There are few books of the Bible more daunting than the looong prophetic books. Isaiah. Jeremiah. Ezekiel.
And that’s where we find ourselves today, right near at the end of Ezekiel, in Chapter 45 of 47. Reading these big books is especially challenging if we are missing a broad understanding, or overview, of what’s happening in the book. Who is the prophet? When does this take place in Israel’s history? Has the prophecy been fulfilled yet? If so, when, and how? These are all key questions that can help us better understand the prophets in particular.
First then, let’s locate ourselves within this particular book. Ezekiel was a prophet both before and after the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon in 586 BC. He prophesied to the people that Jerusalem would fall, he watched it happen, and was exiled with the people to Babylon. Once there, he continued to prophecy with hope for the redemption and return of the people of Israel to the land of promise.
The chapter where we find ourselves (Ch 45) is part of a longer vision of the new temple, and new Jerusalem (Ch. 40-47). Our chapter isn’t particularly riveting (unless you really like blueprints and instruction for sacrifices), but it’s part of an extremely important part of the Bible. This vision is overflowing with expectation and hope that the presence of God would return to the temple in Jerusalem, and God would once again dwell with his people.
As the glory of the Lord entered the temple by the gate facing east, the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court; and behold, the glory of the Lord filled the temple … I heard one speaking to me out of the temple, and he said to me, “Son of man, this is the place of my throne and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the people of Israel forever. (43:4-7)
“And the name of the city from that time on shall be, The Lord Is There.” (48:35)
Here’s what’s amazing:
Years later, the people were indeed redeemed from Babylon.
They returned to Israel. They rebuilt Jerusalem. They rebuilt the temple. (See Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi).
This is how Ezra recounts the completion of the temple:
They finished their building by decree of the God of Israel and by decree of Cyrus and Darius and Artaxerxes king of Persia; and this house was finished on the third day of the month of Adar, in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king. (Ezra 6:14b-15)
But what didn’t happen?
Where was the glory of God? Where was the booming voice of God from the temple?
Where was his presence among his people?
It wasn’t there. And it wouldn’t be until Jesus himself walked in the temple courts centuries later. And the prophecy of Ezekiel, of the permanent glorious presence of God dwelling with his people, has yet to be fulfilled. That has not yet come. And we live in hope for the day when Christ will return, the earth will be renewed and redeemed, the kingdom of God will be fully established, and we will live in a City called “The Lord is There.” Thanks be to God!
Lord would we always remember that you are a glorious, eternal, and long-suffering God. Prophecy given by your servants more than two millennia ago, has yet to come to pass. And still you wait, extending grace and mercy to your creation, to your people, before bringing your kingdom. We pray that we would have the patience to wait, to recognize that you are still active and at work, although we cannot always see it. We have faith that you will ever be faithful to your promises.