Ezekiel 48:35: Unending Presence

At the end of the ages
the Son himself spoke to us
through himself.
— Cyril of Alexandria

Endings are significant. Let me share a few of my favourite:

  • He asks all, but He gives all. (Thomas R. Kelly, “The Light Within”, A Testament of Devotion)
  • This book is written in the hope that this generation may turn from that greatest of wickedness, the placing of any created thing in the place of the Creator, and that this generation may get its feet out of the paths of death and may live. (Francis A. Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live?)
  • But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in. (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)
  • I saw at once how it was. They thought he was dead. I knew that he had gone to the back of the north wind. (George MacDonald, At the Back of the North Wind)
  • The jagged line dividing the sacred and the secular becomes very dim indeed, for we know that nothing is outside the realm of God’s purview and loving care. (Richard Foster, Streams of Living Water)

Good endings have a way of revisiting the themes present in the book while looking forward to some sort of life once the book is placed down.

Here’s Ezekiel’s ending:

And the name of the city from that time on shall be, The LORD is There. (48:35 NRSV)

. . .

It ends with a name. One of the largest books in the Hebrew Bible—all 48 chapter’s worth—are effectively summed up in one name: “The LORD is There”.

You can understand the flow of Ezekiel by following the location of God’s presence. God appeared to Ezekiel in chapter one, when he was in Babylon. A little later, we learned that God is in Babylon with Ezekiel because he left his own Temple when it finally fell to the Babylonians. After an onslaught of judgment scenes, we read about the glorious prophetic return of God to his Temple.

Now, at the end of Ezekiel, all this is summed up in a name. The defining characteristic of the new city that God’s people will inhabit is this: God’s there. Also important are the words that precede the name: “from that time on”. There will never be a time when God is not present in his temple.

Thus, the backward and forward perspective of a good closing sentence is fulfilled. The talk about God’s presence reminds us about his journey into exile and the prophetic return. The phrase preceding the name urges us to look to the time when God’s presence will never again leave his temple.

. . .

That time is now.

To be a little more precise, God reentered his temple (effectively ending exile, thank you Mr. Wright) at Pentecost. But to be sure—that reality exists now.

This is the main application of the entire book of Ezekiel for the believer. The world-wide community of Christians make up God’s Temple. God entered that temple at Pentecost. Now, whenever anyone joins his body by trusting in his Son, he fills them too.

Think about it—my own flesh and blood live is infused with the presence of the God who is seated on a throne carried by Cherubim. What a humbling glory!

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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