Thursday, October 18, 2012

Ezekiel 40 - A Refocus on God

LINK: Ezekiel 40


We are on the home stretch of Ezekiel! The last nine chapters of this book explain the restoration of the temple and its ministry, boundaries of the tribes in the land, and the return of God's glory.

BACKGROUND

God's people had defiled the temple because of their evil practices, and the glory of the Lord had departed. Israel needed to return to worship of the one true God. God gave Ezekiel all the details of this temple in order to focus the attention of His people on His holiness and to bring them back to a place of repentance for their evil practices.

So far, Israel has had two sanctuaries: the tabernacle of Moses (Exodus 35-40) replaced by the temple of Solomon (1 Kings 6). Both times, the glory of the Lord filled them (Exodus 40; 2 Chronicles 5:14; Ezekiel 43) and left them (1 Samuel 4:19-22; Ezekiel 9:3; 10:4; 11:22-23). Solomon's temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.

The third sanctuary (temple) was built after the Captivity in 516 B.C. and did not meet Ezekiel's plan (Haggai 2:3; Zechariah 4:10). After this, it was renovated during Herod the Great's reign around 19 B.C. and was the temple during Jesus' time. This temple was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70. The present day Islamic shrine known as the Dome of the Rock (built in A.D. 691) sits there now. There is no evidence that the glory of God resided in either of these two temples, and neither of these seems to be the temple Ezekiel envisioned.

The vision of Ezekiel's temple has been interpreted several ways:
1) This is the temple that should have been built after the Captivity in 516 B.C., but the plan was not followed due to disobedience (43:2-10).
2) It is a literal temple to be rebuilt during the millennial (1000 years) reign of Christ.
3) It parallels John's vision in Revelation 21.
4) It is symbolic of the true worship of God by the Christian church.
5) It is a spiritual representation of the church.
6) It is symbolic of the future when God will reign eternally and His presence and blessing will fill the whole earth (Habakkuk 2:14).
While I could take one of these positions, I will not. I think getting lost in the details would lose the point of the vision in which we can agree upon:
 It is a vision of God's perfect plan for His people where. . .

1) Worship is at the heart of everything we would do
2) His presence is part of our everyday existence
3) Blessing to the whole world would come out of the above two!
Ezekiel had his vision in 573 B.C., twenty-five years into the captivity and fourteen years after the fall of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. It was either April 28 (the first day of Passover) or October 23 (the Day of Atonement). He saw a man with a measuring rod that was about 10 1/2 feet long (based on a long cubit of twenty-one inches). When one measured property, it meant you were claiming it for yourself. Zechariah also saw a man measuring the temple meaning that the temple and the city would one day be restored (Zechariah 2). God also commanded the Apostle John to measure the temple in Jerusalem before it was run over by the Gentiles (Revelation 11). The temple was God's and would one day be restored no matter what man would do to it.

Who was this man with the measuring rod? Some commentators believe he was the angel of 9:1-11 or one like him. Others believe he may have been Christ because he speaks like God spoke to Ezekiel by calling him the "Son of man." Regardless, the man led Ezekiel on a "tour" of the future temple giving precise details. In this temple, the women's court and "court of the Gentiles" with a separating wall (Ephesians 2:14) were not mentioned. In Herod's temple, there was an inscription on the separating wall that forbid Gentiles from entering into the temple. This temple did not have a dividing wall because it has been God's desire that His house be a house of prayer for men and women of all nations (Mark 11:17; Isaiah 56:7). Apparently, this would be true in this temple!

Some commentators do not believe this was a description of a Millennium temple because the sacrifices were mentioned (40: 38-43) and Christ did away with the need for Levitical sacrifices. Others argue that the sacrifices never took away human sin and only Christ could do that (Hebrews 10:1-4, 10). They point to Jewish believers who continued to take part in temple worship (Acts 2:46; 3:1; 5:42) and offer sacrifices (Acts 21:26) and viewed them as reminders of Christ's death. All good points!

REFLECTION

We could get lost in the minutia of details and debate points about the timing of this temple and miss the point that the purpose of the temple was to focus the attention of His people on His holiness and to bring them back to a place of repentance for their evil practices. It was the place where God's glory dwelt, and the Jews were to focus all their life around it.

We are to focus and center our entire life around God too. It has been the goal of my life and cry of my heart since the early 80's to live a 24/7/365 kind of focus on God. 

Letters by a Modern Mystic It has been a long journey, but the book, Letters by a Modern Mystic, has really encouraged me:

It records Frank Laubach's spiritual experiment to live in a conscious moment-by-moment communion with God. It speaks to the heart of this whole passage.

Here is a PDF Version of the book: Letters by a Modern Mystic

APPLICATION

Try focusing your whole day around God today! It might be helpful to read just the first one or two letters on Frank's journey. These short letters will encourage and inspire you.

PRAYER

Lord, we acknowledge You as Lord and King. We invite You to be the center of everything we do today. Be our focus of worship. Make us aware of Your presence in every waking minute of today. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.
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