How to Live with Hope

Explore the Bible Series

July 31, 2005

 

Background Passage: Ezekiel 40:1-48:35

Lesson Passage: Ezekiel 43:1-12

 

Introduction: This week we conclude our study of the Book of Ezekiel, and our background passage presents us with some challenges.The last several chapters of Ezekiel, as we saw last week, have been interpreted in a variety of ways.Chapters 40-48 record an extended vision that the prophet received from God.The vision focused on the renewed city of Jerusalem, with a special emphasis on the reconstruction of the Temple.Some scholars have viewed this vision in literal terms.Others interpret this section symbolically.Both groups make persuasive arguments, and, without question, evidence a great love for the Scriptures.Perhaps a brief review of the two views will facilitate a greater appreciation for the complexity and grandeur of the text.

 

Those who interpret this section literally, fall into two groups.The first group believes that the prophecy contained here was fulfilled when Zerubbabel rebuilt the Temple (and in the expansion of the Temple edifice commissioned by Herod the Great).The majestic proportions of the city and the Temple, provided by Ezekiel, were not reflected in the rebuilt Temple.This view, it seems to me, is not attractive because the unconditional promises of Ezekiel 40-48 were not fulfilled in the Temple of Zerubbabel.The second group believes that these chapters will find their fulfillment in the Millennial Kingdom, at the end of the age. Dispensational Premillennialists hold to this position.These interpreters hold that God will eternally distinguish between Israel and the church.Part of that distinction, they believe, will occur during a thousand-year reign of Christ.The Temple will be rebuilt, according to the specifications recorded by Ezekiel, and the Jews will reestablish the Mosaic sacrificial system of the Old Testament.In addition, they assert that a new Temple priesthood will emerge.This understanding of the text seems unsatisfactory to me.

 

In my judgment, the last few chapters of Ezekiel depict the redemptive work of Christ.The rich imagery reflects the glorious work of Christ on behalf of his people.The Lordís elect will enjoy the presence of the Glorified Christ, and he will protect, provide, and preserve his people.They will forever dwell securely with their Savior and behold his dignity and majesty in the dwelling place prepared for them.He will preside over his Kingdom forever.

 

Again, good people disagree over these matters.As Bible students wrestle with the meaning of these chapters, let them remember to consider on the text with humility and grace.†† While the Lordís people may differ on difficult passages like this, they certainly will not disagree on the need for charity in the interpretation and application of Scripture.

 

 

 

 

Outline of the Background Passage:

 

I.                    The Vision of the Renewed Jerusalem (40:1-49)

A.     The date and circumstances of the vision (vv. 1-4): This vision appeared to Ezekiel, according to Daniel Block, in 573 B.C. This date fits the two-fold designation of verse one (ďthe twenty-fifth year of our exileĒ and ďthe fourteenth year after the city was struck downĒ).A glorious figure appeared to Ezekiel (v. 3) and spoke to the prophet.Some interpreters believe this man was an angel, but others see this as a theophany (Matthew Henry and Matthew Poole).††† The glorious man had a measuring line and a reed in his hand.

B.     The Eastern Gate (vv. 5-16):The glorious man measures the wall and the gate of the city.A cubit was standard measurement, approximately eighteen inches long, but the text makes clear that the measurement of the walls was a handbreadth larger than the standard cubit.††

C.     The Outer Court (vv. 17-19):Ezekiel described a large paved court surrounded by thirty chambers. Block surmises that these were large porticos that the cityís inhabitants used for worship, eating, and fellowship (See 42:6). The designs of palm trees decorated the doorjambs, reminiscent perhaps, of the verdant abundance of the Kingdom of God.

D.     The Northern Gate (vv. 20-23):The description is similar to the Eastern Gate.

E.      The South Gate (vv. 24-27)

F.      The Inner Court (vv. 28-43): This Inner Court contained tables where the sacrifices were prepared for the Temple (See vv. 38-43).

G.     The Priestly Chambers (vv. 44-47): Near the gateway to the inner court the Lord provided chambers for the priests.Only the descendants of Zadok were allowed in these chambers.Zadok (See II Samuel 15:24-29) remained faithful to King David during the rebellion of Absalom.

H.     The Vestibule of the Temple (vv. 48-49):The antechamber that ascended to the Temple was quite large (20x20 cubits) and had ten steps leading to the place of worship.

 

II.                 The Vision of the Renewed Temple (41:1-26)

A.     The Nave of the Temple (vv. 1-4): The glorious man revealed to Ezekiel that this was a very holy place (See v. 4).

B.     The Temple Proper (vv. 5-26): Ezekiel described, in this chapter, a large, secure building with thick walls.The Temple rose three stories high, paneled\with wood, lighted with narrow windows, and decorated with carvings of palm trees and cherubim.

 

III.               The Chambers in the Outer Court (42:1-19): These are not the same chambers described in 41:5-12.This was a large, multi-storied building with spacious chambers. The Book of Ezekiel does not reveal the function of these rooms.

 

 

IV.              The Presence of the Glory of the Lord in the Renewed Temple (43:1-27)

A.     The Glory of the Lord Coming from the East (vv. 1-12):The prophet saw the glory of God departing from the Temple in an earlier vision (See 10:18-22 and 11:22-24).Now, God revealed the return of the Lordís glory to the Temple. Also, this passage is reminiscent of the glory of God entering the Temple of Solomon (See I Kings 8:10-11).

B.     The Cleansing of Godís People (vv. 6-9): Godís presence in the Temple will have a cleansing effect on his people.They will no longer defile themselves or the Lordís dwelling place.

C.     The Shame of the People (vv. 10-12):The Lordís presence produces humility in his people.

D.     The Altar (vv. 13-26): Men may approach the presence of God in the Temple only through the provision of the altar of sacrifice.There is no approach to God apart from atonement for sin.

 

V.                 The Closed Outer Gate of the Temple (44:1-31)

A.     Only The Prince May Enter This Gate (1-8):This passage probably has Christological implications.God reserves a special place of honor for the Son who will rule over his people as a prince.

B.     Godís Judgment on the Levites and Grace Toward the Foreigner (vv. 9-14)

C.     Only the priests of Zadok will be allowed to enter the sanctuary and offer sacrifices to the Lord (vv. 15-31)

 

VI.              The Apportionment of the Area Surrounding the Temple (45:1-25)

A.     The Apportionment for the Priests (vv. 1-4)

B.     The Apportionment for the Levites (v. 5)

C.     The Apportionment for the City (v. 6)

D.     The Apportionment for the Prince (vv. 7-25)

1.      A call for equity and justice (vv. 7-12)

2.      The offerings of the Temple (vv. 13-25)

 

VII.            The Feasts of the Prince (46:1-24)

A.     The Sabbath Day Feasts (vv. 1-8)

B.     The Entrance of the People (vv. 9-10)

C.     The Sacrifices that Attend the Feasts (vv. 11-24)

1.      Grain offerings and animal sacrifices (vv. 11-15)

2.      The inheritance of the Prince (vv. 16-18)

3.      The boiled offerings (vv. 19-24)

 

VIII.         The Water Flowing from the Temple and the distribution of the Land (47:1-48:34)

A.     Water Flowed from the Threshold of the Temple (vv. 1-12)

1.      Water trickled from the Temple (vv. 1-2)

2.      The water grew deeper as it progressed to the desert (vv. 3-6).

3.      The fruitfulness of the banks of the water (vv. 7-12)

B.     The Division of the Land Among the Tribes of Israel (47:13-48:34)

1.      Joseph will receive a double portion of land (47:13-14)

2.      The general dimensions of the land (47:15-23)

3.      The Twelve Tribes (48:1-34) The allotment of land was equally distributed to each tribe.Notice that the land assignments bear little resemblance to the historical allotments of Canaan.Each tribe received the same amount of land, and the allotments were identical in length and breadth.

 

 

Observations Concerning the Lesson Passage:

 

  1. Contrast Ezekiel 10:18-22 with Ezekiel 43:1-12.What was the significance of the Lord abandoning the Temple in chapter 10?What did this abandonment signal to the people of the Exile?How would the vision of Ezekiel 43 have encouraged the exiles?
  2. What moral influence did the vision of Godís enthronement have on the people?Proper Christian conduct always grows from an appropriate understanding of the glory and sovereignty of God.