Help us, poor and wretched souls
who cry unto Thee and earnestly seek Thee
according to the grace which Thou hast given us by the Holy Spirit,
who with Thee and the Father liveth and reigneth, blessed forevermore. Amen.
— Martin Luther
When God shuts a door, he does a good job. His work would make Mike Holmes proud.
One curious feature of the idealized Temple that Ezekiel saw was that the east gate was, practically speaking, a wall. The gate was built for one person—Yahweh. Once he entered, it was shut permanently. The alcove that the former east gate created became a dining room for the prince to get close to God. For the prince (whomever that title refers to), the closest he would get to God’s presence is the place where God left his footprints.
This paragraph from Ezekiel reminds me of another door God shut:
And those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him; and the LORD shut him in. (Genesis 7:16, NRSV)
God shut the door on the ark, and it stayed shut until the end of the flood. God shut the east gate to the Temple, and it remains shut eternally.
. . .
Daniel I. Block points out three interesting implications of the closed door:
- “Because Yahweh has passed through this gate it is henceforth barred to all human traffic.”What a statement. Somehow the residual holiness of God is so profound; no one can walk where he walked. I think of the cross. Other people were crucified, but no one could walk that path efficaciously. Sure, anyone could have walked through the East Gate, but only God could bring peace and security to the world. When Jesus showed up in his temple a few centuries later, he’s the only possible one who could walk through the gate in power.
- “It also declares the permanence of Yahweh’s residence within the temple.”If I were an exile alongside Ezekiel, I would have to wonder: “Sure, God will return to his Temple, but will he leave again like he did the last time?” The answer is a resounding no. God has shut himself in with his people. When exile is over, it is over finally.
- “The closed gate presents a veiled polemic against pagan notions.” The Babylonian New Year festival featured a ceremonial opening of the gate. They had a gate that was opened once per year for Marduk to exit and enter. You almost get the impression that this paragraph from Ezekiel is a thinly veiled polemic against Babylon: Yahweh is not like Marduk. He has bound himself to his people permanently. What grace.
. . .
Gracious God, help me to relying on the work that only you could accomplish. In Jesus’ name, Amen.