Take a moment to pray. Ask God to speak to you through his word—for his Spirit to convict you of sin, teach you the truth, and lead you in walking by faith.
Setting the Scene
As Ezekiel’s fourth vision continues, his angelic guide takes him from the new temple to the east gate. Here he sees the incredible return of God’s glory to the temple. This is the exact reverse of what Ezekiel saw in his second vision. He had previously witnessed God’s glory depart from the temple and Jerusalem due to the idolatry of the people. Here, he sees God return and his glory fill the temple.
Don’t forget that at the time of this vision the people of Judah had been in exile for 25 years. They had felt the acute sting of God’s judgment for their idolatry. But judgment wasn’t the last word—God would revive and restore his people. A key component of this restoration was God dwelling with his people.
As you read this part of the vision, remember that God saves us to be in relationship with him. Salvation is like the difference between giving a friend a gift and giving your spouse a gift. God didn’t just give us a gift, he gave us a gift to live with us. As in marriage, living in relationship means making some changes.
Ezek. 43:1 He led me to the gate, the one that faces east, 2 and I saw the glory of the God of Israel coming from the east. His voice sounded like the roar of a huge torrent, and the earth shone with his glory. 3 The vision I saw was like the one I had seen when he came to destroy the city, and like the ones I had seen by the Chebar Canal. I fell facedown. 4 The glory of the LORD entered the temple by way of the gate that faced east. 5 Then the Spirit lifted me up and brought me to the inner court, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple.
What is God’s glory? Here it’s the visible manifestation of God’s greatness, probably in the form of a dense cloud. It consumes everything around it. Ezekiel reminds his readers of his second vision and of God’s judgment of Jerusalem. While sin causes separation from God, redemption makes unity with God possible.
Ezekiel worships at the sight of God’s glory. When he witnesses the greatness of God, he rightly humbles himself. It might be worth a few moments of reflection to think about how rare it us for us to stop and stand in awe at God’s greatness. Take a minute, and consider the greatness of God.
As the vision continues, God himself speaks to Ezekiel from the temple.
Ezek. 43:6 While the man was standing beside me, I heard someone speaking to me from the temple. 7 He said to me: “Son of man, this is the place of my throne and the place for the soles of my feet, where I will dwell among the Israelites forever.
I love this language. The temple is the place for God’s throne and the place for the soles of his feet. He’s going to rest his feet here, because it’s home. Don’t miss it—God’s home is with his people. He created us to be in relationship with him, walking with him daily.
43:7 The house of Israel and their kings will no longer defile my holy name by their religious prostitution and by the corpses of their kings at their high places. 8 Whenever they placed their threshold next to my threshold and their doorposts beside my doorposts, with only a wall between me and them, they were defiling my holy name by the detestable acts they committed. So I destroyed them in my anger. 9 Now let them remove their prostitution and the corpses of their kings far from me, and I will dwell among them forever.
God dwelling with his people comes with a cost: no more idolatry. God refuses to tolerate his people loving and worshiping anyone or anything more than him. We know Israel had setup idolatrous practices in the temple (check out 2 Kings 23:7 for an extreme example). We don’t know exactly what the burial of kings mentioned here is, but it seems like Israel was burying kings in the proximity of the temple according to some Canaanite religious custom.
The point is clear: if God lives with his people, his people must live for him. No more pagan practices, no more loving God and Canaanite gods. God is calling his people to absolute, uncontested obedience. In a word, he’s calling them to holiness: dedicated themselves to God alone in everything.
The Big Picture
We learn from the beginning of the Bible that God created humanity to be in relationship to him. Genesis 3:8 portrays God walking in the garden in Eden as a normal occurrence. Sin ruined that fellowship and broke the relationship between God and humanity.
If we look ahead to the exodus we see that God rescued Israel to bring them to Mt. Sinai. What was there? He was. Sinai was the place that God revealed himself to Moses, and would reveal himself to his people. He didn’t just save Israel to free them, but to enter into a new relationship with him. He made that relationship possible by giving Israel the law and establishing the sacrificial system to deal with their sin. God’s temporary temple, the tabernacle, was even placed right in the middle of Israel’s camp. He was the relational bullseye of the nation.
So what does this have to do with Jesus? In John 1:14 we learn that Jesus is the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us. He walked with us, taught us, healed us, died for us, and rose from the dead for us. Why? To reveal God to the world, and to enable people to relate to God by removing their sin. It’s still all about relationship.
God’s Spirit enables believers to walk in relationship to God today. His conviction of sin and teaching of the truth guides us and shows us what God is calling us to. Walking with God is not only what we are made to do, but it’s what God has saved us to do.
Living in relationship with God is the ultimate destiny of all believers. In Revelation 21-22 God reveals a glimpse of our eternal state. The central focus is God dwelling with his people. Sin and evil are no more. Suffering, sickness, and death are nowhere to be found. We simply will walk in that renewed garden/temple with the Lord in eternal peace.
Taking It Home
As we think about God’s passion to dwell with his people, we have to confront the practical ramifications. What are we going to change? In this passage, God confronted Israel once again over their idolatry. If we walk with God, we walk for God.
In what ways are you captivated by the greatness, or glory, of God? What false gods are you tempted to worship? Sometimes we turn good gifts or tools like money or sex or career into idols. What are you tempted to love and chase more than God?
It’s no accident that the idolatry of the Israelites was informed by the Canaanite culture around them. In what ways has our culture influenced you? Can you think of habits or ways of thinking that you need to change because they are in conflict with putting God first?
As God dwells with us, he calls us to a renewed commitment to living for his glory. This is a radical commitment, and one that requires bold action. No more false gods. No more weak compromise. Putting God’s glory first means listening to his word and doing what he calls us to do.
- Praise God for his passion to restore people to fellowship with him. Praise him for the good news that Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead to bring us into relationship with him.
- Ask for help in seeing your idolatry for what it is. As you pray, be ready to confess sin in your life.
- Ask God to help you love him above all else. Ask him to show you his glory, and draw you into a greater appreciation for his absolute beauty.