Having given us a view of the spiritual Temple of the Gospel-Church; Ezekiel now comes to describe, in this and the next chapter, the worship that was to be performed in it – although it is spoken of under the types and foreshadows of the Old Testament services and ceremonies. The prophet had seen the Temple, and observed that it was very spacious and splendid; but until the glory of the Lord came into it, it was only like the dead bodies that he had seen in his vision in chapter 37, which had no breath until the Spirit of life entered into them. This appearance of the glory of God was the same with the vision which the prophet saw when he first received his commission (chapter 1:4) by the Chebar River. When Ezekiel saw this glory, he fell upon his face in humble and reverent adoration. But the Spirit raised him up, so that he might see how the house was filled with God’s glory, just as it had filled Moses’ Tabernacle and Solomon’s Temple (Ex. 40:34; 1 Kings 8:10). We do not ever read that the Shekinah-glory took up residence in the second Temple that the Jews built when they returned from Babylonian exile; and therefore, this was to have its accomplishment in the glory of Divine grace, which shines so brightly and fully in the Gospel-Church. No mention is here made of a cloud filling the house, as was the case formerly; for now, with open face, we behold the glory of the Lord in the face of Jesus Christ, and not through the cloud of types and foreshadows.
When the glory of the Lord had filled the Temple, He began to speak directly to Ezekiel. His words were essentially a renewal of His Covenant with His people Israel. This would be of great use for the direction and encouragement of the exiled Jews when they returned from captivity; but it also looks further, to those who are blessed with the privileges of the Gospel-Temple. God, through the prophet, puts His people in mind of their former provocations; it was because of these that they had long lain under the tokens of His displeasure. This conviction is spoken to them in order to make way for the comforts intended for them. They professed to be in covenant with God, and yet they had defiled the place of His throne and of the soles of His feet – that is, His Temple, where He resided and reigned.
But now the Lord calls upon His people to repent and reform. He was returning in mercy to them, and setting up His sanctuary again in the midst of them; so now they must cast away their idols and have no more to do with them. When we see what mercy God has in store for us – notwithstanding our utter unworthiness of it – we will be ashamed to think of our wicked conduct toward Him. The goodness of God to us should lead us to repentance. And then – and not until then – we are qualified for the Lord’s favors, when we are truly humbled for our follies.
The general law of God’s house is laid down in the 12th verse – namely, a law of holiness. Under the Gospel, all believers have the privilege of boldly entering into the Most Holy Place in the spiritual Temple – that is, the place of near access to God. But whereas the Old Testament high priests entered in by the virtue of the blood of bulls and goats, we enter in by the virtue of the blood of Jesus; and wherever we are, we have access to the Father through Him. And the whole Church is under a mighty obligation to press toward the perfection of holiness, in imitation of Him Who has called us. O how very blessed it is when our long-lost, wandering, and sinful souls are brought to a sense of Christ’s fulness and our own insufficiency! O how truly blessed it is to see here that holiness to the Lord is only to be obtained in and by Christ! Precious Jesus! You are the holiness of Your people! In Your light, we shall see light (Ps. 36:9).
Verses 13-27 relate to the altar in this spiritual Temple; and that is spiritual also, for Christ is our Altar! This altar was slightly larger at its base than it was at the top; and it had a “step” some distance up from the ground, and another “step” above that, upon which some of the priests stood to minister and lay the sacrifices upon the altar. Seven days were to be spent in the initial dedication of this altar; and every day, sacrifices were to be offered upon it – particularly a goat for a sin-offering (verse 25), as well as a young bullock for a sin-offering on the first day (verse 19). This teaches us that in all our religious services, we must have an eye to Christ – the great Sin-offering. Neither our persons nor our performances can be acceptable to God, unless sin is taken away; and that cannot be done except by the blood of Jesus. A bullock and a ram were also to be offered for a burnt-offering (verse 24), which was intended purely for the glory of God; and hereby we learn that we must also have this in view in all of our worship.
The dedication of the altar is here called the cleansing and purging of it (verses 20, 26). Christ, our Altar, had no pollution to be cleansed from; yet He sanctified Himself (John 17:19). And when we consecrate the altars of our hearts to God, to have the fire of holy love always burning upon them; we must take care to ensure that they are purified and cleansed from the love of the world and the lusts of the flesh.
Lord, we give thanks that under the Gospel, all believers have the privilege of boldly entering into the Most Holy Place in the spiritual Temple – that is, the place of near access to You (Heb. 10:19). Thank You also that we may enter in by the virtue of Jesus’ blood, and not by the blood of bulls and goats! Amen.
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