Ezekiel 48 finishes up God’s vision for his prophet. God has shown him much about the temple, and the land of His people. In this chapter, the borders of the tribes are defined. To the north of the holy area will be the shares of 7 of the tribes. The shares are all the same size. Each share goes from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River. The northern border is from the sea through Hethlon to Lebo Hamath. Then the border goes all the way to Hazar Enan. North of here is Damascus. The end of the border is next to Hamath.
- Dan will have one share of land. It will go from the east side to the west side.
- South of Dan, Asher will have one share of land. It will go from the east side to the west side.
- South of Asher, Naphtali will have one share of land. It will go from the east side to the west side.
- South of Naphtali, Manasseh will have one share of land. It will go from the east side to the west side.
- South of Manasseh, Ephraim will have one share of land. It will go from the east side to the west side.
- South of Ephraim, Reuben will have one share of land. It will go from the east side to the west side.
- South of Reuben, Judah will have one share of land. It will go from the east side to the west side.
To the south of Judah’s share there will be the holy area of land. The total length of this area from east to west will be the same as the tribe’s shares.
In this total area, there will be a square of 8.3 miles. From the north of this square 3.3 miles width is for the Levites. The next 3.3 miles width is for the Lord. The last 1.7 miles is for the city. The Lord’s share will be for the Zadok priests. They will live there. But in the center of it will be the temple area.
Here is what the rest of the tribes will receive:
- Benjamin will have one share. It will go from the east side to the west side.
- South of Benjamin’s land, Simeon will have one share. It will go from the east side to the west side.
- South of Simeon’s land, Issachar will have one share. It will go from the east side to the west side.
- South of Issachar’s land, Zebulun will have one share. It will go from the east side to the west side.
- South of Zebulun’s land, Gad will have one share. It will go from the east side to the west side.
The southern border of Gad’s land will be towards the Negev. The border will go from Tamar to the waters called Meribah Kadesh. Then it will go along the river of Egypt to the Great Sea. Lots of details here on how God wants His people to share the land He has given them. Talk about a detailed legacy plan. God has one that He shares with Ezekiel in great detail!
Ezekiel 47 has the prophet continuing to share the vision God has given him. The discussion now shifts from measurements of the building to that of water. Ezekiel saw water as it flowed from the temple. “Water was flowing from under the threshold of the house toward the east”. It flowed toward the east. It came from the south side of the temple and the altar of sacrifice, in the inner area. The water went through the outer area. Then it went along the south side of the outer east gate. The man took Ezekiel to explore this river. At a third of a mile from the temple, the depth of the water was up to the height of Ezekiel’s ankles.
After another third of a mile, it was up to his knees. At about a mile, the water was up to Ezekiel’s stomach. At 1.3 miles from the temple, the river was very deep. To cross it he would have to swim. The increase of the size of the river could not be natural. It could only be by the power of the Lord. This is a vision of the power of God’s hand. He caused the river to flow and to grow. The river flowed to the south and east. It flowed into the valley of the Jordan River and into the Dead Sea.
Today nothing can live in the Dead Sea because of the salt. But when this river flows into the Dead Sea, it will bring pure water. So the issue isn’t with the water coming into the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is dead because it has no outlet. That’s what happens when we take things in but there is no expression of those things outwardly – they die. God is going to change that. Where now no fish can live then there will be many fish. Men who catch fish will spread their nets along the coast of the sea. They will catch all kinds of fish.
Where the river flows, it will bring life. Trees will grow along both sides of the river. These trees will have all kinds of fruit. Their leaves will not die. There will be fruit every month. The fruit will be good for food. And the leaves will be good medicine to cure people. We have to learn to let Christ flow through our life. When we try and contain our relationship and keep it quiet and hidden, it doesn’t flourish. And if we try to keep it completely under wraps, it can become stale and could even die. We have to let the river of Christ flow through us. We need to let His love shine. We are His hands and feet. He is the light of our world!
Ezekiel 46 has the prophet continuing to explain the vision God gave him of the temple. In this chapter we learn about God’s provision and design for the Sabbath. The Lord gave the Sabbath to the Israelites and instructs them to work for 6 days but then they must rest on the 7th day. On that day, they must worship the Lord. The Israelites during Ezekiel’s life refused to obey the Sabbath day rules. That disobedience didn’t invalidate God’s rules or expectations. The Sabbath is to be set aside to worship Him.
The priests will open the east gate to the inner court only on the special days. These days will be the Sabbath day and the day of the new moon. The prince will lead the people in their worship. He will enter this gate. He will bring his sacrifices to the priests. And he will worship at the entrance to the gate. He must not go into the inner area. The people will worship at this gate but they will not go in. The sacrifices are called out in great detail here. Those are important in worship and in addressing the major problem we have as humans – sin.
Of course, since this time God has made another way for us to deal with the sin problem we have as humans. Scripture is clear that we all are guilty of sin. None of us are worthy of entry to God’s kingdom on our own merit. Sin disqualifies us, and the wages of sin are death or eternal separation from God. But where sacrifices were the way of cleansing sin in Ezekiel’s day, God sent His only Son to the Cross to give us the opportunity to deal with our sin in the same, yet different way. There still must be the shedding of blood for the forgiveness of sin.
But rather than the sacrifices of old, the shed blood of Christ is now the way we can receive forgiveness of our sin. And rather than having to pay for the sacrifice and following a bunch of rules and laws, God has chosen to make that gift to us as a gift of grace. It is free for our receiving. We merely need to acknowledge our sin, repent, and receive the grace God offers freely. God is always in the business of restoration. He wants us to receive His gift and the salvation that accompanies it. Have you got your spiritual legacy covered? If not, today should be the day!
Ezekiel 45 has the prophet continuing to document the vision God gave him of the temple. When the Israelites first came to the country, each of the twelve tribes received a part of the Promised Land. In this future time, they will receive parts of the country again. Chapter 48 describes these parts in more detail. In addition to the land the tribes will receive, there will be a part of the land that will be for the Lord and His temple. The Lord’s part of the land will also be for the priests. The size of this area will be 8.3 miles by 6.6 miles, no small area.
One of these parts will be for the priests, who must be from the family of Zadok. This family of priests were the only ones who stayed true to God and the role they were to fill. They will live in this area. And they will serve the Lord in the temple. In the center of this land will be the temple area. The temple area will be 875 feet square. Around this temple area, there will be a clear piece of land 875 feet wide. God has a significant land mass set aside for His temple and the priests who would care for it.
The other part will be for the Levites. They had failed in their role as priests but still God has a plan to restore them. This will be to the north of the land where the priests from Zadok’s family live. The Levites will assist the Zadok priests in the temple. The Levites will have their homes and towns in this area around the temple. God expects them to clean up their act. “Enough, you princes of Israel; put away violence and destruction, and practice justice and righteousness. Stop your expropriations from My people”.
Things had slid badly in God’s people. The leaders of Israel in Ezekiel’s time did not care about the people. They had robbed the people of their land. They had cheated them in the market place. They used false weights when they sold their goods. They had been cruel and they did not defend the poor. This kind of behavior must stop and God will not allow it in the future. He is going to clean things up, starting with his priests and the leaders of the people. God instructs on how to sacrifice to cover their sin and restore them to right relationship with God.
Ezekiel 44 has the prophet continuing to explain the vision of the temple as God reveals it to him. He begins by taking Ezekiel to the east gate. “This gate shall be shut; it shall not be opened, and no one shall enter by it, for the Lord God of Israel has entered by it; therefore it shall be shut”. The East Gate was a special gate. The Lord had entered the temple through this gate. Only the prince could go into this gate. There he could eat bread in front of the Lord. The prince will be the leader of the people. He will not be Christ because the prince needs to make a sacrifice because of his own sins.
God makes clear what the problems were with his priests serving in the temple. “Enough of all your abominations, O house of Israel, when you brought in foreigners, uncircumcised in heart and uncircumcised in flesh, to be in My sanctuary to profane it, even My house, when you offered My food, the fat and the blood; for they made My covenant void—this in addition to all your abominations”. They had not protected the sanctity of their relationship with God, nor been obedient to His commands and laws. They were failing in following God’s will.
God is not pleased with the decisions the Levites have made. “And you have not kept charge of My holy things yourselves, but you have set foreigners to keep charge of My sanctuary”. They have allowed foreigners to participate in serving in the temple. In the temple, foreigners did come in. The priests of Israel let them come in. The priests even let foreigners serve in the temple. This was against the law that God gave to Moses. In the end, the Israelites were even worshipping foreign gods in the temple. They had gone way over the line. Such things must never happen in the temple that Ezekiel saw.
The priests were to be protectors of the temple and what happened there. “The Levites….shall bear the punishment for their iniquity…. became a stumbling block of iniquity”. They failed in their job, and God has had enough of them. He doesn’t want them near Him or any of His things. “And they shall not come near to Me to serve as a priest to Me, nor come near to any of My holy things, to the things that are most holy; but they will bear their shame and their abominations which they have committed”. As a group, the Levites had turned away from God. They had served false gods. In this, they led the Israelites to sin. So, the Lord will punish them. And they will be ashamed of what they did. God has standards and rules that must be followed. The Levites failed and will be punished as a result.
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 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.