Saturday

And there, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the east; the sound was like the sound of mighty waters; and the earth shone with his glory. (v. 2)

Ezekiel 43:1-5 Saturday 8 January 2022

Psalm 116

Background

Six hundred years before Jesus’ birth, the people of Israel faced disaster. Babylonian forces besieged Jerusalem, captured it and destroyed the Temple (2 Kings 25). This is the context of Ezekiel’s prophecy, which begins with a vision of the glory of God departing from the Temple (Ezekiel 10:18) in judgment on the people’s failings. The ruins of the Temple are an empty shell, no longer the home of God on earth. It is hard to imagine the desolation this vision of abandonment must bring to those who had worshipped God in the Temple (see, for example, Psalm 139).

Towards the end of his book, Ezekiel receives a vision of restoration and redemption. Chapters 40–42 describe the Temple’s reconstruction, a huge building, symmetrical and perfectly organised, a contrast to the chaos of destruction. Following today’s passage comes a description of how worship is to be organised in the renewed Temple.

And at the heart of Ezekiel’s vision comes this picture of the glory of the Lord returning home. "The appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord" (Ezekiel 1:28) moves in an impossibly complex chariot constructed of wheels within wheels and propelled by cherubim, and this is mentioned again in verse 3 of today's reading. In this rainbow-crowned chariot, God returns from the East, and the Temple is once again filled with glory (Isaiah 6:1). The cosmos is restored to the proper order, with the glory of the Lord back at its centre, and the people’s relationship with God is restored.

The Temple was eventually rebuilt, though on a much smaller scale (Ezra 2:12–6:16). Ezekiel’s prophecy remains a vision of the orderly beauty of God’s holiness and an affirmation that with the guidance of the Spirit, humanity can create a place for God to be present among us.

 

To Ponder:

  • Celtic spirituality identifies ‘thin places’ where people discern God’s presence more clearly. You could describe Ezekiel’s vision of God returning to the Temple in similar terms. Are there places where you feel God is particularly close to you? What makes them special?
  • God returns to the Temple to make a new beginning with the people, free from their past mistakes and sins. We are still at the beginning of 2022 – are there ways in which God is wanting to make a new beginning with you?

 Prayer

God of new beginnings, you are able to overcome the hardest of circumstances with the wonder of your love. Come and change our hearts, until we become people in whom you make your home. Amen.

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