God does here, in effect, renew his covenant with his people Israel, upon his retaking possession of the house, and Ezekiel negotiates the matter, as Moses formerly. This would be of great use to the captives at their return both for direction and encouragement; but it looks further, to those that are blessed with the privileges of the gospel-temple, that they may understand how they are before him on their good behaviour.
I. God, by the prophet, puts them in mind of their former provocations, for which they had long lain under the tokens of his displeasure. This conviction is spoken to them to make way for the comforts designed them. Though God gives and upbraids not, it becomes us, when he forgives, to upbraid ourselves with our unworthy conduct towards him. Let them now remember therefore, 1. That they had formerly defiled God’s holy name, had profaned and abused all those sacred things by which he had made himself known among them, Ezek. 43:7. They and their kings had brought contempt on the religion they professed, and their relation to God, by their spiritual whoredom, their idolatry, and by worshipping images, which they called their kings (for so Moloch signifies) or lords (for so Baal signifies), but which were really the carcases of kings, not only lifeless and useless, but loathsome and abominable as dead carcases, in their high places, set up in honour of them. They had defiled God’s name by their abominations. And what were they? It was in setting their threshold by my thresholds, and their post by my posts, that is, adding their own inventions to God’s institutions, and urging all to a compliance with them, as if they had been of equal authority and efficacy, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men (Isa. 29:13); or, rather, setting up altars to their idols even in the courts of the temple, than which a more impudent affront could not be put upon the divine Majesty. Thus they set up a separation wall between him and them, which stopped the current of his favours to them and spoiled the acceptableness of their services to him. See what an indignity sinners do to God, setting up their walls in opposition to his, and thrusting him out from what is his right; and see what injury they do to themselves, for the nearer any come to God with their sins the further they set him at a distance from them. Some give this sense of it: Though their houses joined close to God’s house, their posts and thresholds to hi, so that they were in a manner his next neighbours, there was but a wall between me and them (so it is in the margin), so that it might have been expected they would acquaint themselves with him and be in care to please him, yet they were not so much as neighbourly. Note, It often proves too true, The nearer the church the further from God. They were, by profession, in covenant with God, and yet they had defiled the place of his throne and of the soles of his feet, his temple, where he did both reside and reign. Jerusalem is called the city of the great king (Ps. 48:2) and his footstool, Ps. 99:5; 132:7. Note, When God’s ordinances are profaned his holy name is polluted. 2. That for this God had had a controversy with them in their late troubles. They could not condemn him, for he had but brought upon them the desert of their sins: Wherefore I have consumed them in my anger. Note, Those that pollute God’s holy name fall under his just displeasure.
II. He calls upon them to repent and reform, and, in order to that, to be ashamed of their iniquities (Ezek. 43:9): “Now let them put away their whoredom; now that they have smarted so severely for it, and now that God is returning in mercy to them and setting up his sanctuary again in the midst of them, now let them cast away their idols and have no more to do with them, that they may not again forfeit the privileges which they have been taught to know the worth of by the want of them. Let them put away their idols, those loathsome carcases of their kings, far from me, from being a provocation to me.” This was seasonable counsel now that the prophet had the model or pattern of the temple to set before them; for, 1. If they see that pattern, they will surely be ashamed of their sins (Ezek. 43:10): when they see what mercy God has in store for them, notwithstanding their utter unworthiness of it, they will be ashamed to think of their disingenuous conduct towards him. Note, The goodness of God to us should lead us to repentance, especially to a penitential shame. Let them measure the pattern themselves, and see how much it exceeds the former pattern, and guess by that what great things God has in store for them; and surely it will put them out of countenance to think what the desert of their sins was. And then, 2. If they be ashamed of their sins, they shall surely see more of the pattern, Ezek. 43:11. If they be ashamed of all that they have done, upon a general view of the goodness of God, let them have a more distinct particular account of the temple. Note, Those that improve what they see and know of the goodness of God shall see and know more of it. And then, and not till then, we are qualified for God’s favours, when we are truly humbled for our own follies. “Show them the form of the house; let them see what a stately structure it will be; and withal show them the ordinances and laws of it.” Note, With the foresights of our comforts it is fit that we should get the knowledge of our duty; with the privileges of God’s house we must acquaint ourselves with the rules of it. Show them these ordinances, that they may keep them and do them. Note, Therefore we are made to know our duty, that we may do it, and be blessed in our deed.
III. He promises that they shall be such as they should be, and then he will be to them such as they would have him to be, Ezek. 43:7. 1. The house of Israel shall no more defile my holy name. This is pure gospel. The precept of the law says, You must not defile my name: the grace of the gospel says, You shall not. Thus what is required in the covenant is promised in the covenant, Jer. 32:40. 2. Then I will dwell in the midst of them for ever; and the same again Ezek. 43:9. God secures to us his good-will be confirming in us his good work. If we do not defile his name, we may be sure that he will not depart from us.
IV. The general law of God’s house is laid down (Ezek. 43:12), That, whereas formerly only the chancel, or sanctuary, was most holy, now the whole mountain of the house shall be so; the whole limit thereof, including all the courts and all the chambers, shall be as the most holy place, signifying that in gospel-times, 1. The whole church shall have the privilege of the holy of holies, that of a near access to God. All believers have now, under the gospel, boldness to enter into the holiest (Heb. 10:19), with this advantage, that whereas the high priest entered in the virtue of the blood of bulls and goats, we enter in the virtue of the blood of Jesus, and, wherever we are, we have through him access to the Father. 2. The whole church shall be under a mighty obligation to press towards the perfection of holiness, as he who has called us is holy. All must now be most holy. Holiness becomes God’s house for ever, and in gospel-times more than ever. Behold this is the law of the house; let none expect the protection of it that will not submit to this law.