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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 CONSECRATION OF THE TEMPLE. (chap. 43)
EXEGETICAL NOTES.—Ezekiel 43:2. “Behold, the glory of God.” As the Shechinah-glory was the peculiar distinction of the old Temple, so it was to be in the new in a degree as much more transcendent as the proportions of the new exceeded those of the old. The fact that the Shechinah-glory was not in the second Temple proves that it cannot be that Temple which it meant in the prophecy. “The glory came by the way of the east.” The same way by which Jehovah had left the house to destruction because it had been polluted and profaned (chap. Ezekiel 11:22-23). He now returns to take possession of His holy habitation, prepared and sanctified for His reception. “His voice was like a noise of many waters.” The creature has its voice only from the Creator, and therefore must His voice sound above its voice, loud though it be (Psalms 93:3-4; Revelation 1:15). “The earth shined with His glory.” He who said, “Let there be light,” shines forth, when He appears in the clearest light, as He who dwells in inaccessible light (1 Timothy 6:16; Psalms 50:2.Revelation 18:1; Revelation 18:1). By this burst of light extending far beyond Israel is symbolised an enlightenment of the face of the whole earth—the entire region of humanity thus shown to have been in itself and hitherto dark.
Ezekiel 43:3. “When I came to destroy the city”—i.e., to pronounce God’s word for its destruction: so completely did the prophets identify themselves with Him in whose name they spake. “I fell upon my face.” As in chap. Ezekiel 1:28 the prophet fell down upon his face before the majesty of an angry God, so here before that of God appearing in His grace.
Ezekiel 43:5. “The glory of the Lord filled the house.” So when Jehovah took possession of the Tabernacle (Exodus 40:34-35), and of Solomon’s Temple (1 Kings 8:10-11).
Ezekiel 43:7. “And he said unto me.” “The speaker is designated as a man (Ezekiel 43:6), and yet he here speaks as God and applies to himself that which can belong only to Jehovah. We have thus without doubt the angel of God before us, the only one in whom the opposition of God and man is mediated and removed.”—Hengstenberg. “The place of My throne.” God from the first claimed to be their King politically and religiously, and had resisted their wish to have a human king as implying a rejection of Him as the proper Head of the State. The Messiah-King shall realise the original idea of the theocracy, with its at once Divine and human King reigning in righteousness over a people all righteous (Isaiah 52:1; Isaiah 54:13; Isaiah 60:21).
Ezekiel 43:7. “For ever.” Observe that the words for ever mark the distinction between the new and the former sanctuary.
Ezekiel 43:9. “Put away their whoredom, and the carcasses of their kings.” “As whoredom designates idolatry in general, so what is meant to be said by the corpses of their kings applies to the worship of kings, the forgotten subjection to Jehovah under them, who, if kings, yet are perpetuated only as corpses.”—Lange. Ahaz brought in an idolatrous altar from Damascus (2 Kings 16:11), and Manasseh built altars in the house of the Lord (2 Kings 21:4).
Ezekiel 43:10. “That they may be ashamed of their iniquities.” When the holy significance of the Gospel is shown to men by the Holy Spirit, they are ashamed of their sins. “Let them measure the pattern.” Deviation from the exact rules of the Mosaic ordinances was connected with the transgression of the people. So the restoration according to the pattern of the Law was symbolical of their return to obedience.
Ezekiel 43:12. “The whole limit thereof shall be most holy.” This superlative most holy which had been used exclusively of the Holy of Holies was now to characterise the entire building.
Ezekiel 43:13. “These are the measures of the altar”—the altar of burnt offering, the appointed means of access to God. God is about to instruct the seer as to the sacrifices of inauguration whereby places, services, priests, and people were to be dedicated anew to the Lord, as of old under Solomon (1 Kings 8:0).
Ezekiel 43:18. “These are the ordinances of the altar.” “The consecration of the altar corresponds to the consecration of the people to Jehovah, their entire surrender and presentation of themselves to Him. The burnt-offerings usher in the class of offerings which obtains in the state of grace. The justified man lives henceforth not to himself; the service of the Lord which is ministered in the Church is symbolised by this purpose of the altar of burnt-offering; hence there is no and of worship without burnt-offering. The self-surrendering reliance on grace continues to be taken into account, as in the past so for the future, and so the burnt-offering may be called the perpetual offering of the Church of God.”—Lange.
Ezekiel 43:24. “Shall cast salt upon them.” “Salt was to be cast on every meat-offering (Leviticus 2:13). Here it is added to the burnt-offering to express still more the idea of purification. In the second Temple no sacrifice was complete without the use of salt, and the Rabbis tell us that there was a great heap of salt close to the altar always ready for use, and that the inclined plane to the altar was kept covered with salt.”—Edersheim’s Temple.
Ezekiel 43:26. “And they shall consecrate themselves”—literally, fill their hands; the conferring of office upon persons in whose hand is laid what they have forthwith to offer and what they have to handle, referring to Leviticus 8:27; Exodus 29:24-25.
Ezekiel 43:27. “And I will accept yon.” After this inauguration the regular service is resumed, and will be acceptable to God. Under the guidance of the Epistle to the Hebrews we cannot fail to recognise in this vision the symbol of the purification of the Church of God by the cleansing blood of Christ, Victim and Priest (Hebrews 8:9, Hebrews 8:10).
THE REVELATION OF THE GLORY OF JEHOVAH
I. It was a revelation possessing some remarkable features.
1. It was a revelation of the Divine Word. “His voice was like a noise of many waters” (Ezekiel 43:2). The dreamy murmur of summer streams soothes the soul into peace; but the roar of the ocean-storm fills it with dread. So God can speak to man in a whisper that comforts, or in a voice that alarms the soul with its trumpet-like tones. The Word of God is His voice; it is powerful, and is intended to be heard afar. In the constant declaration of the Gospel-message that voice is ever pealing in the ears of the nations, and is distinctly heard above the din of loudest opposition.
2. It was a revelation of visible splendour. “The earth shined with His glory” (Ezekiel 43:2). The works of God are a revelation of His glorious character. He is said to “clothe Himself with light as with a garment,” and His works are a garment jewelled with stars, embroidered with constellations, and glittering with the riches of all worlds, at once hiding and revealing the Divine form. “His glory is the fulness of the whole earth” (Isaiah 6:3).
3. It was a revelation of overwhelming majesty. “And I fell upon my face” (Ezekiel 43:3), overpowered with the awful grandeur of the vision. The greatness of the Creator rises sublimely above His mightiest works; and a sight of the peerless majesty of Jehovah prostrates the soul with a humbling consciousness of imperfection and sin.
II. It was a revelation of the glory of Jehovah consecrating His Temple. “The glory of the Lord filled the house” (vera. 4, 5). So it filled the ancient Tabernacle and the Temple of Solomon (Exodus 40:34; 1 Kings 8:10). No such visible glory filled the second Temple. It is to be seen again only in the completed Temple of the future. The manifested presence of God in the believing soul, as in the perfected Church, is its holiest consecration. The glory of the new Temple shall never fade, because the Divine presence will never be withdrawn.
III. It was a revelation requiring spiritual help to see and understand.
1. The help of the Spirit is necessary to see the visions of God. “So the Spirit took me up, and brought me into the inner court; and, behold, the glory” (Ezekiel 43:5). The unaided intellect is incapable of perceiving spiritual realities; they must be Divinely unfolded (1 Corinthians 2:9-10; 1 Corinthians 2:14). The Spirit throws around the soul a heavenly-tempered atmosphere, through which are sifted the glorious visions of God.
2. The help of the Spirit is necessary to interpret the Word of God. “And I heard Him speaking to me out of the house” (Ezekiel 43:6). The Bible is a closed book to the unspiritual. The literary student may find pleasure in its history and poetry; but its inner meanings are a hidden secret until the soul is anointed with the unction of the Spirit. It is in the Temple that the Spirit delights to interpret to the devout worshipper the transcendent revelations of the Divine Word.
LESSONS.—The glory of Jehovah—
1. Shines in all His works.
2. Should be prayerfully sought out.
3. Is abundantly satisfying.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Ezekiel 43:1-6. “The glory of the God of Israel must take possession of the new Sanctuary, as in time past of the Tabernacle and of Solomon’s Temple. But it is in a different form. The glory was of old veiled in a cloud resting on the mercy-seat of the Ark between cherubim of carved wood, lifeless and motionless, as though the mercy and the power of God were in some sort restricted to the material building and the people to whom it belonged. Now a personal and living God enters the Sanctuary, condescending to occupy it, not merely as a fixed dwelling-place, but as a centre from whence His power and mercy radiate freely to the utmost ends of the earth. Hence amidst the detailed preparations of the house no mention is made of mercy-seat, so important a part in the former Sanctuary.”—Speaker’s Commentary.
—“What we are taught here is, that Jehovah would renew the manifestation of His favour to the covenant-people. which He did pre-eminently when He dwelt among them in the person of His Incarnate Son.”—Henderson.
—“We have to notice the essentially moral character of all that was here displayed in vision respecting the future things of God’s Kingdom. It was not a pattern which God was going to carry out anyhow and accomplish as by a simple fiat of Omnipotence. It depended upon the condition of the people, and only if they agreed to put away sin from among them and give God the supreme place in their hearts could He manifest Himself toward them in the manner described.—Fairbairn.
1. Are always made at the right time and place (Ezekiel 43:1).
2. Are on a scale of imposing magnificence (Ezekiel 43:2).
3. Though retaining points of similarity, they are suited to special emergencies (Ezekiel 43:3).
4. Overawe the soul with their grandeur (Ezekiel 43:3).
5. Are chiefly seen in connection with the Sanctuary (Ezekiel 43:4-5).
6. Have a distinct significance for the privileged beholder (Ezekiel 43:6).
7. Are more highly appreciated when shared with a sympathetic companion (Ezekiel 43:6).
Ezekiel 43:1. “The prophet saw not the glory of God till he had first seen the Mount measured, the Temple restored. Men must usually wait upon God in the use of means ere they see the King in His glory. Men must awake out of the west of wickedness and stand up from dead courses and companies, if Christ, the Day-Star from on high, shall give them light (Ephesians 5:14; Luke 2:28-32).”—Trapp.
—“Open to me the pearl gates, Thou who art the ornament of heaven’s city, Light from Light, chosen as the light before the world began. The entrance of the glory from the east for lighting the Temple took place when the apostles, on the Day of Pentecost, were endued with power from on high.”—Lange.
Ezekiel 43:2. “The glory of God which shines in the Church shines on the world. When God appeared for David the brightness that was before him dispersed the clouds (Psalms 18:12).”
—“All knowledge, all religion, and all arts and sciences have travelled according to the course of the sun, from east to west. From that quarter the Divine glory at first came, and thence the rays of Divine light continue to diffuse themselves over the face of the earth. From thence came the Bible, and through that the new covenant. From thence came the prophets, apostles, and first missionaries that brought the knowledge of God to Europe, to the isles of the sea, and to the west first, and afterwards to these northern regions.”—A. Clarke.
—“This glory of the Lord seems to have been intended as an emblem of the light of the Gospel, which is the glory of Christ, and which spread from the eastern part of the world into the western; and which has been, and still is, powerful and mighty in operation in saving mankind and enlightening the earth with abundance of knowledge, holiness, and comfort.”—Benson.
—“Where the Gospel is preached the waters of life make a noise, not only of themselves, but also from the stones which men cast in, and from the rocky banks of worldly hearts which make resistance; but the glory of eternity shines on earth. The loud noise of the glory is the voice of them who praise the Lord with one heart and one voice, here on earth as there in heaven (Revelation 14:1). Let us pray God to enlighten the dark earth of our heart with that holy light of His glory.”—Lange.
—“And the earth shined with His glory.” “How can it do otherwise when the Sun of Righteousness cometh in place and irradiateth both organ and object? (2 Corinthians 4:6). Into Solomon’s Temple God came in a thick cloud; not so here. Light is now more diffused than ever. Woe be to those who wink, or who seek straws to put out their eyes withal.”—Trapp.
—“Before the coming of Christ the world was full of heathenish darkness, and Canaan full of types, ceremonies, and shadows; there was little light or lustre there. But when Christ came the oracles of the heathen ceased, the Jewish shadows vanished, and the earth shined with the glory of the Gospel (Matthew 4:16).”—Greenhill.
Ezekiel 43:3. “God appeared in the same manner when He sent him to speak words of terror, and when He sent him to speak words of comfort, for in both God is and will be glorified.”
—“The knowledge of God never causes pride but humility, because it at the same time discovers the corruption of the heart. The more modest a man is and the less he trusts to himself, the more he is endowed with the knowledge of God. The bowed down are revived by the Lord, and led by the Spirit to the place where the majesty of the God of glory shines.”—Lange.
Ezekiel 43:4. “The sins of impenitent Israel caused the glory of the Lord to go out of His house, but now the repentance of Israel is blessed with the return of this glory.”—Pool.
—“What hinders this glory from filling also thy heart, provided it is not lull of other things, and needs first to become empty, that thy hunger and desire may, by the breath of the Spirit, seek and find satisfaction in its fulness?”—Lange.
Ezekiel 43:5. Humility—
1. The true attitude of the soul in the revealed presence of God.
2. The result of conscious personal unworthiness.
3. Leads to exaltation.
Ezekiel 43:6. “I heard distinctly, intelligibly, so that I am sure it was no delusion. The Lord, who was in that glory, speaks to His people out of His Temple.”—Pool.
—“The Lord Christ, who is the chief Architect in Temple work, stands by His prophets and servants who are employed therein. When the Temple was first built many were employed therein, but they were not left to their own wisdom and skill. Solomon was principal; he was present, counselled, directed, and assisted; therefore it is said he built the house. So in Ezekiel’s Temple, a type of the Gospel Temple, Christ was present; He counselled, directed, assisted, and stood by the prophet.”—Greenhill.
HOLINESS THE LAW OF THE NEW TEMPLE
I. The Divine government is based in holiness (Ezekiel 43:7). The throne of God, the symbol of regal and governmental authority, is firmly established in righteousness. God is holy, His throne is holy, His law is holy, and every single act of His universal administration is pervaded and beautified by His immaculate holiness (Psalms 47:8). The perfected Temple will be the everlasting home and resting-place of Jehovah, and holiness will be the unchanging law of the house (Psalms 93:5).
II. The transgressions of God’s people against the law of holiness was the cause of their ruin (Ezekiel 43:7-8). Nothing is more plainly revealed or more frequently and emphatically repeated than this truth, that the sufferings of God’s people were brought upon themselves by their disobedience. Sin is so deceptive in its lure and so demoralising in its subtle action, that when its inevitable punishment comes the transgressor is surprised and aggrieved, as if some undeserved injustice had been done to him. It is the nature of sin to blind the soul to its real enormity. Sin cannot reveal itself as sin: it is only as the light of Divine holiness is flashed into it that its terrible havoc is exposed. Therefore, in vindication of His holy name and to produce genuine repentance in the defaulter, God’s denunciations of sin are incessant.
III. The blessings of the law of holiness may be enjoyed by all who truly repent.
1. True repentance is a humbling consciousness of sin (Ezekiel 43:10). The seer is instructed to reveal to Israel the glorious character of the new Temple in order to make them ashamed of their iniquities. A revelation of the goodness of God in what He provides for us, of the purity of God in what He demands, prostrates the soul in humiliation and sorrow. A sense of shame is the first hopeful sign towards moral reform. A teacher of the deaf and dumb once asked his pupils to write down what they thought was the most delightful emotion. One wrote joy, another hope, another gratitude, another love; but one peaceful-looking girl, with eyes shining with tears, wrote, “Repentance is the most delightful emotion;” and when asked why, answered, “Because it is so delightful to be humbled before God!”
2. True repentance is the putting away of sin (Ezekiel 43:9). Sorrow for sin is puerile, weak, illusive, unless accompanied by a sturdy resolution to amend. Sin must not only be grieved over, but forsaken. Maudlin tears reform nothing.
3. True repentance is evidenced by obedience. “That they may keep all the ordinances and do them” (Ezekiel 43:11). The proof of genuine sorrow is seen in an honest endeavour to observe the laws over whose violation we grieve. It is not enough to know the right; we must do it. God reveals His laws, not that they may be admired and praised, still less transgressed, but that they may be observed and practised. Let sorrow for the past urge to prompt and faithful service.
IV. The law of holiness is all-comprehensive in its operation (Ezekiel 43:12). In the old Temple only one spot was accounted the Holy of Holies; but in the new Temple every part is most holy: the law applies with equal force to each portion of the consecrated house. The law of God’s Temple is the law of the universe, and furnishes the standard by which all thoughts, words, and deeds will be unerringly estimated.
1. Holiness is the law of the highest life.
2. Holiness is the glory of a perfect character.
2. Holiness is the organ of the grandest spiritual visions.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Ezekiel 43:7-9. The Divine Ruler—
1. Is enthroned in the midst of His people (Ezekiel 43:7).
2. Cannot tolerate a rival (Ezekiel 43:8).
3. Ensures the everlasting happiness of the obedient (Ezekiel 43:9).
Ezekiel 43:8. Spurious Religion.
1. Its institutions a poor imitation of the genuine. “Setting their threshold by My thresholds, and their post by My posts.”
2. Gains no authority by its proximity to the genuine. “The wall between Me and them.”
3. Is an aggravated profanation of the genuine. “They have even defiled My holy name by their abominations that they have committed.”
4. Incurs the Divine displeasure and punishment. “Wherefore I have consumed them in Mine anger.”
—“The palace of Solomon abutted upon the southern side of the embankment of the Temple platform. Thus the threshold of the King’s dwelling was set by the threshold of Jehovah, and their posts by His posts, and there was but a wall between Jehovah and them. It was not that the act of building a palace close to the Temple was in itself profane, but when the kings gave themselves up to idolatry this vicinity was to the Temple a pollution and defilement.”—Speaker’s Commentary.
Ezekiel 43:9. “God now first returns to the apostates; but His grace is designed to work repentance, and then He will never more depart from them.”—Diedrich.
Ezekiel 43:10-12. The Vision of Divine Things—
1. Humbles the soul under a sense of ingratitude and sin (Ezekiel 43:10).
2. Stimulates to a more earnest and practical obedience (Ezekiel 43:11).
3. Reveals the exalted sanctity of the Divine law (Ezekiel 43:12).
Ezekiel 43:10-11. The New Temple. “The Israelites of the Captivity might see the pattern when they had repented of their iniquities; till then it was impossible. The idea of a spiritual society could not unfold itself to them while they were living in a heartless, divided, self-righteous state. They must be humbled before they could feel the possibility of such a society; still more before they could confess it to be real. The hindrance to the discernment of it was not an intellectual one; it was not that they wanted the intuition and the foresight of the prophet; it was wholly moral. It was their baseness and selfishness which made their eyes dim that they could not see, and their ears heavy that they could not hear. It was so then; it was so in every generation afterwards. ‘Repent,’ said John the Baptist, ‘for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ The pattern of the house is about to be presented to you. The spiritual society, of which your Temple is the imperfect outward embodiment, is going to be manifested. The Head of it is among you, but you cannot see it, you cannot see Him. Repent; turn round to God, that He may remove the film from your eyes and enable you to receive the revelation which He is making to you. The same language goes through the Gospels. All the blindness which is ascribed to the Jewish nation is mainly this, that they would not accept it as the manifestation of a kingdom for human beings, of a society grounded upon the name of the Son of God and the Son of Man; that they would have only a Jewish society. And that Jewish society proved itself not to be Jewish, but a miserable collection of sects, hating each other and contrary to all men, not claiming to be children of God, and therefore not able to assert their title as children of Abraham; essentially inhuman, and therefore necessarily given up to the worship of a false god—of Mammon instead of Jehovah. Ezekiel was to show his countrymen the form of the house when a confession of their iniquities should enable them to discern the pattern after which it was to be built. The law must hold good for all time to come. There may be such a house yet built in Jerusalem. But it must be built by a people who are capable of giving the outward expression to an inward truth that is possessing them; who have humbled themselves in dust and ashes before God for their selfishness, their exclusiveness, their worship of gold; who have confessed the Cross to be the highest manifestation of the wisdom and power of God; who have rejoiced in that manifestation because it is universal, and who have perceived that the Divine Unity is not a narrow, selfish individuality, but the unity of a Father with a Son in one Spirit.”—F. D. Maurice.
Ezekiel 43:10. “Solomon’s Temple left the people in their disobedience and worship of idols; but this house belongs to a higher order. He who lays it to heart will cease sinning and duly examine the Temple and its measurements. The shame of the poor sinner finds in the Temple—which is Christ—exactly the right measure.”—Lange.
—“Nothing so effectually makes men ashamed of their sins as the revelation to them by the Holy Ghost of Christ crucified and Christ glorified in the hearing of the Word. The height, depth, length, and breadth of the love of Christ to His spiritual Temple, the elect Church, causes the believer to loathe his past course of life and henceforth desire to live wholly to Christ. Thus believers are prepared for further discoveries of the blessed laws of God’s spiritual house.”—Fausset.
1. When God reveals mercy and shows kindness to a sinful people, they ought to be ashamed and repent of all their former iniquities.
(1.) As acts of filthiness.
(2.) As acts of folly.
(3.) As acts of unkindness and ingratitude.
(4.) As fearing a just reproof.
(5.) As fearing God’s cause and name will suffer by them.
2. Those who have humbled themselves for their former sins are fit to be spiritual mathematicians.”—Greenhill.
—“And let them measure the pattern.” “That by a holy geometry they may in the spirit of their minds take all the dimensions of it and be transformed into the likeness of the heavenly pattern. These are those holy and heavenly mathematics which none can learn but those that are taught of God, and without which none can be Christ’s disciple; like as none might be scholar to Plato that had not the grounds of geometry.”—Trapp.
Ezekiel 43:11. “They who repent of their sins are capable of knowing the Temple and its arrangements, while those who wantonly pursue fleshly desires receive not the spirit of wisdom, and are incapable of knowing the law of the Lord (2 Timothy 2:19; 1 John 3:3).”—Lange.
—The Ordinances of the Temple. “
1. That to repentant men, ashamed of all their evil doings, the ways of God’s house are to be made known by the prophets and ministers.
2. Temple and Church work must not be according to men’s fancies, but according to the mind of God and that pattern He gives forth.
3. That the Temple and Church of Christ has distinct and peculiar laws of its own.
4. The Church in due time shall be such a Temple as is represented by this vision.
5. The end of making known the laws and ways of God’s house is, that they may be observed and practised.”—Greenhill.
Ezekiel 43:12. The Law of God’s Church. “
1. The Church of God has a good foundation. ‘Upon the mountain.’
2. The Church of God is eminent and conspicuous. ‘Upon the top of the mountain.’
3. The whole Church of God is to be made up of holy materials. ‘The whole limit thereof round about.’
4. The law of this house, which is holiness, is specially to be observed. ‘Behold, this is the law of the house.’ ”—Greenhill.
—“The law of the house—which was pre-eminently entitled to be called the law—consisted in the whole region of the Temple-Mount being most holy. Not, as hitherto, was this characteristic to be confined to a single apartment of the Temple; it was to embrace the entire circumference occupied by the symbolical institutions of the kingdom, the chambers allotted to the priests, and even the courts trodden by the people, as well as the immediate dwelling-place of Jehovah. So that the pattern delineated is that of a true theocracy, having God Himself for King, with the community in all its members for true denizens of the kingdom and acceptable ministers of righteousness before the Lord.”—Fairbairn.
—Let none expect the protection and blessings of it that will not submit to this law.
THE ALTAR AN EMBLEM OF TRUE WORSHIP
I. That true worship must be offered at the Divinely consecrated shrine (Ezekiel 43:13-26). The important attached to the altar here described is seen in the minute particulars given concerning its measurements and structure, and the elaborate ceremonial observed in its dedication to the service of Jehovah. It was not like one of the portable altars that idolatrous worshippers were accustomed to carry about with them in their journeys and wars, but was a fixed shrine having a permanent place in the Temple, and was the recognised medium of access to God. Here the worship of the Temple must be offered. The Jewish system being a theocracy, a visible representation of the reign of God, Jehovah was worshipped by them as both God and King. This twofold character was observable in all the arrangements of the ancient cultus. The Temple was at once the shrine of God and the palace and throne of the King. Christ is the Altar of the new dispensation, the Divine shrine consecrated by suffering and death, through whom alone worship can be offered to the God of heaven. From any other altar worship rises no higher than the smoke that ascends from it, and its effect disappears as quickly.
II. That true worship is a sacrifice (Ezekiel 43:27). As soon as the altar was duly consecrated sacrifices were perpetually offered upon it. “The burnt-offering” was the perfect sacrifice, because the victim was wholly consumed by fire and sent up to God, as it were, on the wings of fire. It was a memorial of God’s covenant, and signified that the offerer belonged wholly to God, that he dedicated himself, soul and body, to Him, and placed his life at His disposal. Every such sacrifice was a type of the perfect offering made by Christ on behalf of the human race. “The peace-offering” was not an atoning sacrifice to make peace with God, but a joyful celebration of peace made through the covenant. In this part of the ritual, more than in any other, we see Jehovah present in His house inviting the worshipper to feast with Him. Peace-offerings were presented either as a thanksgiving, or in fulfilment of a vow, or as a free-will offering of love and joy. True worship is a sacrifice, a free offering up of the worshipper and all he has to God, and is expressed in devout adoration and thanksgiving and in joyful praise. It is the spontaneous outburst of a loving heart, yearning to render homage to the great object of its love, and finding its deepest satisfaction in the exercise.
III. That true worship is acceptable to God (Ezekiel 43:27). It is acceptable when and as it is offered in the manner and spirit God has Himself prescribed. It must be offered through Christ, the true Priest and Altar, and with the aid of the Divine Spirit. Many of the heathen priests acknowledged the moral element in worship, as when one counselled, “Sacrifice to the gods, not so much clothed with purple garments as with a pure heart.” And another said, “God regards not the multitude of the sacrifices, but the disposition of the sacrificer.” God must cease to be Spirit before any service but that which is spiritual can be accepted by Him. David expresses the blessedness and help received in worship by men of all ages, in that earnest invitation, “O come, let us worship and bow down” (Psalms 95:6-7). To refuse to worship God is as great a folly as to deny His existence. He who denies the being of God is an atheist to His essence; he who denies His worship is an atheist to His honour. The instinct of worship is as universal as the notion of a God, or else idolatry would never have gained so firm a footing in the world. Our minds are a beam from God, and, as the beams of the sun when they touch the earth, should reflect back upon God. We unsoul our souls when we neglect the worship of God, and are like flies that are found oftener on dunghills than among flowers.
1. Worship is absolutely necessary for the culture of the soul.
2. Worship is acceptable only as it is offered according to Divinely sanctioned methods.
3. Idolatry is a false and debasing worship.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Ezekiel 43:13-27. “Now that the Lord has taken possession of the house, the prophet goes on to show how the work of fellowship and communion with Him is to proceed on the part of the people. It must begin anew, and of course be conducted after the old manner, for no other could here come into contemplation. In ancient times the grand medium of Divine intercourse was the altar, at which all gifts and sacrifices were to be presented for the Divine favour and blessing.”—Fairbairn.
—The Divinely Authorised Altar—
1. Is minutely described that there might be no question as to its identity (Ezekiel 43:13-17).
2. Is solemnly consecrated that there may be no doubt as to the necessity for its use (Ezekiel 43:18-26).
3. Provides a way of acceptance to every penitent seeker (Ezekiel 43:27).
Ezekiel 43:13. The Jews after their return from captivity had an altar long before they had a Temple (Ezra 3:3), but the altar here spoken of is an altar in the Temple, the mystical Temple, emblematic of the Gospel Church; and this altar is mystical too, for Christ is our Altar.
—“No one could go into the Temple without passing by the altar, and so no one can go into heaven without the sacrifice of the death of Christ.”—Starck.
Ezekiel 43:15-17. “The number twelve was symbolical of the twelve tribes, four of the earth, sixteen is the square of four, and fourteen the double of seven—the number of the covenant as being composed of three, the number of God, and of four, the number of the world. Thus we have in the altar a special instance of Hebrew symbolism.”—Speaker’s Commentary.
Ezekiel 43:15. “ ‘So the altar’—Heb., the mount of God. ‘And from the altar’—Heb., from the lion of God. Perhaps the first was a name given to the altar when elevated to the honour of God, and on which the victims were offered to Him; and the second, the lion of God, may mean the hearth, which might have been thus called because it devoured and consumed the burnt-offerings as a lion does his prey.”—A. Clarke.
Ezekiel 43:16. “Christ, the Christian Altar, is complete, firm, and fixed.”—Trapp.
Ezekiel 43:17. “Toward the east.” “These stairs were placed eastward that he who went up should have his face to the west, his back to the east: his face toward God, not toward the rising sun, as they who made the sun their idol.”—Pool.
Ezekiel 43:18. “Thus God comes first and gives grace; His grace makes ashamed, chastises, sanctifies, reconciles, and produces intimate eternal fellowship. This is always God’s way with men, provided only we recognise it aright in these days of ours when now it is set in the most glorious light; Christ and the apostles have given additional clearness to Ezekiel.”—Diedrich.
Ezekiel 43:18-27. “Although the chief scope of this vision be to set out the glory and greatness of the Church under the Gospel and among the Gentiles, yet, because the Jews at this time being in Babylon were to return to Jerusalem, the Lord alludes to ordinances, rites, and ceremonies which were well known among the Jews, holding out under them the spiritual worship of the Gospel.”—Greenhill.
Ezekiel 43:24. The Best Efforts of Man—
1. Are tainted with impurity.
2. Need to be cleansed and made wholesome.
3. Augmented in efficacy when salted with study, prayer, tears, and suffering.
—Grace is the salt with which all our religious performances must be seasoned (Colossians 4:6).
—“True Christians are sacrifices well seasoned: incorrupt doctrines will make incorrupt souls and bodies; the salt makes both immortal: men soundly salted with Gospel truths shall never perish.”—Greenhill.
Ezekiel 43:27. As to the future sacrificial service of Israel, we can well afford to wait till God by the event shall clear up every difficulty; and throughout eternity we shall adoringly wonder at the beautiful variety and, at the same time, perfect unity of the several parts of the mighty scheme of redemption through the incarnate Son of God.”—Fausset.
—“Those who were in Christ before others ought in this to serve as priests to the younger believers.”—Lange.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Ezekiel 43". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26