Monday, September 10, 2012

Farewell Eccentric Ezekiel

Several months ago I saw Ezekiel coming on the horizon. The book seemed foreboding. I read it and didn’t understand it at first (not that I completely understand it now!). Frankly, I dreaded having to teach from it. I put off choosing “working titles” to share with other staff who were also working on Journey related stuff because I just couldn’t get settled. As the time grew closer, I became consumed with the “weird and wonderful” book (as one of my Ezekiel commentaries call it). Now, I’m kinda sad to see it go.

I love to immerse myself in what I'm studying. Ezekiel has been fun in this regard. From beginning to end there are opportunities for this. I’d love to share a couple of examples so that you know what I mean:

In the early part of Ezekiel (chapter four) God told him to live exclusively on a peculiar kind of bread. Did you know that you can actually get it in the grocery store? I bought some “Ezekiel 4:9 Bread” and have been eating it for a couple of weeks. I’d never heard of it before receiving an email from a person doing the Journey 2012 along with us online. She said that the bread (made from the ingredients found in Ezek. 4:9) is a "Bible food that is among the most perfect foods ever devised for human beings because the recipe was made by God." "In fact" a website she quoted says, "the bread recipe that God gave to Ezekeil (sic.) is a survival bread." This bread is called “holy” and is supposed to be a perfect food, since Ezekiel "lived on that Holy bread for over a year"! I found the bread in the frozen food section at Ingles in Karns! On the package it describes itself using words like “miracle” and “staff of life.” How did I not know about this?!

Of course, I immediately had questions like, “Did they cook it over dung?” and “Wasn’t it supposed to be a meager bread to illustrate the suffering of besieged Jerusalem?” But that’s just me nitpicking. I actually liked the bread (as long as it was smothered with butter and honey)! And Darla really liked it! I can’t say I’ve noticed any laudatory affects from eating it, miraculous or otherwise.

The other way I immersed myself in Ezekiel is to set myself to study the over-the-top description of the future temple that God revealed at the end of the book. After reading it over the first time, I wondered, “Why is there so much written about this?” It just seemed so, well, unnecessary (perhaps even boring). I didn’t go there on a Sunday morning because I simply didn’t have time to scratch the itch when there were so many other major themes that demanded attention but it is very interesting! I especially enjoyed reading a book entitled, Messiah's Coming Temple: Ezekiel's Prophetic Vision of the Future Temple, by John W. Schmitt and J. Carl Laney. Excellent!

On his website, Schmitt writes:
Almost six chapters in the book of Ezekiel are devoted to an explicit description of the Temple. His eyes must have flooded with tears of joy as he saw before him the beloved altar of sacrifice and the beautiful Temple building with its two golden pillars before the Holy Place and Holy of Holies. However, most amazing to him: some historically essential elements of temple worship were missing.
In addition, the structure itself was different; the walls were much lower; the inner and outer courts were strikingly different. The most astonishing change, however, the furnishings.
There was no Candlestick, no Table of Shewbread, no Golden Altar, no Veil, and no Ark of the Covenant with its Mercy Seat. In their place was a wooden table before a door into the Holy of Holies. This table of wood is very surprising. It is evident that the information surprised Ezekiel, for he twice mentions it in his writings. He must have also wondered a great deal about the meaning of these missing items since he was a priest and trained to be knowledgeable on all aspects of the Temple and its worship.
It is particularly noteworthy that the items Ezekiel left out all reflect the presence of Jesus, the Messiah. Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world” – the Candlestick. Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life” – the Table of Shewbread. Jesus said, “No man cometh unto the Father but by Me” – the Golden Altar. Jesus said, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” – the Mercy Seat. The Bible tells us that when Jesus died on the cross, the Veil was torn from top to bottom – providing all people access to God.

Wow! Pretty cool, huh? In the book there is much more, from the history of the Temple Mount and the current squabbles over it between Jews and Muslims to what the authors believe the Bible teaches about the role of Ezekiel’s temple in the end times.

You know, Ezekiel ended up really surprising me. I only wish we had more time to really dig in! But, alas, here comes Joel and Daniel...!

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