“And this oblation of the land that is offered shall be unto them a thing most holy by the border of the Levites.” — Ezekiel 48:12
When I was a young boy growing up in southern California, our family often drove past a large vacant lot in the heart of town. The property was fenced off with posts and wire rope, and there were “no trespassing” signs posted in several places. However, the fencing and signs were not particularly effective. Often we saw motorcycles and bicycles zipping around on the overgrown property, and cycle trails crisscrossed the lot. In its rundown state, that neglected piece of ground seemingly was of no use to anyone except bikers.
Then one day that all changed. We learned our Apostolic Faith organization had purchased the property with the intention of building a new church there. When that transaction was complete, the lot became holy unto the Lord. The piece of ground that many in our community felt was nothing but a useless eyesore was dedicated to God and had a new purpose. Over time, the lot was cleared, construction took place, and eventually there was a beautiful new church on that previously empty lot.
During that period of construction, I remember hearing how the Lord worked out the many details that went into selling our old church and acquiring that piece of land. Even though I was just a young boy, it was obvious to me that the Lord truly had given us this property. We were grateful for His provision, and treated the land with the care and respect it deserved as a place dedicated to God and His service. We knew it was holy ground.
In today’s focus verse, the Lord told Ezekiel that the portion of land set aside for the Temple grounds was holy to the Lord, including the allotments designated for the priests and Levites. The land was not to be transferred to anyone else, nor used for any other purpose. It was a dedicated place for the Lord and His priests to dwell.
Everything dedicated to the Lord is holy. The Book of Ezekiel begins with a description of the holiness of God, which Israel had rejected and ignored. It ends with this chapter, which provides details of the new Temple and the restored land — all dedicated to God, and reflections of His holiness.
As we look forward to the time when we will see for ourselves the Temple that Ezekiel described, let us be careful to regard God’s current sanctuaries and lands with great reverence. When earthly properties and buildings have been dedicated to God for His use, they are sacred, and we must honor them as such.
The final chapter of Ezekiel begins with a description of how the restored land will be divided among the seven northern tribes of Israel (verses 1-7), and the central portion of the land will be dedicated to God (verses 8-14). The remainder of tribal land allotments are described later in the chapter.
Ezekiel was given no geographical landmarks to denote the boundaries or divisions of the land allotted to the tribes. This was unheard of in that era. Today, with proper software, one can easily plot equal portions within prescribed boundaries; in Ezekiel’s day, this would have been nearly impossible. Tribes were to receive equal portions, with tribal portions delineated from the “north end” southward toward the Temple.
In Ezekiel’s vision, tribal portions ran the full width of the country from the Mediterranean Sea to the eastern border, largely defined by the Jordan River and the Dead Sea. Because of this, each tribe shared borders with no more than two other tribes. There is no mention of land on the east side of the Jordan River (where the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh formerly had land).
Verses 9-12 are a description of the central sacred district (called an “oblation” in verse 9). This area is where the Temple was located. Priests and Levites were also given portions, a departure from the instructions of Moses in which they received no inheritance of land (see Joshua 13:33). According to verse 14, since this area was God’s set-apart possession, the Levites were not permitted to sell or exchange any of it.
IV. The consolation of Israel
B. Prophecies of the millennial kingdom
2. The restoration of the land
c. The division of the land
(1) The portion for seven tribes (48:1-7)
(2) The portion for the priests (48:8-12)
(3) The portion for the Levites (48:13-14)
It is important that we properly reverence the places that God has graciously provided for us to worship in.