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Measuring The Temple

Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem was perhaps the most beautiful building in the world, which was fitting as it was the resting place of the Glory of the Lord. It stood as a monument for God’s people, but also as a beacon to the world. Sadly, Israel lost its way, and as a result lost its land, its king, its temple and the Presence of God in the temple.

Ezekiel records the Lord leaving the temple prior to its destruction at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar: “Then the glory of the Lord went out from the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubim. And the cherubim lifted up their wings and mounted up from the earth before my eyes as they went out, with the wheels beside them. And they stood at the entrance of the east gate of the house of the Lord, and the glory of the God of Israel was over them. (Ezekiel 10:18-19)”

Could there be anything more despairing than seeing the Lord’s presence leaving you? It was because Israel had already left God. They were paying the consequences. But as always, God leaves hope.

Ezekiel sees another vision involving the temple. He is transported to the temple and given a tour. There he watches a “man whose appearance was like bronze (40:4)” measure the temple. Each and every part is explored, its measurements recorded.

Then an extraordinary thing happens: In the vision the Glory of the Lord returns to the temple. And Ezekiel is given a strict charge. “As for you, son of man, describe to the house of Israel the temple, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and they shall measure the plan. And if they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the design of the temple, its arrangement, its exits and its entrances, that is, its whole design; and make known to them as well all its statutes and its whole design and all its laws, and write it down in their sight, so that they may observe all its laws and all its statutes and carry them out. (Ezekiel 43:10-11)

Now why would a description of the temple and its detailed measurements cause Israel to “be ashamed of their iniquities”? What does the placement of entrances and exits have to do with their relationship to God?

God is using the exact measurements of the temple as a metaphor for His Law, His pattern for them. Ezekiel recorded, “they shall measure the plan.” The temple is associated with statutes and laws. Just as God had revealed precisely how the temple was to be built, so, too, He had revealed precisely how Israel was to obey Him and have a relationship with Him. God demonstrated this precision with three chapters (in our Bibles) of detailed measurements and descriptions of the temple.

The period of exile would end, and the temple would be rebuilt and rebuilt again. But despite Ezekiel’s vision, there is no record that God’s Glory ever returned to the Jerusalem temple. It was destroyed for good by the Romans in ad 70.