The final vision given to Ezekiel is a vision of a glorious new temple filled with God’s glory. We noted in our prior lesson that this vision was never looked by the people in the scriptures as the instructions for building a new temple when they return to the land. The Lord was pointing to a glorious reality when the glory of the Lord would come from the east, place his feet in Jerusalem, and fill the temple with his glory (43:6-9). Jesus proclaimed himself to be the new temple in John 2. John 1 declares that Jesus is the glory of the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14). The apostle Paul also proclaimed Jesus to be the Lord of glory (1 Corinthians 2:7-8). To miss that Jesus is the temple that this vision is pointing to is to imply that Jesus is insufficient as our glorious temple as he proclaimed that he was for the world.
There is another important point that we made in the last lesson is that these final chapters of Ezekiel are prophetic contrasts. The false shepherds will be judged and the Lord will send a new shepherd. The people had lost their kings because of their sins but the Lord will send David as king. The people’s stubborn hearts of stone will be replaced with hearts of flesh. In the same way, this temple is a contrast to the way things were when the prior temple of Solomon existed. In other words, Ezekiel’s temple is not to be constructed. Rather, the people were to read about Ezekiel’s temple and note its radical difference from the former temple. These differences were to cause the people to be convicted and ashamed of their sins (43:9-10). As we continue through Ezekiel’s temple vision, we are to hold on to this purpose. God wants the people to see this glorious temple and be ashamed and repentant of their sins. In Ezekiel 44-46 we are going to read about the impact of God’s glory returning to temple on the people.
A New Prince
Ezekiel 44 begins with a new figure called the prince. The first three verses of Ezekiel 44 state that the gates of the temple must remain shut and no one is allowed to enter except the prince. Now why are we talking about a prince? The Lord through Ezekiel uses the title of prince to refer to the various kings, rulers, and leaders of Israel (cf. 11:1; 17:12; 19:1). In Ezekiel 12 the prophecy was the prince in Jerusalem was going to pack his bags, leave the land, and not see where he is going. This was a prophecy concerning Ezekiel 19 a lamentation was taken up against the final three kings of Judah, calling them princes and noting their spiritual failures. Ezekiel 21-22 expand on those judgment, noting how the kings and leaders have been bent on shedding blood, profaning the Sabbaths, taking bribes, extorting people, and treating parents with contempt. I want us to focus on one particular problem of the prior princes. “You have despised my holy things and profaned my Sabbaths” (Ezekiel 22:8 ESV). The kings and the leaders of Israel had no regard for the Lord and his holiness. They had no regard for his holy laws. They had no concern for the Lord’s holy feasts and holy days. The leaders did not care and the people did not care. That is why they are in the condition they are in during the days of Ezekiel. The people need Zedekiah whose eyes were gouged out by the Babylonians and he was led into captivity in Babylon. In a new prince. A concise promise was made about this earlier in Ezekiel’s prophecy.
They shall dwell in the land that I gave to my servant Jacob, where your fathers lived. They and their children and their children’s children shall dwell there forever, and David my servant shall be their prince forever. (Ezekiel 37:25 ESV)
So what is this prince going to do? Chapters 45-46 gives a number of details giving expectations for the new prince. There are two key pictures to the actions of this new prince. First, there are limitations placed on the prince. Now this has always bothered me because we know this the pictures of this prince are pictures of Christ. How can this prophecy have messages about the limits that are placed on him? Look at Ezekiel 45:7-8. These two verses give the prince land and he is restrained from taking any more land than what is assigned to him. A similar point is made in Ezekiel 46:16-18. “The prince shall not take any of the inheritance of the people, thrusting them out of their property” (Ezekiel 46:18 ESV). This sounds strange until we remember that this is a contrast to prior princes. When you think about prior princes you might remember that this is what the kings of Israel were doing. It was common for kings to seize land and property for themselves. We have one particular account of this in the days of Ahab and Jezebel in 1 Kings 21. Naboth has a vineyard that Ahab wants and so Jezebel has him killed so that Ahab can take the property. Here is the point: prior princes hurt the people for their own selfish desires. But this prince will not that. This prince will not hurt the people and take their land. This prince will be content with his inheritance and allow the people to enjoy the inheritance of the land with him. The one in authority will no longer abuse the people.
Second, the prince is pictured ruling with justice and equity, unlike the prior princes (45:8-12). Rather than resisting the Lord, he is going to serve the Lord. The prince will bring his gifts and offerings to the Lord (45:13-25). The prior princes had no regard for God’s holiness or offerings. They violated the temple rules and did not uphold the holiness laws. They thought they were above God’s law because they were kings. But this king will not do that. This prince will be different. This prince will uphold God’s holiness in every respect. Notice the picture in Ezekiel 45:17.
It shall be the prince’s duty to furnish the burnt offerings, grain offerings, and drink offerings, at the feasts, the new moons, and the Sabbaths, all the appointed feasts of the house of Israel: he shall provide the sin offerings, grain offerings, burnt offerings, and peace offerings, to make atonement on behalf of the house of Israel. (Ezekiel 45:17 ESV)
On that day the prince is going to provide the sacrifices for the people (cf. Ezekiel 45:22-25; 46:12-15). Rather than prohibiting the people from accessing the Lord, the prince will be providing everything the people need to access the Lord and worship him. This is a key point that the writer of Hebrews makes in Hebrews 10. The writer notes that sacrifices and offerings were insufficient and therefore not what the Lord desired (Hebrews 10:1-8). Therefore, a body was prepared for Christ who came to do the will of the Father and we have been made holy through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (Hebrews 10:8-10).
A New Holiness
As we noted in the last lesson, we need to consider what the impact is supposed to be on the people. We noted in Ezekiel 43:9-10 that the design of the temple was to convict the people of their sins and make them ashamed of how they rejected the Lord. But what is the big picture for us by seeing the new prince as Christ who has given himself so that we can access the Lord? Turn back to the beginning of chapter 44 of Ezekiel. Notice in Ezekiel 44:4 that Ezekiel sees the glory of the Lord filling this new visionary temple. Now the Lord’s message to the people begins in verse 6.
And say to the rebellious house, to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: O house of Israel, enough of all your abominations, in admitting foreigners, uncircumcised in heart and flesh, to be in my sanctuary, profaning my temple, when you offer to me my food, the fat and the blood. You have broken my covenant, in addition to all your abominations. And you have not kept charge of my holy things, but you have set others to keep my charge for you in my sanctuary. (Ezekiel 44:6–8 ESV)
The coming of the new prince and the filling of the temple with the glory of the people are to cause the people to quit sinning. These chapters are a call to the people to live holy lives. But I want to spend a few moments considering the beautiful picture that the Lord sets forward as why we need to live holy lives. The contrast begins in Ezekiel 44:9-14. In these verses the Lord describes the failure of the Levites. They went astray going after their idols and became a stumbling block for sinning to the people (44:10,12). They were going to bear the punishment for their actions. But verse 15 says that the faithful priests of the Lord will come near and stand in service to the Lord, offering sacrifices. Much of chapter 44 is the required holiness of the priests. Only pure priests can serve in this new temple. They must be holy if they are to be in service to the Lord. We must remember that Christians are designated as priests to the Lord and must be holy to the Lord.
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (Revelation 1:5–6 ESV)
1 So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. 4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:1–5 ESV)
Notice the holiness of this picture. We are to put away all things that are sinful and evil and come to Christ to be living stone built up as a spiritual house. Please notice what else Peter says. We are to be a holy priesthood offering spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to the Lord. Listen to what one of the roles was to be for the Lord’s priests.
They shall teach my people the difference between the holy and the common, and show them how to distinguish between the unclean and the clean. (Ezekiel 44:23 ESV)
How can we teach people the difference between the holy and the common and to distinguish between clean and unclean when we are not living lives of holiness? We have to live holy lives as God’s priests, distinguished from the world, so that we can show the world what is right and wrong, what is true and what is false, and what is holy and what is not. In short, we are to be holy and teach holiness.
So here is the big point for our lesson today. I want a purpose attached to your life. Sometimes we can simply think about how the Lord tells us to stop sinning and live holy lives without understanding the reason for it. But there is a purpose to waging war against sin and living pure lives. You need to fight against sin because to be a light of holiness in the darkness of sin. You have been called show and teach holiness and righteousness to the people in your areas of life. We cannot be priests before the Lord if we are entangled in our idolatrous ways. The Lord rejected the Levites because they had gone astray from him and became a stumbling block to the world. The Lord has cleansed us to be a holy temple to the living God, inviting the world to see and enjoy God’s holiness and love. All of this has been made possible because we have a new prince who has provided the sin sacrifice through his body. What do we need to do differently tomorrow at work to show the holiness of God? What do we need to do different in our families to show the holiness of God? What do we need to change so that we can be considered holy before the Lord? What do we to say to teach people about God’s holiness in the world? Be a priest to the Lord, offering spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God, teaching people about the desires and ways of the Lord. Be holy in all you do because he who called you is holy (1 Peter 1:15).