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This chapter furnishes a brief account of the priests' chambers in the outer court (Ezekiel 42:1-14), and a detailed measurement of the temple precincts (Ezekiel 42:15-20).
The priests' chambers.
The survey of the house having been completed, the seer was conducted by his guide into the outer court (see on Ezekiel 40:17), by the way toward the north, i.e. by the inner north gate (see Ezekiel 40:23) and from the outer court into the chamber that was over against the separate place, and which was before the building toward the north. That this chamber, or these chambers (לִשְׁכָּה being a collective noun, though in Ezekiel 42:4 and Ezekiel 42:5 it occurs in the plural), were not the same cells as those mentioned in Ezekiel 40:17, Ezekiel 40:44, as Havernick supposes, is apparent from their situation and use. Those in Ezekiel 40:44 were in the inner, while these were in the outer; and if the cells spoken of in Ezekiel 40:17 were in the outer court, they were also on the pavement by the outer wall, while the chambers now alluded to were "over against," or in front of, the gizrah, or separate place (see on Ezekiel 41:12), and "over against," or in front of, "the building toward the north." This building Kiel, Hengstenberg, Schroder, and Plumptre hold to have been the erection on the gizrah; Ewald, Kliefoth, Smend, and Currey believe it to have meant the temple. The question as to which view is correct is immaterial, since the row of chambers extended in front of parts of both buildings. Ewald, as usual, follows the LXX; and translates, "brought me to the fifteen (another Greek text has five) cells;" but of this the Hebrew contains nothing.
With this verse the Authorized and Revised Versions begin a new sentence, and are in this at one with Smend; but the majority of expositors place the second verse under the regimen of the verb, "he brought me," in Ezekiel 42:1, and understand the seer to state that he was planted down before the length (or, long side) of an hundred cubits, with the door toward the north, and the breadth fifty cubits. That is to say, the building which contained the sacristies, or priests' chambers, was a hundred cubits long and fifty bread. As the building on the separate place was also a hundred cubits long (Ezekiel 41:13), it might seem as if this erection ran exactly parallel to that, and this view is taken by Hengstenberg, Schroder, and Plumptre; but Kliefoth, Keil, and Currey, on the authority of Ezekiel 46:19, locate a priests' kitchen behind the priests' chambers towards the west, and reserve for it forty cubits, on the plausible ground that it would not likely be smaller in size than the sacrificial kitchen for the people (see Ezekiel 46:22). Hence, if the building under consideration began forty cubits east of the gizrah wall, it would extend twenty cubits over the end and along the length of the temple.
Considerable difficulty attaches to the words of this verse. The twenty cubits which were for the inner court (better, the twenty which belonged to the inner court) have been taken by Kliefoth to signify the watchers' coils in the inner court, west of the north door (Ezekiel 40:40-46), and by Plumptre to indicate an inner area of twenty cubits square, round which the galleries in three stories ran. Both of these views, however, have this against them, that they are purely conjectural, the text in Ezekiel 40:40-46 saying nothing about twenty cubits in connection with the priests' chambers, and the text under review making no suggestion of an inner area of twenty cubits, but only of the already well-known "inner court." Hence the opinion of Ewald, Hengstenberg, Keil, Schroder, and Currey has most in its favor, that the "twenty" alongside of which the chamber now alluded to lay, meant the twenty cubits clear space which surrounded the temple on the south, west, and north sides (see Ezekiel 41:12-14), and which could properly be spoken of as "for the inner court," rather as "belonging to the inner court," since it was practically a continuation of the same. The pavement which was for (or, belonged to) the outer court, was manifestly that already described as running along the inside of the outer wall (see Ezekiel 40:17). If, as is likely, this pavement was continued along the north side of the inner court wall, then the priests' chambers must have stood upon it, and been over against it on the east side, as Currey explains; but the easier and more natural supposition is that adopted by Keil, that the second "over against" points to that which faced the chambers on the north, viz. the pavement, as the first marked their boundary on the south. Gallery against gallery (see on Ezekiel 41:15). In three stories; or, in the third story (Revised Version). Whether these galleries existed in each of three stories of the building, or only in the third, cannot be determined. If בַּשְּׁלִשִׁים, "in the thirds" occurs elsewhere only in Genesis 6:16, to denote the chambers or rooms of the third story in the ark, as Smend observes, "the expression might also quite naturally signify three stories, one above another."
Before the chambers a walk. Whether this walk ran along the longer, i.e. northern, or in front of the eastern side of the chambers, and how it stood related to the way, which is likewise mentioned in connection with the chambers, are litigated questions. The LXX. identifies the two, and understands a way in front of the chambers of ten cubits broad and a hundred cubits long. Ewald and Keil so far agree with the LXX. as to change the one cubit way into a hundred-cubit way; but whereas Ewald thinks of a passage ten cubits broad and a hundred cubits long, running from west to east between two sets of chambers, Keil speaks of a walk of ten cubits broad and a hundred cubits long in front of the cells, extending into a way of equal breadth and length, leading westward into the inner court. Havernick's, Hengstenberg's, and Kliefoth's idea, favored by Schroder, and probably the best, is that of a walk of ten cubits in front of the cells, and a way of one cubit leading into them from the walk. Dr. Currey reverses this, and makes a walk of ten cubits leading inward, and a way, or kerb, of one cubit in front. Plumptre agrees that the passage leading into the chambers was ten cubits broad, but regards the one cubit as denoting the thickness of the wall separating the walk from the interior of the chambers.
The rendering of the Revised Version sufficiently explains this otherwise obscure verse, "Now the upper chambers were shorter," or narrower, "for the galleries took away from these;" literally, did eat of them, "more than from the lower and the middlemest in the building." In other words, the chambers rose in terrace form, each of the upper stories receding from that below it, as was customary in Babylonian architecture.
supplies the reason for this shortening of the upper stories. The chambers had not pillars (see on Ezekiel 40:49) as the courts had. Though it is not otherwise stated, these appear to have had colonnades like these in the Herodian (Josephus, 'Aut.,' 15. 11. 5) and probably also the Solomonic temple (Acts 3:11); and hence the second and third stories required to recede in order to find supports for their respective galleries.
The wall; or, fence—the Hebrew term being not חֹמָה, as in Ezekiel 40:5, or קִיר, as in Ezekiel 41:5, both of which signify the wall of a city or a building, but גָדֵר (or גֶדֶר, as in Ezekiel 41:10), which means a fence or hedge, as in Ezekiel 13:5—without, over against—or, by the side of (Revised Version)—the chambers, toward the outer court, cannot have been a rampart along the north side of-the chambers, since this was a hundred cubits long, but must have been a wall upon the side of the chambers (east or west) fencing off the outer court from the passage which led down by the side of the chambers. That this fence was on the east side is rendered probable by the circumstance that the sacrificial kitchen lay upon the west (see Ezekiel 46:19, Ezekiel 46:20), and by the statements which follow in Ezekiel 13:8 and Ezekiel 13:9. The fence was doubtless intended to screen the side windows of the lower chambers from public gaze, since these were to be occupied as robing and disrobing rooms for the priests who should officiate in the temple (see Ezekiel 13:14; and Ezekiel 44:19).
According to the statement contained in this verse, the chambers that were in the outer court, i.e. the chambers whose windows looked into the outer court, projected fifty cubits into the outer court; i.e. this was their breadth or depth from north to south; whereas those before the temple were an hundred cubits; i.e. the chambers whose windows fronted the temple, were a hundred cubits from east to west.
The chambers were approached by an entry (in the text the entry, this being a well-known and recognized part of the structure) which ran along the east side of the building, and led from the outer to the temple court. As this (the outer) court was higher than that (the temple), and could only be reached by steps, "the entry" is represented as lying under the chambers. It was manifestly this "entry" that was screened by the fence mentioned in Ezekiel 42:7.
A similar suite of chambers, corresponding in every detail, is depicted as having stood upon the south side of the temple and in front of the gizrah. The only question among interpreters is whether Ezekiel 42:10 relates to the north or south suite, or to an east suite. Schroder and Currey see in Ezekiel 42:10 a repetition, from another point of view, of what has already been stated about the north chambers, viz. that, viewed from the outer court, they appeared in the thickness or breadth of the wall (Ezekiel 42:7) and (lengthwise) over against the separate place and the buildings, i.e. the gizrah and the temple. Ewald, Smend, and Keil decide that Ezekiel 42:10 forms part of the description of a south set of chambers only; but in order to make this good they alter the text by substituting הַדָּרוֹם, "the south," for הַקָּדִים, "the east." Plumptre agrees with Kliefoth and Hengstenberg in holding that two similar sets of chambers are described, one on the east side and one on the south side of the inner court wall. The principal objection to this is the fact that only two suites, the north and the south, are referred to by the guide in Ezekiel 42:13 and Ezekiel 42:14.
Ezekiel 42:13, Ezekiel 42:14
These state the uses of the chambers just described, and now named holy chambers, to denote their separation and dedication to sacred purposes. Those purposes, again, are defined as two. The chambers were to serve as dining-halls and robing rooms for the priests when they officiated in the temple. The most holy things; literally, the holy of the holies (comp. Ezekiel 41:4; Ezekiel 43:12; Ezekiel 45:3; Ezekiel 48:12; Le Ezekiel 2:3; Ezekiel 6:1-17, 25, 29; Ezekiel 7:1, Ezekiel 7:6; Ezekiel 10:12, Ezekiel 10:17; Ezekiel 14:13; Ezekiel 24:9; Ezekiel 27:28; Numbers 18:9), signified those portions of the different sacrificial offerings which were to be eaten by the priests as the servants and representatives of Jehovah (see Keil's 'Biblische Archaologie,' 1. § 46) or of the people. Under the Law these were appointed to be eaten in the holy place beside the altar (Le Ezekiel 10:12, Ezekiel 10:13; Numbers 18:10); in Ezekiel's temple, a special quarter in the near vicinity of the house should be reserved for this purpose. There those portions of the sacrifices that could be eaten were to be consumed; as e.g. the flesh of the sin and trespass offerings, and the meal of the meat offering; but as these could not be at once used, they were to be deposited there until they were prepared for eating, the flesh by being boiled and the meal by being mixed with oil. The obvious intention of this was to convey an idea of the special sanctity of the worship in which the priests were engaged; and just for this reason also they were required to array themselves in other garments (Le Ezekiel 16:23) when they entered on their priestly functions. The putting on and off of these holy clothes took place in the chambers now referred to.
The temple precincts. The seer's guide, having completed his measurement of the house with its courts, proceeds to measure its encompassing wall, for this purpose conducting the prophet out by the east gate, and measuring, first the east, next the north, thirdly the south, and lastly the west wall, each five hundred reeds in length, or three thousand cubits, so that the entire area of the quadrangle amounted to 3000 x 3000 = 9,000,000 square cubits, equivalent to 2,250,000 square yards.
The inner house was not the temple as distinguished from its courts, but the temple with its courts, which lay within the wall about to be measured.
Five hundred reeds. Ewald, Hitzig, and Smend, with others, following the LXX; regard this wall as that of the outer court, and change the "reeds" into "cubits;" but the majority of expositors adhere to the text, and understand the wall to be that of a great quadrangle which encompassed the whole structure, or the outer court and all within.
To make a separation between the sanctuary and the profane. In these words the prophet indicates the purpose designed to be served by this particular wall; and although it may be said the outer court divided between the "sanctuary," or that which was holy, and the "profane," or that which was common, yet a more decided separation would assuredly be made by extending in the way described the precincts of the house. The objections usually offered to the view which regards the present measurements as those of a larger quadrangle encompassing the outer court, are not sufficient to make that view impossible.
See drawing, The Temple and Its Precincts
Legend for the Temple and Its Precincts
C, temple court, 500 cubits square
P, the temple precincts, 3000 cubits square.
(1) It is said that the "sanctuary" always refers to the house as contrasted with its courts, especially with the outer court, and that in this sense it should here be taken; but the rendering, "that which is holy," shows how the idea of special sanctity might easily be extended to the whole structure, including courts as well as house (see Psalms 114:2; Daniel 9:20).
(2) It is urged that there is no other instance in which the measurements are represented as having been taken by "reeds" in the plural; but a glance at Ezekiel 45:1, etc; and Ezekiel 48:16, will show that this is incorrect.
(3) It is represented that in the center of such a huge quadrangle the house, with its courts and gates, would wear an insignificant appearance; but, while this might have been so had the area been crowded with other buildings, it is rather likely that in the midst of so large a vacant space the temple and its courts stand out with increased clearness, if not with augmented size.
(4) It is added that the summit of Mount Moriah could not admit of the construction of such a vast quadrangle; and it is answered that this shows the temple was an ideal house, never meant to be built upon the literal Moriah.
See drawing, The Ground Plan of the Temple
Legend for the Ground Plan of the Temple
N. G; etc; gateways.
O, outer court.
K, cooking-chambers for the priests.
B, boiling-houses for the people.
c, chambers on the pavement.
G, the gizrah.
C, priests' chambers.
I, inner court.
E. G; N. G; S. G; gates.
A, altar of sacrifice.
W, watchers' chambers.
HP and H, the house.
The outer court.
There was an outer court in the temple of Jerusalem, held to be less sacred than the courts nearer to the holy place; to this court Gentiles were admitted.
I. THERE IS AN OUTER COURT IN ALL RELIGION. There are always people who seem to stand midway between the Church and the world. In some cases they are like Elijah's contemporaries, halting between two opinions (1 Kings 18:21). They may be described as like the scribe who was "not far from the kingdom of God" (Mark 12:34). Feeling a certain attraction for religion, they are drawn into association with public worship. Others, like the money-changers and cattle-vendors whom our Lord disturbed, find it possible to make worldly profit for themselves by hanging on to the fringe of religious ordinances.
II. THEY WHO ARE IN THE OUTER COURT ENJOY CERTAIN PRIVILEGES. These people can see what is going on in the more sacred interior of the temple. Though they take no part in the services, they are able to witness the sacrificial rites. Similarly, there are regular attendants at Christian churches who do not enter into the more intimate life of the community nor enjoy its highest advantages. Yet they have some privileges. It is something to see the door, if we have not yet knocked at it. Knowing the way ought to be a preparation for entering it. In a professedly Christian country, where New Testament facts are familiar to most people, and where few are quite out of the range of potential religious influences, privileges are enjoyed which bring a responsibility not shared by the more ignorant heathen.
III. THEY WHO ARE IN THE OUTER COURT MISS THE BEST BLESSING. At most they have Esau's blessing, not Jacob's. Like Balsam, they see the Christ, but "not near;" therefore, like that unhappy prophet of Moab, they must be excluded from the covenant of promise. It is an aggravation to the torment of Dives that he can see Lazarus in Abraham's bosom. The knowledge of Christian truth and the sight of Christian grace do not save the souls of men who will not yield themselves to Christ in heart and life. We have to beware of a common snare. Many are tempted to believe that they are safe because they are in some sort of external association with religion. We need to understand distinctly that this will not avail. There must be personal membership in the kingdom of heaven for all who will enjoy the real blessings of the kingdom.
IV. IT IS NOW POSSIBLE FOR THOSE WHO ARE IN THE OUTER COURT TO ENTER THE INNER COURT. This was even true of the old, narrow Jewish religion, on the condition that the Gentile proselyte was circumcised and became a Jew. It is certainly true of the free, world-wide Christian gospel. None need linger in the outer court. There is room within the privileged Church for every soul on earth, and a welcome from Christ for all who will come. But observe, in conclusion, the distinction between outer and inner courts in the Christian Church is spiritual, not visible. Professed Church-members may be in the outer court; while those who join no earthly community, and are regarded by their brethren as religious Bohemians, are in the inner court if their hearts and lives are truly near to Christ.
In a Protestant reaction against the superstition that attaches magical sanctity to certain sites, we have perhaps lost hold of the truths of which that superstition was a perversion.
I. THERE IS A SANCTITY OF ASSOCIATION. We may own to a revulsion for a man who would botanize on his mother's grave. Every Englishman must feel a thrill of national pride when he visits the field of Waterloo, as every Greek must have done when treading the plain of Marathon. Though a man may have traveled far and have acquired wealth that has raised him above his humble origin, it is but natural that he should look back to the cottage home of his childhood with tender affection as to the most sacred shrine on earth. It may be from superstition, or it may be from sentiment; but whichever be the cause, it is surely no strange thing to confess that the house of God in which a man has worshipped for years gathers to itself a peculiar consecration. There his burdened soul has been cheered; there the light has pierced his darkness; there he has sat side by side with the loved and lost, and if the place that once knew them now knows them no more, does not the very sense of change and the very pain of the vacancy add a new sacredness to the place, while dear memories of a beautiful past cling to its very walls and drape them with a sweet, sad sanctity?
II. THERE IS A SANCTITY OF USE. The sacred chambers were to be used by the priests, and in them sacrificial meals were to be eaten. Thus the sanctity of sacred usage was to be attached to these rooms. The commonest thing becomes holy when it is consecrated to a holy purpose. The shop may be a temple, the counter an altar, and the wares sacrifices, when the business is carried on for the glory of God in quiet obedience to his will of righteousness. Thus the very bells on the horses may have "Holiness to the Lord" inscribed upon them. It is in this direction that we should move when we would abolish too narrow distinctions between the secular and the sacred. We should lose the distinction, not by making religion earthly, but by making earth religious; not by desecrating the spiritual functions, but by consecrating things of the outer world.
III. THERE IS A SANCTITY OF LIFE. This is the only true sanctity. The other forms of sanctity are its reflections and results. True holiness resides in the heart, and there alone. That is the holy place in which the holy man dwells. The presence of the priest sanctifies the temple-chambers. But it is not the "linen ephod" or any badge of office that makes the true priest. Every man who has habitual access to the presence of God is a true priest of God. He who walks with God treads holy ground. A halo of sanctity surrounds the heavenly life. Whether this life be spent in a temple court, a hermit's cell, a Christian home, or in the hard, fierce world, it is encircled with holiness, and it weaves about it its own sacred tabernacle.
The priests were to keep their holy garments in their holy chambers, wearing them in the sacred offices of the temple, and exchanging them for their common clothing before mixing with the people. This regulation was a necessary part of the Old Testament ceremonial, with its suggestions of separateness and external holiness. But it was susceptible of abuse, and some of the modern reproductions of it are certainly far from being commendable.
I. THE ANCIENT SIGNIFICANCE OF HOLY GARMENTS.
1. The necessity of holiness in all worship. God must be worshipped with clean hands and a pure heart—" in the beauty of holiness" (Psalms 96:9). The old heathenish divorce of religion from morality could not be permitted under the Jewish economy. All that was most formal and external was intended to keep before the minds of the worshippers a clear perception of God's horror of sin, and a vivid presentation of his supreme love for righteousness.
2. The experience of holiness by individual men. Not only were the chambers in which the priests ate the sacrificial meals to be holy, but even the garments worn by the priests were also to be sacred. The sanctity attaches to the person. The very bodies of Christian people are temples of the Holy Ghost (1 Corinthians 6:19).
3. The renewal of holiness in every act of worship. It is necessary to see that we are in a fit condition to approach God. It is not sufficient that we were once pardoned and cleansed. Unhappily, fresh defilement is repeatedly contracted. It is therefore necessary that renewed cleansing should be received. This was suggested by Christ's washing his disciples' feet (John 13:4 John 13:10). By Christ we can be fitted for entering the presence of God.
II. THE COMMON ABUSE OF HOLY GARMENTS.
1. In distinction of persons. The priest in his robes appeared as a more holy man than the common worshipper in his every-day dress. This was inevitable under the old Jewish system, but it should not be permitted in the present day. Yet what is called "the cloth" is often supposed to carry a certain sanctity, and clerical attire is thought by the superstitious to mark a spiritual separateness. But no such separateness exists in the Christian Church, all the members of which constitute "an holy priesthood" (1 Peter 2:5).
2. By observing seasons. The priests wore their holy garments for a time, and then laid them aside and assumed their ordinary apparel. Some people put on their religion as they put on their Sunday clothes. They are saints at church, and sinners in the world; holy on Sunday, and profane on the weekdays. This is all delusive. No man can live two honest lives. Religion claims our whole being and time. For the true Christian all days are sacred to Christ's service.
3. With mere external profession. The holiness resides only in the garment; the religion is nothing better than a clothing—it is no inspiration. Such religion, like that of the Pharisees who cleansed the outside of the cup and platter, is hypocrisy.
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
Ezekiel 42:13, Ezekiel 42:14
If the Jews were a peculiar, a consecrated, a holy people, it may be said that their sanctity was concentrated in the temple—the building which was "holiness unto the Lord," and in the holy priesthood, set apart for the ministrations of the sanctuary. The angel who showed Ezekiel the temple of vision laid great stress upon this characteristic of the marvelous and symmetrical building.
I. CEREMONIAL HOLINESS. This is exhibited as affecting:
1. The priests, who were set apart from the rest of the people. How should they be clean who bear the vessels of the Lord!
2. Their residences. During the period of their officiation in the temple services and sacrifices, they had their dwelling in certain chambers within the precincts, and these chambers were deemed holy places,
3. Their food. They are said to "eat the most holy things;" i.e. there were certain regulations as to food which were prescribed for them that had no reference to the people generally.
4. Their garments. The priests were provided with raiment which they were required to wear when ministering before the Lord. Holy functions necessitated holy vestments.
5. Their offerings. As the reader of this passage is reminded, it was the duty of the priests to present meal offerings, sin offering, and guilt offerings. As these were offered upon the holy altar to the holy God, they themselves were holy. It thus appears that everything connected with the position, the life, the ministrations, of the priests was marked by ceremonial sanctity.
II. THE SPIRITUAL SIGNIFICANCE OF CEREMONIAL HOLINESS. What was the purpose of all the arrangements described in this and other passages of Old Testament Scripture? Why was this artificial separation introduced into the religion and life of the Hebrew people? A complete answer to these questions is perhaps not possible. But it is evident that it was intended to convey to Israel and to mankind:
1. A conception of the holy nature of God. Very different was the character claimed for himself by Jehovah from the character attributed to the deities of the heathen nations around. Whilst these deities were disfigured by selfishness, cruelty, and lust, Jehovah's attributes were righteousness, holiness, and benevolence. Everything connected with the worship of God, as practiced in the temple at Jerusalem, was adapted to convey to men's minds the idea of God's infinite and spotless holiness.
2. A conception of the holy character of acceptable worship. Concerning idolatrous worship, we know that it was distinguished by perfunctoriness and superstition, and in some cases by impurity. Religious rites among the heathen are usually corrupt, or else mechanical and spiritually valueless. On the contrary, the worship of the true Hebrew, as is evident to the attentive reader of the Book of Psalms and of the prophets, was a sincere, holy, and spiritual worship. It was well understood that no other worship could be acceptable to the holy and heart-searching King of kings. And the arrangements described in this passage of the Book of Ezekiel were evidently adapted to produce and to deepen this impression.
3. A conception of the holy services of obedience and praise. Sacrifices were enjoined and required of the pious Hebrew; but sacrifices were not the only or the chief services to be presented by the devout worshipper. In connection with these, and beyond these, were the offerings which God ever delights to accept from his own people—spiritual offerings of devotion and of active services. And if these are distinguished by one characteristic above another, that characteristic is true holiness.—T.
The symmetry of the sanctuary.
The measurements which are in this part of Ezekiel's prophecies given with such abundance and such minuteness are intended primarily to convey the impression that the temple which was seen in vision was a building of perfect beauty, harmony, and completeness. But the material building was a figure of a spiritual edifice, and the material qualities ascribed to it were significant of moral attributes of the profoundest interest. And the structure, made without hands, yet possessing every quality that can command admiration and reverence, is none other than the Church of the living God.
I. THE SYMMETRY OF THE CHURCH FOLLOWS FROM ITS BEING PLANNED BY GOD'S WISDOM. The tabernacle was constructed according to the pattern shown by God to Moses in the mount. The plan and details of Solomon's temple are attributed to Divine inspiration. And the Church of Christ is in the New Testament compared to the temple, with its Divine foundation, its ample precincts, its spiritual sacrifices, its accepted worshippers. All the productions of the Divine mind are perfect. When God looks upon his works he pronounces them to be "very good." Upon the Church, as upon what possesses a higher interest and value than aught material, Divine wisdom has expended all its resources. And the perfectly symmetrical product is just what might be expected. In God s mind the spiritual temple is faultlessly perfect; and the actual Church is destined to realize the glorious ideal.
II. THE SYMMETRY OF THE CHURCH RESULTS FROM ITS CONSTRUCTION UPON THE MODEL OF CHRIST HIMSELF. The humanity of the Lord Jesus was the temple of God. And when he departed from earth he left his representative in the Church which he redeemed and sanctified, and which he appointed to continue in his stead unto the end of time. The temple of his body was succeeded by the spiritual temple, built up of loyal and living souls. If Christ contained within himself, if Christ exhibited in his life, every moral perfection, it is manifest that the Church, which is his body, must perpetuate the spiritual excellences which existed in himself.
III. THE SYMMETRY OF THE CHURCH IS WROUGHT BY THE INSPIRATION AND GOVERNMENT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. There is a Divine presence in the Church, which, so far from being merely passive, is vital, energetic, and transforming. Who has not admired the action of certain physical and vital principles which produce the marvelous symmetry of crystals, and the yet more marvelous symmetry of every form of vegetable and animal life? What takes place in the natural kingdom is transcended by what occurs in the spiritual realm, although these results are not in the same way apparent to the senses of the observer, and appeal rather to his spiritual discernment and susceptibilities. But the provision for the growth and prosperity of Christ's Church, the provision for ministers and officers, for cooperation and sympathy in Church worship and Church work, all tell of a Spirit informing, inspiring, and directing the whole, and producing a result of marvelous and admirable harmony and spiritual beauty.
IV. THE SYMMETRY OF THE CHURCH WILL REACH ITS FULL AND PERFECT DEVELOPMENT IN THE HEAVENLY STATE. Who call read this portion of Ezekiel's prophecies, and the corresponding chapters from the Book of the Revelation, without forming the conviction that, however this world may be the scene of the Church's discipline, the scene of the Church's maturity is elsewhere, is above? The heavenly temple is, in glory anti beauty, faintly imaged by the Church militant on earth. Yonder all imperfections shall be removed, all deficiencies shall be supplied, all holy tendencies shall be fully developed, all promise shall be fulfilled. There the city and the temple are one; for of the heavenly Jerusalem it is said, "The Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple thereof."—T.
Separation between the holy and the common.
The walls described by the prophet served another purpose than the most obvious one of enclosing a space and supporting a roof. They had a symbolical meaning. They were walls of separation. The several portions of the temple were invested with varying degrees of holiness, and in this arrangement there was no doubt a Divine significance and intention. There were parts reserved for Israelites, parts reserved for the priests, and one part into which the high priest alone was permitted to enter. In this way separation was effected between the more and the less holy, and between the holy and the common.
I. SUCH SEPARATION WAS APPOINTED BY DIVINE WISDOM. It Was not, as similar arrangements in heathen temples may have been, a device of human ingenuity and a provision of human and sacerdotal policy. It was part of the Divine intention of which the whole was the outworking and expression.
II. SUCH SEPARATION WAS INTENDED FOR HUMAN INSTRUCTION. The Israelites needed to be taught the elements of religious knowledge, and to be trained in rudimentary religious life. The means adopted to this end were in harmony with their condition, and with the stage of intellectual and spiritual development which they had, reached. A wall of separation was certainly something very visible, tangible, and unmistakable; they who looked upon it, and who by it were prevented from approaching some sacred spot, were thereby taught most precious truths as to the character of the God to whose honor the temple was reared, as to the nature of his laws and his worship, as to the conditions of acceptance with him. Discrimination between the good and the wicked, the exclusion of the latter and the admission of the former into Divine favor,—such were moral lessons which the provisions connected with the temple precincts were admirably fitted to impress upon the minds of a rude and rebellious people.
III. THE LESSONS OF SUCH SEPARATION WERE OFTEN CORRUPTED BY HUMAN PREJUDICE AND UNSPIRITUALITY. The tendency of human nature is to rest in the symbol instead of passing on to that which is symbolized, to mistake the shadow for the substance. The material was designed to lead to the spiritual; but the importance which properly belonged only to the spiritual was sometimes attributed to the material. This was so not only with reference to the case before us, but with reference to all the provisions of a similar and symbolical nature which existed in connection with the temple and its worship. And Christians must not imagine themselves free from a similar liability to error. Even in our spiritual dispensation the same mistake is committed, and church buildings and sacraments are sometimes substituted for the great spiritual realities which they represent.
IV. THERE IS A SENSE IN WHICH SUCH SEPARATION WAS TEMPORARY, AND HAS BEEN ABOLISHED BY CHRISTIANITY. One great work of our Divine Savior was to break down the middle wall of partition that fenced off Jews from Gentiles, and to make of two "one new humanity." It was a first lesson of Christianity that men should give up calling any man or any thing "common or unclean." The change was brought about, not by leveling things sacred, but by raising things secular, and by steeping everything in a Divine light, pure and lustrous. All Christians are admitted into the true Israel; all are enrolled in the sacred priesthood; all are welcomed to fellowship with Heaven.
V. THERE IS A SENSE IN WHICH SUCH SEPARATION ENDURES, INASMUCH AS GOD EVER ENCOMPASSES AND ENCLOSES HIS PEOPLE WITHIN WALLS OF LIVING HOLINESS. He delights to include, but takes no pleasure in exclusion. Into the heavenly city, which is a temple, there enters not anything unclean or common. From such contamination the blessed and glorified are forever preserved. There is around the citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem, the worshippers of the heavenly temple, a wall which preserves them forever from all molestation and from every incursion of evil. But within there is no distinction; there is one heart, one service, and one song.—T.
HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON
Separation and society.
What did those "chambers" mean, of which we read so much in this vision? Their immediate use, as intimated to the prophet, is given in the thirteenth and fourteenth verses. They were for the personal accommodation of the priests; that they might there, in a place which was nowise profane but thoroughly holy, eat that part of the sacrifices which fell to their share; and that they might there robe and unrobe, so as to serve in sacred vestments and mingle with the people in ordinary dress. Their object, therefore, was to maintain the separateness or sanctity of the priests. It has been suggested that they also answered this general purpose by constituting places for sacred retirement and devotion; possibly for the accommodation of those who, like Anna the prophetess, "departed not from the temple, night or day" (Luke 2:37). Those who were to minister in the temple were to be provided with rooms which were separated from the commerce and the strife of the outer world, where there would be nothing to contaminate or interrupt. But what meant the "walk of ten cubits breadth" (Ezekiel 42:4)? Was not this for society, as the chambers were for separation? Matthew Henry suggests that these "walks of five yards broad were for those that had lodgings in the chambers, that there they might meet for conversation, might walk and talk together for their mutual edification, might communicate their knowledge and experiences; for," he adds with characteristic good sense, "we are not to spend all our time between the church and the chamber." We learn—
I. THE DUTY AND THE PRIVILEGE OF SEPARATION.
1. That which is obligatory and constant; viz. to be separate in spirit and in sympathy from sin; to stand apart, in spirit, from all that is in any way unchristian.
2. That which is obligatory and frequent; viz. to separate ourselves much and generally from the society of the sinful. Jesus Christ was thus "separate from sinners" (Hebrews 7:26). It is the sacred duty of most good men, and of all the young, to keep aloof from the vicious and profane; to decline the society, and firmly to refuse the friendship, of those who fear not God and whose conduct is unprincipled and deleterious.
3. That which is wise and occasional; viz. to retire into the seclusion of the quiet chamber, where there is no disturbing voice to prevent our close communion with the Father and Savior of our spirits.
II. THE SERVICE OF SOCIETY. There are truths to be learned and there are influences to be gained in solitude which cannot be secured in society; but, on the other hand, there is a service which only society can render us. To meet men and to know them as they are living their daily life of toil and struggle; to come into close contact with their difficulties, their doubts, their joys, and their sorrows; to exchange ideas with them; to learn what their experience and their wisdom have to teach us, and to convey to them what we ourselves have learned in the solitary place; to be in the world, and still above it;—this is not only the true triumph of Christian principle, it is the fair and open opportunity of Christian usefulness.—C.
The size and strength of the kingdom.
"The particularity with which these measurements are given shows the importance attached by the prophet to the external dimensions … The compass assigned to the sacred buildings exceeded the limits of all ancient Jerusalem … Here is another of those traits intended to render manifest the ideal character of the whole description" (Fairbairn). The fulfillment is found in the glorious magnitude of the Church of Christ, of which the temple was designed to be the type. We look, then, at—
I. THE SIZE OF THE KINGDOM. The kingdom of Christ is indeed of vast dimensions; it requires a heavenly messenger to compute it.
1. It is inclusive of all classes and characters. It is not confined to rich or poor, or to those who have "neither poverty nor riches;" it is not intended for the learned any more than for the unlearned; it is the home of those who have been devout and upright all their days, and it offers an asylum to those who have wandered away into the darkness and fallen into the depths of sin.
2. It is unlimited by race. The Jew at first imagined that the kingdom was for him only; but it was not long before the providence and the grace of God demonstrated that the kingdom of Christ was open to the whole Gentile world; and missionary labors have proved that there is no climate beneath the sun where the seeds of Christian truth will not spring up and bear flower and fruit.
3. It is extended through all time. Nineteen centuries have nearly gone since John declared that the kingdom was "at hand," and, so far from there being any signs of completion, there is more active and successful evangelization than at any previous period of Church history. The prophet might well see a large space measured when the area of the kingdom was in question.
II. THE STRENGTH OF THE KINGDOM. This temple is a perfect square, five hundred reeds on every side. "Buildings which are four-square are the most stable, firm, and lasting." The kingdom of Christ is immovably strong, and nothing can withstand it, because:
1. It rests on the basis of Divine truth. Not "cunningly devised fables," but well-established facts, are the foundation on which the fair, spiritual edifice is resting—the facts of the Incarnation, of the works of beneficent power wrought, of the words of truth and grace spoken, of the resurrection from the dead accomplished by Jesus Christ; the facts of the apostolic ministry, of the opposition offered to the gospel and of its steady, spiritual, glorious triumph over it.
2. It meets the deep and abiding needs of our humanity. Beneath all skies, under all conditions, through all changes and circumstances, after all political and social revolutions, man wants the same things to be truly and profoundly satisfied. He wants a Divine Father of his spirit; a salvation from sin; a refuge in time of trouble; a source of elevation in all the meanness and littleness of earthly life; hope in death. This the gospel of Christ is always offering him. To hungering, toiling, sorrowing, burdened humanity Jesus Christ is ever saying, "Come unto me … I will give you rest."
3. It relies on the Divine power and presence. "All power is given to me in heaven and in earth; go ye, therefore, and teach all nations … lo, I am with you always," etc. (Matthew 28:18-20). In the presence, the sympathetic and active presence, of the all-powerful Redeemer we have the strongest assurance that the kingdom will extend and prevail; it is strong in its present and mighty Lord.—C.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Ezekiel 42". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
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