Friday, April 29, 2011

Reflections on Ezekiel 43

    Ezekiel 43 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. The 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.
  3. This 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,
  4. and the LORD's glory came through the east gate and into the temple.
  5. The 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.
  6. The man was standing beside me, and I heard the LORD say from inside the temple:
  7. Ezekiel, 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.
  8. Israel'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.
  9. But if the people and their kings stop worshiping other gods and tear down those memorials, I will live among them forever.
  10. The people of Israel must suffer shame for sinning against me, so tell them about my holy temple. Let them think about it,
  11. then 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.
  12. The temple area on my holy mountain must be kept sacred! This is the most important law about the temple.
  13. According to the official standards, the altar in the temple had the following measurements: Around the bottom of the altar was a gutter twenty inches wide and twenty inches deep, with a ten inch ledge on the outer rim.
  14. The altar rested on a base and had three sections, each one of them square. The bottom section was twenty-seven feet on each side and three feet high. The middle section was twenty-four feet on each side and seven feet high, and it had a ten inch rim around its outer edge. The top section, which was twenty feet on each side and seven feet high, was the place where sacrifices were burned, and the four corners of the top section looked like the horns of a bull. The steps leading up to the altar were on the east side.
  15. (SEE 43:14)
  16. (SEE 43:14)
  17. (SEE 43:14)
  18. The LORD God said: Ezekiel, son of man, after the altar is built, it must be dedicated by offering sacrifices on it and by splattering it with blood. Here is what you must do:
  19. The priests of the Levi tribe from the family of Zadok the priest are the only ones who may serve in my temple--this is my law. So give them a young bull to slaughter as a sacrifice for sin.
  20. Take some of the animal's blood and smear it on the four corners of the altar, some on the corners of the middle section, and some more on the rim around its edge. That will purify the altar and make it fit for offering sacrifices to me.
  21. Then take the body of the bull outside the temple area and burn it at the special place.
  22. The next day, a goat that has nothing wrong with it must be offered as a sacrifice for sin. Purify the altar with its blood, just as you did with the blood of the bull.
  23. Then choose a young bull and a young ram that have nothing wrong with them,
  24. and bring them to my temple. The priests will sprinkle salt on them and offer them as sacrifices to please me.
  25. Each day for the next seven days, you must offer a goat and a bull and a ram as sacrifices for sin. These animals must have nothing wrong with them.
  26. The priests will purify the altar during those days, so that it will be acceptable to me and ready to use.
  27. From then on, the priests will use this altar to offer sacrifices to please me and sacrifices to ask my blessing. Then I will be pleased with the people of Israel. I, the LORD God, have spoken.

    Ezekiel's tour, through a vision, of the temple to be built in Jerusalem sometime in the future continues. In chapter 43 his vision reveals to him the amazing return of God's glory to this new temple, a reversal of the departure of His glory just prior to Nebuchadnezzar's siege. Regarding the return of God's glory to the temple, the Bible Believer's commentary says, "But the glory of the God of Israel will return in the Person of the Lord Jesus when He comes to reign." This is not clearly stated in these verses but serves as an attempt to connect the role of Christ to this new order.

    As Ezekiel witnesses in his vision the return of God's glory to the temple, the Lord says to him, "Son of man, this is the place of My throne and the place for the soles of My feet, where I will dwell among the Israelites forever." (43:7) This return of God's glory to the temple is incomplete, however, without the return of Israelites, so Ezekiel is told to relate all of this to them so they might be ashamed of their sins and return to Him. Then God gives Ezekiel the design for the altar that is to be built in this new temple and describes the ceremony for consecrating the temple.

    I struggle, as I'm sure many others do, to understand the role of a restored temple and of sacrifices now that the Messiah has come and made the ultimate sacrifice of Himself.  For with His sacrifice "we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all." (Hebrews 10:10) I understand that the role of the temple and sacrifices prior to Christ's coming served to symbolize what Christ would do on the cross in truly removing the guilt of our sin. I can only suppose that the role of the new temple and sacrifices which will take place in the future is a similar one, continuing to symbolize what Christ has done.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Reflections on Ezekiel 42

    Ezekiel 42 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. After the man and I left the temple and walked back to the outer courtyard, he showed me a set of rooms on the north side of the west building. This set of rooms was one hundred seventy feet long and eighty-five feet wide.
  2. (SEE 42:1)
  3. On one side of them was the thirty-four feet of open space that ran alongside the temple, and on the other side was the sidewalk that circled the outer courtyard. The rooms were arranged in three levels
  4. with doors that opened toward the north, and in front of them was a walkway seventeen feet wide and one hundred seventy feet long.
  5. The rooms on the top level were narrower than those on the middle level, and the rooms on the middle level were narrower than those on the bottom level.
  6. The rooms on the bottom level supported those on the two upper levels, and so these rooms did not have columns like other buildings in the courtyard.
  7. To the north was a privacy wall eighty-five feet long,
  8. (SEE 42:7)
  9. and at the east end of this wall was the door leading from the courtyard to these rooms. There was also a set of rooms on the south side of the west building.
  10. (SEE 42:9)
  11. These rooms were exactly like those on the north side, and they also had a walkway in front of them.
  12. The door to these rooms was at the east end of the wall that stood in front of them.
  13. The man then said to me: These rooms on the north and south sides of the temple are the sacred rooms where the LORD's priests will eat the most holy offerings. These offerings include the grain sacrifices, the sacrifices for sin, and the sacrifices to make things right.
  14. When the priests are ready to leave the temple, they must go through these rooms before they return to the outer courtyard. They must leave their sacred clothes in these rooms and put on regular clothes before going anywhere near other people.
  15. After the man had finished measuring the buildings inside the temple area, he took me back through the east gate and measured the wall around this area.
  16. He used his measuring stick to measure the east side of this wall; it was eight hundred forty feet long.
  17. Then he measured the north side, the south side, and the west side of the wall, and they were each eight hundred forty feet long,
  18. (SEE 42:17)
  19. (SEE 42:17)
  20. and so the temple area was a perfect square. The wall around this area separated what was sacred from what was ordinary.

    Ezekiel continues to be led in a vision by "a man whose appearance was like bronze." The man is showing him the new temple that is yet to be built in Jerusalem. Though it will resemble Solomon's temple, it will be a part of God's new covenant with His people. This last section of Ezekiel, which begins with chapter 40 and continues to the end of the book, is considered to be one of the most difficult portions of scripture in the whole Bible. Jews do not allow any to read it until the age of thirty and assert that those who do read it will not be able to understand it all. And so I join the ranks of those who confess confusion at the full meaning of these closing chapters of Ezekiel.

    In chapter 42 Ezekiel was toured, in his vision, through the priest's quarters which are to be located north and south of the temple. It will be in these areas that the priests will eat the most holy offerings and keep the sacred garments used for administering these offerings. "Once the priests have entered, they must not go out from the holy area to the outer court until they have removed the clothes they minister in, for these are holy. They are to put on other clothes before they approach the public area." (42:14)

    Verses 15-20 give the outter measurements of the temple complex, which is to be a square, 875 feet on each side. This outter perimeter will have a wall which is to "separate the holy from the common." (42:20) Or, as we might say, to separate the sacred from the secular.

Reflections on Ezekiel 41

    Ezekiel 41 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Next we went into the main room of the temple. The man measured the doorway of this room: It was ten feet wide,
  2. seventeen feet long, and the distance from the doorway to the wall on either side was eight feet. The main room itself was sixty-eight feet by thirty-four feet.
  3. Then the man walked to the far end of the temple's main room and said, "Beyond this doorway is the most holy place." He first measured the doorway: It was three feet wide, ten feet long, and the distance from the doorway to the wall on either side was twelve feet. Then he measured the most holy place, and it was thirty-four feet square.
  4. (SEE 41:3)
  5. The man measured the wall of the temple, and it was ten feet thick. Storage rooms seven feet wide were built against the outside of the wall.
  6. There were three levels of rooms, with thirty rooms on each level, and they rested on ledges that were attached to the temple walls, so that nothing was built into the walls.
  7. The walls of the temple were thicker at the bottom than at the top, which meant that the storage rooms on the top level were wider than those on the bottom level. Steps led from the bottom level, through the middle level, and into the top level.
  8. The temple rested on a stone base ten feet high, which also served as the foundation for the storage rooms.
  9. The outside walls of the storage rooms were eight feet thick; there was nothing between these walls
  10. and the nearest buildings thirty-four feet away.
  11. One door led into the storage rooms on the north side of the temple, and another door led to those on the south side. The stone base extended eight feet beyond the outside wall of the storage rooms.
  12. I noticed another building: It faced the west end of the temple and was one hundred seventeen feet wide, one hundred fifty feet long, and had walls over eight feet thick.
  13. The man measured the length of the temple, and it was one hundred seventy feet. He then measured from the back wall of the temple, across the open space behind the temple, to the back wall of the west building; it was one hundred seventy feet.
  14. The distance across the front of the temple, including the open space on either side, was also one hundred seventy feet.
  15. Finally, the man measured the length of the west building, including the side rooms on each end, and it was also one hundred seventy feet. The inside walls of the temple's porch and main room
  16. were paneled with wood all the way from the floor to the windows, while the doorways, the small windows, and the three side rooms were trimmed in wood.
  17. The paneling stopped just above the doorway. These walls were decorated
  18. with carvings of winged creatures and had a carving of a palm tree between the creatures. Each winged creature had two faces: A human face looking at the palm tree on one side, and a lion's face looking at the palm tree on the other side. These designs were carved into the paneling all the way around the two rooms.
  19. (SEE 41:18)
  20. (SEE 41:18)
  21. The doorframe to the temple's main room was in the shape of a rectangle. In front of the doorway to the most holy place was something that looked like
  22. a wooden altar. It was five feet high and four feet square, and its corners, its base, and its sides were made of wood. The man said, "This is a reminder that the LORD is constantly watching over his temple."
  23. Both the doorway to the main room of the temple and the doorway to the most holy place had two doors,
  24. and each door had two sections that could fold open.
  25. The doors to the main room were decorated with carvings of winged creatures and palm trees just like those on the walls, and there was a wooden covering over the porch just outside these doors.
  26. The walls on each side of this porch had small windows and were also decorated with carvings of palm trees.

    Ezekiel continues his description of the new temple to be built in Jerusalem as a part of God's new covenant with His people. These events are yet to happen. He saw this new temple in a vision given him from God. In the vision Ezekiel was led throughout the temple by "a man whose appearance was like bronze, with a linen cord and a measuring rod in his hand." (40:3) In this chapter, this man continues to lead Ezekiel through the temple giving measurements of various parts as they go about. The design of this new temple is much the same as Solomon's temple. For instance, the sanctuary is the same dimensions. There is also a Most Holy Place into which Ezekiel was not allowed to go. Only the bronze-like man entered and measured the room.

    As with Solomon's temple, the "Most Holy Place" represents God's presence. In Solomon's temple, under the old covenant, the high priest entered the Most Holy Place, or holy of holies, once a year to offer a blood sacrifice for his own sins and that of the people. But as Hebrews 9:9 points out, "This is a symbol for the present time." But "Now the Messiah has appeared, high priest of the good things that have come. In the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands (that is, not of this creation), He entered the holy of holies once for all, not by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption." (Hebrews 9:11-12) This the Messiah did one time for all people. But His sacrifice only provides forgiveness for those who accept it.

    The new temple will simply be an earthly representation of what has taken place in heaven. The Messiah will be the mediator of the new covenant and the High Priest of the new temple. Sacrifices offered in this new temple will point to His sacrifice on the cross. But only the Messiah's sacrifice will actually provide forgiveness of sin.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Reflections on Ezekiel 40

    Ezekiel 40 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Twenty-five years after King Jehoiachin and the rest of us had been led away as prisoners to Babylonia, and fourteen years after the Babylonians had captured Jerusalem, the LORD's power took control of me on the tenth day of the first month. The LORD showed me some visions in which I was carried to the top of a high mountain in Jerusalem. I looked to the south and saw what looked like a city full of buildings.
  2. (SEE 40:1)
  3. In my vision the LORD took me closer, and I saw a man who was sparkling like polished bronze. He was standing near one of the gates and was holding a tape measure in one hand and a measuring stick in the other.
  4. The man said, "Ezekiel, son of man, pay close attention to everything I'm going to show you--that's why you've been brought here. Listen carefully, because you must tell the people of Israel what you see."
  5. The first thing I saw was an outer wall that completely surrounded the temple area. The man took his measuring stick, which was ten feet long, and measured the wall; it was ten feet high and ten feet thick.
  6. Then he went to the east gate, where he walked up steps that led to a long passageway. On each side of this passageway were three guardrooms, which were ten feet square, and they were separated by walls over eight feet thick. The man measured the distance between the opening of the gate and the first guardroom, and it was ten feet, the thickness of the outer wall. At the far end of this passageway, I saw an entrance room that faced the courtyard of the temple itself. There was also a distance of ten feet between the last guardroom and the entrance room
  7. (SEE 40:6)
  8. at the end of the passageway. The man measured this room: It was thirteen feet from the doorway to the opposite wall, and the distance from the doorway to the wall on either side was three feet.
  9. (SEE 40:8)
  10. The three guardrooms on each side of the passageway were the same size, and the walls that separated them were the same thickness.
  11. Next, the man measured the width of the passageway, and it was twenty-two feet, but the two doors of the gate were only sixteen feet wide.
  12. In front of the guardrooms, which were ten feet square, was a railing about twenty inches high and twenty inches thick.
  13. The man measured the distance from the back wall of one of these rooms to the same spot in the room directly across the passageway, and it was forty-two feet.
  14. He measured the entrance room at the far end of the passageway, and it was thirty-four feet wide.
  15. Finally, he measured the total length of the passageway, from the outer wall to the entrance room, and it was eighty-five feet.
  16. The three walls in the guardrooms had small windows in them, just like the ones in the entrance room. The walls along the passageway were decorated with carvings of palm trees.
  17. The man then led me through the passageway and into the outer courtyard of the temple, where I saw thirty rooms built around the outside of the courtyard. These side rooms were built against the outer wall, and in front of them was a sidewalk that circled the courtyard.
  18. This was known as the lower sidewalk, and it was eighty-five feet wide.
  19. I saw the gates that led to the inner courtyard of the temple and noticed that they were higher than those leading to the outer courtyard. The man measured the distance between the outer and inner gates, and it was one hundred seventy feet.
  20. Next, the man measured the north gate that led to the outer courtyard.
  21. This gate also had three guardrooms on each side of a passageway. The measurements of these rooms, the walls between them, and the entrance room at the far end of the passageway were exactly the same as those of the east gate. The north gate was also eighty-five feet long and forty-two feet wide,
  22. and the windows, the entrance room, and the carvings of palm trees were just like those in the east gate. The entrance room also faced the courtyard of the temple and had seven steps leading up to it.
  23. Directly across the outer courtyard was a gate that led to the inner courtyard, just as there was for the east gate. The man measured the distance between the outer and inner gate, and it was one hundred seventy feet.
  24. The man then took me to the south gate. He measured the walls and the entrance room of this gate, and the measurements were exactly the same as those of the other two gates.
  25. There were windows in the guardrooms of this gate and in the entrance room, just like the others, and this gate was also eighty-five feet long and forty-two feet wide.
  26. Seven steps led up to the gate; the entrance room was at the far end of the passageway and faced the courtyard of the temple. Carvings of palm trees decorated the walls along the passageway.
  27. And directly across the outer courtyard was a gate on the south side of the inner courtyard. The man measured the distance between the outer and inner gate, and it was also one hundred seventy feet.
  28. We then went into the inner courtyard, through the gate on the south side of the temple. The man measured the gate, and it was the same size as the gates in the outer wall.
  29. In fact, everything along the passageway was also the same size, including the guardrooms, the walls separating them, the entrance room at the far end, and the windows. This gate, like the others, was eighty-five feet long and forty-two feet wide.
  30. (SEE 40:29)
  31. The entrance room of this gate faced the outer courtyard, and carvings of palm trees decorated the walls of the passageway. Eight steps led up to this gate.
  32. Next, we went through the east gate to the inner courtyard. The man measured this gate, and it was the same size as the others.
  33. The guardrooms, the walls separating them, and its entrance room had the same measurements as the other gates. The guardrooms and the entrance room had windows, and the gate was eighty-five feet long and forty-two feet wide.
  34. The entrance room faced the outer courtyard, and the walls in the passageway were decorated with carvings of palm trees. Eight steps also led up to this gate.
  35. Then the man took me to the north gate. He measured it, and it was the same size as the others,
  36. including the guardrooms, the walls separating them, and the entrance room. There were also windows in this gate. It was eighty-five feet long and forty-two feet wide,
  37. and like the other inner gates, its entrance room faced the outer courtyard, and its walls were decorated with carvings of palm trees. Eight steps also led up to this gate.
  38. Inside the entrance room of the north gate, I saw four tables, two on each side of the room, where the animals to be sacrificed were killed. Just outside this room was a small building used for washing the animals before they were offered as sacrifices to please the LORD or sacrifices for sin or sacrifices to make things right.
  39. (SEE 40:38)
  40. Four more tables were in the outer courtyard, two on each side of the steps leading into the entrance room.
  41. So there was a total of eight tables, four inside and four outside, where the animals were killed,
  42. and where the meat was placed until it was sacrificed on the altar. Next to the tables in the entrance room were four stone tables twenty inches high and thirty inches square; the equipment used for killing the animals was kept on top of these tables. All around the walls of this room was a three inch shelf.
  43. (SEE 40:42)
  44. The man then took me to the inner courtyard, where I saw two buildings, one beside the inner gate on the north and the other beside the inner gate on the south.
  45. He said, "The building beside the north gate belongs to the priests who serve in the temple,
  46. and the building beside the south gate belongs to those who serve at the altar. All of them are descendants of Zadok and are the only Levites allowed to serve as the LORD's priests."
  47. Now the man measured the inner courtyard; it was one hundred seventy feet square. I also saw an altar in front of the temple.
  48. We walked to the porch of the temple, and the man measured the doorway of the porch: It was twenty-four feet long, eight feet wide, and the distance from the doorway to the wall on either side was five feet.
  49. The porch itself was thirty-four feet by twenty feet, with steps leading up to it. There was a column on each side of these steps.

    The last several chapters of Ezekiel have referred to Israel's restoration to her land, to fellowship with God, and to a prosperity that will surpass any previous prosperity she has known. As of today, this restoration has not occurred. Believing that all prophecy authorized by God is fulfilled, I consider the complete fulfillment of Ezekiel's prophecy to be still in the future and most likely at a time known as Christ's millennial reign.

    Chapter 40 addresses the building of a new temple. Though I once saw this as a rebuilding of Solomon's temple that is no longer the case. Instead I see it as a new temple based, not on God's original covenant with Israel, but on God's new covenant with His people. Since I have previously assumed this building of a new temple to be the rebuilding of Solomon's temple and the restoration of temple sacrifices, I have always had difficulty with this and similar passages in scripture. I have wondered where the temple and animal sacrifices fit into the new covenant with Christ as the sacrifice for our sins. However, I find this explanation from the Bible Knowledge Commentary a plausible approach to this delimma:  "Levitical sacrifices were connected with Israel’s worship of God. When the church supplanted Israel in God’s program a new economy or dispensation began. The Levitical sacrificial system, which looked forward to Christ, was replaced by the Lord’s Supper, which looked back to His death and forward to His second coming. At Christ’s second coming Israel will again assume her place of prominence in God’s kingdom program. The Lord’s Supper will be eliminated, because Christ will have returned. It will be replaced by animal sacrifices, which will be memorials or object lessons of the supreme sacrifice made by the Lamb of God. The slaughtering of these animals will be vivid reminders of the Messiah’s suffering and death."

    As I say, this explanation seems plausible, but only God's knows His plan with certainty and it is not wise for us to be dogmatic in our ideas about such issues.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Reflections on Ezekiel 39

    Ezekiel 39 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Ezekiel, son of man, condemn Gog and tell him: You are the ruler of Meshech and Tubal, but I, the LORD, am your enemy!
  2. I will turn you around and drag you from the north until you reach the mountains of Israel.
  3. I will knock the bow out of your left hand and the arrows out of your right hand,
  4. and you and your army will die on those mountains. Then birds and wild animals will eat the flesh
  5. of your dead bodies left lying in open fields. I, the LORD, have spoken.
  6. I will set fire to the land of Magog and to those nations along the seacoast that think they are so secure, and they will know that I am the LORD.
  7. My people Israel will know me, and they will no longer disgrace my holy name. Everyone on earth will know that I am the holy LORD God of Israel.
  8. The day is coming when these things will happen, just as I have promised.
  9. When that day comes, the people in the towns of Israel will collect the weapons of their dead enemies. They will use these shields, bows and arrows, spears, and clubs as firewood, and there will be enough to last for seven years.
  10. They will burn these weapons instead of gathering sticks or chopping down trees. That's how the Israelites will take revenge on those who robbed and abused them. I, the LORD, have spoken.
  11. After Gog has been destroyed, I will bury him and his army in Israel, in Travelers' Valley, east of the Dead Sea. That graveyard will be so large that it will block the way of anyone who tries to walk through the valley, which will then be known as "The Valley of Gog's Army."
  12. The Israelites will spend seven months burying dead bodies and cleaning up their land.
  13. Everyone will help with the burial, and they will be honored for this on the day the brightness of my glory is seen.
  14. After those seven months, the people will appoint a group of men to look for any dead bodies left unburied. This must be done for seven months to make sure that the land is no longer unclean.
  15. Whenever they find a human bone, they will set up a marker next to it. Then the gravediggers will bury it in "The Valley of Gog's Army"
  16. near the town of "Gog's Army." After that, the land will be pure again.
  17. Ezekiel, son of man, I am going to hold a feast on Israel's mountains and offer sacrifices there. So invite all the birds and wild animals to come from every direction and eat the meat of sacrifices and drink the blood. The birds and animals
  18. will feast on the bodies of warriors and foreign rulers that I will sacrifice like sheep, goats, and bulls.
  19. I want the birds and animals to eat until they are full and drink until they are drunk.
  20. They will come to my table and stuff themselves with the flesh of horses and warriors of every kind. I, the LORD God, have spoken.
  21. When I punish the nations of the earth, they will see the brightness of my glory.
  22. The people of Israel will know from then on that I am the LORD their God.
  23. Foreign nations will realize that the Israelites were forced to leave their own land because they sinned against me. I turned my back on my people and let enemies attack and kill them.
  24. Their lives were wicked and corrupt, and they deserved to be punished.
  25. Now I will show mercy to the people of Israel and bring them back from the nations where they are living. They are Jacob's descendants, so I will bless them and show that I am holy.
  26. They will live safely in their own land, but will be ashamed when they remember their evil ways and how they disgraced me.
  27. Foreign nations will watch as I take the Israelites from enemy lands and bring them back home, and those nations will see that I am holy.
  28. My people will realize that I, the LORD their God, sent them away as prisoners and now will bring them back to their own land.
  29. Never again will I turn my back on the people of Israel, and my Spirit will live in them. I, the LORD, have spoken.

    The prophecy against Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, continues. It should be remembered, however, that even today this prophecy is yet future as is the full restoration of Israel. This prophecy against Gog is actually tied to the fulfillment of Israel's restoration. Not that the destruction of Gog and his hoardes will make possible Israel's restoration but that it is an event through which God chooses to demonstrate His power both to Israel and to the world, convincing Israel that He is the Lord. When the huge army of Gog comes against Israel, swarming the land, and God destroys it without Israel lifting a hand, Israel and the world will know without a doubt that God did it. And they will also know that Israel's destruction in the day of Ezekiel was also of God. For God could have stopped the Assryians and the Babylonians in the same way He stopped Gog, but He chose not to. As verse 23 says, "And the nations will know that the house of Israel went into exile on account of their iniquity, because they dealt unfaithfully with Me. Therefore, I hid My face from them and handed them over to their enemies, so that they all fell by the sword."

    Then God says, "Now I will restore the fortunes of Jacob and have compassion on the whole house of Israel, and I will be jealous for My holy name." (39:25) With full understanding on the part of Israel as to why she was exiled, and with shame on her part for her iniquities that brought about her exile, and with her acknowledgement of the Lord, God was ready to complete her restoration.

    It is my understanding that Israel's full restoration will come at a time when Christ will rule. A time known by many as the "Millenial Reign of Christ." Christ, a descendant of king David, will reign in the line of David over Israel and all nations. Then, rather than being a shame among the nations of the world, Israel will be admired.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Reflections on Ezekiel 38

    Ezekiel 38 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. The LORD said:
  2. Ezekiel, son of man, condemn Gog, that wicked ruler of the kingdoms of Meshech and Tubal in the land of Magog. Tell him:
  3. I, the LORD God, am your enemy,
  4. and I will make you powerless! I will put a hook in your jaw and drag away both you and your large army. You command cavalry troops that wear heavy armor and carry shields and swords.
  5. Your army includes soldiers from Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya,
  6. as well as from Gomer and Beth-Togarmah in the north. Your army is enormous!
  7. So keep your troops prepared to fight,
  8. because in a few years, I will command you to invade Israel, a country that was ruined by war. It was deserted for a long time, but its people have returned from the foreign nations where they once lived. The Israelites now live in peace in the mountains of their own land.
  9. But you and your army will attack them like a fierce thunderstorm and surround them like a cloud.
  10. When that day comes, I know that you will have an evil plan
  11. to take advantage of Israel, that weak and peaceful country where people live safely inside towns that have no walls or gates or locks.
  12. You will rob the people in towns that were once a pile of rubble. These people lived as prisoners in foreign nations, but they have returned to Israel, the most important place in the world, and they own livestock and property.
  13. The people of Sheba and Dedan, along with merchants from villages in southern Spain, will be your allies. They will want some of the silver and gold, as well as the livestock and property that your army takes from Israel.
  14. I, the LORD God, know that when you see my people Israel living in peace,
  15. you will lead your powerful cavalry from your kingdom in the north.
  16. You will attack my people like a storm-cloud that covers their land. I will let you invade my country Israel, so that every nation on earth will know that I, the LORD, am holy.
  17. The LORD said to Gog: Long ago, I had my prophets warn the people of Israel that someday I would send an enemy to attack them. You, Gog, are that enemy, and that day is coming.
  18. When you invade Israel, I will become furious,
  19. and in my anger I will send a terrible earthquake to shake Israel.
  20. Every living thing on earth will tremble in fear of me--every fish and bird, every wild animal and reptile, and every human. Mountains will crumble, cliffs will fall, and cities will collapse.
  21. I, the LORD, will make the mountains of Israel turn against you. Your troops will be so terrified that they will attack each other.
  22. I will strike you with diseases and punish you with death. You and your army will be pounded with rainstorms, hailstones, and burning sulfur.
  23. I will do these things to show the world that I, the LORD, am holy.

    Chapter 37 speaks of restoration for Israel, providing hope for her future. Then as our reading progresses into chapter 38 it first appears as if God plans to destroy what He has restored. It tells of a leader by the name of Gog who is from the land of Magog and prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal. The identity of these places is unclear. The army led by Gog will be huge, swarming over the land, on its way to destroy Israel. At the time of these events, Israel will be living at peace in unwalled villages, vulnerable to the attack of this huge army.

    But the God that is able to raise up a people from dry bones - as described in chapter 37 - is able to protect His people from this huge hoard as it advances "against My people Israel like a cloud covering the land." (38:16) In fact, these events will be orchestrated by God to judge Gog and his army and to demonstrate His power on behalf of His people. Israel will not have to protect herself for God will deal with this army. As it enters Israel there "will be a great earthquake in the land of Israel." (38:19) This earthquake will bring down the mountains and cause every living thing to tremble. Then the vast army of Gog will be struck with "torrential rain, hailstones, fire, and brimstone," (38:22) destroying it. In so doing, God will "display My greatness and holiness, and will reveal Myself in the sight of many nations. Then they will know that I am the LORD." (38:23)

Friday, April 1, 2011

Reflections on Ezekiel 37

    Ezekiel 37 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Some time later, I felt the LORD's power take control of me, and his Spirit carried me to a valley full of bones.
  2. The LORD showed me all around, and everywhere I looked I saw bones that were dried out.
  3. He said, "Ezekiel, son of man, can these bones come back to life?" I replied, "LORD God, only you can answer that."
  4. He then told me to say: Dry bones, listen to what the LORD is saying to you,
  5. "I, the LORD God, will put breath in you, and once again you will live.
  6. I will wrap you with muscles and skin and breathe life into you. Then you will know that I am the LORD."
  7. I did what the LORD said, but before I finished speaking, I heard a rattling noise. The bones were coming together!
  8. I saw muscles and skin cover the bones, but they had no life in them.
  9. The LORD said: Ezekiel, now say to the wind, "The LORD God commands you to blow from every direction and to breathe life into these dead bodies, so they can live again."
  10. As soon as I said this, the wind blew among the bodies, and they came back to life! They all stood up, and there were enough to make a large army.
  11. The LORD said: Ezekiel, the people of Israel are like dead bones. They complain that they are dried up and that they have no hope for the future.
  12. So tell them, "I, the LORD God, promise to open your graves and set you free. I will bring you back to Israel,
  13. and when that happens, you will realize that I am the LORD.
  14. My Spirit will give you breath, and you will live again. I will bring you home, and you will know that I have kept my promise. I, the LORD, have spoken."
  15. The LORD said:
  16. Ezekiel, son of man, get a stick and write on it, "The kingdom of Judah." Then get another stick and write on it, "The kingdom of Israel."
  17. Hold these two sticks end to end, so they look like one stick.
  18. And when your people ask you what this means,
  19. tell them that I, the LORD, will join together the stick of Israel and the stick of Judah. I will hold them in my hand, and they will become one.
  20. Hold these two sticks where they can be seen by everyone
  21. and then say: I, the LORD God, will gather the people of Israel and bring them home from the foreign nations where they now live.
  22. I will make them into one nation and let them once again live in the land of Israel. Only one king will rule them, and they will never again be divided into two nations.
  23. They will no longer worship idols and do things that make them unacceptable to me. I will wash away their sin and make them clean, and I will protect them from everything that makes them unclean. They will be my people, and I will be their God.
  24. Their king will always come from the family of my servant King David and will care for them like a shepherd. The people of Israel will faithfully obey my laws. They and their descendants will live in the land I gave my servant Jacob, just as their ancestors did.
  25. (SEE 37:24)
  26. I solemnly promise to bless the people of Israel with unending peace. I will protect them and let them become a powerful nation. My temple will stand in Israel for all time,
  27. and I will live among my people and be their God.
  28. Every nation on earth will know that my temple is in Israel and that I have chosen the Israelites to be my people.

    God's promise to restore Israel continues in chapter 37. He restates what He has said before, "I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant with them." (37:26) At the time of this prophecy Israel was a captive of Assyria and Judah was exiled in Babylon. A majority of the people were dead by famine, plague, and the sword. How was it possible for the Hebrew people to be restored in their homeland and be better off than they were before? But this is what God promised, "I will make you inhabited as you once were and make you better off than you were before. I will make you inhabited as you once were and make you better off than you were before." (36:11)

    The vision of the dry bones that God gave to Ezekiel answers this question. As impossible as the situation might seem to the people of Israel, nothing is impossible for God. He could even breathe life into dry, bleached out bones.  In this vision, Ezekiel was taken out to a valley filled with the bones of those killed in battle. As Ezekiel watched, the bones came together, then tendons appeared on them, flesh grew, and they were covered with skin. Once breath entered the bodies, "they came to life and stood on their feet, a vast army." (37:10) No, God is not restricted even by death. One might wonder why a God of love would take the lives of His people who He is punishing. And it would seem that, at least in part, the answer to this question also lies in this vision. God is the source of life. He gives it and is free to take it. But in taking it He is also free to restore it. Death is not the end for those who are in Christ.

    This first vision addressed the restoring of life to the people. A second vision addressed the restoration once again of Israel and Judah as one nation. In this vision Ezekiel was to take two sticks and write "Belonging to Judah and the Israelites associated with him" on one, and "Belonging to Joseph--the stick of Ephraim--and all the house of Israel associated with him," on the other.  Then he was to join the two sticks together in his hand and explain that God "will make them into a single stick so that they become one in My hand." (37:19) Continuing He said, "I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel, and one king will rule over all of them. They will no longer be two nations and will no longer be divided into two kingdoms." (37:22)

    In this restored state, God will make His dwelling with them. "When My sanctuary is among them forever, the nations will know that I, the LORD, sanctify Israel." (37:28)