I will take you from the nations, I will gather you from all the countries, and I will bring you to your own fertile land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be cleansed of all your pollution. I will cleanse you of all your idols. (CEB)
In Ezekiel 36:24, the Lord utters words through Ezekiel that the Israelites were dying to hear: “I will take you from the nations, I will gather you from all the countries, and I will bring you to your own fertile land.” Those who were scattered throughout the Middle East after the Babylonian invasion, including those who were taken into exile in Babylon, would one day return to their homeland by the gracious work of God.
Yet, what about all that the people had done to dishonor God? In particular, what about their spiritual adultery, their love affair with idols? How could their lives ever be blessed with such a stained history of rejecting the Lord?
The good news is that God has plans for his people beyond leading them back to Israel. He says to them: “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be cleansed of all your pollution. I will cleanse you of all your idols” (36:25). Sprinkling with water was the traditional symbol of cleansing for religious purposes. But, in this verse, the Lord uses a phrase that is not otherwise found in Scripture: “clean water” (mayim tehorim). It’s as if God wants to underscore that fact that when he washes his people, they will become completely clean. He will wash away “all” of their pollution and “all” of their idolatry.
Throughout my twenty-seven years of pastoral ministry, I have known many Christians who struggle to believe that God has made them completely clean. Even though they have put their trust in Christ as their Savior, they still have nagging doubts about how God sees them. They feel that their sins are such that they remained stained, even after being forgiven through Christ. Thus, they try to earn a bit more of God’s favor by being good. Or, they might keep a safe distance from God because they feel unworthy to be in his presence.
The good news of the Gospel is that just as God promised to do for the Israelites, so he has done with us through Christ. We have been forgiven and cleansed of all of our sins. Our Heavenly Father looks upon us as he looks upon his Son. We have the privilege of relationship with the triune God as if we had never sinned. This is the miracle of God’s grace in Christ.
All of us yearn to be completely clean, to be fully set free from our sin and and its ravages. The truth of the Gospel is that, in Christ, you are forgiven. You are made new. As we read in 2 Corinthians, “So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived! All of these new things are from God…God caused the one who didn’t know sin to be sin for our sake so that through him we could become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:17-18, 21).
Do you want to be completely clean? Through Christ, you are!
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Do you ever feel as if your sin has stained you in a way that cannot be washed away? If you feel this way, how does it impact your relationship with God? How might you live if you truly believed that you were completely clean through Christ?
PRAYER: Gracious God, as you once promised to do with your sinful people, so you have done with me. Through Christ, you have sprinkled me with clean water, water that washes away all of my sin. Thus, when I come before you, I don’t need to enhance my worthiness, as if I could. Nor do I have to fear that you will condemn me. Rather, you have cleansed me so thoroughly that I stand before you in the righteousness of Christ. What a wonder! What a gift!
O Lord, help me to believe this! Help me to live as if it is really true! Amen.