Sacred to the Lord
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Ezekiel 45:1-25, Ezekiel 46:1-15, Micah 6:8
On April 9, 1865, documents were signed in a parlor in Appomattox, Virginia, effectively ending the US Civil War. Confederate general Robert E. Lee and Union general Ulysses S. Grant met, and Lee agreed upon the terms of surrender that Grant had proposed. Lee’s forces would turn over their major arms and weapons but then be allowed to return to their homes. A few days later, the Confederate soldiers deposited their weapons in a ceremony of surrender, marked by a formality recorded in numerous history books. Grant had dictated the terms, Lee had agreed, and the foot soldiers followed through.
The last chapters of Ezekiel remind me of terms of surrender, established by the victor. God has told the Israelites that in the end, He will reign. No matter their rebellion, sin, or hearts of stone, God’s plan would win in the end. Chapters 45 and 46 read like an agreement: this is what you’ll do, and when, and exactly how it should be. These are the instructions for priestly sacrifice, for the celebration of Passover, and the development of the holy sanctuary, among other things.
Parts of this passage read like an echo of Ezekiel’s early indictments of the people of Judah. Verses 8 through 9 call back to chapters 19 and 34, calling on the leaders of Judah to stop oppression and violence and “do what is just and right” (Ezekiel 45:9). Their habits would be repeated; they would likely fall back into the same pattern of injustice and cheating. In verse 16, God tells them that all the people must participate in the atoning sacrifice, echoing back to the end of chapter 22, where Ezekiel’s oracle described how all the people were guilty, and not one was righteous.
The sinful people were given the terms of surrender: specific sacrifices to atone for their sins, measured with specific quotas from oil and from their flocks. The system was clear and precise, but it would never be enough. They would repeatedly fall away. In the same way, we too, always fall short on our own. If we had to follow the law perfectly to guarantee our righteousness, it would never work.
The real terms of surrender the Lord offered were to come in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus would complete the work, fulfill the law, and live perfectly on our behalf. Romans 10:9–10 tells us what our part of the bargain will be: “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation.”
Believe and confess, and the kingdom is ours, because of the unimaginable love of God. It’s hard to believe those are the terms, but they are. Praise the Lord!