Ezekiel 43 (CEV)
The Lord’s Glory Returns to the Temple
The man took me back to the east gate of the temple,
This was where Ezekiel’s visionary tour of the temple began (Ezekiel 40:6). Also, many years before, in a vision Ezekiel saw the glory of God depart from the temple, and it left through the east gate (Ezekiel 11:23).
2 where I saw the brightness of the glory of Israel’s God coming from the east.
Ezekiel’s temple was nothing more than a building. With the glory of God, it was a sacred place, a habitation for God and the radiance of His presence.
It is hard to define the glory of God; we could call it the radiant outshining of His character and presence. The Bible says that God’s glory radiates throughout all His creation (Psalm 19:1-4). Yet there is also the concept of the visible, tangible glory of God – the shekinah – and this is scattered about the Old Testament. In many cases it is described as a cloud.
- · This is the cloud that stood by Israel in the wilderness (Exodus 13:21-22).
- · This is the cloud of glory that God spoke to Israel from (Exodus 16:10).
- · This is the cloud from which God met with Moses and others (Exodus 19:9, 24:15-18, Numbers 11:25, 12:5, 16:42).
- · This is the cloud that stood by the door of the Tabernacle (Exodus 33:9-10).
- · This is the cloud from which God appeared to the High Priest in the Holy Place inside the veil (Leviticus 16:2).
- · This is the cloud of Ezekiel’s vision, filling the temple of God with the brightness of His glory (Ezekiel 10:4).
- · This is the cloud of glory that overshadowed Mary when she conceived Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35).
- · This is the cloud present at the transfiguration of Jesus (Luke 9:34-35).
- · This is the cloud of glory that received Jesus into heaven at His ascension (Acts 1:9).
- · This is the cloud that will display the glory of Jesus Christ when He returns in triumph to this earth (Luke 21:27, Revelation 1:7).
The sound I heard was as loud as ocean waves, and everything around was shining with the dazzling brightness of his glory. 3 This vision was like the one I had seen when God came to destroy Jerusalem and like the one I had seen near the Chebar River.
I immediately bowed with my face to the ground,
Though Ezekiel had seen this vision of the glory of God twice before (in Ezekiel 1 and Ezekiel 10-11), it was in no way a familiar or comfortable sight. In holy reverence to God, he fell on his face (ESV). The sense is that Ezekiel didn’t choose to do this; it was a natural response.
“In reverence to his majesty, in admiration of his mercy, and in the sense of mine own unworthiness. The nearer any one cometh to God, the lower he falleth in his own eyes.”
–John Trapp (English Anglican Bible commentator, 1601-1669)
4 and the Lord’s glory came through the east gate and into the temple. 5 The Lord’s Spirit lifted me to my feet and carried me to the inner courtyard, where I saw that the Lord’s glory had filled the temple.
“When Moses dedicated the tabernacle (Exodus 40) and Solomon the temple (2 Chronicles 5:11-14), the glory of God moved in, signifying that the Lord had accepted their worship and approved of their work.”
–Warren W. Wiersbe (American pastor, Bible teacher, and writer, born 1929)
“Now that the temple had been described, it was necessary to signify that the building was accepted by God.”
–Charles L. Feinberg (American Biblical scholar, raised an Orthodox Jew, converted to Christianity at age 20, 1909-1995)
6 The man was standing beside me, and I heard the Lord say from inside the temple:
7 Ezekiel, son of man, this temple is my throne on earth. I will live here among the people of Israel forever.
Yahweh proclaimed that He had come back to the temple to reign. It was His throne, where He would stand and where He would abide.
“The word forever made this declaration more far-reaching than anything which was spoken concerning the Tabernacle of Moses or the Temple of Solomon.”
–Chuck Smith (American pastor, 1927-2013)
They and their kings will never again disgrace me by worshiping idols at local shrines or by setting up memorials to their dead kings. 8 Israel’s kings built their palaces so close to my holy temple that only a wall separated them from me. Then these kings disgraced me with their evil ways, and in my fierce anger I destroyed them. 9 But if the people and their kings stop worshiping other gods and tear down those memorials, I will live among them forever.
“This passage reminds us that people who frequent ‘holy places’ ought to be ‘holy people.’ The Jewish remnant that returned to their land to rebuild the temple would need to take this message to heart, and we need to take it to heart today.”
–Warren W. Wiersbe
When Israel thought of themselves living near or beside God, they did not honor and obey Him fully. God’s true desire was to dwell in their midst forever, and to do so as part of a new covenant transformation of Israel.
10 The people of Israel must suffer shame for sinning against me, so tell them about my holy temple. Let them think about it, 11 then if they are truly sorry, describe for them the design and shape of the temple, the gates, the measurements, and how the buildings are arranged. Explain the regulations about worshiping there, then write down these things, so they can study and obey them.
The greater message for Ezekiel and the exile community was, God isn’t finished with you yet. He will gather, rebuild, restore, and bring His glory. Yet this message wasn’t communicated with fairy tales and wild stories, but with the prophetic declaration of real things that would surely happen.
12 The temple area on my holy mountain must be kept sacred! This is the most important law about the temple.
After the description of God’s glory and the promise of His abiding presence, Ezekiel went back to describing the place of sacrifice. Like every true altar of Yahweh, this altar points to the cross, and the finished work of Jesus Messiah upon the cross.
13 According to the official standards, the altar in the temple had the following measurements: Around the bottom of the altar was a gutter twenty inches wide and twenty inches deep, with a ten inch ledge on the outer rim. 14-17 The altar rested on a base and had three sections, each one of them square. The bottom section was twenty-seven feet on each side and three feet high. The middle section was twenty-four feet on each side and seven feet high, and it had a ten inch rim around its outer edge. The top section, which was twenty feet on each side and seven feet high, was the place where sacrifices were burned, and the four corners of the top section looked like the horns of a bull. The steps leading up to the altar were on the east side.
The Dedication of the Altar
18 The Lord God said:
Ezekiel, son of man, after the altar is built, it must be dedicated by offering sacrifices on it and by splattering it with blood. Here is what you must do:
These may be fairly regarded as memorials pointing back to the work of Jesus. Animal sacrifices were never actually effective for the cleansing of sin, only as representations and shadows of the future reality fulfilled by Jesus the Messiah in His crucifixion. Even so, the literal presence of these sacrifices does not mean that they should or could be regarded as effective for the cleansing of sin. Much as the bread and the cup of the Lord’s Table is a powerful spiritual representation and memorial of Jesus’ work on the cross, these sacrifices can be regarded in a similar way.
19 The priests of the Levi tribe from the family of Zadok the priest are the only ones who may serve in my temple—this is my law. So give them a young bull to slaughter as a sacrifice for sin. 20 Take some of the animal’s blood and smear it on the four corners of the altar, some on the corners of the middle section, and some more on the rim around its edge. That will purify the altar and make it fit for offering sacrifices to me. 21 Then take the body of the bull outside the temple area and burn it at the special place.
22 The next day, a goat that has nothing wrong with it must be offered as a sacrifice for sin. Purify the altar with its blood, just as you did with the blood of the bull. 23 Then choose a young bull and a young ram that have nothing wrong with them, 24 and bring them to my temple. The priests will sprinkle salt on them and offer them as sacrifices to please me.
25 Each day for the next seven days, you must offer a goat and a bull and a ram as sacrifices for sin. These animals must have nothing wrong with them. 26 The priests will purify the altar during those days, so that it will be acceptable to me and ready to use. 27 From then on, the priests will use this altar to offer sacrifices to please me and sacrifices to ask my blessing.
These sacrifices have traditionally been called “peace offerings” or “offerings of well-being.” The CEV sometimes calls them “sacrifices to ask the Lord’s blessing.”
“Through the Levitical offerings the sacrifices of Israel and they themselves as well were accepted by the Lord. Thus Ezekiel is not presenting a new administrative principle with God, for acceptance with God is on the basis of sacrifice.”
–Charles L. Feinberg
Then I will be pleased with the people of Israel. I, the Lord God, have spoken.
As we read these chapters about plans for a temple, a place to worship the Most High God, I want us to hear some of the hymns that have been sung for many generations in many different countries and denominations. These are some of a Christian’s most precious treasures! HERE is “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name.” The hymn is often called the “National Anthem of Christendom.” The lyrics, written by Edward Perronet while he served as a missionary in India, first appeared in the November 1779 issue of the Gospel Magazine, which was edited by the author of “Rock of Ages,” Augustus Toplady.
Performed at “Join To Sing The Great Salvation,” a worship service serving as the graduate conducting recital of Michael Devine for the Luther Seminary/St. Olaf College Master of Sacred Music program. May 7, 2012 — Boe Memorial Chapel, St. Olaf College, Northfield, MN