Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Oct 2 2019 - Ezekiel 40:1-5; 40:48-41:4; 43:1-9 – The new temple

A week ago we were looking at Ezekiel chapters 3 and 4 where Ezekiel had been commanded to make a model of the city of Jerusalem and lay siege to it. Ezekiel was warning God's people of the imminent destruction of Jerusalem and its temple. In today's reading, Ezekiel receives a vision of the day when God will visit his people with salvation and restore to them all that they lost when Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed. Indeed, the blessings that God promises to his people in days to come will far exceed anything they have known in the past.

In his vision, Ezekiel sees a "man" who appeared "like bronze". This man was equipped with a measuring rod about 3 metres, or 10 feet, long. He uses this rod first to measure the wall that surrounded the temple area – it was ten feet thick and ten feet high. The narrative then continues with details of measurements of the gates in the wall and of the outer and inner courtyards of the temple. In 40:48, Ezekiel is brought to the portico of the temple itself which is again measured. The inner sanctuary was about 60 feet long and 30 feet wide (40 by 20 cubits). The Most Holy Place was 30 feet by 30 feet. The narrative of the vision goes on to describe the details of the chambers around the temple with their various floors along with their measurements – many Bibles include a plan of Ezekiel's temple to help with your visualisation of it. Our reading skips over much of this detail to pick up the vision again at the beginning of chapter 43.

In Ezekiel chapter 1, the prophet had been granted a memorable vision of the glory of the Lord while he had been by the River Kebar. Now he sees a similar though quite different vision:

The vision I saw was like the vision I had seen when he came to destroy the city and like the visions I had seen by the River Kebar, and I fell face down. The glory of the Lord entered the temple through the gate facing east. Then the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. (43:3-5)

At the beginning of the Book of Ezekiel, the glory of the Lord had left the temple and Ezekiel had seen the God of glory coming in judgment to destroy Jerusalem and its temple. But now the God of glory is returning to his temple: Ezekiel describes the glory of the Lord filling the temple as had been seen by Isaiah in Isaiah 6. God declares that he will now dwell with his people in this new temple; his presence and glory will never again leave them and they will never again defile his holy name.

This prophecy again finds its fulfilment in the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the one in whom God has come to dwell among us and is the one in whom we see God's glory (John 1:14). He is the one who said of himself, "Destroy this temple and I will raise it again in three days" (John 2:19). Through his death and resurrection, Jesus not only displays the glory of God in all his saving mercy and grace, he also saves for himself a people who can never again be separated from him. By his Spirit he makes us to feel and know his love for us (Romans 5:5) and gives us a heart to love him in return. We whom he has purchased with his own blood dare not defile his holy name – we love him and want only to live to please him.

After the destruction of Solomon's temple and the exile in Babylon, the Israelites longed for the day when God would come and dwell with them again; they longed for the time when the glory of the living God would return to his temple. That day came and has come with the arrival of Jesus Christ and will be fully realised in the new creation at Christ's return (see Revelation 21 and the man with a golden measuring rod who measures the New Jerusalem).

Father God, we praise you for the Lord Jesus in whom all your promises receive your resounding "Yes" and our answering "Amen". Help us to see your glory in the face of Christ and to rejoice in his atoning work through which we have been made your people. Enable us to tell others of your glory seen in the Lord Jesus and displayed in the message of the gospel.

Oct 2 2013 - Philippians 3:2-4:1 – One thing I do …

Paul appears almost to have completed his letter to the Philippians in 3:1. But in 3:2 he again takes up his pen (or recalls his amanuensis) to add further warnings and exhortations. Paul is concerned that the Philippians may be troubled by Judaisers – Jewish believers who will try to persuade the Gentile Christians that they must be circumcised and live in accordance with the Mosaic Law. Such people, says Paul, are placing confidence in the flesh – in what they are and in what they do. What is it that truly marks out the people of God? "We ... are the circumcision," says Paul, "we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh" (Philippians 3:3).

Paul then recounts something of his own history. He had been a Pharisee. He had placed all his confidence and boasting in his Jewish heritage and in his own precise law keeping. But he has abandoned all of that. He now knows that Jesus, the Christ has come. A new era has dawned. God has intervened in human history in Jesus Christ. The death and resurrection of Jesus marked the painful birthing of a new age; the age of salvation has dawned. The recognition that the crucified Jesus is risen from the dead and is Lord of all compelled Paul to abandon all that had been vital to him before so that he might "gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith" (3:8-9). The whole purpose of God for human history – indeed, for the entire cosmos – is bound up in Christ. Paul must have Christ, even though, to be joined with him means to share with him in the birth pangs of the kingdom – in Christ's sufferings that he might share in his resurrection (3:10).

There is, therefore a single focus and driving force to Paul's life. Paul wants "to know Christ and the power of his resurrection" (3:10). He's got his eye on the risen Christ and is pursing him with all the energy the Spirit of God supplies. "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus" (3:12-14). He has cast aside his past life, dominated by a desire to keep every point of the Mosaic Law. He's now living a life centred in and shaped by the crucified and risen Christ. Paul wants to keep up with God. Living by the Law is just so "Yesterday."

And what is the goal that Paul is pursuing? "It's heaven", some may answer. "Doesn't Paul say that God has called him heavenward in Christ Jesus? Doesn't he tell the Philippians that their citizenship is in heaven?" But there is more to Paul's goal, more to his hope, more to his pursuing. He has his eye fixed upon the risen Christ; he wants to know the power of Christ's resurrection. He eagerly looks for the Saviour to return from heaven and to transform him and all his fellow believers so that their bodies will be like his glorious resurrection body. He looks for the day when the whole of creation will share in the glorious liberty of the children of God. And this is what he pursues. This is the one thing that drives him on. He longs that God's kingdom may come and his will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Paul had a big vision that dominated and shaped his life and drove his mission. Nor does he consider this an idiosyncrasy, for he writes, "All of us who are mature should take such a view of things... Join with others in following my example" (3:15, 17).

What do you have to leave behind to pursue Christ and his kingdom? In what ways do the priorities of your life need to be adjusted to align with Paul's "One thing I do..."?

Lord Jesus, you were single-minded and wholehearted in going to the cross for us; help us to have the same mind in following you and serving you.

Peter Misselbrook