Saturday, November 1, 2014

Seeking a Place of Peace

Scriptural Reading: Ezekiel 43:1-12
Devotional Reading: Psalm 138

We turn our clocks back this evening to make better use of the daylight pursuant to the pattern of Daylight Saving Time. This occurs every spring and fall. The idea was first conceived by Benjamin Franklin as one to save energy and others have advocated it in various ways since the date of its conception. It is now law in many areas around the globe. Growing up my sister and I were taught how to use patterns to sew outfits and create items. It did not matter whether it was something we were to wear or a covering for a stool, a jewelry box, a doll, etc. We have always been surrounded by patterns, models, and role models. Jesus gave His disciples a model prayer, warning them not to pray as the hypocrites who pray to be seen by man. (Matt 6:5-15) In our lesson today we see that Ezekiel had been given a vision by the Lord in Ez. chapters 40-42 of the model temple. His vision will now take him into that temple in chapter 43. God wanted him to use that pattern to teach the people how to be holy. As stated by David in Psalm 138:1-2, “I will praise you, LORD, with all my heart; before the ‘gods’ I will sing your praise. I will bow down toward your holy temple and will praise your name for your unfailing love and your faithfulness, for you have so exalted your solemn decree that it surpasses your fame.” (NKJV)

This quarter of study is entitled “Sustaining Hope”. We are in Unit III – “Visions of Grandeur” of the three units of the quarter. This is the first of a five-lesson study. It focuses on God’s glory as seen through the visions of Ezekiel. The book of Ezekiel is a very difficult book to understand and many Christians are only aware of the famous spiritual “Dem Dry Bones”. It goes far beyond that because the glory of the LORD is one of the key thoughts running throughout the book.

Ezekiel has patiently surveyed the temple in its intricate and glorious details. He knows that God’s purpose for its use by His people is pure holiness. Ezekiel will now be allowed access into this holy temple escorted by an angel in his vision. Ez. 43:1-2 reveals, “Then the man brought me to the gate facing east, and I saw the glory of the God of Israel coming from the east. His voice was like the roar of rushing waters, and the land was radiant with his glory.” (NKJV) God had been angry about the way the leaders and the people of Judah had defiled his temple. The resulting destruction of the temple in Jerusalem along with Judah’s exile in Babylon caused the Jews to be devastated. They needed hope. Before the Jews were taken captive the glory cloud had reluctantly left the temple at Jerusalem. (Ez 11:23) The Jews falsely expected to return to Jerusalem in a short amount of time because they were God’s chosen people. Ezekiel was commissioned by God to minister to them during their captivity that they must first return to the LORD. So God gave Ezekiel sacred visions of restoration. Now the angel was taking Ezekiel to the east gate of the temple. It was at this gate he was to expect the appearance and approach of the return of God’s glory. In the appearance Ezekiel noticed the power of the word he heard because the voice of God “was like the roar of rushing waters”, sounding as thunder and roaring with force. He also noticed the shining brightness of His glory reflecting on the earth.

Ezekiel noticed this appearance was the same appearance as when the glory of God left by the same direction (east). The LORD had come to the Kebar River to foretell of the pending destruction. Ez. 43:3-4 declares, “The vision I saw was like the vision I had seen when he came to destroy the city and like the visions I had seen by the Kebar River, and I fell facedown. The glory of the LORD entered the temple through the gate facing east.” (NKJV) God can pick you up and He can pull you down. In both He will be glorified as He is the one who is the judge and passes sentence. He is God and needs no permission whether to deliver or destroy. It is that simple. Ezekiel felt the magnitude of having experienced each vision. He had grieved when the glory of God left and is now overjoyed at His return. He humbles himself facedown before the appearance and approach of God. Just as the presence of God left going eastward, His Spirit returns from the same direction.

Ezekiel was yet at the gate, but now that he was near the presence of God he is brought into the temple and the Spirit of God begins to speak to him as reflected in Ez 43:5-6, “Then the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. While the man was standing beside me, I heard someone speaking to me from inside the temple.” The Spirit lifted Ezekiel up so he could see how the glory of the LORD appeared as it filled the temple. Ezekiel was overjoyed. He knew God had not forsaken his people forever. The LORD had left but for a moment and His glory had now returned with ever loving kindness. He remembered his vision of the valley of dry bones wherein the Almighty God had declared He would breathe His Spirit into the dry bones for the people to live. (Ez 37:1-14) While Ezekiel observed these things in his vision, he heard the voice of God speaking to him. Ezekiel awaited the divine revelations and/or instructions with the angel at his side. Some commentaries say the angel would guide Ezekiel along, while others say the angel stood with him to encourage him.

Now God speaks with force His demands for holiness before His throne. The LORD depicts the abomination of the character of the Jews which led to their captivity in Ez 43:7-9, “He said: ‘Son of man, this is the place of my throne and the place for the soles of my feet. This is where I will live among the Israelites forever. The people of Israel will never again defile my holy name – neither they nor their kings – by their prostitution and the funeral offerings for their kings at their death. When they placed their threshold next to my threshold and their doorposts beside my doorposts, with only a wall between me and them, they defiled my holy name by their detestable practices. So I destroyed them in my anger. Now let them put away from me their prostitution and the funeral offerings for their kings, and I will live among them forever.”(NKJV) God addresses Ezekiel as the “Son of man” to contrast the difference between his unworthy humanity at the foot of his Creator God. The glorious God of Israel expressed that the throne of His grace was in His temple where He would set His feet as a place for rest. He relates to Ezekiel that the Israelites had defiled His holy name with prostitution and abuse of all things sacred unto Him. They worshiped their kings and set them up high, by giving them honor, praise, and funeral offerings at death. They were worshiping carcasses and placing them next to God. That was not acceptable. In God’s anger they were destroyed with a remnant taken captive by the Babylonians. God’s house must not be defiled and disrespected as they had done previously. The Israelites must obey God completely. They could not add their own inventions to His institutions. His was the perfect plan for man. Upon obedience to His conditions His Spirit would again dwell among them in the temple.

Once again God gave Ezekiel instructions. These were words of deliverance and hope to the Israelites. But there was a conditional law of obedience in the temple. His instructions to Ezekiel are expressly declared at Ez 43:10-12, “Son of man, describe the temple to the people of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their sins. Let them consider its perfection, and if they are ashamed of all they have done, make known to them the design of the temple – its arrangement, its exits and entrances – its whole design and all its regulations and laws. Write these down before them so that they may be faithful to its design and follow all its regulations. This is the law of the temple: All of the surrounding area on top of the mountain will be most holy. Such is the law of the temple.” (NKJV) Ezekiel, in his humanity was to deliver a picturesque view of the magnificent temple God had given him. No one else had seen it. God had blessed Ezekiel with this beautiful vision and the commission to share it with His people. Many believers find it difficult to share their faith. Just think if you had to share what was not written in the Bible. God wanted Ezekiel to write the vision down with specificity in order that the Jews might be ashamed of their evil ways which had caused His anger and led to their punishment. He wanted them to put away their idols, the carcasses of their kings, so they could clearly see the pattern of the temple laid out by Him, the LORD, their one and only true God. They were to understand that a pattern must be followed by every curve, line, and dart. They had to be faithful to the design of the pattern of the temple and follow all regulations. They were to be shown His ordinances so they would know their duty and what was expected. And the biggest pattern change for this temple was the entire top of the mountain would be holy. At one point in time only the chancel or sanctuary was considered holy. Now everyone was able to have access to the holy of holies in all the courts and all the chambers to be near to God. These were great words to hear as a Jew in captivity. Deliverance is forthcoming.

Whether this temple has been built has been debated by many theologians. We know that King Solomon’s temple was Israel’s first temple, built 490 years after they came out of Egypt and destroyed approximately 400 years later. Zerubbabel was one of the returning Jewish captives out of Babylon who was appointed governor of Judah by the Persian king. Right away he began to build the second temple. I am not sure whether the temple he built is the one in Ezekiel’s vision or not. God knows if it was the temple in the vision or whether there shall be a third temple built. I do know that the foundation for the second temple was started in 536 B.C. and they finally completed the job in 516 B.C. It could not compare in magnificence and splendor with Solomon’s temple nor did it house the Ark of the Covenant as the first temple did. Therefore, the group of older Jews who could recall the grandeur of the first temple regarded Zerubbabel’s temple as a poor substitute for the original. They temporarily lost sight of the Spirit of the holy God within the temple. They simply did not know that the second temple would one day have a magnificence to outshine the glory of the first temple. Zerubbabel’s temple was not as outwardly impressive as Solomon’s, but it had a greater glory: the Messiah Himself walked the courts of the temple Zerubbabel helped build. (Luke 2:22, 46; 19:45)

Written by Deborah C. Davis

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