August 30, 2015.
Daily Reading: Ezekiel 43-48.
Background: Ezekiel 37-42.
Concepts and Connections.
1. The glory of the Lord fills the temple: In the previous chapters, we have read about Ezekiel’s vision of the temple and the man measuring the temple meticulously, relaying the pattern of the temple to Ezekiel. In the beginning of this chapter, we see this vision come to a climax as the glory of the Lord appears and heads towards the temple, filling it after Ezekiel is taken into the inner court. Ezekiel describes the coming of the glory of the Lord as the same as in two other visions that he had had, yet in the two other vision, the glory of the Lord came with a message of destruction (see Ezekiel 1, 9). Here, the glory of the Lord comes to fill the temple, probably to the relief of Ezekiel. This is reminiscent of the completion of the physical temple that was made during Solomon’s time, when the ark of the covenant was brought in and placed in its propers place (see I Kings 8:1-11). This represented the dwelling place of God, and Ezekiel was told that when the Lord returns to His place with His people, they would no more sacrifice to false gods and do the abominations of the people that were around them. He is then sent out to tell the house of Israel about the vision that he has had, that they might be ashamed of their iniquities and return to the Lord and His commandments. The vision of the temple was a recalling of God to His people, a plea for repentance and reconciliation, for they had strayed far from their God. He wanted them to know about the temple, the dwelling place of God with man, so that they would return to Him and that He would dwell with them once again.
2. The altar: After the glory of the Lord filled the temple, the measurements begin again, starting with the altar. The plan is laid out for the altar, and then the ordinances for the altar are given. Instructions are given for the onset of the temple worship that would be done once the altar was erected, counting days and instructing certain burnt offerings that were to be done that the Lord their God would accept it. These instructions were given to the Levitical priests, specifically the sons of Zadok, to draw near and minister to the Lord. The temple would indeed be rebuilt during the time of canonical silence (Malachi-the time of Jesus) and the Jewish people would again follow the law and the sacrifices of the Lord their God, though they had fallen far away at this time.
A charge to the priests: Continuing on in his vision, Ezekiel sees a shut gate that is not to be opened because the Lord had entered through it, and again, the glory of the Lord had filled the temple, causing Ezekiel to fall on his face. The word of the Lord came to Ezekiel and set a charge against the children of Israel, that they discontinue the abominations that they had been doing, allowing foreigners to come into the sanctuary of the Lord, the uncircumcised of heart and flesh, and profaning the temple. They were charged to stop allowing this, but rather put the Levitical priests back in place, those who were given charge to keep charge over the holy things. Instead of carrying out their duty, however, some priests had profaned themselves by serving idols, and they would bear their punishment because of it by not being allowed to come near to God as priests, as they once were, but only being given charge over the service of the temple. But those priests who had not profaned themselves when all of Israel went astray, specifically the sons of Zadok, they were given the opportunity to come near to God and minister before Him. These priests were re-given the charge and responsibilities of priests that were laid out in the law of Moses, to obey the rules and the statures given here. Note the focus on holiness, as there were specific things that they had to do and go through in order to be consecrated to the Lord and minister before Him. The Lord would be their inheritance, as the priestly duties and benefits were given to the Levites as an inheritance from the beginning (see Numbers 18).
The holy district and charge to the princes: The beginning of this chapter gives the measuresments that were to be used for the holy district and a smaller section inside the holy district that would mark out where the sanctuary for the Most Holy place would be. Another section of land is sectioned off for the dwelling place of the priests, those who minister before the Lord in the holy district. Then the focus of the chapter switches to the princes of Israel, starting with a portion of the land that is allotted to the prince. Then the charge is laid against them for the injustice that they are doing. They are called back to put away violence and oppression, and rather to pursue righteousness and justice. They are told to have just balances and scales, and that it is their job to furnish the burnt offerings, grain offerings and drink offerings. The sanctuary was to be purified with a burnt offering on the first day of the first month and the blood was to be put on the door posts of the sanctuary, corners of the alter and post on the gate of the inner sanctuary, to make atonement for the temple. Then Israel is called once again to celebrate the feast of the passover (see Exodus 12), a feast that was often forgotten in Israel’s history when the forsook the Lord their God, along with the feast of booths on the fifteenth day of the seventh month (see Leviticus 23).
The prince, feasts and boiling places: This chapter continues in Ezekiel’s vision of the temple and temple worship, and regulations are given here for the prince of the land, what he should do on Sabbaths and feast days, and then later in the chapter there are regulations given about where the priests should boil their offerings. The prince is instructed how to offer either burnt offerings or free will offerings, and the people are instructed how to enter and exit the gates when they come before the Lord, not going out the same gate that they went in. Then the types of offerings that are made on feast days are discussed, and regulations are laid out for these offerings. Inheritance rules for the prince are laid out, noting that any inheritance given to his sons would remain theirs, while anything he would give outside of his sons would return to him in the year of Jubilee, as was the regulation for all Israel (see Leviticus 25:10). Then Ezekiel is taken to the place where the priests were to boil the guilt offerings and to the kitchens where they were to boil the sacrifices of the people.
1. Water flowing from the temple: Ezekiel is then taken back to the door of the temple where he notices water springing forth from it, flowing east. As he is taken into the water and it is measured, it gets deeper and deeper until he cannot go any further, but it is a raging river. He is then taken back to the bank of the river and told the vastness of it, and the life that would be thriving in it. Many interpreters take this river to be the gospel of Christ that flowed out from Jerusalem, in steps, and into the whole world. The river of life is referenced in Revelation 22:1-5 as flowing from the temple of God, in the new Jerusalem. The trees seen here in this vision, the fruit and the leaves of healing might be alluded to in the same passage in Revelation as well.
2. The division of the land: The latter half of this chapter is dedicated to the division of the land that Ezekiel has been told about in the beginning of this chapter. Note how this vision in its entirety holds so many echoes to God’s words to His people when He was first establishing them as a nation in their own land. This passage is reminiscent of the division of the promised land that Joshua was told to allot out as an inheritance for the children of Israel (see Joshua 13-21). Note that here the land was to be allotted to the children of Israel along with the sojourners who resided in the land and had children among them.
The tribes and the gates of the city: Wrapping up Ezekiel’s vision, we get a list of the tribes that are to receive a potion of the land, with Joseph getting two (Manasseh and Ephraim), and the Levites not receiving an allotment, but rather land within the other tribes, just as it had originally been set up. Specific instructions are given about the inheritance of the Levites, the common use of the city and also of the prince. The vision ends with the gates of the city, three on each of the four sides, according to the tribes of Israel. There is a strong echo of this in Revelation 21 talking about the city of God. The two texts are likely describing the same city, as this ends with the name of the city: “The Lord is There.”
Tomorrow’s Reading: Leviticus 25-27.
Let us grow closer to the Lord.