Day 252: Once a Priest… (Ezekiel 40:4)

And the man said to me, “Son of man, look with your eyes, and hear with your ears, and set your heart upon all that I shall show you, for you were brought here in order that I might show it to you. Declare all that you see to the house of Israel.”

Ezekiel 40:4, ESV

Through the Bible: Ezekiel 40-42

It’s beyond the scope of this post to try to talk about all the ways Ezekiel’s temple is different from Solomon’s, which had been destroyed 13 years before; or Zurubbabel’s temple, which would not be built for another sixty years; or Herod’s temple, begun around 20 BC and completed 46 years later while Jesus was in his mid 20’s. The truth is, it’s not exactly like any of those.

For further reading: Steve Gregg, “Making Sense of Ezekiel’s Temple Vision,” Christian Research Instritute (online), accessed 8 September 2023.

What strikes me isn’t anything about the vision Ezekiel was given. It’s the fact that the vision was given to Ezekiel.

If you go back to Ezekiel 1, you read that

In the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I was among the exiles by the Chebar canal, the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God. On the fifth day of the month (it was the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin), the word of the Lord came to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the Chebar canal, and the hand of the Lord was upon him there.

Ezekiel 1:1-3

Ezekiel the priest was 30 years old when he had this vision. He had been in exile for five years. This matters because, according to Numbers 4:3, a priest began his service in the tabernacle (later the Temple) when he was thirty years old. There is a slight discrepancy in Numbers 8:23-25, which puts twenty-five as the year a priest began Temple service. Commentators have reconciled the discrepancy by suggesting that there was a five year apprenticeship before a priest was able to perform his duties on his own.

So if this is true, Ezekiel was deported to Babylon the year he was to begin his apprentice year, and he was still in Babylon the year he was to begin full service in the Temple. Which had to be a bummer. All his life, Ezekiel watched his father and his grandfather before him serve in the temple. Now, he had missed his chance. Or so he thought.

Fast forward to Ezekiel 40. Once again, Ezekiel gives us the precise day, month, and year he has the vision:

40 In the twenty-fifth year of our exile, at the beginning of the year, on the tenth day of the month, in the fourteenth year after the city was struck down, on that very day, the hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me to the city.

Ezekiel 40:1

Ezekiel the priest was 50 years old when he had this vision. This matters because both Numbers 4:3 and Numbers 8:25 put 50 as the age at which a priest stopped serving.

Related post: Day 058: The Mandatory Retirement Age

Put yourself in Ezekiel’s shoes. You were born to be a priest. The year you were supposed to start seminary, you get deported. The year you were supposed graduate from seminary, you’ve been away from Jerusalem for five years, with no end to the Babylonian captivity in sight. Six years later, it becomes a moot point when the Temple is destroyed.

And now, you’ve reached the mandatory retirement age, never having set foot in the Temple as a priest.

How kind of God, then, to pick this moment for this man to be given this vision of a new Temple! And not just a vision. Verse 3 says that “a man whose appearance was like bronze, with a linen. cord and a measuring rod in his hand” was the one who gave him the tour. This angelic architect says to Ezekiel,

“Son of man, look with your eyes, listen with your ears, and pay attention to everything I am going to show you, for you have been brought here so that I might show it to you. Report everything you see to the house of Israel.”

Ezekiel 40:4

Who better than a priest to give a detailed description of the new temple, which is exactly what we get in the next six chapters! And who needed it more than Ezekiel, who spent his entire adult life believing that he had missed out on doing the only thing he had ever wanted to do.

You may be in a stage of life where you have more years in the rearview mirror than you do on the horizon. And maybe your “golden years” aren’t everything you hoped they would be. Maybe your job was deleted and you were forced to retire. Ezekiel can relate. Maybe the love of your life you were planning on spending retirement with is no longer with you. Ezekiel can relate to that, too (see Ez. 24:15-18). Maybe you look back on your career and nothing turned out the way you thought it would. Ezekiel gets you. And I believe that God got Ezekiel. At a time when Ezekiel may have been experiencing the lowest of lows, God allowed him to see the highest of heights.

Beloved, God is not done with you. There are still pages of your story yet to be written.

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