Today’s selected reading continues in the Old Testament prophetic book of Ezekiel, and more specifically, is found in verses seventeen through twenty-nine of the fortieth chapter. When you come to the fortieth chapter of the prophetic book of Ezekiel, the first thing you will discover is the timing of this particular prophetic word. IN the first verse of this chapter you discover exactly when the prophetic revelation concerning the Temple of the Lord was released unto the prophet Ezekiel. “In the five and twentieth year of our captivity, in the beginning of the year, in the tenth day of the month, in the fourteenth year after that the city was smitten, in the selfsame day the hand of the Lord was upon me, and brought me thither” (Ezekiel 40:1). If you read this particular verse carefully, you will essentially discover that this particular prophetic word was framed by two distinct realities and events which had taken place within the lives of the people of Judah. When the verse opens, you will discover that this prophetic word was released in the twenty-fifth year of the captivity of the people of God. For twenty-five years the people of God had lived as captives and exiles in the land of the Chaldeans, yet it was in that twenty-fifth year when the Lord began speaking to them concerning something none of them ever thought they would hear about—much less even see again. WHEN THE LORD RESTORES THE HOPE OF A TEMPLE AGAIN! WHEN THE LORD RESTORES THE HOPE OF HIS COURTS ONCE MORE! WHEN THE LORD CAUSES THE TEMPLE TO BE DESIRED ONCE MORE! If there is one thing I can’t help but be utterly and completely fascinated with and by when reading this passage of Scripture, it’s that with and through these words the Lord was resurrecting hope within the hearts and minds of His people once more—hope concerning something many of them had perhaps long forgotten about. There seems to be every indication that those who sat by the rivers of Babylon had lost their hope of even experiencing the Temple of the Lord ever again. I can’t help but wonder how many which were alive during this time remembered the former Temple—the Temple which Solomon had built—and how it had been destroyed by the Babylonians when they invaded the land of Judah. What’s more, is that I am utterly and completely convinced that those who were brought as captives and exiles into the land of the Chaldeans during the first and second waves heard the news and report of the destruction of the Temple of the Lord, and how the entire Temple lie in ruin, rubble and ashes within a land that had been devastated by the enemy and adversary.
In order to truly understand what might very well have been the sentiment and mindset among those who were present during the time of this prophetic word, it’s absolutely necessary to journey back to the seventy-fourth chapter of the Old Testament book of the Psalms. “O God, why hast thou cast us off for ever? Why doth thine anger smoke against the sheep of thy pasture? Remember they congregation, which thou hast purchased of old; the rod of thine inheritance, which thou hast redeemed; this mount Zion, wherein thou hast dwelt. Lift up thy feet unto the perpetual desolations; even all that the enemy hath done wickedly in the sanctuary. Thine enemies roar in the midst of thy congregations; they set up t heir ensigns for signs. A man was famous according as he had lifted up axes upon the thick trees. But now they break down the carved work thereof at once with axes and hammers. They have cast fire into thy sanctuary, they have defiled by casting down the dwelling place of thy name to the ground. They said in their hearts, Let us destroy them together: they have burned up all the synagogues of God in the land. We see not our signs: there is no more any prophet: neither is there among us any that knoweth how long. O God, how long shall the adversary reproach? Shall the enemy blaspheme thy name for ever? Why withdrawest thou thy hand, even thy right hand. Pluck it out of thy bosom. For God is my King of old, working salvation the midst of the earth” (Psalm 74:1-12). This particular passage within the book of the Psalms must be carefully considered and understood in light of the words which we read in the one-hundred and thirty-seventh chapter of the same book. It’s within this second passage within the book of the Psalms that we discover just what was going through the hearts, minds and souls of those who found themselves living as captives and exiles in the land of the Chaldeans. “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, Let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy” (Psalm 137:1-6).
Each of these chapters found within the book of the Psalms has a very specific meaning and reality connected and attached to them. When reading the seventy-fourth chapter of the book of the Psalms you will find the author describe the invasion of the adversary, and the adversary’s infiltration into the holy sanctuary of the Lord. It is within the seventy-fourth chapter of the book of the Psalms that we encounter a deep sorrow, a deep anguish, a deep agony over the reproach which the people of God were made to endure, as the enemy had entered into the sanctuary of the Lord. Not only had the enemy entered into the sanctuary of the Lord, but the enemy had even cast fire into the sanctuary, and had thus burned it to the ground completely. It was one thing for the enemy and adversary to enter into the inheritance, to lay siege to the city of Jerusalem, to cause the city to be broken up and a breach to be made within the wall. It would have been one thing for the enemy to enter into the city of Jerusalem and to unleash the sword upon all that he so chose and desired. It was something else altogether when the enemy and adversary approached the sanctuary of the Lord and cast fire into the midst of it. This is actually quite an interesting concept, for it speaks of a different fire that can be found within the sanctuary of the Lord. There is a fire that comes down from heaven from the Lord of hosts, and consumes the sacrifice which has been offered upon the altar. Consider if you will what Scripture records in the opening verses of the seventh chapter of the Old Testament book of Second Chronicles—“Now when Solomon had made an end of praying, the fire came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the Lord filled the house. And the priests could not enter into the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord had filled the Lord’s house. And when all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the Lord upon the house, they bowed themselves with their faces to the ground upon the pavement, and worshipped, and praised the Lord, saying, For He is good; for His mercy endureth for ever” (2 Chronicles 7:1-3). Consider what we read in this particular passage in light of what we read in the ninth chapter of the Old Testament book of Leviticus concerning the Temple—“And Aaron lifted up his hand toward the people, and blessed them, and came down from offering of the sin offering, and the burnt offering, and peace offerings. And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of the congregations, and came out, and blessed the people: and the glory of the Lord appeared unto all the people. And there came a fire out from before the Lord, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces” (Leviticus 9:22-24). There is a third Old Testament passage that helps drive this point home even further, and it is found in the eighteenth chapter of the book of First Kings—“Then the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The Lord, He is the God; the Lord, he is the God” (1 Kings 18:38-39).
If you journey to the New Testament—specifically to the New Testament book of the Acts of the apostles—you will notice fire once more being manifested in the midst of the people of God. On the Day of Pentecost you will read of something incredibly powerful taking place in the upper room where the one-hundred and twenty were praying. “And when the Day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:1-4). Within the first four verses of the second chapter of the book of Acts, we find another fire being manifested among the people of God—a fire that was manifested on the day of Pentecost, and touched all one-hundred and twenty who were in the upper room. With that being said, however, there was another fire that would be manifested within the city of Jerusalem—a fire that would touch the very Temple of the Lord in the midst of the city. While it is not spoken of in Scripture, history reveals and records how Rome entered into the city of Jerusalem in the year 70 A.D., and how Rome not only wrought desolations and destruction within the city, but Rome also destroyed the Temple which stood in the midst of Jerusalem by fire. The Romans would be the second Gentile people and Gentile empire that would enter into and invade the city of Jerusalem, and would be the second Gentile nation to destroy the Temple of the Lord which stood upon the Temple Mount. This actually brings me to something that is quite unique, and must be considered by any who study the word of God. I am convinced that there are two distinct, and two different types of fire that can be found within the sanctuary and courts of the Lord. As was manifested during the days of Moses and the Tabernacle in the wilderness, as well as during the days of Solomon and the Temple in the inheritance, the Lord sent His own fire within His holy and sacred courts, and consumed the sacrifice that was found upon the altar of burnt offering. During the days of Elijah, the fire of the Lord would come down from heaven, and would not only consume the sacrifice upon the altar, but would also consume the wood, the stone and the dust, and would lick up the water in the trench round about the altar. On the Day of Pentecost, there was another fire that came from heaven—a fire that would come and rest upon each of the one-hundred and twenty who were present in that upper room in one accord and praying before the Lord.
If you study Jewish history, you will notice that there were two distinct times within that history when a completely different fire was found in the sanctuary of the Lord. The author of the seventy-fourth chapter of the book of the Psalms describes this best when they wrote of the enemy casting fire into the sanctuary of the Lord. What makes the words of the psalmist so absolutely incredible, is that the enemy not only cast fire into the sanctuary once, but actually twice. The first enemy to cast fire into the sanctuary of the Lord was the Babylonians who burned the Temple of the Lord to the ground and utterly destroyed it. The second enemy to cast fire into the sanctuary of the Lord was the Romans who would burn the second Jewish Temple to the ground, and utterly destroy it. CONTRAST OF FIRES WITHIN THE SANCTUARY! In all reality, I am convinced there are two distinct fires that can be found within the sanctuary and courts of the Lord. The first fire that can be found within the sanctuary and courts of the Lord is the fire which the Lord Himself sends. It is this first fire which comes upon the altar of burnt offering and the altar of sacrifice in the midst of the people, and consumes the sacrifice(s) which the people offer before and unto the Lord. There is another fire, however, that can be found in the midst of the sanctuary of the Lord—a fire which is not sent by the Lord of hosts, but a fire which is released by the enemy and adversary. Please note, and please mark my words well—that the enemy and adversary can cast fire into the sanctuary of the Lord. In all reality, I am convinced there are two distinct and two different types of sanctuaries and churches that are present within this generation. The first type of church and sanctuary is that which the fire of the Lord of hosts Himself has caused to be sent down from heaven that it might be manifested within and upon the altar that is before His people. There is a fire that comes down from heaven and not only consumes the sacrifices which the people of God bring, but a fire which comes upon the people as well. On the Day of Pentecost, the fire which came from heaven came not upon literal sacrifices of bulls, lamb and goats, but upon living and breathing men and women who were in the Upper Room. With that being said, however, there is a second fire—a fire that is vastly different than the first fire—which can be cast into the sanctuary. There is a fire which the enemy and adversary can cast into the sanctuary of the Lord if the people are not careful, alert and aware. I believe there are those sanctuaries, those churches, those congregations, and those assemblies which have the true and genuine fire of God present in their midst, yet there are other congregations which have a counterfeit and false fire of the adversary being cast in them. There are those sanctuaries, those congregations, those assemblies that have in their midst a fire that has been cast upon them, yet it is not a fire which has come from heaven, but a fire which has come from the adversary—a fire of destruction and devastation.
The seventy-fourth and one-hundred and thirty-seventh chapters of the book of the Psalms must be understood and carefully considered, for both of them describe that which had taken place within the walls of the city of Jerusalem. The seventy-fourth chapter of the book of the Psalms describes the destruction of the enemy and adversary within the inheritance—a destruction that would ultimately touch and consume the sanctuary of the Lord. The one-hundred and thirty-seventh chapter of the book of Psalms describes the mindset and sentiment that was shared and experienced by those who found themselves living as captives and exiles in the land of the Chaldeans. As the captives of Israel and Judah sat by the rivers of Babylon they wept—perhaps even weeping bitterly—as they thought about and remembered Jerusalem, mount Zion and the city of David. Those who sat by the rivers of Babylon had not only hung their harps upon the willows, thus refusing to make music unto the Lord, but they also were unable to sing the songs of Zion in a strange and foreign land. Despite the fact that those in the land of the Chaldeans had asked of them a song to be sung within that land, they could not sing such songs, for how could they sing the songs of Zion in a strange and foreign land. How could they sing the songs of Zion when they were living as captives and exiles in the midst of Babylon? This is important to note and consider, for there is not a doubt in my mind that those who found themselves sitting by the rivers of Chebar had lost all hope of every seeing the Temple of the Lord again. Those who found themselves sitting by the rivers of Babylon had perhaps come to terms with the fact that they would never see the courts of the Lord again—would never bring their offerings and gifts unto the Lord of hosts. I do not believe for one moment that their hearts yearned and longed for the city of Jerusalem because of its walls and gates, for such would be trivial and meaningless among them during those days. I do not believe for one moment that they remembered Zion because where it was situated within the earth, as it sat atop mount Moriah in the land of Israel. I am convinced that the reason they wept, and the reason they hung their harps upon the willows by the rivers of Babylon was because of the destruction of the Temple of the Lord. As captives and exiles within the land of the Chaldeans, the people of God who remembered the Temple which stood in the midst of Jerusalem would never see the Temple of the Lord ever again. I am firmly convinced that there was a tremendous hopelessness and despair that had gripped and seized the hearts of those who were living as captives and exiles in the midst of the land of the Chaldeans.
When the fortieth chapter of the prophetic book of Ezekiel opens, it opens with a description of when the prophetic word concerning the Temple was released. The prophetic word concerning the Temple of the Lord was released in the twenty-fifth year of their captivity, which meant that not only had many of them spent twenty-five years in captivity, but they had also spent the same amount of time living without and apart from the Temple and sanctuary of the Lord. For many, it had been twenty-five years since they had seen the walls and gates of Jerusalem, and had seen the Temple of the Lord standing atop mount Moriah in the midst of the city. Consider that reality for a moment—the reality of not only living as captives in exile for twenty-five years, but also being cut off from the Temple and sanctuary of the Lord. I can’t help but be reminded of an event which took place during the days of Hezekiah king of Judah when Hezekiah encouraged and promoted great worship before and unto the Lord within the city of Jerusalem, and within the courts of the Lord. “Then Hezekiah the king rose early, and gathered the rulers of the city, and went up to the house of the Lord. And they brought seven bullocks, and seven rams, and seven lambs, and seven he goats, for a sin offering for the kingdom, and for the sanctuary, and for Judah. And he commanded the priests the sons of Aaron to offer them on the altar of the Lord. So they killed the bullocks, and the priests received the blood, and sprinkled it on the altar: likewise, when they had killed the rams, they sprinkled the blood upon the altar: they killed also the lambs, and they sprinkled the blood upon the altar. And they brought forth the he goats for the sin offering before the king and the congregation; and they laid their hands upon them: and the priests killed them and they made reconciliation with their blood upon the altar, to make an atonement for all Israel: for the king commanded that the burnt offering and the sin offering should be made for all israel. And he set the Levites in the house of the Lord with cymbals, with psalteries, and with harps, according to the commandment of David, and of Gad the king’s seer, and Nathan the prophet: for so was the commandment of the Lord by his prophets. And the Levites stood with the instruments of David, and the priests with the trumpets. And Hezekiah commanded to offer the burnt offering upon the altar. And when the burnt offering began, the song of the Lord began also with the trumpets, and with the instruments ordained by David king of Israel. And all the congregation worshipped, and the singers sang, and the trumpeters sounded: and all this continued until the burnt offering was finished” (2 Chronicles 29: 20-29).
A similar event is recorded as taking place only a few generations after Hezekiah, for there would emerge on to the scene in Judah a righteous king who would in all reality be the last and final righteous king of Judah prior to the captivity. Consider if you will what is recorded in the thirty-fifth chapter of the same Old Testament book of Second Chronicles—“So the service was prepared, and the priests stood in their place, and the Levites in their courses, according to the king’s commandment. And they killed the Passover, and the priests sprinkled the blood from their hands, and the Levites flayed them. And they removed the burnt offerings, that they might give according to the divisions of the families of the people, to offer unto the Lord, as it is written in the book of Moses. And so did they with the oxen. And they roasted the Passover with fire according to the ordinance: but the other offerings sod they in pots, and in cauldrons, and in pans, and divided them speedily among all the people. And afterward they made ready for themselves, and for the priests: because the priests the sons of Aaron were busied in offering of burnt offerings and the fat until night; therefore the Levites prepared for themselves, and for the priests the sons of Aaron. And the singers the sons of Asaph were in their place, according to the commandment of David, and Asaph, and Heman, and Jeduthun the king’s seer; and the porters waited at every gate; they might not depart from their service; for their brethren the Levites prepared for them. So all the service of the Lord was prepared the same day, to keep the Passover, and to offer burnt offerings upon the altar of the Lord, according to the commandment of King Josiah. And the children of Israel that were present kept the Passover at that time, and the feast of unleavened bread seven days. And there was no Passover like to that kept in Israel from the days of Samuel the prophet; neither did all the kings of Israel keep such a Passover as Josiah kept, and the priests, and the Levites, and all Judah and Israel that were present, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, IN the eighteenth year of the reign of Josiah was this Passover kept” (2 Chronicles 36:10-19). In order to understand this, you must also journey to the origin of the instruction we find being fulfilled in the days of both Hezekiah and Josiah—specifically the twenty-fifth chapter of the book of First Chronicles. “Moreover David and the captains of the host separated the service of the sons of Asaph, and of Helen, and of Jeduthen, who should prophesy with harps, with psalteries, and with cymbals: and the number of the workmen according to their service was: of the sons of Asaph; Zaccur, and Joseph, and Nethaniah, and Asarelah, the sons of Asaph under the hands of Asaph, which prophesied according to the order of the king. Of Jeduthun: the sons of Jeduthun; Gedaliah, and Zeri, and Jeshaiah, Hashabiah and Mattithiah, six, under the hands of their father Jeduthun, who prophesied with a harp, to give thanks and to praise the Lrod. Of Hmean: the sons of Helen; Bukkiah, Mattaniah, Uzziel, Shebuel, and Jeremiah, Hananiah, Hanani, Eliathah, Giddalti, and Romamti-ever, Joshu-bakashah, Mallothi, Hothir, and Mahazioth: all these were the sons of Heman the king’s seer in the words of God, to lift up the horn. And God gave to Hemingway fourteen sons and three daughters. All these were under the hands of their father for song in the house of the Lord, with cymbals, psalteries, and harps, for the service of the house of God, according to the king’s order to Asaph, Jeduthen, and Heman. So the number of them, with their brethren that were instructed in the songs of the Lord, even all that were cunning, was two hundred fourscore and eight” (1 Chronicles 25:1-7).
There is a part of me that can’t help but wonder if some of the harps which were hung upon the willows by the rivers of Babylon weren’t harps that were used before the Lord during the days of Josiah when he celebrated the single greatest Passover the people of God had ever experienced up until that time. Is it possible that some of the harps that were hung upon the willows by the rivers of Babylon were the same harps that were once used to celebrate before the Lord—harps that were used to make music before and unto the Lord? It’s actually quite interesting that the harps even made the journey into captivity with certain who entered into the land of the Chaldeans, yet despite the fact that they had made the journey in to the land of the Chaldeans, those harps were quickly hung up and placed off to the side.I wrote before concerning the song and the sound being silenced in the land of the Chaldeans, and how one of the single greatest tactics and strategies of the enemy and adversary is to cause the song and sound of the inheritance to be silenced in the land of captivity and exile. Those who sat by the rivers wept because they remembered how the harps they had brought with them had been used to celebrate the Passover before the Lord. Now, not only would the Passover not be celebrated in the land of captivity and exile, but they would be cut off and separated from the Temple, the sanctuary, the courts and the altar of the Lord. This is what I absolutely love about the final portion of the prophetic book of Ezekiel, for it’s within this portion of the book we find the prophet being shown something no one expected or anticipated. I do not believe anyone living as captives or exiles in the land of the Chaldeans expected the Temple to once more stand in the midst of Jerusalem, yet here we have Ezekiel being shown a vision concerning a future Temple that would be built and found within the city of Jerusalem. I am sure there were a number of Levites, and perhaps even priests who were carried away as captives into the land of the Chaldeans, and now this priest-prophet was being shown a vision of another Temple that would stand in the midst of the sacred and holy city. What we begin reading in this passage is utterly and completely amazing, for twenty-five years into their captivity—with still forty-five years left to go—the Lord began speaking unto the captive concerning a future Temple that would once more stand in the midst of the land. Through the prophet Ezekiel—not only did the Lord prophesy of return to the land of inheritance, but now the Lord was speaking of a Temple that would once more stand among them within the city of Jerusalem.
RESURRECTING HOPE FOR THE TEMPLE OF THE LORD! RESURRECTING HOPE FOR THE SANCTUARY OF THE LORD! RESURRECTING HOPE FOR THE COURTS OF THE LORD! What we read in this passage of Scripture is absolutely wonderful and truly remarkable, for twenty-five years into the captivity, and fourteen years after the fall of Jerusalem, the Lord began—not only reminding His people of the Temple which once stood in Jerusalem, but also speaking to them of another Temple that would stand in the midst of the city. THE TEMPLE WOULD STAND ONCE MORE! THE GLORY WILL RETURN! THE TEMPLE WILL STAND ONCE MORE and THE GLORY WILL RETURN ONCE MORE! It was the prophet Ezekiel who was shown a vision of a Temple that would be built and would stand in the midst of the city of Jerusalem, and it was the prophet Haggai who saw that the glory of this latter house would be greater than the glory of the former house. Please don’t miss the significance of this or lose sight of its importance, for the Lord was resurrecting hope concerning His courts, His sanctuary, and His altar once more. Not only this, but the Lord took Ezekiel from the valley that was filled with bones which were very many and very dry into the land of Israel, and set him upon a very high mountain. The Lord took Ezekiel from the valley of dry bones and set him atop a very high mountain in order that he might not only see the resurrection of the people of God, but he might also see the raising up of the Temple of the Lord once more. THE RESURRECTION OF THE PEOPLE OF GOD AND THE RAISING UP OF THE TEMPLE OF THE LORD! The prophet Ezekiel not only saw the resurrection of God’s people in the earth, but the prophet Ezekiel also saw the raising up of the Temple of the Lord once more. In other words, not only would the people of God be released, restored and resurrected, but the Temple of the Lord would be resurrected once more in the midst of the earth. Twenty-five years into captivity the Lord was not only reminding His people of the Temple, not only restoring their hope in a future Temple, but I would also say the Lord was calling a future generation to ready and prepare themselves for a Temple which would once more stand in the midst of the earth. I believe the single greatest message which the Spirit of the Lord seeks to speak in this passage is one of restored hope and of the raising up of that which has lied in ruins, rubble and ashes within your life, and perhaps within the lives of others. The resurrected hope that is found in this passage is that which concerns the Temple and sanctuary of the Lord, for not only do we need to see a people resurrected, but we need to see the sanctuary raised up once more. Oh that within this nation and within this generation we would see and witness a people resurrected and a sanctuary raised up once more before the Lord within and upon the earth.