The Lord Is There

The Lord Is There

Ezekiel 40:1–48:35

Main Idea: God will purify and preserve His people so they can enjoy His presence forever.

I. When Are We Talking About (40:1)?

II. Should We Start Collecting Supplies and Building a Temple in Jerusalem (40:2–42:20)?

III. What Was the Original Purpose for This Text (43:1-12)?

IV. How Will It Be Possible for God to Dwell with His People?

A. God’s initial immanence

B. God’s incarnation

C. God’s indwelling

D. God’s infinite dwelling

V. What Can We Learn About God in Ezekiel 40–48?

A. God initiates.

B. God instructs.

C. God is holy.

D. God is gracious.

E. God will be worshiped on His terms.

F. God is sufficient.

G. God is sovereign.

VI. What Do We Learn About Us (44:6-31)?

A. Rewards

B. Refreshing

If you have journeyed to this point in Ezekiel, let me commend you for persevering. Preaching through Ezekiel was one of the most rigorous yet rewarding experiences for me personally and pastorally. I am certain some of our people believed Christ would return before we finished our series through this book of the Bible. Of course, my prayer is that we never just “get through” Bible books but that they “get in” us. There is much to learn in Ezekiel. The true measure of our learning, however, will be evidenced in how we are living. How will a study of Ezekiel not just fill our minds but also move our hearts and hands? How can we most profitably ponder Israel’s constant disobedience and disregard for God’s Word so that we will strive not to imitate them? How can we see a God who is really good to people who are really bad and be moved by His mercy to us? How can we see God’s desire to exalt His name and learn not to exalt our own? How can we see God’s judgment and be motivated to share the gospel with everyone we see? How can we see His wrath and grow in gratitude for the cross of Christ? What good will come from this work I’m writing remains to be seen, but what good God has wrought through His Word in my life is a value without measure.

In dealing with the final chapters of Ezekiel, I chose in my sermon series to develop one sermon. You should feel the freedom to do what is best for the people you shepherd or disciple. For instance, you might choose to develop a sermon on Ezekiel 47 and connect it with Christ (John 7:37-39). I will certainly make these connections, but I did not develop a whole sermon just on Ezekiel 47. Also, if you have come to this portion of the material and are hoping to have all of your eschatological questions answered, then you will be disappointed. (Actually, if you have made it this far and this is your first disappointment, then God has allowed you to read with eyes of grace!) My approach with passages such as these is always the same wherever I am in God’s Word: preach what is clearest. We cannot preach what we do not know, but we should proclaim boldly what is clear. We should also feel freedom to be honest with our people about passages like Ezekiel 40–48 and tell them there are some things we will not be able to figure out until God ultimately fulfills them.

As we approach Ezekiel 40–48, we acknowledge that godly scholars and pastors claiming to be led by the Holy Spirit have not all arrived at a point of unity in interpreting these chapters. Kaiser noted,

Few chapters of the Bible separate interpreters into such strongly diverse camps of interpretation as the last nine chapters of Ezekiel—probably more than at any other place in the Scriptures. (Kaiser, Last Things, chap. 11)

In light of the interpretive difficulties of this portion of Ezekiel, the words of Derek Thomas can be comforting. He contends,

A confession of ignorance about the precise meaning of these passages is nothing to be ashamed of. Just because commentators are dogmatic about a certain interpretation is no guarantee that they are right. We need the illumination of the Holy Spirit to help us come to understand every word of Scripture. In passages like these, meekness is the best approach. (Thomas, God Strengthens, 288)

Let this be our approach as we turn now to the text.

When Are We Talking About?

Ezekiel 40:1

Twenty-five years into the exile, Ezekiel is given the vision that comprises Ezekiel 40–48 (40:1). It has been 14 years since the fall of Jerusalem. The last time reference Ezekiel noted with the visions he received was the twelfth year of the exile (33:21). If that’s the case, then God has been silent for a while. Perhaps they wondered if God had forgotten them. Maybe they doubted His sincerity to rescue and restore them to Israel. What do you do when it seems God has not “spoken” to you in a while? My encouragement would be to open your Bible. He speaks through His Word every day.

For Ezekiel’s audience God’s silence did not mean His absence. God knows exactly when we need to hear what. How often has the Lord provided the exact word we have needed in the exact moment we needed it? When I received word that my good friend and neighbor had drowned in a canoeing accident, the Holy Spirit immediately brought 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 to my mind. I had not even had time to ask for a word. He brought to my mind the word I needed at the moment I most needed it.

With regard to eschatological phraseology such as latter days or after many years, you will find more of this in Ezekiel 38–39 than in 40–48. If we consider these chapters literally, then obviously some of what is said is yet to occur. If we consider these chapters spiritually, then some of the promises here have already been met in Christ. I believe the complete fulfillment of Ezekiel 40–48 is still to come, which is why John uses some of the pictures found here as he writes Revelation 21–22. We are now led to another important question.

Should We Start Collecting Supplies and Building a Temple in Jerusalem?

Ezekiel 40:2–42:20

Since my childhood, I have heard stories of materials being gathered, including a red heifer, so that all will be ready to construct a new building in the city where God set His name. What has not been certain is exactly who is gathering those materials, where they are storing them now, or why in the world they would need a red heifer. What I do know is that Ezekiel 40–48 is not intended to be a blueprint telling us how to construct God’s next dwelling place. I am pretty sure He is already taking care of this, as we will see.

One reason I do not believe the intention of Ezekiel 40–42 is for us to build a Legoland like no other is because there is not a single imperative telling us to build anything. Unlike Noah, Ezekiel is not asked to construct anything. On the contrary, he is to look with his eyes, listen with his ears, pay attention to everything he is shown, and then report everything he sees to Israel (40:2-5). He was brought in a vision to see something that already exists and not something he was going to create (v. 4).

For those who remain obstinate, however, and see this as a construction plan, I just have one question: How are you going to build this if you do not know how tall it should be or what materials you need in order to construct it? Do you think God does not care about either of those details? Did He provide these for the ark? Did He provide these for the first temple? There are a lot of measurements in Ezekiel 40, but they all consist of length and width and never height. If you decide to go ahead and construct something, then you will just have to guess at how tall to make it. I am sure that will turn out well.

There are two more reasons I do not believe what is provided in Ezekiel 40–42 is meant to be a detailed construction plan. Reason number one is that when the exiles returned to Israel, these were not the plans they used. One can verify this fact simply by reading Ezra and Nehemiah. Go ahead. I’ll wait here for you. The second reason is that Herod did not use these plans either. What Herod built was more for his renown than God’s, but we know his temple and the one described in Ezekiel 40–42 have differences. What is most evident with both the post-exilic temple and with Herod’s is that Ezekiel 43:1-9 did not take place with either. We have seen more of His glory (John 1:14) than either of those buildings ever did.

What Was the Original Purpose for This Text?

Ezekiel 43:1-12

So, if Ezekiel 40–42 is not a construction plan for us to follow, then why was it given? One purpose revealed in 43:6-12 is the same purpose that has been emphasized throughout the book of Ezekiel: God’s holiness matters. Ezekiel is told to describe the temple to the house of Israel, so they may be ashamed of their iniquities. He is told the law of the temple is that it will be especially holy (vv. 10-12). The vision in Ezekiel 40–42 is provided to teach God’s people about His holiness and not just how to build His house.

In response to the vision of the new temple, God expected not only repentance but also other behaviors from His people:

  • Because He is holy and will live among them again, God expects His people to put away anything that is unholy (vv. 7,9-10). How are we doing with this?
  • Because they have seen His wrath, they should remember that closeness to God does not come without cost (v. 8). They encroached on His territory without giving it proper consideration. How grateful are we that, through Christ, we have been encouraged to boldly draw near to God (Heb 10:19-22)?
  • Because they are shown the beauty of God’s new temple, they should seek to diligently obey His statutes and laws (v. 11).

While challenging God’s people to walk in holiness is a reason Ezekiel 40–42 is provided, I believe the main purpose is to testify of God’s presence with those who are His. In Ezekiel 43:5 the prophet sees the glory of the Lord fill the temple. In 48:35 he is told the name of the new city will be “Yahweh Is There.” When this occurs, Ezekiel 37:26-27 will be fulfilled. Thomas asserts,

The Lord is there is the meaning of the entire vision: to point out to a despondent people in exile that God is with them. Ezekiel wants his readers to be taken up with God and His presence with His people. (Thomas, God Strengthens, 297)

Instead of

the earthly temple, contaminated by the sins of the people and abandoned by the presence of God (chs. 8–11), Ezekiel has seen an undefiled temple, refilled by God’s glory (chs. 40–43). (Duguid, Ezekiel, 547)

He does not have to dwell with us. He chooses to do so.

Have we heard Ezekiel 37:27 so often that the awesomeness of God’s declaration is lost on us? Has it been a while since we just let these words wash over us: “My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be My people”? Do we ever pause and ask, “Why would He want to dwell with us?” Or do we have such elevated views of ourselves that we think, “Of course God wants to dwell with me. I am awesome!” An elder at my previous church used to say, “Only God is awesome.”

The reason Ezekiel 40–43 is given is to provide God’s people in exile with a word of hope. God will dwell with them again. His holiness will not only be important to Him but also to them. He will not move away from His people but will move in with them.

Have you ever felt like people around you could not care less whether you existed or not? Have you ever had your feelings hurt because you were not invited to do something with the “cool” crowd? If that is you, then you should know the One who matters more than anyone else has prayed to be with you. Jesus once prayed,

Father, I desire those You have given Me to be with Me where I am. Then they will see My glory, which You have given Me because You loved Me before the world’s foundation. (John 17:24)

Jesus desires for us to be with Him and see His glory. Has anyone ever asked the Father for anything greater on our behalf? Not even close! The vision of God’s glory returning to the temple and the announcement a city would be called “Yahweh Is There” would not have been lost on Ezekiel’s audience.

What about us? Can we join with Asaph in saying, “But as for me, God’s presence is my good. I have made the Lord God my refuge, so I can tell about all You do” (Ps 73:28)? Is the Lord’s presence our good? Do we take His presence for granted? Can He tell we appreciate His dwelling in us by His Spirit? How much delighting are we doing in Him? Do we wake up talking to Him? Do we talk to Him throughout the day? Do we talk to Him as we head to bed? Would we feel great devastation and utter ruin if His presence was not with us? Would we notice? How evident is His presence in our lives? Can anyone tell He dwells in us (1 Cor 6:19)?

In Ezekiel 40–48 God is saying to His people, “I will return and I will restore you. I will be with you forever.” As remarkable as what He is saying is, whom He is saying these things to should capture our attention as well. He is promising to dwell with people who at one point did not appreciate His presence. How do I know? In Ezekiel 43:9 they are told to put away their prostitution. God does not mean sexually but spiritually. God is running to people who constantly ran away from Him. The pursuit of sin always evidences disregard for God’s presence. With each sin we communicate to God that we think He is not in charge, but we are; He does not know best, but we do; and He is not most precious to us, rebellion is. In spite of all Ezekiel’s generation and the ones before them had done, God still desired to cleanse them and dwell with them forever. May we never cease to be humbled by this truth and to allow it to fuel our praise.

How Will It Be Possible for God to Dwell with His People?

Hearing the vision Ezekiel received in the twenty-fifth year of exile would have been encouraging to God’s people, but it may have also left them with a few questions. Knowing God wanted to dwell with them and would dwell with them would have filled their hearts with hope, but their heads may have been trying to figure out exactly how this would be possible. For all their lives the temple was the only place they could meet with God, and the altar was the only means. There was only one place and one means, but it had not always been this way.

God’s Initial Immanence

In the beginning there was no temple but a garden. There were no restrictions on where Adam and Eve could meet with God. Anywhere was fine because everywhere was holy. No specific meeting place had to be set because every place was appropriate for them to fellowship with God. But sin changed everything. Because of His holiness God cannot tolerate or ignore sin. As a consequence of the fall, man’s relationship with God changed. Sin created a barrier that separated humans from God.

After Adam and Eve’s rebellion, special locations were required in order for people to meet with God. The first location was an altar. From Adam and Eve to Moses, the Lord would meet with His people on altars they constructed for sacrifices and prayers. The second location God met with His people was the tabernacle. From the wilderness generation through David, God’s people would meet with Him in this mobile tent.

The temple was the third location established for God’s people to meet with Him. In Deuteronomy 12 God’s people are told they will have one place for worship, one location for sacrifices, and one sacrificial altar. As we know from our journey through Ezekiel, God’s people never gave up the altars on the high places. They also worshiped gods who did not exist and turned their backs on the only One who does. As we also know, God abandoned the temple (Ezek 9–11) and raised up the Babylonians (Hab 1:6) to discipline His people and destroy the temple. Now in Ezekiel 40–43, God’s people are being told there will be another place in which God will meet with His people. It just may not be in the place they were thinking.

God’s Incarnation

The location where God would meet with His people shifted from a place to a Person. Prior to the exile God’s glory dwelled in the temple. It would not be the same postexile. God’s glory instead would dwell in Christ, and He would be the perfect temple/tabernacle. John informs us that Christ tabernacled with us and God’s glory was seen (John 1:14).

During His time of ministry, Jesus had a conversation about this very subject. In a discussion with a Samaritan woman, Jesus revealed that God’s meeting place with His people would not be limited to a special mountain in Samaria or Jerusalem (John 4:21). He said instead, “An hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. Yes, the Father wants such people to worship Him” (John 4:23). So, the place no longer matters? How can this be? Ezekiel’s generation would have certainly struggled to grasp this.

The temple God would use to meet with His people was Christ. Jesus tried to help us understand this when He said, “Destroy this sanctuary, and I will raise it up in three days” (John 2:19). John tells us that Jesus was not talking about the building that took 46 years to build, “But He was speaking about the sanctuary of His body” (John 2:21). Jesus is the place where God meets with His people. If further evidence is needed, then just consider what happened to the curtain in the temple when Christ was crucified (Matt 27:51). In the tearing of the veil, God spoke clearly for Himself.

God’s Indwelling

In promising to pour out His Spirit (Ezek 39:29), God committed to dwell not just with His people but also in them. What one person was allowed to experience in one place on one day of each year (the high priest on the day of atonement), we have the privilege of experiencing every day. Post-Pentecost, God dwells with His people in a way Ezekiel’s audience could have only considered with marvel and bewilderment (Eph 2:19-22; 1 Cor 3:16-17; 6:18-20). When we think of our bodies as the temple of God, it puts sinning in a different perspective. Paul’s plea in 1 Corinthians 6 was for God’s people to understand that since God’s Spirit resides in us, we are holy ground, and we cannot do anything we please with our bodies, especially sin.

God’s Infinite Dwelling

The ultimate experience of God’s dwelling with His people is what John writes about in Revelation 21–22. What was lost in the fall at Eden will be recovered in the new city. We should notice two things in relation to Ezekiel 40–48. First, John sees a city that is already built that descends from heaven (Rev 21:2). A place is prepared for God’s people; they do not construct it themselves. Second, John did not see a temple or sanctuary in his vision because “the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its sanctuary” (Rev 21:22). In the new creation there will be no special place where God’s presence is concentrated and no holy building to go to if we want to meet with Him. There will no longer exist any distance between God and us. He will dwell with us. We will be His people, and He will be our God (Rev 21:3). We will enjoy fellowship with God, we will see Him as He is, we will worship Him, and we will serve Him (MacArthur, Revelation 12–22, 266–68).

Ezekiel is shown and told to declare that God’s people will be in God’s place under God’s rule and blessing (Roberts, God’s Big Picture, 21). God will return to His people and restore them. God will also provide whatever solution is necessary to dwell with His people forever. We have the privilege of knowing the solution is Christ.

What Can We Learn About God in Ezekiel 40–48?

We do not have to wait until heaven, however, to learn some things about God. Though we will understand all things much clearer then, we can still know some truths about God now. Ezekiel 40–48 provides multiple insights on Yahweh’s character and actions.

God Initiates

Every idea presented in this vision comes from God. Finding a permanent solution to dwelling with His people eternally comes from God. Leading His people to repentance and forgiving them was God’s idea and work. Even in exile God’s people still did not initiate a move toward Him, but He met them where they were.

God Instructs

God gives statutes, specifications, and laws because He does not want His people to be without His will (43:11; 44–46). He wants His people taught the difference between what is holy and what is common (44:23). He gives instruction on sacrifices (46:1-15) and when to offer what. On a side note, these instructions cannot be for a millennial kingdom or heaven because what need would there be for any more sacrifices? Christ has achieved all that is necessary (Heb 10:14,18). If we do not understand all the instructions provided in Ezekiel 40–48, we cannot ignore their presence, which tells us of God’s desire to inform His people.

God Is Holy

In Ezekiel 40:5–42:20 the walls that are taller and more solid, the elevated steps, the raised platform, the designation of the priests’ chambers, and all of the other details point to one main emphasis: God’s holiness is a big deal. In Ezekiel 44:19 the priests are informed that

before they go out to the outer court, to the people, they must take off the clothes they have been ministering in, leave them in the holy chambers, and dress in other clothes so that they do not transmit holiness to the people through their clothes.

The priests must exercise such caution not because God’s holiness is contagious but because it will obliterate you if your sins are not covered. God’s presence is always dangerous for sinners left to their own righteousness.

While God desires to know His people intimately, it does not follow that their worship of Him will be informal. When considering God’s holiness, just imagine drawing closer and closer to the sun. As a matter of fact, Ezekiel says, “The earth shone with His glory” (43:2). Ezekiel’s response was to fall facedown (v. 3). We previously saw that the prophet had more interaction with God than any of his peers; yet familiarity did not breed disrespect or arrogance in Ezekiel. God’s presence always comes with a price. We cannot approach Him in any way we want. He will be known and approached on His terms.

God Is Gracious

God provides a way for His people’s sin to be taken care of and for them to be able to worship Him. In Ezekiel 43:13-27 instructions are given for an altar, which means God’s people will have an acceptable way to offer their worship. We know the only acceptable way is through Christ (Heb 13:15). The altar is in the center of the entire compound Ezekiel is shown. As stated previously, the full purpose of this altar and the instructions for sacrifices given does not find consensus among commentators. What is clear is that in Christ, God has provided a way for His holiness not to be contaminated and for us not to be obliterated. God is gracious to reveal His holiness to us so we might see our sinfulness. In seeing our sinfulness, we then see our need for a Savior. Graciously, He has provided Him as well.

God Will Be Worshiped on His Terms

We have seen this before, but in Ezekiel 45:1–46:24 the whom, the how, and the why of worship are all important to God. In our generation I fear we have made worship too much about us. I wonder how much of what is done on Sundays is driven by preferences rather than biblical conviction. We somehow strive to make worship as convenient as possible for us. Ezekiel 45–46 provides a good reminder that worship was never intended to be offered without effort and intentionality. Our convenience is not high on the priority list when it comes to worship.

God Is Sufficient

One of the greatest verses in Ezekiel 40–48 is 47:9, which ends by declaring, “There will be life everywhere the river goes.” In Ezekiel 47:1-12 the prophet is shown a life-giving river. It flows from the sanctuary (v. 12) and transforms everything it touches. Most notably, “When it enters the sea, the sea of foul water, the water of the sea becomes fresh” (v. 8). This river will transform the Dead Sea to the Alive Sea. Though it starts as a trickle (v. 2), Ezekiel sees the river become deep enough to swim in and impossible to cross on foot (v. 5). Jesus emphasized a similar point by using a mustard seed (Matt 13:31-32). Along both banks of the river in Ezekiel 47 are trees that produce fruit every month (v. 12), which is used for food. The leaves of the trees are used for medicine (v. 12). John describes something similar in Revelation 22:1-2.

So, how do we see God’s sufficiency in Ezekiel 47? First, He is the source. This is not a random river but one that originates from His sanctuary. Second, He sanctifies. What was dead is made alive. Third, He sustains. The trees on the riverbanks will never fail to produce fruit. Fourth, He cannot be stopped. No one will be able to prevent Him from giving His people life to the fullest.

God Is Sovereign

In Ezekiel 47:13–48:35 God designates which tribes will receive which portion of the land as an inheritance (47:14). God can divide the land because He owns it. It is His. God is going to provide a place He promised for His people. They will not have to fight for it, work for it, or purchase it. All that God’s people will have to do is receive the land He is giving them.

What Do We Learn About Us?

Ezekiel 44:6-31

Before concluding our study of Ezekiel 40–48, I would like us to consider God’s rewards and God’s refreshing.

Rewards

Nestled in the vision of a temple, a city, and a river is a tale of two priests. At some point in Israel’s rebellion, they brought in foreigners who were uncircumcised in both heart and flesh and allowed them to occupy God’s sanctuary (44:7). On top of this they failed to keep charge of God’s holy things but appointed others to keep charge of His sanctuary for them (v. 8). Why did this happen? One reason is because the Levites wandered away from and strayed from God after their idols (v. 10). The priests who descended from Zadok, however, kept charge of God’s sanctuary when the Israelites went astray from God (v. 15).

Both groups of priests were held accountable. The Levitical priests who chased after idols would bear the consequences of their sin (v. 10). Because of their disobedience they would lose the privilege to serve as priests. Instead, they would be temple guards and responsible for slaughtering the burnt offerings (v. 11). They would remain close to the temple to be reminded of what they lost. God expects fruitfulness from his servants and will hold each of us accountable for the use of resources and opportunities He entrusts to us.

The priests who descended from Zadok, however, would not be reprimanded but rewarded. They would be given the privilege of serving closest to God (v. 16). They would also be given greater responsibilities. The Zadokites would be asked to teach God’s people about holiness (v. 23) and to use God’s word to settle disputes (v. 24). These privileges would also come with costs.

For the Zadokites, access to God’s presence meant heavy restrictions on their lifestyle. There were things they could not touch, places they could not go to, food they could not eat and clothes they could not wear if they were to minister in the presence of the all-holy God. So too for us, if we expect to experience the blessing of God’s presence with us, then our lifestyle will be (from the world’s perspective) restricted. (Duguid, Ezekiel, 510)

Whatever inconveniences the Zadokite priests experienced could not compare with the inheritance they received. The Lord told Ezekiel, “This will be their inheritance: I am their inheritance. You are to give them no possession in Israel: I am their possession” (v. 28). While the other Israelites were given land, these priests were given God. Who received the greatest gift is not difficult to see!

What about us? How often do we consider kingdom rewards? If a reward meant greater proximity to and experience of God, would you see this as the greatest inheritance? One thing is certain, we may not have all descended from Levi or Zadok, but we are all priests. Peter tells us “you yourselves, as living stones, are being built into a spiritual house for a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 2:5). As believers we are all ministers and are all called to a life of purity and holiness. When everyone else runs away from God, we are to run to Him. What is important to Him should remain important to us. When it comes time to give an account for our time as His servants, will ours be more of a rebuke like the idolatrous priests or a rewarding like those descended from Zadok?

Refreshing

If the life-giving river is transforming us, then others around us should be able to tell. One cannot read Ezekiel 47:1-12 without being reminded of John 7:37-39. John tells us,

On the last and most important day of the festival, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone is thirsty, he should come to Me and drink! The one who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him.” He said this about the Spirit. Those who believed in Jesus were going to receive the Spirit, for the Spirit had not yet been received because Jesus had not yet been glorified. (John 7:37-39)

As the Spirit indwells us, we experience the life-giving water of Christ.

In Ezekiel 47 whatever the life-giving river touched could not remain the same. For those who are in Christ, fruitfulness is the norm and not the exception (John 15:5). If fruit is not being produced through us, it can only mean one of two things: either we truly do not know Christ, or we are not being obedient to Him. The effect of the river is not just reserved for heaven (Cooper, Ezekiel, 414). Even now the river grows in us and through us, and others can experience its life-giving effects as we share the gospel with them and call for repentance.

Conclusion

Ezekiel 40–48 begins and ends with a picture of a new temple and a new city. This word was meant to “encourage repentance, faithfulness, and hope: repentance over the sins of the past, faithfulness in the difficult present, and hope for a brighter future through God’s grace” (Duguid, Ezekiel, 548). Considering our future with God should have profound impacts on our daily lives. Chester believes,

We need to talk about our hope and inheritance when we are together, reminding each other of what we have to look forward to when we are confronted by death, hardships, temptation, or opposition. When we doubt or forget about our hope, we become focused on this world, distracted by stuff that seems important now, and discouraged by the difficulties of the Christian life. We can end up as unprofitable servants, wasting our time on things that won’t last, while gospel ministry is neglected. (Chester, God of Glory, 62)

We should often remind ourselves that “we do not have an enduring city here; instead, we seek the one to come” (Heb 13:14). We also know “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us” (Rom 8:18).

To atone for our sin, to free us from sin permanently, and to dwell with us forever cost God the death of His Son. God was willing to pay the highest price to have a people for His namesake. This is how much He desires our fellowship and worship. God does not need us, but He knows that without Him we will all perish. If God’s vision of the new temple was meant to produce encouragement and action in His people, how much more does God’s revealing to us the cross of Christ move us to hope and response? We are to live life in light of the cross and the return of Christ. We have not been shown the vision in Ezekiel 40–48 or the cross of Christ just to produce feelings in us but to move us to action. He loathed the exodus group (Ps 95:10) and left the rebellious ones in Jerusalem, but I hope it will be said of our generation, “He led them.”

Reflect and Discuss

  1. In times when you do not think God is speaking to you, what do you do?
  2. The plans for the new temple are meant to remind God’s people of His holiness. What do you do to be reminded of this on a daily basis?
  3. If someone were to ask you why you thought God wants to dwell with us even after all our rebellion, how would you respond?
  4. Why do we fail at times to appreciate God’s presence?
  5. Why is Christ a far better meeting place for God and His people than the temple ever was?
  6. Why do we so often make worship more about us than God? How can we avoid making this mistake?
  7. In what ways are you being transformed by God’s life-giving river? In what ways is your city being transformed as the river of life flows through your faith family?
  8. How can we be like the priests descended from Zadok who remained faithful when all others went away from God?
  9. How can we seek the city that is to come and not just settle for the cities we currently see?
  10. How is what you’ve learned through the book of Ezekiel impacting the way you’re living?
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