“And the chamber whose prospect is toward the north is for the priests, the keepers of the charge of the altar: these are the sons of Zadok among the sons of Levi, which come near to the Lord to minister unto him.” — Ezekiel 40:46
Westminster Abbey in London, with its Gothic walls and one-hundred-foot ceilings, is an amazing church. History pervades its atmosphere. Constructed centuries ago, it is the burial place of over three thousand famous people, including seventeen monarchs. It has been the site of British coronations and the venue for sixteen royal weddings. Its carvings, stained glass windows, and historical artifacts are impressive, and its stellar acoustics prompt people to walk and speak quietly. The five-manual organ with ninety-four stops produces breathtaking sound, and frequent musical programs and daily worship services are held there. Visitors are always awed by what they see and hear.
In contrast, consider the description of another place of worship, this one at Pascani in the northeastern region of Romania where a faithful Christian named Vasile Budeanu holds cottage meetings. Recently two of our ministers reported, “We visited a two-room house where many services are held. The saints here desire to build a church, and have even completed a foundation next to the house. However, they have been unable to obtain the permits because the building is to be a church. We held a service in the house, and both rooms were packed. God’s Spirit was strongly felt throughout as we enjoyed special music selections, exhortations from the Word, and a sweet time of prayer.”
Every worship service is noted by God, whether it takes place in a gorgeous cathedral or a humble home. In today’s text, God continued to reveal to Ezekiel the Temple that will house Israel’s worship services in His Millennial Kingdom. From the details given in these verses, we see that the Lord is mindful of every architectural and furnishing detail for places of worship. However, He is far more interested in the condition of the hearts of the people who gather there.
God is looking for those who will prepare their hearts to “come near to the Lord” as the focus verse states. How can we do that? We must submit our thoughts, actions, and wills to His direction, and ask Him to search us and let us know if anything in our lives is displeasing to Him. Paying close attention to the checks of the Holy Spirit and promptly obeying is critical to our spiritual growth. Praising and thanking Him for who He is and what He has done for us will bring us increasingly closer to Him.
May our purpose today be to come near to the Lord. He is waiting and willing to receive us!
Chapter 40 continues the theme of Israel’s future restoration, which began in chapter 33. Chapters 40-42 focus on Ezekiel’s vision of a rebuilt Temple. In this vision, a divine guide led the prophet through the Temple complex. Precise measurements were taken, and Ezekiel was told to record what he saw and declare it to the people of Israel. Today’s text describes the gateways to the inner court (verses 28-37), the chambers and implements for sacrifices (verses 38-46), and the altar (verse 47).
Only priests were allowed to come into the inner court, but because Ezekiel was a priest, he was allowed to enter. Verses 28-37 indicate that the inner court was a smaller version of the outer court. It had the same squared, horseshoe shape. However, it had a different purpose: it contained the workrooms used by the priests.
Verses 38-43 describe rooms where the sacrifices were prepared, and the implements used for processing offerings. These included small tables of hewn stone (about thirty inches square, and twenty inches high) for killing and dividing offerings. Moses had specifically been told not to make altars of “hewn stone” because the use of tools would pollute them (Exodus 20:25). Among the prophets, using hewn stone in something other than a building foundation was considered to be illustrative of pride (see Isaiah 9:9-10, Amos 5:11). This would seem to indicate that these tables for sacrifices were not actually to be used. Since animal sacrifices merely foreshadowed the future sacrifice of God’s Son, the Lamb of God, these tables may be memorials that point back to the work of Jesus, much as the bread and the cup of the Lord’s Supper in our dispensation point back to and memorialize that event.
There were two of these tables on both the right and left, both inside and outside the entrances to the inner courtyard, so eight at each of the three gates. Neither the Tabernacle in the wilderness nor Solomon’s Temple contained anything similar.
Verses 44-46 give details regarding chambers in the inner court for the singers and the priests. In verse 46, “the sons of Zadok, among the sons of Levi” are specified as the designated priests. Since the time of Solomon’s Temple, Zadokites had been mandated from among the Levites to make sacrifices, rather than other Levites who had been unfaithful. Their appointment was due to their faithfulness, rather than their ancestral lineage. This Temple was righteously staffed, in contrast to the past corruption of Israel’s worship practices. (A further explanation of the Zadokites appointment is given in Ezekiel 44:10-15.)
Verse 47 describes the large altar similar to the one to which burnt offerings, sin offerings, and trespass offerings were once brought. The placement of this altar mirrors its location in both the wilderness Tabernacle and Solomon’s Temple; the sanctuary pattern was always consistent, though exact measurements of the altars differed. The restricted access (indicated by the walls and gates of the Temple complex) is illustrative of the fact that God’s people must be pure — those corrupted by sin will be kept out.
IV. The consolation of Israel
B. Prophecies of the millennial kingdom
1. The restoration of the Temple
b. The measurement of the Temple
(1) The courts of the Temple
(b) The inner court (40:28-46)
 The south gate (40:28-31)
 The east gate (40:32-34)
 The north gate (40:35-37)
 The chambers for the burnt offering (40:38-43)
 The chambers for the priests (40:44-46)
(c) The altar (40:47)
God wants each of us to come near to Him and worship with our whole hearts. Will we do that today?