Take a moment to pray. Ask God to speak to you through his word—for his Spirit to convict you of sin, teach you the truth, and lead you in walking by faith.
Setting the Scene
“The Presence Of God Is The Best Privilege Of His Church. It is her glory that ‘the Lord is there.’”
Where are you going? Every day we make choices about what to do or not do based on explicit or implicit goals. Our life has a trajectory: we want to get here in our schooling, there in our career; here with our family, there with our friends. Christians understand that ultimately we have a destination—a future home with God. But how often do we let that reality inform our interpretation of our current circumstances.
Put another way, we can ask ourselves, where do we belong? It’s easy to feel out of place at school or work. Even in our families we can feel a sense of displacement (especially in broken families). Our hearts long for a home, and not just any home. God created us to long for him.
In the climactic conclusion of Ezekiel’s fourth vision he sees God’s people finally restored to the promised land, dwelling with God directly. It is no mistake that this vision culminates in the exact opposite of Israel’s circumstances in exile in Babylon in the 6th century BC. In the vision, God highlights not only the renewal of the land physically, but also specific land allotments for each tribe. His people have a place, and their place is with him.
We have a place, and our place is with him. As we walk through the end of Ezekiel’s last vision, don’t miss the significance that God will not only heal the land, but he has designated an inheritance, a piece of the land for his people. What will happen on this land? He will dwell with his people.
As you read, remember to compare this section with the earlier tribal allotment sections of the Bible, especially Joshua 13:1-19:48. Israel was in exile due to their sin, but God’s gracious covenant faithfulness meant that they had hope in him. What they didn’t realize was that his place was a much bigger land for a much bigger people.
Ezek. 47:13 This is what the Lord GOD says: “This is the border you will use to divide the land as an inheritance for the twelve tribes of Israel. Joseph will receive two shares. 14 You will inherit it in equal portions, since I swore to give it to your ancestors. So this land will fall to you as an inheritance.
As promised to the patriarchs, God here renews his commitment to divide the land among the twelve tribes. Joseph receives two portions (Ephraim and Manasseh), and therefore a total of 13 tribal land allotments are described.
Ezek. 47:15 This is to be the border of the land: On the north side it will extend from the Mediterranean Sea by way of Hethlon and Lebo-hamath to Zedad, 16 Berothah, and Sibraim (which is between the border of Damascus and the border of Hamath), as far as Hazer-hatticon, which is on the border of Hauran. 17 So the border will run from the sea to Hazar-enon at the border of Damascus, with the territory of Hamath to the north. This will be the northern side.
This northern border is further north that it was when Israel was taken into exile.
Ezek. 47:18 On the east side it will run between Hauran and Damascus, along the Jordan between Gilead and the land of Israel; you will measure from the northern border to the eastern sea. This will be the eastern side.
Ezek. 47:19 On the south side it will run from Tamar to the Waters of Meribath-kadesh, and on to the Brook of Egypt as far as the Mediterranean Sea. This will be the southern side.
Ezek. 47:20 On the west side the Mediterranean Sea will be the border, from the southern border up to a point opposite Lebo-hamath. This will be the western side.
Remember that the original readers of this vision would have been able to picture some of these locations, brining to mind a strong nostalgia and reminder of God’s promises to Abraham.
Ezek. 47:21 “You are to divide this land among yourselves according to the tribes of Israel. 22 You will allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the aliens residing among you, who have fathered children among you. You will treat them like native-born Israelites; along with you, they will be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. 23 In whatever tribe the alien resides, you will assign his inheritance there.” This is the declaration of the Lord GOD.
Note that in this vision these tribal zip codes weren’t only for ethnic Israelites, they were also for the foreigners among them. This is a hint that God’s plan is bigger than just physical descendants of Abraham.
As you read the specific tribal allotments below, notice that the tribal borders are idealized- they run from east to west in straight lines. Second, the focus of the description is on the Lord’s portion, where the Levites dwell and work, and the city in the center of it. In fact, the city is essentially the center of the land, with the tribes extending north and south from it. The bullseye of the vision is God’s people dwelling in the restored land, with God at the center.
Ezek. 48:1 “Now these are the names of the tribes: From the northern end, along the road of Hethlon, to Lebo-hamath as far as Hazar-enon, at the northern border of Damascus, alongside Hamath and extending from the eastern side to the sea, will be Dan—one portion. 2 Next to the territory of Dan, from the east side to the west, will be Asher—one portion. 3 Next to the territory of Asher, from the east side to the west, will be Naphtali—one portion. 4 Next to the territory of Naphtali, from the east side to the west, will be Manasseh—one portion. 5 Next to the territory of Manasseh, from the east side to the west, will be Ephraim—one portion. 6 Next to the territory of Ephraim, from the east side to the west, will be Reuben—one portion. 7 Next to the territory of Reuben, from the east side to the west, will be Judah—one portion.
Ezek. 48:8 “Next to the territory of Judah, from the east side to the west, will be the portion you donate to the LORD, 8 1⁄3 miles wide, and as long as one of the tribal portions from the east side to the west. The sanctuary will be in the middle of it.
Ezek. 48:9 “The special portion you donate to the LORD will be 8 1⁄3 miles long and 3 1⁄3 miles miles wide. 10 This holy donation will be set apart for the priests alone. It will be 8⁄3 miles long on the northern side, 3 1⁄3 miles wide on the western side, 3 1⁄3 miles wide on the eastern side, and 8 1⁄3 miles long on the southern side. The LORD’s sanctuary will be in the middle of it. 11 It is for the consecrated priests, the sons of Zadok, who kept my charge and did not go astray as the Levites did when the Israelites went astray. 12 It will be a special donation for them out of the holy donation of the land, a most holy place adjacent to the territory of the Levites./
Note that there Zadok’s family is highlighted as the priestly family of faithfulness. This is a throwback reference to 2 Samuel and Zadok’s faithful service in the midst of David’s family drama. This serves to remind the exiles reading the vision that faithfulness to God is always their best choice, even in difficult circumstances.
Ezek. 48:13 “Next to the territory of the priests, the Levites will have an area 8 1⁄3 miles long and 3 1⁄3 miles wide. The total length will be 8 1⁄3 miles and the width 3 1⁄3 miles. 14 They must not sell or exchange any of it, and they must not transfer this choice part of the land, for it is holy to the LORD.
The Levites are forbidden from selling or trading their tribal allotment—the Lord must always be in the center of his people.
Ezek. 48:15“The remaining area, 1 2⁄3 miles wide and 8 1⁄3 miles long, will be for common use by the city, for both residential and open space. The city will be in the middle of it. 16 These are the city’s measurements: 1 1⁄2 miles on the north side;1 1⁄2 miles on the south side; 1 1⁄2 miles on the east side; and 1 1⁄2 miles on the west side.
Ezek. 48:17 The city’s open space will extend: 425 feet to the north, 425 feet to the south, 425 feet to the east, and 425 feet to the west.
Ezek. 48:18 “The remainder of the length alongside the holy donation will be 3 1⁄3 miles to the east and 3 1⁄3 miles to the west. It will run alongside the holy donation. Its produce will be food for the workers of the city. 19 The city’s workers from all the tribes of Israel will cultivate it. 20 The entire donation will be 8 1⁄3 miles by 8 1⁄3 miles; you are to set apart the holy donation along with the city property as a square area.//Ezek. 48:21 “The remaining area on both sides of the holy donation and the city property will belong to the prince. He will own the land adjacent to the tribal portions, next to the 8 1⁄3 miles of the donation as far as the eastern border and next to the 8 1⁄3 miles of the donation as far as the western border. The holy donation and the sanctuary of the temple will be in the middle of it. 22 Except for the Levitical property and the city property in the middle of the area belonging to the prince, the area between the territory of Judah and that of Benjamin will belong to the prince.
Ezek. 48:23 “As for the rest of the tribes: From the east side to the west, will be Benjamin—one portion. 24 Next to the territory of Benjamin, from the east side to the west, will be Simeon—one portion. 25 Next to the territory of Simeon, from the east side to the west, will be Issachar—one portion. 26 Next to the territory of Issachar, from the east side to the west, will be Zebulun—one portion. 27 Next to the territory of Zebulun, from the east side to the west, will be Gad—one portion. Ezek. 48:28 Next to the territory of Gad toward the south side, the border will run from Tamar to the Waters of Meribath-kadesh, to the Brook of Egypt, and out to the Mediterranean Sea. 29 This is the land you are to allot as an inheritance to Israel’s tribes, and these will be their portions.” This is the declaration of the Lord GOD.
Having finished with the tribal allotments, Ezekiel focuses in one last time on the city in the center of the land.
Ezek. 48:30 “These are the exits of the city: On the north side, which measures 1 1⁄2 miles, 31 there will be three gates facing north, the gates of the city being named for the tribes of Israel: one, the gate of Reuben; one, the gate of Judah; and one, the gate of Levi. 32 On the east side, which is 1 1⁄2 miles, there will be three gates: one, the gate of Joseph; one, the gate of Benjamin; and one, the gate of Dan. 33 On the south side, which measures 1 1⁄2 miles, there will be three gates: one, the gate of Simeon; one, the gate of Issachar; and one, the gate of Zebulun. 34 On the west side, which is 1 1⁄2 miles, there will be three gates: one, the gate of Gad; one, the gate of Asher; and one, the gate of Naphtali.
Ezek. 48:35 The perimeter of the city will be six miles, and the name of the city from that day on will be, The LORD Is There.”
This last sentence in the book is somewhat shocking. Everyone knows the name of the city described in the vision—the city where the Lord’s temple is, where priests serve and the people gather to worship. It’s name is Jerusalem. While that is true, this city will have a better name: The LORD Is There. Jerusalem is a fine name historically, but theologically it just doesn’t say enough. Why is this place so special? Because it is here where God will dwell with his people forever. This is where we belong.
The Big Picture
In Revelation, the apostle John saw the new heaven and earth, and he saw the new Jerusalem descend from God to the earth. His angelic guide said, “Look, God’s dwelling is with humanity, and he will live with them. They will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them and will be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away” (Revelation 21:3-4). The city he saw also had twelve gates, but crucially it had no temple.
Due to this major difference, some commentators have decided they must be different cities. Ezekiel is describing Jerusalem during the millennial kingdom and John see’s the new Jerusalem. However, John gives us more to go on. He said, “I did not see a temple in it, because the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (Revelation 21:22). Furthermore, he saw a river flowing from God’s throne, the trees of life on the edge of river, including the description of their leaves as the healing for the nations (Revelation 22:1-2).
The curse has been removed! Adam’s failure in Eden is finally undone. God’s people can finally rest. They are finally home. Sin and death are no more. All will finally be as it should be, because God has been faithful to fulfill his promises.
The New Jerusalem is The LORD Is There. There is no temple because God the Father, God the Son as the Lamb, and God the Spirit indwelling the church will be there. This city is the center of the new earth, with all nations living without sin or sorrow in submission to God. This will be our home forever, and because the Lord will be there, it will be all we ever need.
Taking It Home
This city is where we belong. Living in direct fellowship with God is exactly what Jesus died to provide for us. Our inheritance is him. Rather than frustrate people in exile, people hurting due to sin’s destruction, this vision reminds us where we are headed. So how exactly does this help us today?
First, we must keep God at the center of our lives. He will be the center of our lives eternally, so that is all the more reason to keep him at the center now while we are in exile. This means we view every day as a day of worship, valuing God more than anything else.
Second, when we are hurting we must remember that hurt is temporary. Ezekiel’s vision reminded Israel that although they were far from home, this wasn’t the end of their story. In the same way, your pain, sickness, and hurt isn’t the end of the story. Not only will it end, but you will literally enjoy eternal life.
Third, when we feel lost, we need to remember that we have a place. The reserved seating Ezekiel describes for the tribes reminds them that God hasn’t forgotten them, and that they have a place set aside for them in his promised land. You are not lost. God hasn’t forgotten you. On the contrary, Peter reminds us,
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. You are being guarded by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:3-5).
Ultimately, God himself is our inheritance. We will finally be home, because the Lord is there.
- Ask God to give you an excitement for spending eternity with him. Honestly confess what earthly passions distract you from God’s glory.
- Ask God to give you the wisdom to keep him at the center of your life. Confess any areas of life where God is not your central focus. Ask for wisdom to make the changes you need to make.
- Praise God for his plan to restore creation to what he intends it to be. Praise Jesus for dying to rescue us from the curse of sin, and for providing us with an eternal home with him.