‘I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” (Ps 122:1), says the Psalmist. David who once wrote that ‘it is zeal for your house that has consumed me’ (Ps 69:9) did not stop there. ‘One thing I asked of the Lord, that I will seek after: to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple’ (Ps 27:4).
It is a matter of joy to go to the house of the Lord. Spending more time there is even sweeter. If the zeal for the house of the Lord goes down in our hearts, it is time for us to introspect. God had given detailed instructions to the Israelites about how to behave in the temple, what should be done there and what should not be done. Ezekiel summarizes them in one sentence. ‘This is the law of the temple; the whole territory on the top of the mountain all around shall be most holy. This is the law of the temple’ (Eze 43:12).
Ezekiel was a priest and prophet. He was allowed a rather lengthy vision (chapters 40 through 44) in which he saw the plans of the future temple. At the time of this vision, Ezekiel was living in exile in Babylon. We know that the exile in Babylon was a direct result of the sins of Israel. God permitted this exile after all his efforts to turn the Israelites away from the ways of wickedness failed. A long list of prophets had warned them about the punishment that would consume them unless they repent. Yet they didn’t pay heed and what followed was an exile that lasted for seventy years.
It was in the twenty-fifth year of exile that Ezekiel started getting visions about the future temple. God was waiting for his people to repent and return to him so that they would be welcomed into the new temple. One interesting feature of the vision is that even the minutest details were described. Something that should catch our attention in the vision is that Ezekiel was instructed to reveal the full details of the vision to a selected few only.
‘As for you, mortal, describe the temple to the house of Israel, and let them measure the pattern; and let them be ashamed of their iniquities’ (Eze.43:10). It was God’s wish that his people should compare the glory of the future temple with the shame of their own sins and thus feel contrite.
It is true that any person who comes face to face with the glory of God will feel a sense of unworthiness about himself. It is a moment when we realize the gravity of our iniquities against the brightness of God’s glory. Isaiah counts himself as most wretched when he was granted a vision of the Lord’s glory. ‘Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!’
Even a cursory glance at the pattern and measurements of the temple where the glory of God resides is enough for a persona to repent. And it is in God’s plan that further details about the temple should be revealed to only those who repent about their sins.
‘When they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the plan of the temple, its arrangement, its exits and its entrances, and its whole form- all its ordinances and its entire plan and all its laws’ (Eze 43:11). Why should a person who refuses to repent know the glory of God’s temple?
Those who forget the glory of the temple will forget to repent about their sins too. They will heap sin upon sin with their unclean lips while living among a people with unclean lips. It is our duty to pray for those who commit sins, and offend the presence of the Almighty God there. Their wicked actions demand proportionate reparation, and the duty to make this reparation is also on our shoulders.
God led the chosen people who came out of exile to a new Jerusalem and a new temple. We, ‘who wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home, in accordance with the promise of the same God (2 Pet 3:13), are on our journey towards Heavenly Jerusalem where the ‘temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb (Rev 21:22). We are warned through John the apostle that ‘nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life’ (Rev 21:27). Ezekiel too said the same thing.
Let us pray for the grace to repent about our sins and iniquities, so that we may be considered worthy to enter the eternal temple that our Heavenly Father has designed for his children.