The Lord Returns to His Temple
“As the glory of the LORD entered the temple by the gate facing east, the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court; and behold, the glory of the LORD filled the temple” (vv. 4–5).- Ezekiel 43:1–12
Speaking to His old covenant people in terms they could understand, God inspired the prophet Ezekiel to describe a future temple that would be built when the Lord brought the people back to their land (Ezek. 40–42). As noted in yesterday’s study, various features of this structure indicate that God never meant for Israel to build the temple Ezekiel spoke of. Instead, the vision was a metaphorical way of telling the exiles that life in the restoration would recall the glory days of Solomon and his magnificent temple in Jerusalem. Though there had been much suffering in exile, God would resurrect the nation and bless it in a manner that would far surpass anything it had yet experienced.
Ezekiel 43:1–12 confirms this in the prophet’s vision of the Creator’s glory filling the new post-exilic temple. In the Old Testament, the phrase glory of the LORD often describes the visible manifestation of the divine presence as an overwhelming cloud that signifies God’s approval. For example, the glory cloud filled Solomon’s temple, conveying to the people that the Lord was pleased with the structure and would meet there with His people (2 Chron. 7:1–3). This cloud is exactly what Ezekiel saw in the vision he describes in today’s passage.
The prophet’s original audience must have found this vision particularly encouraging. Recall that earlier in his ministry, Ezekiel saw the glory of the Lord leave the temple, signifying the withdrawal of His protection from Jerusalem, His judgment on the people, and the coming fall of the city to Babylon (Ezek. 10–11). Would God abandon His people forever? This was the question that this original vision provoked. The vision of the glory’s return represents a resounding “no.” For His own name sake, to prove that He had not lied when He promised to bless Abraham, the Lord had to return (36:16–38; see Gen. 15). God did not have to save anyone, but once He made a covenant with the patriarch, He was bound by His own nature to keep His promises. Thus, Matthew Henry comments, “Though God may forsake his people for a small moment, he will return with everlasting loving-kindness.”
As God’s glory had departed to the east, it would return to the temple from the east (Ezek. 43:4). In its return, it would purify the nation. Following the restoration from exile, the nation would no longer practice harlotry, that is, idolatry. Neither would it venerate deceased kings (vv. 6–9). The return would be a new start with a cleansed people not marked by the sins that sent them and their forefathers into exile in the first place.
The various elements of Ezekiel’s vision in today’s passage are not meant to be taken in an absolutely literal sense, so we are not surprised that there is no record of the glory cloud returning to the post-exilic temple. But God’s glory did return to His temple six hundred years after this vision when the incarnate Son of God came and cleansed it (Mark 11:15–20), showing the Lord’s judgment on the impenitent in the restored community and alluding to His work of cleansing us from sin.
Passages for Further Study