By Sam E. Stone
At this point in our study, Ezekiel had witnessed the measuring of the outer wall and then the angel brought him back to the eastern gate of the temple where the tour had begun (see 40:6). Nineteen years earlier the prophet had seen the glory of God leave the temple through that eastern gate (10:18-22; 11:22-24). In last week’s lesson Ezekiel witnessed the entrance of divine glory back into the new temple (43:1-12).
This signified that God once more confirmed his covenant relation of grace with the tribes of Israel. However, as C. F. Keil pointed out, “If the abode of Jehovah in the midst of his people was to have an eternal duration, Israel must turn in uprightness of heart to its God, and . . . be renewed and sanctified in heart, mind, and spirit from within the sanctuary, through the mercy of the Lord and his Spirit.”
James E. Smith noted the significance of today’s text: “If the people appeared to be moved to repentance by Ezekiel’s temple preaching he was to give them all the details concerning the new structure: the form of the house, i.e., the general appearance of the new temple; the fashion thereof, i.e., the various sections, chambers and cells; the egresses (gates) and entrances; the ordinances thereof, i.e., the function and use of the various parts of the temple complex, i.e., the forms thereof, i.e., the cherubim and palms that decorate it; and all the laws that regulated the use of that facility.”
Features of the Altar
Next Ezekiel was given detailed measurements of the altar. G. R. Beasley-Murray suggested the following description to help visualize what is commanded in the text: “It comprises a base twenty-seven feet square and eighteen inches high, with a moulding about nine inches wide; on this is set a square of twenty-four feet, three feet high; on this a square of twenty-one feet, six feet high; and above the hearth, eighteen feet square and six feet high, on which the victim was laid; at the four corners are the horns, eighteen inches high, originally, perhaps, projections to which the victims were tied.” All of the detailed requirements were evidently intended to be symbols stressing the attention to divine detail that should mark the work of every priest.
Significantly the steps of the altar faced east. This is important since all priests in the various pagan religions faced the opposite direction in their worship. No one could be confused here, since God requires his people to do the exact opposite in the true worship that he commands. These regulations all served a single overriding purpose—that the whole area all around the temple would be most holy.
Dedication of the Altar
God directed Ezekiel not only about the design and form of the altar, but about the sacrifices that were to be offered there. These were rites to be performed before regular worship would begin. As in the time of the Mosaic tabernacle, a seven-day period was set aside for the consecration of the altar (Exodus 29:37). Sin was atoned for and uncleanness was removed. Today these principles relate to the Christian’s experience. “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased” (Hebrews 13:15, 16).
The prophet himself was included in the consecration ceremony, since God had told him, You are to give a young bull as a sin offering. Ezekiel was to be assisted by the Levitical priests of the family of Zadok. The removal of sin required the shedding of blood. The New Testament affirms, “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22). The sprinkling of blood on the altar purified it and brought atonement. The bull for the sin offering was offered in accordance with the Law of Moses (Exodus 29:14). The remainder of Ezekiel 43 describes the rest of the dedication ceremony.
The Christian must remember that Christ was the sacrifice made for our sin. He now lives to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25). In addition, we are now “a kingdom and priests to serve his God” (Revelation 1:6). We are to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice, both in what we say and in what we do (Romans 12:1).
Sam E. Stone is the former editor of Christian Standard. He continues his writing and speaking ministry from his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.