Continuing in Ezekiel 43, verse 6 identifies that someone is now speaking to Ezekiel from the temple. Since the glory of God had just filled the temple, it appears that God is talking to Him.
He said: “Son of man, this is the place of my throne and the place for the soles of my feet. This is where I will live among the Israelites forever. The people of Israel will never again defile my holy name—neither they nor their kings—by their prostitution and the funeral offerings for their kings at their death. When they placed their threshold next to my threshold and their doorposts beside my doorposts, with only a wall between me and them, they defiled my holy name by their detestable practices. So I destroyed them in my anger.
Ezekiel 43:7-8 NIV
God is claiming the temple’s location. I thought of this as the place from which He will rule (His throne) and perhaps where He will stand (his feet). Another interpretation of the latter image hearkens to passages that refer to the earth as God’s footstool (see Isaiah 66:1 / Acts 7:49, Matthew 5:34-35). [Ref. Matthew Henry and Asbury, cited below, for the second interpretation]
Side note: At this point, we might ask ourselves whether God can truly sit anywhere, or walk anywhere? If we’re not sure, I would suggest that we read Mark 12:41-32 (when Jesus had a lesson to teach from a widow’s gift) and Matthew 26:55 (from Jesus’ arrest). God the Son did walk in the temple, and – although Jesus wasn’t yet on a physical throne during His ministry in the first century – God the Son did sit in the temple.
Sometimes God seems to fulfill prophecies at different times and at different scales. While God made Jerusalem the place where His temple was located and where His glory could be seen in the past, God the Son walked in the physical temple, and (noticing that God promises to “…live among the Israelites forever”, from v7) God will reign in the new Jerusalem (see Revelation 21:9-27).
Despite God’s current (and previous) claim to the temple (after all, He created the entire world, so he can set aside any part of it as He wishes), it sounds to me like the Israelites were defaming or desecrating the (previous) temple by building temples to other gods, including treating their kings as gods (like Egyptian Pharaohs or Roman Caesars). Matthew Henry offers another explanation: that the false gods that were being worshiped were referred to as “king” (Molech) or “lord” (Baal).
Or, as the Lookout (cited below) suggests, perhaps their evil kings were building shrines to idols adjacent to the temple (or even in the temple, per 2 Kings 21:1-6).
If you attend a church congregation that meets in a particular building, can you imagine the insult if an “inappropriate business” set up shop right next to it? I don’t mean that they built across the street, or next door, but right up to the point where the church and this “business” shared a wall. As I taught my class on this topic, I asked them, “What if people were worshiping an idol on the other side of this partition, or running a brothel on the other side of that wall?” (Of course, the other classes in the adjacent sections of the room weren’t worshiping idols.)
That’s a pretty offensive scenario, of course, but how much worse would that be if it was church members who set up this business, or if the church staff had agreed to it? Regrettably, that sort of thing seems to be what was happening here (in Ezekiel’s day) at God’s temple!
Maybe the Israelites justified themselves with the idea that they were keeping God’s temple intact, but when two doors for worshiping God and worshiping idols are right next to each other, that shows how little reverence God is being treated with.
In commenting on the proximity of idols to false gods and the temple of God, Matthew Henry pointed out that the Israelites had brought false teachings alongside God’s truth and His definition of righteousness. (He also suggested that the walls were put up by the Israelites, perhaps having the idols right in the temple of God (!), with a partition, and that this wall blocked God’s blessings.)
Regardless, we can’t just treat these warnings as a simply a command to “not build unholy businesses next to – or in – the church”. More than that, we must ensure that false gods and false teachers don’t take up the sacred space that God deserves in our lives.
Since God is truly holy, He is set apart from common things. In the same way, we should treat God as the holy God that He is. God must be the only god in our lives, and the way to His presence must not be just one of many doors that we go into in order to worship multiple gods.
So, let’s ask ourselves today: Is God just one of the beings that we worship? Do we force God to share His space in our lives with other idols or distractions? Or, does God have first place in our lives, no matter what? May we continually work towards the latter goal.
From Sunday School lesson prepared for September 25, 2022
- The Lookout, September 25, 2022, © 2022 Christian Standard Media.
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible (Complete). Matthew Henry. 1706, via BibleGateway.com.
- Asbury Bible Commentary. Copyright © 1992 by The Zondervan Corporation, via BibleGateway.com.