“Say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I will take the sons of Israel from among the nations where they have gone, and I will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land;
(Ezekiel 37:21 NASB)
and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king will be king for all of them; and they will no longer be two nations and no longer be divided into two kingdoms.
(Ezekiel 37:22 NASB)
“They will no longer defile themselves with their idols, or with their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions; but I will deliver them from all their dwelling places in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them. And they will be My people, and I will be their God.
(Ezekiel 37:23 NASB)



After all the failures of the Israelites, God was confirming their restoration. Their time in exile would come to an end and they would be gathered back together as God's holy people. Not only were they going to be restored, but reunited with one another, and finally, they were going to live according to the Shema -- honoring God as one, and not giving themselves to the idols of the world. The promise of God remained constant -- that he would cleanse them. The relationship would be restored. They would be his people and He would be their God.



Aren't we grateful for the promise of restoration? How often in our own lives do we fail and we wonder what that means for us in the long run. What becomes damaged when we fail is relationships; our relationship with God and our relationships with others. Probably most of us can think of relationships that have been damaged through the years. A simple word spoken here or there and feelings are hurt and we withdraw. The once thriving relationship is hurt, or no longer even exists.
 The children of Israel had destroyed their relationship with God, and even with their fellow Israelites all because they had given themselves over to their neighbors. They loved interacting with their neighbors, marrying their neighbors daughters and in return allowing their neighbors idols into their own homes. This wasn't just the ordinary folks of the community involved in this kind of behavior, but it started at the top with King Solomon. Israel wanted to be a respectable nation -- they wanted the people of the world to think that they were wonderful and powerful. In return they sold their soul to the world, and left their relationship with God far behind. God, the faithful Father was left sadly standing in the background wondering where His children had gone. It's a sad picture.

What is it that entices away from God today? What is it that others have to offer us? Are we willing to sell our relationship of obedience with God so that we can be accepted by those around us? Would we seem far too boring to those around us (even those who call themselves Christians) if we lived by a lifestyle of obedience to God? I find the temptation to live as close to the world not to come from those who are in the world, but rather from those who call themselves followers of Christ. Somehow there is a reaction against what is perceived as legalism from previous generations and now it is "cool" to adopt as much of the world as possible. Gone is the seriousness with which people embraced their relationship with Christ and the radical obedience which followed. Instead, little by little we are welcoming in our neighbors idols and before we know it, the Father will have been left far behind. The relationship with God and with God's people will be broken and suddenly we will find that our friends are those who have enticed us out of the place of relationship God had intended. And like the Israelites we may wake up one day to discover that what we've lost is precious -- and that our "new" friends have dumped us off after using us.

The good news however, is that there is complete and total restoration in Jesus Christ. We can come home and allow God to heal our relationship with him and with others. God is calling us home to him and to a lifestyle of radical obedience to him. It is a lifestyle in which relationships are healed with God, and with the people in the world around us. It was in exile that the Israelites buried their polytheistic urges. They emerged a monotheistic nation and have remained so to this very day. God is always reaching out to us and offering us restoration, if only we will leave the things of the world which entice and go running back into his arms. Restoration awaits us all!



Lord, thank your love which reaches out and restores your people. Help me today and every day to serve you faithfully and may you help relationships which may have been damaged to be restored. Amen.


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