By Sam E. Stone
G. R. Beasley-Murray put our text in perspective: “Ezekiel was a priest as well as a prophet. It was his joyful task to balance the prophecies of the ruin of the temple, the departure of Jehovah, and the scattering of the nation with a detailed prediction of the rebuilding of the temple, the return of Jehovah to his people and the reorganization of national life. It was not sufficient to declare that the nation was to return and erect another temple; they must be instructed how to build it.”
Ezekiel had witnessed the invasion of his homeland, Judah, by the Babylonians. He and thousands of fellow citizens were taken to Babylon as captives. Now on foreign soil, about a thousand miles from home, God gave him several dramatic visions to establish the fact that the Lord was still in control. The captives needed to be reminded of this.
Seeing a Vision
God had placed Ezekiel in Babylon with the other exiles to be his prophet in this difficult place to live (see Ezekiel 2:1–3:6, 10-15). Ezekiel was guided through the visions by a certain man. Most Bible commentators assume this refers to an angelic being of some kind. He had been present through Ezekiel’s earlier visions (chapters 40–48). The return of the Lord’s glory to the new temple is emphasized in chapters 43–46. The connection with the previous visions is evident. It is significant that the glory of the God of Israel is coming from the east. At the climax of an earlier vision, God had departed from the temple, moving eastward (10:18, 19). Now he returns from the same direction.
The Lord’s voice is described as like the roar of rushing waters. Similar expressions are found in Revelation (1:15; 14:2; 19:6). Such dramatic and powerful experiences in the past caused the prophet to fall down (see Ezekiel 1:28; 3:23). Then the Spirit lifted me up, Ezekiel declared. This refers to the Holy Spirit, as we learned from previous references (see 3:12, 14; 8:3). He took Ezekiel into the inner court. Here Ezekiel could see that the glory of the Lord filled the temple.
Hearing a Message
Then another dramatic event occurred. Ezekiel heard the voice of God himself speaking to him from inside the temple. God declared, This is the place of my throne. Yahweh dwelt between the cherubim in the holy of holies (Exodus 25:22). It was the place for the soles of my feet, his footstool. The voice also affirmed that this is where he would live among the Israelites forever. James Smith pointed out, “The word forever made this declaration more far-reaching than anything which was spoken concerning the Tabernacle of Moses or the Temple of Solomon.”
The Lord’s intent in revealing this fact was so that the people of Israel would never again defile my holy name. C. F. Keil added, “The present entrance of the divine glory into the new temple did not lay the foundation for a new and more exalted bond of grace, but was simply intended to restore the relation which had existed before the removal of Israel into captivity.”
The people were not to defile God’s name by their prostitution or funeral offerings for kings at their death. Ezekiel often used variations of the words “prostitution” and “adultery” to mean idolatry (the worship of other gods). In the past, having the graves of some kings so near the temple proved to be a corrupting influence upon the people.
Conveying a Message
The prophet was to describe the temple so that the people would be ashamed of all they have done. “The excitement generated by the promise of a new Temple would kindle spiritual fervor in the hearts of those who received this message” (James E. Smith). They were to note the spiritual significance of the structure. They would be held accountable for following the patterns and the regulations faithfully.
Iain M. Duguid put it like this: “In other words, the temple vision is a pedagogical tool that speaks by its shape and size, particularly by its permission or denial of access (‘exits and entrances’). These regulations all serve a single overriding purpose: that the whole area all around the temple may be most holy.” This is where God can dwell!
The Lord seeks a similar clean and pure place to live today as well—inside the body of a Christian
(1 Corinthians 6).
Sam E. Stone is the former editor of Christian Standard. He continues his writing and speaking ministry from his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.