Ezekiel’s vision of the new land of Israel included a central sanctuary with six tribal portions to the north and the remaining six to the south. Judah and Benjamin were closest to the most sacred precincts, but each tribe had access to the city of God through twelve gates, one for each of the sons of Jacob.
The most sacred area was described in detail in earlier chapters. We should reiterate the central role of a godly “prince” in the worship of the Almighty, and the preference given to “the sons of Zadok” who alone could perform certain activities because they “did not go astray when the people of Israel went astray.”
Ezekiel presented the possibility of a well-ordered nation—the Israel that might have been had the returning worshipers walked in the Lord’s ways. It would have been the ideal Old Testament community, with all the tribes included, all with access to the holy city, and all obedient to the good prince. “The name of the city” from the time of its establishment continuing into the future would have been so inspiring: “The Lord is there.”
The fulfillment of this glorious divine plan required many willing hearts. The people and their leaders needed true faith in God—the kind of trust that will always yield great faithfulness. None of this would actually take place.
While we can rightly point to the failure of the returning exiles, we would do well to consider this great picture from the vantage point of the Lord’s most excellent decrees. Why would God not bring about the wonderful Israel that He showed to His prophet?
Hebrews 11:40 gives us a good answer: “God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.” The Lord intended to bring the New Testament age to the whole world rather than continue in the Old Testament era forever. It was Jehovah’s best plan to eventually bring a resurrection kingdom into being without any stain of sin.
What is the use of such glorious visions as we find in Ezekiel 40-48 if they only point to an even better conclusion to God’s story? They are written first to the people of their own day, that God’s covenant community might see the wondrous plan of the Lord most appropriate for their time and vigorously pursue it.
Such inspiring oracles serve another great purpose. They cause the faithful in every generation to look up to the heavenly Jerusalem and to the Lord Jesus who reigns above. We remember what He has endured for us, and we do what we must to turn away from sin and to run the race set before us with endurance. With a renewed vision of Him as our best Temple, we turn again to “the Founder and Perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” In the light of His glory and grace, we persevere.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Father, we will be with You in just a little while. We are not coming to visit, but to stay. One day Your Son will take us with Him as He returns to usher in the new age in all of its fullness. Those who are His in this world that is fading away will be changed and we will be together with Your Son forever. Teach us to be faithful to You even now. It is appointed for us to live once, and then to face judgment. You will carry us safely through that impending trial, for Christ has died for our sins. We long for the new holy work that You have prepared for us. There will be no evil in that work, but much joy. Here we feel so out of place. We are not at home. We long for the revelation of this new land. It is our inheritance, and we have a portion in it. O grant that we would enter that city through the gate appointed for us at just the right time. We want to live in the city with that glorious name: “The Lord is there.”