NEW PROVIDENCE BAPTIST CHURCH

WHERE GOD IS CALLING YOU OUT OF DARKNESS INTO HIS MARVELOUS LIGHT

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Sunday School Lesson

November 2

Lesson 9

God’s Glory Fills the Temple

Devotional Reading: Psalm 138

Background Scripture: Ezekiel 40:1-43:12

Ezekiel 43:1-12

1 Afterward he brought me to the gate, even the gate that looketh toward the east:

2 And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east: and his voice was like a noise of many waters: and the earth shined with his glory.

3 And it was according to the appearance of the vision which I saw, even according to the vision that I saw when I came to destroy the city: and the visions were like the vision that I saw by the river Chebar; and I fell upon my face.

4 And the glory of the Lord came into the house by the way of the gate whose prospect is toward the east.

5 So the spirit took me up, and brought me into the inner court; and, behold, the glory of the Lord filled the house.

6 And I heard him speaking unto me out of the house; and the man stood by me.

7 And he said unto me, Son of man, the place of my throne, and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel for ever, and my holy name, shall the house of Israel no more defile, neither they, nor their kings, by their whoredom, nor by the carcases of their kings in their high places.

8 In their setting of their threshold by my thresholds, and their post by my posts, and the wall between me and them, they have even defiled my holy name by their abominations that they have committed: wherefore I have consumed them in mine anger.

9 Now let them put away their whoredom, and the carcases of their kings, far from me, and I will dwell in the midst of them for ever.

10 Thou son of man, shew the house to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities: and let them measure the pattern.

11 And if they be ashamed of all that they have done, shew them the form of the house, and the fashion thereof, and the goings out thereof, and the comings in thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the laws thereof: and write it in their sight, that they may keep the whole form thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and do them.

12 This is the law of the house; Upon the top of the mountain the whole limit thereof round about shall be most holy. Behold, this is the law of the house.

Key Verses

The glory of the Lord came into the house by the way of the gate whose prospect is toward the east. So the spirit took me up, and brought me into the inner court; and, behold, the glory of the Lord filled the house. —Ezekiel 43:4, 5

Lesson Aims

After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:

1. Summarize what Ezekiel saw regarding the return of God’s glory to the temple.

2. Explain how Ezekiel’s description of God’s glory filling the temple and of God’s expectations applies to Christians as God’s holy “temples” today.

3. Identify and “put away” (v. 9) one habit that doesn’t belong in the temple of the New Testament era.

Lesson Outline

Introduction

A. God Amidst the Rubble

B. Lesson Background: Ezekiel’s Times

C. Lesson Background: Foreshadowing

I. Seeing a Vision (Ezekiel 43:1-5)

A. Movement of God’s Glory (vv. 1-4)

Imagining God’s Glory

B. Movement of God’s Prophet (v. 5)

II. Hearing a Message (Ezekiel 43:6-9)

A. Promise and Prediction (vv. 6, 7)

B. Defilement and Destruction (v. 8)

C. Practice and Presence (v. 9)

III. Conveying a Message (Ezekiel 43:10-12)

A. Confronting Sins (v. 10)

B. Conforming to a Plan (v. 11)

C. Closing Statement (v. 12)

Redecorating

Conclusion

A. Under Construction

B. Prayer

C. Thought to Remember

Introduction
A. God Amidst the Rubble

On Sunday, May 22, 2011, an EF-5 tornado, the most severe kind, devastated nearly one-third of the city of Joplin, Missouri. “It was a searing scene straight from the book of Revelation,” said one account of the damage.

Yet from the aftermath there emerged numerous testimonies of faith, hope, and love from the Christians there, from those firmly committed to the “kingdom which cannot be moved” (Hebrews 12:28). God worked through their relief efforts. God was there.

The prophet Ezekiel also lived through a disaster, though it was not of the natural kind such as we classify the results of a tornado to be. The disaster he witnessed was the invasion of his homeland of Judah by the Babylonians under King Nebuchadnezzar, who ravaged the land and took thousands of its citizens (including Ezekiel himself) captive to Babylon. There on foreign soil, about a thousand miles from home, Ezekiel witnessed something else: dramatic visions conveying a message that God was still in control. His Word had lost none of its power. The captive people needed to hear and believe this. God was there.

B. Lesson Background: Ezekiel’s Times

The Babylonians conducted a series of three deportations against Judah in the years 605, 597, and 586 BC (2 Kings 24:1-25:21). Daniel was taken captive in the first of these (Daniel 1:1-6), while Ezekiel the “priest, the son of Buzi” was taken captive in the second (Ezekiel 1:1-3).

Of interest is the mention of “the thirtieth year” in Ezekiel 1:1, which apparently is a reference to Ezekiel’s age at the time he received God’s call. This age is noteworthy, since it was the age at which Levites (the tribe from which all priests came) began their sacred service to the Lord (Numbers 4:46, 47), perhaps after first serving a five-year apprenticeship (8:24).

God had special plans for Ezekiel: this priest was destined to be a prophet of the Lord to the exiles in Babylon (Ezekiel 2:1-3:6, 10-15). Ezekiel’s name means “God strengthens” or “God makes hard”—quite appropriate given the circumstances of his ministry (compare 3:7-9).

At the point in the book of Ezekiel where our lesson begins, that man had been serving as the Lord’s prophet in Babylon to a people who had been in exile some 25 years. The date noted in Ezekiel 40:1 calculates to 573 BC.

A certain “man,” introduced in 40:3, served as a kind of tour guide for Ezekiel throughout the visions of Ezekiel 40-48. The visions involved the prophet’s being taken “into the land of Israel, and set ... upon a very high mountain” (Ezekiel 40:2). It was there he saw the “man, whose appearance was like the appearance of brass, with a line of flax in his hand, and a measuring reed” (v. 3).

This individual may well have been an angelic being of some kind. He commanded Ezekiel to watch carefully everything he was about to be shown, because the prophet was to declare all he saw to the house of Israel (Ezekiel 40:4). The experience shares certain parallels with what the apostle John was told in Revelation 1:3, 19.

C. Lesson Background: Foreshadowing

The four lessons from Ezekiel in this unit of study come from the final portion of that book, where the prophet received visions of a restored temple. A crucial question is how these chapters should be interpreted. Should this temple blueprint be viewed in terms of a literal, earthly fulfillment, or should it be taken as symbolic of something else?

As elaborate and detailed as the blueprint of Ezekiel’s temple is, it does not appear that the envisioned temple was ever considered as a pattern to be followed by those who returned from Babylonian captivity in 538 BC. Nothing of Ezekiel’s temple vision is mentioned in any of the Bible books from the post-exilic period.

The position taken here is that the content of Ezekiel’s temple visions is best interpreted in other than a literal “hewn stone” way. Many Old Testament practices and institutions (such as the sacrificial system and the high priesthood) involve the concept of foreshadowing. God’s presence in Ezekiel’s visionary temple can be understood as foreshadowing His presence in the temple of the new covenant—His church, made up of individuals (“lively stones”) who comprise a dwelling place for His Spirit (1 Peter 2:4, 5; compare 1 Corinthians 3:16, 17; 6:19, 20; Ephesians 2:19-22).

I. Seeing a Vision

                                                                                 (Ezekiel 43:1-5)

A. Movement of God’s Glory (vv. 1-4)

1. Afterward he brought me to the gate, even the gate that looketh toward the east.

The pronoun he refers to the “man” noted above. For Ezekiel to be situated at the gate [of the temple] that looketh toward the east is crucial. The reason for this is seen in the next verse.

2. And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east: and his voice was like a noise of many waters: and the earth shined with his glory.

To this point, Ezekiel has been given the opportunity to view the layout of the new temple and to hear a description of its dimensions (Ezekiel 40-42). Now, however, his experience becomes more personal—and intensely so as he sees the glory of the God of Israel coming from the way of the east.

For Ezekiel to see the glory of the Lord in this regard must be contrasted with what the prophet had witnessed earlier in Ezekiel 8-11. There he had been taken on a very disturbing tour of the current temple in Jerusalem to see some of the disgusting and offensive practices that the leaders of God’s people were engaging in. Clearly, the Lord could no longer reside amidst such unholy surroundings. In the climax of that earlier vision, Ezekiel saw the most disheartening scene imaginable: the glory of the Lord departing from the temple and moving eastward from it (Ezekiel 10:18, 19; 11:22, 23). We can only imagine the prophet’s thrill at seeing the glory return! The accompanying voice of the Lord like a noise of many waters is reminiscent of the prophet’s first vision (Ezekiel 1:24; compare Revelation 1:15; 14:2; 19:6).

Also as a result of the Lord’s return, the earth shines with God’s glory. The Hebrew word translated earth can also be rendered as “land” (as it is in Ezekiel 48:12, 14), so we are uncertain whether the scope of Ezekiel’s vision is limited to the promised land as such or embraces the entire world. One can imagine the prophet being heartened in particular by his homeland’s being restored, since it was in a state of spiritual and physical disarray the last time he saw it.

Visual for Lesson 9. Start a discussion by pointing to this visual as you ask, “How is this verse like and unlike Psalm 19:1-4?”

3. And it was according to the appearance of the vision which I saw, even according to the vision that I saw when I came to destroy the city: and the visions were like the vision that I saw by the river Chebar; and I fell upon my face.

Ezekiel recalls his previous experiences in beholding the glory of the Lord, giving those experience in reverse order. The first vision preceded the Lord’s call to that man to be His prophet in Ezekiel 2:1-8. That vision had occurred by the river Chebar, which is an irrigation canal of the Euphrates River in Babylonian territory (1:3). A group of the captives from Judah, including Ezekiel, live somewhere in the vicinity of this canal (3:15).

The second vision of the Lord’s glory was of its aforementioned departure from the temple. Ezekiel describes this as the time when I came to destroy the city. This seems rather unusual language for a prophet to use, but it may simply reflect Ezekiel’s understanding of himself as the messenger of Jerusalem’s destruction (compare Jeremiah 1:10). Ezekiel’s reaction of falling on his face is noted in connection with the earlier visions (Ezekiel 1:28; 3:23; 9:8; 11:13).

Imagining God’s Glory

I think in words, meaning that I don’t often get pictures in my mind. This is just normal for me. But never do I want to visualize scenes more than when I read Scripture passages that describe God and His glory. I have talented friends who not only visualize well, but express themselves through art and photography. Their works have brought me great joy.

A friend responded to my challenge to depict Genesis 1:2: “And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” Amazingly, a photograph he took of a river at first light captured a mass of sparkles glimmering above the water. Of course, I would not say that he captured an image of the Spirit of God. But he did capture a beautiful scene that inspired me to imagine God’s glory.

God’s glory is beyond human comprehension. We can sense Ezekiel’s struggle in that regard as he falls facedown. When was the last time that an awareness of God’s presence and blessing caused you to do likewise?—V. E.

What Do You Think?

Which aspect of creation best helps you imagine the glory of God in difficult times? in good times? Why?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

Very large things (the solar system, etc.)

Things of intermediate size (trees, etc.)

Very small things (molecular structures, etc.)

4. And the glory of the Lord came into the house by the way of the gate whose prospect is toward the east.

Ezekiel is careful to note again the entry of the Lord’s glory into the house, or temple, through the gate whose prospect [or direction] is toward the east—the direction toward which the glory had earlier departed. Of all the directional words in the book of Ezekiel, east seems to be the most important, occurring more than 50 times. Its first use is in Ezekiel 8:16, where a couple of dozen men “with their backs toward the temple of the Lord” commit idolatry as they worship “the sun toward the east.” How appropriate, then, for the Lord’s glory to return from that direction!

B. Movement of God’s Prophet (v. 5)

5. So the spirit took me up, and brought me into the inner court; and, behold, the glory of the Lord filled the house.

The phrase the spirit refers to the Holy Spirit. On previous occasions, Ezekiel uses the phrase took me up (or “lifted me up”) in describing the Spirit’s influence on his ministry (see Ezekiel 3:12, 14; 8:3; 11:1, 24). Now the Spirit takes the prophet from the gate on the eastern side of the temple into the inner court, from which vantage point the prophet is able to see more clearly how the glory of the Lord fills the house. The scene is reminiscent of how God’s glory filled Solomon’s temple at its dedication (1 Kings 8:10, 11).

II. Hearing a Message

                                                                                 (Ezekiel 43:6-9)

A. Promise and Prediction (vv. 6, 7)

6. And I heard him speaking unto me out of the house; and the man stood by me.

The vision takes a turn as Ezekiel hears a voice from somewhere within the temple. Given the contents of the verses that follow, the speaker is clearly the Lord. The man, Ezekiel’s tour guide, remains stationed beside the prophet.

7. And he said unto me, Son of man, the place of my throne, and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel for ever, and my holy name, shall the house of Israel no more defile, neither they, nor their kings, by their whoredom, nor by the carcases of their kings in their high places.

The Lord addresses Ezekiel with the phrase Son of man dozens of times throughout this book. The phrase does not have messianic significance for Ezekiel as it does for Jesus; it simply highlights Ezekiel’s humanness and, consequently, his need to depend on the Lord to carry out the ministry.

The Lord, who has entered this new temple, declares His intentions for the structure: it is to be the place of my throne, and the place of the soles of my feet. The presence of the holy God demands holiness from those who claim to be His people, so whoredom (prostitution) is forbidden. Variations of the words whoredom and adultery are used often in this book figuratively to signify the worship of other gods—idolatry (see especially Ezekiel 16 and 23). This amounts to God’s people breaking covenant with their “husband,” the Lord (compare Jeremiah 31:32; Ezekiel 16:32). At the same time, literal whoredom is known to be part of the practices of those who worship fictitious gods such as Baal.

What Do You Think?

In what ways does spiritual adultery manifest itself today? How do we guard against this?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

Matthew 12:39; 16:4

James 4:4

Other

The reference to the carcases of their kings in their high places (also v. 9, below) apparently describes the practice of burying kings near the temple. Their graves become some of the “high places” where idolatrous ceremonies are carried out (compare Psalm 78:58). Many kings of Judah are buried in Jerusalem, perhaps near the temple area. This is near enough that the Lord expresses that His holiness must no longer be compromised by such corrupting influences.

B. Defilement and Destruction (v. 8)

8. In their setting of their threshold by my thresholds, and their post by my posts, and the wall between me and them, they have even defiled my holy name by their abominations that they have committed: wherefore I have consumed them in mine anger.

Their post most likely refers to a doorpost of the royal palace. The proximity of the royal palace to the temple is reflected in the account of the overthrow of Athaliah, the wicked queen of Judah, in 2 Kings 11. Verses 13-16 there imply that the distance between the two buildings is not great. Ezekiel notes that only a wall separates the two. Such closeness blurs the distinction between what is holy and what is not. This seems to make it easier to accept idolatrous practices that amount to abominations that defile God’s holy name. God will not tolerate this, and He has judged the people (consumed them) in that light.

What Do You Think?

In what areas of life have you seen Christians put that which is secular too close to (or in place of) the sacred? What guardrails can we erect to prevent this?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

Regarding entertainment choices

Regarding secular spirituality

Regarding attitudes toward money

Other

C. Practice and Presence (v. 9)

9. Now let them put away their whoredom, and the carcases of their kings, far from me, and I will dwell in the midst of them for ever.

God reiterates His requirements. His holy presence in the new temple requires a holy people. Practices that result in His judgment must be put away.

III. Conveying a Message

                                                                                (Ezekiel 43:10-12)

A. Confronting Sins (v. 10)

10. Thou son of man, shew the house to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities: and let them measure the pattern.

We may wonder how Ezekiel’s showing the blueprint for the house to the people and having them measure the pattern will have the effect of their being ashamed of their iniquities. Perhaps the description is to impress on the people what they lost through the destruction of Solomon’s temple some 13 years earlier, in 586 BC. They must acknowledge that they have no one to blame but themselves for that disaster. Or perhaps they will realize how unworthy they are to be in the Lord’s presence as they see the temple’s majestic design.

What Do You Think?

What role should being ashamed of sin play in Christian messages today? Why?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

Regarding evangelistic messages to unbelievers

Regarding discipling messages to believers

Other

B. Conforming to a Plan (v. 11)

11. And if they be ashamed of all that they have done, shew them the form of the house, and the fashion thereof, and the goings out thereof, and the comings in thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the laws thereof: and write it in their sight, that they may keep the whole form thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and do them.

If the people respond to seeing the temple plan by being ashamed of all that they have done, then Ezekiel is to go into much greater detail about the temple and various facets of its operation. The prophet is to write all of this information in their sight so that they will be accountable for following the pattern and regulations faithfully.

Do the people exhibit the shame necessary for Ezekiel to convey the design as he is told? There is no record that this happens, yet the plan is recorded in his book. (The goings out and the comings in most likely refer to passageways for exiting and entering.)

It may be helpful here to consider the symbolic interpretation of Ezekiel’s temple vision that is suggested in the Lesson Background. Ezekiel earlier uttered prophecies of foreshadowed blessings associated with the new covenant in Christ (Ezekiel 34:23, 24; 36:26, 27; 37:24-28). In the last of these passages, the prophet declares God’s promise to “set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore” (37:26). God also promises the presence of His Holy Spirit “within you” (36:27; the you is plural).

That kind of intimacy may be the point of Ezekiel’s description here: those who are ashamed of their sins will enjoy a close relationship with God as He himself dwells within them and they then become His temple. Such language is very much a part of the New Testament (1 Corinthians 3:16, 17; 6:19, 20; Ephesians 2:19-22; 1 Peter 2:4, 5).

C. Closing Statement (v. 12)

12. This is the law of the house; Upon the top of the mountain the whole limit thereof round about shall be most holy. Behold, this is the law of the house.

This regulation contrasts with the people’s failure to respect sacred territory as noted in verse 8, above. All the area around the temple is to be considered most holy. This is reminiscent of the holiness associated with Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:12, 13).

From a new-covenant perspective, this verse conveys how passionate God is for the holiness of His house or temple—the church. All of life is to be lived in a holy manner for God’s glory (1 Corinthians 10:31).

What Do You Think?

What connections do you see between the law of Ezekiel’s idealized temple and that of the temple of the New Testament era?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

1 Corinthians 3:17; 6:19

Ephesians 2:21

Hebrews 12:14

1 Peter 1:15, 16; 2:5

1 John 3:24

Other

Redecorating

My daughter loves the abundance of home decorating programs on television. OK, I think they’re fun too. There’s just something about taking a space that’s dated or cluttered and making it fresh again. What is amazing to me is that it’s not always the new things you bring in that make a difference as much as the old things you “retire.” This reminds me of a thought of A. W. Tozer:

To God, our thoughts are things. Our thoughts are the decorations inside the sanctuary where we live.... If you would cultivate the Spirit’s acquaintance, you must get hold of your thoughts and not allow your mind to be a wilderness in which every kind of unclean beast roams and bird flies. You must have a clean heart.

The Old Testament temple regulations were designed to keep the temple holy. Sin defiled the Old Testament temple and angered God. Sin defiles us today and grieves the Holy Spirit, who lives within us. What “redecorating” do you need to do to keep the temple holy?—V. E.

Conclusion
A. Under Construction

When encountering road construction while driving, most of us become at least a little frustrated with the waiting that results. But we eventually come to an “End Construction” sign. I often think that that is exactly what I would like to have happen in my life: end construction—permanently!

Being “under construction” provides a helpful way to think about the Christian life: we are always “works in progress.” Whether we have been Christians for 60 days or 60 years, there is always room to grow. We may not be guilty of the specific practices cited by Ezekiel, but we can be guilty of spiritual adultery nonetheless. Consider James 4:4: “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?”

God’s presence filled both Solomon’s temple and Ezekiel’s visionary temple. Is He welcome in ours?

B. Prayer

Holy God, let us never forget that we are Your temple. May we welcome Your Spirit to live within us as an honored guest. In Jesus’ name; amen.

C. Thought to Remember

God’s glory is in a temple, and Christians are that temple.

How to Say It

Athaliah Ath-uh-lye-uh.

Baal Bay-ul.

Babylon Bab-uh-lun.

Babylonians Bab-ih-low-nee-unz.

Chebar Kee-bar.

Euphrates You-fray-teez.

Ezekiel Ee-zeek-ee-ul or Ee-zeek-yul.

Judah Joo-duh.

Levites Lee-vites.

messianic mess-ee-an-ick.

Nebuchadnezzar Neb-yuh-kud-nez-er.

Sinai Sigh-nye or Sigh-nay-eye.


November 9

Lesson 10

The Altar Offers Hope

Devotional Reading: Psalms 130, 131

Background Scripture: Ezekiel 43:10-46:24

Ezekiel 43:13-21

13 And these are the measures of the altar after the cubits: The cubit is a cubit and an hand breadth; even the bottom shall be a cubit, and the breadth a cubit, and the border thereof by the edge thereof round about shall be a span: and this shall be the higher place of the altar.

14 And from the bottom upon the ground even to the lower settle shall be two cubits, and the breadth one cubit; and from the lesser settle even to the greater settle shall be four cubits, and the breadth one cubit.

15 So the altar shall be four cubits; and from the altar and upward shall be four horns.

16 And the altar shall be twelve cubits long, twelve broad, square in the four squares thereof.

17 And the settle shall be fourteen cubits long and fourteen broad in the four squares thereof; and the border about it shall be half a cubit; and the bottom thereof shall be a cubit about; and his stairs shall look toward the east.

18 And he said unto me, Son of man, thus saith the Lord God; These are the ordinances of the altar in the day when they shall make it, to offer burnt offerings thereon, and to sprinkle blood thereon.

19 And thou shalt give to the priests the Levites that be of the seed of Zadok, which approach unto me, to minister unto me, saith the Lord God, a young bullock for a sin offering.

20 And thou shalt take of the blood thereof, and put it on the four horns of it, and on the four corners of the settle, and upon the border round about: thus shalt thou cleanse and purge it.

21 Thou shalt take the bullock also of the sin offering, and he shall burn it in the appointed place of the house, without the sanctuary.

Key Verse

When these days are expired, it shall be, that upon the eighth day, and so forward, the priests shall make your burnt offerings upon the altar, and your peace offerings; and I will accept you, saith the Lord God. —Ezekiel 43:27

Lesson Aims

After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:

1. Tell how the altar in Ezekiel’s temple vision was to be prepared and purified for use in worship.

2. Explain why the altar—and a sanctified altar—was so important for the people to be acceptable to God.

3. Give thanks for the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus, which makes us acceptable to God.

Lesson Outline

Introduction

A. What’s Behind the Door?

B. Lesson Background

I. Features of the Altar (Ezekiel 43:13-17)

A. Height and Horns (vv. 13-15)

B. Area and Stairs (vv. 16, 17)

Precision Matters!

II. Dedication of the Altar (Ezekiel 43:18-21)

A. Animal Chosen (vv. 18, 19)

God Offers Hope

B. Blood Sprinkled (v. 20)

C. Carcass Burned (v. 21)

Conclusion

A. Their Hope

B. Our Hope

C. Prayer

D. Thought to Remember


Standard Lesson Commentary 2014-2015 (KJV).

"Suggestions for families are taken from Standardlesson.com,

Standard Publishing Group, LLC. Used with permission. More resources for families are available at Standardpub.com.


God Bless