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Ezekiel has seen the new temple in the two previous chapters. In this chapter the Owner and Occupant takes up residence there. That Owner and Occupant is the LORD in His glory, Who had to leave His temple, which earlier had been desecrated by men. A clear message to the people is attached to His return. Ezekiel is given this message with the command to pass it on to the people. The intention is that they will be touched in their conscience by these words and return to God with repentance in their hearts for their unfaithfulness. Further, the law for the house is given, the dimensions of the altar of burnt offering are given, and it is said how it is to be consecrated.
The Glory of the LORD Returns
The Man leads Ezekiel back to the east gate (Ezekiel 43:1), which is one of the three entrances to the temple complex described in Ezekiel 40. Ezekiel saw how the glory of God left Solomon’s temple to the east (Ezekiel 9:3; Ezekiel 10:4Ezekiel 10:18-Psalms :; Ezekiel 11:22-Lamentations :). That glory did not return in the temple that Zerubbabel rebuilt after returning from exile (cf. Haggai 2:3). Now Ezekiel sees the breathtaking sight of “the glory of the God of Israel”, probably using the same throne chariot with which he saw the glory disappear. He is an eyewitness to the coming of God’s glory “from the way of the east” (Ezekiel 43:2).
God’s glory is returning to dwell in His temple. The sound that accompanies that return is reminiscent of “the sound of many waters”. This recalls the powerful and majestic sound of the wings of the cherubim, reinforcing the thought of the throne chariot (cf. Ezekiel 1:24; Revelation 1:15; Revelation 14:2). The glory of the LORD casts its radiance upon the earth which is thereby illuminated (cf. Ezekiel 1:4; Ezekiel 1:27; Deuteronomy 33:2; Isaiah 60:1-Leviticus :; Habakkuk 3:4; Revelation 18:1).
The glory of the God of Israel comes from the east. In that direction, Ezekiel saw that glory disappear from the temple in a vision eighteen years earlier (Ezekiel 43:3; Ezekiel 43:1). On that occasion he announced the destruction of the city.
He calls the destruction of the city here an act done by the LORD, when in fact the city was destroyed by the Babylonians. The Babylonians have thus executed God’s judgment, so that in reality it is God Who has destroyed the city.
He sees the glory of the LORD “came into the house by the way of the gate facing toward the east” (Ezekiel 43:4; cf. Exodus 40:34-Habakkuk :; 2 Chronicles 7:1; 2 Chronicles 7:3). This vision is perhaps the highlight of his ministry. That he may see and pass on that the glory of the LORD is returning to His house can be surpassed by nothing. When we consider that Ezekiel is a priest ‘by birth’, this will undoubtedly make him forget all previous lack of being able to serve as a priest. At this sight he falls down in worship to the ground (cf. Ezekiel 44:4). From the return of the glory of the LORD speaks great grace.
After seeing the glory, the Spirit lifts Ezekiel up (cf. Ezekiel 3:12) and brings him into the inner court, to the temple entrance (Ezekiel 43:5). There he can see that the glory of the LORD has filled the house. The glory of the LORD also fills the tabernacle and temple when they were built (Exodus 40:34-Habakkuk :; 1 Kings 8:10-:).
The LORD in the Midst of His People
Ezekiel then hears “one”, that is the LORD, “from the house” speaking to him (Ezekiel 43:6). It indeed is amazing that the LORD speaks to Ezekiel “while a man” – that is the Son of God Whom we know as the Lord Jesus, Who is also the LORD – is standing beside him. That the LORD is going to “speak” to Ezekiel, determines us that He is communicating His plans through His Word.
The LORD tells Ezekiel that here, in this place, He has established His “throne” (Ezekiel 43:7). From this place He rules. It is also the place of “the soles” of His feet, which means that He has a right to it and is asserting that right (cf. Isaiah 66:1; Acts 7:49; Joshua 1:3). It is the place of His rest, in which all may share who are in the realm of peace. This is the place where He will “dwell among the sons of Israel”, His people, “forever”, that is during the realm of peace (cf. Exodus 29:45-1 Corinthians :; Psalms 132:13-2 Chronicles :).
The temple has three aspects. First, the temple is a textbook on the holiness of God. Second, the temple is the dwelling place of God, a holy dwelling place that cannot be defiled again. Third, the temple is a place of worship and assembly. These aspects are also expressed in the church, the spiritual temple in the time in which we live. In the meetings of the church we may experience His presence in holiness and we may worship Him there. For us, this is not bound to a geographical place (John 4:21).
The LORD can dwell in the midst of His people because His people will no longer defile His holy Name, neither they, nor their kings. It will be finished forever with their harlotry, which is their idolatry, just as it will be finished with the defilement by the corpses of their kings near His house (Jeremiah 16:18; Zechariah 13:2). This defilement is a result of their previous idolatry committed in their own houses – “their threshold” and “their doorpost” – by which they set aside and replaced the LORD (Ezekiel 43:8).
Whoever is over the threshold is in the house. In the ‘threshold’ we can see a certain condition that must be met in order to enter. God’s people have made their own conditions, in addition to the condition that God applies, in order to enter His house. For God, it is enough that a person believes in order to belong to His house. People have additionally made membership in a church or agreeing to a man-made confession an additional condition. These man-made thresholds will no longer be there in the realm of peace, nor should they have any place in what is now God’s house.
We recognize the placing of their doorpost next to His doorpost in the introduction of human ordinances into the house of God next to the ordinances He has given for His house. We can think, for example, of the introduction of forms of worship that are man-centered. As long as the worship feels good, then God will be satisfied with it as well.
We can also see the teaching of commandments of men that render the Word of God powerless as placing one’s own doorpost next to God’s. We see this everywhere where tradition is the measure of serving God and not His Word. The roman catholic church is the epitome of this. What also does well today is to adapt the liturgy to the taste of the congregation. Above all, a gathering should be fun. Marketing principles are leading, and not the statutes of God. Thus, one’s own doorpost is placed next to the doorpost of God.
The wall around the temple that is supposed to stop the people from approaching God at their whim that in the temple is only an outward separation. In their hearts and in their homes they have adhered to idols. Thus they defiled the holy Name of the LORD and He had to consume them in His anger. All that uncleanness has been purged out and is gone forever (Ezekiel 43:9). He can dwell among them forever.
Ezekiel, again addressed as “son of man”, is commanded to describe his fellow citizens “the temple” or “the house” (Ezekiel 43:10). The point of this is that they will be ashamed because of all their iniquities. They are to measure the design of the house, that is, to be intensely concerned with how the LORD designed it.
That reflection will correct their thoughts about His house and bring them into line with how He thinks about it. They will come to know the standard of God’s holiness that is evident in the design and construction of the temple. That reflection will also make it clear to them how much they have defiled the first temple, Solomon’s, and in what ways they have departed from the precepts given by the LORD. When they see this, they will be ashamed of what they have done to the first temple.
If we want to know God’s thoughts about the church as His house, we must look at the house in its first glory or the house in its final, ultimate glory. In the book of Acts we see the house in its first glory. Then everything is still fresh and powerful. God’s Spirit works mightily in the church. Because of the unfaithfulness of the believers, decay soon set in and the church dilapidated. When the Lord Jesus has taken up the church to Himself, she will fulfill God’s purpose. We see this in the book of Revelation.
The creation of God’s house, the church (Acts 2:1-Numbers :), and its completion when the Lord Jesus comes to take up the church (1 Thessalonians 4:14-Job :), show God’s plan for the church. Between its creation and completion, we see the building of the church on earth as a responsibility entrusted to us (1 Corinthians 3:10-Ezra :). When we compare our work in building the church as a house in which God can dwell with God’s plan, we see how great the difference is. If the difference comes to us properly, we will be ashamed of what we have made of God’s house.
In that mind of shame and confession, God’s people are able to receive further announcements about the house of the LORD (Ezekiel 43:11). The prophet will then show the people a plan of the temple and explain it in more detail. By “the design of the house” we can think of its general appearance, the view of the whole. We can apply that to the worldwide church (Ephesians 2:21-Song of Solomon :; 1 Peter 2:5). The church has no national boundaries and no denominations. There is only one church. Local churches should be a miniature representation of that worldwide church (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:27).
“Its structure” refers to the various buildings and chambers. We can apply this to the local churches. The churches in Corinth is different from the one in Ephesus and different again from the one in Colossae. But all local churches must act on the teaching that Paul taught “everywhere in every church” (1 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Corinthians 7:17; cf. Revelation 2:7; Revelation 2:11Revelation 2:17; Revelation 2:29Revelation 3:6; Revelation 3:13Revelation 3:22).
“Its exits” and “its entrances” indicate life and liberty (cf. John 10:9). The exits are mentioned first, before the entrances (cf. Psalms 121:8). In light of the holiness of that place, this seems to emphasize that whoever appears there before the LORD also comes out alive from His presence (cf. Exodus 24:9-1 Kings :). For those who have been made fit to be in His presence, that place is not awesome (cf. Genesis 28:16-Esther :). He or she goes in confidently and comes out full of joy and strength.
The church is a place or organism to which people, having accepted the Lord Jesus in faith, have been added. They have, so to speak, “entered” it and may worship God there (1 Peter 2:5). The believer’s life also takes place in the world. They go out – without, of course, leaving the church, for that is not possible – to show there in their daily activities Who God is (1 Peter 2:9). They show that they have repented of their sins and idols and now live for Him Who died and rose for them and that they expect Him from heaven (1 Thessalonians 1:9-2 Samuel :).
“All its designs” is everything that serves for decoration, as the cherubim and palm trees. “All its statutes, and all its laws” [M.T. repeats “and all its designs” after “statutes”] concerns everything that must be observed during a service in the temple. It should all help to bring “all its designs” more clearly before the attention. In the application to the church, we can think of the meetings where the church gathers to celebrate the Lord’s Supper or to pray (Acts 2:42). We can also think of the commandment to love one another (John 13:34-Habakkuk :) and also to maintain the holiness of God’s house (1 Corinthians 5:13). From “all its design” a testimony will go forth into the world.
Everything that Ezekiel has seen in the previous chapters, and what he will still see in the following chapters about the arrangement of and the regulations for the service, he is to communicate to his compatriots. Also, he is to write it down in their sight. It is not only meant for them to think about, but also that it will change their minds. Everything that he has said and written down is to be kept in faith and have an effect in their lives, so that their lives may become to the glory of God.
The application of the foregoing is not difficult to make. God reveals His thoughts about His house, the church, to those who are humble and with their whole hearts fixed on Him. He can make known all the details about the truth of the church to believers who have cleansed themselves of uncleanness and are ashamed that they have been so unfaithful. We need to be deeply impressed again by the holiness of God’s dwelling place.
The law for the house of God is: the holiness of the house (Ezekiel 43:12). God’s house is “on the top of the mountain” (Isaiah 2:2-Leviticus :). As a result, the entire temple area is “most holy” which emphasizes the separation of the entire area from the entire land around it. The new temple will be open to all nations. Sin and evil will not be tolerated there. Therefore, holiness is also the hallmark of this temple. Likewise, we too are called to be holy in all areas of our lives (Hebrews 12:14).
The altar (Ezekiel 43:13) is the altar of burnt offering. The altar is located in the inner court, in front of the temple house. This altar, like the altar in the previous temples, is the center of worship. Around the altar a base or a trench is dug in the ground. It is used to collect the blood of the sacrificial animals. First there is an elevation of one cubit and then there is an elevation of two cubits (Ezekiel 43:14).
“The altar hearth” is at a height of four cubits (Ezekiel 43:15). In direct connection with the altar hearth, it is mentioned that the altar has four horns (cf. Exodus 27:2; Psalms 118:27). The altar hearth indicates the judgment that afflicts the sacrifice. The four horns indicate the power of the sacrifice and the number four its scope: the result of the sacrifice is offered to all, to the ends of the earth (Revelation 7:1). One of the names of God is “Rock” (Psalms 18:2). He is the guarantee that whoever has accepted the sacrifice of Christ will never lose salvation. The sacrifice always and unchangeably holds its value.
The altar hearth is a square twelve cubits long and twelve cubits wide (Ezekiel 43:16). Surrounding the altar is a ledge fourteen cubits long and fourteen cubits wide (Ezekiel 43:17). Finally, there is a staircase on the east side of the altar. The east side is the side the sinner has gone to, away from God (Genesis 4:16; Genesis 11:2). From that side he comes when he returns to God. God is approached from the east. When the priest is at the top of the steps, he is looking to the west, to the temple, which means that his gaze is directed to God’s dwelling place when he sacrifices.
The staircase is needed to sacrifice on this large altar. The altar is like a large building with three square stories. Each higher story is two cubits narrower than the story below it, making the altar look like a tower. We could also call it a monument. On top, the priests work.
In the realm of peace, this great monument symbolizes the work of Christ. This work is highlighted emphatically by this altar for the entire duration of the realm of peace. In picture, this means that there will remain a constant remembrance of Golgotha. That remembrance will be expressed in the animal sacrifices that will be offered again during the peace kingdom.
These animal sacrifices are not a denial of the work of Christ, but a reference to His great sacrifice. They are brought in remembrance of the finished work. These animal sacrifices can be compared to the Lord’s Supper, which is also a meal of remembrance. We also bring (spiritual) sacrifices, which refer to His work. We do it in remembrance of Him, we think of Him, we think back to what He has done.
A remembrance is also a memorial, a monument that makes visible what happened at the time. The memorial is not only a remembrance but also a proclamation. The request of the Lord Jesus “do this in remembrance of Me” (1 Corinthians 11:23-Ezekiel :), not only implies the request to remember Him, that we may never forget, but also means to bear witness to the world to what He has done. The LORD “has made His wonders to be remembered” (Psalms 111:4).
In the meetings of the believers we celebrate the Supper to His remembrance, whereby the Supper is also, as it were, a monument to His death, to which we owe everything. It is God’s will that there is a memorial of the work of His Son, Who is in the midst of the church as the Risen and Living One.
The Consecration of the Altar
The Lord GOD gives Ezekiel special “statutes for the altar” (Ezekiel 43:18), that is, about how it is to be used, how sacrifices are to be offered on it. On the day when the altar is ready to offer burnt offerings on it and sprinkle blood on it, Ezekiel is to give “the Levitical priests who are from the offspring of Zadok” who draw near to the LORD to minister to Him, a sin offering (Ezekiel 43:19). That it is an important command is evident from the repetition “declares the Lord GOD”.
Here Ezekiel comes to an exercise of his service as a priest, a service he was never able to perform. It is noteworthy, however, that his service consists of giving an offering to the priests. He does not sacrifice himself. This is reminiscent of the service of Moses who also gives to Aaron and his sons what is necessary to perform their service as priests (Leviticus 8:2; Leviticus 8:14). Ezekiel will be allowed to do this work in the resurrection (cf. Isaiah 26:19; Daniel 12:2-Leviticus :; Daniel 12:13). This must have been another special encouragement to this priest-prophet.
Ezekiel is addressed as “son of man”, reminding us of the Lord Jesus as the Son of Man. The resurrection of the Lord Jesus gives those whom He has redeemed cause to honor God. He is as the Risen One in the midst of the redeemed and He Himself leads in honoring God. We see this in Psalm 22, where we see Him as the sin offering. After He has completed the work for sin described in that psalm (Psalms 22:1-Ecclesiastes :), He calls all who fear God to praise and worship God (Psalms 22:22-Isaiah :). Thus He makes (spiritual) sacrifices available to His own.
The LORD determines which animal will serve as the sin offering. The sin offering must be a young bull (cf. Leviticus 4:3; Leviticus 4:14Leviticus 16:3; Numbers 8:8; Ezekiel 43:25). Ezekiel is to put the blood of that sin offering on the four horns of the altar (cf. Exodus 29:12; Leviticus 4:7; Leviticus 4:18Leviticus 16:18) and also on four corners of the ledge around the altar (Ezekiel 43:20). By doing so, the altar will cleansed and atonement will be made for it (cf. Exodus 29:36).
In order to apply the blood to the four horns of the altar, Ezekiel must stand on top of the altar and make a circumambulation around it. Thus he sees the altar in its powerful effect in all directions and that this effect can be there by virtue of the blood of the sin offering, the Lord Jesus. Spiritually, we make the circumambulation around the altar when we consider the versatility of the work of Christ and the scope of His atoning work, what His work means both to God and to the world (Psalms 26:6-Ruth :).
After applying the blood of the sin offering, Ezekiel is to take the animal to be burned by one of the priests of the sons of Zadok “in the appointed place of the house, outside the sanctuary” (Ezekiel 43:21; cf. Leviticus 16:27; Exodus 29:14; Leviticus 4:12; Hebrews 13:13).
This does not complete the consecration of the altar. On the second day, “a male goat without blemish” must be offered “for a sin offering” (Ezekiel 43:22). This serves, like the young bull, to cleanse the altar. This “finished cleansing”, but not yet the dedication (Ezekiel 43:23). A young bull and a ram from the flock, both without blemish, must still be offered. They must be offered “before the LORD” (Ezekiel 43:24).
Before they are offered, the priests must throw salt on the young bull and on the ram. This is already commanded under the old covenant (Leviticus 2:13). Salt is the sign of the covenant (Numbers 18:19; 2 Chronicles 13:5). Salt is preserving and repels spoilage and is therefore an appropriate symbol, not only of the old, but also of the new covenant.
The prescription for the dedication of the altar continues with the instruction that a goat should be prepared for sacrifice every day for seven days as a sin offering (Ezekiel 43:25). Also, a young bull and a ram from the flock, without blemish, are to be prepared for sacrifice. For seven days – this refers to a complete period – atonement must be made before the altar, cleansing it and consecrating it for use (Ezekiel 43:26; cf. Exodus 29:35; Leviticus 8:33).
After the seven-day period is completed, an eighth day follows as the beginning of all the days “and onward” (Ezekiel 43:27). An eighth day is the continuation of a completed period of seven days and is thus also the beginning of a new period, and this is a period without end, all the days, “and onward”. The eighth day indicates eternity. On the eighth day it is finally time for the altar to do the service for which it was made. That service continues for all eternity. In heaven we will continue our priestly service in a perfect and endless way.
The priests will offer their burnt offerings and peace offerings on this altar. We hear no more about sin offerings. The burnt offerings speak of the work of the Lord Jesus that He performed completely for God. The peace offerings speak of the fellowship that exists with the Father and the Son and with one another on the basis of His work. Both sacrifices speak of the pleasure that God has in His own on the basis of the sacrifice of His Son.
As has already been noted, the fact that literal sacrifices will again be offered in the realm of peace does not contradict the once-for-all work of Christ. For our time, all Old Testament sacrifices have found their fulfillment in Christ and what He accomplished (see the letter to the Hebrews). In the time of the realm of peace, when God has taken up the thread with His earthly people, Israel, those sacrifices will be a reminder of Christ’s once-for-all accomplished work. It is similar to the Lord’s Supper in our day, which is also a meal of remembrance.
The Israelite in the realm of peace will be perfectly certain of the forgiveness of his sins on the basis of the blood of Christ once shed (Hebrews 8:10-2 Kings :). The sacrifices will then no longer mean a continual remembrance of sins, as was the case under the old covenant (Hebrews 10:1-Numbers :).
This wonderful section on the consecration of the altar concludes with the words “’and I will accept you’, declares the Lord GOD”. The sacrifice of Christ will always be before God’s attention. God looks upon us, who are priests, in Him. Therefore, He can accept us. All that we are and all that we receive, we owe only to Him on Whom God’s pleasure rests. We are accepted “in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6). God has testified of Him: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Matthew 3:17). We heartily agree and offer Him the fruit, or bulls, of our lips (Hebrews 13:15; Hosea 14:2-Leviticus :) by saying to the Father from the bottom of our hearts: “He is Your beloved Son, in Whom we also are well-pleased.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Ezekiel 43". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
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