The Hope of Restoration
“Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not spurn them, neither will I abhor them so as to destroy them utterly and break my covenant with them, for I am the LORD their God” (v. 44).- Leviticus 26:40-45
During the old covenant era, the prophets reminded Israel of the blessings tied to keeping the Mosaic covenant with the aim of persuading the people to remember God and turn to Him for salvation (Lev. 26:1–13; Jer. 23:1–4; Ezek. 36:22–32). They similarly preached the curses of the Mosaic covenant (Lev. 26:14–39), exhorting the people that they could not presume upon God’s grace and warning them of the suffering that would result from persistent impenitence. Elijah, for example, prophesied a great drought on northern Israel while Ahab was king (1 Kings 17:1–7). We read predictions of famine and death by sword for Israel in Jeremiah 11 because of the nation’s flagrant covenant violations. Jeremiah also foretold the exile of Israel into Babylon for seventy years, exile being the last, most terrible covenant curse (Lev. 26:27–39; Jer. 25:1–14).
Exile was awful indeed, as it meant banishment from God’s place of blessing to a life as strangers in a strange land, people with no permanent home. As we know, the Israelites finally went into exile because the majority of the people refused to abandon their flagrant, impenitent covenant violations (2 Kings 17:7–23; 25). Yet exile was never intended to end the story of God’s people. Centuries before the Lord removed the children of Israel from Canaan for their thoroughgoing idolatry, Moses predicted that when the generations after him were sent into exile, God would not leave them there. Today’s passage contains the promise of restoration from exile that gave the old covenant community hope once it was sent to Babylon and Assyria (see also Deut. 30:1–10).
Moses told Israel that if the people were to repent while in exile, God would bring them back to their land (Lev. 26:40–42). The Israelites would have to endure the consequences of their sin for a while, but the Lord would never abandon them totally. He would never forget His promises and oaths to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (vv. 43–45).
In the promise of restoration, we see the interplay of covenant conditionality and covenant grace. The people would have to repent in order to come back to Canaan, but God Himself would not forget Israel and would guarantee that there would be at least some who would repent. By His electing grace, the Lord would always have a faithful remnant among the Israelites, a remnant for whose sake God would bring the people back to their land and send the Messiah (2 Kings 19:30–31).
God’s grace to His people in the restoration is shown in two primary ways. First, He provides His Son to fulfill perfectly all the requirements needed for Him to restore all creation. Second, He elects a people to salvation, guaranteeing that they will repent and believe in Him, thereby ensuring that His promises will be kept. As the gospel goes forth and people repent and believe, God is restoring His creation and will consummate it in the new heaven and earth.
Passages for Further Study