It’s the last chapter of Ezekiel! Let’s recap…
(Written by Eugene Peterson, The Message)
Catastrophe strikes and a person’s world falls apart. People respond variously, but two of the more common responses are denial and despair. Denial refuses to acknowledge the catastrophe. It shuts its eyes tight or looks the other way; it manages to act as if everything is going to be just fine; it takes refuge in distractions and lies and fantasies.
Despair is paralyzed by the catastrophe and accepts it as the end of the world. It is unwilling to do anything, concluding that life for all intents and purposes is over. Despair listlessly closes its eyes to a world in which all the color has drained out, a world gone dead.
Ezekiel is our master at dealing with catastrophe. When catastrophe struck—it was sixth century B.C. invasion of Israel by Babylon—denial was the primary response. Ezekiel found himself living among a people of God who (astonishingly like us!) stubbornly refused to see what was right before their eyes (the denial crowd). There were also some who were unwilling to see anything other than what was right before their eyes (the despair crowd).
But Ezekiel saw. He saw what the people with whom he lived either couldn’t or wouldn’t see. He saw in wild and unforgettable images, elaborated in exuberant detail—God at work in a catastrophic era. The denial people refused to see that the catastrophe was in fact catastrophic! How could it be? God wouldn’t let anything that bad happen to them. Ezekiel showed them. He showed them that, yes, there WAS catastrophe, but GOD was at work in the catastrophe, sovereignly USING the catastrophe. He showed them so that they would be able to EMBRACE God in the worst of time.
The despair people, overwhelmed by the devastation, refused to see that life was worth living. How could it be? They had lost everything, or would soon—country, Temple freedom, and many, many lives. Ezekiel showed them. He showed them that God was and would be at work in the wreckage and rubble, sovereignly USING the disaster to create a new people of God.
Whether through denial or despair, the people of God nearly lost the identity as a people of God. But they didn’t. God’s people emerged from that catastrophic century robust and whole. And the reason, in large part, was Ezekiel.
Ezekiel 48, The Message
The Sanctuary of God at the Center
“These are the tribes:
“Dan: one portion, along the northern boundary, following the Hethlon road that turns off to the entrance of Hamath as far as Hazor-enon so that the territory of Damascus lies to the north alongside Hamath, the northern border stretching from east to west.
2 “Asher: one portion, bordering Dan from east to west.
3 “Naphtali: one portion, bordering Asher from east to west.
4 “Manasseh: one portion, bordering Naphtali from east to west.
5 “Ephraim: one portion, bordering Manasseh from east to west.
6 “Reuben: one portion, bordering Ephraim from east to west.
7 “Judah: one portion, bordering Reuben from east to west.
8-9 “Bordering Judah from east to west is the consecrated area that you will set aside as holy: a square approximately seven by seven miles, with the Sanctuary set at the center. The consecrated area reserved for God is to be seven miles long and a little less than three miles wide.
10-12 “This is how it will be parceled out. The priest will get the area measuring seven miles on the north and south boundaries, with a width of a little more than three miles at the east and west boundaries. The Sanctuary of God will be at the center. This is for the consecrated priests, the Zadokites who stayed true in their service to me and didn’t get off track as the Levites did when Israel wandered off the main road. This is their special gift, a gift from the land itself, most holy ground, bordering the section of the Levites.
13-14 “The Levites get a section equal in size to that of the priests, roughly seven by three miles. They are not permitted to sell or trade any of it. It’s the choice part of the land, to say nothing of being holy to God.
15-19 “What’s left of the ‘sacred square’—each side measures out at seven miles by a mile and a half—is for ordinary use: the city and its buildings with open country around it, but the city at the center. The north, south, east, and west sides of the city are each about a mile and a half in length. A strip of pasture, one hundred twenty-five yards wide, will border the city on all sides. The remainder of this portion, three miles of countryside to the east and to the west of the sacred precinct, is for farming. It will supply food for the city. Workers from all the tribes of Israel will serve as field hands to farm the land.
20 “This dedicated area, set apart for holy purposes, will be a square, seven miles by seven miles, a ‘holy square,’ which includes the part set aside for the city.
21-22 “The rest of this land, the country stretching east to the Jordan and west to the Mediterranean from the seven-mile sides of the ‘holy square,’ belongs to the prince. His land is sandwiched between the tribal portions north and south, and goes out both east and west from the ‘sacred square’ with its Temple at the center. The land set aside for the Levites on one side and the city on the other is in the middle of the territory assigned to the prince. The ‘sacred square’ is flanked east and west by the prince’s land and bordered on the north and south by the territories of Judah and Benjamin, respectively.
23 “And then the rest of the tribes:
“Benjamin: one portion, stretching from the eastern to the western boundary.
24 “Simeon: one portion, bordering Benjamin from east to west.
25 “Issachar: one portion, bordering Simeon from east to west.
26 “Zebulun: one portion, bordering Issachar from east to west.
27 “Gad: one portion, bordering Zebulun from east to west.
28 “The southern boundary of Gad will run south from Tamar to the waters of Meribah-kadesh, along the Brook of Egypt and then out to the Great Mediterranean Sea.
29 “This is the land that you are to divide up among the tribes of Israel as their inheritance. These are their portions.” Decree of God, the Master.
* * *
30-31 “These are the gates of the city. On the north side, which is 2,250 yards long (the gates of the city are named after the tribes of Israel), three gates: the gate of Reuben, the gate of Judah, the gate of Levi.
32 “On the east side, measuring 2,250 yards, three gates: the gate of Joseph, the gate of Benjamin, the gate of Dan.
33 “On the south side, measuring 2,250 yards, three gates: the gate of Simeon, the gate of Issachar, the gate of Zebulun.
34 “On the west side, measuring 2,250 yards, three gates: the gate of Gad, the gate of Asher, the gate of Naphtali.
35 “The four sides of the city measure to a total of nearly six miles.
“From now on the name of the city will be Yahweh-Shammah:
WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?
God called Ezekiel, priest and prophet, to lead His people through it all, with the ultimate message that God-Is-There—at the center. God was, is and always will be there for all people who call on His Name and trust Him. God’s Holy City was design for God to at the Center, because at the center of life, “God-Is-There.” We can neither deny or be in despair when we truly believe that God is there.
God is here! God sent His Son, Jesus, to leave heaven and move into the neighborhood of humanity to remind us that God is with us! God loves us. God heals, provides, and protects all who believe. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16. This is God’s Way to reconcile us to Him. We who believe are now the Temple in which God’s Holy Spirit resides and abides!
Interestingly to note, the new name of the City, GOD-IS-THERE, Jehovah Shammah is one of seven compound names of Jehovah found in the Old Testament:
Jehovah Jireh— “The-LORD-Will-Provide” (Genesis 22:13, 14)
Jehovah Rapha— “the LORD who heals” (Exodus. 15:26)
Jehovah Shalom— “The-LORD-Is-Peace” (Judges 6:24)
Jehovah Tsidkenu— “THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS” (Jeremiah 23:6)
Jehovah Shammah— “THE LORD IS THERE” (Ezekiel 48:35)
Jehovah Nissi— “The-LORD-Is-My-Banner” (Exodus 17:8–15)
Jehovah Ra’ah— “the LORD is my shepherd” (Psalm 23:1)
What would happen if we read over this list daily—gratefully praising God!
Do we really believe what God says about Himself really real?
Our response to life will show who or what is at the center and be the answer! There is a reason God’s Word reminds us often…“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23
“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” –Jesus, Luke 6:45
So, we pause to ask ourselves, when the waves of cataclysmic proportions overwhelm us, how will we respond? It will depend on who is at the center of our being. How will we let God use the catastrophes in our lives for His glory and for our good? Will we embrace God through it all—or not? Are we teachable? Or will we succumb to denial or despair? God’s gift of free will allows us to choose. Choose wisely, my friends, choose wisely…I’m praying for all of us.
Thank you for being with me, always there, sitting right beside me, with your banner of protection over me, your table of provisions in front of me. You have redeemed me. You have brought me out of trouble time and time again. You have forgiven me and forgotten my sins. But I will never forget what you have done for me as you work your salvation in me and through me. I’m yours and I am eternally grateful, Jehovah-Shammah!
In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen