by Pastor David Groendyk
So much of these last few chapters in Ezekiel calls to mind other parts of Scripture—Exodus and the furnishings of the tabernacle, Joshua and the division of the Promised Land, Leviticus and the various feasts and sacrifices, among others. Part of the purpose of this section in Ezekiel is to reorient believers to the original purpose for the Promised Land of Canaan. It was to be a land in which the Lord dwelled with his people. None of these stipulations were intended to be a new legislation for the Israelites to follow; rather, they are a vision describing God’s sovereignty and God’s presence.
The bulk of attention in the last two chapters has been on the mysterious prince figure. He is the chief representative of God’s people. He is allowed further into the temple than the laypeople (v. 2). He is their leader in worship (v. 10). He has privileged access to the east gate in order to offer sacrifices (v. 12). But notice clearly that the prince is not a priest. Although he is central in representing the people as they worship at the temple weekly, offer sacrifices, and make atonement before God, this is not a one-man show at the temple. The prince still relies on the priesthood to actually present the offerings to God. In a sense, according to the commentator Iain Duguid, this messianic figure is “muted” a bit, with all of the emphasis falling on God. The central figure is not the prince but Yahweh. In the context of Ezekiel, that should make sense. Judah is exiled and suffering the wrath of God for repeatedly and egregiously breaking the covenant. The grand vision of Ezekiel 40–48 is meant to bring the people to a place of repentance, endurance, and hope by reordering their worship and putting all their focus on God. In fact, you could say (as Duguid does) that the temple building itself is the primary messianic figure in view rather than the prince, because the whole sacrificial system is what undergirds our covenantal relationship with God. As Duguid points out, sacrifices repair broken relationships by offering ransoms, they’re an offer of tribute to a king, they’re the means by which two parties enjoy a covenantal meal together, and they cleanse impurity. These are the ways sacrifices functioned in the Old Testament, and these are all the ways that Jesus Christ undergirds our relationship with God. Through Christ, our ransom is paid, our guilt is taken away, and we are at peace with the Father. Again, as has been said numerous times in these last Ezekiel devotionals, the point of this section is not for Israel to build another temple. This vision shows that God is doing something new and different and permanent. The goal is to look to the surer and greater fulfillment of everything that’s come before, Jesus Christ.
The vision of a renewed, God-focused, corporate worship is instructive for the church as well. Let all of us prioritize the Christian Sabbath day of Sunday. All of our lives are to be oriented around God’s glory and worship, and our corporate gathering on Sundays is meant to be the high point. Sunday is where we see God’s name magnified after spending the earlier week seeing and hearing his name taken in vain by the world. Sunday is where we’re emphatically reminded of Christ’s atonement after struggling the rest of the week with the guilt of our sin. Sunday is where we’re called to holiness and endurance after being pulled away from obedience by our own flesh and the world. Sunday is where we’re given hope to press on before being sent out as his ambassadors and witnesses. Corporate worship calls the church to repentance, endurance, and hope, just as Ezekiel is doing with Judah. When we neglect it, we are sure to suffer. Prioritize corporate worship for your own soul’s good, and spur one another on with these reminders too.