The Prophets Persist
Editor's Note: Apologist Jacob Michael presents a succinct Catholic Apologetic based on the Holy Scriptures. He has chosen to call his column Quid Dicit Scriptura? - What Saith the Scriptures? He utilizes the approved and superior Douay-Rheims Roman Catholic version in his apologia and holds to the Council of Trent's decree to "accept Sacred Scripture according to the meaning which has been held by Holy Mother Church and which She now holds. It is Her prerogative to pass judgment on the true meaning and interpretation of Sacrd Scripture and will not accept or interpret it in a manner different from the unanimous agreement of the Fathers." Jacob continues with the third installment of a multi-part treatise on the meaning of the Gospel as the title indicates - "The Gospel is the Kingdom."
Some passages below are highlighted in blue bold for emphasis.
As we continue our survey of the prophets and their predictions concerning the mission of the Messiah, we move from Jeremias to Ezechiel:
But as for you, O mountains of Israel, shoot ye forth your branches, and yield your fruit to my people of Israel: for they are at hand to come. For I, I am for you, and I will turn to you, and you shall be ploughed and sown. And I will multiply men upon you, and all the house of Israel: and the cities ball be inhabited, and the ruinous places shall be repaired. And I will make you abound with men and with beasts: and they shall be multiplied, and increased: and I will settle you as from the beginning, and will give you greater gifts, than you had from the beginning: and you shall know that I am the Lord... For I will take you from among the Gentiles, and will gather you together out of all the countries, and will bring you into your own land. And I will pour upon you clean water, and you shall be cleansed from all your filthiness, and I will cleanse you from all your idols. And I will give you a new heart, and put a new spirit within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit in the midst of you: and I will cause you to walk in my commandments, and to keep my judgments, and do them. And you shall dwell in the land which I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. (Ezechiel 36:8 - 11, 24 - 28)
In this prophecy, God promises that not only is Israel "at hand to come," and that "I will settle you as from the beginning," but He also promises to bring about true regeneration through the Sacrament of Baptism: "I will pour upon you clean water, and you shall be cleansed from all your filthiness... I will give you a new heart, and put a new spirit within you... I will put my spirit in the midst of you: and I will cause you to walk in my commandments." St. Cyprian referenced this prophecy in his letters when he spoke of baptism:
It is required, then, that the water should first be cleansed and sanctified by the priest,8 that it may wash away by its baptism the sins of the man who is baptized; because the Lord says by Ezekiel the prophet: "Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be cleansed from all your filthiness; and from all your idols will I cleanse you: a new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you." (St. Cyprian, Epistle LXIX, To Januarius and Other Numidian Bishops, on Baptizing Heretics, ANF, Vol. 5)
In the sacraments of salvation, when necessity compels, and God bestows His mercy, the divine methods confer the whole benefit on believers; nor ought it to trouble any one that sick people seem to be sprinkled or affused, when they obtain the Lord's grace, when Holy Scripture speaks by the mouth of the prophet Ezekiel, and says, "Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness and from all your idols will I cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit will I put within you."... Whence it appears that the sprinkling also of water prevails equally with the washing of salvation. (St. Cyprian, Epistle LXXV, To Magnus, on Baptizing the Novatians, and Those Who Obtain Grace on a Sick-Bed, ANF, Vol. 5)
Since a defense of the Sacrament of Baptism is, along with a historical survey of the Church Fathers' opinions on Ezechiel 36, beyond the scope of this discussion, we will have to be content with St. Cyprian's testimony and move on. In the next chapter of Ezechiel's prophecies, we find:
And thou shalt say to them: Thus saith the Lord God: Behold, I will take of the children of Israel from the midst of the nations whither they are gone: and I will gather them on every side, and will bring them to their own land. And I will make them one nation in the land on the mountains of Israel, and one king shall be king over them all: and they shall no more be two nations, neither shall they be divided any more into two kingdoms. Nor shall they be defiled any more with their idols, nor with their abominations, nor with all their iniquities: and I will save them out of all the places in which they have sinned, and I will cleanse them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God. And my servant David shall be king over them, and they shall have one shepherd: they shall walk in my judgments, and shall keep my commandments, and shall do them. And they shall dwell in the land which I gave to my servant Jacob, wherein your fathers dwelt, and they shall dwell in it, they and their children, and their children’s children, for ever: and David my servant shall be their prince for ever. And I will make a covenant of peace with them, it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will establish them, and will multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for ever. (Ezechiel 37:21-26)
This is, perhaps, the most explicit text yet. In addition to the same central themes we have seen in every other prophecy we've examined, we find the clear statement: "my servant David shall be king over them, and they shall have one shepherd... David my servant shall be their prince for ever." Obviously, this prophecy was delivered long after the historical character David had passed on, and thus we know that "David" here is a symbol of a king, a king who, though not David himself, will be "David" in many ways. He will be from David's lineage, that much is assumed. But this future king, like David, will be the "one shepherd" over Israel and Judah. This presumes the restoration and reunification of the northern and southern tribes, and it harkens back to the words spoken to the historical David:
Moreover yesterday also and the day before, when Saul was king over us, thou wast he that did lead out and bring in Israel: and the Lord said to thee: Thou shalt feed my people Israel, and thou shalt be prince over Israel. (2 Kings 5:2)
Finally, we turn to a few of the minor prophets to close our survey of the Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament, beginning with Amos:
In that day I will raise up the tabernacle of David, that is fallen: and I will close up the breaches of the walls thereof, and repair what was fallen: and I will rebuild it as in the days of old. That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and all nations, because my name is invoked upon them: saith the Lord that doth these things. (Amos 9:11-12)
The meaning of the text is clear: the "tabernacle of David" is the Davidic Dynasty "that is fallen," as we saw when we looked at the books of the Kings and the history of the Davidic Kingdom, it's inception, it's golden age, and it's tragic dissolution. This "tabernacle," says the Lord, will be repaired, raised up, and rebuilt "as in the days of old." Lest there should be any doubt whatsoever that this Davidic Kingdom was, in fact, restored by Jesus, keep in mind that St. James (as recorded in the inspired book of Acts) explicitly states that, with the inception of the New Covenant, this prophecy was fulfilled. We will look at that particular passage in a moment.
The prophet Zacharias speaks, as the other prophets spoke, of the Gentile nations benefitting from this Kingdom restoration:
And many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day, and they shall be my people, and I will dwell in the midst of thee: and thou shalt know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me to thee. (Zach. 2:11)
And many peoples, and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and to entreat the face of the Lord. (Zach. 8:22)
As with the other prophets, Zacharias, in prophesying as he does of the Gentile nations, affirms the fact that this was the original intent for the Davidic Kingdom. This was the blueprint that God had in mind when He swore to David an eternal throne. The first run-through failed, however, and now God promises to accomplish what He set out to do in the first place, through a new Davidic King, one who will truly reign forever.
We end our survey with the prophecy of Osee:
And after this the children of Israel shall return and shall seek the Lord, their God, and David, their king: and they shall fear the Lord, and his goodness, in the last days. (Osee 3:5)
Just like the prophecy of Ezechiel, Osee mentions David by name, though David had long since gone to rest with his fathers. Who might this new "David" be, then? Remember, at the time of this prophecy, Sedecias had been the last Davidic King on the throne, and it had been some time since even he had occupied the royal seat. Thus, this prophecy can only be speaking of Jesus. This repeated promise of a Davidic Messiah in the prophets is precisely why Jesus' genealogical connection to David is stressed so often by the New Testament writers. It is precisely the reason why St. Matthew writes, as the earth-shattering opening line of his gospel, "The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham." It is why St. Paul opens his epistle to the Romans by speaking of "the gospel of God... Concerning his Son, who was made to him of the seed of David, according to the flesh," and why he reminds St. Timothy, "Be mindful that the Lord Jesus Christ is risen again from the dead, of the seed of David, according to my gospel."
Why this insistence on highlighting Jesus' physical link to David? Precisely because all of the of the prophecies concerning the Messiah foretold the restoration of the Davidic Kingdom by a future Davidic King, one who would reign forever from Jerusalem, in fulfillment of God's promises to David back in 2 Kings 7.
The Promise Fulfilled
If you want to ask Jacob a question, you can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and we encourage you to visit his site A Lumen Gentleman - Lumen Gentleman Apologetics.