We have been studying Ezekiel like a play in four acts. The final act completes the vision of God's place for the community God re-creates.
Act 4: “Re-member God’s Presence” (Ezkiel 37-48)
Now the people are ready to reorient their lives to the future. They have accepted responsibility, they have been cleansed, and they can now acknowledge that the Lord with them as they prepare for what God is building.
|Ezekiel's call and vision from the synagogue in Dura Europas Syria. 3rd century|
The Lord is not only there in the place he’s creating, but he is here within the midst of the people. In the last act, chapters 37-48, Ezekiel reveals what the people have been longing to hear: a complete vision of the territory and place that God is building. The place will be called “The Lord is There” (Chapter 48). Named after the name that God first announced to Moses, “I am that I am,” Yahweh’s place will be a presence among them that God will design and build.
Instead of moving toward a place like Israelites marching, conquering, and settling a territory, God will builds a territory with no geographical boundaries and a people formed to live as citizens in this place before they arrive. As Ezekiel describes in his famous vision of the valley of dry bones (chapter 37), the Babylonians and their choices dismembered their lives. But God will “re-member” them through a new plan of personal, spiritual, and communal reconstruction.
To inspire them, Ezekiel guides them like a docent through a new wing of a museum, modeling and demonstrating to them what God’s presence can do. The boundaries have changed; the bodies are re-membered and connected; the people have changed; the name on the door and above the threshold has changed.
The secret to the community, however, will be that they will live like citizens of this place before it becomes visible. Where they live and worship shapes how God gives them new hearts, re-membered lives, and a change in their present conditions. They will live simultaneously between two worlds, much as Ezekiel has performed. Their lives will reflect what they see: God’s presence never abandons them. Through their behavior as a community, they can perform as witnesses of the new community. While they await the city’s completion, they can live out the drama on the world’s stage wherever they live, either by the river Chebar, back home in Jerusalem, or at home in our world today.