The people who first received Ezekiel’s great vision of a future temple were Jews who were in exile. They had heard of the destruction of the Lord’s sanctuary in Jerusalem. Their liturgical communion with God according to the the biblical system given to them in the Torah was not available to them or to any of the Jews anymore. The Babylonians had reduced to rubble the only facility authorized by God for the various offerings that were part of the regular rhythm of Hebrew worship.
Ezekiel’s description of a renewed pattern of devotion would have been great news for those who wished to follow the Lord’s instruction. For others who may have had no intention of observing Jehovah’s statutes, it was entirely irrelevant. The picture that the prophet saw was not an absolute prediction of what would happen in the Promised Land, but was a commandment for those who might soon be granted the privilege of going home. Only then could they build up the great holy area and celebrate again their rest on the seventh day and their calendar of festivals given to the Jews so long ago. Of course they would also need a righteous prince and faithful priests and Levites. If the men who held those positions of trust were as rebellious as those who were in charge prior to the deportation, there could be no era of glory in the land that God had given to Israel.
Ezekiel described what the religious life would have been like for a godly people. The worthy prince would come in and go out of the sacred spaces according to the Word of God. His subjects would have the privilege of being the king’s servants. His descendants would receive what was due to them by God’s instruction, and the citizens of the nation would live in safety. “The prince shall not take any of the inheritance of the people.”
It must have sounded like the best of all dreams to those Jews who were truly desiring to obey the Lord, but we must happily proclaim that we already have something far superior to what Ezekiel describes. Our Sabbath day has been changed to mark the victory of Jesus over death. Our Prince of Peace does not have to offer ceremonial sacrifices to His God. His cross was the end to a system of worship that could never truly take away sin. We have no desire to go back to the old annual cycle of festivals, nor are we waiting for a future year of liberty, since we are already free in Christ. We who are servants of the Lord are also counted as His sons, and we are all joint heirs with the Son of God. We are able to commune with the Lord in ways that were utterly unimaginable for the ancient Jews. Why would we ever want to go back to the old days of waiting for a Messiah?
Our priest has so fully saved both Jews and Gentiles through His own life and death. Jesus is our perfect holiness and our eternal life. To return to even the very best mountaintop cathedral of the Old Testament era is completely unthinkable. We who are in Christ have become the temple of the Holy Spirit, and our King is perfectly righteous and alive forevermore.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
God of Grace, we long for the fullness of Sabbath rest that has been won for us through the work of Jesus Christ. His offering of Himself for us will be a testimony in Your Kingdom forever. We thank You for this great Prince, the Captain of our salvation. Will we actually be able to see Him in the temple above? We know that we will, for You have assured us that we will see Him as He is. We will fall before Him with the great joy of heavenly worship. O Father, we do not understand the things of heaven as we ought. We do know that we are the property of Your Son, and are a part of Your glorious inheritance in the saints. We humbly ask that You would take us, one day, to be with You, for the glory of Your holy Name.