Ezekiel 46-48…The Lord is There.
Today we conclude our overview of the book of Ezekiel. As part of the group of Judah’s leading citizens that was carried off into exile along with King Jehoiachin in 597/598 BC, Ezekiel was called to reach a people who had a hard time believing Jerusalem and the temple could ever fall fully and finally. God called the prophet to use vivid, symbolic language and actions to convince the Jews in Babylon of His intent to destroy Jerusalem and the temple because of the people’s impenitent idolatry (Ezekiel 1–10). Though there was always a faithful remnant of Israel and Judah consisting of men such as Ezekiel, the nation as a whole had become a useless vine, a fruitless planting because it obeyed false prophets and committed spiritual adultery (11–24). However, the prophet’s message was not only doom and gloom, for the exiles still had reason to hope. Those who realized that they remained in Babylon because of their own impenitence could be forgiven by forsaking their evil and returning to the Lord. In fact, Ezekiel promised that God would finally accomplish this restoration by giving His people new hearts and filling them with His Spirit (25–39).
With the people restored, the Lord would return to dwell among His people in an earth renewed by His bestowal of life-giving water (40–47). The formerly unholy people would be made holy fully and finally. This is what is communicated in today’s passage, which describes the specific territories given to the twelve tribes of Israel in the restoration period. It is best to interpret these not as literal land grants, given the symbolism of this final section of Ezekiel, but as metaphors pointing to the fact that the full number of God’s people will be saved. No one chosen for kingdom citizenship will be left without an inheritance; the salvation of our God will create a complete nation just as the full nation of Israel consists of all twelve tribes of the reunified Israel and Judah (48:29). At the very center of this kingdom are the priests and the prince, for that is where their land exists (vv. 8–14; vv. 21–22). Finally and most incredibly, this restoration will be a permanent state of affairs. God puts His name on the central city of the renewed nation: “The LORD is There” (v. 35).
It would take a fuller revelation of our Creator’s plan and purpose to see the means by which the Lord would bring all these things to pass. God, prince, and priest would stand at the center of the Lord’s new people because the Almighty Himself would take on a human nature in order to be the perfect prince and priest for His elect (John 1:1–18; Heb. 7:23–25).