Have you experienced the sinking feeling of missing out? In our era, we call it FOMO, the Fear Of Missing Out. Most people don’t want to miss out. We like to be in the know, part of a group that is experiencing things together. In fact, we can use the fear of missing out as a motivator when we say, “You don’t know what you’re missing!” So what could it mean when God says to us, “You don’t know what you’re missing”? It seems to me that if God says that, we should pay attention. In our continuing study of Ezekiel 40-44 this week, God says just that.
But first, let’s review. In Ezekiel chapters 40-42, God takes Ezekiel, through a dream vision, to a mountain in Israel. There Ezekiel sees a city below him, and at the gate of the city, he meets a man made of something that has the appearance of bronze. The man invites Ezekiel into the city to a temple complex, where the man starts measuring the temple, seemingly giving Ezekiel ancient blueprints. Then at the beginning of chapter 43, the bronze man takes a break from making measurements for God’s dream house, because the man has something special to show Ezekiel. Let’s read it in Ezekiel 43, verses 1-12.
God himself shows up!
First God’s glory returns from the east, and then the glory enters the temple. The Spirit of God appears, bringing Ezekiel into the temple, where the glory of the Lord fills the temple. Ezekiel certainly had numerous mind-blowing encounters with God over the years. By now Ezekiel is approximately 57 years old. Not an old man by our standards, but in the ancient near east, with its lower life-expectancy, he is very possibly in his twilight years. Did he wonder if his prophetic ministry mattered? All those prophecies of restoration, of dry bones coming to life, of new hearts and a new Spirit…were they going to come true? God gave him those prophecies around 14 years prior. The life situation of the Jews in Babylon hadn’t changed in 14 years. They’re still in exile. No new heart, new Spirit, new King. No return to the land. Was Ezekiel discouraged? Doubting? I wouldn’t fault him if he was feeling lonely and down.
Ezekiel says that what he saw was just like the earlier vision of God’s flaming lightning throne chariot in chapters 1-3, and the vision of the glory of the Lord departing the temple in chapters 8-11. This was an astounding experience for Ezekiel. We know that because he tells us that he fell face-down, as is to be expected when the glory of God appears to us. I don’t know if you’ve ever had an experience like that, where God is so real that you need to fall flat.
Just then God speaks, promising that God will live among his people Israel forever. That’s what his glory in the temple symbolizes. In a previous vision he left the temple, but now he’s back! More on that in a moment.
In Ezekiel 43, verses 7-12 we learn that God is very concerned about the sin of the people. He wants to live among them, to dwell with them, to make his home with them, but he mentions their sin. Their sin was the reason that he allowed them to face destruction and exile. Look at verse 9. God wants the people to make a change. To put away their prostitution and lifeless idols of their kings. Then he will live among them.
God is making a pronouncement against the long line of wicked kings in Israel, and the people who followed the kings into sin. Prostitution is a reference to the fact that Israel was married to God, and then they chose to commit adultery with other false gods, worshiping false God, and practicing wickedness. This prostitution could also be very literal, as the false religion of the nations around Israel included ritual prostitution as part of its worship. Israel indulged in that too. So the prostitution was literal and figurative. God says that they need to be done with it, and they need to pursue him. That step of their repentance and return to God is necessary for God to return.
In verses 10-12 he is basically saying, “Ezekiel I am giving you these measurements so that you can draw up architectural drawings of the new temple and then show the people of Israel these drawings. I want them to see this new temple plan so that they will be ashamed of their sins.” It is almost like God is saying, “I want the people to know what they are missing.”
What are they missing? A building? No doubt they looked to the temple in Jerusalem with great pride. It was a grand building. But even this new temple wasn’t all that big compared to other temples in the ancient near east. There were plenty of others that were way bigger and more opulent. It wasn’t like God was saying, “I am going to make the biggest, best, most expensive and amazing temple in all the world, to show you what you are missing.” No! What Israel is really missing is not a building. They are missing a relationship with God, they are missing his presence among them. It was never the temple building that was important in the first place. What was always important was the presence of God that resided in the temple.
That’s what God is saying, “I want to be among you, with you, near you, and Israel, it is your sin that broke the covenant relationship we had.” So now God is saying, “Ezekiel, show them this, show them that I really want to be with them. Maybe they will agree and turn from their wicked ways!” God wanted the people who were languishing in exile to have hope.
And then the bronze man starts measuring again. More on that in the next post.