this chapter. The one that stood out to me as I was discovering the Reformed Faith was God (surgically) removing the heart of stone and replacing it with a heart of flesh. What a vivid juxtaposition, stone and flesh. Nothing is quite as inanimate (lifeless, dead, non-living, inorganic) as a stone. Flesh is alive, responsive, feeling, active. Those who are dead in their sins have hearts of stone, while those who are in Christ have hearts of flesh. Only the latter can believe, and only God himself can transform a human heart. Salvation requires divine surgery!
Some may argue this is metaphorical and only relates to the nation of Israel some six hundred years before Christ. As in much of the Old Testament, there is more than one meaning. Remember when Jesus said the Old Testament, all of it, was about him? Once you put on those Jesus glasses, passages like this take on a whole new meaning. Put them on and read, “I will save you from all your uncleanness” (v.29), or “On the day I cleanse you from all your sins . . . ” (v. 33), and you will know God is communicating more than what will happen to national Israel.
He tells them that he will again bless them in the land, which he does, but the idea of him cleansing them from “all” their sins can only refer to Christ. The cleansing from sin can only come when the wages of sin are fully paid. Sin must be atoned for. God’s wrath and judgment must be appeased. Justice must be done. In Christ, it was.