12 January 2019Ezekiel 43:1-5
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)
Psalm: Psalm 116
Ezekiel was another of the great prophets of the exile to Babylon, alongside Isaiah and Jeremiah. His work begins with a vision of the glory of the Lord, leaving its home in the Temple and moving into exile among the people of Israel, to live with them by the river Chebar (3:12, 15).
The prophecy ends with an overwhelming vision of the renewed Temple, built on a massive scale as a fitting home for the worship of God. And part of this vision is the return of God to the Temple, described here. God is coming home, moving back from the eastern land of Babylon (v 2), ready to welcome the people when they return from exile. Ezekiel’s vision of God is consistent over the three occasions this is revealed to him (v 3). There are winged living beings surrounding sparkling fire, and wheels within wheels, bearing a royal throne with “something that seemed like a human form”, all crowned by a rainbow (chapter 1). No wonder Ezekiel fell on his face! This is the same God who left the Temple; now there is a homecoming in preparation for the people’s return.
Ezekiel uses multi-sensory images to describe the joy of the Lord’s return. In a land where rain is scarce and precious, the sound of “mighty waters” means the hope of water for crops, the desert transformed into fertile land. Water brings the promise of renewal. The sight of the earth shining with the glory of God also suggests a rich land, alight with sunlight reflected from the ripe grain of harvest (see Psalm 65:9-13), or maybe the sparkle of sunlight on the sea (Habakkuk 2:14).
The vision of God returning reaches its triumphant conclusion when God enters the temple, and Ezekiel sees the building full of the glory of the Lord. Isaiah had had a similar vision, when he saw the Lord enthroned, so mighty that the whole Temple was filled just with the hem of his robe (Isaiah 6:1-8). The vision continues as Ezekiel hears words of promise and hope: “this is the place of my throne, where I will reside for ever” (v 7). God has come home, for good!
- The poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote ‘The world is charged with the grandeur of God. It will flame out …’ Where do you see the grandeur, the glory of God bringing the world to life?
- When Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to the Temple, Simeon recognises him as “a light to the Gentiles and the glory of your people Israel” (Luke 2:32). What does today’s reading from Ezekiel add to our understanding of who Jesus is?