Haftarah Reflections 20
Torah portion Exodus 27 : 20 to 30 : 10
Haftarah portion Ezekiel 43 : 10 - 27
Listen to the Prophets
Of all the matters God entrusted to Ezekiel, this prophetic vision and announcement about the building of a Temple is one of the most significant. But it is also the cause of some debate amongst theologians, because it is about a Temple which, even in our day, has not been built. Ezekiel’s vision of this Temple is remarkable. He spends about one fifth of his prophetic pronouncements on this topic.
Ezekiel was in Babylonian captivity as he wrote this prophecy. Earlier, in Ezekiel 33, we were told that Ezekiel was made aware of the destruction of Jerusalem. This would surely have been devastating news to all those who were in captivity. It marked, for them a kind of finality to their life in the Land of promise. The Temple was the place of residence of YHWH Elohim. The Temple was the very centre of their society. It was the ‘rock’ on which their nationhood was built. And now it was gone.
In spite of the importance of their Temple, as a people they had not valued, as they should, the ordinances, precepts and commandments which had clearly been conveyed to them as a pre-requisite of occupation of the Land. So they found themselves languishing in Babylon. Tragic.
God’s instruction to Ezekiel, to describe the Temple to the people, was designed to make the Israelites ashamed that they had put such little value on it. Moreover, Ezekiel was told to describe the plan of the Temple in some detail. Minute detail about its design and the ordinances which were to take place within it, that they should never forget them.
But as we read these details, and compare them to the details of the Tabernacle furniture which God gave to Moses in Exodus 27, which Solomon would have used in the building of the Temple, now destroyed, we find subtle differences. It is in these differences that we see that what God is describing is a Temple which, as yet, has not been built.
So here is the lesson for us.
If the Temple which Ezekiel describes has not yet been built, that can mean only one of two things. The first is that Ezekiel got it wrong! That he spoke presumptuously. And if that is the case, the Scriptures tell us to disregard everything he says. Or in the language of the Bible “do not fear him”. The second meaning is that Ezekiel got it right. Which is what I believe. That being the case, it is awaiting the right time for its construction.
This provides a huge dilemma for those who teach that the covenant which God made with Moses is obsolete. Because with that, also go the ordinances which took place in the Temple, and which are described great in detail in this vision of Ezekiel. So, if Temple worship was relevant in Moses day and after it, up to about 40 years after the death and resurrection of Yeshua. And will be restored in the future, according to this prophecy of Ezekiel, we need to be cautious about our attitude to the Mosaic covenant.
Some will say “hold on a minute”. The Temple was partially restored when Zerubbabel, Ezra and Nehemiah returned to Israel about 40 years after this prophecy. Josephus Flavius also informs us that it was enlarged, on a grand scale, by Herod the Great, a few hundred years later still. All that is true. But Ezekiel also tells us (Ezekiel 36:24) that these events will take place when the Jews return from their exile “For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land”. That is not just from Babylon. And this event has only happened on any scale at all in the last 100 years, and is gathering pace in our day. So the Temple of which Ezekiel writes is still unbuilt. But it will be.
But the really good news is in the effect of this prophecy on the captives in Babylon. From utter despair at their plight in Babylon, God restores their hope. The descriptions are familiar to them. This is how they were taught to ‘draw near’ to YHWH Elohim. By offering sacrifices to Him. Ezekiel’s prophetic writing says that it is to be renewed, and everything here points to that being in the millennial reign of Yeshua.
There is an enormous challenge to the gentile believer in this parashah. Could it be possible that the sacrificial system is to be restored? Haven’t we been taught that the sacrificial death of Yeshua is final? Well, unlikely as it may seem, that is exactly what Ezekiel is saying.
At this point I need to make a declaration. I did not write this parashah. I am a reader of it, just like everyone else, and I ‘reflect’ upon it.
Finally, for me, the important message is this. Regardless of what I may think, God is God. He is the ultimate authority, and He will choose how He is to be worshipped and praised. My role is to be obedient to Him, in all the circumstances of the future.
On that happy note, we conclude this very challenging parashah.
Ponder, study, reflect, and obey. You will receive truth and blessing.