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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.
AN IMPOSING SPECTACLE OF WORSHIP IN THE TEMPLE (Chap. 46)
EXEGETICAL NOTES.—Ezekiel 46:1. “The gate of the inner court opened.” The inner east gate of the Temple, otherwise shut, shall be opened on the Sabbath and new moon. This rule does not interfere with chap. Ezekiel 44:1. There the outer gate is expressly named. This also here remains shut, as indeed chap. Ezekiel 47:2 presupposes that it is shut once for all; otherwise it would have been opened for the prince.”—Hengstenberg.
Ezekiel 46:2. “The prince shall stand by the post of the gate and the priests prepare his burnt-offering.” The King of the future is the Messiah; the princedom shines in His light, in the brightness of the glory that entered through the east gate, which in view thereof is shut for ever toward the outside. A clear distinction is drawn between prince and priest, to avoid interference with each other’s functions.
Ezekiel 46:3. “The people worship at the door of this gate.” The people may not enter the inner gate; they worship at the opened door, through which they catch a glimpse of the altar of burnt-offering, which the prince sees better from a nearer point. The upper pavement on either side of the eastern gate provided room for such worshippers.
Ezekiel 46:4-5. “The burnt-offering and the meat-offering.” These Sabbath offerings are larger than those of the Mosaic law, to imply that the worship of God is to be conducted by the prince and people in a more munificent spirit of self-sacrificing liberality than formerly. Moses prescribed for the burnt-offering two lambs, and for the meat-offering two tenth deals of flour mingled with oil. “As he shall be able to give”—literally, the gift of his hand. As he shall be willing to give, the amount being left to the will of the giver. The same meaning in the slightly varied expression of Ezekiel 46:7.
Ezekiel 46:6. “The new moon.” No mention is made here of the blowing of trumpets, which was an important part of the New-Moon Festival (Numbers 10:10).
Ezekiel 46:10. “The prince in the midst of them.” Not isolated as at other times, but joining the throng of worshippers at their head, after the example of David (Psalms 42:4): the highest in rank animating the devotions of the rest by his presence and example.
Ezekiel 46:12. “The prince shall prepare a voluntary burnt-offering.” Not only is he to perform official acts of worship on holy days and feasts, but in voluntary offerings daily he is to show his individual zeal, surpassing all his people in liberality, and so setting them a princely example.
Ezekiel 46:13. “Thou shalt prepare it every morning.” The evening sacrifice is omitted, because the seer is not enumerating the sacrifices of the law, but selecting a few of them with a particular object in view.
Ezekiel 46:16. “If the prince give a gift unto his sons.” The prince was to be provided with possessions of his own to prevent him having recourse to exactions from his subjects, and lest in the course of time he might be tempted to such exactions, enactments are added to prevent the alienation of the prince’s land. The mention of the prince’s sons is another argument against Messiah being meant by the prince.
Ezekiel 46:20. “The place where the priests shall boil the trespass offering.” The paschal lamb was to be eaten roasted. The flesh of the other sacrifices was to be sodden or boiled (Leviticus 6:28; 1 Samuel 2:13; 2 Chronicles 24:14). The meat-offering (flour and honey) was baked (Leviticus 2:4).
Ezekiel 46:22. “There were courts joined.” Smaller courts joined or attached to the walls of the courts, at the corners of the latter.
Ezekiel 46:24. “The places where the ministers boil the sacrifice of the people.” The careful provision made to keep the offerings of priests and people separate was to prevent collision between them, as the enactments of Ezekiel 46:16-18 were to secure their respective rights to prince and people. All this implies that no longer are the common and unclean to be confounded with the sacred and divine, but that in even the least things, as eating and drinking, the glory of God is to be the aim (1 Corinthians 10:31).
THE TRUE WORSHIP OF JEHOVAH
I. Unites all classes in its sacred exercises (Ezekiel 46:1-3). Prince, priests, and people become one in the act of worship; as they are all alike dependent on God, so they all bow down before Him and adore and praise His goodness. Rank, wealth, display, sink for the time being into insignificance; it is simply a congregation of human souls, with common wants and weaknesses, craving help and blessing from a common Father. The monarch is never so great as when he bends in lowly homage at the feet of God. It is a sublime sight to see king and peasant kneeling together in prayer and adoration. The sincere worship of God is a great power in unifying the human race; inequalities are forgotten, asperities toned down, national peculiarities are more kindly interpreted, and a universal solvent is discovered that melts and blends the hearts of men into a spiritual brotherhood. The grand bond of union in the future will be evidenced in the unceasing worship of Jehovah.
II. Demands generosity in giving proportionate to ability (Ezekiel 46:4-12). The offerings mentioned here are on a scale of liberality exceeding anything known under the Mosaic regimen. The prince set an example in generous giving, which the people cheerfully imitated. Our gifts to God’s cause should not be more nor less than our circumstances justify. It is a great help in worship, and an important feature of it, to come to God’s house with a gift in our hand. The more heartily we enter into the spirit of worship the more clearly shall we understand and practise the science of proportionate giving. A missionary was staying with a wealthy Christian philanthropist, whose house was richly ornamented with paintings and sculpture, and was eulogising an exquisite marble statue of Silence—the figure of a boy with his finger to his lips. They had known each other from boyhood, and were free and confidential in conversation. “Do you admire that statue?” asked the friend of the missionary. “I never saw anything in my life equal to it for grace,” replied he. “What do you think I gave for it?” “I cannot imagine.” “I gave ninety guineas.” “And what did you give at the collection to-night?” asked the missionary. “Oh, I gave five pounds.” “Five pounds!” said the missionary. “Shame on you! Here you give ninety guineas for a marble statue of Silence and five pounds towards sounding the Gospel all over the earth. That is badly laid out money.”
III. Is to be constantly rendered (Ezekiel 46:13-15). The burnt-offering was presented daily—“every morning”—and the “meat-offering continually by a perpetual ordinance unto the Lord.” The dawn of every day should be welcomed with prayer and praise. The day is well begun when it is begun with God; and the religious character of the day will be decided by the way in which we spend its first hour. It is said that the spider mends its broken web every morning, and always begins in the middle. So we before entering on our daily calling should be careful to repair the broken webs of our lives, beginning each morning with the heart. There is a flower called the Gummy Cystus, which blooms every morning, unfolding a large, beautiful, snow-white flower. By its example this flower invites the soul every morning to unfold the blossom of a holy and fervent devotion. Work is worship, and the life of each day should be one glad psalm (Psalms 55:17).
1. Temple-work is worship.
2. Worship promotes the fellowship of hearts.
3. The soul reaches its highest good in the worship of God.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Ezekiel 46:1-5. Sabbath Privileges—
1. Rest from anxious toil (Ezekiel 46:1).
2. An open Sanctuary (Ezekiel 46:1).
3. An opportunity for all classes to worship God (Ezekiel 46:2-3).
4. Should be characterised by generous offerings (Ezekiel 46:4-5).
Ezekiel 46:1-2. Royalty and Worship. “
1. Princes must not enter into the inner court, and may not change anything in the worship of God.
2. They are to countenance and maintain the worship of God.
3. They must worship the Lord publicly on Sabbath-days and on special occasions as well as other people.
4. They must not impede the worship of God.”—Greenhill.
Ezekiel 46:1. “Work does not hinder holiness, but furthers it—
1. By preventing temptation.
2. By nourishing experience of God’s bounty and providence.
3. By filling the heart with objects of heavenly thought.
4. By stirring up to prayer and praise for each day’s mercies.”—Trapp.
—“There is a time for prayer and a time for work. On work-days we are not to rest as on the Sabbath. He who does not work ought not to eat, whatever his pretences are. The door to the Father, the source of all grace, opens itself to us when the gracious light of the love of God again shines forth, as it often does after great darkness.”—Lange.
Ezekiel 46:2. “The chief magistrate was always obliged to attend the public worship of God, as well as the priest, to show that the civil and ecclesiastical States were both under the same government of the Lord, and that no one was capable of being prince or priest who did not acknowledge God in all his ways. Ungodly priests and profligate magistrates are a curse to any land.”—A. Clarke.
—“The gate shall not be shut until the evening. The gate is open till the evening; be ready therefore. When the Bridegroom has once gone in, the gate is shut and fools excluded (Matthew 25:0).”—Trapp.
Ezekiel 46:3. In the old covenant it is said “before the Lord;” in the new covenant “in the Lord.”
Ezekiel 46:4-15. “The offerings here prescribed are generally in excess of those enjoined by the law, to note the greater devotion and magnificence under the new state of things. Still, as of old, there was a certain liberty left to give in such proportion as the will might prompt or the ability permit, and the seer contemplates in his vision of better times a willing king and a people ready to give of their substance to the utmost of their means.”—Speaker’s Commentary.
Ezekiel 46:4. “The Lord’s day is a day in which especially liberal gifts to the Lord’s cause are the appropriate accompaniments of the worship of the Sanctuary, attesting that we do not desire to offer to our best Benefactor a service which costs us nothing (2 Samuel 24:24). If the Israelite was not to appear before the Lord at the Passover empty (Exodus 23:15), much less ought the Christian, who enjoys such vastly superior privileges, to offer grudging and stinted gifts.”—Fausset.
Ezekiel 46:8-10. Religious Decorum—
1. Should be rigidly observed by king and people.
2. Regulates the manner of entering and leaving the Sanctuary.
3. An aid in the public worship of God.
Ezekiel 46:8. “The influence of love shall extend into the whole world from the south to the north, so that they from the north and from the south shall go to meet one another, in order to receive and embrace one another as brethren.—No one should go out of the church as he came into it; he should always take home with him something for his edification (Ecclesiastes 4:16; Acts 16:14).”—Lange.
Ezekiel 46:9-15. “A beautiful picture of a religious people; the highest in rank freely mingling with the mass of worshippers, and inspiriting their devotions by the elevating influence of his presence and example. But to show that his worship was not merely to be of a public and official nature, that it should spring from a heart truly alive to Divine things, the prophet passes from those holiday services to the voluntary offerings, which the prince was also to present to the Lord. The proper head of a religious people, he was to surpass them all in the multitude and variety of his acts of homage and adoration.”—Fairbairn.
Ezekiel 46:9. “
1. The Lord expects not only prince and priests to worship Him in a public way, but the people also.
2. The way of God’s servants is a straight and right-forth way.
3. The shortness of man’s life is here represented: he enters the world, goes on a little way, and then goes out of it again.”—Greenhill.
1. Teaches us not to turn our backs upon the holy ordinances.
2. To make straight paths for our feet, and be making daily progress towards perfection.
3. That our memories are frail, and here we shall meet with many things that will withdraw us from thinking upon God.
4. That our life is but short—a passage from one gate to another. One being asked, ‘What is life?’ made an answer answerless, for he presently went his way.”—Trapp.
Ezekiel 46:10. The Divine Leader—
1. Is ever in the midst of His people.
2. Guides to the best spheres of religious and secular work.
3. Superintends and overrules all the changes of human life.
4. Guarantees all needed help in the Church and in the world.
—“Prince and peasant stand on the same level in worshipping before God, who is no respecter of persons; yet those in exalted positions, as princes and nobles, exercise a powerful influence over men, and may accordingly be the instruments of great good when they set a godly example before those beneath them.”—Fausset.
Ezekiel 46:13-15. Morning Prayer.
1. A duty we owe to God.
2. Decides the character of the day’s experience.
3. Essential to religious growth.
4. Should be offered in an earnest and thankful spirit.
Ezekiel 46:15. “Grace makes the heart free, and so also willing. As God’s grace is new every morning, so also ought our devotion to Him to be renewed every morning. Our whole life should be a sacrifice from morning to night, and next morning again. Since Christ’s appearance the night has disappeared and the day has come; there are now only morning sacrifices.”—Lange.
JUSTICE AND GENEROSITY
I. That property rights are founded in universal justice. “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof,” and it is He who gives power to get wealth. Property acquired by industry, merit, and by just regard to the rights of others is secured by recognised law. Yet the law knows nothing of absolute ownership: man has but a life-interest in his possessions, for we brought nothing into this world, and we can carry nothing out. The law which protects property also limits the exercise of the owner’s power over it.
II. That ample possessions afford opportunity for acts of corresponding generosity. Property has its duties as well as its rights. Great wealth means great responsibility; it furnishes increased facilities for doing good. Few men give in proportion to their means. Liberality is measured not by what a man gives, but by what he has left. It is degrading to spend one’s life in getting and securing what we get; the soul is shrivelled into a miserly selfishness. Giving expands our human sympathies and widens a man’s outlook. There is a pleasure in accumulating, but there is a nobler pleasure in giving. Gonsalvo, the great Spanish captain, used to say, “Never stint your hand. There is no way of enjoying one’s property like giving it away;” and he acted up to his own precept.
III. That it is neither justice nor generosity to give away what belongs to another (Ezekiel 46:16-18). The prince was amply provided for that he might be generous both to his family and his servants; but he was prohibited from indulging generosity by seizing the possessions of others. Some are generous enough with what belongs to others. It is mistaken generosity; it is fraud and robbery. Justice demands that a man must be generous only with what is his own. The prince gains power and affection, not by violating but by guarding the rights of his subjects. Property is sweetened and seasoned by acts of judicious liberality.
1. Property is a sacred trust, for which we are accountable to God.
2. Property acquired by oppression is unsafe.
3. We must be just before we can be generous.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Ezekiel 46:16-18. The Duty of the Wealthy—
1. To provide for their own family (Ezekiel 46:16).
2. To be liberal towards their dependents (Ezekiel 46:17).
3. To respect the laws by which their possessions are governed (Ezekiel 46:16-17).
4. To avoid oppression and protect the rights of others (Ezekiel 46:18).
—“It is an exhibition, by an individual trait, of the pure righteousness and settled order which should pervade the Kingdom of God when set up in its new and more perfect form. Everything should now be ruled by the principles of eternal rectitude, and no license given, no occasion even, or pretext afforded for the usurpations of tyrannical violence.”—Fairbairn.
Ezekiel 46:17. “As Alexander the Great, who, going to subdue a great part of the habitable world, gave away to his servants almost all he had, and when one of his officers asked what he would leave for himself, he answered, ‘Hope.’ ”—Trapp.
—“He who is profuse in giving is easily compelled to take from others what belongs to them.”—Hengstenberg.
Ezekiel 46:18. “Ill accidents attend such princes as affecting to be absolute in power, will be too resolute in will or dissolute in life, oppressing their subjects to enrich their servants and parasites.”—Trapp.
—“How blessed shall that state be wherein alike the temptation from without and the inclination from within to do wrong shall no longer have place! This is the model towards which we ought to aspire; and in this respect this picture of the future Israel may serve as the ideal according to which, in the spirit if not in the letter, our State politics should be framed.”—Fausset.
THE MORAL SIGNIFICANCE OF DAILY FOOD
I. That the supply of daily food is a constant evidence of the Divine care. There is not a single meal for which we are not indebted to the Divine thought-fulness and blessing. God smiles upon the soil, and it teems with plenty for man and beast. The wants of the tiniest insect, the most solitary bird, are not overlooked. Famine is man’s handiwork—the result of sin, of indolence, or lack of foresight, and is sometimes a punishment for his lavish extravagance and wrong-doing. God is the munificent benefactor and food-provider for His countless offspring (Psalms 145:16).
II. That all the possible needs of man are satisfied in connection with Divine worship. The priests who ministered before the Lord and the people who worshipped were fed with the sacrifices they offered (Ezekiel 46:20-24). Workers for God are promised an unfailing supply of physical food (Psalms 37:3). Their work is not to suffer by undue anxiety concerning temporal things. He who provides for the higher needs of man will not neglect the lower: the greater includes the lesser (Matthew 6:33).
III. That every meal should be enjoyed in a spirit of devout thankfulness. Every meal should be a miniature sacrament. We should remember that God always sits down at the table with His children; His presence makes every meal a joyous feast. Eating and drinking cannot degenerate into sensual excess when we remember the Provider of the feast is present. We can make no adequate return for His goodness, but we can and must be thankful. A thankful heart glorifies God (1 Timothy 4:4; 1 Corinthians 10:31; Philippians 4:6).
1. The law of supply and demand is Divinely regulated.
2. There is no lack to those who serve God.
3. The prayer is Divinely taught—“Give us this day our daily bread.”
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Ezekiel 46:19. “In the Kingdom of God, as in the kingdom of nature, and in the full sense of the expression, everything has its own place. Only the things of men are in disorder because they are sinners, and sin is disorder in every respect”—Lange.
Ezekiel 46:20. “Ministers should indite good matters in their hearts for the use of the people, and then their tongues shall be as the pen of a ready writer. They shall not feed their hearers with crude and undigested stuff, but such as is well boiled and baked with the fire of the Holy Spirit, kindled on the hearth of their own hearts, that from the heart they may speak to the heart.”—Trapp.
—“To cook is to bring to a proper condition, so that the food tastes well and is agreeable; so ought also the truth to be prepared.—Is not homiletics a kind of sacred cookery?”—Lange.
Ezekiel 46:24. Spiritual Food—
1. Should be studiously prepared by the faithful minister.
2. Should be partaken of by the minister himself.
3. Should be provided for the worship of the Sanctuary.
4. Is essential in nourishing and strengthening the soul.
—“In God’s Church there shall always be provision both for His ministers and people. Those who have but from hand to mouth have their bread hot, as it were, from God’s hand, which is best of all.”—Trapp.
—“Thus in one part of the house was food for the body, and in another food for the soul. In this view heaven shall greatly exceed earth, for there we shall not need the bread that perisheth. He that eateth of the tree of life shall live for ever.”—Sutcliffe.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Ezekiel 46". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Sixth Week after Easter