How would you preach Ezekiel 43:10-12?

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zoeenglishministry

Puritan Board Freshman
I am wondering how others would preach Ezekiel 43:10-12? In particular, does it befall on the Church to "describe to the house of Israel the temple, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities" and, if so, what does it look like to "describe" the law of the temple in our current age?
 

iainduguid

Puritan Board Sophomore
I am wondering how others would preach Ezekiel 43:10-12? In particular, does it befall on the Church to "describe to the house of Israel the temple, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities" and, if so, what does it look like to "describe" the law of the temple in our current age?
It's funny you should ask: here's an excerpt from my forthcoming ESVEC on Ezekiel (the response section for Ezekiel 43). You could also check out my commentary in the NIVAC, if you can't wait until 2022.

Ezekiel 43:1-16 is absolutely critical to understanding the significance of Ezekiel’s entire temple vision. It is not a blueprint for a future building; it is a mirror for his contemporaries to acknowledge their own sins with shame and to anticipate a different future in which, through the transforming power of God’s spirit (see Ezek. 36:24-28), the people would be cleansed and sanctified. The apostle Paul uses the metaphor of clothing (“Put off….put on…”; Eph. 4:22-24); Ezekiel uses the metaphor of architecture: in effect he says, “Compare this very different design of temple with the earlier ones God commanded. Learn from it to confess your former sins and to aspire to a different future that God has prepared for his people” (“Be ashamed…measure the plan” Ezek. 43:10).

Pivotal in that new plan is an altar at which sacrifices may be offered to purify the Lord’s people from their sins. Sacrifice was important in both the tabernacle and Solomon’s temple, but it was absolutely critical for a people contemplating their sins in exile, far away from their land and their God. Again, this image is not intended to inspire the construction of a massive altar in some future Israelite temple. Such altars are no longer needed now that Christ has offered the once for all sacrifice at the end of the ages to do away with all of the sins of his people, past, present, and future (Heb. 9:18-26). We do not await another temple or another altar, but the triumphant return of Christ in glory (Heb. 9:27-28).

In the meantime, there is plenty of material here to convict contemporary Christians of our very real sins, which should properly be acknowledged with shame. In contrast to our contemporary society, which suggests that shame should be dealt with in the context of the therapist’s office through the process of self-forgiveness, Ezekiel urges us to confront and acknowledge our shame in the context of the temple, by means of an atoning sacrifice. This is the pathway to true forgiveness and freedom from guilt’s enduring power over us, as we are reminded that in Christ there is no condemnation for guilty sinners like us (Rom. 8:1).

Such acknowledgement of our shame and guilt in the light of the cross also empowers us to begin to pursue a new life in which, as Martin Luther insisted, repentance is our chief Christian duty. Our king is present in our hearts by his Spirit and we have been joined to Christ, yet we regularly take the members of our body and sin with them, as if nothing had changed and we were still dead in our transgressions and sins (see 1 Cor. 6:15-17; Paul uses a dramatic example – that of prostitution – but the same principle applies to our more “mundane” sins). Week after week, we ascend the heavenly mountain to worship the God who is a consuming fire (Heb. 12:18-29) – yet we often do so without proper reverence and fear, simply going through the motions and wishing the service was over. We are still deeply stained with sin as believers – simul justus et peccator (at the same time, both fully justified and yet still deeply sinful) – until the day that we die.

How astonishing and joyful is God’s grace that he does not strike us dead on the spot! How great his mercy and kindness to us! Instead of berating us for our sins, he welcomes us in once again, for the sake of Christ, and calls us his beloved sons and daughters, promising to be present with us, wherever two or three of us gather together in his name, without requiring any outward pomp or show. Our God is indeed Immanuel: he is with us.
 

zoeenglishministry

Puritan Board Freshman
"It is not a blueprint for a future building; it is a mirror for his contemporaries to acknowledge their own sins with shame and to anticipate a different future in which, through the transforming power of God’s spirit (see Ezek. 36:24-28), the people would be cleansed and sanctified."
  • Whew so no one is going to even attempt to rebuttal this claim? Well I have to start with the following: can you cite patristics or saints who support this preview? From what I gather from Ligonier, WSC, and Monergism, this doesn't seem to be the universal CT perspective.

"In the meantime, there is plenty of material here to convict contemporary Christians of our very real sins, which should properly be acknowledged with shame. ... This is the pathway to true forgiveness and freedom from guilt’s enduring power over us, as we are reminded that in Christ there is no condemnation for guilty sinners like us (Rom. 8:1)."
  • This notion contains a wild amount of assumptions: how are you defining shame and what direct relevance does this have to the passage in Ezekiel?
I must say, bottom line: my question remains -- does it befall on the Church to "describe to the house of Israel the temple, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities" and, if so, what does it look like to "describe" the law of the temple in our current age?
 

iainduguid

Puritan Board Sophomore
Most of the Church fathers and Reformers took a similar view that Ezekiel 40-48 does not represent a building guide for some future temple, though they did tend to allegorize it in sometimes tenuous ways. See my article on the history of interpretation of Ezekiel in The Dictionary of the OT Prophets for more. Or click on the PB thread below "Gill on Ezekiel 40-48". See Gill, Greenhill, Fairbairn, or almost anyone else for examples.

Matthew Henry writes:
"The dimensions of these visionary buildings being so large (the new temple more spacious than all the old Jerusalem and the new Jerusalem of greater extent than all the land of Canaan) plainly intimates, as Dr. Lightfoot observes, that these things cannot be literally, but must spiritually, understood. At the gospel-temple, erected by Christ and his apostles, was so closely connected with the second material temple, was erected so carefully just at the time when that fell into decay, that it might be ready to receive its glories when it resigned them, that it was proper enough that they should both be referred to in one and the same vision. Under the type and figure of a temple and altar, priests and sacrifices, is foreshown the spiritual worship that should be performed in gospel times, more agreeable to the nature both of God and man, and that perfected at last in the kingdom of glory, in which perhaps these visions will have their full accomplishment, and some think in some happy and glorious state of the gospel-church on this side heaven, in the latter days."

Exactly what spiritual truths are represented here is the $64,000 question: where do we cross the line from responsible Biblical Theology into allegory? But clearly the passage was meant to teach Ezekiel's original hearers something that would make them ashamed of their past sins (see esp. chapters 8-11). And insofar as our sins as believers align with their past sins, we too should be convicted of our sins, ashamed of them and flee to Christ, who has offered the supreme sacrifice of purification that Ezekiel's temple is built around. I have argued that Ezekiel 40-48 teaches a consistent theology in the form of architecture, legislation, and geography that in different ways points forward to Christ (see my NIVAC volume).
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
I agree in the main with Iain's viewpoint, especially that the whole of Ezekiel 40-48 is not a blueprint for a future temple. When Judah built the second temple after the exile was over, it looked nothing like Ezekiel's temple. As one recent author puts it, this section of Ezekiel exhibits a theology of space. Similar to the placement of items in the tabernacle, where things are placed, and in relation to what tells us theological truth. I would add that I believe Ezekiel 40-48 is an earthly, accommodated description of God's throne room in heaven, which will definitely have the effect Iain mentions. And it absolutely points us to the person and work of Jesus Christ.
 

Andrew35

Puritan Board Sophomore
It's funny you should ask: here's an excerpt from my forthcoming ESVEC on Ezekiel (the response section for Ezekiel 43). You could also check out my commentary in the NIVAC, if you can't wait until 2022.
What timing! I was just looking for suggestions for an Ezekiel commentary for my next personal book study (just finished Job with Andersen).

Would you recommend waiting for the ESVEC, or...? What's the difference between the two? If the ESVEC is to be preferred, I'll wait for it and go with another book instead. Otherwise, I'll pick up the NIVAC.
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
The NIVAC volume is truly excellent, and one on a very short list for personal accessible commentaries (I say this so that Iain doesn't have to sing his own praises). The ESVEC volume will be a bit more up to date on scholarship (the NIVAC volume was published in 1999), though that won't matter too much for the kind of commentary you're looking for. Others similar in scope would be Derek Thomas's book God Strengthens, the volume in the Message series by Christopher Wright, Douglas Stuart's volume in the Communicator's Commentary series, and Peter Naylor's volume in the EP study commentary series. If you want a bit more technical information without being too technical, you could consider John Mackay's two-volume work in the Mentor series. For what you're looking for, though, Iain's NIVAC volume is one you will definitely not regret. He will have to answer as to whether any of his views on Ezekiel have changed in major ways over the last 20 years.
 

iainduguid

Puritan Board Sophomore
No dramatic changes, though it's amazing how many details you notice on a close reading, even after so many years. For example, I never noticed before the complete absence of any gold or silver from the visionary temple! Quite a contrast to John's vision of the New Jerusalem.
 

jwithnell

Moderator
Staff member
The NIVAC edition was extraordinarily helpful to me and I look forward to the new commentary. I generally work on a text, then consult a commentary to see if my exegesis is sound. With Ezekiel, I read the commentary because my interpretive skills just weren't sufficient to get a toe hold.
 
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