Tuesday

02 August 2011

"As the glory of the Lord entered the temple by the gate facing east, the spirit lifted me up, and brought into the inner court; and the glory of the Lord filled the temple." (v. 5)

Background

Today's passage is in some ways the completion of what was begun yesterday, so here is a quick reminder of what we read then. Ezekiel was in Babylon and received a vision of a city like Jerusalem. The temple in Jerusalem was destroyed when Israel was invaded and many of the Israelites (including Ezekiel) were taken off into captivity. But in his vision, Ezekiel walked around a city complete with a temple.

The Bible has two earlier stories which help to understand this one. In Exodus chapters 25-40, Moses first built a tabernacle for the Lord. And in 1 Kings chapters 6-8, Solomon built the temple, fulfilling his promise to create a house for the Lord. In both of these earlier cases the climax of the story came when the building was completed and God, or the glory of God, arrived to take up residence. God's arrival in glory was seen as a divine seal of approval on the building provided. Notice both the royal reference, the temple is to be the place of God's throne, and also the promise of hope, God will reside in the temple "among the people of Israel forever" (v. 7). Not only will God never leave again, the people will return from Babylon to live with God.

But there is a second half to this passage: up to the middle of verse 7 it is a great message of hope; from the second half of verse 7 onwards there is both a standard to live up to and, by implication, a message that what happened to Israel was their fault. God consumed them because of their many sins. The promise is that the future will be different to the past, if Israel will put away their sins. If they turn to God, God will live with them for ever.

To Ponder

Do you find the idea of places where God is particularly close or present helpful or unhelpful? Why?

Do you think the final couple of verses are threatening or hopeful? Why?

Imagine that you are an ancient Israelite looking forward to returning to Jerusalem after the Exile. What reasons would you have to believe that the future would be different to the past?

Bible notes author: The Revd Judith Rossall

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