Sunday, 30 November 2014

(335) December 1: Ezekiel 43 & 2 Peter 2

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

To discover:­
As you read note why God says he has revealed all these details to Ezekiel.

To ponder:
Ezekiel is now brought to the gate facing east, from where he sees God’s glory coming. We should note east is the place of Eden, of the dawn and so of hope, but also where Babylon is situated, suggesting he may be returning from being amongst the exiles. This is a reversal of the direction in which he left (11v19, 23) and enables him to go straight ahead into the temple. The awesomeness of his presence is stressed in the roar of his voice – which is to be obeyed, and the brilliance of his glory – so brilliant that lights the land as it goes, perhaps implying how it will one day transform it. We’re reminded this is a vision, and the sight of God’s glory is the same as that in chapter 1 (43v1-4). Having seen God enter the east facing gate of the temple, the Spirit takes Ezekiel to the inner court where he sees the temple filled with God’s glory – confirming he is now in residence, as in the days of Solomon (43v5, 1 Kgs 8v10-11). It suggests the potential of a new golden era. 
            We should note here the delight this vision would have brought to the exiles. Solomon’s temple had been defiled and then destroyed, and God had abandoned Jersusalem. Yet in this vision, the people are reassured that God will return to the city and worship will begin again in a temple there, patterned in some way on this vision.
            Ezekiel then hears someone speaking from within the temple. The note that the man is beside him suggests it is not him and he is not divine. Rather, it is God himself, who declares the temple is the place of his throne and feet – implying dominion. He states he will live amongst the Israelites forever, and that they and their kings will never again defile his name with their idolatry. 43v8 implies that the kings either lived in some way within the previous temple complex or were buried there. Either way, it showed no recognition of the need for the common to be separated from the holy (as 42v20), and so displayed an irreverence and lack of concern for the LORD that provoked him to destroy them in anger. At this point God declares that Israel should put away their idols, again, promises that he will then live with them forever. He then tells Ezekiel to write down and describe what he has seem for the people, detailing the temple, and especially its exits, entrances, regulations and laws. He states he wants Ezekiel to do this for two reasons: First, to make the people ashamed of their sins. Second, so that they will be faithful to its design and regulations (43v9-11).
            This is all particularly instructive in how we understand the whole vision. 37v15-28 predicted Israel as a cleansed nation united under a Davidic king, that would no longer commit idolatry, and that would live forever in the land with God’s “dwelling-place” with them (37v27). In the light of this, the original recipients of Ezekiel’s temple vision must have understood it to be the “dwelling-place” that would be central to this future kingdom. We should therefore view it as a portrayal, using concepts that were understandable to them, of the ideal temple and worship that would be central to that coming order, just as God’s presence and right worship at the temple had always been necessary for Israel to flourish as a nation. In particular, the vision is intended to remind the people just how holy God is, and just how serious their idolatry was in previously failing to respect that holiness through disregarding the set-apartedness of the temple and the regulations that protected that (see chapter 8). This is confirmed by God’s statement that the key law or instruction about the temple is that the area around it is to be most holy (43v12). In other words, no-one who is not qualified and fit to do so, is to come close.
            To be “faithful” to the temple’s design and regulations then, may have meant that the returning Israelites should have rebuilt the Jerusalem temple to Ezekiel’s blueprint as they prepared for God to establish his everlasting kingdom. In which case, their failure to was yet another sign of their sin, and so of the fact that that kingdom was some time off. However, being “faithful” to what Ezekiel saw could equally mean that just as their (and our) perception of God should be faithful to Ezekiel’s vision in chapter 1, without viewing that vision literally, so their (and our) worship should be faithful to this vision in a similar way. This enables it to apply at numerous levels depending on one’s place in salvation history as God progressively fulfils his promise of chapter 37. For the Israelites in Ezekiel’s day, it speaks of how they cannot expect God’s presence to remain with them and fulfil that promise, unless they conduct the worship of any future temple in purity, just as had been outlined in the Mosaic law. For us, it speaks of how, when Israel failed to do exactly that, God enabled his presence to be permanently present and ensured true worship in and through Christ. We are therefore reminded that we cannot serve God in the church or draw close to him in heaven, unless we are fully cleansed and set-apart as a holy priesthood through Christ’s blood (Heb 9v11-10v25).
            In 43v13-27 God describes the temple’s altar to Ezekiel, together with the regulations for offerings. He even commands him to give a bull as a sin offering for the priests and purify the altar over seven days, getting the priests make offerings too. God’s declaration “then I will accept you” (43v27) implies the worship of the temple is then able to commence so that he can accept the people despite their sin. This section supports the less literal view of the temple. 1v1-2 suggest Ezekiel may have been born around 622BC (1v1-2), whereas the second temple in Jerusalem was completed and dedicated in 516BC with no mention of Ezekiel (Ezra 6v13-22). It seems that he is therefore being commanded to reinstitute Israel’s temple worship in his vision, as if he were there. This may be a sort of symbolic act that is intended to foretell the coming reality rather like when he was commanded to act out the siege of Jerusalem (see chapter 4).

Praying it home:                                                    
Praise God for fully cleansing us through Christ so that we can draw near to him. Pray you would offer yourself in service reverently, recognizing his holiness.
Thinking further:
None today.

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