Friday, 28 November 2014

(333) November 29: Ezekiel 40 & 1 Peter 5

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

To discover:­
As you read note how God’s holiness and inapproachability is stressed.

To ponder:
As usual a date is given (40v1). It could be significant. The 25 years is half the cycle to the Jubilee year, signifying renewal. The date and month recalls the Exodus (Ex 12v12), and the 14 (2x7) years may look to two complete periods until the setting up of the temple to be described. In a vision Ezekiel is taken to Jerusalem, which he views from a mountain. His note that the buildings looked like a city reminds us this is a vision, and that there is something different from the actual Jerusalem. We should not therefore presume what we read are instructions for a literal temple that must be built. Most likely, God is using the idea of the temple to portray truth about him coming to dwell with his people as he once did in the temple. This is rather like his using a detailed image of a new city of Jerusalem (with dimensions) in Revelation, to portray truth about the bride of Christ which is the people of God (Rev 21v1-21).
            Ezekiel first sees a man (as chapter 8) whose bronze-like appearance resonates with the creatures and God in chapter 1 (1v7, 27). He was standing at the entrance to the city with tools needed for measurement. He tells Ezekiel to listen and pay attention, as that is why he is there – and that he is to tell Israel everything (40v1-4).
            Ezekiel then sees a wall enclosing the whole temple complex like a wall around a city. The man measures it as ten feet high and ten foot thick – perhaps suggesting it is impenetrable. He then goes to the gate facing east – the direction of sunrise and so salvation – measuring the threshold at 10 feet deep. This threshold leads into the gateway itself, which consists of a passage leading into the outer court (40v1-16, see diagram here). It has three square recesses on either side, which were probably for guards, implying the temple is secure and only those who should enter could enter. At the end of the passage was a roomy sort of porch, which led into the outer court. All in all, the gateway was 25 cubits (43 feet) wide and 50 (86 feet) long. This symmetry, which will find throughout the account, probably signifies the exact perfection of God’s plan for his people, and the utter holiness and order that accompanies his presence. The palm tree decoration implies the temple is like a mini-Eden and a picture of the new creation to come.
            The man led Ezekiel into the outer court, which had a pavement around its perimeter that was as wide as the gateways, stretching between them. (A diagram of the whole temple can be seen here). Thirty rooms were built into the wall around the outer court, opening onto this pavement. They were probably for worshippers or Levites who served in the temple. We’re told that there were identical gates on the north and south sides of the outer court too, all three gates having 7 steps leading up to them, the number of completeness and perfection. Across the outer court from each gate was a corresponding gate to the inner court. The distance across the outer court to the inner court was a hundred cubits (172 feet), the same distance as the length of the outer and inner gates combined. The inner gates were identical to the outer gates, except that they were a mirror image of them, with the porch being the first part you enter from the outer court. They also had 8 steps leading up to them, rather than 7 (40v17-36). The sense in all this detail is that you would ascend two stories, through two sets of guards, and with increasing difficulty, to where God was especially present. This stresses the increased degrees of holiness in coming closer to God, and so his inapproachability too.
            Because of this, a room was at the porch entrance of each inner gateway where burnt offerings were washed (40v37-43). There is then a description of twelve tables that seem to be in the porch of each gateway too, eight on which offerings were slaughtered, and four on which the implements used were kept. It may be some were also hung on the hooks on the wall. In seeing this portrayal of the temple as figurative of God’s future presence with his people that is ultimately fulfilled in Christ, we should note that this will involve no animal sacrifice as this has been superseded by Christ’s own sacrifice. Rather, we should understand this description as using concepts that would have been familiar to the Israelites, to make the point that sufficient means of atonement would be instituted to ensure God’s presence could remain with his people. The “twelve” tables in particular stress that what is instituted is sufficient for all Israel (the twelve tribes). We now understand that all this was achieved in the cross.
            Moving through the inner gate we come to the inner court, seeing two rooms adjacent to the north and south inner gates respectively (40v44-47). The former was for priests overseeing the general running of the temple that is in the centre of the complex, and perhaps guarding it too. The latter was for priests in charge of and perhaps guarding the altar. The note that these are only those qualified to draw that close to minister before God again stresses his holy purity. The inner court was measured as a hundred cubits square, corresponding with previous measurements. And it is noted that the altar was in front of the temple, as sacrifice was the only means one could approach the LORD.
Praying it home:                                                    
Praise God for achieving a way for us to approach him through Christ. Pray that you would better appreciate his holiness, and how necessary the cross was.
Thinking further:
None today.

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