Saturday, 29 November 2014

(334) November 30: Ezekiel 41-42 & 2 Peter 1

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­
As you read note consider what the recording of the temple’s design is intended to portray.

To ponder:
From 40v49 onwards we are taken to the temple itself in the middle of the temple complex. The measurements are significant numbers – multiples of 10 (symbolising many), multiples of 7 (symbolising perfection or completeness), 12 (symbolising Israel) and 3 (another number of completeness). The temple essential consists of the outer and inner sanctuaries. Taking Ezekiel with him, the man first measures the portico (porch), then the outer sanctuary, followed by the inner one – the most holy place, which was half the size of the outer sanctuary. The decreasing size of entrances towards the inner sanctuary stresses its holiness and exclusivity. We should only the man enters it, as it is forbidden for any human but the High Priest. The man must therefore be either a representation of God himself or an angel. Next he measured the temple wall and the thirty side rooms on each of three levels, along the north, south and west sides. These are probably store rooms for equipment, tithes and offerings. The rooms on each successive level get wider. And they could be accessed from the area around the temple, by staircases on the north and south sides. (You can see a plan of the temple here). Around the temple was a raised paved area, and then an open area stretching to the priests rooms to the north and south. To the west, there was a large building, perhaps also for storage. In terms of overall measurements, the length of the temple, of the yard and building to its west, and the breadth of that building and the inner court were all 100 cubits. Such detail seems strange to us, but it all symbolised the perfection of the temple itself. And the desire to describe and meditate on it should be likened to our desire to eagerly show pictures of a tour we had around Buckingham Palace. It should evoke wonder that God himself would actually return and live amongst his people. (All the above explains 40v48-49v14). (Compare its size with the temple of Solomon and the temple built later by Herod here).
           It seems the inner walls, porches and thresholds of the temple were covered with wood, much of which was covered with carved cherubim and palm trees – again alluding to Eden and stressing the presence of God (see Gen 3v24). The cherubim only had two (rather than four, chapter 1) faces, perhaps because of the demands of two dimensional art. They were of a man and a lion, the most noble of God’s creatures. In the outer sanctuary, in front of the doors leading into the most holy place, was a wooden altar-like table. This was called “the table that is before the LORD,” but was the table of presence from the original temple, on which twelve bread cakes were put ever Sabbath as a reminder that God’s was the people’s provider. Both sanctuaries had double doors, but only those of the outer sanctuary were carved with cherubim and palm trees (49v15-26).
            42v1-14 describes the priests’ rooms on the north and south of the inner court, opening onto the temple courtyard, facing north and south respectively. They are identical, being perfect rectangles (100x50 cubits) within a perfect square, again stressing symmetry. Each side included two sets of buildings. One consisting of changing rooms and rooms for eating and storing offerings. The other was a three story block. The dimensions are similar to those used elsewhere. And the focus stresses how sacred these places are because of their purpose and vicinity to the temple itself. This is supported by the fact that the priests must leave their garments before they go from the inner to outer court, because they are holy in having been so close to God. The sense is that they would otherwise spread holiness to the people, which could prove problematic if the people were not consecrated to God, as his wrath might then break out at their sin - as when Uzzah was struck down for coming into contact with the holy ark (see 2 Sam 6v7).
            Finally, the man takes Ezekiel outside via the east gate and measures the whole complex (42v15-19). It is surrounded by a wall in a perfect square of 500 cubit (850 feet) sides. 42v20 highlights the purpose of the wall. It is to separate the holy from the common. In other words, not only does this temple symbolise God’s presence with his people, but true and untainted worship being offered him, in which his regulations are kept, he is revered by bringing nothing unseemly close to him, and in which his dwelling place is not defiled by sin (contrast 22v26). We might consider the beauty of its design speaking of the final beauty of the church as the temple of the Holy Spirit, or the new creation that God’s glory will one day fill. Both are holy and set-apart, and in both, worship that is true, obedient, reverent and undefiled is to be offered.
Praying it home:                                                    
Praise God for his beauty and majesty pictured in some way by the architectural beauty and majesty of this temple-palace. Pray that you would offer worship with your lips and life that is fitting to him.
Thinking further:
None today.

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