Psalm 119:145–152; Ezekiel 40:17–49; 2 Peter 2:1–10

Psalm 119:145–152: This section returns to supplication mode as the psalmists writes, “I cried out with a whole heart./ Answer me, Lord, Your statutes I would keep.” (145) While, like most prayers of supplication, he is probably praying to escape his enemies (“The pursuers of the loathsome draw near” (150a)) he offers the usual Psalm 119 reason for pleading for rescue: “I called to You–rescue me,/ that I may observe Your precepts.” (146) Moreover, this supplication in order to obey the law is a full time job, beginning in the early morning–“I greeted the dawn and cried out,/ for Your word did I hope (147). And the pleading continues until “My eyes greeted the night-watches/ to dwell on Your utterance.”

So, I have to ask, do we really pray to God for rescue just so that we can have the privilege of obeying God’s law? This almost seems like a prayer that a Pharisee of Jesus’ time might pray. Something like, “I exist in order to follow the Law.” I’m not doubting our psalmist’s almost desperate sincerity here or even the Pharisee’s. But were the terms of the Old Covenant strictly about obedience? In this psalm–and certainly in this section–we hear nothing about the love for God that rings out in so many other psalms. Instead, it’s all about connecting to God through his laws and precepts and rules.

No question that is one way, but as a mathematician might put it, while following God’s law is necessary; while being obedient is necessary, it is not sufficient for a complete relationship with God. For me, anyway, a true relationship includes the sufficiency of God’s love and my reciprocation of that love.

Ezekiel 40:17–49: Ezekiel is led by the man (angel) with the measuring stick on an extensive architectural tour of the restored temple from the outer court (17) to the inner court (18) to the “gate of the outer court that faced north” (20), including the windows and steps (22) remarking on the palm tree pilasters. The measuring stick is put to extensive use as Ezekiel records the width, depth and height of virtually every feature. The area of sacrifice includes “four tables of hewn stone for the burnt offering, a cubit and a half long, and one cubit and a half wide, and one cubit high.”  And so on…

One wishes Ezekiel provided architectural drawings instead of this extensive word picture that continues for several more chapters. It turns out of course, that avid readers of Ezekiel have done exactly that and a quick Google serach of “Ezekiel’s vision of the temple” returns a slew of models, plans and even some blueprints based on the prophet’s detailed description:

ezekiels-templeSo, what is this temple? Is it a temple that will be built at the end of history? Personally, I think John’s vision of the New Jerusalem trumps Ezekiel’s temple. Much more likely, I think, is that Herod adopted elements of this temple when he remodeled the second temple. And I suppose there are both Christians and Jews who wish to build this version of the temple–the Third temple– right atop Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Not a good idea, I think.

The larger question is, why is it here in the Bible? If nothing else, it reveals Ezekiel’s incredible prophetic range. I think it also speaks to Ezekiel’s vision of a restored Israel. And as we read in the previous chapters, not merely restored, but by virtue of its victory over the armies of Gog a nation even greater than it was under Solomon.

2 Peter 2:1–10: We return to the real world with Peter’s warnings about false prophets as he refers back to the false prophets of Ezekiel’s time: “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive opinions.” (1a) He describes their behavior perfectly: “They will even deny the Master who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves.” (1b) They will be charismatic and “many will follow their licentious ways, and because of these teachers the way of truth will be maligned.” (2) And in a phrase that certainly resonates today, “in their greed they will exploit you with deceptive words.” (3a)

So, if we assume Peter wrote this epistle, the church faced corrupt influences in its earliest years–and continues to do so today. When we read of Creflo Dollar’s G5 jet or Benny Hinn’s real estate holdings, we can only reflect on what Peter has written. Unfortunately, with the vastly wider channels of communication of our time, these people can corrupt the Gospel message across a far wider population with depressing efficiency.

We can only hold to Peter’s assurance that in the long run these people will receive what they deserve: “Their condemnation, pronounced against them long ago, has not been idle, and their destruction is not asleep.” (3b). He then goes on to make the dramatic point that God cast angels into hell (4); that “he brought a flood on a world of the ungodly;” (5) and “by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction and made them an example of what is coming to the ungodly” (6)

But, Peter assures us, God distinguishes between the evil and those that follow God by citing the examples of God’s rescue of both Noah and Lot and their families. He reminds us that therefore, “the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment” (9)

I think the key thing to bear in mind is that it is God who acts against these people, not us. God will see to it that they bring about their own downfall. Were Peter’s readers satisfied with his answer? Are we? Probably not. We’d like to take action ourselves. The lesson is of course that even though it looks like Sodom and Gomorrah all around us, we must be patient and wait for God to act. As he inevitably will.

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