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The Ideal City
I. And the sanctuary shall be in the midst of it. This need not startle us unduly; we come here somewhat suddenly upon a great philosophy: this is how all things are moulded and ruled and blessed. It is so in the case of the individual heart It is a poor life that has not the sanctuary in the midst of it; it may be invisible: God is a Spirit, and not to be seen; to see Him is to annihilate Him. How poor a life it would be without the unseen, the invisible, the throbbing, trembling life just inside a palpitating veil. What is our life? Is the altar its main ornament and its principal force? Is the altar the centre of our life, a centre without which there would be no life? Do we take all our laws from God, now on stone, now on flowers, now on drops of April rain? Do we live and move and have our being in God? You have no life if you have not the altar or sanctuary in the midst of your very heart; without that your life is a kind of haphazard game; you will try this and plunge into that and adventure the other.
II. Think of a house without a sanctuary in the midst! Do not accept my definition of sanctuary, you are not bound to accept any man's definition of that holy word, but you are bound as a man standing upright, with some touch of majesty about you, to have a secret sanctuary, a place of holy communion, from which you must for the moment banish your very dearest one that you may see One dearer still, and see that dearer One with the vision of the heart; then you are master of the day.
III. And so it is in life's daily business; the sanctuary must be in the midst of it We mistake the values and proportions of things. And a man is in such great haste to get away to his business, which only means, unless there be a high spiritual tone about the man's very soul, that the business will one day go away from him. A curious life, a singular life, a ghostly life! Oh that men were wise! And so the altar must be in the City. The sanctuary must be in the midst of it.
IV. Did Jesus Christ ever say anything about this matter? Yes; He spoke upon every subject under heaven and above heaven. He gives you exactly this idea of the sanctuary of God being in the midst of the heart, the home, the business, and the City. He said, 'Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you'. What would He do? He would put the sanctuary in the midst, He would make the sanctuary and all that the word sanctuary implies the main thing in life. And I tell you that unless Christianity be the main thing it ought not to be in the life at all; it is the supreme truth, or is it an empty pretence and disappointing mockery. 'Seek ye first the kingdom of God.'
Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. v. p. 146.
Ezekiel, taught to feel the Divine nearness on a foreign soil, applied the words with a new meaning, and found in them a new measure of what was implied by the Divine nearness. The betrothed who delight themselves with planning the house they are to share together would settle every detail with a less loving elaboration than the exile who thus in spirit revisited his native city, and trod the courts of a new temple. To measure its walls and plan out even the outhouses that surrounded it was the pastime of weary hours which the ebb of inspiration left empty and chill, and no civil duty or hope intervened to cheer and occupy.
It is man's consolation that the future is to be a sunrise instead of a sunset. Time present works for time to come. Work then, and hope! Such is Ezekiel's cry.... As for the city built by him, he mutters above it this mysterious Name, Jehovah Shammah, which signifies 'The Eternal is there'. Then, standing silent in the darkness, he shows men, on the far horizon, an ever-widening space of azure sky.
References. XLVIII. 35. Silvester Whitehead, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxvi. 1904, p. 56. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxvii. No. 2182.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Ezekiel 48". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Easter