With A Mighty Hand and Outstretched Arm…
“As I live, declares the Lord God, surely with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with wrath poured out, I will be King over you. I will bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you are scattered, with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and with wrath poured out.”
That They Might Know That I Am YHWH
Ezekiel 20 contains an account of YHWH’s dealings with His people since He first came to them in Egypt. Something important to note is that all throughout the chapter the emphasis falls again and again on the fact that all of the Lord’s redemptive work with His people has been so that they might know His Name. This is key to realize: YHWH redeems and preserves His people so that they would know His character, his identity, Who He Is.
Ultimately, redemption is not about getting into the promised land or enjoying a long life or having peace on all sides–those are all fruits of redemption, but the root, the core, the wellspring and great goal of redemption is simply to know and love YHWH.
This is especially significant because John 17:3 teaches us that such knowledge of God is eternal life. And when we combined that insight with John 3:16, it becomes clear that the ultimate gift of God’s love is that we might know (and enjoy) Him. This means that the book of Ezekiel is filled with instances of God’s redeeming love…whenever it says, “that they might know that I am YHWH,” we can translate it as “love.”
Ok, back to Ezekiel 20. Another theme in this recitation of Israel’s history is that the people have consistently turned to idols, giving their hearts over to dead and false gods. In fact, verse 32 seems to be saying that the goal of God’s people is that they would be like the nations, worshiping wood and stone – that is what they most want……a reminder that desires un-submitted to the Lord are ultimately suicidal.
However, the steadfast love of YHWH endures forever and He loves His people too much to allow this to happen to them. He will be their God and they will be His people. Which brings us to the verses quoted above. Ezekiel 20:33-34 foretells the Lord’s climactic restoring work. HE will accomplish it, HE will make it happen, for the sake of HIS Name, HE will work and achieve His purposes – which are love. What we see in these verses is the Lord acting in eschatological grace to bring His people to Himself, HE will ensure that He is their God and they are His people.
As Christians, we know that the climactic, end-time redemption of YHWH comes through Jesus Christ and comes especially at the cross. However, do we see the cross in these verses? Yes, I believe that–in beautiful and poetic language–Ezekiel 20:33-34 is an account of the cross-work of God in Christ.
Pierced Hands, Outstretched Arms, and Wrath Absorbed.
How will YHWH install Himself as the eschatological King of His people? Ezekiel tells us it will be:
“With a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with wrath poured out.”
I believe this is the cross. On the cross the Mighty Hands of YHWH incarnate were pierced with the punishment of His people, and so became the hands of their healing and salvation. On the cross His arms were stretched out over the beams of the tree. And on the cross wrath was poured out……..wrath was poured out, but–glory of glories–it was not poured out on His people as this passage seems to imply, rather, it was poured out on Himself! He, the Lord, our King–with His mighty hands pierced and His arms outstretched in salvation’s embrace–HE would bear the fullness of the out poured wrath. And in so doing, He would become universal King over His people, sitting down in resurrected victory at the right hand of the Father, crowned with the glory of His conquering death (Hebrews 1:3, 2:9). The cross is the coronation of God the Son–Jesus Christ, YHWH in the flesh–as King over the Universe.
But what about the second part? How would the Lord gather His people from the nations where they had been scattered? In Ezekiel the language is the same:
“With a mighty hand and an outstretched area and with wrath poured out.”
This again refers to the cross. And I think there is evidence that John was following this same train of thought when he wrote his gospel. Notice the similarity of language in John 11:51-52,
“…Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.”
So – how does YHWH gather His people out of all the countries where they are scattered? Ezekiel tells us it is with a mighty hand, an outstretched arm, and wrath poured out; John tells us it is through the death of the God-Man, Jesus Christ. And I contend that they are saying the same thing.
Again, when the Mighty Hand of YHWH incarnate is riven by the iron of human sin and hatred, when His arms are outstretched on the cross of their curse, and when His soul becomes a sin offering, bearing the out-poured wrath that was due to them….when He performs this most wonderful of His saving works…..then He will gather all His people to Himself (John 12:32), and they will know that He is YHWH (John 8:28), and the great purpose of God’s redemptive work in all ages, the work outlined here in Ezekiel 20, will be finished (John 19:30).
Redemption Serves Revelation
Just astounding. At every turn the Lord has been working to make His name known, to reveal Himself to His people, to communicate who He is. And John teaches us that this perfect revelation of God coincides with His supreme redeeming, people-gathering work. The two are one and the same. God makes Himself known through redemption (as in the Exodus), and He does so climactically in the final work of redemption, such that the cross is both the ultimate work of redemption and the ultimate revelation of who God is.
And–as Ezekiel 20 and the rest of scripture clearly bear witness–the revelation of God is always primary, this is the chief and ultimate end of God’s work; redemption serves revelation. All that God does, He does so that His people and the world might know Him for who He is. And the chief glory of scripture is that the supreme work of redemption and the supreme work of revelation are united for God’s glory and our joy at the cross of His beloved and only begotten Son.
Glory to His incomprehensible and all satisfying Name! May we look to the cross of Christ and the empty tomb and know the heart of our God…..and may He give us grace so that–in seeing and knowing and loving Him–we would be made like Him