Monday, June 5th, 2023
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
The Pulpit Commentaries The Pulpit Commentaries
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Ezekiel 40". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tpc/ ezekiel-40.html. 1897.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Ezekiel 40". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
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The magnificent temple-vision, as it is usually styled, a description of which forms the closing section of this book (Ezekiel 40-48.), was the last extended" word" communicated to the prophet, and was given him in the five and twentieth year of the Captivity, i.e. about B.C. 575. Two years later he received a brief revelation concerning Egypt, which, in compiling his volume, he incorporated with the other prophecies relating to the same subject (Ezekiel 29:17-21). Of the present oracle as a whole the significance will be best understood when its several parts have been examined in detail. Meanwhile it may suffice to note that it manifestly connects itself with the promise in Ezekiel 37:27, Ezekiel 37:28, and forms an appropriate conclusion to the series of consolatory predictions which the prophet began to utter when tidings came to him that the city was smitten (Ezekiel 33:22, Ezekiel 33:28). Having set forth the moral and spiritual conditions upon which alone restoration was possible for Israel (Eze 33:24 -34.), announced the destruction of all Israel's ancient enemies, of whom Edom was the standing type (Ezekiel 35:1-15.), foretold the dawning of a better day for Israel (Ezekiel 36:1-38.), when she should be resuscitated, reunited, and re-established in her old land, with Jehovah's sanctuary in its midst (Ezekiel 37:1-28.), and predicted the utter and final overthrow of all future combinations of hostile powers against her (Ezekiel 38:1-23; Ezekiel 39:1-29.), the prophet proceeds to develop the thought to which he has already alluded, that of Israel's re-establishment in Canaan, and to sketch an outline of the reorganized community or kingdom of God as that had been shown him in vision. His material he arranges in three main divisions, speaking first of a re-erected temple (Ezekiel 40-43.), next of a reorganized worship (Ezekiel 44-46.), and lastly of a redistributed territory (Ezekiel 47:1-23; Ezekiel 48:1-35.). That Ezekiel, sorrowing over the first Israel's glories which had vanished with the fall of Jerusalem and the burning of her temple, and filled with eager anticipations of the golden era which was then beginning to loom up before him in ever fairer proportions and brighter colors—that Ezekiel himself may have inwardly believed or hoped the picture he was then placing on his canvas would be ultimately realized upon the old soil, is by no means improbable; that the Holy Spirit, the real Author of the temple-vision, was drafting for the new Israel, soon to arise from the ashes of the old, a fresh religious and political constitution, which could not be satisfied with any merely local, temporal, and material realization, such as might be given to it in Palestine on the close of the exile, but reached out to something larger, broader, and more spiritual, even to the Israel of Messianic times, i.e. to the Church of God in Christian ages;—that the Holy Spirit had some such design is at least an idea which one might be pardoned for enter-raining. (For the different views which have been held as to the proper interpretation of this vision, see note at the end of Ezekiel 48:1-35.)
The introduction to the vision.
In the five and twentieth year of our captivity; i.e. in B.C. 575, assuming Jehoiakin's deportation to have taken place B.C. 600, i.e. in the fiftieth year of the prophet's age, in the twenty-fifth of his prophetic calling, and in the fourteenth after the fall of Jerusalem. As the last note of time was the twelfth year (Ezekiel 32:17), it may be assumed the interval was largely occupied in receiving and delivering the prophecies that fall between those dates, though it is more than likely a period of silence preceded the vision of which this last section of the book preserves an account. If not the last of the prophet's utterances (see Ezekiel 29:17), it was beyond question the grandest and most momentous. Accordingly, the prophet notes with his customary exactness that the vision came to him in the beginning of the year, which Hitzig, whom Dr. Currey, in the 'Speaker's Commentary' follows, believes to have been a jubilee year, which began on the tenth day of the seventh month. As, however, the practice of commencing the year with this month was not introduced among the Jews till after the exile, and as Ezekiel everywhere follows the purely Mosaic arrangement of the year, the presumption is that the beginning of the year here alluded to was the month Abib, and that the tenth day of the month was the day on which the Torah enjoined the selection of a lamb for the Passover. Indeed, the two clauses in Ezekiel read like an abbreviation of the Mosaic statute (Exodus 12:2, Exodus 12:3)—a circumstance sufficiently striking and probably significant, though emphasis should not, with Hengstenberg, be laid upon the fact that every word in Ezekiel's copy is found in the Exodus original. On that day, which was the anniversary of the beginning of a merciful deliverance to Israel in Egypt, of the initial step in a gracious process of transforming Pharaoh's captives into a nation,—on that day (for emphasis the selfsame day, as in Ezekiel 24:2), the prophet's soul was rapt into an ecstasy (see on Ezekiel 1:3), in which he seemed to be transported thither, i.e. towards the smitten city, and a disclosure made to him concerning that new community which Jehovah was about to form out of old Israel.
In the visions of God; i.e. in the clairvoyant state which had been superinduced upon him by the hand of God, and in which he became conscious both of bodily sensations and mental perceptions transcending those that were possible to him in his natural condition. Upon a very high mountain (comp. Matthew 4:8; Luke 4:5). Schroder stands alone in taking אֶל as "beside" rather than "upon," other interpreters considering that אֶל has here the force of עַל, as in Ezekiel 18:6, and Ezekiel 31:12. That this mountain, though resembling the temple hill in Jerusalem, was not that in reality, but "the mountain of the Lord's house" of Messianic times (see on Ezekiel 43:12; and comp. Ezekiel 17:22, Ezekiel 17:23; Ezekiel 20:40; Isaiah 2:2; Micah 4:6), may be inferred from its greater altitude than that of either Moriah or Zion, which pointed obviously to the loftier spiritual elevation of the new Jerusalem. As the frame of a city on the south. What Ezekiel beheld was not "beside" or "by" (Authorized Version), but "on" the mountain, and was not, as Havernick, Ewald, and Kliefoth suppose, the new city of Jerusalem, though this might with a fair measure of accuracy be described as lying south of Moriah on which the temple stood, but the temple itself, which, with its walls and gates, chambers and courts, rose majestically before the prophet's view, with all the magnificence, and indeed (as the particle כִי. indicates), with the external appearance of a city. That the prophet should speak of it as "on the south" receives sufficient explanation from the circumstance that he himself came from the north, and had it always before him in a southerly direction. The idea is correctly enough expressed by the ἀπέναντι of the LXX; which signifies "over against" to one coming from the north.
The word "thither" carries the thought back to Ezekiel 40:1. When the prophet had been brought into the land of Israel, to the mountain and to the building, he perceived a man, whoso appearance was like the appearance of brass, or, according to the LXX; "shining or polished brass," χαλκοῦ στίλβοντος, as in Ezekiel 1:7—a description recalling those of the likeness of Jehovah in Ezekiel 1:26, Ezekiel 1:27, of the angel who appeared to Daniel (Daniel 10:6), and of the glorified Christ (Revelation 1:15), and suggesting ideas of strength, beauty, and durability. In his hand he carried a line of flax and a measuring-reed (kaneh hammidah, or "reed of measuring," reed having been the customary material out of which such rods were made; compare the Assyrian for a measuring-reed qanu, the Greek κανών, and the Latin canna). Possibly he carried these as "emblems of building activity" (Hengstenberg), and because "he had many and different things to measure" (Kliefoth); but most likely the line was meant to measure large dimensions (comp. Ezekiel 47:3) and such as could not be taken by a straight stick, as e.g. the girth of pillars, and the rod to measure smaller dimensions, like those of the gates and walls of the temple. Hitzig's conjecture, that the line was linen because the place to be measured was the sanctuary, whose priests were obliged to clothe themselves in linen, Kliefoth rightly pronounces artificial and inaccurate, since the line was made, not of manufactured flax, or linen, but of the raw material. That the "man" was Jehovah or the Angel of the Presence (comp. Ezekiel 9:2) the analogy of Amos 8:7, Amos 8:8 and the statement of Ezekiel in Ezekiel 44:2, Ezekiel 44:5 would seem to suggest; only it is not certain in the last of these passages that the speaker was "the man" and not rather "the God of Israel," who had already taken possession of the house (see Ezekiel 43:2), and whose voice is once at least distinguished from that of the man (see Ezekiel 43:6). Accordingly, Kliefoth, Smend, and others identify the "man" with the ordinary angelus interpres (cf. Revelation 21:9). The gate in which he stood "waiting for the new comer" was manifestly the north gate, since Ezekiel came from the north, though Havernick and Smend put in a plea for the east gate, on the grounds that it was the principal entrance to the sanctuary, and the distance between it and the north gate, five hundred cubits, was too great to be passed over so slightly as in verse 6.
The threefold summons addressed to the prophet (comp. Ezekiel 44:5) intimated the importance of the communication about to be made, and reminded him of the necessity of giving it the closest attention in order to be able to impart it to the people (comp. Ezekiel 43:10, Ezekiel 43:11).
The outer court, with its gates and chambers:
(1) the enclosing wall (Ezekiel 40:5);
(2) the east gate (Ezekiel 40:5-16);
(3) the outer court (Ezekiel 40:17-19);
(4) the north gale (Ezekiel 40:20-23);
(5) the south gate (Ezekiel 40:24-27).
The enclosing wall. And behold a wall on the outside of the house round about. The "house"—הַבַּיִת with the article—was the temple as the dwelling-place of Jehovah; only not the temple proper, but the whole complex structure. The "wall" belonged to the outer court; that of the inner court being afterwards mentioned (Ezekiel 42:7). In having a "wall round about" Jehovah's sanctuary resembled both Greek and Babylonian shrines (see Herod; 1.18; ' Records of the Past,' vol. 5.126), but differed from both the tabernacle, which had none, and from the Solomonic temple, whose "wall" formed no essential part of the sacred structure, but was more or less of arbitrary erection on the part of Solomon and later kings. Here, however, the wall constituted an integral portion of the whole; and was designed, like that in Ezekiel 42:20, "to make a separation between the sanctuary and the profane place," as the Greeks distinguished between the βέβηλον and the ἱερόν (see Thucyd; 4.95). Its breadth and height were the same (comp. Revelation 21:16)—one reed, of six cubits by the cubit and an hand-breadth; that is to say, each cubit measured an ordinary cubit and a hand-breadth (comp. Ezekiel 43:13). Hengstenberg suggests that the greater cubit of Ezekiel was borrowed from the Chaldeans; and certainly Herodotus speaks of a royal cubit in Babylon which was three finger-breadths longer than the ordinary measure, while in Egypt also two such cubits of varying lengths were current; "from which it might be supposed," says Smend, "that the same thing held good for Asia Minor." Still, the hypothesis is likelier that the cubit in question was the old Mosaic cubit—the cubit of a man (Deuteronomy 2:11), equal to the length of the forearm from the elbow to the end of the longest finger—which was employed in the building of the Solomonic temple (2 Chronicles 3:3). Assuming the cubit to have been eighteen inches, the height and breadth of the wall would be nine feet—no great elevation, and presenting a striking contrast to the colossal proportions of city walls in Babylon and in Greece (see Herod; 1.170; ' Records of the Past,' vol. 5.127, 1st series), and even of the walls of the first temple in Jerusalem (see Josephus, 'Wars,' 5.1); but in this, perhaps, lay a special significance, since, as the city-like temple stood in no need of walls and bulwarks for defense, the lowness of its walls would permit it the more easily to be seen, would, in fact, make it a conspicuous object to all who might approach it for worship.
The east gate. The gate which looketh toward the east; literally, whose face was toward the east. That this was not the gate in which the angel had been first observed standing seems implied in the statement that he came to it. That he began with it is satisfactorily accounted for by remembering that the east gate was the principal entrance, and stood directly in front of the porch of the temple proper. The same reasons will explain the fullness of description accorded to it rather than to the others. It was ascended by stairs, or steps, of which the number seven is omitted, though it is mentioned in connection with the north (Ezekiel 40:22) and south (Ezekiel 40:26) gates. "The significance was obvious," writes Plumptre. "Men must ascend in heart and mind as they enter the sanctuary, and the seven steps represented the completeness at last of that ascension." The steps lay outside the wall, and at their head had a threshold (סַף, properly an "expansion," or "spreading out") one reed broad, i.e. measuring inwards from east to west, the thickness of the wall. Its extension from south to north, afterwards stated, was ten cubits, or fifteen feet (Ezekiel 40:11). The last clause, improperly rendered, and the other threshold (Authorized and Revised Versions), or "the back threshold" (Ewald), of the gate which was one reed, should be translated, even one threshold, or the first threshold, as distinguished from the second, to be afterwards specified (Ezekiel 40:7); comp. Genesis 1:5, "the first (one) day."
And every little chamber. Proceeding inward beneath a covered porch, the exact width of the gate and threshold, i.e. ten cubits, the prophet's guide, after having passed the threshold, conducted him to a series of lodges, תָּאִיִם, or "guard-chambers," six in number, three on each side (Ezekiel 40:10), one reed or six cubits square, roofed (Ezekiel 40:11), and separated from each other by a space of five cubits square, open overhead and closed towards the north or south as the case might be by a side wall. These "lodges," or "cells," were intended for the Levite sentinels who kept guard over the house. Beyond the cells stretched the threshold of the gate by the porch (Hebrew, אוּלָם; the LXX; αἰλάμ: Vulgate, vestibulum, "a portico") of the gate within; literally, from the house; i.e. the gate fronting one coming from the temple, hence the gate looking "towards the house." מֵהַבַּיִת, "from the house," does not qualify the threshold as if to indicate that this was an interior threshold in contrast to the former, or exterior, but "the gate," its intention being to state that the porch in front of which extended the second "threshold" was the vestibule or portico before the gate which conducted inwards towards the temple, or on which one first stepped on his way from the temple.
Ezekiel 40:8, Ezekiel 40:9
The divergent measurements of this porch, which are given in these verses, led the LXX. and the Vulgate to reject Ezekiel 40:8 as spurious, and it is certainly wanting in some Hebrew manuscripts. Hitzig, Ewald, and Smend have accordingly expunged it from the text—an altogether unnecessary proceeding. The seeming discrepancy may be removed by supposing either, with Kliefoth, that Ezekiel 40:8 furnishes the measurement of the porch from east to west, and Ezekiel 40:9 its measurement from north to south, with the measurements in addition of the posts (אֵלִים, from אַיִל, "a ram," hence anything curved or twisted), i.e. pillars or jambs; or, with Keil, that Ezekiel 40:8 states the depth from east to west, and Ezekiel 40:9 the length from north to south. The "posts," which were sixty cubits high (Ezekiel 40:14), were two cubits square at the base.
Having reached the furthest limit westward, the guide retraces his steps backward in an easterly direction, noting that on the side of the covered way opposite to that already examined the same arrangements existed as to "lodges" and "posts," the latter of which (אֵילִים) are here first mentioned in connection with the guardrooms, and must be understood as signifying pillars or jambs in front of the walls. Their measurements, which were equal, were probably as in Ezekiel 40:9, two cubits square.
The breadth of the entry (literally, opening) of the gate, ten cubits. Obviously this measurement was taken from north to south of the gate-entrance (Ezekiel 40:6), and represented the whole breadth of the doorway and the threshold, or one-fifth of the entire length of the gate-building. The second portion of the verse, the length of the gate thirteen cubits, is explained by Bottcher, Hitzig, Havernick, Keil (with whom Plumptre agrees), as signifying the length of the covered way from the east entrance, since it is supposed the whole length of forty cubits (the length of the gate without the porch) would hardly be roofed in; so that assuming a similar covered way of thirteen cubits at the other end of the gate-building, as one came "from the house," there would be an open space, well, or uncovered courtyard, of fourteen cubits in length and six broad, enclosed on all sides by gate-buildings. The roofs extending from the east and west would be supported on the "posts" of the chambers mentioned in Ezekiel 40:10. Smend, however, infers, from the windows in the posts within the gate (Ezekiel 40:16), that the whole extent was roofed in, and accordingly can offer no explanation of the clause; Kliefoth and Schroder prefer to regard the thirteen cubits as the height of the gate, although the word translated "length" never elsewhere has this meaning.
The space also before the little chambers; more correctly, and a border before the ledges. Though the construction of this border, fence, or barrier (comp. Ezekiel 27:4; Ezekiel 43:13, Ezekiel 43:17; Exodus 19:12) is not described, its design most likely was to enable the guardsman, by stepping beyond his coil, to observe what was going on in the gate without either interrupting or being interrupted by the passengers. As the barrier projected one cubit on each side of the ten-cubit way, only eight cubits remained for persons going in or out.
The breadth of the gate from the roof of one little chamber or lodge to another, measuring from door to door, was five and twenty cubits, which were thus made up: 10 cubits of footway + 12 (2 x 6) cubits for the two guard-rooms + 3 (2 x say 1.5) cubits for the thickness of the two side walls = 25 cubits in all. According to Ezekiel 40:42, the length of a hewn stone was one cubit and a half. The doors from which the measurements were taken must have been in the side walls at the back of the guard- looms.
He made also posts. In using the verb "made" the prophet either went back in thought to the time when the man who then explained the building had fashioned it (Hengstenberg); or he employed the term in the sense of constituit, i.e. fixed or estimated, "inasmuch as such a height could not be measured from the bottom to the top with the measuring-red" (Keil). The "posts," the אֵילִים of Ezekiel 40:9, were sixty cubits high, and corresponded to the towers in modern churches. To the objection sometimes urged against what is called the "exaggerated" height of these columns, Kliefoth replies, "If it had been considered that our church towers have grown up out of gate-pillars, that one can see, not merely in Egyptian obelisks and Turkish minarets, but also in our own hollow factory chimneys, how upon a base of two cubits, square pillars of sixty cubits high can be erected, and that finally the talk is of a colossal building seen in vision, no critical difficulties would have been discovered in this statement as to height." The last clause, even unto the post of the court round about the gate, should read, and the court reached unto the post (אַיִל being used collectively), the gate being round about (Revised Version); or, the court round about the gate reached to the pillars (Keil); or, at the pillar the court was round about the gate (Kliefoth). The sense is, that the court lay round about the inner egress from the gate. The Authorized Version, with which Dr. Currey, in the 'Speaker's Commentary,' agrees, thinks of an inner hall between the porch of the gate and the two most western guard-chambers, round the sides of which the sixty-cubit columns stood. Ewald, following the corrupt text of the LXX; translates, "And the threshold of the outer vestibule twenty cubits, the gate court abutting on the chambers round about."
The whole length of the gate, from the outer entrance to the inner exit fifty cubits, was thus composed—
1. An outer threshold—6 cubits
2. Three guard-chambers, six cubits each—18 cubits
3. Two spaces between the chambers, five cubits each—10 cubits
4. An inner threshold—6 cubits
5. A porch before the gate—8 cubits
6. One post, or pillar—2 cubits
And there were narrow (Hebrew, closed) windows, probably of lattice-work, so fixed as to prevent either egress or ingress. That these "windows" (חַלּ וֹנוֹת, so called from being perforated) were intended to impart light to the gateway, either in whole or in part, is apparent, though it is difficult to form a clear idea of how they were situated. They were in the chambers, and in their posts and in the arches, or colonnades. In the chambers, or "lodges," they were most likely in the back walls, and in or near the posts, or pillars, belonging to the doors of these chambers, the clause, "and in their posts," being regarded as epexegetic of the preceding, and designed to furnish a more precise explanation of the particular part of the guard-room in which the windows were. Similar windows existed in the Solomonic temple (1 Kings 6:4). The "arches," or "colonnades" (אֵלַ מּיִת), were probably wall-projections on the sides of the chambers, to that light was admitted from three sides.
Thus to one standing within, the whole gateway appeared studded round and round with windows. The description of the gate closes with the statement that upon each post were palm trees, which may signify either that the shaft was fashioned like a palm tree, as is sometimes seen in ancient buildings in the East (Dr. Currey, Plumptre) or that it was ornamented with representations of palm branches or palm trees (Keil, Ewald, Kliefoth). Hengstenberg's idea, that "whole palms beside the pillars are meant," is favored by Smend, who cites, in addition to Ezekiel 40:26, Ezekiel 41:18, etc; and 1 Kings 6:29; 1 Kings 7:36.
See drawing, Inner and Outer Gates for Ezekiel's Temple
Legend for the Inner and Outer Gates.
A, stair of seven steps.
T, threshold of 6 x 10 cubits.
C, chambers of 6 cubits square.
S, spaces between the chambers.
P, porch of gate, 6 x 5 cubits.
O, outer wall, 6 x 6 cubits.
W, wall of gate, 6 x 5 cubits.
w, w, thickness of chamber wall, 1½ cubit.
f, f, barriers or fence before chambers, 6 x 1 cubits.
l, l, lines to which covering of way reached.
E, gate pillars, 2 cubits square, 60 cubits high.
H, F, walls of threshold and porch, 14 x 5 cubits.
b, b, chambers for washing.
c, c, tables for slaughtering.
d, d, table for knives, etc.
e, e, tables for flaying flesh.
A', stair of eight stairs
The outer court. Emerging from the doorway inwards, the prophet, accompanied by his celestial guide, stepped into the outward court, i.e. the area surrounding the temple buildings. There the first thing observed was that chambers and a pavement ran round the court. The chambers were cells, or rooms—לִשָׁכוֹת always signifying single rooms in a building (see Ezekiel 42:1; 1 Chronicles 9:26)—whose dimensions, exact sites, and uses are not specified, though, as they were thirty in number, it is probable they were arranged on the east, north, and south sides of the court, five upon each side of the gate, and standing somewhat apart from each other; that they were large enough to contain as many as thirty persons (see 1 Samuel 9:22; and comp. Jeremiah 35:2); and that they were designed for sacrificial meals and such-like purposes (see Ezekiel 44:1, etc.). In pre-exilic times such halls had been occupied by distinguished person s connected with the temple service (see Ezekiel 8:8-12; 2 Kings 23:11; Jeremiah 35:4, etc.; Jeremiah 36:10; Ezra 10:6). The pavement was a tessellated floor (comp. Esther 1:6; 2 Chronicles 7:3), which ran round the court and was named the lower pavement, to distinguish it from that laid in the inner court which stood at a higher elevation than the outer. As another note of position, it is stated to have been by the side (literally, shoulder) of the gates over against—or, answerable to (Revised Version)—the length of the gates. This can only mean that the breadth of the pavement was fifty cubits (the length of the gates, Ezekiel 40:15) less six cubits (the thickness of the wall, Ezekiel 40:5), or forty-four cubits, and that it ran along the inner length of the wall on either side of the gates. The breadth of the court from the forefront of the lower gate, i.e. from the inner end of the east gate or the edge of the pavement, unto the forefront of the inner court without was an hundred cubits. Whether the measurement was up to the wall of the inner court, within which, on this hypothesis, its gate must have wholly lain, or only up to the door of the inner court, which, on this understanding, must have projected beyond its wall, is obscure. The first interpretation derives support from the circumstance that the terminus ad quem of the measurement is said to have been, not the inner gate, but the inner court; while the second finds countenance in the use of the preposition מִחוּץ, which seems to indicate that the measuring proceeded from the western extremity of the outer gate to the eastern extremity of the inner gate, and appears to be confirmed by Ezekiel 40:23 and Ezekiel 40:27, as well as by the consideration that in this way the symmetry of the building would be better preserved than by making the outer gate project into the court and the inner gate lie wholly within the inner wall. In this way the hundred cubits marked the distance between the extremities of the gates, the whole breadth of the court being two hundred cubits, i.e. a hundred cubits between the gates, with two gates' lengths of fifty cubits each added. The same measurements applied to the north gate, which the seer next approached.
The north gate. This was in all respects similar to that upon the east, though its description proceeds in the reverse order, beginning with the three "chambers," or lodges, on each side of the footway (Ezekiel 40:21), going on to the "posts," "arches," and "windows," and ending with the outside steps, seven in number (Ezekiel 40:22), which are here first mentioned in connection with the gates. Its dimensions were the same as those of the "first" gate, fifty cubits long and twenty-five cubits broad. It stood exactly in front of a corresponding gate into the inner court, and the distance between the two gates was, as before, a hundred cubits.
The south gate. Here again the same details recur as to the structure of the gate, its dimensions, and distance from the gate which led into the inner court.
The inner court, with its gates, chambers and slaughtering-tables:
(1) the south gate (Ezekiel 40:28-31);
(2) the cast gate (Ezekiel 40:32-34);
(3) the north gate (Ezekiel 40:35-37);
(4)the arrangements for sacrifice (Ezekiel 40:38-43); and
(5) the chambers for the officiating priests (Ezekiel 40:44-47).
The south gate of the inner court. The construction and measurements of this corresponded with those of the gates in the outer court, with only two points of difference, viz. that it possessed a flight of eight steps instead of seven, and that the arches, or wall-projections, were toward the outer court. The difference in the number of the steps was doubtless of symbolic significance, and pointed not only to the higher sanctity in general which attached to the inner court, but to the truth that, as one approached the dwelling-place of Jehovah, an increasing measure and degree of holiness were demanded—what Plumptre styles "an ever-ascending sursum corda." The seven steps of the outer door added to the eight steps of this amount to fifteen, with which corresponds the number of the pilgrim-psalms, which are supposed to have been sung, one upon each step, by the choir of Levites as they ascended first into the outer and then into the inner court. The statement that the wall-projections were towards the outer court showed that, in walking through the inner gateway, one would reverse the order of the outer gate, i.e. would first pass through the porch, then cross the threshold to the guard-rooms, next step upon the second threshold, and finally enter the inner court.
The east gate of the inner court. The same resemblance to the outer gates are noted in connection with this doorway, and the same two points of distinction just commented on.
The north gate of the inner court. The same minute specification of the guard-rooms, the pillars, wall-projections, windows, steps, is again repeated, as if to show that all parts in this divinely fashioned edifice were of equal moment.
The arrangements for sacrifice. Three things demand attention—the cells for washing, the tables for slaughtering, and the hooks.
The chambers. As the verse explains, these were different from the guard-rooms in the gates (Ezekiel 40:7, Ezekiel 40:21) and the chambers on the pavement (Ezekiel 40:17), although the same Hebrew word is employed to designate the latter. The cells under consideration were expressly designed for washing "the inwards and the legs" of the victims brought for sacrifice (Le Ezekiel 1:9). Whether such a cell stood at each of the three gates, as the plural seems to indicate, although described only in connection with the north (Keil, Kliefoth, Plumptre), or merely at one gate, and that the north—because, according to the Law (Le Ezekiel 1:11; Ezekiel 6:1-18; Ezekiel 7:2), on the north side of the altar burnt, sin, and trespass offerings were to be killed (Havernick, Hengstenberg)—or the east, which is alluded to in vet, s. 39, 40 (Hitzig, Ewald, Smend), is controverted, though the former view seems the preferable, seeing that, according to Ezekiel 46:1, Ezekiel 46:2, the priests were to prepare burnt offerings and peace offerings for the prince at the posts of the east gate. The situation of the cells is stated to have been by (or, beside) the posts of (i.e. at) the gates (see on Ezekiel 46:14), but on which side of the gates, whether near the right or left pillar, no information is furnished. Keil and Kliefoth place those at the south and north gates on the west side; that at the east gate Keil locates on its north side, Kliefoth placing one in the side wall at each side of the gate.
The tables. These were twelve in number, of which eight were used for slaughtering purposes, i.e. either for slaying the sacrifices or for laying upon them the carcasses of the slaughtered victims; and the remaining four for depositing thereon the instruments employed in killing the animals. Of the eight, four stood within the porch of the gate, two on each side, and four without—two on the side as one goeth up to the entry of the north gate; rather, at the shoulder to one going up to the gate opening towards the north, i.e. on the outside of the porch north wall; and two on the other side or shoulder, i.e. on the outside of the porch south wall. This determines the gate in question to have been, not the north gate, as the Authorized Version has conjectured, but the east gate, whose side walls looked towards the north and south. The third quaternion of tables appears to have been planted at the steps, presumably two on' each side, i.e. if with Kliefoth, Keil, and Schroder, לָעוֹלָה be translated "at the ascent," or "going up," i.e. at the staircase (comp. Ezekiel 40:26). If, however, with the Authorized and Revised Versions, Ewald, Hengstenberg, Smend, and others, לָעולָה be read "for the burnt offering," then the exact position of the tables is left undetermined, though in any case they must have been near the slaughtering-tables. As they were designed for heavy instruments, they were constructed of hewn stones a cubit and a half long, a cubit and a half broad, and one cubit high; from which it may be argued the eight previously mentioned were made of wood.
The hooks. The word שְׁפַתַּיִם occurs again only in Psalms 68:13, where it signifies "sheepfolds," or "stalls;" its older form (מִשְׁפְתַיִם) appearing in Genesis 49:14 and Judges 5:16. As this sense is unsuitable, recourse must be had to its derivation (from שָׁפַת, "to put, set, or fix"), which suggests as its import here either, as Ewald, Kliefoth, Hengstenberg, Havernick, and Smend, following the LXX. and Vulgate, prefer, "ledges," or "border guards," on the edge of the tables, to keep the instruments or flesh from falling off; or, as Kimchi, Gesenius, Furst, Keil, Schroder, and Plumptre, after the Chaldean paraphrast, explain, "pegs" fastened in the wall for hanging the slaughtered caresses before they were flayed. In favor of the first meaning stand the facts that the second clause of this verse speaks of" tables," not of "walls," and that the measure of the shephataim is one of breadth rather than of length; against it are the considerations that the dual form, shephataim, fits better to a forked peg than to a double border, and that the shephataim are stated to have been fastened "in the house" (ba-baith), which again suits the idea of a peg fastened in the outer wall of the porch, rather than of a border fixed upon a table. The last clause of this verse is rendered by Ewald, after the LXX; "and over the tables" (obviously those standing outside of the porch) "were covers to protect them from rain and from drought;" and it is conceivable that coverings might have been advantageous for both the wooden tables and the officiating priests; only the Hebrew must be changed before it can yield this rendering.
The chambers of the ringers According to Ezekiel 40:44, these, of which the number is not recorded, were situated in the inner court, outside of the inner gate, at the side of the north gate, and looked towards the south, one only being located at the side of the east gate with a prospect towards the north. Interpreted in this way, they cannot have been the same as the "priests' chambers" mentioned in Ezekiel 40:45, Ezekiel 40:46, though these also looked in the same direction. The language, however, seems to indicate that they were the same, and on this hypothesis it is difficult to understand how they should be called "the chambers of the singers," and at the same time be assigned to the priests, "the keepers of the charge of the house" and "the keepers of the charge of the altar." Hengstenberg. Kliefoth, Schroder, and others hold that Ezekiel purposed to suggest that in the vision-temple before him the choral service was no longer to be left exclusively in the hands of the Levites as it had been in the Solomonic temple (1 Chronicles 6:33-47; 1 Chronicles 15:17; 2 Chronicles 20:19), but that the priests were to participate therein. Dr. Currey imagines the chambers may have been occupied in common by the singers and the priests when engaged on duty at the temple. The LXX. text reads, "And he led me unto the inner court, and behold two chambers in the inner court, one at the back of the gate which looks towards the north, and bearing towards the south, and one at the back of the gate which looks towards the south, and bearing towards the north;" and in accordance with this Rosenmüller, Hitzig, Ewald, Keil, and Smend propose sundry emendations on the Hebrew text. Since, however, it cannot be certified that the LXX. did not paraphrase or mistranslate the present rather than follow a different text, it is safer to abide by the renderings of the Authorized and Revised Versions. Yet one cannot help feeling that the LXX. translation has the merit of clearness and simplicity.
The priests, the keepers of the charge of the house. Under the Law the Levite families of Gershon, Kohath, and Merari had the charge of the tabernacle and all its belongings (Numbers 3:25, etc.); but of these Levites who kept the charge of the sanctuary, Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest had the oversight. Hence the priests alluded to by Ezekiel as the keepers of the charge of the house were most likely those who superintended the Levites in the execution of their tasks.
The keepers of the charge of the altar. These formed another body of priests, whose duties generally were to officiate in the temple-worship, and more specifically to sacrifice and burn incense upon the altars (Leviticus 1-6.). Under the Law the priests were all descendants of Aaron (Exodus 27:20, Exodus 27:21; Exodus 28:1-4; Exodus 29:9, Exodus 29:44; Exodus 40:15). By David these were divided into two classes—the sons of Eleazar, at the head of whom stood Zadok; and the sons of Ithamar, with Ahimelech as their chief (1 Chronicles 24:3). In the vision-temple the sons of Zadok among the sons of Levi have the sole right of drawing near to the Lord to minister unto him (see on Ezekiel 43:15).
He measured the court … and the altar. The dimensions of the former, the open space in front of the temple, alone are given—a hundred cubits long and a hundred cubits broad; those of the latter, which stood before the "house," and occupied the center of the square, are afterwards recorded (Ezekiel 43:13). The distance from north to south of the inner court being a hundred cubits, if to these be added twice two hundred cubits, the space between the outer court wall and that of the inner court, the result will give five hundred cubits as the breadth of the outer court, from north gate to south gate. Then as the length of the inner court was a hundred cubits, if to these be added first the hundred cubits lying before the inner court towards the east, secondly, the hundred cubits covered by the temple (Ezekiel 41:13, Ezekiel 41:14), and thirdly, the one hundred cubits which extended behind the temple (Ezekiel 41:13, Ezekiel 41:14), the total will amount to five hundred cubits for the length of the outer court from east to west. The outer court, therefore, like the inner, was a square.
Ezekiel 40:48, Ezekiel 40:49
With these verses the following chapter ought to have commenced, as the seer now advances to a description of the house, or temple proper, as in 1 Kings 6:2, with its three parts—a porch (verses 48, 49), a holy place (Ezekiel 41:1), and a holy of holies (Ezekiel 41:4).
The porch, or vestibule, according to Keil, appears to have been entered by a folding door of two leaves, each three cubits broad, which were attached to two side pillars five cubits broad, and met in the middle, so that the whole breadth of the porch front was six cubits, or, including the posts, sixteen cubits. The measurements in Ezekiel 40:49 of the length of the porch (from east to west) twenty cubits, and the breadth (from north to south) eleven cubits, he harmonizes with this view by assuming that the pillars, which were five cubits bread in front, were only half that breadth in the inside, the side wall dividing it in two, so that, although to one entering the opening was only six cubits, the moment one stood in the interior it was 6 cubits + 2 x 2.5 cubits = 11 cubits. Kliefoth, however, rejects this explanation, and understands the three cubits to refer to the portion of the entrance on either side which was closed by a gate, perhaps of lattice-work, leaving for the ingress and egress of priests a passage of five cubits. In this view the whole front of the porch would Hebrews 5:0 cubits of passage + 6 (2 x 3) cubits of lattice-work + 10 (2 x 5) cubits of pillar, equal in all to 21 cubits. Dr. Currey, in the 'Speaker's Commentary,' includes the three cubits of door in the five cubits of post, and, supposing the temple entrance to be ten cubits, makes the whole front to have been twenty cubits. We prefer Kliefoth's opinion.
Like the gates into the courts, the temple porch was entered by steps, of which the number is not stated, though, after the LXX; it is usually assumed to have been ten, Hengstenberg suggesting fourteen. The last particular noted, that there were pillars by the posts, has been explained to signify that upon the posts, or bases, stood shafts or pillars (Currey), or with more probability that by or near the pillars rose columns (Keil, Kliefoth). The height of these is not given, though Hengstenberg again finds it in the elevation of the porch of Solomon's temple—a hundred and twenty cubits (2 Chronicles 3:4). Their exact position is not stated; but they were probably, like Jachin and Boaz in the Solomonic temple, stationed one on each side of the steps.
The exalted city.
Ezekiel now comes to an elaborate vision of the restored condition of the Jews—first that of their city, and then that of the temple which is its crowning glory. Being well acquainted with his native land, which he could never forget in the weary days by the waters of Babylon, he was able to picture its scenes when inspired with prophetic sight. He sees the city of the future, "upon a very high mountain." As the Swiss pines for his mountain home when banished to some dreary fiat land, the Jewish highlander turns in thought from the low river-banks of Mesopotamia to the longed-for heights of his native Judaea. It is a happy thing for him to dream of a city crowning a mountain height. Jerusalem is a mountain-city, standing some two thousand feet above the level of the Mediterranean. Viewed from the wilderness, which, indeed, sinks down another eighteen hundred feet to the Dead Sea, its domes and minarets seem to float in the air like the habitations of a city in cloud-land. The visionary Jerusalem appears to the wrapt seer as an even more exalted city.
I. THE CITY OF GOD. Ezekiel conceives his vision of the great future under the image of a splendid city. St. John beheld the heavenly city, the new Jerusalem, as the type of the glorious Church of God, or of human society Christianized. The Greeks conceived their ideal of perfected human life after the model of a pattern city. Undoubtedly, writing as he was to the captives of Babylon, Ezekiel intended to direct attention to the earthly Jerusalem, which, after being destroyed, was to be rebuilt. Thus only could his language be understood by his contemporaries. But the definite, material prediction embodies and exemplifies ideas that may be applied to the spiritual restoration of man, illustrated by this city prospect.
1. There is to be a blessed life on earth. The mountain-city is terrestrial. The Apocalyptic new Jerusalem is let down from heaven. The city of God is set up here in the Christian Church, as St. Augustine showed. But alas! it is as yet but a poor realization of the grand prophetic dream. A few shanties mark the site of the glorious city of the future. That city is yet to be.
2. This blessed life will be social. Perhaps the ancient and the Eastern prized the city—well-walled and safe-guarded—more than we do in the crowded West, with our modern love of the country. But the essential thought here is that the perfect state is social. In the perfect city order is supreme through universal love—a strange contrast to our miserable cities of sin and selfishness. It is the best that, being corrupted, becomes the worst.
II. ITS EXALTED POSITRON.
1. It is in the land of Israel. Men must enter the Holy Land to reach the Holy City. Its citizens were Jews—as indeed most of the inhabitants of Jerusalem are at the present day. We must be the true people of God, i.e. true followers of Christ, if we would enjoy the privileges of the glorious future.
2. It is "set upon a very high mountain." The exaltation of the city suggests many advantages.
(1) Its glory. It is exalted in favor—crowning a height.
(2) Its strength. Cities were set aloft that nature might fortify them. Jerusalem is a natural fortress. The city of God is safe.
(3) Its salubrity. High lands are bracing. The Christian life braces the soul in spiritual health.
(4) Its nearness to heaven. Nothing overshadows the exalted city. The people of God are lifted into direct relations with heaven.
(5) Its conspicuousness. "A city that is set upon a hill cannot be hid" (Matthew 5:14). The Church is to bear witness to the world. The best gospel is that of lofty Christian living.
The man with the measuring-reed.
We shall lose ourselves in a jungle of fancies if we attempt to see mystical allusions in the various measurements of Ezekiel's prophetic city. What we may call Pythagorean theology, the exegesis that runs riot among the numbers and dates of prophecy, has done much to suggest doubt as to the plain, direct use of the Bible. We have no evidence that the measurements of the exalted city contain any spiritual symbolism. Neither, as Hengstenberg has wisely pointed out, are the proportions of the city so colossal as to suggest an unheard-of splendor of size. The new Jerusalem is much smaller than Babylon; it would be but an insignificant suburb if it were joined on to our huge London. But mere bigness is no commendation for a city. Athens and Jerusalem were far smaller than Nineveh and Babylon; yet they took a far more important place in the history of man. Why, then, does Ezekiel call attention to the man with the measuring-reed? And why does he give the exact details of the plan of the city and temple? However we may shun mysticism in favor of prosaic literalism, we must not forget that Ezekiel was a prophet, not an architect. Why, then, does he fill his pages with these architectural details? Ezekiel must mean to suggest certain characteristics of the happy future.
I. REALITY. Ezekiel here comes down to concrete facts. There is nothing that so impresses men with a sense of reality as a vivid presentation of details. Much religious teaching is unimpressive because it is too general and abstract. Christ's teaching was very concrete; he dwelt on illustrative specimens, rather than on general principles. Therefore "the common people heard him gladly," Reality marked off the teaching of Christ from the dry discussions of rabbinical lore. A significant rebuke of much religious teaching is unconsciously conveyed by the remark of the rustic who, on hearing that some one had been to Jerusalem, exclaimed with amazement, "I thought Jerusalem was only a Bible town!"
II. DEFINITENESS. The new Jerusalem is to be no city of cloudland, its golden streets and rosy domes passing one into another and melting while we gaze at it. Here we have sharp outlines as well as solid substances. Many people sadly need a man with the measuring-reed to define their religions notions. We are suffering from a violent reaction against the old exactness of theological definition, according to which heavenly things were most minutely mapped out without a shadow of doubt. We now greatly lack precision of thought. Men's ideas are generally hazy. They want outline.
III. ORDER. The several parts being measured off will stand in their allotted places. The private house will not trespass on the line of the street, nor will one builder interfere with the foundations of another. There is order in the kingdom of religion. We need it
(1) in thought, that our ideas may be rightly arranged;
(2) in work, that we may not clash with one another;
(3) in the social element of religion, that each may take his place. The Church is not a mob.
IV. DIVINE DIRECTION Ezekiel wrote as a prophet, as a messenger of God. Moses was to make the tabernacle after the pattern shown to him in the mount (Exodus 25:40). God cares for the smallest details of his people's life and work. We should seek for his guidance in these matters.
The gate which looketh toward the east.
Let us clearly understand that this is only a prosaic description of part of Jerusalem as the prophet conceives it in his vision of the city rebuilt. We cannot fairly see in these words any profound mystical allusions. But we may use them as illustrations of other things, as we may take nature in illustration of religion without believing that our parables are founded on fixed, objective, Swedenborgen-like correspondences. Let us, then, follow the fancy which the picture of a gate looking towards the east may call up when we take it as an illustration of what may be similar in other regions of life.
I. AN ORIENTAL OUTLOOK. The new city of God has this outlook—she has a gate which looketh towards the East. We must never forget that our religion comes from the East. In form it is Oriental still.
1. We need to remember this fact when we are in danger of interpreting its glowing metaphors in the cold matter-of-fact style of the West.
2. It might quiet the pride of Europe for men to remember that they owe what is best in European civilization to an Asiatic stock.
3. The wonder is that the unprogressive East produced the most progressive religion. The world-religion of Christ sprang from Asia. This very fact testifies to its Divine origin.
4. It shows, however, that Orientals especially should receive the gospel.
II. AN OUTLOOK TOWARDS THE LIGHT. The light dawns in the East. We all need light, and should love, seek, and cherish it. We are too satisfied with our dim, human, artificial light, instead of looking for that Light of the world, which is indeed the Light of the ages. The true Christian will be ever looking towards Christ, his Sun.
III. AN OUTLOOK TOWARDS THE NEW DAY. Each day begins in the east. We shall miss the sunrise if we set our faces towards the west. Some natures always incline to turn with a melancholy gaze towards the waning light of setting suns. They deplore the good old times; they weep over the days that have been, but can never be again; they weary their souls with incessant regrets. This continuous dreaming on the past is unwholesome; it tends to paralyze our energies and leave us in neglect of the duties as well as the hopes of the future. They are wiser who, like St. Paul, forget the things that are behind, and reach forth unto those which are before (Philippians 3:13). God has a new day of light and service for the saddest, most wearied soul that will turn to his grace. Wise men live in the future; they look to the rising sun.
IV. AN OUTLOOK TOWARDS CHRIST. The first sight which many a visitor to Palestine craves to set eves on is the Mount of Olives; his most earnest desire is to climb the very hill that Jesus Christ often trod. Of all sacred spots about Jerusalem this must be most like its original self. Now the eastern gate looks right on the Mount of Olives. To the Christian its prospect is profoundly interesting. Yet Christ has arisen. He is not there. What we now look for is an eastern gate of the soul turned to that ever-living Christ who ascended from the Mount of Olives—
"Faith has yet her Olivet, And Love her Galilee."
Sacrifices in the new temple.
As we read the dry details of the city that is to be rebuilt and its new temple, we are suddenly pulled up by a startling item. Among the various arrangements of the ancient temple that are to be revived, provision is made for the sacrificial rites. There are to be sacrifices in the new temple. The burnt offering and the sin offering and the trespass offering are all to be there. Then sacrifices will be needed after the restoration. It might have been supposed that these would now be dispensed with, since sin was put away and the people were re-dedicated to God. But as a matter of fact, the temple ritual was never before cultivated with. such assiduity and elaborateness.
I. WE NEED REPEATED REDEDICATION OF OUR LIVES TO GOD. The burnt offering signified the self-dedication of the man who presented it. It was given whole, to show that he had surrendered his all to God; it was consumed by fire, to suggest that he was to make this surrender complete in depth, intensity, and reality, as well as in comprehensiveness. Now, to have made this offering once for all did not suffice. It had to be continually renewed. The dedication of Israel to God in the restoration to their land could not be accepted as sufficient if it were done once for all. It had to be made over and over again. So is it with the Christian's offering of himself. When thinking of his great, decisive step, he may exclaim, in Doddddge's well-known words—
"'Tis done, the great transaction's done:
I am my Lord's, and he is mine."
Yet if he rests satisfied with having once taken that step, he will soon find himself slipping back from his high resolve. We must continually renew our self-dedication to Christ. The sacrament of baptism, which signifies the first dedication, is taken but once; but it is followed by that of the Lord's Supper, which suggests renewal of dedication in deliberate intention, as when the Roman soldier took the oath of allegiance to his general. This sacrament we repeat many times.
II. WE NEED REPEATED CLEANSING FROM SIN. There were to be sin and trespass offerings in the new temple. This fact is startling and most painful. Even while the people are returning, penitent and restored, provision has to be made for future falls and sins.
1. Christian people sin. We know that this is only too true of all Christian people. There is no sinless soul on earth. "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8). The foresight of the fact is no excuse for us; for God does not make his children sin he endeavors to save them from it. Thus Christ predicted Peter's fall although he had prayed that his disciple might be kept faithful (Luke 22:31, Luke 22:32).
2. God has provided for the recovery of Christians when they sin. There were to be sacrifices in the restored temple. This arrangement shows the wonderful long-suffering mercy of God. The same mercy is displayed towards Christians. It is a shame that they who have once washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb should again stain them with the ruin of sin. Yet as this is done, God provides even again for cleansing—not now by repeated sacrifices, but by the eternal efficacy of the one perfect Sacrifice. "And if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous: and he is the Propitiation for our sins" (1 John 2:2, 1 John 2:3).
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
It strikes the reader of this prophetic book as strange that several chapters towards its close should be chiefly occupied with measurements of the temple which Ezekiel saw in his vision. The reed and the line seem at first sight to have little to do with a prophetic vision. Especially does this seem the case when it is perceived to how large an extent these measurements are a repetition of those found in earlier books of the Scriptures. But reflection will show us that measurements such as are here described may suggest thoughts very helpful to the devout, religious mind.
I. MEASUREMENTS ARE NECESSARY IN ORDER TO THE EXPLANATION OF PROPORTION ORDER, AND BEAUTY. It is well known to students of science that mathematical relations are found to exist where an ordinary observer would little expect to find them. When they come to ask whether explanation can be given of such differences as those which obtain between different colors and different sounds, they are led to investigations which show that regular variations in the number of vibrations in a second, whether of the ether or of the atmosphere, account for the differences in question. When they come to ask why the heavenly bodies fulfill their regular movements and preserve their beautiful harmony, they are led to investigations which issue in the discovery that mathematical laws govern—as the phrase is—the movements which excite our wonder and admiration. These are but familiar illustrations of a principle which is recognized throughout the material universe. If we may use such language with reverence, we may say that the cosmos is evidently the work of a great Mathematician, Measurer, and Mechanic. When we turn from the works of nature to works of art, we are confronted by the same principle. If a building, whether a temple or a palace, be erected, it is constructed upon principles which involve numerical relations and measurements. The sculptor measures his proportions in trunk and head and limb; the poet measures the feet in his verse. Wherever we find order and beauty, we have but to look below the surface, and we shall discover numbers and measurements.
II. MEASUREMENTS ARE EVIDENCES OF MIND. There are different grades of intelligence, and this is nowhere more obvious than in the varying degrees in which human workmanship is regulated by mathematical principles. The rudest wigwam is a proof of design and of adaptation, of the possession by the builder of some powers of space-measurement. But a complicated machine, such as a watch or a steam-engine, bears unmistakable evidence of mathematical as well as of manipulative ability. If a temple be constructed, of vast size, of harmonious proportions, of symmetry, containing many parts all bound into an organic unity, it speaks to every beholder of a mind—a mind capable and cultured, a mind patient and comprehensive. To those who believe in the existence of God, the material universe is full of evidences of his unequalled and supreme intellect; the measurements of the scientific observer are sufficient to establish this conviction. The universe is God's temple, and all its lines are laid down, all its parts are coordinated, in such a manner as to evince what, in human language, we may term measurements the most complete and the most exact. To the deeply reflecting mind, the existence of the spiritual temple is even more eloquent concerning the attributes and especially the comprehensive and foreseeing wisdom of the Eternal.
III. MATERIAL MEASUREMENTS ARE PROPERLY SYMBOLICAL OF THE SPIRITUAL. A reflecting reader of these chapters will hardly rest in any conclusions regarding a structure of stone, of timber, of precious metal. Whatever may be his canon of interpretation, whether he adopts the literal or the figurative principle, whether or not he looks for a material temple still to be reared upon the soil of Palestine,—certain it is that for him the material and perishable constructions of human skill and labor are chiefly interesting as the embodiment of thought and the suggestion of eternal realities. The universe is God's temple; the body of Christ was God's temple; the Church is the chosen and sacred temple of the Eternal and Supreme. The thoughts of those who meditate upon these remarkable chapters of Ezekiel will be sadly misdirected if they do not ascend to him who is both the Architect of the sanctuary and the one supreme Deity to whom is directed all the sacrifice and all the worship presented within its hallowed precincts.—T.
The office of the prophet.
The angel who was appointed to show to Ezekiel the temple of vision, and to take its measurements in his presence, and to explain its details and its various purposes, prefaced his special mission by an exhortation in which he expressed, in a very complete and instructive manner, the vocation and functions of a true prophet.
I. IN ORDER THAT THERE MAY BE PROPHECY, THERE MUST BE A REVELATION. In the case before us there was a temple to be seen, and there was an angel to exhibit and to explain it. In every case where a man has been called upon to fulfill the office of a prophet, there has been a special manifestation of the Divine mind and will. The prophet may be gifted, original, luminous; but he does not, so far as he is a prophet, utter forth his own thoughts, deal with any matter according to the light of his own reason. There must be a communication from the Being who is the Source of all good for men. Otherwise the vocation of the prophet is endued with no peculiar, Divine authority.
II. IN ORDER THAT THERE MAY BE PROPHECY, THERE MUST BE THE ATTENTIVE AND OBSERVANT INTELLIGENCE. "Behold with thine eyes, and hear with thine ears." Such was the admonition of the angel to Ezekiel. A prophet must be a man gifted with powers of observation and understanding. He is not a passive medium, but an active agent. He exercises his human faculties, thinks and feels in a truly human way. Even if they had not received the prophetic commission, the seers of Israel would have been "men of light and leading," men "discerning the signs of the times." In a word, to be a prophet, one must be a man.
III. IN ORDER THAT THERE MAY BE PROPHECY, THERE MUST BE A RECEPTIVE SPIRITUAL NATURE. "Set thine heart upon all that I shall show thee." Such was the further admonition addressed to the prophet. His was not a work to be discharged in a perfunctory, official, uninterested manner. Not only was it required that the intellect should be alert, the spiritual nature needed to be receptive and responsive. Intelligence is sufficient for some services; but for a spiritual ministry there is needed a spiritual susceptibility, a spiritual energy. The message of God needs to be assimilated and appropriated, to enter into the prophet's very nature—to become, so to speak, part of himself. The evidence is abundant that such was the case with Ezekiel. He felt deeply what he received anti what he had to communicate. It was to him "the burden of the Lord," by which he was oppressed as well as laden, yet which, for his country's sake he was willing to bear.
IV. IN ORDER THAT THERE MAY BE PROPHECY, THERE MUST BE THE COMMUNICATION OF THE TIDINGS, THE THREAT OR THE PROMISE, TO THOSE TO WHOM THE PROPHET IS SENT. "Declare all that thou seest to the house of Israel." There are natures which are receptive, but not communicative; deep thinkers, who are lacking in the power of the orator, the author, the artist; for whose greatness the world has little reason to be thankful. Mystic communers with heaven may see visions and hear voices, and yet may not be able to communicate their experiences to their fellow-men. Not such was the case with the Hebrew prophets. They went forth from the presence of the Lord as his heralds and authoritative agents and messengers to their countrymen. Nothing hindered them from discharging the duties of their office. They sought not men's favor and they feared not men's frown. Whether men would hear or forbear was not a matter for them to consider. It was theirs to relate what they had seen and heard and known of the counsels of the Eternal.—T.
Praise is an essential part of the worship of God. However it may be with the imaginary deities of the heathen, we know of the one true God that he is infinitely great and infinitely good; and that it therefore becomes his creatures to be his worshippers, and that it becomes his worshippers to utter forth his praise—the memory of his great goodness. In the Jewish economy praise occupied a very important part in Divine service, especially during and after the time of David, the sweet singer of Israel. There were persons, gifted by nature and trained by art, who were set apart for the purpose of expressing the nation's gratitude and devotion, by performing "the service of song in the house of the Lord." These had their appointed place in the worship of the temple, and their appointed dwelling-places in its precincts. Their vocation and ministry symbolize the service of praise ever offered both by the Church militant on earth and by the Church triumphant in heaven.
I. IN ORDER TO PSALMODY, THERE MUST BE AN INTELLIGENT NATURE CAPABLE OF APPREHENDING GOD'S GLORIOUS ATTRIBUTES AND ESPECIALLY HIS GREAT GOODNESS. By a figure of speech we represent the heavens, the earth, and the sea, the living creatures which people the globe, the wells that spring into the light of day, the trees of the forests, as all rendering their tribute of praise to the Creator. But this is to project our human feelings upon the world around us. It is absurd to suppose the most sagacious of quadrupeds as even conceiving of God, far less as consciously speaking or singing his praise. But it is the glory of man's nature that his apprehensions are not limited to God's works. He "looks, through nature, up to nature's God." He discerns the tokens of the Divine presence, and finds reasons for believing in the Divine goodness. If he offers praise, his is a reasonable service.
II. IN ORDER TO PSALMODY, THERE MUST BE AN EMOTIONAL NATURE CAPABLE OF FEELING THE KINDNESS AND RESPONDING TO THE LOVE OF GOD. Music is the vehicle of emotion.
"Why should feeling ever speak,
When thou canst breathe her tones so well?"
A being with no emotion would be without song. Spontaneous is the outflow of feeling—of joy, of sorrow, of love—in the notes of melody. What so fitted to call forth the purest and most exalted strains of music as the loving-kindness of the Lord? As a matter of fact, much of the most exquisite music produced by the great and gifted masters of song has been inspired by religion and religious themes. The oratorios, the anthems, the chorales, of Christian composers, rendered with all the resources of musical art, may be regarded as endeavors to express the tenderest, the most pathetic, the sublimest feelings which the mind of man has ever experienced.
III. IN ORDER TO PSALMODY, THERE MUST BE AN ARTISTIC NATURE CAPABLE OF CONSTRUCTING APPROPRIATE FORMS OF MUSICAL EXPRESSIVENESS. These forms vary with the varying states of human society, of culture, and of civilization. What is adapted to a ruder age may be ill suited to an epoch of refinement. It is a tradition that the music composed by David, and preserved for centuries among the Jews, was taken over by the Christian Church, and so survives in archaic forms of psalmody still used amongst ourselves. However this may be, it is certain that there has never been, in the history of the Jewish or the Christian Church, a period when silence has reigned in the sacred assemblies, when speech has not been accompanied by song. Like all good things, sacred music has been abused, and attention has been given to the artistic qualities rather than to the spiritual import and impression. Yet this is an art which deserves cultivation, and which will repay for cultivation. Without psalmody, how would our religious sentiments and aspirations be repressed!
IV. IN ORDER TO PSALMODY, THERE MUST BE A PHYSICAL, VOCAL CONSTITUTION, CAPABLE OF GIVING EXPRESSION TO DEVOTIONAL FEELINGS. Instrumental music has taxed the mental powers of the composer and the artistic faculty of the performer to so high a degree that a cultivated and honorable profession has found here abundant scope for study and for skill. But the art of vocal minstrelsy is more glorious and delightful still. There is no music like the human voice; and if this is so when other themes inspire the song, how much more when the high praises of God are poured forth, whether with the enchanting sweetness of a solitary voice, or with the loud and joyful burst of the chorus in which the many blend in one!—T.
What would a temple be with no priesthood to minister at its altars, to present the offerings of its worshippers? The priests give meaning and interest to the temple, not only to the scenery of its services, but to its great purpose and aim. The mention in this passage of the priests who dwelt and ministered within the temple precincts suggests reflections of a more general character regarding the office and those who were called to undertake it.
I. HUMANITY IS CONSTITUTED FOR CONSCIOUS AND HAPPY RELATIONS OF INTIMATE FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD.
II. HUMANITY IS BY SIN RENDERED MORALLY UNFIT FOR SUCH FELLOWSHIP.
III. PRIESTHOOD IS APPOINTED BY GOD HIMSELF AS THE MEDIUM BY WHICH SUCH FELLOWSHIP MAY BE RESTORED AND MAINTAINED.
IV. THE EXERCISE OF THE PRIESTLY OFFICE IS A PERPETUAL EXPRESSION OF MAN'S DEPENDENCE FOR EVERY BLESSING UPON GOD.
V. THE OFFICE OF THE PRIESTHOOD IS ESPECIALLY DESIGNED TO RESTORE THE INTERRUPTED HARMONY OF MORAL RELATIONS BETWEEN MAN AND GOD.
VI. AND TO PRESENT TO GOD FROM MAN THE TRIBUTE AND OFFERING EVER DUE.
VII. THE HEBREW PRIESTHOOD WAS INTENDED TO PREFIGURE AND TO PREPARE FOR THE PRIESTHOOD OF THE SON OF GOD.
APPLICATION. The priesthood, as exercised among the Jews, has for us an interest more than historic. It foreshadowed facts and principles which could only reach their perfect fulfillment and realization in the mediation of Christ. The Jewish priesthood ought not to be regarded as merely typical; it expressed Divine and eternal truths. At the same time, the sacerdotal office of the Lord Jesus cannot he placed upon the same level as the ministry of the temple at Jerusalem. That which was fully exhibited in him was but faintly outlined in his predecessors. Christ's was the real offering, the true sacrifice. And this is made perfectly plain by the provision that he should have no successor in the work of atonement. Yet it must not be forgotten that there is a function of priesthood which is perpetual in the Church—the function of obedience and of praise. In this all true Christians—ministers and worshippers alike—take part. This unceasing offering and sacrifice ascends from the heart-altars of the faithful throughout the spiritual temple of the living God. And this comes up with acceptance through him who is the High Priest of our profession, by whom all offerings that his people present to Heaven are laid upon the upper altar, and are well pleasing to the King and Savior of all.—T.
HOMILIES BY J.D. DAVIES
Vision of the new temple.
These visions of the restored temple are a fitting close to this series of revelations. The opening visions displayed the righteous God marching forth in majestic splendor to vindicate himself. His vast army is at hand to execute his royal will. Now the will of God upon Israel is accomplished. Exile has done its gracious work. The old love of idolatry is killed. In vision at least the people have returned in loyalty to their own King. A regeneration of heart and life has occurred. Bright prospects of return to Palestine open before them. God has pledged himself to reinstate them permanently in Judea. There remains only one thought—it concerns their temple. This had been the visible symbol of their elevation and their strength. Shall their temple lift its royal domes heavenward again?
I. RIGHT ASPIRATIONS QUALIFY MEN TO RECEIVE FRESH REVELATIONS FROM GOD. The frame of thought and feeling in Ezekiel's mind was an essential condition for obtaining this vision. Natural principles prevailed then as now. Ezekiel was by birth and office a priest. Nor was he, as many had been, a priest simply by hereditary right. He was in every fiber of his nature a priest. His soul yearned to see Jehovah enthroned in his temple at Jerusalem. He yearned to take his proper place at the altars of the Most High. The visions and promises God had vouchsafed to him touching the reoccupation of the land had revived his hopes. He longed to see the gracious promise fulfilled. To Ezekiel, in this state of sanguine hopefulness, the new vision came. Earnest zeal for God's glory is a condition essential to gain further knowledge of his will. "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, and he will show to them his covenant." As steel points draw off the electric fluid, so a state of childlike affection draws down communications from God.
II. FOR EVERY KIND OF ENTERPRISE GOD HAS WELL-EQUIPPED SERVANTS. As soon as Ezekiel was transported in vision to Mount Zion, lo! there was a heavenly messenger furnished with plans for the new temple. Without doubt the unfallen angels have differences of character and differences of endowment as Feat as appear among men. Very likely qualities of mind are even more varied and diverse in heaven than upon earth. Gabriel is described to us as the presence-angel—a sort of prime minister. Michael is always spoken of as engaging in battle for Jehovah—a commander-in-chief in the army of God. Some angels at least have gifts of music and of song. This visitor from the heavenly realm who met Ezekiel on the mount was endowed with architectural skill, and unfolded specifications and plans for the house of God. "His appearance was like the appearance of brass"—steadfast, durable, irresistible. His qualities were the very opposite of a weak, timid, vacillating person. The circumstances were such that severe opposition was expected, and the architect of God was well-prepared for his task. So has it always been in human history. Gideon was the man for his times. Elijah was well adapted for his age. Paul well fitted the niche he occupied.
III. TO RECEIVE REVELATIONS FROM GOD EVERY HUMAN ORGAN MUST BE ACTIVE. "Behold with thine eyes, and hear with thine ears, and set thine heart upon all that I shall show thee." The eye and the ear are the channels through which we obtain the raw material of information, which is manufactured into wisdom by the machinery of the mind. God does degrade men by using them only as machines. He will not do for them what they can do for themselves. He will give no premium to indolence. By the diligent use of our highest faculties we rise into higher states of life and joy. It was after a season of prayer that Jesus was transfigured. While David "mused, the fire burned." He that uses well his ten talents obtains largest reward. The eunuch was diligently scanning the Scriptures when the interpreter came to him. While Daniel was speaking in prayer, Gabriel arrived to unfold the heavenly mysteries. We do not receive larger and clearer revelation from God because our minds and hearts are not open wide to receive it. The oil stayed because there was no empty vessel.
IV. DIVINE KNOWLEDGE IS GIVEN THAT IT MAY BE COMMUNICATED. "Declare all that thou seest to the house of Israel." In the kingdom of God no form of selfishness is tolerated. Every man receives in order that he may distribute. This is God's great principle of economy. He kindles the light on one point, that from this point other torches may be lighted. "Freely ye have received, freely give." The fount of knowledge is fed by what it gives out, as well as by what it receives. By virtue of St. Paul's possession of the gospel mysteries he counted himself a debtor both to the Greek and to the barbarian. Men of God are stewards of spiritual blessing, God's almoners to the world. God has enlightened us that the light may shine out upon others. God has enriched us that we may enrich the poor. God has filled us with sacred comfort that we may comfort the distressed. God has made his servants trustees for humanity. "No man liveth unto himself; no man dieth unto himself."—D.
God's kingdom divinely organized.
It is no part of God's procedure to provide a sketch-plan for his kingdom and allow others to supply the details. In the kingdom of material nature his matchless wisdom has designed the minutest parts. In the construction of the human body he has taken care to do the best in the articulation of every joint—in the interaction of the most delicate organ. So in the building of his spiritual kingdom he has laid down all the essential principles that are to be embodied and perpetuated. At the same time, there is ample provision for the adaptation of these principles to the changes incident to the development of human character and incident to the needs of human society.
I. THE LEADING IDEA OF THE TEMPLE IS SEPARATION, "Behold a wall on the outside of the house round about." The etymological meaning of the word "temple" conveys this lesson. It is a place "cut off," i.e. cut off from secular uses. The temple of God is capacious enough to include mankind; yet it excludes whatever is selfish, base, corrupting, or perishable. There is exclusion as well as inclusion. Its mission upon the earth is to separate the precious elements from the vile in very man. It is designed to elevate and purify what is excellent in men; but mere dross it purges out. In this work of separation—the separation of the evil from the good—it is a pattern of the heavenly city. Gates are for exclusion and for safety.
II. GOD'S TEMPLE CONVEYS THE IDEA OF ELEVATION. "Then came he to the gate … and went up the stairs thereof." The mind of man is, in many respects, dependent upon his body. As by steps we find an easy method for bodily elevation, so with spiritual ascent. An important lesson is left upon the mind. The elevation of the body aids the elevation of the soul. On the great occasions on which God descended and held intercourse with men, the scene was the summit of a mount. On Horeb God manifested himself to Moses. From Gerizim and Ebal the Law was to be proclaimed. On Moriah Abraham was to present the great sacrifice of faith. On Nebo Moses was to close his earthly career. On a mountain (probably Hermon) Jesus was transfigured. From the slopes of Olivet the Savior ascended to his throne. Without question temple-worship helps to lift the soul into a higher life. The more we are with God the purer and nobler we become.
III. GOD'S TEMPLE OFFERS EASY ACCESS TO MEN. The gates were many. They were wide. They looked in all directions. These facts impressed men with the truth that God desires the society of men. He has not retired from men into remote seclusion. He invites them to the most intimate friendship. His dwelling shall have capacious gates. As with a hundred voices, they seem to accord a hearty welcome. We cannot come too often. We cannot presume too much on his friendship. "God is known in his palaces for a Refuge." The gates of his palace open to every point—north, south, east, and west.
IV. GOD'S TEMPLE IS EMBELLISHED WITH BEAUTY. Between the arches and upon the posts were palm trees. "Strength and beauty are in his sanctuary." All beauty has its fount in God. He finds delight in the outward forms of beauty. All his works partake of beauty. But material beauty is only the shadow of the really beautiful. Holiness is beauty. Goodness is beauty. Love is beauty. Therefore in God's house the beautiful should everywhere appear.
V. GOD'S TEMPLE PROVIDES FOR PLENTIFUL LIGHT. In the gates "there were windows, and in the arches thereof round about." However small the chamber, it had a window. For every department of human life and service God provides light. It is an essential for human progress and for human sanctity. As fast as we appropriate God's spiritual light he supplies more. "Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord."
VI. GOD'S TEMPLE HAS STAGES IN THE WAY OF APPROACHING GOD. There was court within court—an outer court and an inner. The proselytes from the Gentiles might not come so near the altars of God as the Hebrews. The people of the tribe of Levi might approach nearer than those of other tribes. The high priest might, once a year, come into closer access to God than any other man on earth. All these arrangements were types of better things, lessons of high spiritual import. God will not tolerate a rebellious will, nor allow, in his presence, falsehood or impurity. The barriers imposed served to teach men the real and tremendous evil of sin; they served to encourage men in the abandonment of sin, that they might have the friendship of God. So far as men are in league with sin they separate themselves from God and from hope and from heaven. It is not easy to regain moral purity after it has been corrupted. It is impossible without God's help. But it is worth a lifelong effort to get back to God, and to live as a child in the sunshine of his smile. The method God has adopted to teach us this lesson is a singular accommodation of his grace to our ignorance and to our weakness.—D.
Sacrifice essential to human worship.
The entrances and vestibules of the new temple were planned on a magnificent scale. The mind of the worshipper would be naturally impressed both with the greatness of the Proprietor and with the transcendent importance of the use to which it was devoted. But by what methods will the Sovereign Majesty of heaven be approached? More and more this question oppresses a reflecting man. As he gains the central courts of the temple the answer is clear. Sin is the great separator between man and his Maker. Reconciliation can only be effected by sacrifice. At the altar of burnt offering God will meet with penitent men, and confer on them his mercy. "Without shedding of blood there is no remission of sin."
I. SACRIFICE IS THE TRYSTING-PLACE BETWEEN MAN AND GOD. "The altar was before the house." From the first days of man's fall the mercy of God allowed access for man to the presence of his Maker; yet access not free and unrestrained, as in the pristine state of innocence. Access to God's favor could now be found only at the altar of sacrifice. Hence Cain's suit failed because he brought only the fruits of the ground. Abel was accepted because his faith was loyal to the Divine command, and because he felt the evil of sin. Such sacrifice of animal life could be in no respect proper compensation for moral rebellion against God. Yet it was to man a revelation that God would accept substitution, and it served as a matter-of-fact prophecy, that in due time God would provide an efficacious sacrifice. It was as much for man's welfare as for the maintenance of Divine rule, that God would henceforth meet his fallen creature, and give heed to his prayer, only at the sacrificial altar.
II. SACRIFICE SERVES MANY AND VITAL PURPOSES IN MAN'S SALVATION. In the temple sacrifices were of various kinds, and were presented with great variety of ceremony. There was the sin offering, the trespass offering, the wave offering, etc. These were designed to meet the several wants of men. They expressed gratitude for benefit received; submission to the will of God; confession of past sin; acknowledgment that our sin deserved death; acquiescence in God's plan for forgiveness; a new act of covenant with God; complete devotion of self to the service of Jehovah. The future, as well as the past, was considered. The minds of men must be fitly impressed with the terrific evil of sin and with the excellence that comes out of self-sacrifice. God's stupendous gift wakens our profoundest love. We aspire to act as he acts, and so rise into the better life. Condescension is the road to eminence.
III. SACRIFICE DEMANDS A VARIETY OF HUMAN SERVICE. There were porters to keep the gates and to prevent base intruders. There were men to slay the animals, and men to wash the flesh. There were men in charge of the building, and men in charge of the altar. Some kinds of service were repulsive to the senses; some kinds were joyous and exhilarating. In God's temple there is some service which every loyal subject of Jehovah can render. The least endowed may perform some useful mission. As in nature every dewdrop has its effect, and the tiniest insect performs a useful task, so it is also in the kingdom of grace. The tears of the babe Moses changed the fortunes of the world. The child Samuel was teacher to the high' priest of Israel. A lad in the crowd possessed the barley loaves which served as the foundation of the Savior's miracle. Provision was made in the temple for great variety of servants. The service of God is not arduous. "They also serve who only stand and wait."
IV. SACRIFICE SHOULD BE ACCOMPANIED BY A SERVICE OF SONG. "Without the inner gate were the chambers of the singers." Sacrifice may commence with sorrow; it also ends with joy. "Blessed are they that mourn" here; "they shall be comforted." Music well befits temple-worship. Here, if anywhere, the souls of men should go forth in swelling tides of gladness. Before Jesus and his companions went to Gethsemane they sang a hymn. In the inner dungeon at midnight, with feet bound in the stocks, Paul and Silas sang to God their praise. If joy thrills afresh the hearts of angels when one sinner on earth repents, it is meet that joy should also fill God's temple on earth.—D.
HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON
Assuming that the realization of this vision is found in no actual structure ever built by the hand of man, but in that great spiritual edifice, the Church of Jesus Christ, which is still in course of erection, we ask what it is that is measured by the tape, or the reed, which the heavenly messenger holds in his hand. What are the heights and the depths and the lengths that are seen and reckoned in the kingdom of Christ? They are those of—
I. SINCERITY. There may be much singing and many "prayers," and much preaching; there may be multiplied activities of many kinds; but if there be not sincerity and simplicity of heart, there will be nothing for the measuring angel to record. If, however, in the culture of our own character or in the work we do for our Lord, our hearts go forth in genuine endeavor, if we think and feel what we say, if we mean what we do, if the purpose of our soul is toward God and toward the honor of his Name,—then we are really "building; ' and the more of spirituality and of earnestness there is in our effort, the higher will the figure be which the recording angel enters in his book.
II. TRUSTFULNESS. "Without faith it is impossible to please God" in anything we undertake for him. The measure of our trustfulness is, to a large extent, the degree of our acceptableness. Trustfulness is in the freeness and fullness of the grace of God, in the presence and the promises of the Son of God, in the power of the Spirit of God to enlighten and to renew. The more of this element in our personal relations with God and in our Christian walk, the higher the sacred fabric rises in the reckoning of the heavenly world.
III. LOVE. This is an essential element in all Christian edification.
1. Love to Christ himself. The restraining love, which keeps back from all evil; the constraining love, which inspires to cheerful and prompt obedience; the submissive love, which knows how to endure as seeing the Invisible One; the lasting love, which outlives all the changes and triumphs over all the difficulties of human life.
2. Love to Christian men; which is more and better than being drawn toward the amiable and the attractive; which consists in the outgoing of the heart toward all the disciples of Jesus Christ because they are such, even though in taste and temper and habit of life they may differ from ourselves; which includes the willingness to acknowledge all that love Christ, and to work with them in every open way.
3. Love to those outside the Christian pale—the love of a holy pity for men who are wrong because they are wrong, which shows itself in active, practical, self-denying labor to raise and to restore them. The practical question for each man and for every Church to ask is this—When the measuring angel comes to us, and applies his reed to our worship, our work, our life, what is the entry he makes? what is his measurement? There may be balance-sheets and attendances, activities and engagements, which are very satisfactory in the human estimate, but if simplicity, trustfulness, love, be not found, there is nothing to count in the reckoning of Heaven (see 1 Corinthians 13:1-13.).—C.
Entrance to the kingdom.
Much mention is made, in this description of the temple, of the gates of that building; access was provided in abundance to its interior as well as exterior compartments. Having regard to the kingdom of God (of which this ideal structure is a picture (see previous homily), and taking into our thought the work and the teaching of our Lord on the subject, we learn—
I. THAT THERE IS ONE WAY INTO KINGDOM. Jesus Christ himself is that Way. "I am the Way,… no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6); "I am the Door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved" (John 10:9). Through him "both [Jews and Gentiles] have access … unto the Father" (Ephesians 2:18); "There is one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus" (1 John 2:5). To know Jesus Christ, to trust and love, to serve and follow him—that is the way to find eternal life. "Whosoever believeth in him has life eternal."
II. THAT THERE ARE MANY APPROACHES TO THE KINGDOM. Though there is but one "door" or "way" into the kingdom, but one Divine Savior in whom to trust and by whom to be redeemed, yet are there many approaches that may be regarded as "gates," many paths that lead to him and to his salvation. We may be led to him:
1. By our sense of the priceless value of the human soul and our knowledge that only he can bless it.
2. By our view of the seriousness of our human life and the desire to place it under his wise and holy guidance.
3. By the example and influence of those to whom we are most nearly related.
4. By the attractiveness we see in him, the Lord of love and truth.
5. By the felt force of the claims of the heavenly Father, anti the belief that it is God's will that we should hear and follow him, his Son, etc.
III. THAT MEN COME FROM ALL QUARTERS TO THE KINGDOM. There were gates facing the north, the south, and the east; and in another book (Revelation) we read of gates in all four directions (Revelation 21:13). To the broad and blessed kingdom of God all souls come: it is not a provision for one type of mind, or for one particular race, or for one social class, but for all types, races, classes. In Jesus Christ there is neither Greek nor Jew, male nor female, bond nor free; there is neither poor nor rich, learned nor ignorant, philosophical nor simple-minded. From every quarter in the great world of men there come to the kingdom those who need and who find all that they crave in Christ Jesus the Lord.
IV. THAT THE GATE IS TOO NARROW FOR SOME. He who is swollen with pride cannot pass through it; nor he who is cumbered with worldliness; nor he who is filled with selfishness; nor he who is gross with self-indulgence (Matthew 7:14).
V. THAT IT IS BROAD ENOUGH FOE ALL EARNEST SEEKERS. They who are in earnest as disciples of truth, as seekers after God; they who profoundly desire to return unto their heavenly Father and to secure eternal life, will not find the gate of the gospel too narrow. They will gladly part with their pride and their selfishness, with their vanities and their indulgences; they will come eagerly to the Lord and Savior of mankind, that they may take everything from him and yield everything to him.—C.
Palms upon the posts: ornamental strength.
"Upon each post were palm trees." It is well indeed to bring to the Church of Christ—
I. THE CONTRIBUTION OF STRENGTH. There are disciples who add little to the Church but feebleness. They want to be continually comforted or corrected; to be shielded or to be sustained. We feel that the community to which they belong would be the stronger for their absence, except as they supply suitable objects for the exercise of Christian kindness, and in this way for the development of the Church's strength. But it cannot be said that this is at all a satisfactory way of rendering service. We rejoice, and we believe that our Lord himself rejoices, in those who bring a solid contribution of strength to the cause of wisdom and of piety. These are they who, with their Christian principles, bring a trained and robust intelligence, a sacred sagacity, a well-gathered knowledge of men and things; or who bring a liberal spirit, an open hand, a large proportion of their substance; or who bring a loving spirit, a spirit of conciliation and concession into the council, and who are on the side of concord; or who bring warmth, vigor, energy, sustained zeal and hopefulness to the work which is undertaken; or who bring a large measure of devotion, of the spirit of true reverence to the worship of the Church. These are the "posts" of the temple; they "seem to be pillars," and they are such. And there is no reason why the same members of the Church who bring their contribution of strength should not add—
II. THE ELEMENT OF BEAUTY." Upon each post were palm trees." These posts were not unsightly props, whose one and only service was that of sustaining that which rested upon them; they were so fashioned that they adorned what they upheld. It is not always so in the spiritual temple. Some posts have no palm trees engraved upon them; they are rude, bare, uncomely. They are tolerated for the service they render; but for what they are in themselves they are heartily disliked. But this need never be. Why should not the strong be beautiful as well as helpful? why should they not add grace to power? It is a serious mistake men make when they think that they may dispense with the finer excellences of Christian character and life because they contribute an efficiency which others cannot render. The uncultivated rudeness of many a pillar in the Christian "temple" detracts most seriously from its worth; on the other hand, the palm trees upon the posts constitute a very appreciable addition. Be beautiful as well as strong. "Whatsoever things are lovely and of good report" should be "considered" well, and should be secured as well as "whatsoever things are true, honest, just, and pure." Add to your faith virtue (manliness) and knowledge, but do not fail to add temperance (self-command), patience, and charity as well. Strive after, pray for, carefully cultivate, all that is beautiful in the sight of man, in temper, in bearing, in spirit, in word and deed; so shall the value of your strength be greatly enhanced in the estimate of Christ.—C.
Ezekiel 40:22, Ezekiel 40:25, Ezekiel 40:29, Ezekiel 40:33
The windows of the Church.
Allusion is made again and again to the windows which were to be provided in this sacred edifice. The Church of Christ must be well furnished with windows, and they must not be closed, but opera for it has to—
I. ACQUAINT ITSELF WITH DIVINE TRUTH. Through the open window we look out and see the busy street and the ways of men; or we see the fields and the hills and the work of God. We acquaint ourselves with what is passing in the world. The Church of Christ must keep its windows open, and be actively engaged in learning all that it can acquire of the heart and ways of men, and also of the truth and the purposes of God. It, after its Lord, is to be "the light of the world" (Matthew 5:14). It is to be the source of all sacred knowledge to the world; it is to enlighten men on the two supreme subjects of their own spiritual nature, with all its possibilities of good and evil, and of the Divine Being, with all his holiness and his grace, with all his power and his patience, with all his expectation from them and all his nearness to them and his abiding in them. And if it is to discharge this high and noble function, the Church must not only treasure what it has gained of heavenly wisdom, but it must be always learning of God, always admitting the light of heaven, always be recipient of his truth as that truth bears on the present life of men, as it affects the spiritual and social struggles they are now passing through. The Church that would not close its door must keep its windows open, must honestly and earnestly believe that
"God has yet more light and truth
To break forth from his Word."
II. ADMIT HEAVENLY INFLUENCES. The open window means the admission, not only of the light, but also the air of heaven; and we need the cleansing air quite as much as the enlightening ray. Shut up to ourselves, our souls become defiled, deteriorated, enfeebled; open to the renewing and cleansing air of heaven, they are purified, ennobled, strengthened. It is a very great advantage to live or to worship in a building of good rather than of poor dimensions, because its air is purer and more healthful. It is a very great benefit to belong to a Church that is not cramped and bound within narrow limits, in which there is ample room for the circulation of all reverent and earnest thought; that is the most spiritually healthful condition. But however large and free be the community, we must have the incoming of the influences which are-outside, which are from above—the quickening, illumining, kindling, cleansing, power of the Spirit of God. Without this we shall surely suffer deterioration and decline—a decline that slopes towards death itself. We must keep the heart open, we must keep the Christian Church open, to the best and highest influences, if we would be and. do what Christ calls us to accomplish.
III. ENGAGE IN HOLY ACTIVITIES. We cannot work in the dark; we pray thus—
"Lord, give me light to do thy work!"
And we do well to pray thus. But we must take care that we do not shut out the light by our own bad building, by our own institutions, habits, organizations, prejudices. We must make our arrangements, lay our plans, form our habits, so that we receive all that we can gain with a special view to Christian work. The Church that is not learning of Christ in order to labor for him, is lacking in one most important characteristic; it is missing one main end of its existence. Let us take care that our institutions, our societies, our Churches, are so constructed that we shall be in the best possible position, be under the most favorable conditions, for earnest and efficient work. Otherwise we shall not be such a spiritual "temple" as our Lord will look upon with approval; and his measuring angel (see Ezekiel 40:3) will have no satisfactory entry to make in his record and to repeat to his Lord.—C.
Ezekiel 40:26, Ezekiel 40:31
"There were seven steps to go up to it"—the outer court; "and the going up to it [the inner court] had eight steps." Translating this into the Christian analogue, we learn—
I. THAT TO BE IN THE KINGDOM OF CHRIST IS TO OCCUPY A NOBLE HEIGHT. The base of the temple was the summit of a "very high mountain" (Ezekiel 40:2); to be anywhere within even its outer precincts was to be far above the world. To be in the kingdom of God, even to be the least therein, is to stand in the place of very high privilege indeed (see Matthew 11:11). But not of privilege only; of spiritual well-being also. It is to be high and far above the baseness of selfishness, of vanity, of ingratitude, of rebelliousness; above the low ground of unbelief, of indecision, of procrastination. It is to live and move on the sacred heights of devotion, of sacred service, of consecration, of the sonship and friendship of the living God.
II. THAT WITHIN THAT KINGDOM ARE DEGREES OF SPIRITUAL ALTITUDE. Not every one that is "in Christ Jesus" stands on the same spiritual level. There is not only considerable variety of character and service, there is also much difference in degree of attainment. There are those who are behind and those who are before in the race; there are those who stand lower down in the outer court and those who stand higher up in the inner court. Many are the degrees among the disciples of Christ in:
1. Knowledge. Some have but a very elementary acquaintance with the truth of God; some hold the faith of Christ much mixed with corrupt accretions; others have a comparatively clear view of the doctrines taught by Christ and by his apostles; there are those who have gone far into "the deep things of God."
2. Piety. A Christian man may have but a slender capacity for devotion; he may only be able to worship God and commune with him feebly and occasionally, with no power of sustained devotion; or he may have ascended the higher ground, and be "praying always;" his "walk may be close with God;" he may be "a devout man and full of the Holy Ghost."
3. Moral worth. From the recently converted idolater whose licentious habits cling to him and have to be hardly and laboriously torn away by long and earnest struggle, to the saintly man or woman who, inheriting the purified nature and disposition of reverent and godly parents, has breathed the air of purity and goodness all his days, and has grown up into holiness and Christliness in a very marked degrees there is a great ascent.
4. Influence, and consequent usefulness. There are those whose influence counts for very little among their fellows; there are others who weigh much, whose presence is a power for good everywhere, who can produce a peat and valuable effect by their words of wisdom.
III. THAT SPIRITUAL ASCENT IS ATTAINED BY DIVINELY PROVIDED MEANS. There were steps or stairs leading up from the lower to the higher ground within the temple. There are steps of which we may avail ourselves if we would rise in the kingdom of God. They are these:
1. Worship; including public worship in the sanctuary, meeting the Master at his table, private prayer in the home and the quiet chamber.
2. Study; including the reading of the Scriptures and also of the lives of the best and noblest of the children of men.
3. Fellowship with the good; associating daily and weekly with those like-minded with ourselves, and choosing for our most intimate friends those, and those only, whose convictions and sympathies are sustaining and uplifting.
4. Activity in one or other of the many fields of sacred usefulness.—C.
"The chambers of the singers." The ideal Church would not be complete without the service of sacred song. Abundant arrangement was made for this order of worship in the first temple (1 Kings 10:12; 1 Chronicles 25:1-31.). It was to be a daily offering unto the Lord (1 Chronicles 23:30). And it has found a large and honorable place in the Church of Christ. The Master himself and his disciples "sang an hymn" on the most solemn and sacred of all occasions (Matthew 26:30); and Paul refers to "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" as if they were well known in the experience of the early Church. This service of song should be—
I. COMPREHENSIVE IN ITS RANGE. It should not only include praise (with which it is more particularly identified; see infra), but also adoration, e.g. "We praise, we worship thee, O God," etc.; and confession, e.g. "Oppressed with sin and woe," etc.; and faith, e.g. "My faith looks up to thee," etc.; and consecration, e.g. "My gracious Lord, I own thy rights" etc.; and prayer for the Divine guidance and inspiration, e.g. "O thou who camest from above," etc; "O God of Bethel, by whose hand," etc.; and resignation, e.g. "My Gods my Father, while I stray," etc.; and solemn, reverent challenge to one another, e.g. "Come we that love the Lord," etc; "Stand up, stand up for Jesus," etc; "Ye servants of God," etc.; and holy, heavenly expectation, e.g. "Jerusalem, my happy home." So that there is no sentiment suitable to reverent lips, no grace of Christian character, that may not find expression in sacred song; and such utterance may not only be true worship, but it may give real relief to the full and perhaps burdened soul, while it also deepens conviction and. elevates character.
II. MARKED BY THREE CHARACTERISTICS.
1. Musical harmony. For that which we offer to our Lord should be the very best we can bring; not the blemished but the whole, not the disfigured but the beautiful, not the rude but the cultured, not the discordant but the harmonious.
2. Spirituality. The God who himself is a Spirit must be worshipped in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). And however musical may be the sound, no service of song even approaches the satisfactory which is not spiritual; we must make melody in our heart, as well as with our voice, unto the Lord (Ephesians 5:19).
3. Congregational. There are services in which it is not possible for "all the people" to participate audibly; but these are exceptional; as a rule, the order of worship should be such that every voice should be heard "blessing and praising God," for expression is the true friend of feeling.
III. JOYOUS IN ITS PREVAILING NOTE. The word "praise" is commonly associated with "singing." The singers sing "the praises of Jehovah." As already said, there is no spiritual experience to which vocal utterance may not be well and wisely given in sacred song. But the prevailing strain is that of praise or thanksgiving. And this may well be so when we realize, as we should in the praise of God:
1. How worthy, in his own Person and character, is the Lord our Savior of our most reverent and joyful praise.
2. How great things he wrought and suffered for us when he dwelt among us.
3. How perfect is the "great salvation," and how open to all mankind without reserve (Jude 1:3).
4. How high are the privileges and how heavenly the blessings we have in him whilst we live below; how much it is to be able to say, "For us to live is Christ."
5. How grand is the heritage to which we move.—C.