When looking for something that links Vayikra (Leviticus) 9 with Yechezkel (Ezekiel) 36 – the two chapters that constitute the main part of this week’s group of Parashah readings – the word “sprinkle” catches the eye: As part of the sin offering that had to be prepared – both for the sins of the priests and the sins of the entire nation – the blood of a slaughtered animal had to be sprinkled on the altar. And in Ezekiel 36 Yahweh gave his people this remarkable promise: “And I shall take you from among the gentiles, and I shall gather you out of all lands, and I shall bring you into your own land. And I shall sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean – from all your filthiness and from all your idols I cleanse you. And I shall give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you. And I shall take the heart of stone out of your flesh, and I shall give you a heart of flesh, and put My Spirit within you. And I shall cause you to walk in my laws and guard my right-rulings and do them. And you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers. And you shall be my people, and I shall be your Elohim” (Ezek 36:24-28).
Although the first sprinkling is done with blood and the second with water, both of them serve the same purpose: To cleanse people from their sin, so that they can truly be Yahweh’s people and so that He can truly be their Elohim, or their Mighty One. In order to become part of Yahweh’s people, a number of things must first happen. First of all, this person, or this group of people, must be taken out from among the gentiles. The call “Come out of her, or depart from her or flee from her” – where “her” refers to Babylon or simply the gentile nations and their way of doing – is repeated at least 12 times throughout Scriptures – both in the Old Covenant and the New Covenant Scriptures, the most well-known reference being Revelation 18:4 (And I heard another voice from the heaven saying, ‘Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues’). It is Yahweh’s desire to sprinkle clean water on those He had called unto Himself, but this can only happen once they have allowed themselves to be taken out from among the gentile nations, once they have recognized the undeniable truth of 2 Cor 6:14-18: There is no partnership or fellowship or agreement or union between righteousness (as this is revealed in the Torah and the rest of the Word of Yahweh) and lawlessness (as this is revealed in the plans that men have devised to sidestep the pure and straightforward Word of Yahweh).
The promise of Ezekiel 36 continues: “I shall give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you.” This is just an extension of the promise that Yahweh would sprinkle clean water upon his people, but also confirms a very important aspect of Yahweh’s new covenant with his people. Not only will He sprinkle clean, purifying water upon them – He will also give them a new heart and a new spirit. This is such an amazing promise! But people with little understanding have twisted this promise over the centuries and made something out of it that is almost the opposite of what is stated here. I have heard this so many times – people would say: You have received a new heart and a new spirit and therefore the old ways and the old laws and the old covenant is no longer binding and applicable to you. This boils down to a gross misunderstanding of Scriptures! Just listen to Yahweh’s promise in Ezekiel 36 once more: “I shall give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you. And I shall take the heart of stone out of your flesh, and I shall give you a heart of flesh, and put My Spirit within you. And I shall cause you to walk in my laws and guard my right-rulings and do them.” Did Yahweh ever make provision for a time when it would not be necessary for his people to walk in his laws and his right-rulings or did He ever change his laws and his right-rulings – admitting to people that He had previously made a mistake and had decided to withdraw some of the righteous principles of his Torah? No, not for one moment. People tend to think that the new covenant constitutes new laws and new right-rulings. But alas, this is not taught in Scriptures. What Scriptures teach is that the New Covenant constitutes a new heart and a new spirit and therefore a renewed ability, and even a brand new desire, to return back to the ancient and eternal laws and right-rulings of Yahweh and start doing them!
Just a few thoughts on the part of the promise that says: “You shall be my people, and I shall be your Elohim.” Once again, this is covenant language. The covenant that Yahweh had established with Israel since the very beginning, was all about them being his people and Him, Yahweh, being their Elohim. He would be their Mighty One – care for them, protect them, save them, guide them and talk to them, and from their side, they were supposed to listen to Him, obey his commandments, honour Him, and make his Name known among the nations. So what happened in the meantime? Israel neglected their part of the covenant. They rebelled against his commandments, walked in their own crooked ways and even ran after foreign mighty ones like an adulterous woman runs after someone that is not her own. This is what caused the devastating breach in the old covenant and brought about the need for a new covenant. But do Scriptures not teach that the new covenant would be with a different group of people, other than the people of Israel? No, not at all. All the prophets that prophesied about the new covenant, agreed that the new covenant would still involve the same two parties: Yahweh and Israel. But the entity known as Israel or Yisrael, was and is an entity that is not rigidly restricted to physical Israel.
Even as far back as the time of Avraham, Yahweh already declared that it was his desire to bless people from other nations, through the blessings bestowed upon the seed of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov. From the very beginning it was part of Yahweh’s design that He would multiply the seed of Avraham, beyond all comprehension and would increase the flock of Israel in a way that would surprise even the most resolute opponents of Yahweh. This is what is implied by the words towards the end of this chapter: “Then the gentiles which are left all around you shall know that I, Yahweh, have rebuilt the destroyed places and planted what was laid waste. I, Yahweh, have spoken it, and I shall do it. Thus said the Master Yahweh, “Once again I shall let the house of Yisrael inquire of me to do for them: I shall increase their men like a flock. As a set-apart flock, as the flock at Yerushalayim at her appointed times, so shall the wasted cities be filled with flocks of men. And they shall know that I am Yahweh” (Ezek 36:36-38). Those people from the gentile nations, foreigners – people like you and me – who would “join themselves to Yahweh”, “hold fast to his covenant”, “guard his Sabbaths” and “love the Name of Yahweh” (Isa 56:1-8) – would receive a name better than sons and daughters and would rejoice, worship and be gathered, together with Israel, without any distinction being made between the two.
Speaking of loving the Name of Yahweh. The Name of Yahweh is literally mentioned 23 times in this chapter (Ezekiel 36) alone and it is stated explicitly that the Almighty will establish all these wonderful blessings of the new covenant, so that the people may know that He is Yahweh. Sadly, in the majority of the thousands of Bible translations available today, the Name of Yahweh has been removed altogether and does not even appear one single time. And even more sadly, in the majority of places where the true and much needed message is proclaimed that Y’shua is the key figure in the establishment of the new covenant, the Name of Yahweh is not taught in a manner that is honouring this prophesy. The prophets of old are all in agreement on this issue and have handed down to us a very clear-cut guideline to ensure that – even up to this day – we are operating within the Scriptural portrayal of the new covenant. What is this guideline? It may be formulated in a simple question: When people on the outside look to us and listen to us, are they introduced to and drawn towards the Name of Yahweh? Let us listen, one more time, to the words of this prophet and especially the seven-fold repetition of the importance of Yahweh’s Name:
- “I do not do this for your sake … but for my set-apart Name’s sake” (verse 22)
- “And I shall set apart my great Name” (verse 23)
- “And the gentiles shall know that I am Yahweh” (verse 23)
- “Not for your sake am I acting,” declares the Master Yahweh” (verse 32)
- “Then the gentiles which are left all around you shall know that I, Yahweh, have rebuilt the destroyed places” (verse 36)
- “I, Yahweh, have spoken it, and I shall do it” (verse 36)
- “And they shall know that I am Yahweh” (verse 38).
There is not a single thing in this life that we need more desperately than to be sprinkled with Yahweh’s purifying water, whereby our minds and our thoughts and our words and our deeds and even our desires will be purified and aligned with the desires of Yahweh. This process of purification is not only about explicit sin and transgression of the law. It is also about our understanding of the new covenant, our perception of Israel and about the question whether we honour the Name of Yahweh in the way we live out what we believe. In all of these aspects of purification, Y’shua the Messiah plays a pivotal role. If we realize today that we are in need of more “sprinkling”, let us remember that Yahweh promised that He would purify us, by giving us a new heart and a new spirit – not any spirit, but His Spirit, which is the Spirit of truth!