Twenty years into his ministry, Ezekiel was taken by the Hand of the Lord and shown visions of a new temple on a high mountain. There are many measurements given and designs laid out which, honestly, I cannot make heads or tails of as a modern reader, however much of the same design laid out in both the tabernacle and first temple is recalled. There are carvings of plants and animals, paneling, gates, and more, along with a new altar and new specifications for sacrifice.
Ezekiel then looks to the east and sees the glory of the God of Israel descend upon the temple and fill the whole place, the reverse of which he saw twenty years ago along the Chebar canal. The Lord then declares that He will dwell in the midst of His people forever if they put away their evil deeds and are ashamed for their iniquity. He then charges Ezekiel to make known the plan of the temple and the Lord’s decrees, among which were instructions to sacrifice specific animals at specific times so that the altar may be consecrated.
The last chapter of this section is rather cryptic – the eastern gate from which the glory of the Lord came, was shut, and Ezekiel was told that “for the Lord, the God of Israel, has entered by it. Therefore it shall remain shut. Only the prince may sit in it to eat bread before the Lord. He shall enter by the way of the vestibule of the gate, and shall go out by the same way.” From here, the Lord goes on to charge the Levites, the priests of Israel, with committing abominations and abusing their rights and duties. They allowed foreigners in to the holy places and did shameful things. By doing so, they lost their right to minister in the temple and are demoted from their office. Only the sons of Zadok, those who had stayed faithful to the Lord, were able to minister as priests.
Here we find an incredible vision for both the near future of Israel and that which would be long in coming. There is a familiarity to the temple described, and here we find the promise of the temple being rebuilt which we see later in scripture. Ezekiel is to relay these instructions and templates over to the people of Israel that they may faithfully reconstruct what once was lost, indicating that this vision is to exist as a contemporary of the people in exile. What mercy God has for His people! Surely His anger may tarry for the night, but He brings joy in the morning. There is hope here, too, that extends past the immediate future of when this revelation occurred.
We see in the 44th chapter talk of a gate being shut; the eastern gate, the direction from which the Glory of the Lord appeared. This is called the Golden Gate nowadays and overlooks the mount of olives. It is this gate alone that shall remain shut, and only the Prince shall be able to open it. This is striking imagery and a profound Messianic prophecy which tells us three things:
The principal issue in dealing with sin is pride, which says that sin isn’t within me, and if it is then it isn’t that big a deal, and if it is then I don’t need to worry to much, and if I do then I don’t need to rush about fixing it. Humility is the answer in each case here, and it is something that God called His people to repeatedly, not just in Ezekiel. He is constantly telling Israel then and us today that if we only humble ourselves and pray and seek His face, and turn from our wicked ways, then He is faithful to hear from heaven, forgive us all our sins, and heal us (2 Chronicles 7:14).
Our Old Testament is not just history of what happened then but an example and lesson for us today. The Word of God is not bound in ancient history but is a living Word that goes to the depths of our hearts even as you read these words. Humility acknowledges our sins and our need for a saviour who is right on the other side of the door of your heart, asking to come in. So today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart! Even the most seasoned saint needs to live in a state of confident humility, neither in pride nor despondency. Let us seek the Lord and learn to live on our knees before the throne of God in worship, humility, and adoration, that He may make in us an example of His glory.
Father God, we thank you for your constant patience with us and that your mercy is new every morning. Please awaken in us today a sense of your overwhelming love and show us our need of you each day. Give us the courage to be obedient to your call. We ask that you work your Holy Spirit within us to convict us of sin that we may confess it to you, repent, and walk with you instead of our own desires. Thank you for saving us while we were still sinners and help us to live in a manner worthy of your calling. Amen.
Song: Lord I Need You - Matt Maher
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.