I Have a Goodly Heritage

This week I finished reading through the book of Ezekiel.  These verses in chapter 46 stood out to me:

Thus says the Lord God: If the prince makes a gift to any of his sons out of his inheritance, it shall belong to his sons, it is their property by inheritance.  But if he makes a gift out of his inheritance to one of his servants, it shall be his to the year of liberty; then it shall revert to the prince; only his sons may keep a gift from his inheritance.  The prince shall not take any of the inheritance of the people, thrusting them out of their property; he shall give his sons their inheritance out of his own property, so that none of my people shall be dispossessed of his property.”

Just another “boring” Old Testament law about land inheritance?  Think again!  Ezekiel makes a point of emphasizing that even if a prince gives his land to a servant, it eventually reverts to his children no matter what.  Now what does the New Testament have to say about servants versus children?
 
The heir, as long as he is a child, is no better than a slave, though he is the owner of all the estate; but he is under guardians and trustees until the date set by the father. So with us; when we were children, we were slaves to the elemental spirits of the universe. But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.  And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”  So through God you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then an heir. – Galatians 4
One of the critical parts of the Gospel message is the news that we are adopted as God’s children, or specifically sons in biblical language, emphasizing the fact that we are to receive an inheritance.  And so although there is some servant or slavery language in the New Testament (mostly referring to ordained ministers but occasionally to all Christians), the primary image of the relationship with God under the New Covenant of Christ is one of sonship.
Bringing this back to Ezekiel, the inheritance of land belonging only to the prince’s sons is a marvelous clarification of the more ancient inheritance laws found in the earlier books of the Old Testament, showing us that God’s gifts are only for his people and cannot be taken away from them in the long run.  The New Testament shows us that God has made provision for us non-Jews to enter into His inheritance also, by faith, such that there need not be any distinction between Jew and Gentile, slave or free, male or female – all who are united with Christ by faith are co-heirs with him (cf Galatians 3 & 4).  And as the middle of Romans 11 explains, God is perfectly capable of cutting out the unfaithful and grafting in the faithful, so that in the end his one vine, Jesus, and Israel, will be all his people and no pretenders.
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The land allotment according to Ezekiel’s vision; image from strictlygenteel.co.uk

 

By way of a side note, this serves as a correction to the erroneous assumptions made by a number of Christians today about the Holy Land.  To assert that it belongs the Jewish nation, people-group, or religion, is to continue to read Ezekiel (and the previous land inheritance passages of the Old Testament) as if the New Testament didn’t exist.  In other words, Christians have begun reading the Old Testament as if they were Jews, not Christians.  This is a categorical error.  Instead, when we read of the inheritance of land, we should not get caught up with trying to identify and locate ancient tribes (such arguments over genealogies are fruitless, Paul reminds us) but look to the bigger picture: the land allotment described in Ezekiel’s vision is bigger than it was in the Torah, just as the Temple in his vision was also a lot bigger, just as the New Jerusalem in John’s Revelation was impossibly huge.  Put more simply, as Jesus said, “the meek shall inherit the earth.”

Thus our response to reading Ezekiel 46’s inheritance laws should be with the psalmist:

Preserve me, O God, for in thee I take refuge.
I say to the Lord, “Thou art my Lord;
    I have no good apart from thee.”

As for the saints in the land, they are the noble,
    in whom is all my delight.

Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows;
    their libations of blood I will not pour out
    or take their names upon my lips.

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
    thou holdest my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    yea, I have a goodly heritage.

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About Fr. Brench

I'm an Anglican Priest and a sci-fi geek. Therefore, I write about spiritual formation, theology, biblical studies, and Doctor Who. But I keep those blogs separate so I don't confuse too many people!
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