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THE VISION OF THE RESTORED TEMPLE AND THE REINHABITED LAND (Chaps. 40–48)
This is a development of the promise contained in Ezekiel 37:27. The subject of the closing chapters of Ezekiel is the restitution of the kingdom of God. This is expressed by a vision in which are displayed not only a rebuilt Temple, but also by a reformed priesthood, reorganised services, a restored monarchy, a reapportioned territory, a renewed people, and, as a consequence, the diffusion of fertility and plenty over the whole earth. The return from Babylon was indeed the beginning of this work, but only a beginning, introductory to the future kingdom of God, first upon earth, finally in heaven. The vision must therefore be viewed as strictly symbolical, the symbols employed being the Mosaic ordinances. These ordinances had indeed in themselves a hidden meaning. The Tabernacle in the midst of the tents of the tribes, and afterwards the Temple in the capital of the land of inheritance, was intended to signify the dwelling of Jehovah among His people; the priesthood was to denote the mediation between God and man; the monarchy the sovereignty of God, the people the saints of God, the territory their inheritance. So that the symbols here employed have an essential propriety; yet they are truly symbols, and as such they are to be regarded.”—Speaker’s Commentary.
THE IDEAL TEMPLE OF THE FUTURE (Chap. 40)
EXEGETICAL NOTES.—Ezekiel 40:1. “In the five and twentieth year.” The fiftieth year from the 18th of Josiah, the year of his memorable passover (2 Kings 22:12). The jubilee year began with the month of Tisri, on the tenth day of which was the day of atonement. God allowed the prophet to see the Temple and the future freedom of Israel on the day of jubilee because then servants became free, and on the day of atonement because then the sins of Israel are forgiven. “In the fourteenth year after the city was smitten, in the self-same day.” The desolation of the Temple, city, and commonwealth is here recalled in vivid contrast to the glorious restoration that is to be.
Ezekiel 40:2. “Set me upon a very high mountain”—Moriah, very high as compared with the plains of Babylon, still more so as to its moral elevation (chaps, Ezekiel 17:22; Ezekiel 20:40).—“By which was as the frame of a city.” It is not a city which is seen, but a building—the Temple and its courts—like a city in its construction, surrounded by massive walls.
Ezekiel 40:3. “Behold, there was a man.” The Old Testament manifestation of heavenly beings as men prepared men’s minds for the coming incarnation.—“Like the appearance of brass.” Brightly shining—resplendent.—“With a line of flax”—for long measurements—measuring the ground-plan.—“And a measuring reed”—used in measuring houses. It marked the straightness of the walls. To measure implied a separation to sacred purposes.
Ezekiel 40:5. “By the cubit and a handbreadth.” Measures were mostly taken from the human body. The greater cubit, the length from the elbow to the end of the middle finger, a little more than two feet; exceeding the ordinary cubit, from the elbow to the wrist, by a hand-breadth—i.e., twenty-one inches in all. The palm was the full breadth of the hand, three and a half inches. “The breadth of the building.” The boundary wall. The height and breadth of this will are given, but not the length, which is determined hereafter, and shown to enclose a square, a side of which is 500 cubits.
Ezekiel 40:6. “The gate which looketh toward the east.” This is particularly described, all the other gate-buildings being exactly like it. The east gate was to be especially sacred, as it was through it the glory of God had departed (chap. Ezekiel 11:23), and through it the glory was to return (chaps. Ezekiel 43:1-2; Ezekiel 44:2-3).
Ezekiel 40:7. “And every little chamber was”—guard-chambers, for the use of the Levites who watched at the Temple gates, and for depositing utensils and musical instruments. In our translation the words was and were are continually introduced, but are not in the original. They would be better away. The substantives depend upon the verb measured throughout.
Ezekiel 40:9. “And the posts thereof”—a projection like the ram’s horn. Hence in architecture a column projecting from the wall with its base, shaft, and capital, or it may be the base only, as in Ezekiel 40:16; Ezekiel 40:49.
Ezekiel 40:14. “He made also.” The angel is exhibiting a newly constructed building, and therefore is said to make it.
“Narrow windows”—closed with network—the jambs sloping towards the opening. The ancients had no glass, so they had the windows latticed—narrow in the interior of the walls and widening at the exterior. This however, though common in later styles, is not in accordance with the architecture, in which all the lines were straight and the spaces rectangular. “Likewise to the arches”—the porches. The arch was at this time unknown in architecture. The word probably denotes a hall or colonnade of posts, as in Ezekiel 40:14.
Ezekiel 40:17. “A pavement made for the court”—tesselated mosaic. This pavement came up to the sides of the gate-buildings, and was carried along the sides of the court parallel to the boundary-wall, thus forming a border of forty-four cubits to the court.
Ezekiel 40:18. “The lower pavement.” The outer court being lower than the inner, the pavement running round, it was naturally called the lower pavement, to distinguish it from the pavement of the inner court.
Ezekiel 40:20-28. The north and south gates were of precisely the same dimensions as the eastern gate. In the case of the two other gates no mention is made of a building with thirty chambers, such as was found on the east side. Only one was needed, and it was assigned to the east as being the sacred quarter, and that most conveniently situated for the officiating priests.
Ezekiel 40:31. “The arches thereof”—the porches, the columned hall. “And the going up to it had eight steps.” From the precincts to the outer court were seven steps, from the outer to the inner court eight, making together the number of the Psalms (Psalms 120-134), supposed by some to have been called Psalms of Degrees because they were sung by the choir of Levites upon the steps (degrees) of the Temple courts.
Ezekiel 40:38. “By the posts of the gates.” By the pillars which were in front and along the sides of the gate-building. Gates must here be used for the gates proper, of which there were more than one in the gate-building.
Ezekiel 40:39. “In the porch.” Not under the covered portico, which was only ten cubits broad, but in the angles formed by the porch and gate front.
Ezekiel 40:43. “And within were hooks”—cooking apparatus for cooking the flesh of the sacrifices that fell to the priests. The hooks were fastened in the walls within the apartment, to hang the meat from, so as to roast it.
Ezekiel 40:44. “The chambers of the singers.” These were Levites of particular families, those of Heman, Asaph, and Merari, whose genealogy is carefully traced up to Levi in 1 Chronicles 6:31.
Ezekiel 40:45. “The keepers of the charge of the house”—the priests who keep watch as guards of the Temple.
Ezekiel 40:46. “The keepers of the charge of the altar: the sons of Zadok.” The priests were all descended from one or other of the two sons of Aaron—Eleazar and Ithamar. David distributed the priestly offices between the families of Zadok, the representative of Eleazar, and Ahimelech, the representative of Ithamar. The high-priest-hood had for many years been in the line of Ithamar, to which Eli belonged; but Solomon, removing Abiathar from the high-priesthood because of the part he took in the rebellion of Adonijah, and appointing Zadok, restored this office to the family of Eleazar. The priests who had charge of the sacrifices were distinguished from the rest of the Levitical priests as they “which come near to the Lord to minister unto Him.”
Ezekiel 40:48. “The porch of the house.” The new chapter should begin at this verse, as here the seer passes from the court to the Temple itself, beginning with the porch. The front of the Temple porch consisted of a central opening with two columns on either side.
Ezekiel 40:49. “By the steps”—ten steps
(70), as in the later Temple. “Pillars by the posts”—literally, to the posts, meaning that upon the bases (posts) stood shafts (pillars).
A DIVINELY INSPIRED SEER
The concluding vision of the prophet is not the least striking in the magnificent series. The poetical conception is full of boldness and grandeur, though the details are wrought out with prosaic minuteness of literalness. It is quite in keeping with the graphic style of this sublime prophet of the captivity. Ezekiel bursts upon the scene like the storm-cloud described in his first prophecy; the progress of his visions dazzles us like the revolving chromatic lights in the midst of the moving cloud, until the storm is spent, the cloud melts into space, and so much of the light remains as reveals the splendours of a city, Temple, and commonwealth illumined with the unfading glory of an ever-present God. He writes as a Jew and a priest familiar from his earliest days to the time of his opening manhood with the scenes of the Temple-worship in his ever-loved Jerusalem. The materials of his visions are drawn from the experience of his youth, when impressions are clearest and most indelible. His conception of the Temple of the future is therefore an enlargement of the one he had seen and known on Mount Moriah; for the human mind cannot create anything out of nothing, but can only contrast, combine, and expand from something that already exists. And the glory of future Messianic times will exceed that of the present, as the glowing picture now presented by the prophet transcended the scene of deplorable desolation that then reigned over the land of promise. Like all the other visions, the one we are now to consider was intended to comfort and inspirit the disconsolate Jews, and to light up the gloom of their captivity with the well-founded hope of a brighter and better day. The rarest blessings—blessings that form a new epoch in the outgrowth of religious experience—often come to God’s people in the hour of their most abject misery. We are sometimes humbled that we may gather strength to bear more meekly the weight of a loftier exaltation. Observe—
I. That a Divinely inspired Seer retains the use of his natural faculties in intensified clearness.
1. He is conscious of a lofty mental elevation. “The hand of the Lord was upon me, brought me into the land of Israel, and set me upon a very high mountain” (Ezekiel 40:1-2). Genius is something distinct from Divine inspiration. Genius is a species of inspiration; it generates its own inspiration. It is the gift of God, and imposes on its possessor a responsibility for its legitimate use proportioned to its quality. Where ordinary talent advances by slow degrees, genius soars on rapid wing. But Divine inspiration is the mind of God acting for the time being on the mind of man for a special and definite purpose. Whatever genius or talent man possesses, it is raised by contact with the Divine Spirit and made the vehicle of the Divine purpose. The man is still conscious that he is himself, while he is also conscious he is but the instrument, for the time being, of a superior power.
2. He is clearly cognisant of matters of fact. Ezekiel is not so far carried away out of himself, or fascinated by the brilliance of the visions of God, as to overlook that it was “in the five and twentieth year of the captivity, in the tenth day of the month, in the fourteenth year after the city was smitten” (Ezekiel 40:1). Divine inspiration does not destroy or supersede, but strengthens and clarifies our common-sense. It allows room for the free-play of individual peculiarities. It preserves the truth communicated inviolate, in its human setting. It does not do for man what he can do for himself. Hence the inspired books of the Bible bear the impress of the writers’ strongly marked individuality.
II. That the Divinely inspired Seer is favoured with extraordinary visions.
1. He sees in outline a magnificent city-temple. “The frame of a city on the south” (Ezekiel 40:2). Precisely in this direction would the former city and Temple appear to any one approaching them from the north. He saw the picture or model of a temple as vast as a city; it is a city for men to dwell in; it is a temple for God to dwell in. To his priestly predilections the building is all temple, occupying a space and presenting a grandeur of ritual exceeding anything hitherto known in Jewish history. The highest conception to Ezekiel of the future glory of Israel was a great temple with a perfect form of worship. The loftiest vision of the latest New Testament seer is that of a city in which there is no temple, but where God is Himself the temple and the light and glory of the whole (Revelation 21:22-23). “Accustomed to cities, we raise a great city of God in our imaginations of the future, just as in an age or region where cities were unknown we might have pictured heaven as a garden like Eden.”—Geikie.
2. He is brought into the presence of an instructor possessing rare endowments. “Whose appearance was like the appearance of brass”—shining with the lustre of superior gifts: “with a line of flax in his hand and a measuring reed”—instruments for conveying exact knowledge (Ezekiel 40:3). This being is identified by the New Testament seer as Christ, the sovereign architect of His own Church (Revelation 1:13-15; Revelation 11:1). Such a person might well be introduced with an ecce—“Behold a man” (Ezekiel 40:3). All the details of the vision that followed were imparted by this heavenly messenger, and become intelligible only as he enlightens and instructs the mind of the beholder. The inspiration of the Divine Spirit brings the soul into the immediate presence of God and lights up the revealed word with a Divine meaning. Then it is that the lines of right and wrong stand out in clear and startling contrast.
III. That a Divinely inspired Seer is required to exercise his best powers to understand the meaning of the subjects revealed (Ezekiel 40:4). Not only are the outward and inward senses to be on the alert, but all are to be earnestly concentrated upon the devout study of the truth. It is surprising how much can be seen in a subject that engages our affections. Love quickens and illumines all our sensibilities. “Love sees not with the eyes, but with the mind.” Inspiration helps but does not displace our natural faculties. Mental and spiritual insight are gained by the diligent exercise of our powers (Hebrews 10:14). Nature reveals its greatest secrets only to the industrious. The world is full of endless suggestiveness to the wakeful and resolute student.
IV. The Divinely inspired Seer is commissioned to freely and fully communicate his knowledge for the benefit of others. “Declare all that thou seest to the house of Israel” (Ezekiel 40:4). We may not tell all we learn from others, but we may safely declare all we learn from God: there is nothing to conceal; nothing but what will be the better for telling. We have never mastered a subject until we can talk about it intelligently and forcibly. Whatever knowledge has been helpful to ourselves should be communicated for the good of others. Knowledge that is not freely circulated is valueless; it is so much useless lumber; and the mind, like an overloaded boat, is in constant danger of being swamped. The most highly gifted teacher delights to give of his best, and is often as modestly unconscious that he is doing so as the loveliest flower is unconscious of the beauty it displays and the delicious perfume it scatters. The man who is Divinely inspired to see a truth is irresistibly impelled to make it known.
LESSONS.—l. The grandest truths are Divinely revealed.
2. The revelations of God are not appreciated without diligent study.
3. The superior knowledge of the few is intended for the good of the many.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Ezekiel 40:1-4. “We observe so far a resemblance between the commencement and the close of the book, that in each alike the prophet is borne away by a Divine hand and placed amid the visions of God. There are, however, two characteristic differences between the earlier and the later. First, in respect to the region where these ideal manifestations of Divine truth and glory were given—formerly on the banks of the Chebar, as if the glory of Jehovah had forsaken its old haunts; and now on what was emphatically the mount of God, as if He were again returned thither and had already raised it to a far nobler elevation. The substance of the visions, too, very strikingly differs; for, while that on the Chebar was fitted chiefly to awaken thoughts of terror and solemn awe, this was calculated to produce feelings of the liveliest confidence and the most exalted hopes. The heavens seemed now cleared of all their stormier elements and were radiant with the sunshine of the Divine favour.”—Fairbairn.
—“The vision beginning here and continued to the end of this book is one impossible as yet to understand fully, and for the clear explanation of which we must wait until the event makes the whole plain. There are difficulties about a literal interpretation; but these may all vanish when the fulfilment takes place: and there is the difficulty about explaining the whole figuratively, that thus the minute and accurate details seem meaningless and needless, whereas faith assures us that all the most minute parts of God’s Word have their purpose and aim.”—Fausset.
—“There is nothing in Holy Scripture that is not useful and profitable, though at first sight it may seem otherwise. Metals lie hid in hardest quarries; wholesome herbs are found oft in roughest places, and precious stones in barren sands. Hippocrates says that in the faculty of physic there is nothing small, nothing contemptible. Aristotle says, in all nature nothing is so mean, vile, and abject that deserves not to be admired; and the Rabbins have a saying that a mountain of sense hangs on every apex of the Word of God.”—Trapp.
—Divine Communications to Man. “
1. The Lord keeps an exact account of the time of His Church and people’s suffering (Ezekiel 40:1). He is the best and most punctual chronologer of all in heaven and earth. Men and angels may mistake, misreckon, but the Lord doth not, cannot. When we are in misery we think God forgets us (Psalms 79:5; Psalms 89:46); but He takes notice of every hour, day, month, and year.
2. When the Church is low, in the worst, most desperate and deplorable condition, even then the Lord hath a care of His Church (Ezekiel 40:1). When the Church is in the wilderness, under persecution in Egypt or Babylon, the Lord is solicitous for it.
3. The Church is Mount Zion, or Mount Zion is the Church wherein God makes known His mind for the comfort of His people (Ezekiel 40:2). Mountains are high, conspicuous, and strong, and so is the Church; on mountains is good air, so likewise is in the Church; hills are nearer heaven than other places; they are below, the Church is above the world.
4. The Church is well seated and well ordered. ‘Upon which was the frame of a city’ (Ezekiel 40:2). It is seated upon a mountain, the mountain of God’s decree, power, and truth; it is well ordered, for it is as the frame of a city, where everything is in its right place and all fitly joined together.
5. The Man Christ, who is sinless and glorious, is the chief builder and exact measurer of the Church and things belonging to it (Ezekiel 40:4). The line and reed are in His hand; He measures all the trees and stones used in this building, the outward and inward courts, with all their appurtenances. He was the son of Joseph, a carpenter, and some mystery might lie in that.
6. The way into Zion and unto the Father is by Christ (Ezekiel 40:3). He stands in the gate of the Temple ready to receive any that should come and be found fit for entrance: He had His line and reed in His hand to measure them. None unmeasured might enter.
7. The Lord Jesus, when Divine things are presented to us, would have us attent, intent, and apply the whole heart unto them (Ezekiel 40:4). Let us mind, and mind to purpose, all things shown us of Christ; let us set our senses and whole heart upon them.
8. What the Lord Christ reveals unto His servants, the prophets and ministers, they must not reserve to themselves, but communicate to others for their instruction, edification, and comfort. ‘Declare all that thou seest’ (Ezekiel 40:4). They must not only utter what they receive, but utter all they receive (Acts 20:27).”—Greenhill.
Ezekiel 40:1. “The Word of God counts the years and months and days of our distress to make us understand that it is not unknown to God how long we have borne the yoke of the cross and the oppression of tyrants.”—Starck.
—“Ezekiel was already five-and-twenty years in a foreign land. We must be prepared and purified in many ways by God’s Spirit before we can rightly understand the consolations of God; and one grows in God when one learns under present sufferings to see more and more of the eternal comfort.”—Diedrich.
—“The vision of the Temple a trilogy of thoughts.
1. From judgment to mercy.
2. From prison to freedom.
3. From the world to Christ and into the community of God.”—Lange.
Ezekiel 40:2. The Visions of God—
1. Need a highly sensitised spirituality to appreciate.
2. Are on a scale of unexampled magnificence.
3. Have a close connection with the supreme interests of humanity.
4. Are a revelation of His character and purposes.
5. Should be reverently and earnestly contemplated.
6. Elevate the spectator to a lofty moral standard.
—“To human eyes Canaan was lost for Israel, to human eyes Jerusalem lay in the dust; but the prophet sees it again far more glorious. Such seeing is truly given by God in the Spirit. Land, city, and Temple had been lost through the sins of the people; yet Israel must remain and fulfil its eternal purpose for the glory of God. A fairer and loftier Jerusalem and Temple must be still in store for Israel, which the prophet represents entirely by figures taken from the old land, the old royal seat, and the old Temple. Yet he does not merely make the old be renewed; everything becomes quite different in order to indicate that the Kingdom of God will in its completion present a quite different figure.”—Diedrich.
—“The land of Israel is the hieroglyph of the inheritance which God will give to His people from the whole world, which, in contrast thereto, is called the sea or the wilderness.”—Lange.
—“This is indeed a place to sit down in and meditate. Jerusalem in the old covenant, the Jerusalem which is the Christian Church and the Jerusalem above—what a theme for contemplation throughout time and eternity!—Jerusalem a Sabbatic place in the working days of the world’s history.”—Lange.
Ezekiel 40:3. The Architect of the Divine Temple—
1. Is illumined with the lustre of His unique qualifications. “Whose appearance was like the appearance of brass.”
2. Possesses the means of constructing an exact and symmetrical building. “With a line of flax in his hand and a measuring reed.”
3. Has absolute control of the structure which He rears. “He stood in the gate.”
4. Is Himself an illustrious pattern of the glorious edifice into which man may be morally built up (Ephesians 2:20-22).
—“Like bright polished brass which strongly reflected the rays of light. Probably he had a nimbus or glory round his head. This was either an angel, or, as some think, a personal appearance of our blessed Lord.”—A. Clarke.
—“With a line in his hand and a measuring reed.” The Law of God—
1. Is the unchanging standard of moral actions.
2. Regulates the form and constitution of the Church. 3. Is unerringly applied by the hand of the great Master Builder in every stage of the Church’s upbuilding.
4. Is clearly defined in the Divinely inspired Word.
—“The measurements are—
1. Exact, to show that the promise is not vague, but certain.
2. Equal, to denote harmony.
3. Vast, to mark majesty and grandeur. The extraordinary massiveness of the walls may have had reference to the enormous structures raised at this time by Nebuchadnezzar, who was not only the greatest conqueror but the greatest builder in the world.”—Speaker’s Commentary.
—“Let every man examine himself by this measuring-rod how far he has advanced.”—Gregory.
—“Christ is indeed the foundation and corner-stone of His Church; but He is also the Builder, and brings the building erected thereon always more and more to perfection. The brass signifies holiness and purity, also life and permanent strength. Christ is the strong and invincible Hero.”—Lange.
—“He stood in the gate.” Elsewhere also Christ stands at the door and calls, invites in, shows the way and opens the entrance to the Temple and into the inner sauctury.
Ezekiel 40:4. High Spiritual Attainments—
1. Not reached without the diligent exercise of all our powers.
2. The outward senses are the gateways of spiritual knowledge.
3. Only that which affects the heart interests and influences the whole man.
4. High spiritual attainments the best qualification for instructing others.
—“This building of Ezekiel’s is not to be understood of a new material building, but, like the chariot at the beginning and also the building at the end, is nothing else than the Kingdom of Christ, the holy Church of Christendom here on earth even to the last day. But how all the parts are to be properly interpreted and placed, that we will defer until we shall see the whole building prepared and ready. Although it is a mystery, it ought not to remain a mystery.”—Lange.
—“The threefold summons to attention intimates that a matter is here treated of which is of the greatest importance to the community of God. To this it is essential that faith in the indestructibility of the Kingdom of God, and in its resurrection from every death, live in it in full power. It is this alone which is here treated of, however dense may be the veil of architectural details behind which it is concealed.”—Hengstenberg
THE CHURCH OF GOD A BUILDING
I. Strongly guarded. “Behold a wall on the outside of the house round about” (Ezekiel 40:5). The first and second Temples were surrounded by a massive wall. This wall denoted not only the separation of the Church from the world, but also the Divine power that protected the Church at every point. The Lord is said to be a wall of fire and a shield encompassing and guarding His people (Zechariah 2:5; Psalms 5:12). Both the pre-and-post-exilian Temples have perished; but the Church of God remains, and is more firmly established than ever. The Lord is its invulnerable defence.
II. Accessible to every sincere inquirer. There are ample gates east, north, and south (Ezekiel 40:6-26; Ezekiel 40:32-35).
1. There are gates to show that all are welcome. From whatever quarter they come, the gates are invitingly open. All earnest seekers after God, of whatever nationality, may find an entrance into the Divine Temple (Matthew 8:11).
2. There are gates, to indicate that only those who come by those gates can be admitted. The Lord of the Temple has the absolute right to formulate His own conditions of entrance. There is to be a moral fitness in the applicant (Revelation 21:27). None who come with a broken and contrite heart—a sense of self-helplessness and need—shall be turned away (Psalms 34:18; John 6:37).
III. Suffused with light. There are windows, narrow without, but widened within to diffuse the light more copiously (Ezekiel 40:16). The little chambers had windows: so little Churches, little saints, have their measure of light. The Church of God is the light and instructor of the world (Matthew 5:14). If that light were quenched, myriads would be doomed to grope their aimless way in hopeless darkness. The Church is bright and clear only as it is constantly bathed in the light of God.
IV. With ample provision for acts of highest worship.
1. There is the altar of sacrifice (Ezekiel 40:47; Ezekiel 40:39-43). The sacrifices were intended to point out the desert of sin, the need of repentance and expiation, to acknowledge that the goods of the offerer belonged to God, and to be a type and memorial of the coming sacrifice of Christ to be offered once for all. They were a pledge of the sincerity of the worshipper. There is no true worship without sacrifice.
2. There is the offering of praise. There is a special place in the Temple for the singers (Ezekiel 40:44). The music was assigned to the Levites, and to those Israelites of note whose daughters had married into the priesthood. But these Israelites were allowed to take part only in the instrumental part of the service; the vocal part was sung by the Levites only. Wind and stringed instruments were used—trumpets, pipes or hautboys, viols, lutes, harps, and cymbals. Psalms were sung and were arranged according to the character of the service, on ordinary or special occasions. Music reaches its highest consecration when it is devoted to the worship of God. Praise is the essence of true worship.
3. There is the duty of prayer (Ezekiel 40:45-46). Prayers were offered by the priests at the morning and evening services, and were expressed in well-known and constantly repeated forms, in some of which prayers the people joined the priests. After prayers, they rehearsed the ten commandments and repeated the portions of the Law written on their phylacteries. The phylactery sentences were repeated daily, the time of the morning at which this duty was to begin being stated by the Jewish Rabbis as “from such time as a man can see to distinguish between blue and green, even until sunrising.” The chambers of the priests were conveniently situated for their duties. It was their privilege to come near to the Lord to minister unto Him (Ezekiel 40:46). Prayer brings the soul into the immediate presence of God, and is an essential element in genuine worship.
V. With an imposing and conspicuous entrance. “The porch of the house” (Ezekiel 40:48-49). The porch was an elevated building, rising higher than the Temple itself, and was approached by a flight of steps. It was a prominent and imposing object as soon as you entered the inner court, or court of sacrifice. It admitted to the Holy Place, and led ultimately to the most Holy Place. While the porch seemed to invite the worshipper to enter, it also taught that we are not to rush into the Divine presence with indecent haste, but draw near thoughtfully and by slow and solemn stages—passing first through the outer court, then the inner, and through the porch into the house itself. Christ is the door of the heavenly Temple (John 10:9; Revelation 4:1), and through Him the soul is conducted into the midst of its imperishable treasures and endless revelations.
1. The Church of God is securely founded in unchanging truth.
2. Is composed of indestructible material.
3. Invites all men to share in its privileges.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Ezekiel 40:5. The Divine Protection—
1. Surrounds the Church like a wall.
2. Is invincible.
3. Secures the everlasting safety of the faithful.
4. Cannot be pleaded as an excuse for personal unfaithfulness.
—“The Church has a triple wall—
1. God as protection.
2. The angels as guardians.
3. Believers—in other words, their prayers.”—A. Lapide.
—“The object of the wall is to draw the boundary between the sacred and the profane. This boundary had a double meaning. To the community it was a warning not to draw near the sanctuary with unrenewed hearts. With respect to God, it guaranteed that He would eventually separate His people from the world. Because the people of God had neglected the warning implied in the boundary, as a just punishment the boundary was also in the latter respect destroyed. To the desecration as guilt succeeded the desecration as punishment. In the pierced wall, the smitten city lay an image of the abandonment of the people of God to the world. That this relation will be altered again in the future, that God will again raise His reformed people to independence, is figured by the erection of the new wall, which in this respect is an embodiment of God’s help and grace that are to be imparted to the covenant-people renewed in spirit.”—Hengstenberg.
—“A measuring-reed of six cubits long by the cubit and a hand-breadth. The larger measure of the sanctuary—
1. From the love wherewith God loves us.
2. According to the love wherewith we ought in return to love God in the brethren.”—Cocceius.
Ezekiel 40:6. “And went up the stairs thereof.” (See also Ezekiel 40:22; Ezekiel 40:26; Ezekiel 40:31; Ezekiel 40:34; Ezekiel 40:37; Ezekiel 40:49). Progress in Divine Things. “
1. We come to the knowledge of spiritual things by degrees; they are not known at once, but successively. Temple mysteries we come unto by steps. Christ leads His people on from one thing to another, from faith to faith, from strength to strength.
2. The knowledge of Divine things is not attained without labour and difficulty. There are steps and stairs in this Temple, and those that will behold the glory and understand the mysteries of it must go upward, first one step and then another. It is difficult to go up steps and stairs.
3. In Temple work we must make progress. It is not sufficient to go up a step or two and then stand still or descend: we must go forward, higher, to the top. Christ overcame all difficulties; He went up all the stairs, and persevering to the end, was crowned (Revelation 3:21).”—Greenhill.
—“When believers enter they have—
1. A guide with them into all truth.
2. Without Him they can do nothing.
3. Progress is made toward full knowledge of God and Christ.”—Cocceius.
—“The east gate as model and pattern gate in its homiletical significance: every sermon ought to lead to the Father through Christ.”
—“The Jews called the east the fore-part of heaven; the west the back-part: by the first they denote spiritual things; by the second temporal and earthly things. Those that come into this Temple must mind spiritual things; they must not let out their hearts to the world and worldly delights—they are western things, and there was no door in the west. They must go upwards, not downwards; keep within, not go out.”—Greenhill.
—“One must not so thoughtlessly imagine that only a single leap is required to come into heaven, but constant ascent is requisite and necessary in order to seek after the things that are above.”
Ezekiel 40:7. The Chambers of the Temple—“
1. Represent the mansions which are in heaven.
2. The entertainment, rest, and comfort the saints enjoy in the Church under Christ.
3. The several congregations, or churches, of Gospel times, be they little or great, all which are in the Church of Christ, as these chambers were in this visional Temple.”—Greenhill.
—In the Lord’s House are many mansions, according to the distinction of offices and gifts: each mansion serves to ornament the house.
Ezekiel 40:8. “The porch reminds us of the peace and repose connected with the consciousness of the grace of God.”—Œcolampadius.
—“Truly they who are preparing for the holy office of the ministry are measured in many ways, and they should still further test themselves by the measure of the sanctuary.”—Starck.
Ezekiel 40:13-15. “Thus those who are in this way are walled around, covered and protected on all sides; so that nothing can befall them in Him who is the Door and the Way, but everything leads forward to the sanctuary when we walk in Christ Jesus.”—Cocceius.
Ezekiel 40:16. The Light of the Church—
1. Is borrowed light that comes through the windows of its ordinances.
2. An evidence of its joyous experiences (Psalms 97:11).
3. A testimony to the world wrapped in moral darkness.
—“By these windows is signified the spiritual light which should be in the Church of Christ. He is called The Sun (Malachi 4:2) A Great Light (Isaiah 9:2), and The Light of the World (John 8:12). And by those windows—the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers—He hath and still doth let in light into the Church. The least churches and the least saints shall not be without windows; they shall have light and joy, teaching and comfort.”—Greenhill.
—“In the Church of God darkness has no place, but the light of truth and faith shines everywhere; yea, believers themselves are a light in the Lord, whose works shine before men. They who walk in the ways of the Lord have the true, cheerful and clear light; while the natural soul is a gateway without windows.”—Lange.
Ezekiel 40:17-19. The Outer and Inner Courts of the Temple. “In the outward court the people stood; and it represented the nations outside the Church. The inward court represented the Church, where the Word of God enlightens and nourishes us, and Christ is our altar of perfumes. The Holy of Holies represented heaven; into it the high priest only entered—typifying our High Priest, the Lord Jesus, His entrance in there alone by His own power, to bring us thither. So that the first signified the state of nature; the second the state of grace; the third the state of glory. Hereby the greatness of the Church in the time of the Gospel, and especially in the time of the New Jerusalem, is pointed out. These courts were of great compass, and had gates looking to the several parts of the world.”—Greenhill.
Ezekiel 40:17. “Those who are employed in God’s House ought to keep even their feet clean, for holiness is the ornament of His House.”—Starck.
Ezekiel 40:20. “By the diversity of the gates you may recognise the diversity of those who enter. As in our cathedrals every part tells something to the deeper-seeing connoisseur, so this is still more the case in Ezekiel’s Temple. Everything here is in harmony and mutual correspondence, like the Old and the New Testaments, Moses and Christ, the prophets and the apostles.”—Lange.
Ezekiel 40:24. When we are in Temple work, we must move according to the mind of the Master Builder, and not of our own heads.
Ezekiel 40:28. “The courts are separated, for the covenant of Abraham is one thing, the covenant of Moses another, and the covenant of Christ still another. Yet they only mutually confirm one another. For are not the contents of the covenant the promises of God, who graciously forgives sin? One court, however, is nearer than another to the sanctuary. Walkest thou unhindered in the court of the priests, busied with spiritual sacrifices; then thank the Lord, and extend the hand to others that by thy support they may over come difficulties.”—Œcolampadius.
Ezekiel 40:31. “And the going up to it had eight steps.” (See also Ezekiel 40:34; Ezekiel 40:37; Ezekiel 40:49; comp. with Ezekiel 40:22; Ezekiel 40:26). A Step Higher—
1. An important qualification for every leader of religions thought.
2. Should be the constant ambition of every student of Scripture truth.
3. Should mark the steady advance of individual spiritual experience.
Ezekiel 40:37. “The people that came thither were to be holy, but the priests who came into the inner court were to be more holy. They who are nearest God should be most holy; they are to be a step at least above others.”—Greenhill.
Ezekiel 40:38. “This signifies that our hearts may remain unclean, even when we give our bodies to be burned for the glory of God. The constant mortification of the flesh must ground itself on Christ, otherwise we will lose courage.—The believing soul presents its heart, as one sets a table, on which Christ as sacrifice is beheld, for faith lays hold of this alone.”—Lange.
Ezekiel 40:39-43. A Place of Sacrifice—
1. May be found everywhere.
2. Essential to acceptable worship.
3. A constant reminder of sin.
4. Constantly points to the All-efficacious Sacrifice.
—It is not to be imagined that under the times of Christ the Jewish worship should be revived. These expositions of tables, offerings, and sacrifices import some other thing—the good and plentiful provision which should be in the Gospel Church.
—“The return to literal sacrifices would seem to be a return to the beggarly elements of legal types after we have got the antitype. We are sure, therefore, that the Temple-sacrifices in restored Jerusalem, of whatever nature they may be, will not set aside the fixed principle that the one sacrifice of Christ is final and complete. Two considerations may help to lessen the difficulty.
1. The Jews, as a nation, stand to God in a peculiar relation, distinct from that of Christians of the present elect Church, gathered out of Jews and Gentiles indiscriminately. The same principle, therefore, of the non-existence of sacrifice in any form may not hold good in that dispensation to be ushered in by the advent of Messiah and His reign over the restored Israelite nation as holds good in our present Gentile times. That shall be the period of public liturgy, or perfect outward worship of the great congregation on earth, as the present time is one of gathering out spiritual worshippers one by one. Besides Israel’s relation to Christ as her spiritual Saviour, she will then also perform a perfect outward service of sacrifice, prayer, and praise, as a nation, to her manifested Divine King reigning in the midst of her; and all nations of the earth shall take a part in that service as recognising His Divine Kingship over them also.
2. The Israelites shall probably also set forth, in all its harmonious parts, the outward beauty and inward sanctity of the Temple-service, which in their palmiest days of old they had never exhibited in its full perfection. The full excellence and antitypical perfection of all the parts of the ancient Temple-service, which, from ignorance of its hidden meaning, seemed a cumbersome yoke and unintelligible to the worshipper, shall then be fully understood, and therefore shall become a delightful service of love, instead of, as formerly, a burdensome task. Israel’s province will be to exhibit, in the minutest details of sacrifice, the essential unity of the Law and Gospel, which now seem opposed. The ideal of the theocratic Temple and its service shall then first be realised.”—Fausset.
Ezekiel 40:44. “These set out the spiritual joy and songs which should be in the Church of Christ (Isaiah 65:14; Isaiah 65:17-18). In this Jerusalem will be a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual praise (1 Peter 2:5). Conquerors are full of joy and much in singing praises, especially spiritual conquerors.”—Greenhill.
—“A place in the House of God is justly due to them who sing the praise of God in spiritual and heavenly songs, which contribute so powerfully to spiritual edification. In these corrupt days music is used more for sin and vanity than for the praise, of God. When will it be free from this service to vanity? He who draws near to God sings to Him also in His heart: they sing best who in the midst of troubles are full of joy. They incite others to sing.”—Lange.
—“That the singers are here so prominent is explained by this, that in the exalted position of the community of God more ample material was given them for new songs, so that the singing in the worship of the new Temple must play a chief part, as indeed the multiplication of the singers and musicians under David stood connected with the advance which the people of God had then made. Even in the times soon after the return from the exile singing revived in a degree that had not been since David.”—Hengstenberg.
Ezekiel 40:45-46. “By these priests may be understood the ministers of the Gospel who have charge of the holy things and persons (1 Timothy 6:13-14; Acts 20:28). They are the watchmen; the charge of souls is committed to them, and they must be accountants for them (Hebrews 13:17). So true Christians are priests in this Temple, and some have charge of the holy things and persons therein (Revelation 5:10).”—Greenhill.
Ezekiel 40:46. The Priestly Office—
1. Gains its, distinction more by moral fitness than sacerdotal lineage.
2. A solemn responsibility.
3. Brings the ministrant into the immediate presence of God.
4. Is the honoured privilege of the truly godly.
—“Since’ sons of Zadok’ is in our language equivalent to ‘sons of righteousness,’ this implies that only those duly keep the charge who are justified by faith and born of God, whom Jesus Christ has begotten and upholds by the word of His power.”—Œcolampadius.
Ezekiel 40:47. “Christ doeth all things in His Church in number, weight, and measure. By His Spirit He ordereth the length, breadth, and depth of His spiritual House, and bestoweth His gifts by measure to each member (Romans 12:0; 2 Corinthians 10:0; 2 Corinthians 10:0; Ephesians 3:4).”—Trapp.
—“The true Temple is the body of Christ as He took it out of the grave on the third day, for it surpasses all figures and is pure life. The prophet here prophesies of it; but he does so in lisping words, and for the sake of his contemporaries his understanding of Christ in these chapters, where he speaks of Christ’s Kingdom and sanctuary, is still in swaddling-clothes.”—Diedrich.
Ezekiel 40:48-49. “The porch of the house.” The Entrance to the Church.—
1. Stands invitingly open to the penitent.
2. Must be passed to enjoy the highest spiritual privileges.
3. Is broad enough to admit the worst who are truly contrite, and narrow enough to exclude the incorrigible.
4. A joyous spectacle to angels and God when thronged with sincere inquirers.
Ezekiel 40:48. “It was of the nature of the porch to be open, being an open approach to a space that is or may be closed, which shelters from the inclemency of the weather those who must wait for the opening. A door is not mentioned here, as otherwise generally in the closed rooms of the Temple. The words, ‘three cubits on this side, and three cubits on that,’ indicate that an open space was left in the midst. In the porches of the court, that had a large thoroughfare, the whole space within must have been open.”—Hengstenberg.
—Christ is a porch to His people. Jerome once said that while we are in this life we are in a porch-state. Here we have a body of death, see all things imperfectly; but when we enter into the heavenly Temple we shall be free, and know as we are known.
Ezekiel 40:49. “There were pillars, one on this side and another on that.” “The proportion in height agrees with the thickness of the corner pillars, which in the court amounts only to two cubits, here to five. In a building which was consecrated to the Lord of heaven, and was to effect a connection between heaven and earth, the most emphatic reference to heaven could not be wanting; as far as it was possible for man, the head of the building must point to heaven; humility, no less than pride, has need of a tower whose top is in heaven.”—Hengstenberg.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Ezekiel 40". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany