Archive for January, 2017

Ezekiel 43

Ezekiel 43 has the prophet continuing to have the vision of the new temple becoming clear.  God met him there, and “the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the way of the east”.  The man had led Ezekiel to the east gate of the outer area. They looked towards the east. Ezekiel saw the glory of God come from the east. It was like the glory that he had seen earlier by the Chebar River. And he had seen that same glory when God left the old temple. That glory had gone through the east gate of that temple.

God’s glory would not return until this temple was ready for him. The glory of God went through the east gate into the temple. The Spirit took Ezekiel into the inner court. There he saw that the glory filled the temple. “Behold, the glory of the Lord filled the house”. This prophecy has not yet happened. It is still coming in the future. One day this temple will come to be just as Ezekiel saw it in his vision.  And then God’s glory will come and He will once again fill the temple. The new temple will be God’s throne. It will be God’s house for all time.

Son of man, this is the place of My throne and the place of the soles of My feet, where I will dwell among the sons of Israel forever”.  God desires to live with his people. He wants them to serve him. They must never turn to false gods again. “And the house of Israel will not again defile My holy name, neither they nor their kings”.  When Ezekiel told the people about the new temple, they should have felt ashamed. They knew that God had left the old temple. Then the Babylonians destroyed it. They knew that the reason for this was their sin.  The people would think about the plans of the new temple. And maybe they would repent of their sins.

At the end of the day, God is interested in repentance and restoration.  “If they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the design of the house, its structure, its exits, its entrances, all its designs, all its statutes, and all its laws. And write it in their sight, so that they may observe its whole design and all its statutes and do them”.  God’s plan for our restoration is through Christ.  God forgives our sin because of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross. So the sacrifices in this temple or anywhere else cannot take away sin. Instead, sacrifices today are related to Christ’s death.  That grace alone is our answer to sin.  God will set us free if we receive His gift of grace through the shed blood of Jesus Christ!

Ezekiel 42

Ezekiel 42 continues the prophets tour of the temple through a vision.   There were two buildings in the outer area. They were just outside the inner area. One building was on the north side and the other building was on the south side. Ezekiel describes the one on the north side. All these rooms had doors to the north. The building on the south side was like the one on the north side. The rooms in the south building had doors to the south. These were lodging areas for the priests.

The building was 175 feet long long, east to west. It was 87½ feet wide, north to south. There were three floors with many rooms on each one. The lower two floors had columns.  The entrance to the building was from the outer area on the east side. These two buildings were holy places. In them, the priests could eat some of the sacrifices per God’s law. Also, they would store the oil and grain for the sacrifices in these buildings. In these rooms, the priests would change their clothes. They had to wear special clothes to serve in the temple. They would keep those clothes in these rooms.

Then the man took Ezekiel out of the entire temple area. They went out by the east gate. There was a wall round the whole area. The area was a square. The man measured the wall. The area was 875 feet long and 875 feet wide.  That’s almost three football fields wide by three football fields square.  That is a lot of area – over 760,000 square feet.  This temple complex was huge, and yet God was very focused on the details down to the exact length and width of not only the building, but the entire area.  It’s a huge building and significant in many ways.

Ezekiel gathers this information as God shows Him a vision of it.  Today we can do 3D modelling which would be much simpler.  But God was able to help Ezekiel not only see, but to record, the information about the temple for all time.  Having been to Jerusalem and seeing temple mount – it is on a raised platform that is of significant size and scope.  God has had a plan for this place for centuries.  It matters to Him and what the future holds.  Ezekiel is careful to document it carefully as he writes the final chapters in his book.

Ezekiel 41

Ezekiel 41 continues the vision of the temple as God reveals it to Ezekiel.  Ezekiel was in the temple building. This building was the most holy building in the entire temple area. The building was not for public use. Only priests could enter it. They could not enter whenever they chose. They entered on the special occasions when they had duties there.  Ezekiel records specifics to the measurements and design of God’s temple.  It is precise and very detailed. The purpose of the temple was for worship which was an expression of love between God and His people.

On behalf of the people, the priests showed their love for God when they carried out their duties in the holy place. But God also showed his love for his people here. He showed his love because his glory was present in the most holy place. Ezekiel entered the holiest room where a normal priest could worship. Ezekiel describes the inside of this room which was not a very large room by modern standards. It was 35 feet wide and 70 feet long. In this room, the priests would worship God.

Ezekiel then moves to a description of the most holy place.  “This is the most holy place”.  It was where God’s presence was. This was the most sacred room in the temple. Ezekiel did not enter this room and he did not describe its contents. Only one man, the chief priest, could enter this room. The ‘man’ who was with Ezekiel did enter this room. That is because this ‘man’ was not human. He was an angel. We know this fact because of his astonishing description. Angels are without sin. So, unlike people, they are able to enter the place where God is present.  We can only approach God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ which covers our sin.

The angel took Ezekiel to see the outside of the temple building. On three sides of the building were small rooms for the priests to use. These rooms were not part of the temple building although they leaned upon it. The building that contained these rooms was on three floors. So it was a high building by the standards when Ezekiel was alive. And although the rooms were small, there were many of them. Ezekiel counted a total of 90 rooms.  It was on a raised platform.  The rest of the chapter contains details of measurements and contents all part of this very special place.

Ezekiel 40

Ezekiel 40 has the prophet getting a vision from God during the twenty fifth year of the exile of His people.  God spends the rest of the book of Ezekiel fleshing out the details of this vision about the temple. The vision was not just something Ezekiel had in his mind.  God appears to take him and show him exactly what was to happen.  Scripture says “the hand of the Lord was upon me and He brought me there”. This is a pretty active vision where Ezekiel experiences the details as God gives them to Him.

“In the visions of God He brought me into the land of Israel and set me on a very high mountain, and on it to the south there was a structure like a city”.  God gives Ezekiel a great viewing point to see all that He is about to describe and detail.  These last eight chapters capture very specific information on what the temple will look like.  I’m not going to pretend to understand or explain what God’s purpose was with these sections of scripture beyond what He tells Ezekiel to do.  “Declare to the house of Israel all that you see”.

Matthew Henry writes of these chapters like this: Ezekiel 40-48 is justly looked upon to be one of the most difficult portions in all the book of God. When we despair to be satisfied as to any difficulty we meet with, let us bless God that our salvation does not depend upon it, but that things necessary are plain enough; and let us wait till God shall reveal even this unto us. This chapter (40) describes two outward courts of the temple. Whether the personage here mentioned was the Son of God, or a created angel, is not clear. But Christ is both our Altar and our Sacrifice, to whom we must look with faith in all approaches to God; and He is Salvation in the midst of the earth to be looked unto from all quarters.

At the end of the day, whether we understand God’s purpose for these details in scripture probably isn’t all that important.  There’s undoubtedly a reason God put them there, and someday we’ll have a chance to ask why when we see Him face to face.  But for now, the reality is that God had a plan – a very detailed and specific plan – just like He does in our lives today.  That plan is built upon His never ending love for us and the fact that we have a sin problem that has to be addressed.  Jesus Christ was His solution to that – through the shed blood on the Cross – and the gift of grace He offers to us freely.  He is our salvation and our hope.  We need to be focused on that and gain understanding on areas of scripture that are confusing when we see Him!

Ezekiel 39

Ezekiel 39 has the prophet continuing to wail about Gog.  God is going to take action against them.  Ezekiel repeats that God was the one who drew out the forces of Gog, his purpose being to destroy them. “I will turn you around, drive you on, take you up from the remotest parts of the north and bring you against the mountains of Israel. I will strike your bow from your left hand and dash down your arrows from your right hand”.  Their dead soldiers lie unburied in the fields, and their cities are in ashes.

The terrible massacre helps people to see how frightening the power of God can be when He acts in holy anger against evil. “My holy name I will make known in the midst of My people Israel; and I will not let My holy name be profaned anymore”.  This was not any group of armed forces that God is destroying.  So great were the armies of Gog in size, that their weapons provide firewood for the people of Israel for the next seven years.  But God is greater, and has a plan to make His glory known.  “And I will set My glory among the nations; and all the nations will see My judgment which I have executed and My hand which I have laid on them”.

What is one of His ultimate goals – that His people may know that He is. “The house of Israel will know that I am the Lord their God from that day onward”.  He is setting a precedent of power and protection for His people.  The destruction of Gog, like the captivity of Israel, shows to people everywhere that God is holy and just in dealing with sin.  He can’t just ignore what’s happening. “According to their uncleanness and according to their transgressions I dealt with them, and I hid My face from them”.  God will deal with sin and punish it.

God is all about restoration and bringing us back to Himself.  But to do that, evil and sin must be dealt with.  Gog is the power of evil, Israel is the people of God. Both have sin problems that have to be addressed.  Gog is destroyed, but Israel is restored as God redeems them from their sin. The people come back to their land, to live in close fellowship with God who is their Redeemer and Savior. “Then they will know that I am the Lord their God because I made them go into exile among the nations, and then gathered them again to their own land; and I will leave none of them there any longer”.  Complete restoration and redemption – that’s the heart of God.  He loves us so……

Ezekiel 38

Ezekiel 38 has God telling the prophet to prophecy against Gog and his nation.  God is against him and his army and will not only defeat them, but also will chose to use them to pour out judgment on His people as well.  Gog has an impressive army, both is style and ability.  God knows all about it and will choose to use it His way in His time.  That’s the reality of the God we serve.  He sits on the throne and is in control of all things big and small, now and forever, until the end of time.  Gog may not have known that reality, but he would become a pawn in God’s hand to do His will.

To the Jews of Ezekiel’s day, the nations referred to here would represent the most distant regions of the world- ‘the four corners of the earth’. They are led by a man called Gog, who lives to the north in the land of Magog and who is ruler of the joint kingdom of Meshech-Tubal. He will lead an attack on Israel and will be helped by other countries from the east (Persia), from the south (Cush and Put, meaning probably Ethiopia and Libya), and from the north (Gomer and Beth-togarmah). But because God is working in history, the attackers, not the people of God, are the ones who are doomed

After carefully laying his plans, Gog puts his plan in action, but he does not realize that God is in control of every detail and event.  “You will come from your place out of the remote parts of the north, you and many peoples with you, all of them riding on horses, a great assembly and a mighty army; and you will come up against My people Israel like a cloud to cover the land”.  God has been waiting for him, and now he deals with him. Through earthquakes, floods, fire, disease and bloodshed, God wipes out the forces of Gog.

The odds seemed overwhelming against God’s people.  By earthly standards, they would have been smashed by attack from all directions.  But God had a different plan.  He was and is in control of all things all the time.  And in this situation, the best laid plans of man were not only thwarted but complete demolished by God and His power.  He destroyed those who were intent on destroying His people.  And all of it brings glory to God in the same way as His actions today!  “I will magnify Myself, sanctify Myself, and make Myself known in the sight of many nations; and they will know that I am the Lord”.

 

*Some commentary from Bridgeway Bible Commentary

Ezekiel 37

Ezekiel 37 has one of the craziest stories in all of scripture – the prophets interaction with a valley full of dry bones.  “The hand of the Lord was upon me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; and it was full of bones”.  God has a plan to do something new and different and it is all about some dry bones and His prophet.  “Prophesy over these bones and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord”.

Doesn’t that seem a bit unusual – to prophecy to a bunch of old dried up bones.  But God is going to do something new and amazing with those bones.  “I will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life. I will put sinews on you, make flesh grow back on you, cover you with skin and put breath in you that you may come alive; and you will know that I am the Lord”.  God’s going to speak life into a bunch of bones and bring them back from the dead – not just dead – but long ago dead.

He used Ezekiel as His messenger but make no mistake, this was all God.  “There was a noise ,and behold, a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to its bone”.  God started the process, but there was much more than just assembling the dry bones into skeletons.  Now He creates bodies and then breaths live into them. “Breathe on these slain, that they come to life”.  Can you imagine Ezekiel’s thoughts about this time.  God’s stirred up a bunch of dry bones and created people that He’s breathed life into.

This was more than a show for that time.  God was creating a word picture of what was to come.  “Behold, I will open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves, My people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel….Then you will know that I am the Lord”.  He is bringing His people back together and will be their King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  It’s a word picture no one should be able to miss. “I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will place them and multiply them….I will be their God, and they will be My people”.  God has a plan.  He is God even over dry bones!

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