As we come to the end of the book of Ezekiel, it is important for us to be reminded about the purpose of this book. Ezekiel was an exiled priest that God called to be a prophet among the exiled Jewish nation. He was called to pronounce God’s judgement on Jerusalem because of their refusal to follow God wholeheartedly. Ezekiel’s message changes after the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon and he begins to paint for the exiles a picture of what will happen to them as a nation during two time frames: first after their exile is over and then looking further into the future to when God’s millenial Kingdom will be established on the earth. That is where we are as we finish the book today.
God gives Ezekiel a glimpse into how the nation will be established during the reign of the Messiah on earth.
Before I go any further, you might be wondering who this “prince” guy is that Ezekiel keeps mentioning. The truth of the matter is that we don’t really know. We are given no indication that he is of David’s line, or that he is a priest or a Levite; in fact we are not given any indication of what tribe he will be from. He will be married and have children who will inherit the land set aside for him (Ezekiel 46:16-18). This would indicate that this prince is not the Messiah, but some sort of civil ruler or vice-regent of some sort under the Kingship of the Messiah.
This leads me to my main point for today’s reading, a point that I will reiterate when we come across other images of the future in scripture. There are times in scripture when God gives us glimpses into what is to come, they are almost like God leads us to an old fashioned door with an old fashioned keyhole in it and permits us to have a glance through the keyhole. We have old doors with old keyholes in our house, and if anyone has ever tried to look through one, you will find that you don’t see much. The field of vision is very limited.
Such is the way with the glimpses God gives us of the times to come. We are often given a very small glimpse that can leave us with more questions than answers. But God, in his wisdom, has decided that the glimpse is enough. Otherwise he would have thrown open the door and shown us the whole picture.
So in this section of Ezekiel that talks about a mysterious prince and a glorious river flowing from the alter and bringing life wherever it goes and the allotment of the land to the tribes, we are given glimpses of what is to come, but not the whole picture. Will the river be literal of simply an image of a spiritual reality? We don’t know. Some scriptures that talk about the river make it seem very literal (like Joel and sections of Zechariah), while other scriptures reference the river in a way that makes it seem more of an image; like Jesus picturing the Holy Spirit as a stream of living water in John 7:37-39.
The important thing for us to realize is that God has given us these glimpses of the future for our benefit, to encourage us and keep us moving toward the goal of our faith: namely that day when God promises “My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Sometimes we get too caught up in trying to figure all of the details for that future out, that is not why God gives us these glimpses. They are his promise to us that something amazing is coming. We have to it look forward to it, even as we do the work of the gospel that he has called us to here and now.
So have a glimpse through the keyhole and marvel at what God has ahead for his people.
- What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
- What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
- Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
- How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
- What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?
Tomorrow’s Reading: Joel