To begin this reflection I borrow from the letter to the Hebrews 11:1: “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” At the end of the book of Ezekiel, Ezekiel has likely been prophesying to the people in Babylonian captivity for twenty years. Significantly, considering the roller coaster of prophetic emotion presented by Ezekiel over that period of time, the book ends with a note of hope and conviction.
Though still in exile after twenty years, Ezekiel writes of the people coming into the temple and worshiping a faithful God. He specifies the areas of land to be given to the various tribes, the gates they will use to enter the city, where land within the walls will be devoted to growing food, and even the areas devoted to sojourners, foreigners in their land who will be cared for and incorporated into the people. Ezekiel has seen the faithfulness of God and, in visions, seen his promises to restore his people.
In some way it is a long way to travel from the experience of the exiled people of Israel to our time, but do we not know what it is to feel dispossessed, out of place, adrift, clinging to hope, for decades at a time? I appeal to the specific and universal nature of Scripture—the hope it holds out, the appropriate focus it invites—that gives it accuracy and timelessness.
In the vision given by God to Ezekiel, there is a stream of living water that flows from the temple, giving life to the people and to the entirety of the creation it encounters. These living waters are then embodied by and spoken of by Jesus, and this imagery is continued in Revelation in the description of the new heaven and the new earth created by God.
Perhaps you struggled to stay engaged when the discussion veered to how many portions of an ephah would be offered, but let me encourage you to consider the hope Ezekiel and the people discovered—a hope that is equally true for you and me. To borrow from Journey (and Deborah Leighton), “Don’t Stop Believin’!”
The roller-coaster ride of the human condition is captured in Ezekiel: our unfaithfulness and the havoc it creates; that without any help from God, sin brings its own captivity and punishment; long stretches when we feel out of place (or actually are), dispossessed, and are attempting to hang on to hope. However, we find that in the end, and also along the way, “The Lord Is There” (Ezek. 48:35).
Ezekiel is powerfully sustained in faith and hope and it is for good reason. There is an invitation to the people to return to the one they ran from (and we run from) and, in so doing, to experience restoration. There is also the realization that God has been with us all along to sustain us.
Along with this realization is the vision of the blessing of a life that has shifted our focus away from ourselves (wouldn’t that be nice) and to the Lord. We see this in the worship and thanksgiving and offering described in chapters 46-48, and in the description of God’s good provision for each of the tribes and even for the sojourners, those without land or place, who are not forgotten or forsaken in the provision.
God has ultimately come in the incarnation of Jesus, to provide the “living water”, the necessary provision for life and fullness, in his cross and resurrection.
He has restored what we could not. We have hope, a home.