God returns – Saturday, 20th week in ordinary time – Ezekiel 43:1-7a
We complete our study of the prophet Ezekiel based on the texts that have been read at the Eucharistic celebrations on weekdays, over the last two weeks. This final, great vision of Ezekiel is recorded in chapters 40 through 48 and is a conclusion for the book as a whole. These chapters fulfil the promises made in Ezekiel 20: 40-44 and 37:23-28 in which God promised that his sanctuary would be restored. In choosing this text the lectionary brings to a close the book of Ezekiel.
This text is almost the last prophecy that was dated, and was made many years after the fall of Jerusalem (the fourteenth year after the city was captured). Ezekiel insisted that the source of this rather long prophecy was God himself. Yahweh was also the source of the minute and sometimes strange detail of this prophecy. The audience for this vision was primarily the house of Israel. It was most relevant to them as part of God’s promised future restoration.
The first stage of the visions (40;1- 43:27) is a guided tour of the new temple ending with the description of the return of God’s glory. Ezekiel must remember every detail of this description and bring this to the people who will execute it. We hear of the outer dimension of the new temple to be situated on Mount Zion. It will have its gates on the northern, southern and eastern side with an outer court and inner court. The temple is then described in great detail. Now that the temple had been described, it was necessary to signify that the building was accepted by God.
In chapter 11:23, God departed from the temple from the eastern gate and now he returns for the very gate that he left . Without the glory of God, Ezekiel’s temple was nothing more than a building. With the glory of God, it was a sacred place, a habitation for God and the radiance of His presence. As Ezekiel experienced in his vision, the glory of God had an aspect that could be heard and seen. It sounded like the awesome and inspiring sound of a great waterfall (the sound of many waters). It looked massive and radiant (the earth shone).
Ezekiel recognized this as the same display of glory he saw in a negative sense in Ezekiel 10 and 11 by the River Chebar. Then, the glory of God came in judgment, to destroy the city. Though Ezekiel had seen this vision of the glory of God twice before (in Ezekiel 1 and Ezekiel 10-11), it was in no way a familiar or comfortable sight.
In holy reverence to God, Ezekiel fell on his face. The sense is that Ezekiel didn’t choose to do this; it was a natural response. He had done the same before (Ezekiel 1:28; 3:23; 9:8, and 11:13). The voice of Yahweh Himself spoke from the temple, showing that the glory of God was the active representation of His presence. Where the glory was, God was; and where God is, He speaks.