Meditations On The Living Water Of Ezekiel And Zechariah (Part Seven)

It is written:

“All the way around shall be eighteen thousand cubits; and the name of the city from that day shall be: THE LORD IS THERE.” (Ezekiel 48:35)

The Prophet Ezekiel, in his vision of the Third Temple, provides a powerful description of the church (as we have noticed).

Yet why does the Prophet describe the Temple with such Old Testament phraseology (priests, sacrifices, gates, etc.)?

One author has provided powerful insight into this question. Please carefully consider some of the following quotations from this book (Emil Heller Henning III, Ezekiel’s Temple: A Scriptural Framework Illustrating The Covenant Of Grace (Kindle Edition); Xulon Press):

“In the five decades since first reading this great vision, I became a professional architect—someone whose job is drawing and interpreting complicated building plans up to and including large university campuses.” (93-96)

“Instead, this study will show how Ezekiel’s underlying “plan” or “arrangement,” with its system of “exits and entrances”—what God particularly tells Ezekiel to show Israel—conveys in symbolic forms a clear visual portrait of God’s eternal covenant with Israel and, through that, of Messiah Himself….The First Temple was destroyed in 586 B.C. during the time the prophet Ezekiel was ministering to the exiled Jews in Babylon….Around 537 B.C., a few decades after Ezekiel’s prophecies to the exiles—including the Temple vision that is of interest here—the Jews returned to Jerusalem and built a modest Second Temple where the glorious first one had stood. It was later enlarged by Herod the Great, mostly between 19 and 9 B.C. He added an elaborate system of grand courts outside and around the original sacrificial courtyard, including large ones for women and Gentiles. The Herodian Temple is known to us from the writings of Josephus, the tractate Middoth of the Talmud, and references made to it in the New Testament. But neither the Second Temple nor Herod’s splendid enlargement of it fulfilled the bold vision that will be examined in the following pages.” (111-136)

“The design, plan, or pattern of this Temple, with its exits and entrances, will be seen to be structured by the covenant promise formula between God and Israel—“ I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” This formula recurs from Genesis to the Prophets (and the New Testament) and precedes the Temple Vision in Ezekiel 37: 27 (also on frontispiece). Its two sides express what must happen for a holy, infinite God to dwell (i.e., “tabernacle” or “temple”) with sinful, finite man. God must act sovereignly, supernaturally, savingly on man’s behalf, and man must be enabled to respond in faith and obedience.”. (144-148)

“God’s glory approaches the Temple from the east (43: 4), the direction by which Joshua first led Israel across the Jordan’s dry riverbed in the conquest of the Promised Land. This also reverses the direction of the earlier departure of God’s glory from the First (Solomonic) Temple, which was eastward over the Mount of Olives (11: 23). A sound like the roar of mighty waters accompanies God’s westward approach to Ezekiel’s Temple, and the earth shines with [NJPS: is “lit up by”] His glory (43: 2). The divine Presence proceeds westward on this axis into the Inner Court and fills the whole Temple with the glory of God (43: 5). A miraculous, ever-increasing stream of water issuing from the Sanctuary emerges from the Temple on this E-W axis by the East Outer Gate, and then proceeds to bring life to the barren regions of the eastern desert (47: 1-12).” (186-193)

“Ezekiel himself, in the new “laws” of his Temple (47: 22), envisions a day when even the gerim—the resident aliens within the land of Israel—will receive citizenship rights significantly greater than under the Torah of Moses. 3 Thus Ezekiel’s Temple is, as has been said, not about Israel hoarding God’s glory, but about spreading it to the four corners of creation, to Gentile as well as Jew, fulfilling God’s depiction to Abraham in Genesis 13 of an Israel extending as far as could be seen to the north, east, south, and west.” (215-219)

“The altar is at the center of Ezekiel’s Temple compound (Ezek. 40: 13, 23, 27, 47) because God’s continual dwelling with man requires atonement—making God and man “at one”—due to man’s sin (Ezek. 43: 18-27, etc.) God is too holy to look on sin (Hab. 1: 13); the unrepentent sinner must die (Ezek. 18: 20). Approved animal sacrifices are graciously accepted by God as substitutes (Gen. 4: 3-5). Typically, as the sacrificial animal was killed, the person who brought the animal would lay his hands on its head as a symbol that his own sins were transfered to that animal. The reason Ezekiel’s altar is located at the intersection of both of the axes is that God is the ultimate provider (on the East-West Axis) as well as the recipient (on the North-South Axis) of those sacrifices (Gen. 3: 21, 22: 8-14; Lev. 17: 11; Ps. 50: 10-12).” (219-227)

“On the East-West Axis, the new leader called the Prince crosses the Outer Court from the west-facing porch of the East Outer Gate to the east-facing porch of the East Inner Gate to commune with God and present his offerings on behalf of Israel (46: 1-2, 44: 3). This East-to-West movement (Fig. 6) distinguishes him from the people, whose movement pattern is North-South, and places him on the same axis of God’s sovereign actions with those of YHWH Himself and the conquest of the Promised Land under Joshua. On the North-South Axis, the Prince enters and leaves with lay worshipers through the North and South Outer Gates (46: 10). Though not a priest, he acts as a worship leader for Israel (45: 21-46: 12). Identified with David, he is “forever” [NJPS: “for all time”] the “one shepherd” who seeks the lost, binds the broken, and strengthens the sick in Ezekiel’s joined North-South stick (Ezek. 34: 12-16, 23-24; 37: 24-25). He is David’s greater Son, who finally receives from God the eternal house and throne promised to David in 2 Samuel 7: 12-16 that even that exceedingly great son of David, Solomon, could not merit, and who, along with his offspring, committed the deadly idolatries that led to Israel’s exile in Babylon.” (271-279)

“Ezekiel’s symbolic act of joining the two sticks anticipates the ultimate, post-Resurrection mission of Christ’s disciples to go to all the world (Matt. 28: 18-20), building (Eph. 4: 12,16) one believing body or “temple”—the church—from both Jews and Gentiles (Eph. 2: 11-22). This mission advances at Pentecost, when Jews from Egypt as well as from Parthia, Media, and Elam (beyond Assyria on Isaiah’s Northern Highway) believe (Acts 2: 9-10). In the north, Jesus shows fully human compassion in miracles of healing the sick, granting peace to the demon-possessed, and feeding the hungry, and also teaches the spiritual essence of the Torah (Matt. 5-7), revealing Himself as the “good shepherd” (John 10: 11) of Israel. He takes His disciples far north, near pagan and Roman emperor shrines at Caesarea Philippi, to test His Father’s work in them, and promises to build His church on Peter’s resulting confession of Him as the Christ (Matt. 16: 13-18). Jesus consistently travels south to Jerusalem as David’s greater Son (Matt. 21: 9, Ps. 110: 1) to observe all the pilgrim feasts of Israel in Herod’s Temple, fulfilling every requirement of the Law, “steadfastly set[ ting] His face” (Luke 9: 51) against steadily mounting opposition to His Messiahship that He knows will take Him to the cross. He teaches believers to expect their own crosses to bear (Luke 14: 27) in following Him, and promises the Holy Spirit’s power in them for doing that (John 15: 26-7). All who are sovereignly regenerated and justified by God (on the East-West Axis) are indwelt by the Spirit, Who leads them (on the North-South Axis) in a life-long process of sanctification, as they strive to serve God in holiness of life in His church and in His world (Eph. 2: 8-10, Phil. 2: 12-13). 12 The North-South movements of Christ in gathering believers, and their earthly strivings to follow and please Him coalesce in the N-S axis of the Christian church.” (408-422)

“This study has approached the Temple vision of Ezekiel 40-48 something in the manner of a biblical archaeologist, digging and sifting through the layers of overlying text in order to lay bare the structure beneath. That structure has been seen to be a “scriptural framework” that displays the finished work of Yeshua/ Jesus in sovereignly fulfilling God’s covenant with Israel on its behalf and in building lost Jewish and Gentile sinners into His earthly body, the church. Once this structure is grasped, the many details Ezekiel provides fall into place upon it. Before even beginning to consider whether some physical structure built to Ezekiel’s “plans” might be in view, one needs to see with spiritual eyes the spiritual essence of the underlying structure that has been unearthed. It is spiritual to the extent it is “built” of Scripture, and corresponds to God’s moving and acting in the world and dwelling with man in the desert Tabernacle, the First and Second Temples, and the spiritual Temple of the church—all earthly copies of God’s heavenly Temple (Heb. 8: 2, 9: 11, 23-4; Rev. 11: 19).” (589-596)

Through the language of the Old Testament that God had provided the Jewish people, a beautiful picture of the church of Christ was displayed hundreds of years before the Lord built it. The essence of the kingdom amounts to this: the LORD IS THERE.

Yet what is the living water?

And what about the other details of the prophecies of Ezekiel and Zechariah regarding this living water?

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