And by the border of Judah, from the east side to the west side…
The spiritual training of men has been uppermost in God's mind. As a wise father trains his child, so God has been training us. From God earthly fathers have instinctively learnt their methods. With unparalleled patience God has been encouraging men to take the first step heavenward, then the next, and the next. The progress has been slow, often imperceptible; yet it has been continuous. Earth has been, and still will be, a great school-house, a religious university, and God's lesson-books are numberless. The outline of God's plan was sketched in Judaea, and the Hebrews (dull scholars as they were) have become teachers to the world.
I. RELIGION FILLS A CENTRAL PLACE IN A RENOVATED WORLD. "The sanctuary of the Lord shall be in the midst thereof." As the light of truth permeates men's minds, they will discover the supreme excellence of piety. Whatever will aid in the unfolding of their spiritual nature, whatever will promote increasing likeness to God, shall be most appreciated. Temporary good will sink into its proper place; will be appraised at its proper value. The outlook upon human destiny will be taken from a loftier elevation. Present possessions and enjoyments will be deemed, not final, but stepping-stones to higher things. And, from her central throne, Religion will radiate a benign influence over every interest men have in life. What the sun is to the solar system, or what the axle is to the wheel, or what the heart is to the human body, true religion will be among the concernments of our race.
II. RELIGION PROVIDES A GRADUATED SCALE OF EXCELLENCE. It produces states of purity, circle within circle. Central amongst the civilized nations lay the Hebrew people - a "holy nation - a peculiar people." Among the Hebrew tribes was one tribe set apart and hallowed for God. Within this tribe was selected a consecrated family, and within this family a consecrated man. So also within Jerusalem, the holy city, there was a central portion holier still; within this enclosure a court sacred to the priests, and within this holy place the holy of holies. Thus God leads us step by step from a lower to a loftier life, from one stage of holiness unto another. We aspire and make endeavor after a nobler style of life; and lo! when we have attained it (as in ascending the Alpine mountains) we discover heights of excellence still above us, more attractive yet. Kindlier methods than those God uses on our behalf it is impossible to employ, and his benevolent ambition is to raise us to his own level of life and joy.
III. RELIGION PROMOTES UNITY AMID DIVERSITY. "The sanctuary shall be in the midst of it." In other words, the several tribes of Israel were allotted their territory (in Ezekiel's ideal sketch) in relation to the holy place. Their vital connection with the sanctuary determined their connection with each other. The distinction between the tribes was not obliterated; it served some useful purpose; but this common relation to the sanctuary bound them each to each. If they had any separate interests as tribes, they had larger and more precious interests as a nation. The more they valued the sanctuary the stronger was the attachment to each other. The nearer they got to God the less distance there was between each other. Among the citizens in Christ's kingdom diversities in minor things will continue. Diversity adds to beauty and to usefulness. Diversity of function and office, diversity in opinion and in taste, is lawful; yet amid all lawful diversity there runs a bond - a vital tie - of true unity. The members of the body are various, yet the body is one. In all God's works the same principle prevails.
IV. RELIGION BRINGS GOD EQUALLY NEAR TO ALL. As a fact in Jewish history, the tribe of Dan, being furthest removed from God's sanctuary, became more worldly, idolatrous, and godless than the other tribes. In the new settlement of things, in Ezekiel's vision, Dan shall have equal privilege with the rest. Type and parable wilt always lack some elements, which inhere in the substance. In the new kingdom God shall be within easy reach of all. Spiritual monopolies shall cease. Exclusive privilege has vanished. The devout heart in every tribe of men, or in any class of society, may find God always near. Distance from God is no longer geographical; it is moral. The slave and the pauper may have access to the great presence-chamber; the monarch, Jew or Gentile, may be barred out by their own unbelief. "With that man will I dwell, who is of an humble and a contrite heart."
V. RELIGION HAS AMPLE REWARD FOR FAITHFUL SERVICE. The sons of Zadok had remained faithful in a time of general apostasy. Divine approval may not have been openly or profusely expressed at the time. Yet generous reward was in store. Permanent honor and permanent advantage appear as the prolific fruit. They shall dwell nearer to God than others do. The entire nation shall serve them. Their deed shall reflect honor upon their father's name. The glory of their deed shall be perpetual, shall be world-wide. Their noble deed shall be the seed-corn for other deeds, and these again shall bear fruit in other lands. "The memory of the righteous is blessed."
VI. RELIGION IS SUPREMELY VALUABLE. Concerning this consecrated land it was decreed, "They shall not sell of it, neither exchange, nor alienate the firstfruits of the land." Nothing can compensate for the loss of religion. It is solid consolation that true piety is inalienable. No power on earth or in hell can rob us of our faith, or of our purity, or cf our hope. It has the guarantee of almighty protection. You can no more alienate religion from a saint than you can alienate warmth from a sunbeam or saltness from the sea. All that a man hath will he give for his life; but the life of his spirit he accounts a thousandfold more precious yet. God's friendship is treasure which no arithmetic can express. All comparisons fail. - D.
Parallel VersesKJV: And by the border of Judah, from the east side unto the west side, shall be the offering which ye shall offer of five and twenty thousand reeds in breadth, and in length as one of the other parts, from the east side unto the west side: and the sanctuary shall be in the midst of it.
WEB: By the border of Judah, from the east side to the west side, shall be the offering which you shall offer, twenty-five thousand [reeds] in breadth, and in length as one of the portions, from the east side to the west side: and the sanctuary shall be in its midst.