The Lord's Glory Returns
1The man took me back to the east gate of the temple, 2 where I saw the brightness of the glory of Israel's God coming from the east. The sound I heard was as loud as ocean waves, and everything around was shining with the dazzling brightness of his glory. 3This vision was like the one I had seen when God came to destroy Jerusalem and like the one I had seen near the Chebar River.
I immediately bowed with my face to the ground, 4and the Lord's glory came through the east gate and into the temple. 5The Lord's Spirit lifted me to my feet and carried me to the inner courtyard, where I saw that the Lord's glory had filled the temple.
6The man was standing beside me, and I heard the Lord say from inside the temple:
7Ezekiel, son of man, this temple is my throne on earth. I will live here among the people of Israel forever. They and their kings will never again disgrace me by worshiping idols at local shrines or by setting up memorials to their dead kings. 8Israel's kings built their palaces so close to my holy temple that only a wall separated them from me. Then these kings disgraced me with their evil ways, and in my fierce anger I destroyed them. 9But if the people and their kings stop worshiping other gods and tear down those memorials, I will live among them forever.
10The people of Israel must suffer shame for sinning against me, so tell them about my holy temple. Let them think about it, 11then if they are truly sorry, describe for them the design and shape of the temple, the gates, the measurements, and how the buildings are arranged. Explain the regulations about worshiping there, then write down these things, so they can study and obey them.
12The temple area on my holy mountain must be kept sacred! This is the most important law about the temple.
The return of the glory of God to the Temple is, perhaps, the most dramatic scene in the book of Ezekiel. Ezekiel’s vision mirrors in reverse his earlier revelation of God abandoning the temple (chs 8-11). Although the Jerusalem Temple continued to function for six years after Ezekiel’s earlier vision, the glory of God’s presence was absent.
The customary rituals and sacrifices continued, but the glory of the Lord, the air of transcendence, the awe of supreme majesty, had gone. Ichabod! God was hiding his face (ch 39:23)!
This prompts the question, “Does the departure of the glory of God from the Temple mean that God might absent himself from his church?” No! In Ezekiel’s vision God returns to the sanctuary, never to leave it again (vv 7,9). The return is the grand climax of the description of the new Temple (chs 40–42). We can be sure that when we gather together in the name of Christ, he is in our midst (Matthew 18:20). However, absence of love for the one who loves us too often hides his presence. Self-love and self-confidence can quench our thirst for God and dull our awareness of him.
The architecture of Ezekiel’s Temple provides a helpful resource in counteracting our coldness and lethargy. Following the prophet as he is led from outer to inner court and then from the Temple portico to the inner sanctuary, we climb up three sets of stairs, each step taking us ever higher (ch 40:22,31,49), a reminder that the God we are approaching is greatly exalted (Isaiah 6:1). As we pass the altar in the inner court we are forcibly reminded of the cross where, thank God, we can confess all our self-sins, find forgiveness and experience the wonder of intimate fellowship with Almighty God. The church need not famish.
Father, “You are my God … my whole being longs for you” (Psalm 63:1). Thank you for being with us always. Amen.
First used in Encounter with God, April – June 2015, written by Fergus Macdonald, copyright Scripture Union. Used with kind permission.