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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator
Ezekiel 41

 

 

Verse 1

Ezekiel 41:1

He brought me to the temple.

The heavenly temple

I. The place of this temple. You find in the 43rd chapter that this temple was placed on a mountain. This is a figurative form of speech, to denote that Christ’s holiness exalts us above all that we are as sinners; that Christ’s righteousness--for “in Thy righteousness shall they be exalted”--exalts us above all condemnation. Here every sin, every spot, every law charge, is completely banished. We shall never live happy in our religion, and we shall never live happy with God, if we ever lose sight of that completeness we have in Christ. There is the exultation. And if you ask what it is that hath established the law of holiness, how it is that this law is established, the apostle will tell you,--that while Aaron was a priest after the law of a carnal commandment, Jesus Christ is a priest after the order of Melchisedec; He has put away sin, and established the law of holiness. And this law of holiness derives its strength from Christ’s eternal priesthood; so that my holiness that I have in Him will fail when Christ’s priesthood shall fail, but not before; our justification, our peace with God, and God’s approbation of us and dwelling with us, will cease when Christ’s righteousness shall fail, but not before; and when the Saviour can be conquered, but not before.

II. The forms and fashions of this house. The Lord said to Ezekiel, “If they be ashamed of all that they have done,” and brought to see and feel that their righteousness is as filthy rags, then “shew them the form of the house,” etc. First, let us see if we can find out the form; and if it is a form that you approve, I shall be very glad of it, because it will prove that you are ashamed of all your own doings, renounce the whole, and that you fall in, by faith, and understanding, and love, with what the Lord has done. I go to the first chapter of the Hebrews, and there I get the form. Jesus Christ is the form of the house; He is the form to which everything must be conformed. What think you of this mediatorial form, this sacrificial form, this form of everlasting life, this form of mercy, this form of grace, this form of truth? Canst thou say that thy soul fails in with it? If so, then you are a part of this temple. “Growing into an holy temple”--where? in yourselves? No, “in the Lord; fitly framed together in Him for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” There is the form. But then there is the fashion--“Shew them the fashion.” Well, I will now notice the fashion. It is a good fashion that I am going to name--a fashion that is very much gone out now in the professing world, but it is a gospel fashion; it is s fashion that will never change while time shall last. What is the fashion? We must go to the 2nd of Mark to get at what the fashion of this house is,--that is, what God’s manner of dealing with men is; that is the meaning of the fashion. I know it is a fashion that will make you very singular. People will say, Dear me, that man is very singular in his fashion. As John Bunyan somewhere says of his pilgrims, They wore a foreign robe, that this world knew nothing of; therefore the people stared and thought they were very singular in their fashion and in their taste. But so it is. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” Such is the fashion. Solomon, in his prayer, speaketh of the stranger, the poor Gentile stranger, or whoever he might be, that might come unto God’s holy temple and call unto Him: such was the fashion there, that there was a sacrifice for sin; there was a mercy seat, and there was a God that delighted in mercy. So, then, show them the form, and show them the fashion also.

III. The fulness of the house. Take first the 6th of Isaiah. The prophet says, “I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple.” Jesus Christ died, and God highly exalted Him; and by Christ’s death and by His exaltation there came in a train of promises and a train of blessings--blessing after blessing, until the whole temple is filled with blessing. Every Christian shall thus be filled with blessing. That is the train--the train of promises and the train of blessings that follow the Saviour’s humiliation and exaltation. Who can despair that is blessed with saving faith in such a gospel as this, such a God as this, such a Christ as this? Then in the 43rd of Ezekiel you will find the same things repeated. Ezekiel saith, “The glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east.” Now the east was the place of the sunrising; we will read it so; “The glory of the Lord came from the way of the sunrising.” And so the glory of the Lord comes into the house by the resurrection of Christ. “With great power bare they witness of the resurrection of Christ, and great grace was upon them all.” “And His voice,” in coming in, “was like a noise of many waters.” Is not that a beautiful description? What can you have to equal it? Was not the voice of God by the apostles as the voice of many waters? Take the many waters to represent the mercies, the blessings, of the everlasting gospel. “Many waters”; so it is many mercies, many blessings. “And the earth shined with His glory.” Was it not so? Did not the Lord command the light to shine into the souls of men? He gave them the hearing ear, to hear these many waters--the sound of abundance of rain, the sound of those mercies; and then light came to show them the way to these living waters; they drank, lived, and shall live forever. “And the house was filled with the glory of the Lord, the presence of the Lord.” One more Scripture--the 15th of the Revelation. “The temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God, and from His power.” What a happy place is every assembly when it is filled with the fragrance of His name, from the glory of the Lord, from the glory of our great High Priest! He offers much incense with the prayers of the saints. The house was filled with the fragrance of His blessed name, “from the glory of God, and from His power.” Jesus exercised omnipotent power when He wrought salvation, casting the enemy out, and bringing His glory in. (James Wells.)

The Church of God as a temple

I. The living temple of the living God will exhibit the characteristics of unity and diversity. The Father of our spirits has made none of His intelligent creatures in all respects alike. There is as much difference in their gifts and characteristics as there is in their personal identity, and this variety must border upon the infinite. The idea of a temple involves the bringing together of a great variety of materials, each kind being adapted to serve a special purpose in the building.

II. The Church of God will be the abode of purity. The word temple involves this idea. A temple is a building set apart, consecrated to a religious use. This temple is represented as being surrounded by a wall of separation. But the living temple will be one of spiritual and conscious purity. The distinctive element in it will be (Revelation 21:27).

III. This Church of the future will included what was symbolised by the temple of the past. In the beginning of a human life there seems a very little of the spiritual, a great preponderance of the material. But as the child grows, the intellectual and moral part of the man develops itself, until by and by, if the ideal manhood is reached, the animal part of the man is swallowed up in the spiritual part.

IV. The dimensions of this spiritual Church can be taken by heavenly measurement only. Solomon’s temple could be measured by a human hand, the temple of Ezekiel’s vision needed an angel of God to measure it. Its size could not be rightly estimated by an inhabitant of earth or by earthly measures. The Church of the redeemed will consist of a multitude which “no man can number” (Revelation 7:9).

V. This temple of purity is the dwelling place of God. The living spirit inhabits the human body so long as that body remains in a certain state of purity and unity, viz., so long as it can, by the retaining of its animal life, resist the decomposition which sets in immediately after death. The living spirit is a temple for the living God. (A London Minister.)

The Christian Church

This description presents to us--

I. The extent and latitude of the Church under Christ. He measured the gate to the east, and the east side, to show that the eastern people should be of the Christian Church. And the north, south, and west sides, to assure us that the people of those parts should come to Zion. Christ sent His apostles to all nations. The Church of Christ is all the world over.

II. The stability and firmness of the Church. The temple here measured was a perfect square. Such buildings are most firm and lasting. Such is the Church; “the gates of hell cannot prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). It is built upon Christ the chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20), and is established in righteousness (Isaiah 54:14).

III. The beauty of the Church. Such a building Ezekiel saw. The Church is the most beautiful and comely thing in the world to such as have spiritual eyes. When the bride of a great prince hath on her royal apparel, is she not beautiful and glorious? Such is the Church, “arrayed with fine linen, the righteousness of saints” (Revelation 19:8; Revelation 21:10; Revelation 12:11).

IV. The sanctity of the Church. The Church of God is a company called oat from the world. The Corinthians were “called” to be saints (1 Corinthians 1:2). The Macedonian churches gave themselves to the Lord (2 Corinthians 8:5). See also 1 Peter 2:9. As a wall of separation was built around this temple, so God hath set a wall of discipline between the world and the Church. (W. Greenhill, M. A.)

All life planned and measured

Then consider that life is a plan. It is not a cloud; it could be more perfectly illustrated by geometry than by clouds and mist or vapour. It has its four points, its main boundaries, its architectural shape; its elevation, imposing, and all its appointments detailed with scrupulous care towards the education and spiritual comfort of the inhabitant. Work on that plan, and all will be right. Ask for the plan every morning; go into the little office, and have a look at the paper. Here is the great skeleton building with all its anatomy of scaffolding and planking: what is that little house or wooden shed outside? That is where the plan is kept. Why do men go in there now and then? To look at the plan. Can they not carry the plan in their heads? Not well. Can they not make the plan as they go on? No. Architecture is not conjecture. It is settled, designed; every little part mapped out, and put down and set to scale. And art thou, poor fool, building a life house without a plan? The only man who has ever grasped life in all its bearings and relationships and issues is the Son of God. You can hew away at this old book called the Bible as much as you please, you cannot get away from this living and all-dominating fact, that no man known to history has so laid hold of life in all its depth and length and breadth and height, in all its pain, tragedy, agony, destiny, in all its discipline, education, and culture, with such grasp, such clearness, and such wisdom, as it has been realised and provided for by the Christ of God. There are other religions, and many of them fine, fantastic speculation, beautiful, cloudy, rainbow-like dreaming; but for culture of the soul, for discipline of the will, for stirring the whole nature into benevolent impulse towards other men, Christianity stands alone. To that Christ I ask my fellow men; to that Christ I would go every day and say, Lord Jesus, what is the next thing to be done? and tell me how to do it, and never leave me one moment to myself; measure out the thousand cubits, tell me which is the north side, the south side, the west side, the east side, and if it comes to a great fight, show me how to stand, how to move, how to stretch: Lord, be with me all the time, till “the hurly-burly’s done,” till “the battle’s fought and won.” Given a young man who goes out to make his own fortune and his own destiny, and you have an image of folly: given a young soul who says, As everything else is meted out, measured, adjusted, and balanced, mayhap my poor little life is treated in the same way; I will go to the Divine measurer, and He will tell me within what lines to work, where to stop and how to live--and in that young soul you have an image of Wisdom. (J. Parker.)

The temple of the future

I. The characteristics of the kingdom of God.

1. It is sacred. The selection of portions of time for Sabbaths, of families of men for priests, seems to have been chiefly designed to teach what is meant by setting apart of time or men to high and holy purposes, so that afterwards we may learn how all time and all men may be so set apart. So the setting apart of one building as a temple, teaches how spaces and places and services may be devoted to high and holy purposes. Its rich and its poor, its cultured and its ignorant, its art, its science, its commerce, its festivals, are all to be sanctified.

2. It is conspicuous. This temple stands on a very high mountain, and so standing is of course prominent and widely seen. How true an emblem of the kingdom of God! for goodness, like its Incarnate Pattern and Inspirer, cannot be hid.

3. It is vast. Not only has it many gates and is thus accessible from every quarter, but it is reckoned that the measurements of the temple and land, as seen by Ezekiel, would give a temple larger than all Jerusalem, and a Jerusalem larger than all the land of Canaan. So we have a beautiful indication of the growing influence of the kingdom of God.

4. It is complete. The particularisation of the details of the temple Ezekiel saw, is so minute, that, excepting as we judge it by similar minute particularisations in his other visions, we should be compelled to consider it must be literal. But it is rather an emphatic method of showing Divine knowledge of and care for every, even the smallest detail of the kingdom of truth amongst men.

5. It is sacrificial. Of course we find in the delineation of the temple, altars, and in the ritual for the house, directions for priests and arrangements for slaying animals for sacrifice. And in the great temple of truth and goodness, though now there is no need for sacrifice for sin, since the propitiation for the world’s sin has died, there is, and there will ever be, for discipline and for development of the highest life, the many altars of daily self-denials, the high altar of complete self-sacrifice.

6. It is beautiful. Amongst the adornments Ezekiel described, were the cherubim, the symbol of ideal creature life, and the palm trees, the boughs of whose feathery foliage, beautiful in themselves, were the chosen signs of victory. So morally “strength and beauty,” the Strength of the sterner and the beauty of the gentler virtues, “are in the sanctuary” of God’s kingdom.

7. It is God-inhabited. The return of God to dwell in the temple is the climax of the vision, the crown of all its glory. “We have the mind of Christ.” He walks in the midst of the Churches, inspires all, and reigns over all.

II. The qualification for having to do with this kingdom. With a simplicity and directness that make it very clear even in midst of so strange a vision, there is here proclaimed the condition on which men may have the detailed plan of this future temple given to them. They are to have a glance at the house as a whole, and if they are fascinated with its glory, and begin to glow with the hope of enjoying its privileges, they will surely begin to be ashamed of their own sins. The Divine order and purity and goodness will shame their disorder, impurity, and evil. Then, if they are truly humbled by a sense of God’s loving kindness to them in giving them a pledge of His presence in their great unworthiness of it, they become fit to study His designs for their own and the world’s salvation. Repentant men are the men to whom, for themselves and for others, are revelations of duty, and inspirations of earnestness and hope. (Homilist.)


Verses 1-26

Verse 3

Ezekiel 41:3

And the door, six cubits.

A wide way to God

The porch, at which was an ascent to the temple, had a gate belonging to it. This gate was six cubits. Now, some may object, and say, Since the way to God by these doors was so wide, why doth Christ say the way and gate is narrow? Answer. The straitness, the narrowness, must not be understood of the gate simply, but because of that cumber that some men carry with them, that pretend to be going to heaven. Six cubits! What is sixteen cubits to him who would enter in here with all the world on his back? (John Bunyan.)


Verse 7

Ezekiel 41:7

And there was an enlarging, and a winding about still upward.

Enlargement upwards

As the temple ascended in height, so it still was wider and wider; even from the lowest chambers to the top. And this was to show us that God’s true Gospel temple, which is His Church, should have its enlargedness of heart still upward, or most for spiritual and eternal things (Isaiah 55:5; Colossians 3:1). Indeed it is the nature of grace to enlarge itself still upward, and to make the heart widest for the things that are above. The temple, therefore, was narrowest downwards, to show that a little of earth or this world should serve the Church of God. One may say of the fashion of the temple, as some say of a lively picture, “it speaks.” I say, its form and fashion speaks; it says to all saints, to all the Churches of Christ, Open your hearts for heaven, be ye enlarged upward. I read not in Scripture of any house, but this that was enlarged upwards, nor is there anywhere, save only in the Church of God, that which doth answer this similitude. All others are widest downward, and have the largest heart for earthly things. The Church only has its greatest enlargements towards heaven. (John Bunyan.)


Verse 22

Ezekiel 41:22

The altar of wood was three cubits high.

The enlarged altar

That for incense, whereof see Exodus 30:6, but here of a much larger size. See in chap. 12:1. This altar of wood, and four-square, was a type of Christ (not of the Cross), in whom our prayers come before God as incense, and He is the propitiation for our sins (1 John 2:2; Exodus 30:1; Psalms 141:2; Revelation 5:8). The largeness of this altar above that of old, showeth that the saints under the Gospel would make much more improvement of the Lord Jesus in prayer, and make use of His mediation and intercession by faith in their heavenly supplications, than the saints of old were ordinarily wont to do. (J. Trapp.)
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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Ezekiel 41:4". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/ezekiel-41.html. 1905-1909. New York.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, December 9th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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