If we believed that the existence of the world is rooted in mystery and in sanctity,
then we would have a different economy.
— Wendell Berry (Citizenship Papers)
Our Canadian Federal government’s in a good financial position right now. Jim Flaherty, the current finance minister, is almost giddy announcing tax cuts. The dreaded 7% GST that was reduced to 6% last year now stands at 5%. And Canadians rejoice.
There’s one thing we seem to forget. That surplus is our money. We fund the government! If the government is dropping taxes because of a budget surplus, it’s because they’ve taken too much of our money in the first place!
That mindset—the idea of someone receiving back what they already own—is central in this passage of Ezekiel. The irony is rich. This passage is stuck in the middle of a bunch of verses we looked at last week, that describe God doling out his land to the twelve tribes.
Here, in the middle of those allotment verses, God is allotted a portion of land that—in reality—is already his.
. . .
Here’s what the text says (emphasis mine):
Adjoining the territory of Judah, from the east side to the west, shall be the portion that you shall set apart . . . (v. 8, NRSV).
The portion that you shall set apart for the LORD . . . (v. 9, NRSV).
The word that the NRSV translates “set apart” literally means to “lift up”. It is an offering. In the middle of receiving God’s generous allotment of land, Israel was to pause to offer the central portion of the land back to God. This is the land that will house Jerusalem, and the temple that Ezekiel had already foresaw.
This is the land where the priests will live. Like in earlier passages, Ezekiel separates the priests into general Levites and the more specific Zadokites who remained faithful before the exile. Next week we’ll look at specifically how Yahweh’s land is divided.
Until then, the application remains: how good are we at giving back the things that already belong to him?
. . .
Generous God, you’ve given us so many opportunities to reflect your generosity in this world. Help us to seize them. In Jesus’ name, Amen.