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We have observed in recent days that the tenor of Ezekiel’s prophecy, from chapter 33 onwards, takes a dramatic shift. From that point, the message is essentially one of hope and restoration for God’s people. In this scheme, chapter 35—an oracle of judgement against Edom—initially stands out as a little strange. But when you read that chapter alongside 36:1–15—an oracle of Israel’s restoration—and take the entire section (35:1–36:15) as a unit, the significance becomes clear: Edom must face judgement as a means to Israel’s restoration.

Mount Seir was the central landmark in Edom, and chapter 35 uses the imagery of Mount Seir as representative of the nation. It appears from the content of this prophecy that Edom, just to the southeast of Judah, had taken advantage of Judah’s exile to claim the land for itself. This was a manifestation of the “perpetual enmity” between the two nations, stretching all the way back to the rivalry between Jacob and Esau. It was well known that Jacob secured the birthright and Jacob’s blessing by deception and the Edomites evidently harboured bitterness against Israel and Judah for this. They saw the power vacuum in “these two countries” (35:10) as an opportunity for them to take back the birthright and the blessing that they believed belonged to them.

The message to Edom was that, Jacob’s tricky conniving notwithstanding, God had given the land to Israel and Judah and it was not, therefore, Edom’s for the taking. God would punish Edom for its grudge-motivated arrogance. They would learn that the Promised Land was hisland, given to his people, and that their absence in the land did not void his promises.

Read alongside 36:1–15, the oracle of chapter 35 makes sense. The exile did not nullify Yahweh’s covenant with his people—and that covenant included the land. Indeed, it was because of the covenant that they were exiles. God was serious about his covenant, which meant that he remained serious about giving the land to his covenant people. It was not Edom’s for the taking. God would restore the land back to Israel and Judah as he had promised. He would restore his favour to his people when they had been fully punished for their disobedience.

We are reminded in this text that, as the land was a gift of grace—because God’s election of Israel was a gift of grace—so every kindness of God toward his people is purely an act of grace. We do not earn God’s favour and therefore we cannot lose it. As God’s people, we are always the objects of his grace. That may, at times, mean that we experience chastening, but even chastening is evidence, rather than an abrogation, of divine grace.

But it is precisely this undeserved, electing grace that invites opposition to God’s people. Edom was jealous of God’s grace in Judah’s life and, moved by “perpetual enmity,” sought to seize what God had given to his people at the first opportunity. Edom opposed God’s people at every turn and rejoiced when Jerusalem faced violent opposition.

We need to face life with this biblical realism. God’s people have never been stripped of his electing love, but they have also never lacked for enemies opposed to electing grace. At times, it seems as if God’s enemies have gained the upper hand. At times, government or religious opposition to the church appears to win the day. In some corners of the world, violent opposition from Islam or Hinduism threatens to wipe out Christian witness. In other corners of the world, militant atheism and secular humanism threatens to render the church irrelevant. At times, it appears that these enemies of the gospel prosper. They appear, as it were, to have moved into land vacated by God’s people and claim it as their own possession. We need the encouragement of Ezekiel 35:1–36:15 that God’s promises never fail.

God has determined from eternity past to save a people for his glory. He has promised to build his church so that the gates of Hades will not prevail against him. He has promised that the forward march of the gospel will ultimately not be threatened. God’s kingdom, which began with Christ like a small stone broken from a mountain without human intervention willgrow into a mountain that will cover the entire world (Daniel 2). The threats of God’s enemies against his people will not come to fruition. God’s gospel will prosper, and everyone will know that he is the Lord (35:15).

As you meditate on Ezekiel 35:1–36:15 this morning, thank God for his electing grace and for the promise of the ultimate victory of his purposes. Ask for persevering grace when it seems that the enemies are winning and trust him for the fulfilment of every gospel promise.