Psalm 119:161–168; Ezekiel 42:10–43:21; 2 Peter 3:1–13

Originally published 11/6/2015. Revised and updated 11/6/2019.

Psalm 119:161–168: In this penultimate section of this seemingly endless psalm, our psalmist seems to be wrapping things up by recapitulating its key themes.

  • He’s been/being pursued by his enemies; “Princes pursued me without cause.” (161a).
  • God’s word is his highest calling and his greatest joy: “I rejoice over Your utterance/ as one who finds great spoils.” (162)
  • He rejects the temptation to do evil in the pursuit of the good: “Lies I have hated, despised./ Your teaching I have loved.” (163)
  • He reminds God how diligently (obsessively?) he has worshipped God: “Seven times daily I praised You/ because of Your righteous laws.” (164)
  • Those who follow God’s law lead the best possible life: “Great well-being to the lovers of Your teaching,/ and no stumbling block for them.” (165)
  • He asks God to deliver him from his enemies because he has been relentlessly diligent obeying God’s law: “I yearned for Your rescue, O Lord,/ and Your commands I performed.” (166)
  • In the end it is out of his love for the law—rather than God himself—that he follows the law: “I observed Your precepts/ and loved them very much.” (167)
  • And to emphasize that love, he repeats himself: “I observed Your decrees and Your precepts,/ for all my ways are before You.” (168)

But we dare not mock the psalmist’s sincerity nor his example. If one were to precisely follow the Law, the psalmist laws out a clear path. As I have mentioned before, I’m sure the Pharisees of Jesus’ time knew every aspect of this psalm and attempted to follow it as best they could. And even though we live in the grace of Jesus Christ, this is a pretty good example of what obedience looks like. But in the end, as we well know, a relationship cannot be built on following laws; it must be founded in love.

Ezekiel 42:10–43:21: The temple tour ends up at the “holy chambers, where the priests who approach the Lord shall eat the most holy offerings; there they shall deposit the most holy offerings—the grain offering, the sin offering, and the guilt offering—for the place is holy.” (42:13) Everything about it, including the priest’s vestments is holy.

Ezekiel and the measuring angel then go outside where the perimeter is measured. This visionary temple is truly huge: 500 cubits or about 750 feet (2 1/2 football fields) on each side. Then there’s a 500 cubit open space “to make a separation between the holy and the common.” (42:20).  If we’re ever looking for an example of what “holy” as “separate” means, we have Ezekiel’s enormous temple.

Up to this point, the temple has been vacant. But now that construction is complete, it is ready for God to occupy it. In a new vision, Ezekiel sees God off in the distance “coming from the east; the sound was like the sound of mighty waters; and the earth shone with his glory.” (43:2) And God enters the temple and as “the spirit lifted me up, and brought me into the inner court; and the glory of theLord filled the temple.” (43:5)  In surely what is the apotheosis of the grand restoration of Israel, God takes up residence there: “He said to me: Mortal, this is the place of my throne and the place for the soles of my feet, where I will reside among the people of Israel forever.” (43:7a) But God will remain only on the condition that they keep their side of the great covenant: “The house of Israel shall no more defile my holy name, neither they nor their kings, by their whoring,” (43:7b)

God commands Ezekiel to communicate this grand vision of the Temple and God taking up residence in it to Israel. If Israel will but repent and if this temple is built, God will come reside permanently with them.  The reading ends with a description of a grand altar, 18 feet on a side, whose “steps shall face east.” God then provides a description of “the ordinances for the altar,” specifying that “you shall give to the levitical priests of the family of Zadok, who draw near to me to minister to me, says the Lord God, a bull for a sin offering.” (43:19)

So what are we to make of this amazing vision of a restored temple in which God takes up permanent residence if only Israel will repent? I think it is the logical conclusion of the Old Covenant. Although God is God over all creation, Israel is his home among his chosen people. Ezekiel is telling them that they can once again enjoy the glory of the Solomonic age if only they would repent. This is the apotheosis of the Old Testament God. Who, by living in a temple, seems far more constricted and small than the God of creation. But for Ezekiel, this is the God who really mattered.

2 Peter 3:1–13: Peter now focuses on the great promise of the Lord’s return.  [And in one of those interesting OT/NT coincidences created inadvertently by the Moravians (at least I think it’s inadvertent) with Ezekiel’s description of God’s return to Israel.] Peter reminds his community that the world has been destroyed once by flood, but this time it will be by fire brought on by God’s judgement on the wicked: “But by the same word the present heavens and earth have been reserved for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the godless.” (7)

Obviously, people around Peter have been growing impatient. They are done with suffering and just want Christ to return and rescue them. Now, if you please. Peter makes the famous observation that the church has been holding on to ever since as it awaits the end of history: “do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day.” (8)

The reason for this seeming delay is a good one: “The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.” (10) And, oh by the way, unlike those expecting the “Rapture” with Jesus descending down from heaven for all the world to see, “the day of the Lord will come like a thief,” (10). So, stop predicting the public end of the world, people!

Even though the world will end in fire—a blaze of glory, if you will— something far better will replace it: “we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.” (13) And that is the promise we cling to today in a culture that is going down the drain.

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