“The holy portion of the land shall be for the priests the ministers of the sanctuary, which shall come near to minister unto the LORD: and it shall be a place for their houses, and an holy place for the sanctuary.” — Ezekiel 45:4
For over one hundred years, a twelve-acre wooded plot of ground on Duke Street in Portland, Oregon, has been a place dedicated to God. In the Apostolic Faith organization, we refer to this piece of land as “the campground.” Since the acreage was purchased in 1920, it has been the site of our annual international camp meetings — a place where God meets and communes with His people. First-time visitors often express a feeling of awe as they step through the gates, recognizing they are on holy ground.
In July of 2020, we celebrated the centennial anniversary of the campground. In the message at the anniversary service, we were reminded that over the years God has given spiritual victories to countless individuals there. For many, it is the place where God saved them and they found relief from the heavy load of sin they carried; they left the campground feeling joyful, forgiven, and with a new life in Christ. Others look back with gratitude to wonderful prayer meetings where God sanctified them, filled them with His Holy Spirit, or healed them.
For some members of our international church family, it was the dream of a lifetime to enter the large, domed tabernacle where services are held. Some saw pictures of the building and heard reports from friends or family who had attended a camp meeting, and then spent years planning, working, and saving to make the trip themselves. Still, they reported that nothing prepared them for the emotion that welled up in their hearts when they finally walked through the tabernacle doors into the sanctuary.
Others cannot remember the first time they came onto the campground or walked into the tabernacle. I am part of that group. My parents tell me I was just one week old when they brought me to my first camp meeting. I have attended several decades of camp meetings since then, but there is still a thrill in my heart when I walk into that building, because I now have many personal memories of precious times there.
In our text today, we read of the “holy portion of the land” that God said will one day be set aside for His sanctuary in Israel. Just as the land was divided when the Israelites entered Canaan under the leadership of Joshua, a land allotment will take place one day in restored Israel. Ezekiel described an area in the middle that will be divided into thirds. At the center of that area will be a special holy section, set apart for the Lord and containing the Temple itself.
We do not know exactly what the Temple grounds or the Temple will be like in restored Israel. However, much like the people who desire for years to visit the tabernacle on the Portland campground, we can think about what it will be like. We can long for the opportunity to go. We know God Himself will meet and commune with us there. And we can anticipate the joy that will well up in our hearts when we finally step into that sacred sanctuary!
The first verses of chapter 45 begin a description of how the land would be partitioned during Israel’s future restoration in her geographical home. According to verses 1-8, in Ezekiel’s vision the land at the center of the nation would be a holy district, with portions designated for the priest, the Levites, and the prince. (A description of how the remaining territory was to be distributed among the tribes is given in chapter 48.) In verses 9-17, details related to the offerings of the priests and prince in the future Temple are given.
The “oblation” mentioned in verse 1 refers to a gift to be used for sacred purposes — in this case, an offering of a portion of the land that the Lord had already deeded to Israel in Abraham’s time. The phrase “divide by lot” simply means “to apportion.” It does not imply that the division would be done by chance, but rather, that it would be divided as the Lord commanded and not according to the will of any individual. The land allotted for permanent housing for priests and Levites followed a configuration reminiscent of the Israelites’ wilderness encampment, with those serving in the Temple being given the land nearest it.
Verses 7-9 explain the limits on land ownership by tribal princes, and the mandate that their civil behavior be guided by righteousness. In verse 9, the word “exactions” refers to the practice of expelling families from their rightfully inherited land. Greed and extortion were two sins that Israel had been guilty of in the past, but victimization of the people by leaders would no longer be tolerated.
The requirement for uniformity in dry (ephah), liquid (bath), and monetary (shekel) measures are covered in verse 10-12. The previous lack of uniform weights and measures had affected what was offered to the Lord; in time, what had begun as careless practices in measuring became the use of differing measurements for the purpose of extortion. During the time of Exodus, a sanctuary shekel was standardized. However, over time other weights of shekels were used, so that eventually there was no standard any longer.1 Ezekiel’s vision foresaw a Temple where such irregularity would not occur.
With standards in place, the specifics of offerings were given. Verses 13-17 summarize these offerings and the manner in which they were to be gathered. Each individual was responsible for delivering their offering to the prince, who was then responsible for delivering the correct portions to the priests. This was described to Ezekiel as a very precise and orderly process, causing great reverence to prevail.
Scholars hold different views regarding the exact identity of the prince to whom these offerings were to be brought. Though not a king or a priest, he is a key figure in the restored Temple system of worship. His faithful discharge of duties is contrasted to the corrupt princes mentioned earlier in Ezekiel and in the history of Israel. Because he offered a sin offering for himself (Ezekiel 45:22), had sons (Ezekiel 46:16), and was warned about corruption (Ezekiel 46:18), most commentators agree that he cannot be the Messiah, though he is a descendant of David.
Many Bible scholars see the offerings described in verse 17 as being commemorative of Christ’s sacrifice of Himself for the sins of mankind, rather than for the actual removal of sin. They view these sacrifices as picture-lessons and reminders to the people of their Messiah’s marvelous saving work.
IV. The consolation of Israel
B. Prophecies of the millennial kingdom
1. The restoration of the Temple
d. The renewal of worship in the Temple
(3) The regulations for the division of the land (45:1-17)
(a) The holy portion (45:1-8)
(b) The instruction to the princes (45:9-12)
(c) The provisions for the offerings (45:13-17)
We look forward to the day when we will see the holy sanctuary of the Lord in restored Israel. In that coming Kingdom, all will be just and righteous, and worship of the Lord himself will be at the center.
1. Josephus, The Complete Works, trans. by William Whiston, (London: William Whiston, 1737), appendix: Table of the Jewish Weights and Measures.