Friday, October 25, 2019

A Vision and a Shame

As the prophet Ezekiel nears the end of his writings, he gives to us a vision that he has for the Temple of God when it is restored and the Lord's glory returns to it. Remember, twelve years after the exile, Babylon destroyed Jerusalem - the place where the Temple was built. So it was of great importance to the Israelites what would happen to their holy place if they ever got to go back to their beloved city...if she was even worth going back to without a Temple. 

The vision for the Temple is very detailed - a measure here, a measure there. Exact numbers about just how long, how wide, how tall all of these things are, which way the rooms face, how the gates are opened, and so on and so forth. Reading it with modern eyes, there's part of us that wonders why all this mattered, what it matters now. Are we ever going to need a blueprint for building a Temple? 

Yet, it is in the exactness of the rebuilding that God's glory comes to the Temple. It is because it is precise and perfect that it is worthy of His indwelling. It's just the way He wants it, and that's not by accident. It's like if you were go into a home in your subdivision, meeting neighbors for the first time or even for the twentieth. The way that their home is set up tells you something about them. The decor on the mantle, the rug by the door, whether they use the front door or the side door, whether they take their shoes off or leave them on. All of these little things tell you big things about what the family values, and it's the same with God's Temple. All the little details about it reveal something about Him. 

After all, He lives there. This is the place where He's chosen to dwell among His people. 

And what God says when He finishes revealing this vision of the Temple to Ezekiel is that when His people see it, when they behold the Temple and the glory of the Lord that dwells in it, they will be ashamed of the ways they defiled the old one (Ezekiel 43).

They'll be ashamed of the times that they tried to bring cheaper offerings. They'll be ashamed of the times that they thought any old place would do, so worshiped at other sites. They'll be ashamed of the times they thought every god was just as good and bowed at other altars. They'll be ashamed of how lightly they took the majesty of this place, for when they see it again, they won't be able to ignore it any more. 

Because next to the real thing, substitutes always look cheap. 

This is an idea I've been hearing preached a lot lately. Next to the real deal, the fake just doesn't hold up any more. Next to real faith, cheap faith falls apart. Next to Jesus, our flesh breaks open. Next to real sacrifice, mere generosity flaps in the wind. It's the same thing here, it's what Ezekiel is trying to say to a brokenhearted, dejected, and exiled people - you're going to get the real thing back. And when you do, you'll understand just how little you settled for. You're going to go home again, and when you get there, you'll realize just how far you went astray. 

You've heard rumors of its rubble, but when you see the Temple in the fullness of its glory, you'll be ashamed of the so-called "worship" you've been engaged in. You've settled for other gods, but when the Lord comes back to you, you'll be ashamed of how weak all these others are. 

Because the truth? The truth is you thought you were your own gods, doing whatever you pleased and looking out for your own interests, but next to the real thing? Substitutes always look cheap. 

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