The circumference of the city shall be 18,000 cubits. And the name of the city from that time on shall be, The LORD Is there.
– Ezekiel 48:35
The book of Ezekiel, while grounded in the context of a hard-hearted Israel facing God’s discipline finishes with this glorious picture of a future (eschatological) restoration of Israel. Ezekiel 40 – 48 is a glorious picture of God restoring Israel to Himself and to the Land of promise. The centerpiece of these chapters was a restoration and of the glory of God in their midst.
The ebb and flow of these chapters are worth noting. While there are several ways to outline these chapters here is a typical outline:
Chapter 34 – The promise of a true shepherd
Chapter 35 – The rebirth of the nation
Chapter 36 – the new covenant God makes with Israel.
Chapter 37-39 – the reunification of Israel and victory over Gog and Magog.
Chapter 40-42 – Rebuilding the Temple
Chapter 43 – Return of the glory of God.
Chapter 44-46 – Reestablishing True Worship
Chapter 47-48 – New City and Inheritance for Israel.
The last verse in chapter 48 is the declaration that is most profound, the LORD is there! What a remarkable, final statement for a book that was saturated with the hardness of heart toward God and the unfaithfulness of God’s people. Truly a remarkable, miraculous intervention of God to turn His people from rebellion to restoration, from unfaithfulness to rejuvenation with God.
While God’s relationship with Israel had a certain uniqueness compared to the church there are many analogical parallels that we can find common ground. The ebb and flow of this book speaks to God purifying for Himself and for His glory, a people who are genuinely faithful to God and living in such a manner that reflects His character and glory.
As I was thinking about this scenario I was immediately driven to the Christmas narrative where God sent His only begotten Son into the world. Israel had not heard a “word from the Lord” for years. Genuine relationship with the LORD had been hijacked by their religious system and the people (as a nation) had become distant and spiritually lost. Of course there are a number of individuals who had remained faithful and were longing for the coming Messiah (Simeon, Anna – Luke 2:21-38). The significance of humility with God and loving Him with all their heart, soul and mind was a distant memory for most. They believed that doctrine but were not living according to that truth as the pervasive passion of the people; God had lost being the centerpiece of the life of Israel.
That which was said about God in Ezekiel 38:35 had to be the best statement for Israel possible. It is also the best stamp of approval for any genuine church, not what they claim about themselves but what God would say about His people. We love the encouragement that we are a genuinely friendly church; we love to hear that we have a great worship experience; we take great confidence that God’s Word is the centerpiece of our faith community; we take pride that we are committed to Christ’s great commission and live according to the great commandment. But the complement that would rise even above these compliments is that the LORD is here. Clearly we would assume that if all those components were true then the Lord must be here. However the problem with Israel is that many of those factors were somewhat true but not the reality of their way of life. One of the greatest marks of the church ought to be that the LORD is here. He must be the centerpiece of our community; He defines who we are.
Pastor Brad Little