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Ezekiel 37, Psalms 87—88
The Valley of Dry Bones
1 The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley;[a] it was full of bones. 2 And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. 3 And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” 4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. 5 Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath[b] to enter you, and you shall live. 6 And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.”
7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling,[c] and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8 And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. 9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.
11 Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. 14 And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.”
I Will Be Their God, They Shall Be My People
15 The word of the Lord came to me: 16 “Son of man, take a stick[d] and write on it, ‘For Judah, and the people of Israel associated with him’; then take another stick and write on it, ‘For Joseph (the stick of Ephraim) and all the house of Israel associated with him.’ 17 And join them one to another into one stick, that they may become one in your hand. 18 And when your people say to you, ‘Will you not tell us what you mean by these?’ 19 say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I am about to take the stick of Joseph (that is in the hand of Ephraim) and the tribes of Israel associated with him. And I will join with it the stick of Judah,[e] and make them one stick, that they may be one in my hand. 20 When the sticks on which you write are in your hand before their eyes, 21 then say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will take the people of Israel from the nations among which they have gone, and will gather them from all around, and bring them to their own land. 22 And I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. And one king shall be king over them all, and they shall be no longer two nations, and no longer divided into two kingdoms. 23 They shall not defile themselves anymore with their idols and their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions. But I will save them from all the backslidings[f] in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.
24 “My servant David shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd. They shall walk in my rules and be careful to obey my statutes. 25 They shall dwell in the land that I gave to my servant Jacob, where your fathers lived. They and their children and their children's children shall dwell there forever, and David my servant shall be their prince forever. 26 I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will set them in their land[g] and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore. 27 My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 28 Then the nations will know that I am the Lord who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is in their midst forevermore.”
Glorious Things of You Are Spoken
A Psalm of the Sons of Korah. A Song.
1 On the holy mount stands the city he founded;
2 the Lord loves the gates of Zion
more than all the dwelling places of Jacob.
3 Glorious things of you are spoken,
O city of God. Selah
4 Among those who know me I mention Rahab and Babylon;
behold, Philistia and Tyre, with Cush[a]—
“This one was born there,” they say.
5 And of Zion it shall be said,
“This one and that one were born in her”;
for the Most High himself will establish her.
6 The Lord records as he registers the peoples,
“This one was born there.” Selah
7 Singers and dancers alike say,
“All my springs are in you.”
I Cry Out Day and Night Before You
A Song. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah. To the choirmaster: according to Mahalath Leannoth. A Maskil[b] of Heman the Ezrahite.
1 O Lord, God of my salvation;
I cry out day and night before you.
2 Let my prayer come before you;
incline your ear to my cry!
3 For my soul is full of troubles,
and my life draws near to Sheol.
4 I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
I am a man who has no strength,
5 like one set loose among the dead,
like the slain that lie in the grave,
like those whom you remember no more,
for they are cut off from your hand.
6 You have put me in the depths of the pit,
in the regions dark and deep.
7 Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
and you overwhelm me with all your waves. Selah
8 You have caused my companions to shun me;
you have made me a horror[c] to them.
I am shut in so that I cannot escape;
9 my eye grows dim through sorrow.
Every day I call upon you, O Lord;
I spread out my hands to you.
10 Do you work wonders for the dead?
Do the departed rise up to praise you? Selah
11 Is your steadfast love declared in the grave,
or your faithfulness in Abaddon?
12 Are your wonders known in the darkness,
or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?
13 But I, O Lord, cry to you;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
14 O Lord, why do you cast my soul away?
Why do you hide your face from me?
15 Afflicted and close to death from my youth up,
I suffer your terrors; I am helpless.[d]
16 Your wrath has swept over me;
your dreadful assaults destroy me.
17 They surround me like a flood all day long;
they close in on me together.
18 You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me;
my companions have become darkness.[e]
Since the announcement of the fall of Jerusalem, Ezekiel has been promising new leadership, a restoration to the land, and moral and spiritual transformation. But just as his earlier announcement of the fall of Jerusalem was met with considerable skepticism, so now his announcement of blessings to come meets with the same. Their nation is shattered, their cities destroyed, and many of their people are scattered abroad, living as exiles in foreign lands. It is hard to detect even a glimmer of hope. They cry, in effect, “Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off” (37:11). In Ezekiel 37, God provides a vision and an object lesson to engender and nurture that hope.
The first is the vision of the valley of dry bones (37:1-14). Ezekiel is shown these “very dry” bones and is asked, “Son of man, can these bones live?” (37:3). The bones represent the Israelites in exile. The northern tribes have been in exile for a century and a half. The exilic community in Babylon where Ezekiel is living has been there a decade. The bones are very dry indeed. First Ezekiel is told to prophesy to the bones. Miraculously, the bones come together and are covered with flesh and skin—but we have moved only from skeletons to corpses. Then Ezekiel is told to prophesy to the “breath”(rûah, which equally means “Spirit” and “wind”). Now the corpses come to life and stand on their feet—“a vast army” (37:10). In other words, although preaching of itself effects some changes, what is required is the sweeping power of the Spirit of God. Within the metaphorical world, this is nothing less than resurrection from the dead (37:12). The meaning of the vision, however, is that God will pour out his Spirit, and the exile will end (37:14).
The second part of the chapter is devoted to the object lesson of the two sticks (37:15-28). The first stick represents Judah; the second represents the northern tribes of Israel. Ezekiel stands for God. As he puts the two sticks together, so God declares that in the promised restoration there will no longer be two kingdoms, but one. “There will be one king over all of them and they will never again be two nations or be divided into two kingdoms” (37:22). Once again, the promise of inner transformation surfaces: “They will no longer defile themselves with their idols and vile images or with any of their offenses, for I will save them from all their sinful backsliding, and I will cleanse them. They will be my people, and I will be their God” (37:23). Most important of all, the promised Messiah will lead them: “My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd” (37:24).
Ezekiel 38, Psalm 89
Prophecy Against Gog
1 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, set your face toward Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech[a] and Tubal, and prophesy against him 3 and say, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech[b] and Tubal. 4 And I will turn you about and put hooks into your jaws, and I will bring you out, and all your army, horses and horsemen, all of them clothed in full armor, a great host, all of them with buckler and shield, wielding swords. 5 Persia, Cush, and Put are with them, all of them with shield and helmet; 6 Gomer and all his hordes; Beth-togarmah from the uttermost parts of the north with all his hordes—many peoples are with you.
7 “Be ready and keep ready, you and all your hosts that are assembled about you, and be a guard for them. 8 After many days you will be mustered. In the latter years you will go against the land that is restored from war, the land whose people were gathered from many peoples upon the mountains of Israel, which had been a continual waste. Its people were brought out from the peoples and now dwell securely, all of them. 9 You will advance, coming on like a storm. You will be like a cloud covering the land, you and all your hordes, and many peoples with you.
10 “Thus says the Lord God: On that day, thoughts will come into your mind, and you will devise an evil scheme 11 and say, ‘I will go up against the land of unwalled villages. I will fall upon the quiet people who dwell securely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having no bars or gates,’ 12 to seize spoil and carry off plunder, to turn your hand against the waste places that are now inhabited, and the people who were gathered from the nations, who have acquired livestock and goods, who dwell at the center of the earth. 13 Sheba and Dedan and the merchants of Tarshish and all its leaders[c] will say to you, ‘Have you come to seize spoil? Have you assembled your hosts to carry off plunder, to carry away silver and gold, to take away livestock and goods, to seize great spoil?’
14 “Therefore, son of man, prophesy, and say to Gog, Thus says the Lord God: On that day when my people Israel are dwelling securely, will you not know it? 15 You will come from your place out of the uttermost parts of the north, you and many peoples with you, all of them riding on horses, a great host, a mighty army. 16 You will come up against my people Israel, like a cloud covering the land. In the latter days I will bring you against my land, that the nations may know me, when through you, O Gog, I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.
17 “Thus says the Lord God: Are you he of whom I spoke in former days by my servants the prophets of Israel, who in those days prophesied for years that I would bring you against them? 18 But on that day, the day that Gog shall come against the land of Israel, declares the Lord God, my wrath will be roused in my anger. 19 For in my jealousy and in my blazing wrath I declare, On that day there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel. 20 The fish of the sea and the birds of the heavens and the beasts of the field and all creeping things that creep on the ground, and all the people who are on the face of the earth, shall quake at my presence. And the mountains shall be thrown down, and the cliffs shall fall, and every wall shall tumble to the ground. 21 I will summon a sword against Gog[d] on all my mountains, declares the Lord God. Every man's sword will be against his brother. 22 With pestilence and bloodshed I will enter into judgment with him, and I will rain upon him and his hordes and the many peoples who are with him torrential rains and hailstones, fire and sulfur. 23 So I will show my greatness and my holiness and make myself known in the eyes of many nations. Then they will know that I am the Lord.
I Will Sing of the Steadfast Love of the Lord
A Maskil[a] of Ethan the Ezrahite.
1 I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever;
with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations.
2 For I said, “Steadfast love will be built up forever;
in the heavens you will establish your faithfulness.”
3 You have said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one;
I have sworn to David my servant:
4 ‘I will establish your offspring forever,
and build your throne for all generations.’” Selah
5 Let the heavens praise your wonders, O Lord,
your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones!
6 For who in the skies can be compared to the Lord?
Who among the heavenly beings[b] is like the Lord,
7 a God greatly to be feared in the council of the holy ones,
and awesome above all who are around him?
8 O Lord God of hosts,
who is mighty as you are, O Lord,
with your faithfulness all around you?
9 You rule the raging of the sea;
when its waves rise, you still them.
10 You crushed Rahab like a carcass;
you scattered your enemies with your mighty arm.
11 The heavens are yours; the earth also is yours;
the world and all that is in it, you have founded them.
12 The north and the south, you have created them;
Tabor and Hermon joyously praise your name.
13 You have a mighty arm;
strong is your hand, high your right hand.
14 Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne;
steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.
15 Blessed are the people who know the festal shout,
who walk, O Lord, in the light of your face,
16 who exult in your name all the day
and in your righteousness are exalted.
17 For you are the glory of their strength;
by your favor our horn is exalted.
18 For our shield belongs to the Lord,
our king to the Holy One of Israel.
19 Of old you spoke in a vision to your godly one,[c] and said:
“I have granted help to one who is mighty;
I have exalted one chosen from the people.
20 I have found David, my servant;
with my holy oil I have anointed him,
21 so that my hand shall be established with him;
my arm also shall strengthen him.
22 The enemy shall not outwit him;
the wicked shall not humble him.
23 I will crush his foes before him
and strike down those who hate him.
24 My faithfulness and my steadfast love shall be with him,
and in my name shall his horn be exalted.
25 I will set his hand on the sea
and his right hand on the rivers.
26 He shall cry to me, ‘You are my Father,
my God, and the Rock of my salvation.’
27 And I will make him the firstborn,
the highest of the kings of the earth.
28 My steadfast love I will keep for him forever,
and my covenant will stand firm[d] for him.
29 I will establish his offspring forever
and his throne as the days of the heavens.
30 If his children forsake my law
and do not walk according to my rules,[e]
31 if they violate my statutes
and do not keep my commandments,
32 then I will punish their transgression with the rod
and their iniquity with stripes,
33 but I will not remove from him my steadfast love
or be false to my faithfulness.
34 I will not violate my covenant
or alter the word that went forth from my lips.
35 Once for all I have sworn by my holiness;
I will not lie to David.
36 His offspring shall endure forever,
his throne as long as the sun before me.
37 Like the moon it shall be established forever,
a faithful witness in the skies.” Selah
38 But now you have cast off and rejected;
you are full of wrath against your anointed.
39 You have renounced the covenant with your servant;
you have defiled his crown in the dust.
40 You have breached all his walls;
you have laid his strongholds in ruins.
41 All who pass by plunder him;
he has become the scorn of his neighbors.
42 You have exalted the right hand of his foes;
you have made all his enemies rejoice.
43 You have also turned back the edge of his sword,
and you have not made him stand in battle.
44 You have made his splendor to cease
and cast his throne to the ground.
45 You have cut short the days of his youth;
you have covered him with shame. Selah
46 How long, O Lord? Will you hide yourself forever?
How long will your wrath burn like fire?
47 Remember how short my time is!
For what vanity you have created all the children of man!
48 What man can live and never see death?
Who can deliver his soul from the power of Sheol? Selah
49 Lord, where is your steadfast love of old,
which by your faithfulness you swore to David?
50 Remember, O Lord, how your servants are mocked,
and how I bear in my heart the insults[f] of all the many nations,
51 with which your enemies mock, O Lord,
with which they mock the footsteps of your anointed.
52 Blessed be the Lord forever!
Amen and Amen.
CHAPTERS 38—39 OF EZEKIEL are among the most difficult chapters in the entire book. In many ways they stand apart from what comes before and after. Perhaps the simplest explanation is the following. Chapters 40—48 are so much later than most of the book (the twenty-fifth year of exile, 40:1) that they are almost like an appendix to the rest of the visions and oracles. If so, then chapters 38—39 must be seen as a conclusion to the preceding thirty-seven chapters, but not necessarily as a bridge to chapters 40—48. Precisely how this prophecy against Gog serves as a conclusion to all that comes before it in Ezekiel depends very much on how these two chapters are interpreted. Even to catalog the possibilities would turn these brief meditations into a commentary, so I must largely restrict myself to some tentative conclusions.
It cannot have escaped notice that in several previous chapters I chose not to comment on certain sections. In part this was nothing more than selectivity based on my restricted space. But in part these passages belong to the same genus, and can usefully be thought about together. For instance, 37:25-28 anticipates the time when Israel, under God’s servant David, will live in the land “forever,” and “David my servant will be their prince forever.” God’s “sanctuary is among them forever.” Such language must either be taken at face value—a temple in Jerusalem, with a Davidic king, the throne and temple enduring forever—or it points beyond itself. For reasons that will become clearer, I am inclined to think that these and similar prophecies look forward to the glorious messianic future, but are largely cast in terms of the familiar categories of the old covenant. These same categories, the New Testament writers insist, have a predictive function fulfilled in Jesus the son of David and all that he brings.
Along similar lines, Ezekiel 38 begins by denouncing “Gog, chief prince of Meschech and Tubal” (38:3). The suggestion that these names refer to Moscow and Tobolsk is without linguistic merit. The pair of names appears elsewhere (Gen. 10:2; 1 Chron. 1:5; Ezek. 27:13; 32:26) and refers to the known tribes of Moschoi and Tibarenoi. Gog is perhaps to be identified with Gyges, king of Lydia (called Gûgu in some ancient records). More importantly, this anticipated horde of opponents to God’s people comes from the “far north” (38:6)—which is the direction from which the worst of Israel’s foes always came. The chapter ends in apocalyptic imagery (38:18-23)—which begins to make the scene feel like an idealized and final outbreak against the people of God, in which God vindicates his name and his cause. Thus all previous outbreaks anticipate, and are concluded by, this final apocalyptic struggle.
Ezekiel 39, Psalm 90
1 “And you, son of man, prophesy against Gog and say, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech[a] and Tubal. 2 And I will turn you about and drive you forward, and bring you up from the uttermost parts of the north, and lead you against the mountains of Israel. 3 Then I will strike your bow from your left hand, and will make your arrows drop out of your right hand. 4 You shall fall on the mountains of Israel, you and all your hordes and the peoples who are with you. I will give you to birds of prey of every sort and to the beasts of the field to be devoured. 5 You shall fall in the open field, for I have spoken, declares the Lord God. 6 I will send fire on Magog and on those who dwell securely in the coastlands, and they shall know that I am the Lord.
7 “And my holy name I will make known in the midst of my people Israel, and I will not let my holy name be profaned anymore. And the nations shall know that I am the Lord, the Holy One in Israel. 8 Behold, it is coming and it will be brought about, declares the Lord God. That is the day of which I have spoken.
9 “Then those who dwell in the cities of Israel will go out and make fires of the weapons and burn them, shields and bucklers, bow and arrows, clubs[b] and spears; and they will make fires of them for seven years, 10 so that they will not need to take wood out of the field or cut down any out of the forests, for they will make their fires of the weapons. They will seize the spoil of those who despoiled them, and plunder those who plundered them, declares the Lord God.
11 “On that day I will give to Gog a place for burial in Israel, the Valley of the Travelers, east of the sea. It will block the travelers, for there Gog and all his multitude will be buried. It will be called the Valley of Hamon-gog.[c] 12 For seven months the house of Israel will be burying them, in order to cleanse the land. 13 All the people of the land will bury them, and it will bring them renown on the day that I show my glory, declares the Lord God. 14 They will set apart men to travel through the land regularly and bury those travelers remaining on the face of the land, so as to cleanse it. At[d] the end of seven months they will make their search. 15 And when these travel through the land and anyone sees a human bone, then he shall set up a sign by it, till the buriers have buried it in the Valley of Hamon-gog. 16 (Hamonah[e] is also the name of the city.) Thus shall they cleanse the land.
17 “As for you, son of man, thus says the Lord God: Speak to the birds of every sort and to all beasts of the field, ‘Assemble and come, gather from all around to the sacrificial feast that I am preparing for you, a great sacrificial feast on the mountains of Israel, and you shall eat flesh and drink blood. 18 You shall eat the flesh of the mighty, and drink the blood of the princes of the earth—of rams, of lambs, and of he-goats, of bulls, all of them fat beasts of Bashan. 19 And you shall eat fat till you are filled, and drink blood till you are drunk, at the sacrificial feast that I am preparing for you. 20 And you shall be filled at my table with horses and charioteers, with mighty men and all kinds of warriors,’ declares the Lord God.
21 “And I will set my glory among the nations, and all the nations shall see my judgment that I have executed, and my hand that I have laid on them. 22 The house of Israel shall know that I am the Lord their God, from that day forward. 23 And the nations shall know that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity, because they dealt so treacherously with me that I hid my face from them and gave them into the hand of their adversaries, and they all fell by the sword. 24 I dealt with them according to their uncleanness and their transgressions, and hid my face from them.
The Lord Will Restore Israel
25 “Therefore thus says the Lord God: Now I will restore the fortunes of Jacob and have mercy on the whole house of Israel, and I will be jealous for my holy name. 26 They shall forget their shame and all the treachery they have practiced against me, when they dwell securely in their land with none to make them afraid, 27 when I have brought them back from the peoples and gathered them from their enemies' lands, and through them have vindicated my holiness in the sight of many nations. 28 Then they shall know that I am the Lord their God, because I sent them into exile among the nations and then assembled them into their own land. I will leave none of them remaining among the nations anymore. 29 And I will not hide my face anymore from them, when I pour out my Spirit upon the house of Israel, declares the Lord God.”
From Everlasting to Everlasting
A Prayer of Moses, the man of God.
1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place[a]
in all generations.
2 Before the mountains were brought forth,
or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
3 You return man to dust
and say, “Return, O children of man!”[b]
4 For a thousand years in your sight
are but as yesterday when it is past,
or as a watch in the night.
5 You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream,
like grass that is renewed in the morning:
6 in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;
in the evening it fades and withers.
7 For we are brought to an end by your anger;
by your wrath we are dismayed.
8 You have set our iniquities before you,
our secret sins in the light of your presence.
9 For all our days pass away under your wrath;
we bring our years to an end like a sigh.
10 The years of our life are seventy,
or even by reason of strength eighty;
yet their span[c] is but toil and trouble;
they are soon gone, and we fly away.
11 Who considers the power of your anger,
and your wrath according to the fear of you?
12 So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.
13 Return, O Lord! How long?
Have pity on your servants!
14 Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
and for as many years as we have seen evil.
16 Let your work be shown to your servants,
and your glorious power to their children.
17 Let the favor[d] of the Lord our God be upon us,
and establish the work of our hands upon us;
yes, establish the work of our hands!
Ezekiel 38 begins the oracle against Gog; Ezekiel 39 continues it. Here Gog’s overthrow is narrated again, but in different terms. This is typical of Hebrew semi-poetry. We are not dealing with a separate account of the same thing, which has somehow been stitched onto the first account. Hebrew rhetoric loves to loop around and enlarge on previous statements, even if this conflicts with our Western sense of sequence. Two observations:
(1) There are plenty of hints that these two chapters have moved from a literal or largely prosaic description of battle to the apocalyptic description of the ultimate battle. This does not mean that the ultimate battle is not real. It means that its shape and details cannot be read off the surface of the text. The war implements are the implements of Ezekiel’s time (“shields, the bows and arrows, the war clubs and spears,” 39:9)—but this battle certainly did not take place in any literal sense in Ezekiel’s time, and if it were taking place at the end of history these would not be the instruments of war. Typical of apocalyptic literature, we now have nicely stylized periods of time: seven years (39:9), seven months (39:12, 14). The triumphant Israelites witness the birds and wild animals eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the mighty men and princes of the earth, who are sacrificed like rams and lambs, goats and bulls (39:17-19). To say that this is merely an evocative way of saying that the opponents will all be defeated is to concede my point: the language is visceral and symbol-laden, and one must proceed with care.
(2) It is God himself who sovereignly brings Gog and his might from the “far north” (39:2) to lead them to destruction. This is both like and unlike an important theme in the major prophets that we have already noticed. The prophets keep saying that the mighty powers (Assyria, Babylon) that chasten Israel and Judah do so under God’s powerful sway, even though they are held accountable for their brutality (e.g., Isa. 10:5ff.). The picture here affirms God’s sovereignty over these pagan nations, but now he is not using them to chasten the covenant community but to bring them to their own destruction. The biblical book with this theme most clearly worked out is Revelation. Believers are to take encouragement from the fact that even in this world of horrible cruelty and injustice, God will ultimately bring the perverse to final judgment. Justice will not only be done but will be seen to be done. So we do not lose heart. We cherish and nurture the apocalyptic vision, not because it is a prosaic roadmap of impending history, but because it signals the ultimate triumph of God.
Ezekiel 40, Psalm 91
Vision of the New Temple
1 In the twenty-fifth year of our exile, at the beginning of the year, on the tenth day of the month, in the fourteenth year after the city was struck down, on that very day, the hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me to the city.[a] 2 In visions of God he brought me to the land of Israel, and set me down on a very high mountain, on which was a structure like a city to the south. 3 When he brought me there, behold, there was a man whose appearance was like bronze, with a linen cord and a measuring reed in his hand. And he was standing in the gateway. 4 And the man said to me, “Son of man, look with your eyes, and hear with your ears, and set your heart upon all that I shall show you, for you were brought here in order that I might show it to you. Declare all that you see to the house of Israel.”
The East Gate to the Outer Court
5 And behold, there was a wall all around the outside of the temple area, and the length of the measuring reed in the man's hand was six long cubits, each being a cubit and a handbreadth[b] in length. So he measured the thickness of the wall, one reed; and the height, one reed. 6 Then he went into the gateway facing east, going up its steps, and measured the threshold of the gate, one reed deep.[c] 7 And the side rooms, one reed long and one reed broad; and the space between the side rooms, five cubits; and the threshold of the gate by the vestibule of the gate at the inner end, one reed. 8 Then he measured the vestibule of the gateway, on the inside, one reed. 9 Then he measured the vestibule of the gateway, eight cubits; and its jambs, two cubits; and the vestibule of the gate was at the inner end. 10 And there were three side rooms on either side of the east gate. The three were of the same size, and the jambs on either side were of the same size. 11 Then he measured the width of the opening of the gateway, ten cubits; and the length of the gateway, thirteen cubits. 12 There was a barrier before the side rooms, one cubit on either side. And the side rooms were six cubits on either side. 13 Then he measured the gate from the ceiling of the one side room to the ceiling of the other, a breadth of twenty-five cubits; the openings faced each other. 14 He measured also the vestibule, twenty cubits. And around the vestibule of the gateway was the court.[d] 15 From the front of the gate at the entrance to the front of the inner vestibule of the gate was fifty cubits. 16 And the gateway had windows all around, narrowing inwards toward the side rooms and toward their jambs, and likewise the vestibule had windows all around inside, and on the jambs were palm trees.
The Outer Court
17 Then he brought me into the outer court. And behold, there were chambers and a pavement, all around the court. Thirty chambers faced the pavement. 18 And the pavement ran along the side of the gates, corresponding to the length of the gates. This was the lower pavement. 19 Then he measured the distance from the inner front of the lower gate to the outer front of the inner court,[e] a hundred cubits on the east side and on the north side.[f]
The North Gate
20 As for the gate that faced toward the north, belonging to the outer court, he measured its length and its breadth. 21 Its side rooms, three on either side, and its jambs and its vestibule were of the same size as those of the first gate. Its length was fifty cubits, and its breadth twenty-five cubits. 22 And its windows, its vestibule, and its palm trees were of the same size as those of the gate that faced toward the east. And by seven steps people would go up to it, and find its vestibule before them. 23 And opposite the gate on the north, as on the east, was a gate to the inner court. And he measured from gate to gate, a hundred cubits.
The South Gate
24 And he led me toward the south, and behold, there was a gate on the south. And he measured its jambs and its vestibule; they had the same size as the others. 25 Both it and its vestibule had windows all around, like the windows of the others. Its length was fifty cubits, and its breadth twenty-five cubits. 26 And there were seven steps leading up to it, and its vestibule was before them, and it had palm trees on its jambs, one on either side. 27 And there was a gate on the south of the inner court. And he measured from gate to gate toward the south, a hundred cubits.
The Inner Court
28 Then he brought me to the inner court through the south gate, and he measured the south gate. It was of the same size as the others. 29 Its side rooms, its jambs, and its vestibule were of the same size as the others, and both it and its vestibule had windows all around. Its length was fifty cubits, and its breadth twenty-five cubits. 30 And there were vestibules all around, twenty-five cubits long and five cubits broad. 31 Its vestibule faced the outer court, and palm trees were on its jambs, and its stairway had eight steps.
32 Then he brought me to the inner court on the east side, and he measured the gate. It was of the same size as the others. 33 Its side rooms, its jambs, and its vestibule were of the same size as the others, and both it and its vestibule had windows all around. Its length was fifty cubits, and its breadth twenty-five cubits. 34 Its vestibule faced the outer court, and it had palm trees on its jambs, on either side, and its stairway had eight steps.
35 Then he brought me to the north gate, and he measured it. It had the same size as the others. 36 Its side rooms, its jambs, and its vestibule were of the same size as the others,[g] and it had windows all around. Its length was fifty cubits, and its breadth twenty-five cubits. 37 Its vestibule[h] faced the outer court, and it had palm trees on its jambs, on either side, and its stairway had eight steps.
38 There was a chamber with its door in the vestibule of the gate,[i] where the burnt offering was to be washed. 39 And in the vestibule of the gate were two tables on either side, on which the burnt offering and the sin offering and the guilt offering were to be slaughtered. 40 And off to the side, on the outside as one goes up to the entrance of the north gate, were two tables; and off to the other side of the vestibule of the gate were two tables. 41 Four tables were on either side of the gate, eight tables, on which to slaughter. 42 And there were four tables of hewn stone for the burnt offering, a cubit and a half long, and a cubit and a half broad, and one cubit high, on which the instruments were to be laid with which the burnt offerings and the sacrifices were slaughtered. 43 And hooks,[j] a handbreadth long, were fastened all around within. And on the tables the flesh of the offering was to be laid.
Chambers for the Priests
44 On the outside of the inner gateway there were two chambers[k] in the inner court, one[l] at the side of the north gate facing south, the other at the side of the south[m] gate facing north. 45 And he said to me, “This chamber that faces south is for the priests who have charge of the temple, 46 and the chamber that faces north is for the priests who have charge of the altar. These are the sons of Zadok, who alone[n] among the sons of Levi may come near to the Lord to minister to him.” 47 And he measured the court, a hundred cubits long and a hundred cubits broad, a square. And the altar was in front of the temple.
The Vestibule of the Temple
48 Then he brought me to the vestibule of the temple and measured the jambs of the vestibule, five cubits on either side. And the breadth of the gate was fourteen cubits, and the sidewalls of the gate[o] were three cubits on either side. 49 The length of the vestibule was twenty cubits, and the breadth twelve[p] cubits, and people would go up to it by ten steps.[q] And there were pillars beside the jambs, one on either side.
My Refuge and My Fortress
1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say[a] to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
3 For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
5 You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
8 You will only look with your eyes
and see the recompense of the wicked.
9 Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—
the Most High, who is my refuge[b]—
10 no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
no plague come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
12 On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the adder;
the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.
14 “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows my name.
15 When he calls to me, I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”
Apart from Ezekiel 29:17-21, the nine chapters before us, Ezekiel 40—48, take place later than the other visions and oracles that constitute the book. As the book began with a vision, so now it ends with one. Although this vision is sufficiently cut off from the rest of the book that some have labeled it an appendix, nevertheless there are some dramatic connections. In the vision of 8:1—11:25 Ezekiel saw the glory of God abandon the temple; now he witnesses the glory returning and filling the new temple (43:5). In the years following the catastrophic sack of Jerusalem Ezekiel has been comforting the people by the promise of a return to the land and to God; in some ways this vision of a temple must have lent encouragement and hope.
But that does not make this vision an easy one to understand. Today I shall lay out, rather superficially, the flow of thought not only in Ezekiel 40 but through these nine chapters. Tomorrow I shall lay out four principal lines of interpretation, and indicate the one I think is closest to what this Scripture says.
In the twenty-fifth year of his exile (by which time he was about fifty), Ezekiel in a visionary experience is transported to “a very high mountain” (40:2) near what turns out to be the holy city. Probably Mount Zion is intended. An angelic figure gives him a tour around the temple area, measuring everything as he goes. He begins with a detailed study of the east gate to the outer court (40:6-16). This is followed rapidly by the outer court itself, two other gates to the outer court (north and south), then gates to the inner court (40:17-37). There are no gates on the west, because the temple itself is situated there. After a brief tour of the sacrificial equipment and of the rooms reserved for the sacrificing priests (40:38-47), Ezekiel is given a fairly detailed description of the temple (40:48—41:26), followed by a survey of the temple area with special attention devoted to the rooms for the priests (42:1-20). The glory of God enters the temple, and Ezekiel is told what he must do with this information (43:1-12). The rest of chapter 43 deals with the altar of sacrifice and how it is to be used (43:13-27). Chapters 44 and 45 give regulations for the ordering of the temple (not least with respect to Levites and Zadokites), and then with the distribution of land around the temple. More ritual regulations follow (45:18—46:24). Ezekiel 47:1-12 describes a flow of water from the sanctuary bringing life to the barren Dead Sea valley. The rest of the vision divides up the land for the twelve tribes and specifies the gates of the city.
Ezekiel 41, Psalms 92—93
The Inner Temple
1 Then he brought me to the nave and measured the jambs. On each side six cubits[a] was the breadth of the jambs.[b] 2 And the breadth of the entrance was ten cubits, and the sidewalls of the entrance were five cubits on either side. And he measured the length of the nave,[c] forty cubits, and its breadth, twenty cubits. 3 Then he went into the inner room and measured the jambs of the entrance, two cubits; and the entrance, six cubits; and the sidewalls on either side[d] of the entrance, seven cubits. 4 And he measured the length of the room, twenty cubits, and its breadth, twenty cubits, across the nave. And he said to me, “This is the Most Holy Place.”
5 Then he measured the wall of the temple, six cubits thick, and the breadth of the side chambers, four cubits, all around the temple. 6 And the side chambers were in three stories, one over another, thirty in each story. There were offsets[e] all around the wall of the temple to serve as supports for the side chambers, so that they should not be supported by the wall of the temple. 7 And it became broader as it wound upward to the side chambers, because the temple was enclosed upward all around the temple. Thus the temple had a broad area upward, and so one went up from the lowest story to the top story through the middle story. 8 I saw also that the temple had a raised platform all around; the foundations of the side chambers measured a full reed of six long cubits. 9 The thickness of the outer wall of the side chambers was five cubits. The free space between the side chambers of the temple and the 10 other chambers was a breadth of twenty cubits all around the temple on every side. 11 And the doors of the side chambers opened on the free space, one door toward the north, and another door toward the south. And the breadth of the free space was five cubits all around.
12 The building that was facing the separate yard on the west side was seventy cubits broad, and the wall of the building was five cubits thick all around, and its length ninety cubits.
13 Then he measured the temple, a hundred cubits long; and the yard and the building with its walls, a hundred cubits long; 14 also the breadth of the east front of the temple and the yard, a hundred cubits.
15 Then he measured the length of the building facing the yard that was at the back and its galleries[f] on either side, a hundred cubits.
The inside of the nave and the vestibules of the court, 16 the thresholds and the narrow windows and the galleries all around the three of them, opposite the threshold, were paneled with wood all around, from the floor up to the windows (now the windows were covered), 17 to the space above the door, even to the inner room, and on the outside. And on all the walls all around, inside and outside, was a measured pattern.[g] 18 It was carved of cherubim and palm trees, a palm tree between cherub and cherub. Every cherub had two faces: 19 a human face toward the palm tree on the one side, and the face of a young lion toward the palm tree on the other side. They were carved on the whole temple all around. 20 From the floor to above the door, cherubim and palm trees were carved; similarly the wall of the nave.
21 The doorposts of the nave were squared, and in front of the Holy Place was something resembling 22 an altar of wood, three cubits high, two cubits long, and two cubits broad.[h] Its corners, its base,[i] and its walls were of wood. He said to me, “This is the table that is before the Lord.” 23 The nave and the Holy Place had each a double door. 24 The double doors had two leaves apiece, two swinging leaves for each door. 25 And on the doors of the nave were carved cherubim and palm trees, such as were carved on the walls. And there was a canopy[j] of wood in front of the vestibule outside. 26 And there were narrow windows and palm trees on either side, on the sidewalls of the vestibule, the side chambers of the temple, and the canopies.
How Great Are Your Works
A Psalm. A Song for the Sabbath.
1 It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
2 to declare your steadfast love in the morning,
and your faithfulness by night,
3 to the music of the lute and the harp,
to the melody of the lyre.
4 For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work;
at the works of your hands I sing for joy.
5 How great are your works, O Lord!
Your thoughts are very deep!
6 The stupid man cannot know;
the fool cannot understand this:
7 that though the wicked sprout like grass
and all evildoers flourish,
they are doomed to destruction forever;
8 but you, O Lord, are on high forever.
9 For behold, your enemies, O Lord,
for behold, your enemies shall perish;
all evildoers shall be scattered.
10 But you have exalted my horn like that of the wild ox;
you have poured over me[a] fresh oil.
11 My eyes have seen the downfall of my enemies;
my ears have heard the doom of my evil assailants.
12 The righteous flourish like the palm tree
and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
13 They are planted in the house of the Lord;
they flourish in the courts of our God.
14 They still bear fruit in old age;
they are ever full of sap and green,
15 to declare that the Lord is upright;
he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.
The Lord Reigns
1 The Lord reigns; he is robed in majesty;
the Lord is robed; he has put on strength as his belt.
Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.
2 Your throne is established from of old;
you are from everlasting.
3 The floods have lifted up, O Lord,
the floods have lifted up their voice;
the floods lift up their roaring.
4 Mightier than the thunders of many waters,
mightier than the waves of the sea,
the Lord on high is mighty!
5 Your decrees are very trustworthy;
holiness befits your house,
O Lord, forevermore.
Although Ezekiel 41 (or, more precisely, 40:48—41:26) is devoted to the description of the temple within the great vision of chapters 40—48, I shall focus attention here on how this chapter, indeed all nine of these chapters, should be interpreted. I shall survey two of the more important options here, and two more tomorrow.
(1) Some hold that this is Ezekiel’s vision of what should in fact be built once the exile has ended and some of the people return to the land. In that case chapter 41 provides specifications for the building. The strength of this view is that it follows up on the many passages in this book telling that the exile will end. Nevertheless one has to say that, read as building specs, this chapter is pretty thin (much less detailed, for instance, than the specifications either for the tabernacle or for the Solomonic temple). Moreover, chapter 41 must be read within the framework of chapters 40—48, and as we shall see, there are numerous features that cannot be taken literally. Certainly there is little evidence that those who built the second temple thought they were bound to follow Ezekiel’s guidelines.
(2) The mid-twentieth-century form of dispensationalism argued for a similar literalism, but held that the construction of the temple and the return of blood sacrifices and Levitical and Zadokite priesthood will take place in the millennium. The sacrifices would look back to the sacrifice of Christ in the same way that the Old Testament sacrifices looked forward. But it is very difficult to square this view with the theology of Hebrews. Moreover, there are many hints that these chapters should not be taken literally. The division of land (chaps. 47—48) is all but impossible for anyone who has seen the terrain. The impossible source and course of the river (47:1-12) strains credulity—and in any case both the temple and the river of life are given quite different interpretations in Revelation, the last book of the Bible. With the best will in the world it is difficult to see how the prescribed tribal purity of Levitical and Zadokite lines could be restored. Intervening records have been lost, so that no one could prove his descent from Aaron. Presumably a dispensationalist could argue that God could reveal the necessary information. But the point is that the tribes have been so mixed up across the centuries that they cannot be unscrambled. The problem is not one of information, but of mixed lines. Thus this interpretation, precisely because it deals with something at the end of time when the tribal lines are no longer differentiable, is even less credible than the previous one.
How, then, shall we interpret these chapters?
Ezekiel 42, Psalm 94
The Temple's Chambers
1 Then he led me out into the outer court, toward the north, and he brought me to the chambers that were opposite the separate yard and opposite the building on the north. 2 The length of the building whose door faced north was a hundred cubits,[a] and the breadth fifty cubits. 3 Facing the twenty cubits that belonged to the inner court, and facing the pavement that belonged to the outer court, was gallery[b] against gallery in three stories. 4 And before the chambers was a passage inward, ten cubits wide and a hundred cubits long,[c] and their doors were on the north. 5 Now the upper chambers were narrower, for the galleries took more away from them than from the lower and middle chambers of the building. 6 For they were in three stories, and they had no pillars like the pillars of the courts. Thus the upper chambers were set back from the ground more than the lower and the middle ones. 7 And there was a wall outside parallel to the chambers, toward the outer court, opposite the chambers, fifty cubits long. 8 For the chambers on the outer court were fifty cubits long, while those opposite the nave[d] were a hundred cubits long. 9 Below these chambers was an entrance on the east side, as one enters them from the outer court.
10 In the thickness of the wall of the court, on the south[e] also, opposite the yard and opposite the building, there were chambers 11 with a passage in front of them. They were similar to the chambers on the north, of the same length and breadth, with the same exits[f] and arrangements and doors, 12 as were the entrances of the chambers on the south. There was an entrance at the beginning of the passage, the passage before the corresponding wall on the east as one enters them.[g]
13 Then he said to me, “The north chambers and the south chambers opposite the yard are the holy chambers, where the priests who approach the Lord shall eat the most holy offerings. There they shall put the most holy offerings—the grain offering, the sin offering, and the guilt offering—for the place is holy. 14 When the priests enter the Holy Place, they shall not go out of it into the outer court without laying there the garments in which they minister, for these are holy. They shall put on other garments before they go near to that which is for the people.”
15 Now when he had finished measuring the interior of the temple area, he led me out by the gate that faced east, and measured the temple area all around. 16 He measured the east side with the measuring reed, 500 cubits by the measuring reed all around. 17 He measured the north side, 500 cubits by the measuring reed all around. 18 He measured the south side, 500 cubits by the measuring reed. 19 Then he turned to the west side and measured, 500 cubits by the measuring reed. 20 He measured it on the four sides. It had a wall around it, 500 cubits long and 500 cubits broad, to make a separation between the holy and the common.
The Lord Will Not Forsake His People
1 O Lord, God of vengeance,
O God of vengeance, shine forth!
2 Rise up, O judge of the earth;
repay to the proud what they deserve!
3 O Lord, how long shall the wicked,
how long shall the wicked exult?
4 They pour out their arrogant words;
all the evildoers boast.
5 They crush your people, O Lord,
and afflict your heritage.
6 They kill the widow and the sojourner,
and murder the fatherless;
7 and they say, “The Lord does not see;
the God of Jacob does not perceive.”
8 Understand, O dullest of the people!
Fools, when will you be wise?
9 He who planted the ear, does he not hear?
He who formed the eye, does he not see?
10 He who disciplines the nations, does he not rebuke?
He who teaches man knowledge—
11 the Lord—knows the thoughts of man,
that they are but a breath.[a]
12 Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O Lord,
and whom you teach out of your law,
13 to give him rest from days of trouble,
until a pit is dug for the wicked.
14 For the Lord will not forsake his people;
he will not abandon his heritage;
15 for justice will return to the righteous,
and all the upright in heart will follow it.
16 Who rises up for me against the wicked?
Who stands up for me against evildoers?
17 If the Lord had not been my help,
my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence.
18 When I thought, “My foot slips,”
your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up.
19 When the cares of my heart are many,
your consolations cheer my soul.
20 Can wicked rulers be allied with you,
those who frame injustice by statute?
21 They band together against the life of the righteous
and condemn the innocent to death.[b]
22 But the Lord has become my stronghold,
and my God the rock of my refuge.
23 He will bring back on them their iniquity
and wipe them out for their wickedness;
the Lord our God will wipe them out.
The Description of the temple (Ezek. 41) is followed by a description of rooms reserved for priests (Ezek. 42). But I shall press yesterday’s discussion a little farther and briefly discuss two more of the ways these chapters have been interpreted.
(3) Many older commentators argued that chapters 40—48 are straightforward symbols of what is fulfilled in the Christian church. There is some truth to this view. It is given impetus when one observes, for instance, that John’s vision of the holy city in Revelation is drawn in substantial part from the language of Ezekiel. But the same passages in Revelation spell the weakness of this interpretation. When John uses the language of Ezekiel (or of Daniel or some other Old Testament writer), he regularly transmutes it, or picks up its words and phrases without putting it to exactly the same use. Although John’s description of the holy city leans heavily on Ezekiel, John’s city has no temple, for the Lord God and the Lamb are its temple (Rev. 21:1—22:5). In that sense, Revelation is not a direct and immediate fulfillment of a string of symbols.
(4) It is better, but messier, to take these chapters as belonging to the borderlands of apocalyptic literature and typology. The symbolism includes numerical features; its future-orientation springs not from mere verbal prediction or simplistic symbolism, but from structures of patterns and events that point forward. We have already glimpsed this sort of thing in chapters 38—39, depicting the final battle, when God sovereignly moves to destroy all his foes. Read this way, chapters 40—48 envisage the messianic future, but in the symbolic categories of Ezekiel’s present. The temple is a kind of enactment or incarnation of the presence and blessing of God in the age for which pious Israelites yearned. On this view, the theological themes and pastoral comforts of these chapters include: (a) God’s presence remains continuously as the fount of all blessing. (b) God’s people are perfectly restored, the perfection of his plan and of their experience bound up with the perfection of symmetry in the building. (c) Because God is perfectly present, fullness of life and fruitfulness flow from God’s presence to all the barren places of the earth. This is a transformed universe. (d) The worship of God is central, and undertaken exactly as God demands. (e) Justice and righteousness are the order of the day, seen in the perfect allotment of land and responsibilities.
If this is largely right, the ultimate hope lies at the very end of history—but that end has already invaded history itself, in these last days. The consummation is not yet, but the kingdom has dawned.
Ezekiel 43, Psalms 95—96
The Glory of the Lord Fills the Temple
1 Then he led me to the gate, the gate facing east. 2 And behold, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the east. And the sound of his coming was like the sound of many waters, and the earth shone with his glory. 3 And the vision I saw was just like the vision that I had seen when he[a] came to destroy the city, and just like the vision that I had seen by the Chebar canal. And I fell on my face. 4 As the glory of the Lord entered the temple by the gate facing east, 5 the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court; and behold, the glory of the Lord filled the temple.
6 While the man was standing beside me, I heard one speaking to me out of the temple, 7 and he said to me, “Son of man, this is the place of my throne and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the people of Israel forever. And the house of Israel shall no more defile my holy name, neither they, nor their kings, by their whoring and by the dead bodies[b] of their kings at their high places,[c] 8 by setting their threshold by my threshold and their doorposts beside my doorposts, with only a wall between me and them. They have defiled my holy name by their abominations that they have committed, so I have consumed them in my anger. 9 Now let them put away their whoring and the dead bodies of their kings far from me, and I will dwell in their midst forever.
10 “As for you, son of man, describe to the house of Israel the temple, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and they shall measure the plan. 11 And if they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the design of the temple, its arrangement, its exits and its entrances, that is, its whole design; and make known to them as well all its statutes and its whole design and all its laws, and write it down in their sight, so that they may observe all its laws and all its statutes and carry them out. 12 This is the law of the temple: the whole territory on the top of the mountain all around shall be most holy. Behold, this is the law of the temple.
13 “These are the measurements of the altar by cubits (the cubit being a cubit and a handbreadth):[d] its base shall be one cubit high[e] and one cubit broad, with a rim of one span[f] around its edge. And this shall be the height of the altar: 14 from the base on the ground to the lower ledge, two cubits, with a breadth of one cubit; and from the smaller ledge to the larger ledge, four cubits, with a breadth of one cubit; 15 and the altar hearth, four cubits; and from the altar hearth projecting upward, four horns. 16 The altar hearth shall be square, twelve cubits long by twelve broad. 17 The ledge also shall be square, fourteen cubits long by fourteen broad, with a rim around it half a cubit broad, and its base one cubit all around. The steps of the altar shall face east.”
18 And he said to me, “Son of man, thus says the Lord God: These are the ordinances for the altar: On the day when it is erected for offering burnt offerings upon it and for throwing blood against it, 19 you shall give to the Levitical priests of the family of Zadok, who draw near to me to minister to me, declares the Lord God, a bull from the herd for a sin offering. 20 And you shall take some of its blood and put it on the four horns of the altar and on the four corners of the ledge and upon the rim all around. Thus you shall purify the altar and make atonement for it. 21 You shall also take the bull of the sin offering, and it shall be burned in the appointed place belonging to the temple, outside the sacred area. 22 And on the second day you shall offer a male goat without blemish for a sin offering; and the altar shall be purified, as it was purified with the bull. 23 When you have finished purifying it, you shall offer a bull from the herd without blemish and a ram from the flock without blemish. 24 You shall present them before the Lord, and the priests shall sprinkle salt on them and offer them up as a burnt offering to the Lord. 25 For seven days you shall provide daily a male goat for a sin offering; also, a bull from the herd and a ram from the flock, without blemish, shall be provided. 26 Seven days shall they make atonement for the altar and cleanse it, and so consecrate it.[g] 27 And when they have completed these days, then from the eighth day onward the priests shall offer on the altar your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, and I will accept you, declares the Lord God.”
Let Us Sing Songs of Praise
1 Oh come, let us sing to the Lord;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
2 Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
3 For the Lord is a great God,
and a great King above all gods.
4 In his hand are the depths of the earth;
the heights of the mountains are his also.
5 The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.
6 Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
7 For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand.
Today, if you hear his voice,
8 do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,
9 when your fathers put me to the test
and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.
10 For forty years I loathed that generation
and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart,
and they have not known my ways.”
11 Therefore I swore in my wrath,
“They shall not enter my rest.”
Worship in the Splendor of Holiness
1 Oh sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth!
2 Sing to the Lord, bless his name;
tell of his salvation from day to day.
3 Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous works among all the peoples!
4 For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
he is to be feared above all gods.
5 For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols,
but the Lord made the heavens.
6 Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.
7 Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength!
8 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
bring an offering, and come into his courts!
9 Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness;[a]
tremble before him, all the earth!
10 Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!
Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved;
he will judge the peoples with equity.”
11 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
12 let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
13 before the Lord, for he comes,
for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness,
and the peoples in his faithfulness.
Almost twenty years elapsed since the visionary experience in which Ezekiel saw the glory of the Lord abandoning the temple (Ezek. 10:18-22; 11:22- 24). Here in Ezekiel 43:1-12 he witnesses the Lord’s return.
Numerous phrases and clauses remind us that the glory Ezekiel now sees is to be identified with the glory he first saw in the mobile throne vision in Ezekiel 1—3, and with the glory that abandoned the temple and the city in the vision of chapters 8—11. Ezekiel makes the point explicit: “The vision I saw was like the vision I had seen when he came to destroy the city and like the visions I had seen by the Kebar River, and I fell facedown” (43:3).
Within the symbol-structure of the vision, this means that God is manifesting himself among his people once more. They are to respond by being ashamed of their sins (43:10-11) and by conforming perfectly to whatever he prescribes (43:11).
The culmination of this vision within the book of Ezekiel is found in the last verse of the book: “And the name of the city from that time on will be: THE LORD IS THERE” (48:35). That is wonderful. Wherever the Lord is, is holy. “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written, ‘Be holy, because I am holy’” (1 Pet. 1:13-16). John saw a vision of “the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God” (Rev. 21:2). The voice cried, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God” (Rev. 21:3).
We must always remember that: The Gospel is not admired in Scripture primarily because of the social transformation it effects, but because it reconciles men and women to a holy God. Its purpose is not that we might feel fulfilled, but that we might be reconciled to the living and holy God. The consummation is delightful to the transformed people of God, not simply because the environment of the new heaven and the new earth is pleasing, but because we forever live and work and worship in the unshielded radiance of the presence of our holy Maker and Redeemer. That prospect must shape how the church lives and serves, and determine the pulse of its ministry. The only alternative is high-sounding but self-serving idolatry.
Pray for the Church
Praise God for His redemptive story and the way He graciously re-creates our hearts. Ask God to convict us of our self-sufficiency and desire to do things apart from Him. Pray for an understanding of our need for God in every moment and an awareness of our sin. Ask for the grace and desire to repent quickly so that we can commune with Him. Pray for God to guide us in both Spirit and Truth so we can grow into maturity. Praise God for being our resting place and home even as we sojourn here on earth. Ask Him to make us full of hope and joy because of His grace. Pray for the hope in us to give Him much glory and bring many to faith.
Pray for the City
40 Days for Life
This week we are praying alongside 40 Days for Life, a pro-life campaign with a vision to bring together the body of Christ in a spirit of unity, seeking God’s favor to turn hearts and minds from a culture of death to a culture of life. 40 Days for Life is the largest internationally coordinated pro-life mobilization in history, helping people in local communities act to end the injustice of abortion through prayer, fasting, and a peaceful round-the-clock vigil. This year’s campaign is taking place until November 2. For more information, visit 40daysforlife.com. We are also praying for Redeemer Community Church and Joel Brooks, Pastor.
Day 1: Pray for strength, courage, wisdom, determination and stamina to carry out this mission according to God’s will. Pray for God to guide His Church as members go forth and proclaim His truth, always doing so with a spirit of love and compassion.
Day 2: Thank God for caring so deeply for all people created in His image. Pray for God to send His mighty protection upon every child in the womb and grant expectant mothers the strength and joy to welcome the gift of life.
Day 3: Pray for the words and actions of God’s people in defense of human life to proclaim that Jesus alone is Lord of life and death, Lord of our freedom and of our choices.
Day 4: Pray for repentant women and families healing from past abortions, for evidence of God’s grace in their lives as His peace reigns in their hearts. Pray for them to know that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Day 5: Pray for Christ-centered Pregnancy Resource Centers that serve as places of refuge for women and families with unexpected pregnancies. Pray for the Church to rally around these organizations and support them prayerfully and financially as they offer life-giving alternatives to abortion.
Day 6: Pray for the Author of Life to look upon our nation with great mercy as we recognize our need for forgiveness. Pray for God to be pleased to restore our country so a generation not yet born may praise His Name.
Pray for the World
East Asia Church Planters Taylor & Julia
This week we are praying for Brook Hills Long-Termers Taylor and Julia serving in East Asia. Last week we had the privilege of commissioning this young couple to join our East Asia Church Planting Team. Join us this week as we lift their family up in their final days with us and ask God to be honored as they are sent out. For more information on ways to pray visit the prayer map. This week we are also praying for our Short-Term teams serving in South East Asia.
Day 1: Taylor and Julia will be spending time with their families this week before they say goodbye. Pray for their time together to be maximized and filled with joy.
Day 2: Pray for God to give traveling mercies to Taylor and Julia as they embark on their journey to East Asia. Pray for a smooth transition when they arrive in their city.
Day 3: Pray for Taylor and Julia to lead worship-filled lives to the One True God as they seek to see His name worshipped in East Asia.
Day 4: Pray for Taylor and Julia to love each other well and for their marriage to be used to show the gospel to their community.
Day 5: Pray for grace as Taylor and Julia learn a new language. Pray for them to learn the language quickly and for meaningful relationships to develop in the process.
Day 6: Pray for the East Asia Church Planting Team to glorify God in the way they love, serve, and care for one another.
This Is Amazing Grace
Who breaks the power of sin and darkness
Whose love is mighty and so much stronger
The King of Glory the King above all kings
Who shakes the whole earth with holy thunder
Who leaves us breathless in awe and wonder
The King of Glory the King above all kings
This is amazing grace
This is unfailing love
That You would take my place
That You would bear my cross
You laid down Your life
That I would be set free
Oh Jesus I sing for all that You've done for me
Who brings our chaos back into order
Who makes the orphan a son and daughter
The King of Glory the King of Glory
Who rules the nations with truth and justice
Shines like the sun in all of its brilliance
The King of Glory the King above all kings
Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
Worthy is the King who conquered the grave
Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
Worthy is the King who conquered the grave
Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
Worthy is the King who conquered the grave
Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
Worthy worthy worthy
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus' blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly trust in Jesus' Name
Christ alone cornerstone
Weak made strong in the Saviour's love
Through the storm He is Lord
Lord of all
When darkness seems to hide His face
I rest on His unchanging grace
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil
My anchor holds within the veil
When He shall come with trumpet sound
Oh may I then in Him be found
Dressed in His righteousness alone
Faultless stand before the throne
Man Of Sorrows
Man of sorrows Lamb of God
By His own betrayed
The sin of man and wrath of God
Has been on Jesus laid
Oh that rugged cross my salvation
Where Your love poured out over me
Now my soul cries out hallelujah
Praise and honour unto Thee
Silent as He stood accused
Beaten mocked and scorned
Bowing to the Father's will
He took a crown of thorns
Oh that rugged cross my salvation
Where Your love poured out over me
Now my soul cries out hallelujah
Praise and honour unto Thee
Sent of heaven God's own Son
To purchase and redeem
And reconcile the very ones
Who nailed Him to that tree
Now my debt is paid
It is paid in full
By the precious blood
That my Jesus spilled
Now the curse of sin
Has no hold on me
Whom the Son sets free
Oh is free indeed
See the stone is rolled away
Behold the empty tomb
Hallelujah God be praised
He's risen from the grave
All I Have is Christ
I once was lost in darkest night
Yet thought I knew the way
The sin that promised joy and life
Had led me to the grave
I had no hope that You would own
A rebel to Your will
And if You had not loved me first
I would refuse You still
But as I ran my hell-bound race
Indifferent to the cost
You looked upon my helpless state
And led me to the cross
And I beheld God's love displayed
You suffered in my place
You bore the wrath reserved for me
Now all I know is grace
Hallelujah all I have is Christ
Hallelujah Jesus is my life
Now Lord I would be Yours alone
And live so all might see
The strength to follow Your commands
Could never come from me
O Father use my ransomed life
In any way You choose
And let my song forever be
My only boast is You