1, 2. (a) What special portion of the land is to be set apart? (See picture on cover.) (b) The vision provides the exiles with what assurance?
IN HIS final vision, Ezekiel learns about a portion of the land that is to be set apart for a special purpose. The portion set apart is offered, not as an inheritance for a tribe of Israelites, but as a contribution to Jehovah. Ezekiel also learns about a remarkable city with an intriguing name. This part of the vision provides the exiles with a most important assurance: Jehovah will be with them when they return to their beloved homeland.
2 Ezekiel gives us a detailed description of that contribution. Let us examine this account, which is filled with meaning for us as true worshippers of Jehovah.
“The Holy Contribution Along With . . . the City”
3. What five areas made up the land that Jehovah set apart, and what purpose did those areas serve? (See the box “The Contribution That You Are to Set Apart.”)
3 The special portion of land measured 25,000 cubits (eight miles [13 km]) from north to south and 25,000 cubits from east to west. This square piece of land was called “the whole contribution.” It was divided into three horizontal sections. The upper section was for the Levites, and the middle section was set aside for the temple and the priests. Those two sections formed “the holy contribution.” The smaller lower section, or “the remaining area,” was “for common use.” It was for the city.—Ezek. 48:15, 20.
4. What lesson can be drawn from the account about the contribution to Jehovah?
4 What lesson can we draw from this account about the contribution to Jehovah? By setting apart first the land for this special contribution and then the land for the tribes, Jehovah indicated that primary importance must be given to this spiritual center of the land. (Ezek. 45:1) No doubt, the exiles learned much from this order of importance in land allotment. They needed to give Jehovah’s worship the foremost place in life. Today, we similarly view spiritual activities, such as studying God’s Word, attending Christian meetings, and sharing in the preaching work, as being of primary importance. When we imitate Jehovah’s example of setting the right priorities, we keep our daily lives centered on worship of him.
“The City Will Be in the Middle of It”
5, 6. (a) To whom did the city belong? (b) To what does the city not refer, and why not?
5 Read Ezekiel 48:15. What was the significance of “the city” and its surrounding land? (Ezek. 48:16-18) In the vision, Jehovah had told Ezekiel: “The possession of the city . . . will belong to all the house of Israel.” (Ezek. 45:6, 7) Thus, the city and its surrounding land did not belong to “the holy contribution” that was to be “set apart to Jehovah.” (Ezek. 48:9) With that distinction in mind, let us examine what the arrangement of this city might teach us today.
6 To determine what lessons we may draw from the city, we need to establish first what this city could not be. It could not refer to the rebuilt city of Jerusalem with its temple. Why not? Because the visionary city seen by Ezekiel would have no temple within it. Also, the city did not refer to any other city in the restored land of Israel. Why not? Because no city with the features described in this vision was ever built by the returned exiles or their descendants. Further, the city could not refer to a heavenly city. Why not? Because it was built on land destined “for common [or, nonsacred] use” as distinct from structures built on land exclusively set aside for sacred worship.—Ezek. 42:20.
7. What is the city that Ezekiel saw, and what does it seem to represent? (See opening picture.)
7 What, then, is the city that Ezekiel saw? Remember that he saw the city in the same vision in which he saw the land. (Ezek. 40:2; 45:1, 6) God’s Word indicates that the land refers to a spiritual land, so the city must refer to a spiritual city. In general, what is conveyed by the word “city”? The word conveys the idea of people living together as a group and forming something structured and organized. Thus, the well-ordered city that Ezekiel saw—which was laid out as a perfect square—seems to represent a well-organized seat of administration.
8. What is the realm, or sphere of influence, of this administration, and why so?
8 What is the realm, or sphere of influence, of this administration? Ezekiel’s vision reveals that this city functions within the spiritual land. Thus, this administration functions today within the realm of activity of God’s people. And what is indicated by the fact that the city stands on common, or nonsacred, land? It reminds us that the city refers, not to a heavenly, but to an earthly administration, which has been functioning for the benefit of all who inhabit the spiritual paradise.
9. (a) Who make up this earthly administration today? (b) What will Jesus do during the Millennium?
9 Who make up this earthly administration? In Ezekiel’s vision, the one taking the lead in the city government was referred to as “the chieftain.” (Ezek. 45:7) He was an overseer among the people, but he was neither a priest nor a Levite. This chieftain makes us think particularly of congregation overseers today who are not spirit-anointed. These caring spiritual shepherds from among the “other sheep” are humble earthly servants of Christ’s heavenly government. (John 10:16) During the coming Millennium, Jesus will select and appoint “in all the earth” qualified elders, or “princes.” (Ps. 45:16) Under the direction of the heavenly Kingdom, they will care for the interests of God’s people during the Millennium.
“Jehovah Is There”
10. What is the name of the city, and what assurance does that provide?
10 Read Ezekiel 48:35. The name of the city is “Jehovah Is There.” This name provides assurance that this is a city where the presence of Jehovah is felt. By showing Ezekiel this centrally located city, Jehovah, in effect, told the exiles: ‘I will be with you again!’ What an uplifting assurance!
11. What lessons can we draw from Ezekiel’s vision about the city and its meaningful name?
11 What lessons can we draw from this part of Ezekiel’s prophecy? The name of this citylike administration assures us as God’s servants today that Jehovah does dwell with his faithful servants on earth now and always will. This meaningful name also stresses a vital truth: The city exists, not to give power to any men, but to implement Jehovah’s loving and reasonable ways. For instance, Jehovah has not given the administration the authority to divide the land, so to speak, as mere humans may see fit. Instead, Jehovah expects the administrators to honor the allotments, or privileges, that he himself has given to his servants, including the “lowly” ones.—Prov. 19:17; Ezek. 46:18; 48:29.
12. (a) What is a remarkable feature of this city, and what does this illustrate? (b) This aspect of the vision provides Christian overseers with what important reminder?
12 What is yet another remarkable feature of the city “Jehovah Is There”? While ancient cities had walls for protection with as few gates as possible, this city has 12 gates! (Ezek. 48:30-34) This large number of gates (three on each side of the square city) illustrates that the administrators of this city are approachable and available to all of God’s servants. Further, the city’s having 12 gates emphasizes that it is open to everyone, “all the house of Israel.” (Ezek. 45:6) The open character of the city serves as an important reminder to Christian overseers. Jehovah wants them to be approachable and to be readily available to all those living in the spiritual paradise.
God’s People “Come in to Worship” and “Are Serving the City”
13. What did Jehovah mention about the various services people would perform?
13 Let us go back to the time of Ezekiel and find out what further details he records in this extensive vision of the allotment of the land. Jehovah mentions people sharing in various forms of service. Priests—“ministers of the sanctuary”—were to offer sacrifices and approach Jehovah to minister to him. And Levites—“ministers of the temple”—were to “take care of its service and all the things that should be done in it.” (Ezek. 44:14-16; 45:4, 5) Further, workers would be active near the city. Who are these workers?
14. The workers near the city remind us of what?
14 The workers near the city come from among “all the tribes of Israel.” They have a supportive role. Their task is to grow crops that “will provide food for those serving the city.” (Ezek. 48:18, 19) Does this arrangement remind us of an opportunity that we have today? Yes. Today all inhabitants of the spiritual paradise have the opportunity to support the service of Christ’s anointed brothers and the service of those among the “great crowd” whom Jehovah has appointed to take the lead. (Rev. 7:9, 10) A main way that we provide this support is by willingly cooperating with direction from the faithful slave.
15, 16. (a) What other detail can we glean from Ezekiel’s vision? (b) We have the opportunity to engage in what similar activities?
15 Ezekiel’s vision contains yet another detail from which we can derive a lesson regarding our ministry. What detail? Jehovah mentions that members of the 12 non-Levite tribes would be active in two locations: in the temple courtyard and on the city’s pastureland. What is their activity in each location? In the courtyard of the temple, all tribes “come in to worship” by offering sacrifices to Jehovah. (Ezek. 46:9, 24) On the land of the city, members of all tribes come to support the city by cultivating its land. What can we learn from the example of these workers?
16 Today, members of the great crowd have the opportunity to engage in activities similar to those carried out in Ezekiel’s vision. They worship Jehovah “in his temple” by offering sacrifices of praise. (Rev. 7:9-15) They do so by sharing in the preaching work and by expressing their faith aloud at Christian meetings. They view the rendering of direct worship to Jehovah as their foremost responsibility. (1 Chron. 16:29) In addition, many among God’s people are able to support God’s organization in numerous practical ways. For instance, they help in constructing and maintaining Kingdom Halls and branch facilities, and they assist in many other projects initiated by Jehovah’s organization. Others support these projects with their financial contributions. They do all such cultivating of the land, so to speak, “for God’s glory.” (1 Cor. 10:31) They carry out their work zealously and joyfully because they know that Jehovah is “well-pleased with such sacrifices.” (Heb. 13:16) Are you taking full advantage of these opportunities?
“There Are New Heavens and a New Earth That We Are Awaiting”
17. (a) What larger fulfillment of Ezekiel’s vision will we see in the future? (b) During the Millennium, who will benefit from the citylike administration?
17 In the future, will we see a larger fulfillment of Ezekiel’s vision of the contribution? Yes! Consider this: Ezekiel saw that the land portion named “the holy contribution” was the center of the land. (Ezek. 48:10) Similarly, after Armageddon, no matter where we may live on earth, Jehovah will be dwelling with us. (Rev. 21:3) During the Millennium, the citylike administration—that is, those on earth who will be appointed to care for the interests of God’s people—will expand its influence around the globe by giving loving guidance and direction to all those who make up the “new earth,” a new human society.—2 Pet. 3:13.
18. (a) Why can we be sure that the citylike administration will be in harmony with God’s rulership? (b) The name of the city gives us what firm assurance?
18 Why can we be sure that the citylike administration will remain in complete harmony with God’s rulership? Because God’s Word makes clear that the earthly city with 12 gates reflects the heavenly city with 12 gates, New Jerusalem, which is made up of Christ’s 144,000 corulers. (Rev. 21:2, 12, 21-27) This indicates that the earthly administration will mirror all decisions made by God’s Kingdom in heaven and will carefully carry them out. Yes, the name of the city “Jehovah Is There” assures each one of us that pure worship will remain and will flourish forever in Paradise. What a beautiful future awaits us!