We are seeing the same pattern in Ezekiel as we have seen in the other prophets, Isaiah and Jeremiah: The books open with the recitation of sin, the warning to repent, and the declaration of the coming judgment. But the LORD never lets sin and judgment be the final word: soon the prophecy shifts, to sanctification, purification, restoration, and victory for the LORD God over sin and the destruction it brings.
Three times in Eze 20, after recounting the oath and the fulfillment which the LORD made to Israel, He declared that it was so they might know that He is the LORD their God (Eze 20:7, 20:12, 20:20). Three times, after recounting the sins and rebellion of Israel which should have brought fury upon her, the LORD declared that instead, He acted for His name’s sake (Eze 20:9, 20:14, 20:22), so that His name would not be profaned in the sight of the Gentiles. Three is the sign of Messiah in Scripture!
This brings to mind the opening chapters of Exodus, because there the LORD also repeated that what was about to unfold was so that Israel, and Egypt, could know what “I am YHVH” means. This teaching tool of thematic connection, is revealing that as in Exodus, so here in Ezekiel: the meaning of the LORD’s name YHVH is important.
In Exodus we saw that the ancient Hebrew pictographs, YHVH, indicates “hand + reveal + nail + reveal,” or, “Behold, the hands; behold, the nails.” The personal name of the LORD, YHVH, illustrates His nature and character as the One who sacrifices Himself to make atonement for the sins of His people. He is the Passover Lamb. He redeems, He delivers from slavery and from the kingdom of darkness.
The LORD restrained His fury, in other words, and instead acted with mercy and forbearance toward Israel, because it is through Messiah, whose hands were pierced by the nails as our Passover Lamb, that the LORD’s fury is atoned for and His mercy poured out. Again we find the gospel of grace preached from Ezekiel!
But those are not the only threes in this chapter of Messianic significance. Three times, the LORD declares that He gave to Israel His statutes, that if a man does them, he will live (Eze 20:11, 20:13, 20:21). After preaching a gospel of grace, is the LORD now preaching salvation by works? I do not believe so. The LORD is reiterating the same message here that Moses was careful to point out over and over again in Deuteronomy: the LORD is giving His commandments, judgments, and statutes to Israel, so that they will know how to live, how to walk, how to conduct their affairs, in a way that promotes blessing, health, wealth, happiness, safety — all things that provide for life, in this life.
Six times (three doubled) the LORD mentions His Sabbaths in this chapter alone (Eze 20:12, 20:13, 20:16, 20:20, 20:21, 20:24). This happens only one other time in prophetic Scripture — why here? This chapter of Messianic prophecy is preaching the gospel of grace: Sabbath rest on the seventh day after the painful toil or work of the first through sixth days, prophesies of the seventh millennium of rest we will enjoy under Messiah’s kingship after six millennia of painful labor under the dominion of sin!
“I will accept you as a sweet aroma when I bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you have been scattered; and I will be hallowed in you before the Gentiles. Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I bring you into the land of Israel, into the country for which I raised My hand in an oath to give to your fathers.” Eze 20:41-42