08 August 2011

"You shall do the same on the seventh day of the month for anyone who has sinned through error or ignorance; so you shall make atonement for the temple." (v. 20)


All of the readings for the rest of this week form part of Ezekiel's vision for a renewed national and spiritual life which began inchapter 40. They form the climax of Ezekiel's prophecy to a people who were still in exile. The style of writing used by Ezekiel is apocalyptic, a genre that doesn't necessarily make literal predictions but seeks to draw back the curtain of our reality to reveal a vision from God. This part includes a renewal of the festivals and worshipping life of Israel.

It is not clear which if any of the original festivals to which these rituals are referring, although there are similarities to the Day of Atonement. On this annual festival, atonement was made for the sins of the whole people that had been committed throughout the year. The temple, as the dwelling place of God's glory, needed to be pure and holy and verse 20 is particularly interesting because Ezekiel talks about people who have sinned in ignorance or error. He then says "so shall you make atonement for the temple". Perhaps Ezekiel is drawing out the idea that it is the people who are the dwelling place of God.

We should also notice the places where the purifying blood is placed: in the sanctuary, the corners of the altar, the doorposts of the temple and the gate posts of the inner court. In other words, it is placed in the most sacred centre of the temple, where sacrifices are made, and the parts of the temple through which people and things may pass. It is these places that need purifying.

Today, the visceral idea of blood being used to bring purity is not one with which we are generally comfortable. Indeed our first response to blood is to wash it off rather than wash it on. But blood is a carrier of life, a bringer of life and naturally all of these thoughts remind us of the body and blood of Christ, who was himself the dwelling place of God in whom Christians are called to live.

To Ponder

The doorposts and gateposts of the temple needed purifying blood in Ezekiel's vision. Where are the doorposts and gateposts in your life that need to be made pure?

You are a dwelling place of God. How should this idea affect our lives?

Bible notes author: The Revd Jonathan Mead

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