To worship is to adore someone infinitely greater than we,
and therefore to have our sights raised above ourselves.
To worship is to be oriented away from ourselves.
— Victor Shepherd (Seasons of Grace)
The travelogue is interrupted. It’s as if the tour guide (the man who shone like bronze) paused in the tour and started to explain a couple features of the design. Since the wordiness of these chapters can become a little overwhelming, I’ll try to summarize what Ezekiel saw in these verses.
Verse 28 begins with the tour guide leading Ezekiel from outer features to the inner court. In vv. 28-37, Ezekiel is led through a series of gateways that look like mirror images of the outer gateways. A subtle detail in v. 31 tells us that he had to climb eight steps. While these steps could be a natural feature of the Temple’s topography, it also implies an increased level of sanctification. We’re moving past the outer courts into something holy.
In verses 38-43, the tour is suspended while the guide points out the features of the building. There are special rooms filled with tables where sacrifices could be prepared and slaughtered. In particular, burnt offerings, purification offerings, and reparation offerings are mentioned. This temple is a functional worship centre.
Finally, in verses 44-46, Ezekiel is shown the chambers around the gate by the inner court. There are two rooms, one facing outward, and one facing inward. The one facing out is staffed by priests who guard the temple. The one facing in is staffed with priests responsible for guarding the altar. The tour guide specifically mentions how the priests come from the descendants of Zadok, a Levite.
. . .
The clearest application of this passage is the overwhelming sense of hope God gave Ezekiel thorough this visualization of Israel’s future. Since I wrote about that last week, I wanted to note another passage of Scripture that uses this image with a twist:
Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, “Come and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there, but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample over the holy city for forty-two months. (Revelation 11:1-2, NRSV)
The difference between these two passages is poignant, given their similarity. Ezekiel envisioned an entirely restored Temple complex run by the Zadokites. John understood life from a post-crucifixion perspective and invited everyone into the inner court—the outer court would be destroyed.
As wonderful as Ezekiel’s vision is, I cling to John’s revisionary vision. John saw an inclusive community of true worshipers—no one would be relegated to the outer court of divine worship except by choice.
Which do we choose?
. . .
Lord God, thank you for inviting me into the inner courts of worship. Help me to live more of my life there every day. In Jesus’ name, Amen.