Here in this chapter, we find the beginning of one long vision which continues to the end of the Book. For good reason, it is often looked upon as one of the most difficult portions of Scripture. Many commentators, both ancient and modern, have confessed that they find themselves at a loss as to what to make of it. But because it is hard to be understood, we must not therefore throw it aside; but rather, we ought to humbly search it, and get as far as we can into it and as much as we can out of it. And since we will still encounter difficulties herein, let us bless the Lord that our salvation does not depend upon those hard parts; for the things necessary for our salvation are all plain enough.
This chapter and the two following it contain a vision of a glorious Temple, and then we read of God’s taking possession of it in chapter 43. Orders concerning the priests that are to minister in this Temple are given in the 44th chapter, while the 45th details the division of the holy land; and further instructions for the prince and the people are revealed in chapter 46. Then there is a vision of holy waters; followed by a description of the borders of this land, the portions assigned to the tribes, and the dimensions and gates of the holy city (chapters 47-48). The immediate purpose of this vision was to assure the captive Jews that they would not only return to their own land, and be settled there; but that they would also have another Temple, which God would acknowledge, and where He would meet them and bless them. However, the ultimate purpose of this vision was to direct them (and us) to look further than all of those external things, and to expect the coming of the Messiah; because He was the Man Who was to set up the great spiritual Temple, which is the Gospel-Church – the glory of which would far exceed that of Solomon’s Temple, and would continue to the end of time.
The dimensions of these visionary buildings were incredibly large. For example, the new Temple was spoken of as being more spacious than the whole city of Jerusalem, and the new Jerusalem was described as being larger than the entire land of Canaan. And this plainly teaches us that these things cannot be interpreted in a literal sense, but they must be understood spiritually. Under the pictures of a Temple, altar, priests, and sacrifices, we have a foreshadowing of the spiritual worship that is now performed in Gospel-times – worship that is more agreeable to the nature of both God and man, and worship that shall be perfected at last in the Kingdom of glory; for it is in that Kingdom that these visions will have their full and final accomplishment.
The prophet was brought, in a vision, to the land of Israel; and he was set upon a very high mountain. From the top of this mountain, he saw the framework of a city – that is, a city that was a Temple, as large as a city. Directions were here given to the prophet to receive this revelation from the Lord, and to transmit it – pure and entire – to His people (verse 4). The measuring-rod which was used to measure the outer wall which surrounded this gigantic Temple was about 11 feet long. The wall was one rod thick and one rod high, which denotes the separation between the Church and the world on every side, and the Divine protection which the Church is under. If a wall of such vast thickness will not protect His Church, God Himself will be a wall of fire around her; whoever attacks her will do so at their own peril.
There were several gates and chambers in this wall. Solomon’s Temple had only one gate; but this Temple had several, in order to show the easy access that is provided for the admission of people from all the nations of the world. In Ezekiel’s vision, these gates were approached by seven steps, which reminds us of the necessity of advancing upward in grace and holiness. As for the chambers, they were very many in number; for in our Father’s house are many mansions (John 14:2). There were windows in the little chambers, signifying the light from heaven with which the Church is illuminated. Several courts are also spoken of: an outermost of all, then an outer court, then an inner, and then the innermost of all. These courts had porches or piazzas around them to shelter those who worshiped in them from wind and weather; for when we are in the way of our duty toward God, we may be assured that we are under His special protection. He will graciously provide for us, and He Himself will be a covert from the storm and tempest (Isa. 4:5-6).
In verses 27-38, we have a description of the inner court of this great Temple; and verses 39-43 describe the tables that stood in the porch of the gates of this court. Upon these tables, the sacrifices were slain and prepared; for chapter 43 reveals that the altar of burnt offering stood in this inner court. The altar stood in a direct line with the three gates of the outer court; and when the gates were open, all the people in the outer court might see through the gates and be spectators of the service that was done at the altar. Christ is both our Altar and our Sacrifice – to Whom we must look with an eye of faith, in all our approaches to God. He is salvation in the midst of the earth (Ps. 74:12), to be looked unto from all quarters of the world!
Lord, we pray that as You have guided our studies through the earlier parts of this Book, You would also lead us and teach us from the sections now before us! Amen.
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illustration taken from The Art Bible, 1896