10 “Son of man, describe the temple to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and let them measure the pattern.
11 “And if they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the design of the temple and its arrangement, its exits and its entrances, its entire design and all its ordinances, all its forms and all its laws. Write it down in their sight, so that they may keep its whole design and all its ordinances, and perform them.”
How do we know God’s standards? What is the true measure of God’s righteousness – i.e. the righteousness we should strive to attain? The subject of God’s standards has been debated ever since Moses came down from the mountain with the tablets of the Law. Jewish and Christian theologians, priests, and scholars have written enough books on the topic to fill a city library. And today still more voices add to the cacophany by saying one thing or another about what God expects from us. To some the measure of God’s righteousness seems so clear and steady, and to others God’s standards are something nebulous and open to individual interpretation. Some would even question why we need to know God’s standards.
In the time of Ezekiel, the kingdoms of Judah and Israel had failed miserably to live up to God’s standards. In fact, despite warnings from previous prophets and even Moses himself (Deuteronomy 31:14-21), the Israelites had abandoned God altogether. Therefore, the Jews had been taken into captivity in Babylon, and in the twelfth year of their captivity Jerusalem fell. (Ezekiel 33:21) Like Isaiah and Jeremiah, Ezekiel was sent with a two-fold purpose: to speak out against the sins of Israel, and to announce God’s continuing covenant and promise to them.
Toward the end of his prophecies, Ezekiel is told to describe the dimensions and consecration of the temple to the children of Israel. In the remaining chapters, Ezekiel repeats the Mosaic laws concerning worship, offerings, and how the Promised Land is to be divided. Why is this important? As we see from today’s verses, the law is given so that Israel has a baseline by which to measure themselves when they return to Jerusalem – and so they understand just how great is God’s mercy upon them.
We are blessed to have a similar measure for ourselves. Although we now live under the new covenant – the covenant of grace – it is important to remember that the law has not been abolished outright. Rather, the law – specifically the Ten Commandments – now is shown to depend on two simple commandments that are written on the hearts of believers.
37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’
38 “This is the first and great commandment.
39 “And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
40 “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
Of course, BEFORE we repent, we need some idea of just what we are supposed to be repenting. When we backslide, we need some measure by which to see our behavior as sinful. As Paul pointed out to Timothy (and earlier to the Romans), the law is good in that it helps us see what sin is, and it is the measure we are to share with the “lawless and insubordinate.” (1 Timothy 1:8-11) Of course, then Paul goes on to point out to Timothy:
1 Timothy 1:15
14 And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.
15 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.
16 However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.
Note that Paul does NOT say “I WAS chief” among sinners, but “I AM chief,” acknowledging his own continuing unrighteousness before God. Paul is aware that it is his very sinfulness that shows the greatness of God’s mercy, that God’s grace raining down upon an unjust sinner like him just shows how great is the promise of salvation we have in Christ Jesus. And Paul’s salvation is the pattern for our own!
So let us measure the pattern of our lives by God’s standards, by looking to His holy law and seeing the depths from which He is willing to save us. Let us marvel at the pattern of salvation, wherein lowly sinners like you and me are still considered beloved children of God. Each and every day, let us grasp the mercy which God offers, and measure the pattern of His grace and love.
14 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,
16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man,
17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love,
18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height –
19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,
21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.