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The consecration of the new temple by the entrance into it of the glory of the God of Israel (Ezekiel 43:1-12), and a description of the altar with its dedication to the solemn ritual for which it was in future to be employed (Ezekiel 43:13-27), form the contents of the present chapter, and complete the prophet's picture of the future sanctuary of Israel.
The consecration of the temple by the entrance into it of the glory of the God of Israel.
Afterward, etc. Having completed the survey of the temple precincts (Ezekiel 42:15-20), the prophet's guide, "the measuring man," conducted him back to the gate that looked towards the east, i.e. to the gate leading into the outer court from the east (see on Ezekiel 40:6), perhaps because this was the principal entrance to the sanctuary, but chiefly because through it the impending theophany was to pass.
Scarcely had the prophet taken up his station at or near the gate when the glory of the God of Israel (see on Ezekiel 1:28; Ezekiel 3:23) came from the way of the east, as if intending to enter the temple by the very door through which it had previously departed from the temple (comp. Ezekiel, Ezekiel 10:19; Ezekiel 11:22, Ezekiel 11:23). The voles which proceeded from the theophany and resembled the noise of many waters, is after the LXX. (καὶ φωνὴ τῆς παρεμβολῆς) by Keil and Smend understood to have been the sound produced by the motion of the wheels and the rustling of the wings of the cherubim (see on Ezekiel 1:2, Ezekiel 1:4; Ezekiel 10:5), but is better taken, with Kliefoth and Hengstenberg, to signify the voice of the Almighty himself, i.e. of the personal Jehovah (comp. Revelation 1:15). The statement that the earth shined with his glory (comp. Revelation 18:1) has by Havernick, Kliefoth, and others been supposed to indicate the absence of that "cloud" in which the glory of Jehovah appeared in both the Mosaic tabernacle (Exodus 40:34, Exodus 40:35) and the Solomonic temple (1 Kings 8:10, 1 Kings 8:11), and thereby to point to the clearer and more resplendent manifestations of the Godhead, which were to be given in connection with the new dispensation for which Ezekiel's "house" was being prepared. This, however, as Keil has shown, cannot be main-rained in face of the facts that in both Exodus and 1 Kings "the glory of the Lord" is used synonymously with "the cloud," and that in Ezekiel's vision "the glory" and "the cloud" were alike present (see Ezekiel 10:3, Ezekiel 10:4). Kliefoth and Schroder hold "the earth" which was illumined to have been "the whole globe," "the entire region of humanity," as in Isaiah 6:3; Isaiah 60:1, etc.; but there does not appear ground for departing from the ordinary sense of the words, that "the path" of the advancing God was irradiated by the brilliance of his material glory.
The prophet identifies the vision on which he now looks as the same he had formerly beheld on the hanks of the Chebar, when he came to destroy the city, i.e. when, in obedience to Divine command, he stood forth to announce the destruction of Jerusalem. Ewald and Smend follow the Vulgate. quando venit ut disperderet, in substituting "he," Jehovah, for "I," Ezekiel; but the change is unnecessary, as the prophet's language is perfectly intelligible and quite correct, since "the prophet destroyed the city ideally by his prophecy" (Hitzig), and it is not unusual for Scripture to represent a prophet as himself doing what he is only sent to predict (comp. Ezekiel 4:2; Ezekiel 32:18; Jeremiah 1:10). The prophet's reason for introducing this clause was manifestly the same he had for identifying the visions—to show that, while it was the same Jehovah who had departed from the old temple that was now returning to the new, there was nothing incongruous in the idea that he who in the past had shown himself a God of justice and judgment by overturning and destroying the old, should in the future exhibit himself as a God of grace and mercy by condescending to establish his abode in the new. The impression produced upon the prophet's soul by his vision was the same that had been produced by the former—he fell upon his face in awe and wonder.
Ezekiel 43:4, Ezekiel 43:5
The prophet next narrates that he saw the glory of the Lord entering into and taking possession of the "house," as formerly it had entered into and taken possession of the tabernacle and the temple (Exodus 40:34, Exodus 40:35; 1 Kings 8:10, 1 Kings 8:11), and that of this he was further assured by experiencing immediately thereafter—not a push from the wind, as Luther and Kliefoth translate, but an impulse from the Spirit (not "a spirit," Ewald, though the Hebrew word wants the article), which raised him from the ground upon which he had fallen (Ezekiel 43:3), took him up (see on Ezekiel 2:2; Ezekiel 3:12), and brought him into the inner court, exactly in front of the "house," where, having looked into the interior, he saw that the glory of the Lord filled the house, the language being that used in connection with the tabernacle and the temple.
And I heard him (better, one) speaking unto me out of the house; and the (literally, a) man stood by me. Two questions arise—Who was the speaker? and, Who the man? As to the speaker, the natural reply is that the One who addressed Ezekiel from the interior of the "house" was Jehovah himself, whose "glory" had just entered in to take possession of the house, and this view is adopted by most interpreters, though Hengstenberg and Schroder regard the man who stood beside the prophet as the one who addressed him. As to the man, it cannot, as Kliefoth maintains, be decided solely by the absence of the article before "man" that this was a different person from the guide who had hitherto conducted the prophet and measured the Building. The article may have Been emitted because the important point to be recorded was not the circumstance that the "one" who stood beside him was his quondam guide, but the fact that this "one" was a man. That he was also Ezekiel's old conductor is at least a natural suggestion when one finds him afterwards appearing as a measurer with a line in his hand (Ezekiel 47:3).
Debate exists as to who the speaker in the seventh verse was, whether Jehovah or the man—some holding with Kliefoth, Ewald, Smend, and Currey, that he was Jehovah; others, with Havernick, Keil, Hengstenberg, and Schroder, that he was "the man;" and still others, with Plumptre, that it cannot be decided which he was. One thing is clear, that if "the man" was the speaker, his words and message were not his own, but Jehovah's. Yet unless the man had been the angel of the Lord—the view of Hengstenberg and Schroder—it will always seem incongruous that he should have addressed Ezekiel without a "Thus saith the Lord." Hence the notion that the speaker was Jehovah is, perhaps, the one freest from difficulty. The message announced or communication made to the prophet related first to Jehovah's purpose in entering the temple (verses 7-9), and secondly to his object in showing the house to the prophet, viz. that he might show it to the house of Israel (verses 10-12).
The LXX. and the Vulgate divide the present verse into two parts, and take the first as equivalent to a solemn word of consecration, the former supplying ἑώρακας the latter vidisti, "thou hast seen." The Chaldee Targum inserts, hic est locus, "this is the place," and in so doing is followed by Luther and the Revised Version. Some word, it is obvious, either a "see!" or a "behold!" must be interpolated, in thought at least, unless one adopts the construction of the Authorized Version, with which Smend agrees, and makes "the place of my throne," etc; to be governed By the verb "defile," or, with Ewald, places it under the regimen of "show" in Ezekiel 43:10, throwing the whole intervening clause into a long parenthesis—a device which does not contribute to lucidity. Of the two expressions here employed to designate the sanctuary—not the temple proper, but the whole house with its surroundings—the former, the place of my throne, though peculiar to Ezekiel, receives explanation from the conception, familiar to earlier writers, of Jehovah as dwelling between the cherubim (Exodus 25:22; 1Sa 4:4; 2 Kings 19:15; Psalms 80:1; Isaiah 37:16); the latter, the place of the soles of my feet, was of frequent occurrence to denote the ark of the covenant (1 Chronicles 28:2; Psalms 99:5; Psalms 132:7) and the temple (Isaiah 60:13; Lamentations 2:1). The word of consecration was expressed in the promise, I will dwell (in the temple) in the midst of the children of Israel forever, etc; which went beyond anything that had been spoken concerning either the tabernacle of Moses or the temple of Solomon (comp. Exodus 25:8; Exodus 29:45; 1 Kings 6:13). The second part of the verse announces what would be the result of Jehovah's perpetual inhabitation of the temple—the house of Israel would no more defile his holy Name either by their whoredom or by the carcasses of their kings in their high places, or, according to another reading, in their death. That the whoredom signified idolatry (comp. Ezekiel 16:1-63.) commentators are agreed. What divides them is whether this also is alluded to in the alternative clause. Rosenmüller, Havernick, Keil, Fairbairn, and Plumptre believe it is, contending that the "carcasses of their kings" (comp. Leviticus 26:30; and Jeremiah 16:18) was a contemptuous and satirical designation of the idols they had formerly served, that the word "kings ' is frequently employed in this sense in Scripture (see Isaiah 8:21; Amos 5:26; Zephaniah 1:5), and that the special sin complained of, that of building altars for dead idols in the very temple court, had been practiced by more kings than one in Judah; and in support of this view may be urged first that it is favored by the use of the term bamoth, or "high places," in verse 7, and secondly by the exposition offered in verse 8 of the nature of the sin. Ewald, Hitzig, Kliefoth, and Smend, on the other hand, regard the sin spoken of in the second clause as different from that indicated in the first, maintaining that while this was the practice of defiling Jehovah's sanctuary by idolatry that was the desecration of the same by the interment in its courts of their dead kings. Against this, however, stands the fact that no authentic instance can be produced of a Judaean sovereign's corpse having been interred in the temple area. David, Solomon, Jehoshaphat, and others were buried in the city of David (1Ki 2:10; 1 Kings 11:43; 1 Kings 22:50), and a place of sepulchers existed on the south-west comer of Zion in the days of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 3:16); but these prove nothing unless the temple hill be taken, as no doubt it sometimes was, in an extended sense as inclusive of Mount Zion. Similarly, the statement that Manasseh had a burial-place in the garden of Uzzah (2 Kings 21:18, 2 Kings 21:26) cannot be adduced in support of this view, unless it can be shown that the garden of Uzzah was situated on the temple hill. On the whole, therefore, the balance of argument inclines in favor of the first view, though it does involve the introduction of a figurative sense into the words.
In their setting of their threshold by my thresholds etc. The first "their" can only refer to "the house of Israel and their kings;" the second "their" may also allude to these, but is best taken as pointing to the "idols," whose thresholds or temples, according to the view adopted of the preceding verse, were set up in the court of Jehovah's temple, and so close to the latter that nothing stood between them except the temple wall Smend, who favors the second view of the preceding verse, considers this verse as a complaint against the kings for having erected their royal residence on Mount Zion, in the immediate vicinity of the temple; but as David's palace was older than the temple, it is not likely Ezekiel was guilty of perverting history in the manner this hypothesis would imply.
Now let them put away their whoredom, etc. What has just been declared to be the necessary consequence of Jehovah's abiding in the midst of Israel is now enjoined upon Israel as an indispensable prerequisite of Jehovah's taking up his residence amongst them. Ezekiel's theology in this respect harmonizes with that of Old and New Testament writers generally, who invariably postulate purity of heart and life as a necessary condition of God's abiding in the heart, while asserting that such Divine indwelling in the heart is the only certain creator of such purity (comp. Ezekiel 18:31; Ezekiel 36:26; Isaiah 1:16, Isaiah 1:25; Isaiah 26:12; John 14:23; 2 Corinthians 6:17; James 4:8).
Show (or, make known, i.e. publish the revelation concerning) the house to the house of Israel For this purpose the vision had been imparted to the prophet. That they may be ashamed of their iniquities. This told the reason why the vision of the house should be made known to Israel. And let them measure the pattern; sum, number, or well-proportioned building. This explained how, by beholding the house, Israel would be led to repent, and be ashamed of her iniquities. There is no ground for thinking the ultimate object Jehovah had in view, in recommending the house of Israel to note the proportions of the visionary edifice, was, as Wellhausen, Smend, and others allege, that they might reproduce these in the post-exilic building; if they were to measure, i.e. scan and meditate upon the fair dimensions of the "house," it was that they might understand its religious or moral and spiritual significance, both as a whole and in detail.
And if they be ashamed of all that they have done. This cannot signify that Ezekiel was not to show the house until they had evinced a sincere penitence for past wickedness, since the converse has just been stated, that their repentance should flow from a disclosure to them of the house: but that in the event of the presentation to them of the "well-measured" building awaking in them any disposition of regret and sorrow, then the prophet should proceed to unfold to them its details. He should show them first the form of the house, i.e. the external shape of the building, and the fashion thereof, or its well-proportioned and harmonious arrangements; the goings out thereof, and the comings in thereof, i.e. its exits and entrances (Ezekiel 44:5), and all the forms thereof; which can only mean the shapes of its several parts; and all the ordinances thereof, or regulations concerning its use in worship, and all the forms thereof—the same words as above, and therefore omitted by the LXX. as well as some Hebrew manuscripts, and, after their example, by Dathe, Hitzig, Ewald, Smend, and others, though Keil, Kliefoth, Schroder, and others retain the clause as genuine, and regard it as an illustration of Ezekiel's habit of crowding words together for the sake of emphasis—and all the laws thereof, by which were probably signified "the instructions contained in these statutes for sanctification of life" (Keil). In addition to rehearsing the above in the hearing of the people, the prophet was directed to write them in their sight, if it be not open to understand the "writing" as explanatory of the way in which the" showing" was to be made.
This is the law of the house. In this instance "the house" must not be restricted to the temple proper, consisting of the holy place and the holy of holies, but extended to the whole free space encompassing the outer court, the quadrangular area of three thousand cubits square (Ezekiel 42:16-20); and concerning this house as so defined, the fundamental torah, law, or regulation, is declared to be that of its complete sanctity. Ewald and Smend, as usual, unite with the LXX. in connecting "upon the top of the mountain" with "house;" but expositors generally agree that the clause belong to the words that follow, Upon the top of the mountain the whole limit thereof round about; and that the prophet's thought is that the entire territory upon the mountain summit included within the above specified border, and not merely the inner sanctuary, or even that with its chambers and courts, was to be regarded as most holy, or as a holy of holies, i.e. was to be consecrated as the innermost adytum of the tabernacle and temple had been. by the indwelling of Jehovah. Smend notes that "This is the law" is the customary underwriting and superscription of the laws of the priest-code (see Le Ezekiel 6:9, Ezekiel 6:14; Ezekiel 7:1, 37; 11:46; Ezekiel 12:7; Eze 13:1-23 :59; 14:54; 15:32); but it need not result from this that the priest. code borrowed this expression from Ezekiel, who employs it only in this verse. The more rational hypothesis is that Ezekiel, himself a priest, made use of this formula, because acquainted with it as already existing in the so-called priest-code.
The temple-altar described (Ezekiel 43:13-17), and the ritual for its consecration explained (Ezekiel 43:18-27).
The measures of the altar. The altar is הַמִּזְבֵּחַ, that formerly mentioned as standing in the inner court, immediately in front of the" house" (Ezekiel 40:47), the altar of burnt offering, and not the altar of incense in the holy place (Ezekiel 41:22). Its dimensions, then omitted, are now reported in connection with its consecration, which also is narrated as a pendant to that of the "house," because of the intimate connection between the two—the consecration of the altar being practically equivalent to the consecration of the house, and the consecration of the house finding approximate expression in the consecration of the altar. As in the other portions of the temple, so in this, the measurements are given after the cubits, i.e. by or in cubits, the length of each cubit being noted at "a cubit and an hand-breadth," as in Ezekiel 40:5. They are likewise taken first from the foundation upwards (Ezekiel 40:13-15), and then from the top downwards (Ezekiel 40:16, Ezekiel 40:17). The first portion measured is the bottom; literally, the bosom (Hebrew, חֵיק, "that which embraces," from הוּק "to embrace;" LXX; κόλπωμα: Vulgate, sinus); but what exactly that signified is debated among interpreters. Gesenius thinks of "the hollowed part for the fire;" Hitzig, of "a frame running round, a stand in which the altar stood;" Kliefoth, of "a deepening on the wooden ring in which the whole altar stands;" Keil, of" a lower hollow or base of the altar, formed by a border of a definite height;" Smend, of "the channel or gutter of the altar base, which should receive the sacrificial blood;" Havernick, Currey, and Plumptre, of "a base upon which the altar stood." If Smend's feasible notion be not adopted, then probably that of Hitzig, Kliefoth, or Keil most nearly expresses the conception of the Hebrew term. The altar was surrounded by an enclosure in which it seemed to be set, or out of which to rise; the dimensions of this "stand" or "enclosure" being a cubit in height, and a cubit in breadth, with a border on its edge round about a span or half a cubit high. This, the stand just described, should be the higher place; literally, the back; hence the support, base (Revised Version), or elevation, ὕψος (LXX.) of the altar.
See drawing, The Altar
The Legend for the Altar
C, lower settle.
D, upper settle.
E, "mount of God" (harel).
F, "hearth of God" (ariel).
H, H, horns of altar.
The next measurements which are taken from the bottom upon the ground, i.e. from the הֵיק, "base," or ground framework above described, to the lower settle, i.e. to the top of the undermost of the two "terraces," or enclosures," or "platforms," of which the altar consisted, are two cubits of height with one cubit of breadth; the measurements which follow, from the lesser settle, i.e. the undermost, to the greater settle, i.e. the uppermost, are four cubits of height with one cubit of breadth.
Noteworthy is the word altar, which in this verse renders two distinct Hebrew terms, הַרְאֵל and אֲרִיאֵל, which Gesenius, Hitzig, Ewald, Smend, and others, after the LXX. (τὸ ἀριὴλ), identify as synonymous, and translate by "hearth." But the first can only signify "the mount of God," while the latter may mean either "lion of God" or "hearth of God." Kliefoth, deriving the latter from אָרָה, "to consume," and אַיִך, "a ram," prefers as its import "ram-devourer;" Hengstenberg, resolving into אַיִל "a ram," and אְרַיִ, "a lion," proposes as its equivalent "ram-lion." i.e. "the lion that consumes the rams for God"—a ten-doting closely allied to that of Kliefoth. In any case, the terms allude to parts of the altar: the second, Ariel (equivalent to the hearth on which God's fire burns), according to Keil, Kliefoth, and the best expositors, meaning the flat surface of the altar; and the first, Harel (conveying the ideas of elevation and sanctity), the base on which it rested. The height of this base was four cubits, while from the hearth projected four horns, as in the altars of the Mosaic tabernacle (Exodus 27:2; Exodus 38:2; Le Exodus 4:7, Exodus 4:18; Exodus 8:15) and Solomonic temple (Psalms 118:27). If the length of these be set down, as Kliefoth suggests, at three cubits, then the whole height of the altar will be in cubits—one for the ground bottom, two for the lower settle, four for the upper, four for the bases of the hearth, with three for the horns, equal to fourteen in all; or, omitting the horns, of which the length is not given, and the altar base, which is distinguished from the altar, ten cubits in all for the altar proper. As to the symbolic import of the "horns," Kurtz, after Hofmaun and Kliefoth, finds this in the idea of elevation, the "horns," as the highest point in the altar, bringing the blood put upon them nearer to God than the sides did the blood sprinkled on them (see 'Sacrificial Worship of the Old Testament,' § 13); Keil, after Bahr, in the notions of strength, beauty, and blessing, the horns of an animal being the points in which its power, grace, and fullness of life are concentrated, and therefore fitting emblems of those points in the altar in which appears "its significance as a place of the revelation of Divine might and strength, of Divine salvation and blessing" ('Biblische Archaologie,' § 20).
Ezekiel 43:16, Ezekiel 43:17
The measurements that now begin concern the breadth of the altar, and proceed from above downwards. First the altar, or, hearth of God (Hebrew, ariel) was twelve cubits long and twelve broad, i.e. was square in the four squares (or, sides) thereof, or a perfect square (comp. Exodus 27:1; Revelation 21:16). Next the settle, or, enclosure (Hebrew, הָ) of Ezekiel 43:14, was fourteen cubits long, and fourteen broad in the four squares (or, sides) thereof; the fourteen being made up of the twelve cubits of the altar-hearth's side with one cubit of ledge from the settle all round. The only question is to which "settle," the upper or the under, reference is made. Some expositors, identifying the greater Azarah with the Harel, i.e. the "upper settle," with "the mount of God" or the base of the hearth, make the altar height only seven cubits from the ground to the hearth. The general belief, however, is that they cannot be so identified. Among interpreters who distinguish them, Kliefoth, with whom Smend agrees, holds the "settle" in this verse to be the harel, or "mount of God," which extended (Smend says with a hek. or "gutter") one cubit on each side beyond the ariel, or "hearth of God," so that the "mount of God," on which the" hearth of God" rested, was fourteen cubits square. Then, assuming a similar extension of one cubit at each stage—in the greater azarah, the lesser azarah, and the hek, or ground bottom—he finds the surface of the greater azarah to be sixteen, of the lesser azarah eighteen, and of the ground bottom twenty cubits square. Keil, with whom Schroder and Currey agree, objects to this as involving too much of arbitrary assumption, and takes the" settle" of this verse to mean the lower azarah; so that no additional measurements are required beyond those given in the text. If the square surface of the greater azarah be considered as having been the same as that of the harel, so that their sides were continuous, then, as the "ground bottom" extended one cubit on each side beyond the lower azarsh, the altar at its base was a square of sixteen cubits. Comparing now these measurements with those of the altar of burnt offering in the tabernacle and the temple, one finds that the former was only five cubits square and three cubits high (Exodus 27:1), while the latter was twenty cubits broad, but only ten cubits high (2 Chronicles 4:1), which awakes the suspicion that the different views above noted have been insensibly influenced by a desire on the part of their authors to make them harmonize with the measurements of the temple. But there does not appear sufficient reason why the measurements of Ezekiel's altar should have agreed with those of Solomon's rather than with those of Moses', The border (or, parapet) of half a cubit which ran round the ledge, or bottom, of a cubit, at the foot of the lower azarah was clearly designed, not for the protection of the priest officiating, but for ornament. The stairs (or, steps), mention of which closes the description, mark a departure, not from the pattern of the Solomonic temple, in which the altar must have had steps, but from the pattern of the tabernacle, in which altar-steps were disallowed (Exodus 20:26) and did not exist (Exodus 38:1-7). But if, as Jewish tradition asserts, the pest-exilic altar had no steps as Ezekiel's had, having been reached by an inclined plane, because in the so-called book of the covenant steps were forbidden, how does this harmonize with the theory that Ezekiel's vision temple was designed as a model for the post-exilic temple? And why, if the priest-code was the composition of a writer who worked in the spirit and on the lines of Ezekiel, should it have omitted to assign steps to the tabernacle altar?
The ordinances of the altar. These were not the regulations for the sacrificial worship to be afterwards performed upon this altar, but the rites to be observed at its consecration when the day should arrive for its construction. As the altar in the tabernacle (Exodus 29:1-46; Le Exo 8:11 -33), and that in Solomon's temple (1 Kings 8:63-66; 2 Chronicles 7:4-10), so was this in Ezekiel's "house" dedicated by a special ceremonial before being brought into ordinary use. The particular ritual observed by Solomon is not described in detail; but a comparison between that enjoined upon and practiced by Moses with that revealed to and published by Ezekiel shows that while in some respects they agreed, in other important particulars they differed. In both the ceremony largely consisted in offering sacrifice and smearing blood, and lasted seven days; but in the former the ceremony was performed exclusively by Moses, consisted, in addition to the above, of an anointing of the altar, the holy utensils, and the tabernacle itself with oil, and was associated with the consecration of the priests; whereas in the latter, in addition to some variations in the sacrificial victims, which will be noted in the course of exposition, the priests should bear an active part—there should be no anointing with oil, and no consecration of the priests, the priesthood being assumed as already existing. If in Ezekiel's ritual there was no mention of a cleansing of the sanctuary (that of Ezekiel 45:18 referring to a special ease), but only of the altar, that was sufficiently explained by the circumstance that Jehovah was already in the "house." The final clause, to offer burnt offerings thereon, and to sprinkle blood thereon, indicates the purpose for which the altar was to be used.
Thou shalt give to the priests. This injunction, which was addressed to Ezekiel, not as the representative of the people or of the priests (Smend), but as the prophet of Jehovah, made it clear that Ezekiel was not to act in the future consecration of the altar alone as Moses did in the dedication of the tabernacle altar, but that the priests were to bear their part in the ceremonial. If some expressions, as the use of "thou" in this and the following verses, appear to suggest that Ezekiel alone should officiate, the employment of "they" in verses 22, 24, 25, 26 as plainly indicates that Ezekiel's share in the ceremonial was to be performed through the medium of the priests. And, indeed, if the temple was a pattern designed to be converted into an actual building after the return from captivity, as the newer criticism contends, it is apparent that Ezekiel could not have been expected to have any hand in its erection. The Levites that be of the seed of Zadok. The assistants of Ezekiel and the officiating priests at the new altar were not to be the whole body of the Levitical priesthood, but those only who derived their descent from Zadok (see on Ezekiel 44:15). A young bullock for a sin offering. With the offering of this the ritual commenced, as in Exodus 29:1, Exodus 29:10 and Le Exodus 8:14 (comp. Ezekiel 45:18). It is observable that in the Levitical code a young bullock, i.e. of a bullock in the full vigor of youth, is appointed as the requisite sin offering for the priest, i.e. the high priest, who was the head and representative of the people.
And thou shalt take of the blood thereof, and put it. The application of the victim's blood to and upon the altar formed an integral part of every expiatory offering; but "whereas in all the other kinds of sacrifice the blood was poured indifferently round about the altar of the fore court, in the sin offering it was not to be sprinkled, lest the intention should be overlooked, but smeared with the finger upon the horns of the altar ('And the priest shall put of the blood upon the horns,' Le Ezekiel 4:7, 18, 25, 30, 34). In the present instance the blood was to be carefully put upon the four horns of the altar—the only part to be smeared with blood in the Mosaic consecration (Exodus 29:12)—the four corners of the settle, or azarah, but whether the greater or lesser is left undecided, though in all probability it was the under, if not both, and the border round about, that mentioned in Ezekiel 43:17; and the effect of this smearing with blood should be to cleanse and purge, or, make atonement for, the altar; not for the people, as Havernick interprets, saying, "without an atoned-for altar, no atoned-for people (ohne entsuhnten Altar, kein entsuhntes Volk)," but for the altar, either, as Kliefoth suggests, because, being made out of a part of the sinful earth and world, it required to be sanctified, or because, as Plumptre prefers, the sins of the people having been, as it were, transferred to it, it stood in need of cleansing.
As a further stage in the ceremony, the Bullock of the sin offering, i.e. the carcass of the victim, was to be burned by Ezekiel or the priest acting for him in the appointed place of the house, without the sanctuary, as in the Mosaic code it was prescribed that the flesh of the bullock, with his skin and dung, should be burned without the camp (Exodus 29:14; Le Exodus 4:12, Exodus 4:21; Exodus 9:11, Exodus 9:15; comp. Hebrews 13:13). Ewald at first sought the place here referred to in the sacrificial kitchens (Ezekiel 46:19), which it could not be, as these belonged to the "sanctuary" in the strictest sense; he has, however, since adopted the view of Kliefoth, which is doubtless correct, that the "place of the house, without the sanctuary" meant the gizrah, or separate place (Ezekiel 41:12), which was a part of the "house" in the widest sense, and yet belonged not to the "sanctuary" in the strictest sense. Smend thinks of the migrash, "suburbs" or "open spaces," which surrounded the temple precincts (Ezekiel 45:2); and these were certainly without the sanctuary, while they were also appointed for the holy place, and might have been designated, as here, miphkadh, as being always under the inspection of the temple watchmen. The fact that in post-exilic times one of the city gates was called Hammiphkadh (Nehemiah 3:31) lends countenance to this view. That in this "appointed place" the carcass of the bullock should be consumed was a deviation from the Mosaic ritual, which prescribed that the fat portions should be burned upon the altar, and the rest eaten as a sacrificial meal (Le Ezekiel 4:10, 26, 35; Ezekiel 7:15, 81; Deuteronomy 12:7, Deuteronomy 12:17, Deuteronomy 12:18). Keil appears to think that the fat portions may have been burned upon the altar, although it is not so mentioned, and that only "those points" were mentioned "in which deviations from the ordinary ritual took place."
The second day's ceremonial should begin with the offering of a kid of the goats (rather, a he-goat) without blemish for a sin offering, the ritual observed being probably the same as that of the preceding day. The substitution of a "he-goat," the offering for a ruler who sins (Leviticus 4:23, Leviticus 4:24), instead of a "young bullock," which formed the first day's offering, was a deviation from the ritual prescribed for the consecration of the Mosaic altar and priesthood (Exodus 29:36). The object of the offering of the "he-goat" was the same as that of the offering of the "bullock," viz. to cleanse the altar; not, however, as if the previous day's cleansing had been insufficient and required to be supplemented, or had already become inefficient so as to call for renewal, but in the sense of recalling the meaning and impression of the previous day's ceremonial, and so in a manner linking it on with the several rites of the succeeding days.
Ezekiel 43:23, Ezekiel 43:24
The presentation of a burnt offering unto the Lord was the next item in the ritual that should be observed. The material composing it should consist of a young bullock without blemish, as in the ordinary sacrificial cede (Le Ezekiel 1:3, Ezekiel 1:4, Ezekiel 1:5), and a ram out of the flock without blemish, as in the consecration of the priests (Exodus 29:18) and of the altar (Le Ezekiel 8:18). The persons presenting it should be the prophet, thou, and the priests, they, as his representatives. The mode of offering should be by burning, the distinctive act in a burnt offering, as that of a sin offering was sprinkling, and that of a peace offering the sacrificial meal, and by casting salt upon the carcass, a feature in every meat offering (Leviticus 2:13), and here added probably to intensify the idea of purification. "In the corrosive and antiseptic property of salt there is hidden something of the purifying and consuming nature of fire; hence the Redeemer, in Mark 9:49, combines the salting of the sacrifice with the purifying fire of self- denial". The significance of it should be an expression of complete self-surrender unto Jehovah, as the necessary outcome of the antecedent act of expiation. The time of its presentation should be immediately after the cleansing of the altar on the second day, and presumably also on the succeeding days. Whether the burnt offering was, as Keil maintains, or was not, as Kliefoth contends, offered also on the first day is difficult to decide, though the former opinion has, perhaps, most in its favor. The Mosaic ritual always enjoined a burnt offering to be offered as a sequel to the sin offering (comp. Exodus 29:14, Exodus 29:18, with Le Exodus 8:14, Exodus 8:18; and see Kurtz, 'Sacrificial Worship of the Old Testament,' § 86); and, in accordance with this, Mark 9:23 and Mark 9:24 naturally follow on Mark 9:19-21, Mark 9:22 being interposed because of the variation in the sin offering for the second day.
Seven days. Hitzig reckons these as additional to the first (Ezekiel 43:19) and second (Ezekiel 43:22) days; Kliefoth begins them with the second; Keil, Schroder, Currey, and the majority of expositors take them as inclusive of the first and second. Hitzig's proposal may be set aside, since it cannot be maintained without erasing "thou shalt make atonement for it" in Ezekiel 43:20, and the first half of the present verse. In favor of Kliefoth's view may be urged that the first day appears to stand out from the others, 'and to be distinguished by the peculiar character of its offering—a young bullock for a sin offering, without any accompanying burnt offering; that the offerings on the second and subsequent days are alike, a he-goat and a ram; that on each of the seven days a goat is mentioned for a sin offering, whereas on the first day it was a young bullock that was slain; and that in Zechariah 3:9 occurs an allusion to what seems a special day such as this first day of Ezekiel. In support of Keil's interpretation it is contended that the seven days were to be employed in purging or making atonement for, and purifying the altar, which was in part at least (even admitting a distinction in meaning between חָטָּא and טָהַר) the business of the first day; that the general statement in verse 20 as to a goat for a sin offering on the seven days admits of easy qualification by the previous statement in verse 19; and that seven days was the normal duration of religious solemnities under the Law (see Leviticus 8:33; 1Ki 8:65; 2 Chronicles 7:8, 2 Chronicles 7:9).
They shall purge the altar. Smend thinks it strange that only the purification of the altar should be mentioned here, while that of the sanctuary is referred to later (Ezekiel 45:18), and finds in this an explanation (at least, perhaps) of the fact that in Exodus 29:36 only the consecration of the Mosaic altar—not of the Mosaic tabernacle—is reported. He conceives it likely that the author of Exodus 29:36 copied Ezekiel, but does not explain why Ezekiel may not have copied the author of Exodus 29:36. And they shall consecrate themselves; more correctly, they—i.e. the priests—shall consecrate it; literally, fill its hand. The phrase, מִלֵּאיָד, "to fill one's hand," sc. with gifts, occurs with reference to Jehovah (Exodus 32:29; 1 Chronicles 29:5; 2 Chronicles 29:31). It is also employed in the sense of filling the hand of another, as e.g. of a priest, with sacrificial gifts, when he is instituted into his sacred office (Exodus 28:41; Exodus 29:9; Le Exodus 21:10; comp, Le Exodus 8:27). Here the hand to be filled is that of the altar, which is personified for the purpose (compare the use of the terms "bosom" and "lip" in connection with the altar). The meaning is that the altar, at its consecration, should have a plentiful supply of gifts, to symbolize that the offering of such gifts was the work for which it was set apart, and that it should never be without them.
The eighth day, and so forward. Omit "so." With this day the regular sacrificial service should commence. Thenceforward the priests should offer upon the altar the burnt offerings and peace offerings of the people. The omission of sin offerings is explained by Keil, on the principle that "burnt offerings" and "peace offerings" were "the principal and most frequent sacrifices, whilst sin offerings and meat offerings were implied therein;" Kliefoth adding that Ezekiel 44:27, Ezekiel 44:29; Ezekiel 45:17, Ezekiel 45:19, Ezekiel 45:22, Ezekiel 45:23, Ezekiel 45:25; and Ezekiel 46:20 show it cannot be inferred that sin offerings were no more to be offered on this altar. At the same time, the prominence given to "burnt" and "peace" as distinguished from "sin offerings" may, as Schroder suggests, have pointed to the fact that the sacrificers who should use this altar would be "a people in a state of grace," to whom Jehovah was prepared to say, I will accept you, not your offerings alone, but your persons as well; and not these because of those, but contrariwise, these on account of these. Kliefoth's idea, that the first day symbolized the future day of Christ's sacrifice, that the seven intermediate days (on his hypothesis) pointed to the period of the Christian Church, and that the eighth day looked forward to the time of the end, while not without elements of truth, is open to this objection, that in the period of the Christian Church there should have been "no more sacrifice for sin;" and yet, as Kliefoth admits, "sin offerings" were afterwards to be made upon this altar.
The glory of the God of Israel.
The visionary glory that dazzled the eyes of the rapt seer is but an earthly suggestion of that ineffable glory in which the unseen God is ever clothed. We may take the manifestation of glory as a type and suggestion of that higher wonder.
I. IN WHAT THE GLORY OF THE GOD OF ISRAEL CONSISTS.
1. The radiance of heavenly light. The glory is like the effulgence of sunlight, the raying forth of beams of splendor from the central fountain of light.
(1) It is perfect truth. All error and falsehood are excluded. God dwells in infinite knowledge and wisdom and truthfulness.
(2) It is absolute holiness. No stain or fleck of sin ever touches the supreme purity of God.
(3) It is infinite love. The glory of God is most seen in his goodness. By wonderful deeds of grace he manifests his glory.
(4) It is unutterable joy. The joy of truth, holiness, and love must ever dwell in the heart of God. God smiles over his creatures: that is his glory.
2. The wealth of heavenly voices. "His voice was like a noise of many waters." God has broken the silence of eternity. He has called to his lost and wayward children. With variety of utterance and of truth God has made his voice heard. His gospel message is his glory.
II. HOW THE GLORY OF THE GOD OF ISRAEL APPEARS. Ezekiel saw the glory dawn in the east like the pure, bright light of a rising sun.
1. It was not always manifest. There had been a night previous to this glad dawn. There had been dark days in the Captivity, when even the radiance of God seemed to be dimmed.
(1) In the world's history there have been awful, blank ages, out of which all Divine glory seems to have been excluded.
(2) In individual experience there are sad days when the soul exclaims, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
2. It is made manifest.
(1) To the world, in Christ, who manifested forth the glory of his Father. Thus St. John says, "And we beheld his glory, the glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father" (John 1:14).
(2) To the individual, by faith. When we truly seek for the brightness of God's countenance in Christ, and trust his grace, there rises a light in the darkness, and God's glory appears.
III. THE RESULTS THAT FOLLOW THE MANIFESTATION OF THE GLORY OF THE GOD OF ISRAEL. "And the earth shined with his glory." This radiance was not confined to celestial regions. It was no vain pageantry displayed among the clouds. It came into the world as a brightness for earthly things. This is ever the case with manifestations of God's glory. It is especially so with Christ who" tabernacled among us," and so brought the celestial glory to dwell on earth. The shining forth of God's truth and goodness makes a new day for the world. It is already reflected in purified, gladdened-lives; it will be fully seen in a renewal of the whole face of society. That which seems to be most remote and unpractical is thus most closely associated with the needs and hopes of mankind. The world pines and despairs for lack of more visions of Divine truth and goodness. The perfect day will be when this light shines into the darkest places of the earth, i.e. when all men have received "the glorious gospel of the blessed God."
God the same in judgment and in mercy.
The remarkable point of this verse lies in the fact that Ezekiel could detect no change in the manifestation of the Divine glory when he compared the new appearance which heralded the great redemption of Israel with the earlier appearance which preceded the denunciation of wrath and doom. God is the same in both cases.
I. THE FACT. This has two sides—one relating to the time of judgment, and the other concerned with the period of redemption.
1. God's mercy is not lost in judgment. He was glorious when he came to judgment, and one essential element of the glory of God is his ineffable love. We may not see love in wrath, but it is present, for "whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth" (Hebrews 12:6). God does not change his nature because men sin, nor indeed does he cease to yearn over his poor fallen children with infinite pity because it has become well that he should smite them in his great anger.
2. God's righteousness is not lost in redemption. He loses none of the glory of his holiness by saving sinners. Christ came to "magnify the Law and make it honorable" (Isaiah 42:21). Righteousness is honored
(1) in the Person of Christ, our great Representative, who offered his pure and spotless soul as a perfect sacrifice to God;
(2) in the deliverance of man from sin. Righteousness itself desires an end of sin more than the mere punishment, which is but a means towards that end. Thus the glory of God's holiness is most manifest when he redeems man from sin and leads him into a new, holy life.
II. ITS CONSEQUENCES.
1. There is no escape from the law of righteousness. The subjects of a changeable autocrat watch his fickle moods, and endeavor to seize on lucky moments when he appears to be in a good burnout, in order to extract some favor from him. No such maneuvers are needed, or can be of any use, when men are looking for God's grace. On the one hand, he is always desirous to save and bless; on the other hand, he is never weakly negligent in regard to the great principles of justice. We can never evade his laws.
2. There is no reason to despair on account of the wrath of God against sin. That wrath was always felt by God, though it has not always been perceived by man. "God is angry with the wicked every day" (Psalms 7:11). Yet God has shown continuous love, and has put forth repeated efforts of mercy to save his fallen children. He has not changed towards us because he has veiled his mercy and displayed his wrath for a season. The same ever-righteous and ever-merciful Father who at one time smites in anger and at another saves in grace will act to us just as we do to him. With the froward thou wilt show thyself froward, etc. (Psalms 18:26). Therefore our part is to be plain and straight with God, simply trusting his great love, and honestly endeavoring to fulfill his holy will.
Filled with glory.
I. THE GLORY OF GOD IN THE TEMPLE. Ezekiel saw the temple filled with the glory of God. This was only a vision; but it was predicted concerning the rebuilt temple that the glory of the latter house should exceed that of the former (Haggai 2:9). Yet, while young men rejoiced at the sight of the new structure, old men wept as they remembered the greater splendor of Solomon's temple, which Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed (Ezra 3:12, Ezra 3:13). Nevertheless, it was promised that, though in materials and architecture Zerubbabel's temple might be inferior to Solomon's; there was this unique privilege reserved for the new building—the Lord himself should suddenly appear in it (Malachi 3:1). This promise was fulfilled in the advent of Christ (Luke 2:27).
II. THE GLORY OF GOD IN THE CHURCH. The spiritual brotherhood of Christians, the Church of Christ, has taken the place of the temple of the Jewish economy (1 Corinthians 3:16; Ephesians 2:21). Now God has manifested his glory in the Church, for it is seen in the display of Christian graces, so that she is like a city set on a hill that cannot be hid. But the brightness or the dimness of this glory will be just proportionate to the Christ-likeness or the worldliness of the Church. The more of the Spirit of Christ there is in this great temple, the more of the glory of God will there be there. Her glory has been looked for in size, numbers, wealth, power, influence, intellect; in her sons of genius and her works of worldly importance. But these things do not reveal God's glory. Christ is the Glory of the Church—"Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27).
III. THE GLORY OF GOD IN THE WORLD. Ezekiel saw the broad earth ablaze with the radiance of the heavenly glory (verse 2). But this glory was concentrated in the temple. God has a brightness for all men, but the best light for those who seek his near presence. The world now reveals the glory of God in creation and in providence. When the world is brought to the feet of Jesus Christ it will enjoy the richer, fuller glory of God in Christ. Even now, in so far as a Christ-spirit is spread through society, a new light dawns over the old weary world. The day is coming when the earth shall be full of his glory. That will be the day of the earth's perfect redemption and man's perfect blessedness.
IV. THE GLORY OF GOD IN THE SOUL. God's glory comes into the Church and the world by first entering individual souls. To the darkest and saddest this joy and tight will appear, when the barred door is opened to the Guest who stands knocking and graciously waiting for admission. There is no glory equal to that which his in-coming will bring. We may think much of riches, popularity, intellect, and power. But the greatest glory of a human life is the glory of goodness. The highest ambition should be to live a good and useful life. Christ's aureole surrounds such a life.
The goodness that leads to repentance.
The people of Israel are to see the new temple in order that they may be ashamed of their iniquities. The goodness of God in restoring the temple will induce them to look with new horror on their old sins. Thus God's goodness in life generally, and in the gospel of Christ, should lead men to see the evil of their ways and to repent of it.
I. GOD'S GOODNESS PRECEDES MAN'S REPENTANCE. The full enjoyment of that goodness is not possible for those who are still living in sin. The prodigal son cannot enjoy the fatted calf before he comes to himself, or arises and returns to his father. But long before any movement is made on the side of the sinner to return, God is preparing the way for him. The shepherd seeks the wandering sheep. The woman sweeps for the lost piece of silver. Even in Eden, on the discovery of the Fall, God promised a gospel and victory (Genesis 3:15). The pity of God for Israel in Egypt was made known to Moses in the bush before the people made any effort to effect their own escape. Christ came into a world that was even unwilling to receive him, yet he came for the world's salvation. The gospel is now only too often offered to unwilling hearers. God now waits to be gracious.
II. THE REVELATION OF GOD'S GOODNESS SHOWS THE NECESSITY OF REPENTANCE.
1. It should reveal our sin.
(1) By contrast. God is good to us, while we behave ill to him. Surely we should see how sad it is to live in rebellion against a gracious God. Thus the dreadful guilt of ingratitude is added to other sins.
(2) By the manner of the revelation. It is a revelation in holiness. God's glory was seen in the temple. It is a revelation in atonement for sin: the temple was for sacrifices; Christ died on the cross as a sacrifice for the world's sin. Thus the very proclamation of the gospel involves a declaration of man's sinfulness.
2. It should incline us to return. If God had turned against us we might feel no inclination to go back to him. But his graciousness should serve as a great attraction. Surely it is bad indeed to hold out against such forgiving mercy as that of our Father and of our Savior Jesus Christ.
III. GOD'S GOODNESS ASSISTS US IN REPENTANCE.
1. It opens the door for our return. There is no longer any excuse for delay. Despair need not paralyze our returning footsteps. The preparation is an invitation; the invitation should be an inspiration.
2. It moves our hearts to return. We may only be hardened by denunciations of wrath and doom. But love should melt the heart of ice. God's love is shed abroad in the hearts of his people. It comes as a glow of reviving energy to the soul that is unable to save itself because it. is just "dead in trespasses and sin." All is now ready. The temple built, the sacrifice offered, the welcome waiting. "And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely" (Revelation 22:17).
The sin offering.
When Ezekiel, a prophet, describes the ceremonial of a sin offering with some minuteness, it is reasonable to suppose that he intends the details to be suggestive of spiritual facts.
I. THERE MUST BE AN OFFERING FOR SIN. "Without shedding of blood there is no remission of sins." The practical universality of sin offerings among various races has made it appear that the sacrifice arose from an instinct of conscience. We feel that we need a propitiation for our sins. Now, Christ has come to satisfy that need, and his one death on the cross is the great atonement for the world's sin. How the Sacrifice is efficacious may be a matter of consideration, and may give rise to divergent views. The important point lies in the fact that Christ is a Sacrifice for sin (Hebrews 10:12).
II. THIS OFFERING MUST BE UNBLEMISHED. God cannot take what is not pure and perfect, even in our daily work we should give our best to God. But in making an offering for sin, no man can come before God without blemishes being seen on all he is and all he does. Christ is the one Perfect Sacrifice for sin, the Lamb without spot. No one ever convicted him of evil-doing. He is the well-beloved Son of God.
III. A PRIEST MUST PRESENT THE OFFERING. It must be given by one who has a right of close access to God. With our sin we shrink back from God and dare not enter his holy presence. Therefore, though in rite and symbol priests may be found to present sacrifices, as a fact, since all men are alienated from God, no men can truly serve as priests. But Christ, who became a Man, and so our Representative, and was like us in all other points, was' unlike us in his sinlessness. He never lost his near communion with God, He is our one High Priest, and he does not need to offer sacrifices first for himself, as was the case with the Aaronic priesthood.
IV. THE BLOOD OF THE OFFERING MUST BE SPRINKLED. This essential part of the ceremonial was necessary that the completed sacrifices might be efficacious by the application of its results to the worshippers. Christ has made his great sacrifice of himself once for all. But now the benefits of his death have to be shared individually by men. These benefits do not accrue spontaneously and without men's actively receiving them. The blood must be sprinkled; the grace of Christ's great sacrifice must be taken home.
1. There must be individual faith in Christ. Thus the sacrifice is made efficacious in the case of each man who will avail himself of it.
2. There must be an application to the whole of life. The blood of the Passover lamb was sprinkled on the lintels and doorposts of the houses of the Hebrews. We need to have our homes and all that belongs to us brought into subjection to Christ, and then brought under the gracious influences that stream from the great Sacrifice on Calvary.
(last clause, "And I will accept you, saith the Lord God")
Accepted by God.
I. CONSIDER THE MOTIVES THAT MAY INDUCE GOD TO ACCEPT MEN. It might be supposed that God was self-sufficient and would not look beyond the range of his own infinite Being; or that, if he took note of what was other than himself, he would be satisfied with the high intelligence and pure character of angel-beings, and not condescend to notice such feeble and sinful creatures as mortal men. Yet God has reasons for accepting men.
1. His infinity. This, which has been raised as an objection, really works the other way, for an infinite Being is not simply vast and only concerned with vast things. To him the greatest finite thing is infinitely small. If he attends to the greatest he may as easily stoop to the smallest. But, further, his very infinity embraces all things, the moat minute as much as the most gigantic.
2. His royalty. God is the supreme Sovereign of the universe; therefore he is concerned with all the subjects of his realm.
3. His justice. Having made men, he will not desert his own creatures.
4. His love. God is love, and love is full of sympathy. From this supreme motive God must be ever yearning to gather his children to himself, ever longing to give them a welcome home.
II. OBSERVE THE GREAT HINDRANCE THAT MAY PREVENT GOD FROM ACCEPTING MEN. If God is the infinite Sovereign of the universe, what is to hinder his welcoming whomsoever he will? The Greeks dreamed of a fate ruling supreme even over the dread Olympian deities; but we hold that there is no power above that of God. No power, it is true. Yet there is the awful principle of righteousness, and even God follows and does not bend that supreme principle. It may be identified with his own holy nature. Then we must say that God cannot but be true to himself. This being so, a great obstruction stands in the way of man's being accepted by God, viz. man's sin. The holy God cannot give a free welcome to the unholy man. It would be to contradict his own being and character.
III. NOTE THE CONDITIONS OF WHICH GOD ACCEPTS MEN. The Divine act of receiving men is placed by Ezekiel after the sacrificial ritual. God accepts on condition of sacrifice. There were first of all sin offerings, and then dedication (burnt) offerings and thank (peace) offerings. With us the first grand condition is fulfilled. Christ is the one Sacrifice for the world's sin. In Christ's great surrender of his pure soul to God through death, God sees the sacrifice of man by his Representative, and therefore, accepting the sacrifice, accepts man on whose behalf it is offered. We must make the sacrifice our own by entering into the spirit of it, by ourselves dying to sin and yielding our hearts and wills to the crucified Savior. Then God accepts his penitent children. But for full acceptance thank and dedication offerings were added. God expects us to come to him with grateful hearts, and to yield our souls to him in obedient service. When we approach him thus, as it were with our peace and our burnt offerings, he accepts us.
IV. LOOK AT THE RESULTS OF BEING ACCEPTED BY GOD. The first is immediate and personal—the reconciliation of the child with his father, and the glad return of the wanderer to the home of his childhood. But from this follow other consequences. We desire that God will accept us as his servants; when he does we have the privilege of living and laboring for him. We would have our work and gift accepted by God; for him to receive our offerings of service or sacrifice is to be most honored by God. At death he will receive his faithful servants to the heavenly rest.
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
The glory of the Lord in the house.
The glory of the house of God does not consist in its beauty and grandeur, but in the indwelling of the Eternal himself. When the tabernacle of witness reared in the wilderness was completed, when Moses had finished the work, "then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle." Upon the occasion of the dedication of Solomon's temple, "it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the Cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord." What Ezekiel, in vision, observed upon the inauguration of the ideal temple was therefore in agreement with what had taken place upon two of the most memorable occasions in the history of the Jewish Church.
I. THIS WAS A RESTORED GLORY.
1. The prophet had seen the glory of the Lord depart from the temple by the way of the east, towards the Mount of Olives. In consequence of the sin of the people and the defilement of the sacred building, the holy Presence had been removed. The idolatry by which the temple and the city had been profaned had caused the withdrawal of the Divine favor. Man was constituted to be the temple of the Eternal; by his sin he alienated and repelled "the Divine Inhabitant."
2. The purification of the temple was the occasion of the return of the lost favor and glory. The presence of the Most High is represented as returning by the way by which it had departed. When man's nature is cleansed, when the way is made open for the restoration of relations long suspended, then the glory of God is once again displayed, and his favor once again enjoyed.
II. THIS WAS AN IMPRESSIVE GLORY.
1. As described in itself it is characterized by majesty. The figurative language employed is drawn from those sources by which the senses are chiefly impressed. When we read that the voice was as the sound of many waters, and that the earth shone with the splendor, we are assured that the spiritual majesty which such figures are employed to set forth was nothing ordinary.
2. And this assurance is deepened as we are led to recognize the manner in which the manifestation affected the prophet himself: he "fell upon his face," overcome with the grandeur of the spectacle. It is not every nature that is so affected by great spiritual realities. Yet there is nothing in the world so deserving of reverence, so truly fitted to call out emotions of awe, as the spiritual presence of the Eternal in his Church. It is only because men are so carnal, so insensible to true grandeur, that they can know of the Divine nearness and yet remain unmoved.
III. THIS WAS A DIFFUSED GLORY. In simple and sublime language the prophet relates what followed the marvelous return of Deity: "The glory of the Lord filled the house." How wonderfully does the Statement express the universal pervasion of the Church by the Divine presence and splendor! How fitted is such a representation to remove our misconceptions and our prejudices! There is no member of Christ's Church however lowly, there is no work in Christ's Church however unobtrusive, there is no section of Christ's Church however lacking in learning, wealth, refinement, or power, which is not full of the glory of the Lord—of that glory which is spiritual, which is apprehended by human minds when quickened and enlightened by the Spirit of God.
IV. THIS WAS A PERMANENT GLORY. The glory of the temple at Jerusalem passed away. In the appointed time the building perished, and not one stone was left upon another. But the temple which Ezekiel saw in his vision was a spiritual, and therefore an abiding, temple, whose walls shall never be taken down, whose ministrations and offerings shall never cease, and which shall ever echo with ten thousand voices uttering the high praises of our redeeming God.—T.
The Divine indwelling.
There peculiar solemnity in this utterance. The prophet has beheld the return of the Lord's glory to his house, and has seen its courts filled with the mystic luster. He stands in the ironer court, the attendant angel being by his side. And the voice of the Lord, mighty as the sound of many waters, addresses him as the son of man, and assures him that the Eternal. Spirit has now takes up a perpetual abode within his consecrated temple, and that those courts shall henceforth be pure from every defilement, and shall be holy unto the Lord.
I. THE FACT OF THE DIVINE INDWELLING. It appears that this is set forth under two metaphors, both just and impressive, yet, even when taken together, inadequate to set forth the great reality.
1. The Church is God's dwelling, his home, where he reveals himself in his compassion and kindness, and where he admits men to his sacred fellowship, upon terms of delightful, though reverent, intercourse and familiarity.
2. The Church is God's throne, whence he rules by the publication of his Divine and righteous laws, and the exercise of his just, irresistible, and yet benign authority. It is as though he were at once the Father of the spiritual family and the King of the spiritual dominion. He is, indeed, all this, and more than this, to the Church he loves and has redeemed.
II. THE ACCOMPANIMENTS OF THE DIVINE INDWELLING. These, as represented in this passage, are:
1. Deliverance from past idolatries, by which humanity has been defiled, degraded, and disgraced.
2. By implication, reverence for God's holy Name, displaying itself in holiness, in obedience, in praise. It was the expulsion of evil abominations which made the return of the Lord a possibility; it is the prevalence of holy worship and affectionate service which secures the lasting residence and reign of the great and glorious Inhabitant.—T.
Shame for sin.
Shame is an emotion which is often misdirected. Men are ashamed sometimes of those things of which they ought rather to boast, whilst they boast of those things of which they ought to be ashamed. There is one habit of which men ought always to be ashamed—the habit of sinning against God. It was this which Ezekiel was directed to bring home to the hearts of his fellow-countrymen of the house of Israel.
I. THE SIN OF WHICH A JUSTLY SENSITIVE NATURE IS ASHAMED. The iniquities with which the prophet was directed to charge the people of Jerusalem, and for which he was instructed to reproach them, were their idolatrous practices, especially in connection with the temple precincts. The palaces of the idolatrous monarchs of Judah adjoined the consecrated edifice, and in those palaces heathen rites were celebrated. Not only so, some of the kings of Judah, as Ahaz and Manasseh, actually introduced idolatry into the very courts of the temple. Of such infamous conduct both monarchs and subjects may well have been ashamed. All who put the creature in the place of the Creator, who worship, whether with their lips or in their hearts, others than God, are virtually guilty of idolatry, and have need to humble themselves with shame and confusion of face.
II. THE MANNER IN WHICH SHAME FOR SIN IS AWAKENED.
1. The Word of God. Without propounds the sacredness and the exacting character of the Divine Law which has been violated, and summons the offender to contrast his conduct with the commandment which is holy, just, and good.
2. The voice of conscience within responds to the voice of the Word, testifies to its Divinity and its authority, rebukes the sinner for his rebelliousness, and awakens within the soul fear of the righteous judgment of God. No wonder that this conjunction should cause bitter humiliation, poignant shame, deep contrition.
III. THE PROPER EFFECTS OF SHAME FOR SIN.
1. The offence is loathed and forsaken; the idolater abandons his idols, the unjust, impure, and profane relinquish their sinful practices.
2. Reverence ensues for the Law and ordinances of God. Corresponding to the aversion and humiliation felt in the retrospect of evil courses now abandoned, is the aspiration which takes possession of the penitent, urging him to conformity to the Divine character, and subjection to the Divine will. To be ashamed of sin is to glory in righteousness, to boast one's self in God.—T.
The law of the house.
The connection to which is owing the introduction and treatment in this place of the law of the house, appears, though it is not very plain, to be this—Lawlessness has been described, lawlessness, taking the form of sinful rebellion against God, and defiance of just authority, especially in the sacred precincts of the temple, which have been diverted from spiritual worship to idolatrous rites. Lawlessness, by contrast, suggests law, and especially law as applicable to the house of God. And to the spiritual apprehension, the orderly arrangement, the symmetrical proportions of the temple, and the provision made for all proper services, all speak of the Church of Christ, which is obviously symbolized by the sanctuary beheld by the prophet in his vision.
I. THE FACT OF DIVINE LAW IN THE CHURCH. With the increase of habits of observation and of accuracy, with the diminution of superstition, men have come to recognize throughout the universe the presence and operation of law. Many different opinions prevail regarding natural law; but it is recognized as a reality. No wonder that a settled conviction should have formed itself in men's minds that "order is Heaven's first law." It would be strange, indeed, were the Church, God's noblest revelation of himself now on earth, exempt from what seems a condition of all God's works. As there was a law of the house in the Jewish temple, so also is there in the Church of the redeemed, the living temple of the Spirit.
II. THE RANGE OF DIVINE LAW IN THE CHURCH. Referring to the context, we observe that the prophet notes the application of law to the form, the furniture, the ordinances, the holiness, of the temple. When we come to consider the range within which law is observable in Christ's Church, we find ourselves constrained to believe that the principles are universal and unmistakable, but that in the details there is uncertainty. Opinions differ as to the measure in which law of an explicit character governs the constitution, the ministry, the observances, etc; of the Church of Christ. Some students are disposed to look to Scripture and to primitive usage for more explicit instructions regarding Church matters than are others; and this holds good of those taking different views of what are known as ecclesiastical principles. But all are agreed that mutual love is a universal obligation, that acceptable worship must be spiritual, that efforts are to be made for the enlightenment and salvation of mankind. And such laws as these are of far more importance than many customs and regulations upon which different opinions prevail.
III. THE AUTHORITY OF DIVINE LAW IN THE CHURCH. It is the authority of right, which, however it may be misunderstood and practically repudiated by any, is not denied, but is admitted by all. It is also the authority of love; the Divine Lawgiver himself declared, "Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you."
IV. THE BLESSINGS OF DIVINE LAW IN THE CHURCH. These are apparent to those who consider how wretched would be the state of a Church without a law, and how little less wretched the state of a Church handed over to the control of fallible and imperfect human legislators. The past history of the Church shows that it has truly prospered just so far as the rules laid down for it by Divine authority have beer obeyed, just so far as man has been kept in abeyance, and human policy and human selfishness have been repudiated. Beside the direct blessings which have accrued to the Church itself through subjection to "the law of the house," it must be borne in mind that the world has benefited by the example which has thus been set to earthly institutions and secular rulers, that owe more than they are forward to acknowledge to those principles of authority and subjection which by the Church have been introduced into and impressed upon the world.—T.
The purpose of the temple is the establishment and maintenance of harmonious relations between God and the sons of men. By sin those relations have been interrupted; by religion they are restored. What was symbolized by the material temple at Jerusalem—its priesthood and services and sacrifices—is realized in the spiritual temple of the new covenant, in which Christ is the Sacrifice and the Priest, and in which the Holy Spirit sheds the Shechinah-glory through the holiest of all. Acceptance thus takes the place of estrangement.
I. ACCEPTANCE IS OF GOD'S GRACE, AND IS UNDESERVED.
II. ACCEPTANCE IS IN VIRTUE OF THE HIGH PRIEST'S MEDIATION AND INTERCESSION.
III. ACCEPTANCE IS FOR THE OBEDIENT, THE COMPLIANT, THE SUBMISSIVE.
IV. ACCEPTANCE IS ALIKE OF THE PERSON AND OF THE SERVICE.
V. ACCEPTANCE INVOLVES THE ENJOYMENT OF ALL THE MANIFESTATIONS AND CONSEQUENCES OF THE DIVINE FAVOR
1. One aim of a spiritual ministry to men is to convince them that in their sinful state they are without acceptance with God.
2. Another aim of such a ministry is to exhibit the divinely appointed method of obtaining and enjoying acceptance with God.
3. Yet another aim is to expose false and delusive representations of the way of acceptance. "There is one God, and one Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time."—T.
HOMILIES BY J.D. DAVIES
Sunshine after storm.
The prophet of Jehovah has inspected all the plans of the second temple. In clearest vision he has seen all its parts arranged. The sacred edifice has grown to perfection before his eyes. Court within court has successively appeared. And now the great question arises, "Will the God of heaven again stoop to dwell there?" In vain will be all this preparation and toil unless Jehovah shall fill the house again with his presence. In vain will be all ceremony and all sacrifice unless the God of Abraham responds to human appeals. The prophet's suspense is only for a moment. As soon as the separation between the "sanctuary and the profane place n is accomplished, the God who had retired because of the desecrations of his palace again approaches. He resumes his wonted place. Again, as in the days of Solomon, his glory fills the central shrine. No change has occurred in his dispositions and intentions. He is ready to keep to the full his part of the Abrahamic covenant. As he fulfilled his word in departing, so will he in returning.
I. GOD'S UNCHANGEABLENESS IN HIS SELF-MANIFESTATIONS. "The visions were like the vision that I saw by the river Chebar." As the splendor of light had been the best imagery that could illustrate his presence in the past, so is it still. All that God had been to Israel in the ages gone, he was prepared to be again. The past condescensions of God were a pattern according to which he will act in the future. It was an accommodation to human weakness that the sun should image forth the essential nature of Jehovah, and, inasmuch as it worthily serves that purpose, it shall be a permanent dress in which Jehovah shall appear. But all metaphors are inadequate, all conceptions of him are inadequate. The light of his presence transcends far the brightness of the material sun. He is the Light of all light.
II. GOD IS UNCHANGEABLE IN THE PRINCIPLES OF HIS RULE. "The vision which I saw was according to the vision that I saw when I came to destroy the city." Although God had withdrawn his favor from Israel, although he had chastised his people sore, he had not altered a single rule of action nor abandoned any principle of covenant. He was the same God who had pledged himself to Abraham's seed, the same God who had delivered them from the hands of their foes, the same Cod who had given them over to the Chaldeans, who non, was preparing for them restoration and honor. God had acted throughout upon a line of clear consistency. The conduct and the loyalty of the people had changed; therefore they had felt the rod of his anger. The same fatherly heart which had rewarded obedience also punished rebellion. The man who turns his back upon the sun makes a shadow for himself, yet the sun has in no wise changed. The warm beams that penetrate and bless the ploughed furrows of the field only harden and injure the trodden surface of the soil. God remains, in the essential principles of his government, the same, although sometimes men bask in his friendship, and sometimes writhe beneath his rod.
III. GOD IS UNCHANGEABLE IN HIS CHOICE OF ABODE. "I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel forever." So long as they are children of Israel—men of faith and prayer—so long will God dwell among them. It is a permanent and unchangeable law that God finds delight among the sons of men, and wherever his presence is desired his presence will be found. If provision is made for him in the heart, in the home, or in social gatherings, he will speedily descend. If separation from sin has been made; if altars are reared and sacrifices are brought; if, in humility and reverence, he is sought, certainly he will come and dwell in their midst. In such circumstances, God may always be expected to come.
IV. GOD IS UNCHANGEABLE IN HIS MODE OF COMMUNICATING WITH MEN. "I heard him speaking unto me." It has ever been God's wont to communicate to the race by the agency era man. He speaks to one, that the one may convey the message to the many. He enlightens one, that the one may enlighten others. God honors the human family by making one a mediator between himself and the rest. The man selected to be a prophet is blessed thereby, and he learns the lesson of responsibility. To have at our disposal the well-being of many (if a man have the true prophet's spirit) elevates a man, and brings into activity all the best qualities of his nature. In every age God has thus dealt with men.
V. GOD IS UNCHANGEABLE IN HIS MORAL LIKINGS AND DISLIKINGS. "They have even defiled my holy Name … wherefore I have consumed them in my anger." That which was offensive to God in Eden was offensive to him in Jerusalem; and that selfsame thing is equally offensive to him today. Rebellion against his high authority, springing as it does from a lack of love, is to him an abomination. All sin is pollution, a stench in Jehovah's nostrils. To a refined mind, some forms of sin are offensive enough. Drunkenness is a sore offence to many. Murder is an abomination to a larger number yet. But in the esteem of God all forms of disobedience areas ghastly as murder, and to him murder is tenfold more vile than it is to us. Our spiritual sensibility is weakened by long indulgence in evil practice. By-and-by the redeemed will regard sin as God regards it; they will loathe it as God loathes it; they will esteem it as of all things the most abominable.
VI. GOD IS UNCHANGEABLE IN HIS CONDITIONS OF BLESSING. "Let them put away their whoredom … far from me, and I will dwell in the midst of them." In the eye of God all idolatry is whoredom. The heart had gone after a foul and unholy rival. And the abandonment of all idolatry is God's immovable condition for blessing men. If every idol is cast out of the human heart, God will dwell there. The greatest promise he has ever made to men is based on this condition, either expressed or implied. His inmost nature is the quintessence of purity, and if the taint of active sin is in the atmosphere, he speedily departs. God's gifts in nature always depend on fixed conditions. Light will come to us only through a proper condition of atmosphere. The electric message will travel to its destination only along conducting media. Health visits men only through fixed channels. And life itself is conveyed only through conditions that never change. To obtain the abiding presence of God we must concede to him his own terms.—D.
The law of the house.
Through all the ceremonies and observances of the ancient temple one conspicuous lesson ran, viz. a lesson of purity. Every rite and sacrifice were vocal with this lesson. It was written on every altar. It was visible in the priestly dress. It was engraved on the high priest's miter. On every side men saw and heard the cardinal truth that God is holy, and that on earth he has a residence in order to make men holy.
I. GOD'S ABODE AMONG MEN IS THE HIGHEST PROOF OF HIS FAVOR. This is the climax of his condescension. Material gifts he imparts to all his creatures: "He makes his sun to shine on the evil and on the good." It is an act of kindness for God to speak to men through a messenger; an act of kindness to provide pardon for the penitent; an act of kindness to open the way to spiritual eminence and joy. But to dwell among inferior, wayward, rebellious creatures is the highest piece of condescension we can conceive. Such an idea overwhelmed Solomon's mind with surprise: "Will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth?" And the incarnation of God in the Man Christ Jesus will ever remain the mystery of mysteries. If God be with us we can have no need. If God be with us we are sure to conquer, sure to rise in excellence, sure to reach perfection.
II. GOD'S AMAZING KINDNESS IS THE SOURCE OF PENITENCE. The end of this gracious revelation by Ezekiel is "that they may be ashamed of their iniquities." "What the Law could not do" love has accomplished. So constructed is the human heart that love (if mighty enough) shall move and conquer it. The exile in Babylon had ploughed deep furrows in the hearts of the Hebrews, and now the dew and sunshine from heaven had fallen on them to make the Soil fruitful. The purity of the human. soul is an end so transcendently great that no measures are too costly by which such an end can be gained. The magnificent provision which God was making, in Ezekiel's day, for dwelling again in the midst of Israel was welt calculated to awaken remorse and shame in every breast. Jehovah's good will, in spite of provocation, was enough to melt the stoutest heart.
III. MAN'S PENITENCE IS THE GROUND OF FURTHER REVELATION FROM GOD, "If they be ashamed … show them the form of the house," etc. Right moral dispositions are essential to an understanding of God. "To the froward God will appear as froward." To the Jews of his day Jesus said, "How can ye believe, who receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor that cometh from God only?" As natural light cannot find its way into our dwelling if the window be barred with shutters so cannot God's truth enter the mind if the mind be choked with worldly things. "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him;" "To the upright there ariseth light in the darkness." For God to reveal his will to sin-loving men would be "to cast pearls before swine." That heart must be right towards God that desires to know the truth; and whensoever a man eagerly desires the truth, God will reveal it unto him. The man who has a docile mind shall see a light that others do not see, shall hear a voice that others do not hear.
IV. GOD'S REVELATIONS TO MEN HAVE A PRACTICAL ASPECT. "Write it in their sight, that they may keep the whole form thereof." God has seen fit never to indulge human curiosity. Questions that have no practical bearing on conduct God will not answer. To indulge the curiosity of men would divert them from the great practical tasks required of them—tasks which are the largest channel of blessing. Further, God has condescended to put his will in a written form, that it may be more clearly known, and may have permanence amid the dissolutions of mankind. These chapters in the prophet's book which seem to us void of interest, were written by special command of God. They have served a useful purpose in the past; they may fulfill a beneficent mission in time to come. "All Scripture, written by inspiration of God, is profitable"—it promotes some noble end. The fashion of the temple, its court within court, its many gates and porches, all conveyed important lessons to the Jews, they convey momentous lessons still.
V. GOD'S TEMPLE IS A VISIBLE AND IMPRESSIVE REVELATION OF HIS HOLINESS. "The law of the house" is this, viz. holiness. The sanctuary of God incorporates men's idea of God. Unless men adopt God's thoughts and cherish God's feelings, they will not build God's temple after God's plan. This is the visible and eloquent witness for God, age after age. If it be truly a temple of God, and God reside in it, it will be a center of light and purity and blessing to the neighborhood. The purifying power will touch every worshipper. The gracious influence will be felt in the home, in the city, in every commercial circle; it will spread through the nation; it will bless the world. "The whole limit thereof round about shall be holy." What the sanctuary is, the town or city will be. What the combined sanctuaries of the land are, the nation will be. This law of God's house is influential holiness—holiness that uplifts and ennobles and beautifies humanity; the holiness that springs from love.—D.
Foundation of acceptance with God.
It is a question vital to the interests of men, "How to find reconciliation with God." If the Bible contains no authentic information on this head, it contains no real gospel. Martin Luther tersely described this doctrine of justification as the hinge of a standing or a falling Church. It is the pivot of salvation or perdition for every man. What the sun is in the midst of the solar system, what the heart is to the human body, what the mainspring is to a watch, the doctrine of man's justification before God is to all the other doctrines of religion. On this momentous matter God has clearly revealed to us his will. It is so plainly unfolded that he "may run who reads." The Old Testament is in complete accord with the New. Acceptance is based on vicarious sacrifice. On the part of man active and implicit faith is required.
I. ACCEPTANCE WITH GOD IS MAN'S PRESSING WANT. All other needs are subordinate to this. God's favor converts man's hell into heaven. To bring men into reconciliation with God, all these visions were vouchsafed to Ezekiel. For this, all the sacrifice of animal life had been made. For this, the temple had been erected, and was now to be reconstructed. For this, the office of priesthood had been instituted. For this, every written revelation has been given. For this, God's mind has been deeply concerned.
II. FOR MAN'S ACCEPTANCE WITH GOD A MEDIATING PRIEST IS REQUIRED. The work of bringing men back to God is so full of difficulty that it must be accomplished by distinct stages. A priest serves many useful purposes. He is an instructor, by deed, if not by utterance. He is a sympathizing helper. He has near access to God, and interest with him. The priest must be, of all men, the least erring. His mission must be marked as specially sacred. Every circumstance which can lend sanctity to his office must be provided. He must be mature in years, experienced in human needs. His person must be free from blemish. Frequent ablutions must be practiced. Exact obedience to the commands of God must be observed. He must be a pattern man. God has been pleased to do for us through a Priest what he will not do without a Priest. And all the complicated arrangements of the priesthood were designed to impress men's minds with the gigantic evil of rebellion, and with the difficulty of regaining the lost place in God's regard.
III. FOR MAN'S ACCEPTANCE VICARIOUS DEATH IS NEEDED. The necessity for substitution for the endurance of penalty prior to reconciliation with God may be a necessity on God's rode as well as a necessity on man's side. The maintenance of the Divine government throughout the universe is an object of supreme moment. To make pardon cheap and easy would loosen the bonds of loyalty, and depreciate the value of righteousness, in men's esteem. As law had expressed the moral relations between God and men, law must be maintained. The penalty of sin must be met. Innocent lambs and heifers must die that sentiments of penitence may be deepened in the human soul. So valuable is reconciliation between man and God that it is worthwhile to sacrifice hecatombs of inferior animals in order to gain the end. This was an educational process, that men might perceive how devoid of efficacy any sacrifice must be, short of the perfect sacrifice of God's Son. Whether our minds can comprehend the reason of the atonement or not, it is clearly the will of God that restoration of man can come only by the channel of vicarious sacrifice.
IV. FOR MAN'S ACCEPTANCE A COMPLETE CYCLE OF TIME FOR PREPARATION MUST ELAPSE. "When these days are expired, it shall be." Day after day, for seven days, a victim slain was demanded in order to purify the altar. The Jewish altar had been grievously desecrated and polluted; hence a complete purgation was required. Not until the completion of the week could the priests proceed to present any offerings for guilty men. A cycle of time was to be spent in the work of preparation. In like manner, the patriarchal and Levitical periods were a time of preparation for Messiah's work. Until men have learnt the tremendous evil there is in sin, until they have learnt that without Divine interposition moral renovation is impossible, they will not value a Savior from sin; they will not listen to him. Therefore "in the fullness time"—then, and not till then—"the Son of God came forth."
V. FOR MAN'S ACCEPTANCE COMPLETE CONSECRATION OF SELF IS DEMANDED. The offerings appointed to be laid upon the altar were "burnt offerings." The burnt offerings must precede the peace offerings. By a burnt offering is meant that which must be wholly consumed. The sacrifice must be complete. A profound moral lesson is here inculcated; it should be written in capitals. Salvation means complete surrender to God, complete devotion to his service. If we keep back anything from God, we still grieve his heart, we mar our characters, we imperil our salvation. If one foe remains in the citadel, the city is not safe. One weed left in the garden may spread and spoil the whole. One germ of disease in the system may issue in death. Loyalty, to be worth anything, must be complete. In order to be saved, the Son of God must reign supremely in us, King over every thought.—D.
HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON
The return of God's glory.
The prophet had witnessed in sadness the departure of the glory of the Lord (see Ezekiel 10:18, Ezekiel 10:19; Ezekiel 11:23). He has now a happy vision of its return; and of that return he gives a very graphic description. It affected him. With solemn awe (Ezekiel 43:3) as well as with sacred joy. He found himself transported to the place where, as a priest, he had an official right to stand (Ezekiel 43:5), and there he saw the brightness of Jehovah's presence filling the sanctuary, while he heard the voice of the Lord communicating his holy will. The departure and the return of the Divine glory have various illustrations beside those which were witnessed in connection with the temple at Jerusalem. We may find this in relation to—
I. THE HUMAN WORLD When man was sinless he enjoyed the very near presence and the very close fellowship of his Divine Maker; and even after he sinned, before the world was utterly corrupted by its iniquity, men possessed not a little of the near presence and of the communications of God. But as sin advanced God retired and there came to be no converse between earth and heaven. Then the glory of the Lord had departed. But "in the fullness of time" God manifested himself to the world—he came in redeeming grace to raise and restore our fallen race. "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory" (John 1:14); we had "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:6). As men looked upon him, as they heard his words, as they witnessed his life, as they beheld the glories of his goodness and his power, they had a nobler vision of the glory of the Lord than that of Ezekiel, as here described.
II. THE CHURCH OF CHRIST. The glory of the Church is the presence of its Divine Lord—that presence as manifested by the indwelling and the action of his Holy Spirit. Great was its glory when that Divine presence was manifested on the day of Pentecost, not only (nor indeed chiefly) by the tongues of flame or the rushing mighty wind, but by the conversion of "three thousand souls." But there may come, as there often has come, a time when the glory of Christ has departed. When a Church sinks down into a condition of unbelief, or of spiritual pride and fancied independence, or of indulgence and immorality, or of worldliness and prayerlessness, then might the prophet of the Lord, with inward eye, see the glory of the Lord "on the threshold" or on the summit of the mountain, no longer "filling the house." But when the sacred and the blessed hour of penitence and of prayer, of humility and of faith, arrives, then may be had another and happier vision—that of the Lord's return. Christ will come again, and he will reveal the glory of his goodness and his grace, imparting the blessings which once were lost, which had taken flight, and are now renewed; bringing with him power, beauty, joy, life, victory.
III. THE INDIVIDUAL SOUL. All outward pomps and all human distinctions are as nothing to the human soul compared with the glorious presence of the Divine Spirit in the heart of man. But though God comes to us thus and dwells with us, he will not abide with us if we do not retain our purity, our moral and spiritual integrity (see 1 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 6:16). Yet may there be, in individual experience, a blessed return of the glory of the Lord. If there be a sincere and deep humility; if there be an earnest seeking after God in prayer; if there be a cordial reconsecration of the heart and life to the Divine Redeemer;—then will there be a gracious and a glorious return of his presence and of his blessing to the soul.—C.
God's unapproachable sovereignty.
God now appears among his people as their Divine Sovereign; the house to which he comes in glorious manifestation is "the place of his throne" (Ezekiel 43:7). There he is resolved to rule. Other kings, human potentates, had been reigning there, but their rule should now be over. They had been usurpers in that they had set up their will against his, "their threshold by his thresholds, their post by his posts" (Ezekiel 43:8); but all such pretensions would be henceforth peremptorily disallowed; they would be unsparingly swept away. I consumed them in mine anger." The Lord alone was to reign, without any rival, the unchallenged, unapproachable Authority. The sanctuary of the Lord was the throne of the great King.
I. THE CHURCH OF CHRIST THE SPHERE OF DIVINE SOVEREIGNTY. AS God declared, through his prophet, that he would reign in the temple, so Jesus Christ claims to be the one and only Head and Ruler of his Church. "One is your Master, even Christ." We must not invade his "crown rights" in any way or under any consideration whatever.
1. To him we must pay our worship, not placing any created being by his side upon his throne.
2. By his revealed will we must determine the constitution of his Church. Whether we gather that from his own words, or from the spirit of his life, or from the words and action of his apostles, we must make the will of Christ absolutely supreme in all our collective action, And his will not only affects us in deciding on the forms and the rules of our ecclesiastical association, but also as to the spirit in which we hold our post and do our work in his kingdom; we are essentially disloyal to him when our attitude or bearing toward any of our brethren is other than that which illustrates the spirit of Christ.
II. THE CHURCH OF CHRIST THE SOURCE OF DYING SOVEREIGNTY. The source in the sense of being instrumental in its promotion. For it is to the Church that God has committed that truth which alone will establish it; and it is of the Church he expects that life which will contribute so largely to its extension. The Church—every Christian Church—has:
1. To proclaim the sovereign rights of him who is the God of our life; to present God to men as the Divine Author of their being, Fountain of their joy, Source of all their comforts and their blessings, Father of their spirit, Preserver and Guardian of their life; as that Divine One in whom they "live and move and have their being, "with whom they have to do" in a deeper sense and to a far higher degree than they have with any human being.
2. To present the regal claims of the Lord of our salvation; to hold up before the eyes of men that Son of man who came down from heaven to be our Teacher, Leader, Friend, and Savior; who lived, taught, wrought, sorrowed, and died for our redemption; that Son of God who rose in triumph from the grave and ascended to the right hand of God; who has a supreme right to the trust, the love, the obedience, the full and entire devotion of all who have received the story of his dying love and living power.
3. To show the Way of a true, thorough, happy subjection to the Divine rule. Thus will the Church of Christ become "the place of his throne."—C.
The law of the house
Universal holiness. "The law of the house, what was pre-eminently entitled to be called the law, consisted in the whole region of the temple mount being most holy. Not, as hitherto, was this characteristic to be confined to a single apartment of the temple; it was to embrace the entire circumference occupied by the symbolical institutions of the kingdom—the chambers allotted to the priests, and even the courts trodden by the people, as well as the immediate dwelling-place of Jehovah. All were to have one character of sacredness, because all connected with them were to occupy a like position of felt nearness to God and equally to enjoy the privilege of access to him." For the glory of the Lord—his manifested presence—filled the house; every one, therefore, in every part of the sacred precincts, stood in very close and hallowed relation to the living God, and-character must correspond with privilege. The Church of Christ is now the "house" of the Lord, and respecting its holiness we have—
I. ITS TWO SPIRITUAL CONSTITUENTS. These are:
1. Felt nearness to God. He only can be truly said to be holy who realizes continually how near he is to the living God, how intimate is the relationship in which he stands to him, how free is his access to him; and who, realizing this, does in truth "walk with God" and "have fellowship with the Father."
2. Separateness from sin. The holy man is he who, like the righteous and holy Father himself, "hates all manner of iniquity," puts far from him, far from his sight and from his sympathy as well as from his conversation and his conduct, everything that defiles and dishonors; he is the man who repels from his soul, and therefore banishes from his life, all falsehood and falsity, all impurity, all covetousness, all forms of dishonesty and intemperance, all irreverence and. profanity.
II. ITS UNIVERSAL PREVALENCE. "The whole limit thereof round about shall be most holy." Not one particular compartment, but the whole "mountain of the Lord," Thus with the Church of Christ, holiness is to characterize:
1. All its members, whatever their position or function may be, whether they be ministers or whether they hold no official position at all. There is, indeed, a peculiar and emphatic demand made upon those who speak for Christ, that they should be holy; but any one member of the Christian household who does not realize his nearness to God and does not separate himself from sin, is not qualified to take his place there, he is not obeying "the law of the house," he is a disloyal subject, an unworthy inmate.
2. Its members in all their relationships. Not only, though markedly and unmistakably there, in all their distinctively religious engagements, but in every sphere in which they move—domestic, social, literary, artistic, municipal, political. At all times and in every place the people of God are to have respect to "the law of the house," for wherever they are they are members of the household of God.
III. THE SECRET OF ITS MAINTENANCE. How are we to be holy, and to maintain our sanctity in all the rush and strife, under all the burdens and provocations, in all the unwholesome atmosphere, of daily life?
1. By being much, in thought and prayer, with Jesus Christ, the holy Savior. Much of his friendship will mean much of his spirit, for we constantly grow into the likeness of him we love.
2. By receiving into our minds all we can welcome of Divine truth (see John 15:3; John 17:17).
3. By seeking and obtaining the cleansing and renewing influences of the Holy Spirit.—C.
Purification and preparation.
Almost all the regulations pertaining to the sacrifices under the old economy bore upon the supreme question of sanctity. God would impress upon his people, by every means and in every way, that the Holy One of Israel must be approached by those only who were pure and holy; that if they would "ascend unto the hill of the Lord" they must come "with clean hands and a pure heart." Hence everything and every one had to be carefully purified or consecrated in preparation for the solemn service. In these verses we have the same idea once more affirmed in the prophet's vision. The priests who officiated were to be duly consecrated (Ezekiel 43:26); the animals slain were to be very carefully selected, only those without blemish being allowed (Ezekiel 43:22, Ezekiel 43:23, Ezekiel 43:25). And even the altar itself, which might have been thought to be incapable of any impurity, had to be formally purged and cleansed (Ezekiel 43:20). Sin offerings and burnt offering were to be presented, not forgetting the salt (Ezekiel 43:25), that the altar might be perfectly prepared for use, and that the worshippers who approached it might find acceptance with the Lord (Ezekiel 43:27). Such preparation by sacrifice is unknown to the Church of Christ, the old ritual having happily become obsolete. But the essential idea of it remains and will never disappear. Before we draw near to God in public worship it becomes us to make-Reparation answering- to the purification of the older time. There is—
I. THE PREPARATION OF THE BODY. Our Lord said there was a certain "kind" of evil which could only be expelled after prayer and fasting (Matthew 17:21). We must recognize the fact that one bodily condition is much more favorable to pure and sustained devotion than another; e.g. a wakeful rather than a somnolent one; a wisely and moderately nourished state in preference to one incapacitated by indulgence on the one hand or by prolonged abstinence on the other. Not in weariness and exhaustion, nor yet in a disabling and unfitting fullness, should we bring our offering of prayer or praise, of exhortation or docility, unto the house of the Lord.
II. THE PREPARATION OF THE MIND. They who have undertaken the sacred task of speaking for God should surely prepare for this high and exalted work. If we carefully prepare to speak in our own name, how much more should we do so when we speak in his! Should we not gather all the knowledge we can anywise obtain, think our subject through to the best of our ability, search the Scriptures to sustain the truth we are to utter by the Word of God, lay all our mental acquisitions and information under contribution to give clearness and cogency to our argument or appeal, order and arrange our thoughts that we may present them as freely and as forcibly as we can?
III. THE PREPARATION OF THE HEART. This preparation, more than that of the body or the mind, answers to the purification described in the text. Our hearts need to be "cleansed and purged" (Ezekiel 43:20). It has to be cleansed from:
1. All self-seeking; so that we aim, not at our own honor or advancement, but at the glory of Christ and the good of men.
2. All worldliness and vanity; so that when we bow in prayer or assume the attitude of attentiveness we are not lost in the remembrance or the anticipation of bargains in the market or of pleasures in society.
3. The search for enjoyment rather than the seeking after God; the temptation to come to the house of the Lord to partake of that which is sweet unto our taste rather than that which is strengthening to our character and nourishing to our soul. Such preparation or purification as this must be wrought in the secret chamber of devotion, when we are alone with God, in solemn contemplation and in earnest and believing prayer.—C.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Ezekiel 43". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17