Ezekiel 48, The Architect and Builder of the New Creation
If you are just no joining us you are no doubt wondering to yourself: what in the world is going on here. Don’t worry, this is not easy to understand. Much of the frustration comes from not knowing how to interpret the passage.
The normal experience people have when they read the book of Ezekiel is that they get through chapters 1-39 and then skip 40-48. The reason is it is long and tedious. It is 20% of the entire book, and it is repetitive description. There is not storyline, but just details about the recreated land, temple, and accoutrements.
Ezekiel 40:4 described Ezekiel envisioning the New Jerusalem. Then he is given a measuring rod to measure the city. This launches this entire section of the book. Revelation 21:10-15, said “then he handed me a measuring rod…” When this happened, undoubtedly, the people in the pews in Asia-minor were thinking, “Oh no! Not again!”
40-48 = Vision of the Recreated World
Do not worry! This section of the book, when properly understood, is fairly easy to interpret. The key is that it is not a literal description of the New Creation, but a theological description. Ezekiel 40-48 teaches you what to think about the new creation to come.
God is the creator of the world. He created the world “good.” But Adam’s sin resulted in God’s curse on the world, which brought death… (Rom 5:12). When Jesus died on the cross, and Rose from the grave, He earned the New Creation for His Church. Ezekiel 48 is about that New Creation
Ezekiel 48 is a theological description of the new creation. So it tells you what you need to believe about it.
In C.S. Lewis’ The Last Battle, in the last chapters all the main characters died and entered into the resurrected new creation. It was surprisingly physical and normal, but it was also strange. The awkwardness was that when they would go into a small room or cave inside that small room was a whole world larger than the one on the outside. The refrain keeps going, “further up and further in.”
All Lewis was trying to convey was what Ezkiel described here. For example, in Ezekiel 40-43, the dimensions of the temple, get bigger as you go inside further. The gates into the temple are larger than the temple itself. This is impossible. The point is that it is not a world possible for man to create. “Further Up and Further in” described the… Dimensions of the Temple… East West Lands, Davidic King, Lost Tribes return…. All of which are impossible, and point …. not to literal vastness, but the hand and initiative of the one who created
It is like Hebrews said, 11:10, “They were seeking a better country, whose architect and builder is the Lord.” The point of the impossible architecture is to show that the architect and builder is the Lord.
Thesis: God is the Architect and Builder of the New Creation
Theme: The Lord’s New Creation
- The Worldwide Kingdom of God
- The Devoted Servants
- The Present Lord
- 1. The Worldwide Kingdom 1-9, 23-29
First notice that the kingdom of God described in these verses is a place: The tribal allotments were returned to the twelve tribes (see all the verses). Notice that these allotments don’t line up according to actual territories. Instead they are all stacked east to west, side by side. They are like track homes. It is like a Belt wrapping around the whole world from east to west.
This means that the new creation will be a place. But it is not an empty space. God fills is with people. Look at verses 1-9, and 23-29 and see that he mentioned the 12 tribes there.
Tension: Here is the problem. These are the Lost tribes, exiled 200 years before Ezekiel wrote. His audience would likely say , “Ezekiel, that is impossible there is no way that this could come about. The Assyrians have sprinkled the people all around the world. It has been too long. It is impossible.”
This is what it means God is able to find what was lost! God seekjs his people out and brings the full number of his elect into the new creation. Even you may think, “I am too sinful… there is no hope for me. God could never save a sinner so sinful as me!” Let me remind you that all Mankind was lost in Adam’s sin. Yes: You are Too Lost to find your way back to God! But, that does not mean that you are too lost for God to find you! This is the Gospel! That God loves people who do not love him. God takes the initiative.
Israel in exile thought, “What can we do to get right with the Lord? He cast us out of the land, he condemned us for our rebellion. And, you Ezekiel, you are telling us that God promises a renewed land and people?! Impossible!!!”
So Ezekiel reminded them, the Architect and builder is the Lord. It is like the Apostle Paul said, “And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, Because God has the power to graft them in again.” (Rom 11:23). This means you. The new creation is for people. Even people who were not always believing and faithful to him.
I was really happy to find out a few years ago that there was a fig tree growing behind my home. However, I now know why Adam and Eve used fig leaves to make themselves clothes in the Garden of Eden. Because figs trees, if they are not grafted, don’t bear fruit. So all they have going for them is the large leaves that are helpful when you need to make a fig-leaf-loin-cloth in a hurry. So in spite of this volunteer tree I planted a Garden next to it. The garden grew big and lush, but we never once got a single vegetable from it. It withered and died in one bad frost last summer.
Now, yesterday I saw I that yard with my own two eyes that the fig tree has fruit on it. The barren tree that I never wanted bore fruit. But my garden that I wanted did not. And so is the Kingdom of God. God is the one empowering the fruit of the kingdom to bear. He is able he is mighty, and sometimes he controverts the best laid plans of mice and men.
This is impossible! How can that land be filled! The answer is, God is the architect and builder of the new creation. He puts the people in that place.
- 2. The Devoted Servants
The word, Holy, means set apart (but not like we normally think). It means set apart for a purpose. When someone says, “Go get a hammer out of my truck!” he doesn’t mean get the hammer and set it on the ground next to the truck. It means go get it and bring it here. I need it. This is the way it is with Holiness. It is Set apart for a Purpose: God Sets You apart for His Service
A proper definition of the word holiness is “Divinely devoted to serve the Lord.” The new creation wa devoted to serve the Lord. The City was devoted for worship, v 8-10. Zadok and his sons were devoted to serve God, 11-14. The workers of the field in the “Support Complex” were devoted to serve the Lord, 15-20. It served the temple work. Thus it serves God. The New creation is Holy. Which means that it is devoted to the service of God.
Notice one more servant in this text, the Davidic Prince, 21-22. The return of the Davidic prince was foretold in Ezek 37:24. “My servant David shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd. They shall walk in my rules and be careful to obey my statutes.” The problem was there was no king! Nor would there ever be again until Jesus Christ, the Son of David!
This Jesus is the true servant, who obeyed the Lord fully, and paid the criminal penalty for your sins against God. Jesus died on the cross not only to redeem His church, but also to serve His Father.
You too are called to serve the Lord! Your purpose is to be devoted to God. Peter said about the churches, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1Pe 2:9).
What does this look like? Some people think serving God means only going to seminary and joining the clergy. This is false. I recently, finally, watched that new movie about William Wilberforce. It is not the most accurate movie ever, but they did get at least one point right about his spirituality. Wilberforce was convicted that he needed to serve the Lord, so he decided to consider a change from politics to join the ministry. A wise friend of his staged and intervention with some puritan ministers, one of whom said to him, “You want to serve God, but your friends need your in Parliament. We humble advise that you can do both.” The point was that he was to serve God in his job.
We need to rediscover the ministry of the laity, meaning veryone in the kingdom who is not in the ministry, serves God. Ou are called to be holy in your job. Joel Beeke recently wrote,
The reformation rediscovered the role of the laity. Prior to the reformation church members were reduced to an audience, watching a priest do a mass and listening to choirs of monks sing in latin. But the reformation revived the role of the laity, as commanded in the Scripture… Bakers, carpenters, and milkmaids took up their work as sacred ministries through which they served the Lord according to His Word. None of this undermined the pastoral ministry, but exalted it as it is spreading the Word in order to equip the saints.
How can you get involved at New Life? Serve God by worshipping him on Sunday. Pray to him, and believe in him. But, Monday through Saturday, do not get involved at new life! Obey him in all manner of life! Take up your work as a sacred calling. You don’t need to be in the ministry to be God’s servant.
Notice the support complex in verses 15-20. It is no less important to God!
- 3. The Lord’s Presence,
Segue: In the Last point I stressed that you need to be devoted to the Lord, In this point I want to stress how Holiness comes about!
Notice that the Lord Is with His People, vv 23-35. The gates are entrances to God’s presence, 30-34. The Name of the City is “The Lord’s Presence”- 35. The tension between these two truths rises when you realize that you are a sinner, and God is totally holy. This means that he is totally devoted to His Covenant. He is so holy that he must punish sinners. It is not a matter of if, but when he will punish sin! Here is the rub: the people are unholy, un-devoted, imperfect, and in exile.
They would protest, “Ezekiel, we are in exile, how can we be made right with God?” You think to yourself, “I am not totally devoted to God! I try. I lean toward it. But I am far from perfect! How can I enter that new creation If God is there?” The Answer is in the “Healing Waters of Meribah Kadesh!” Look at verse 28.
If you remember in Exodus 17, the elders of Israel came to Moses and complained that the people were out of water while they were in the desert. They brought Moses and the Lord up on charges implying, “you are unfaithful to preserve us.” Then God did something very strange. The Lord said to Moses, take the elders to a rock. And I will stand on the rock, and you will strike the rock. Now you have to get into their minds. This rock was like an electric chair! That is what came to their mind, A criminal death on that rock! They would lay him down and crush his skull. So the story ends: God was Struck on the rock, and out flowed healing water! And they named that place Meribah. That water was life in the desert. It came from a criminal death for one who was nto a criminal. I Cor 15:5 Says, “that Rock was Christ!” Jesus was struck for your crimes on the cross, and out flowed water of life! To put it plainly- Jesus died to reconcile you to himself!
What do you need to believe about the new creation? Ezekiel answers, the Holy Lord makes a Holy People! You were unholy, but God called you holy because of Jesus!
If you are here tonight and desire that holiness, believe that Jesus died for you, and enter the church through the waters of baptism.
Conclusion: The Christian life is a life of devotion. Because we have a hope of the new creation! We, Ezekiel, and the Exiles hope for the better country, whose architect and builder is the Lord!
Think about Ezekiel’s Hearers: “Hey Ezekiel, How can we get along in Babylon? Things are so difficult, why do we have to keep obeying the Lord when our neighbors cheat us? They taunt us to sing our Psalms! It just does not seem worth it! Why should we be honest and die when others cheat and live? It is not fair! You may pray, “Why o’ Father? Why has this thing come upon me? I am your servant, aren’t I? Don’t all things work out for the good of those who love you and are called according to your purpose?”
Yes: But not necessarily in this life. Our hope is lIke Abraham’s, seeking a better country. But why? Because This life is not all there is! As Jesus said, Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, but heap up treasure for heaven! Like RC Sproul always says, “Right now counts forever!” meaning that this life is preparation for the next. Don’t waste it worrying, but live it in love for your God!
Devotion to Jesus brings incredible freedom! It is the Freedom of Living for the New Creation! This is because devotion to Jesus brings freedom from every earthly master. Every sinful desire, ambition, habit, addiction cannot compare to the devotion that Jesus demands. No earthy master can control you.
What earthy master controls you? You can test this by asking yourself, “Is there any habit, ambition, or inordinate desire that I place as more important than God’s will?” When you become a Christian, God devotes you totally to His service!
Also, Devotion to the Lord brings freedom because we live for the New Creation! The message to those in exile 2,600 years ago, and you tonight, is this life is not all there is! You will one day stand again with Jesus in the new Creation. The Promise of your Resurrection is why you can deny self for God’s glory! Devotion to God brings freedom!
Think of Paul, who was beaten down but not destroyed, because he hoped in the resurrection. Think of Moses, who, “By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.” (Heb 11:24-26). Think of Jesus, who willingly died for the will of his Father in Heaven.
Nothing else holds sway over you! Though they may maim or kill the body, God who can kill the soul promised to resurrect you from the dead. Since he is the great reconciler, and re-creator we long for and hope for that day.