Sunday, November 23, 2014

A New Beginning

Scriptural Reading: Ezekiel 47:13-23
Devotional Reading: Psalm 51:1-13

There are so many murderous acts these days and I cannot help but wonder why. They simply cannot be justified. Like Rodney King stated in 1991, “Can’t we just get along?” But many of us have problems being peacemakers. We don’t wish to give second chances. We simply want to wipe the problems out by any means necessary. But our God is a God of second chances.

In the book of Judges we witnessed Him watch, with much patience, the Israelites disobey Him by worshiping idol gods. He would warn them before turning them over to the hands of their enemies. They would cry out for mercy, He would send a deliverer, and they would promise to obey. Yet the cycle would be repeated until God had enough and turned them over into the hands of the Babylonians. They remained in captivity for seventy (70) years during which Ezekiel ministered to them with visions of hope given him by God.

They were not going back to Jerusalem immediately as they had planned. They were on God’s timetable and had to repent of their wicked ways and return to Him. When David repented of his adulterous plot with Bathsheeba he stated at Ps 51:1-4a, in part, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight;…” (NKJV) David pleaded for the mercy for the Almighty. He knew he had sinned and needed to repent in order to be forgiven It would not be until he had expressed remorse and repented of his sin that he would be forgiven and blessed by God.

This quarter of study is entitled “Sustaining Hope”. We are in Unit III – “Visions of Grandeur” of the three units of the quarter. This is the fourth of a five-lesson study. The book of Ezekiel focuses on God’s glory as seen through the visions he received. In our lesson today we see the LORD God setting boundaries and giving land to His people and the foreigners who reside within the tribes. What did this have to do with God’s glory? We saw His glory return to the temple in Ezekiel’s vision.(Ez 43:1-12) Then we witnessed His glory in the altar of sacrifice. (Ez 43:13-21) From there we were reminded of the glory of God because He resides in us as living water. (Ez 47:1-12). God is preparing the children of captivity and giving them hope. He had let them know He will be with them and never leave them. (Josh 1:5; Heb 13:5) The temple and the altar of sacrifice were visible places for them to see He was present and know they were to obey. They were made to understand they were to come alive and be prosperous again through the living water. They would no longer live as if they were on desert land. So the giving of land is a glorious act of God in continuing to raise the hope of His children and would introduce a new degree of acceptability of the foreigners living among them.

Ezekiel introduces this part of his prophetic vision by stating it was the “SOVEREIGN LORD” who had given him the authority to write as he declared in Ez 47:13-14, "This is what the SOVEREIGN LORD says: ‘These are the boundaries of the land that you will divide among the twelve tribes of Israel as their inheritance, with two portions for Joseph. You are to divide it equally among them. Because I swore with uplifted hand to give it to your ancestors, this land will become your inheritance.”(NKJV) Unlike today’s world, this land is not going to go through probate court or be deeded in any kind of way for title to pass to them initially. Land is a blessing from God. How would you like someone to just give you some land that you could do anything with and then pass it down to your descendants?

Jacob (Israel) had twelve sons. Each son and their descendants consisted of a tribe. The LORD commanded that the land be divided among the twelve tribes of Israel as their inheritance. The remaining two portions are for two tribes which descended from the son Joseph. His sons’ names were Manasseh and Ephraim. Ez 48:4-5 indicates, “Manasseh will have one portion; it will border the territory of Naphtali from east to west. Ephraim will have one potion, it will border the territory of Manasseh from east to west.”(NKJV)

However, the son Levi and his descendants were not included in the list to inherit in the land. God was their inheritance (Numbers 18:20, 26:62, Deut 10:9) When they were in the Promised Land, they were supported in the agricultural economy of the time, by the tithes of the produce of the land paid to The Lord by the other tribes. Ez 44:28 reads, “I am to be the only inheritance the priests have. You are to give them no possession in Israel; I will be their possession.”(NKJV) I know the “earth is the LORD’s and everything in it” (Ps 24:1b NKJV), but I just can’t help look at Ez 44:28 and wonder how many ministers pay attention to this today. Since the descendants of Levi do not share in any land distribution as an inheritance, God has made provision from each of the tribes to give toward the priesthood. (See Ez 48:9-14) In the Promised Land the Levites were assigned towns to live in from the inheritance of the other tribes – forty eight cities, thirteen of which were for the priests along with their other inhabitants (Num 35:2-5). Nine of these cities were in Judah, three in Naphtali, and four in each of the other tribes (Josh ch 21). Six of the Levitical tribes were designated as Cities of Refuge.

We have learned the first of the two profound statements of faith. Land is a most valuable commodity for the people of God. But, secondly and more importantly, God keeps His promise to a thousand generations. Ps 105:8-11 declares, “He remembers his covenant forever, the promise he made, for a thousand generations, the covenant he made with Abraham, the oath he swore to Isaac. He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree, to Israel as an everlasting covenant: ‘To you I will give the land of Canaan as the portion you will inherit.’” (NKJV) God reminded Ezekiel of His promise to Abraham (Gen 19:9-21; Ez 20:5; 36:28) God is not a human that he should lie or change His mind. (See Num 23:19) He fulfills all of His promises.

The SOVREIGN LORD set the actual boundaries of the twelve tribes of Israel in Ezekiel’s vision and penned at verses 15-20 of chapter 47, “This is the boundary of the land: ‘On the north side it will run from the Mediterranean Sea by the Hethlon road past Lebo Hamath to Zedad, Berothah and Sibraim (which lies on the border between Damascus and Hamath), as far as Hazer Hattikon, which is on the border of Hauran. The boundary will extend from the sea to Hazar Enan, along the northern border of Damascus, with the border of Hamath to the north. This will be the northern boundary. On the east side the boundary will run between Hauran and Damascus, along the Jordan between Gilead and the land of Israel, to the Dead Sea and as far as Tamar. This will be the eastern boundary. On the south side it will run from Tamar as far as the waters of Meribah Kadesh, then along the Wadi of Egypt to the Mediterranean Sea. This will be the southern boundary. On the west side, the Mediterranean Sea will be the boundary to a point opposite Lebo Hamath. This will be the western boundary.’”(NKJV) The definition of the boundaries begins at verse 15 of Ez ch 47. It is different in form and many points, yet there is harmony with the Mosaic definition of The Promised Land. Numbers 34:1-5 is the Biblical record of the LORD’s instructions to Moses as to their division of Canaan. In His glory, “The LORD said to Moses, ‘Command the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter Canaan, the land that will be allotted to you as an inheritance is to have these boundaries: Your southern side will include some of the Desert of Zin along the border of Edom. Your southern boundary will start in the east from the southern end of the Dead Sea, cross south of Scorpion Pass, continue on to Zin and go south of Kadesh Barnea. Then it will go to Hazar Addar and over to Azmon, where it will turn, join the Wadi of Egypt and end at the Mediterranean Sea.’”(NKJV) I could not see the harmony at first. I did see the names of many locations that were different in each passage and some which were the same, such as the Dead Sea, Wadi of Egypt, and Mediterranean Sea. In my study I found that some of the locations in the Ezekiel passage could not be located or verified. But one thing I found to be interesting. In the Numbers 34 passage the boundary description begins in the south, proceeds west, then north, and closes out east. In Ezekiel the boundary description begins in the north, proceeds to the east, then south, and closes out west. It may be explained in a very simple manner, from the fact that the Israelites in the time of Moses came from Egypt i.e., marching from the south, and stood by the south-eastern boundary of the land. They were carried away into the northern lands of Assyria and Babylon and regarded as returning as such.

Male and female, Jew and Gentile, are all welcome to Christ. There is a new beginning pronounced at Ez 47:21-23,<”You are to distribute this land among yourselves according to the tribes of Israel. You are to allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the foreigners residing among you and who have children. You are to consider them as native-born Israelites; along with you they are to be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. In whatever tribe a foreigner resides, there you are to give them their inheritance,” declares the SOVEREIGN LORD. (NKJV) The strangers who journey among the Israelites and begin families so as to help the Israelites would now be allowed an inheritance of land. They had previously been able to do many things among the Jews, but they had not been granted full citizenship. They were not able to inherit land. This is an act of general naturalization, teaching the Jews who their neighbors were and giving them an opportunity to show kindness to their neighbors. It also invites strangers to settle among them and further breaks the partition wall between Jew and Gentile. God answered Rodney King's question long before he asked it. Yes we can get along. It is His will that we get along.

Happy thanksgiving!

Witten by Deborah C Davis

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