“So the spirit took me up, and brought me into the inner court; and, behold, the glory of the LORD filled the house.” — Ezekiel 43:5
How amazing it must have been for Ezekiel to witness the glory of the Lord filling the Temple! Reading this chapter made me think of another time the glory of God “filled the house” in a remarkable way: during a chapel service at youth camp in August of 1989. My life was changed forever by what I experienced that week.
It was my first Apostolic Faith youth camp and I was excited to be there, but not necessarily for spiritual reasons. I loved the organized activities, the competitive softball, and the energetic volleyball games. The delicious food and fun times with friends were also great. But unexpectedly to me, God descended on the campground that week and began to speak to my heart in a very real way during the cabin devotions and chapel services. The Lord used the camp theme song, “Behold, What Manner of Love,” to convince me of how much my Heavenly Father loved me personally. Though I had been brought up in a Christian home and had attended many church services, I had never before experienced God’s presence and love in such a gripping way as I did that week.
On the third night, as I stood in the doorway of the chapel after a service, one of the counselors invited me to pray. I accepted that invitation and knelt, and soon the Lord began to melt my heart. Several people gathered to pray with me, and after a time, their words became my prayer. That night the grace of God helped me pray a prayer of repentance and total surrender, and the Lord came into my heart and saved me from my sins. In an instant of time, He changed my life and my desires. As I continued to pray, God sanctified me, and then filled me with His precious Holy Spirit.
While I had a personal encounter with God that week, there was an impact on the other campers and staff as well. For many, the highlight of the week was the last service of camp, when the presence of the Lord descended in a mighty way and filled the chapel. In our text, Ezekiel observed the awesome glory of God return to the Temple in a visible form — in fact, God’s holy presence was so overwhelming that it caused Ezekiel to fall on his face. While God’s presence was not physically apparent during the final service of that youth camp, it was evident in the form of unspeakable joy and the infilling power of His Holy Spirit in people’s hearts. Many who were present testified later that they had a life-changing experience with God that night. Today, there are a number of ministers and other workers in our organization who point back to that service as a time when their lives were forever changed.
Ezekiel’s vision should inspire and challenge us. God is still willing to manifest Himself in powerful ways! Let us purpose to seek God and pray that He will once again fill us individually and corporately with the glory of the Lord.
Chapter 43 describes the return of God’s glory to His house (verses 1-5), God’s pronouncement to Ezekiel and Israel (verses 6-12), and the measurements and dedication of the altar (verses 13-27).
Ezekiel witnessed a vision of God’s return by way of the eastern gate to dwell among His people. This was the same direction from which He had departed Jerusalem almost nineteen years earlier (see Ezekiel 11:22-23). Then Ezekiel was transported to the inner court, where he observed the glory of the Lord fill the Temple itself, much as it had done at the dedication of Solomon’s Temple. Ezekiel had witnessed the glory of God twice before (in Ezekiel chapters 1 and 10-11), and once again he was so overwhelmed that he fell on his face in reverence and awe.
Verses 6-12 record that the Voice of God spoke from the midst of the Temple, proclaiming that He had come back to the Temple to reign. God had given Israel laws and ordinances that were to shape their approach to the Lord, and the overarching principle was holiness. Though the people had previously defiled God’s holy name, their sinful practices of the past would continue no more. God’s habitation would be separate from anything profane or unclean.
God’s first words, recorded in Ezekiel 43:7, highlight the differences between His laws and the laws of people. God’s laws derive their authority from Him, and emphasize morality. The statement “neither they, nor their kings, by their whoredom, nor by the carcases of their kings in their high places” revealed how God viewed Israel’s kings. The word “king(s)” is used twenty-six times in the Book of Ezekiel, and in all but three instances, there is a negative connotation. God did not want the rule or the burial places of ungodly kings to be objects of veneration, nor to be anywhere near His Temple. While there would be no dividing line between Jew and Gentile in Ezekiel’s Temple, there would be a clear dividing line between the holy and the profane.
Verses 10-12 reveal at least one of God’s purposes for the detailed vision given Ezekiel: that Israel would see the restoring love and grace of God toward them, and consequently become “ashamed of their iniquities.” Ezekiel was to tell the house of Israel that the pattern for the Temple structure had not changed, nor had the forms or ordinances of worship. These patterns and forms had been designed to teach Israel appropriate attitudes and priorities in their worship of the Lord. In verse 10, the word translated “pattern” occurs only twice in Scripture — here and in Ezekiel 28:12, where it indicates a measurement of “perfection.” Ezekiel did not understand all he saw, but he observed a familiar pattern that emphasized holiness and a right relationship to God.
Verses 13-27 relate to the cleansing and consecration of the altar of burnt offering. As with all altars to the true God, this one points to the Cross of Christ and the Blood that Jesus shed as the Perfect Sacrifice. Some Bible scholars suggest that the worship implements and practices described here and in several subsequent chapters may have been fulfilled in the two earthly Temples of Israel that came after the time of Ezekiel — the ones built by Ezra and Herod. Other commentators feel these worship implements and practices memorialize God’s plan of salvation as revealed to Israel through the ages, and look back to Jesus’ work on the Cross much as our ordinance of the Lord’s Supper does. Ezekiel could only describe what he saw, and since God views the whole span of earthly time, it may be that what the prophet observed was symbolic in nature.
The description of cleansing the altar would have been familiar to anyone conversant with Levitical requirements, as Ezekiel was. The fact that there is no description of priests making offerings for themselves suggests that they were already holy.
IV. The consolation of Israel
B. Prophecies of the millennial kingdom
1. The restoration of the Temple
c. The return of glory of God to the Temple (43:1-12)
(1) The vision of the prophet (43:1-5)
(2) The words to the prophet (43:6-9)
(3) The commission of the prophet (43:10-12)
d. The renewal of worship in the Temple
(1) The description of the altar of burnt offerings (43:13-27)
(a) The dimensions of the altar (43:13-17)
(b) The dedication of the altar (43:18-27)
Experiencing a manifestation of the glory and power of God is an unforgettable experience!