I few days ago, I was reading in Ezekiel and, I’ll admit, I was rather bored. Normally I find the chapters fascinating but that daily section consisted primarily of an analysis of the dimensions of the new temple. I understand that it was important, and that it likely had a great deal of significance for the Jews, but for me, cubits and spans and chambers and gates get a little mundane after a while.
However, God seems to have a phenomenal way of teaching me something extraordinary from something I find quite dull.
The chapters for the day were 39-42, and the last verse of chapter 42 caught my attention. It reads: “He [the man with Ezekiel] measured it [the temple] on the four sides; it had a wall all around, five hundred cubits long and five hundred wide, to separate the holy areas from the common.”
A wall. And my footnotes said that “common” could also be translated as “profane.” There’s a a division, a separation. It makes sense, doesn’t it? The temple was the holy place of God. Every task that was performed there, and anything and anyone who entered there, had to be perfect. Priests entering the inner court even had to wear special linen garments that they weren’t permitted to wear elsewhere. The temple had to be clean, pure, holy…set apart from the rest of the world.
But it wasn’t as if the temple was set off on a distant mountain, apart from all society, war, sin, and whatnot. It was in the middle of Jerusalem, surrounded by people who, try as they might, could not be perfect. It was surrounded by war and famine and death and everything else that the first sin has brought into our world. But the temple itself was a unique place. It was, literally, the God’s home among the Israelites.
God’s home. It was unique. It was extraordinary. It was the God of the universe living among mankind. The temple had to be set apart to reflect God’s presence there.
The connection between then and now?
1 Corinthians 3:16-17 — “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.”
We are the temple. The world is Jerusalem.
Just as the priests still interacted with the common people, so we still interact with the people in the world around us. But, unlike the priests, we don’t leave the temple behind when we go out into the world. If we are Christians, then we are the temple and Christ is in us wherever we may go.
Now, we are God’s home. Therefore we are unique. Our hearts are extraordinary. The God of the universe in living not only with, but in mankind. We ought to be set apart to reflect God’s presence within us.
We’re surrounded by a lot of junk and evil — sin-stained scum — in this world. Vulgarity, murder, lies, immorality, laziness, greed, cruelty, etc., and all of this threatens to dominate us, to infiltrate our temple and profane it. Satan will use any ploy he can to get inside of us and mar the house of God. If you don’t think it’s possible, just look at the story of the ancient Israelites. Even the Levites, who were supposed to serve as priests in the temple, were corrupted during Israel’s spiritual decline (Ezekiel 44:10-14). Satan is cunning and deceptive. And he will do anything to diminish our ability to glorify God.
We need spiritual walls in our lives. Walls that will shield us from all the pollution of the world, walls that will be a defense against the enemy’s attack. Granted, we can’t be cut off from the world entirely, nor should we be. The temple was a witness and a reminder to the Israelites of the great Lord of the universe; our lives should be the same sort of witness to the world around us. To borrow from a line in Journey to the Center of the Earth, we need to be “a world within the world.”
We must build a strong defense rooted in the salvation of Christ. We must be on the constant alert to repair tiny fissures in our wall — fissures which could expand into massive holes or cause a whole section of the wall to come crashing down.
We need to build solid walls.