Day 198 – Thru the Bible
Today we continue in Ezekiel.
Ezekiel 40 – To most modern readers, these last nine chapters of Ezekiel (chapters 40-48) are exasperating. Filled with exquisite detail about an ideal, rebuilt temple, they seem almost impenetrable to us. To the Israelites, however, this description would have been exhilarating. Exiled from their land, and with their temple destroyed, they had little hope that they would ever return home. Yet in these chapters, God gives them a tour of a place they loved with all their hearts, promising that He would bring them back home to a restored temple. Despite the people’s sin, despite their rebellion, despite God’s righteous wrath having been executed against them, He still wants to dwell among them, and He will make that happen.
The “tour” may be roughly divided into three parts. Chapters 40–42 are a tour of the temple grounds. Chapters 43–46 showcase the work of the priests in the temple, and then 47–48 provide a fly-over tour of the entire Promised Land. All this would have been deeply comforting to the Israelites, because it meant that God had not abandoned them forever. He would bring them back to their land and, more importantly, into His presence. The temple represented God’s presence, and therefore to regain the temple was to regain restored communion with God.At the climax of history, the true temple would come, and true communion with God would be restored (John 1:14). For God would come not in a temple of wood and stone but in a temple of flesh and blood (John 2:19–22). Jesus said that “everything written about Me in . . . the Prophets . . . must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44). Ezekiel 40–48 is not exempt from that.
How does this remind you that God will never abandon you either?
Ezekiel 41 – The description of the idealized temple here as including carved palm trees and cherubim draws the careful reader’s mind back to the garden of Eden, where God first dwelt with mankind in unbroken harmony, and which also included lush trees and cherubim. We see Eden microcosmically regained in the first temple, built by Solomon (1 Kings 6:18, 29, 32, 35; 7:18–19). And Eden is truly and finally regained in the new earth, which likewise is filled with flourishing trees, cherubim, and the “templing” presence of God (Revelation 21:22–22:2).
While still enjoying today, how does this picture of our future comfort you?
Ezekiel 42 – The wall of this idealized temple is there “to make a separation between the holy and the common.” Such a distinction is tacitly sensible to us, for we know that God is other than us—He is pure; we are not. Yet in Jesus this distinction was overcome. Jesus, the true and final temple, brought together the holy and the common, the clean and the unclean. When Jesus walked the earth and touched an unclean person, the unclean one became clean; Jesus did not become unclean (e.g., Mark 1:41–42).
But the greatest demonstration of the eradication of distinction between the holy and the common among God’s people occurred when the veil between the Most Holy Place and the outer chamber of the temple was torn at the crucifixion of Jesus. At that moment, Scripture made it forever plain that wretched sinners were given access to a holy God by Jesus’ cleansing blood (Romans 5:2; Ephesians 3:12).
How do you come boldly before the throne of God’s grace?
Ezekiel 43 – In chapter 10, God’s presence had slowly and sadly left the temple and the city of Jerusalem. That reality was worse even than destruction; it meant that God had abandoned them. The temple was God’s presence among His people. Here, though, grace abounds as God returns to the temple!But how could He, given the people’s intractable waywardness? The answer was that God chose to condescend—to climb down from heaven to His people—to clean them up, rather than waiting for His people to climb up to heaven by cleaning themselves up. In Jesus, this is precisely what God did (John 1:51; Hebrews 2:14).
Joy further pervades this part of the temple tour, where Ezekiel is shown the work of the priests. God is now accepting the sacrifices of His people; their sin is atoned for. Verse 27 puts the point beautifully: “When they have completed these days, then from the eighth day onward the priests shall offer on the altar your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, and I will accept you, declares the Lord God.”
How are we to understand the fulfillment of this prophecy? Is it pointing to a future time when the temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem and animal sacrifices will be resumed? Probably not. For one thing, these chapters are full of hints that we should not expect this temple or this division of the land actually to take place. Perhaps the most obvious hint is that the division of the land in chapters 47–48 makes no real geographical sense. The various allotments cut across the land in straight lines, like pizza slices, with no obvious awareness of any geographical markers. The point therefore does not seem to be an actual geographical allotment of the land to the tribes, but rather an idealized presentation of the beauty of the everlasting covenant that God will establish—a presentation made in terms that the ancient Israelites would understand but still expressed in ways too wonderful for them fully to comprehend.
More importantly, in order to read this chapter as promising a rebuilt temple and reconstituted sacrifices, one has to overlook the rest of the Bible’s story line. Hebrews, for example, has no concept at all of animal sacrifices being valuable or necessary ever again. For Jesus has provided the final sacrifice “once for all” (Hebrews 7:27; 9:12, 26; 10:10). Moreover, John 2:13–22 makes it clear that God’s presence is no longer to be found in the temple, but in Jesus Himself. And Revelation 21:22 says that in the beautiful new Jerusalem, there is no temple. Sinners meet God now not in a building of any kind, but in a person—in Jesus. He is present within us (Galatians 2:20), and we are the temple of His Holy Spirit wherever we are (1 Corinthians 6:19).By His priestly sacrifice and intercession, Jesus is the ultimate reason God can say in Ezekiel 43:27, “I will accept you.”
How does this truth that God’s has accepted you, lead you to worship Jesus?
Ezekiel 44 – In these verses, the gate of the temple is closed forever. Never again will God depart from His people. The vision of Ezekiel 40–48 continues to anticipate a time when God will dwell in the midst of His people, “templing” among them. Eden must be restored. This happens through the Holy Spirit, who dwells in us so that, united to Jesus, we ourselves become the final temple (Ephesians 2:19–22).
How does this truth give you full assurance of your future with God?
What other thoughts or questions does today’s reading bring up?
Some of these notes are from the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible study notes. We highly recommend this study Bible.
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