Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
From about Ezekiel 40 and on, God is showing Ezekiel the plans for the new temple. I’ve never been able to concentrate on all of these confusing units and figures- this read through has been no different. So I’ve been praying and asking God, “Why is this here?” “Do all these squares mean something?” (They probably do) And other questions have plagued my mind. Then, one day, God said (through the Holy Spirit), “These people had no hope, think like them.” And suddenly I realized that the ending chapters of Ezekiel are like seeing a lemonade stand in the desert.
Ezekiel 40 starts off with verse 1 establishing the time, 14 years after the fall of Jerusalem,
In the twenty-fifth year of our exile, at the beginning of the year, on the tenth of the month, in the fourteenth year after the fall of the city- on that very day the hand of the Lord was upon me and he took me there.
Up until the fall, Jeremiah had been warning the people that they would be exiled for 70 years after the city was destroyed and they would be mostly killed off. He warns them in Jeremiah 25:8-11;
Therefore the Lord Almighty says this: “Because you have not listened to my words, I will summon all the peoples of the north and my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon,” declares the Lord, “and I will bring them against all the surrounding nations. I will completely destroy them and make them an object of horror and scorn, and an everlasting ruin. I will banish from them the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, the sound of millstones and the light of the lamp. This whole country will become a desolate wasteland and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years.”
No one believed him though, and plenty of “prophets” were preaching peace. In fact, it got to the point where Jeremiah even complained to God about it,
But I said, “Ah, Sovereign Lord, the prophets keep telling them, ‘You will not see the sword of suffer famine. Indeed; I will give you lasting peace in this place.’”
Then the Lord said to me, “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I have not sent them or appointed them or spoken to them. They are prophesying to you false visions, divinations, idolatries and the delusions of their own minds” (Jeremiah 14:13-14).
Now in our story its 14 years after the fall and wherever Jeremiah is, he’s likely saying “I told you so!” because there turned out to be no peace indeed. The city was destroyed, and now everyone is in exile.
Only one prophet has been proved right, Jeremiah. So, now studying his words, the people only had a 70-year exile to look forward to. Keep in mind, after 40 years in the desert, all of a whole generation died. We know this because Numbers 32:13 says,
The Lord’s anger burned against Israel and he made them wander in the desert forty years, until the whole generation of those who had done evil in his sight was gone.
This exile is 70 years. Likely, everyone exiled will die in exile, away from the Lord. Needless to say, moral is not high.
We quite Jeremiah 29:11 a lot (“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”), but we forget that the first people to hear it were all going to die in a foreign land. It probably wasn’t as uplifting for them as it is for us (especially after listening all of the false prophets preaching peace before it all came down). Even how, in verse 4 of Ezekiel 40 God gets Ezekiel ready to hear some important news,
The man said to me, “Son of man, look with your eyes and hear with your ears and pay attention to everything I am going to show you, for that is why you have been brought here. Tell the house of Israel everything you see.”
I realized that it’s very easy to say, “Everything is ok, we’ve got God.” Even Job’s friend Elephaz tries that in Job 5:18-27;
For he wounds, but he also binds up;
He injures, but his hands also heal.
From six calamities he will rescue you;
In seven no harm will befall you.
In famine he will ransom you from death,
And in battle from the stroke of the sword.
You will be protected from the lash of the tongue,
And need not fear when destruction comes.
You will laugh at destruction and famine,
And need not fear the beasts of the earth.
For you will have a covenant with the stones of the field,
And the wild animals will be a peace with you.
You will know that your tent is secure;
You will take stock of your property and find nothing missing.
You will know that your children will be many,
And your descendants like the grass of the earth.
You will come to the grave in full vigor,
Like sheaves gathered in season.
We have examined this, and it is true.
So hear it and apply it to yourself.”
Pretty nice speech, eh? Too bad it is a lot of meaningless hot air. Job (who is having the worst week ever) doesn’t buy it and quickly rebukes Elephaz and is later backed by God.
The last 8 chapters of Ezekiel are not about God saying “Everything is ok.” As far as I can remember, he doesn’t give a timeline or anything like that. What the Lord does is gather the house of Israel and saying, “See, I am doing a new thing!” (Isaiah 43:19) But he doesn’t just say it; he gives all of that condemned generation the details. For us, these are just lists of numbers;
He measured along the faces of the projecting walls all around the inside of the gateway- sixty cubits. The measurement was up to the portico face the courtyard. The distance from the entrance of the gateway to the far end of its portico was fifty cubits (Ezekiel 40:14-15)
Then he measured the temple; it was a hundred cubits long, and the temple courtyard and the building with its walls were also a hundred cubits long. The width of the temple courtyard on the east, including the front of the temple, was a hundred cubits (Ezekiel 41:13-14).
The building whose door faced north was a hundred cubits long and fifty cubits wide. Both in the section twenty cubits from the inner court and in the section opposite the pavement of the outer court, gallery faced gallery at three levels (Ezekiel 42:2-3).
However, the exiles drank it in, tearing up just like we do when we read Revelation 21.
It’s not fair of me to write to you and say, “Its ok, we’ve got God.” I mean, it’s true, but for many of you, that’s not gonna do it. You’re fighting your battles and maybe you’ve seen how truly evil this world can be. The truth is in Hebrews 11:13,
All of these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth.
Most of the people before us died holding onto the hope from God. This life may never stop being awful, maybe it will. But Jesus died that we might be able to hold onto the hope that one day, we will be with him, and that he has prepared a place for us. John tells us about it in Revelation 21:1-5,
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from god, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and god himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
If we believe this that Jesus died for our sins and we hold onto this hope of a new world, then we have our own facts and figures to look forward to,
The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length and as wide and high as it is long. He measured its wall and it was 144 cubits thick, by man’s measurements, which the angel was using. The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass (Revelation 21:16-18).
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of god and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for healing the nations.
No longer will there be any curse. The thrown of god and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever (Revelation 22:1-5).
Never lose hope. After all, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ tells us,
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33).
Rock on, God!