The Return of the Divine Glory - Chapter 43
F. Cundick, Luton
The great event of the return of the glory of God, so simply described, is really the culmination of Ezekiel's prophecy. The return does not take place at the prophet's first coming to the temple, but after he had been led from place to place, and measured the pattern, 42. 1. He has thus been shown the demands of the divine presence and thereby become spiritually prepared for the return of the God of Israel. The Living God enters the sanctuary, condescending to occupy it, not merely as a fixed dwelling place, but as a centre from which His power and mercy may radiate freely to the utmost ends of the earth. Our present observations will be focused on three features of this return.
The Course of the Return. "Behold the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east", 43. 2. The glory returns and enters the hallowed precinct through the stately eastern gate. But why did the glory depart? Recalling the sad account of the dreadful series of debasing idolatries, ch. 8, we are reminded that God cannot compromise with His people's sin. "Thou God seest me" is a searching fact, and the nature of our reaction thereto is a true revealer of character. Either glad response or resentful avoidance reveals either our regard for or our refusal of the controlling influence and power of the presence of God. One thing is certain, there can be no lowering of the standard that God requires. He only returns by the way of the east, the way of light! John the apostle expressed an abiding principle when he wrote, "he that doeth truth cometh to the light", John 3. 21.
The Manner of the Return. "And the glory . . . came into the house", Ezek. 43. 4. The directness is striking. What a contrast to the stages of the departure! At that time the prophet remarked as he beheld the image of jealousy at the inner gate, "behold, the glory of the God of Israel was there", 8. 4. As he beheld later the angel executioners about to carry out their mission, he said, "the glory of the God of Israel was gone up from the cherub, whereupon he was, to the threshold of the house", 9. 3. Contemplating still further the heartrending judgment, he says, "Then the glory of the Lord went up from the cherub, and stood over the threshold of the house", 10. 4. Following still the movements of the chariot-throne, he observed, "Then the glory departed from off the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubim. And the cherubim lifted up their wings, and mounted up from the earth in my sight: when they went out, the wheels also were beside them, and every one stood at the door of the east gate of the Lord's house; and the glory of the God of Israel was over them above", 10. 18, 19. The final view of the glory was on the mountain, "the glory of the Lord went up from the midst of the city, and stood upon the mountain which is on the east side of the city", 11. 23. The glory left slowly, but returned swiftly. It lingers when retiring, but hastens when returning. This is always the way of love. We can imagine much when we read Luke's record of the question asked the travellers to Emmaus, "What manner of communications are these that ye have one with another, as ye walk? And they stood still, looking sad", Luke 24. 17 r.v. But after the heart-warming fellowship with the Risen Lord, "they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem", v. 33. Swiftly did they travel the seven miles back to the city of Jerusalem to tell the good news of the resurrection to their brethren. Likewise the manner of the return of the glory confirms the saying, "Love lends wings to the feet". Swiftly will the Lord return to His beloved people.
The Effects of the Return. 1. On the Earth, "the earth shone with his glory'*, Ezek. 43. 2. The return of the Jews from Babylon does not fulfil this prophecy, nor even the mission of the Messiah in grace. It points onward to His return to reign. What splendour will bathe the earth when He comes!
2. On the Temple, "behold, the glory of the Lord filled the house'*, v. 5. God will dwell in the midst of His people Israel again. His grace will work afresh in power for both Israel and the Gentile nations, so that all the universe may know the virtue of Christ's atonement, and the sick and weary creation be delivered from its long and hopeless bondage. The royal presence will govern in power. "Son of man", said the Lord, "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", v. 7. The rule of God will then be manifestly expressed, and the divine presence will possess and refine the blessed people. "My holy name, shall the house of Israel no more defile".
The Reactions of Ezekiel. "I fell upon my face'', v. 3. The vision of the returning glory brings to the prophet at once a keen consciousness of his own nothingness. The sight of God's majesty overwhelms him. Frail flesh is always seen in its true light before the awesome holiness of God. The more intimate the saint becomes with God, then the wider one's knowledge of His character and ways develops., and more deeply does he discover the smallness of self.
"So the Spirit took me up", v. 5. After humiliation comes elevation, the unfailing issue of prostration before God; see Phil. 2. 5-11; Luke 18. 14; Mark 10. 43-45. It is worthy of note that Ezekiel's fellowship is full-orbed; the Spirit, the Lord and the man, w. 5, 6. Every day, those who have concern about the divine dwelling have need of the help of the Spirit to lead them, the sight of the glory of the Lord to inspire them, and the presence of Christ to enable them to do their work.
"And I heard him speaking unto me out of the house", v. 6. While the guide stands beside him, Ezekiel hears a voice speaking from the temple. The speaker is not identified, but undoubtedly it is the Lord. God speaks, and man, if he will, listens. Unaided intellect is utterly unable to perceive spiritual realities. They must be divinely unfolded. The literary student of the sacred Word may find pleasure in its structure, grammar, history, poetry and many more items of its fulness, but the spiritual meaning and message is not known until the Spirit of God operates in the life.
"Thou son of man, shew the house to the house of Israel", v. 10. Now comes the commission to revitalize the faith of his people. The aim of the commission is to produce a sense of shame in the hearts of the people, v. 10. The beauty of the high standards of the temple services, now seen alongside their former mean deviation, causes contrition before God. The great loss of spiritual power, joy and blessing that they had experienced was due to a turning aside to the ideas and ways of the nations around. What a lesson to the church! The prophet is commanded to induce the people "to measure the pattern". Having himself gone this way, he is expected to show others. True leadership is exemplified in this. No man has a right to teach others and endeavour to direct them without treading the pathway himself. Is not this a weakness of our day? Words are packed tightly together in verse eleven to declare the stateliness, particulars, duties, order and discipline of the house, all important matters, in view of the great presence and purpose for which it is built. People who have been long estranged from the true order of God need such instruction. This is the means of attaining adjustment of life and outlook.
Whilst all this relates to Israel, yet an application to the believer of the present day is warranted. How imperative it is for saints to understand the character of divine manifestations. Our brief review of Ezekiel's experience enables us to see the meaning of our Lord's revelation of "the gateway to deeper things" as recorded by John; see John 13. 36 to 14. 31. The Lord's remark to Philip, John 14. 8-11, teaches the objective manifestation of God. God is outwardly revealed in the Lord Jesus, the historical Personality. This is something seen by faith. In verses 16-24 we find the subjective manifestation of God. He is inwardly revealed to us by the Holy Spirit. The condition required for this experience is love and faith. "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him", John 14. 21. It is necessary to remind ourselves in the words of another, "The cultivation of religious emotion without the development of practical godliness is injurious to the soul; feeling which does not end in action is wasted". All emotional and intellectual experiences must submit to the plain test; do they help obedience? If they do, they are valuable; if they do not, they are useless. The noblest attainments of the Christian life are reached by the same principles of humiliation before God, transportation by the Spirit, instruction by the Word of God, and obedience to the commission given us.