Here in this chapter, we have a very short description of the dividing up of the spiritual Promised Land among the Lord’s people. Equal portions were assigned to each of the 12 tribes, and there are several noteworthy lessons that we may observe in this distribution of the land. It differs very much from the division of the physical land of Canaan in Joshua’s time; for it is not based upon the birth order of the original forefather of each tribe, nor is it according to the order of their being blessed by Jacob or Moses. This is a plain indication that this dividing up of the land is not to be understood literally, but spiritually – even though the mystery of it is very much hidden from us. In Gospel-times, old things have passed away, and all things have become new!
It is important to observe that the sanctuary of Jehovah was in the midst of the tribes. There were seven tribes to the north of it, and five more tribes to the south of it; and the portions for the Levites, the prince, and the holy city were immediately around it. And so the sanctuary really was in the heart of the kingdom – as it ought to be – so that it might diffuse its benevolent influences to the whole nation, and so that it might be the center of their unity. The tribes that lay most remote from each other would meet there in mutual acquaintance and fellowship. Even though members of the same parish or congregation may be geographically separated from each other, and may have no occasion otherwise to know each other; yet by purposely meeting together to worship God on the Lord’s Day, they ought to have their hearts knit to each other in holy love!
Where the sanctuary was, there were the priests also. The land around the sanctuary was a holy area set aside for them, so that they might be close to the location where they were to serve the Lord. And we are once again reminded that the prince had a lot for himself, which we have already seen in chapter 45. It was situated near the sanctuary of the Lord and also near the city, which was the seat of government, so that he might be a protection to both, and so that he might see that the duty of both was carefully and faithfully done. And herein he was a minister of God for good to the whole community. Christ is the Church’s Prince; He defends her on every side, and creates a defense for her. In fact, He Himself is the defense of all her glory, and He encompasses her with His loving favor!
The last six verses (30-35) of this chapter – and of the entire prophecy – give us a further account of the holy city that would be built for the metropolis of this glorious land. Nowhere is it called Jerusalem, nor is the land which we have just gone over anywhere called the land of Canaan; for the old names are forgotten, in order to show that the old things are done away, and all things have become new. Now, concerning this city, we observe that the grounds belonging to it measured the same distance on each side. This represents the fact that there is an exact and just proportion observed by Infinite Wisdom in modeling and building up the Gospel-Church. The city had 12 gates in all – three on each side – and these 12 gates were inscribed to the twelve tribes. Because the city was to be served by all the tribes of Israel (verse 19), it was fitting that each tribe should have its own gate. On the north side of the city were the gates of Reuben, Judah, and Levi (verse 31); on the east were the gates of Joseph, Benjamin, and Dan (verse 32); on the south were the gates of Simeon, Issachar, and Zebulun (verse 33); and on the west were the gates of Gad, Asher, and Naphtali (verse 34). Into the Church of Christ, there is free access by faith for all – no matter what tribe they may come from – for Christ has opened the Kingdom of heaven for all believers. Whoever desires to come and take of the Water of Life and of the Tree of Life may freely do so!
What is the name that is given to this city? It shall not be Jerusalem, which means, “the vision of peace.” Rather, it shall be even better than that! It shall be Jehovah-Shammah – that is, “the Lord is there!” (verse 35) The Gospel-Church has the presence of God in it – although it is not in the Shekinah-glory, as it was of old. Where the Gospel is faithfully preached, and the Gospel-ordinances are properly administered, and the Lord God is worshiped in the name of Jesus Christ alone – in such a place, it may truly be said, “The Lord is there!” For faithful is He Who has said, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world!” The Lord Jesus is in His Church to rule and govern it, to protect and defend it, to graciously accept and acknowledge His sincere worshipers, and to be near unto them in all that they call upon Him for. Moreover, of every true Christian, it may also be said that he dwells in God, and that God dwells in him. Any soul that has a living principle of grace in it may truly be called Jehovah-Shammah – “the Lord is there.” And this is what the glory and happiness of heaven shall chiefly consist of – the glorious consciousness that “the Lord is there!” The happiness of the glorified saints is that God Himself shall be with them (Rev. 21:3), and that He Who sits upon the throne shall dwell among them (Rev. 7:15). Therefore, let us pray for all diligence to make sure that we shall enjoy a place in that holy city, where we shall forever be at home with the Lord!
Lord, we pray for grace that we may at last come to enjoy a place in that holy heavenly city, where the Lamb Who sits upon the throne shall dwell among all His redeemed sons and daughters, forever and ever! Amen.
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