Ezekiel 43:6-7a: Soli Gratia

Let us then put off our shoes,
and draw near,
and bow the head,
and kiss those feet that bear forever the scars of our victory.
— George MacDonald (Unspoken Sermons)

There’s nothing worse than a plot thread left unstitched. When it happens in a movie or a novel, you anticipate a sequel. When it happens in Scripture, you’re left to live with the mystery. If you pause to consider the gulf between infinity and finitude, it’s amazing there are as few mysteries in Scripture as there are!

The man who shone like bronze is that sort of mystery in the Book of Ezekiel. He was sent to familiarize Ezekiel to the dimensions of the Temple that was not then built. Then he makes a final appearance. In 43:1, the man brought Ezekiel to the gate in order to watch the return of God to his Temple. Apparently while Ezekiel is amazed at the glory of God, the man slipped into the holy place, where the Spirit of God would take Ezekiel next.

What sort of person had unfettered access to the holy place?  It took the Spirit of God to grant Ezekiel entrance. Do we have a theophany—a christophany here? Did Jesus appear pre-incarnate to show Ezekiel around the Temple? We don’t know. After 43:6, this comforting figure vanishes from the narrative.

We’re left with Ezekiel, empowered with God’s Spirit, and God himself in the Temple. God has returned for Ezekiel to see.  Not only did God return, he spoke.

. . .

In the mouth of anyone other than God, this line would sound like the height of arrogance:

Mortal, this is the place of my throne and the place for the soles of my feet. (43:7, NRSV)

After Ezekiel burned through a lot of papyri logging the dimensions of a glorious future Temple, God says, “Nice footstool you’ve made for me”! With God, this isn’t arrogance: it’s reality.

Hear how this theme is repeated in the Hebrew Bible:

Hear me, my brothers and my people. I had planned to build a house of rest for the ark of the covenant of the LORD, for the footstool of our God; and I made preparations for building (1 Chronicles 28:2, NRSV)

Extol the LORD our God;
worship at his footstool.
Holy is he!
(Psalm 99:5, NRSV)

Let us go to his dwelling place;
let us worship at his footstool.
(Psalm 132:7, NRSV)

How the Lord in his anger
has humiliated daughter Zion!
He has thrown down from heaven to earth
the splendor of Israel;
he has not remembered his footstool
in the day of his anger.
(Lamentations 2:1, NRSV)

The glory of Lebanon shall come to you,
the cypress, the plane, and the pine,
to beautify the place of my sanctuary;
and I will glorify where my feet rest.
(Isaiah 60:13, NRSV)

God is so glorious; the best we can offer him is good for an ottoman.  We would do well to remember this the next time we try to impress God with our works. He deserves infinitely more than we could possibly offer. He meets us sola gratia.

. . .

Thank you, Lord, for choosing to love us in spite of our actions. Help us to rely on you in faith that your grip on us is infinitely stronger than our faltering hold on you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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