This relates to the altar in this mystical temple, and that is mystical too; for Christ is our altar. The Jews, after their return out of captivity, had an altar long before they had a temple, Ezra 3:3. But this was an altar in the temple. Now here we have,
I. The measures of the altar, Ezek. 43:13. It was six yards square at the top and seven yards square at the bottom; it was four yards and a half high; it had a lower bench or shelf, here called a settle, a yard from the ground, on which some of the priests stood to minister, and another two yards above that, on which others of them stood, and these were each of them half a yard broad, and had ledges on either side, that they might stand firmly upon them. The sacrifices were killed at the table spoken of before, Ezek. 40:39. What was to be burnt on the altar was given up to those on the lower bench, and handed by them to those on the higher, and they laid it on the altar. Thus in the service of God we must be assistant to one another.
II. The ordinances of the altar. Directions are here given, 1. Concerning the dedication of the altar at first. Seven days were to be spent in the dedication of it, and every day sacrifices were to be offered upon it, and particularly a goat for a sin-offering (Ezek. 43:25), besides a young bullock for a sin-offering on the first day (Ezek. 43:19), which teaches us in all our religious services to have an eye to Christ the great sin-offering. Neither our persons nor our performances can be acceptable to God unless sin be taken away, and that cannot be taken away but by the blood of Christ, which both sanctifies the altar (for Christ entered by his own blood, Heb. 9:12) and the gift upon the altar. There were also to be a bullock and a ram offered for a burnt-offering (Ezek. 43:24), which was intended purely for the glory of God, to teach us to have an eye to that in all our services; we present ourselves as living sacrifices, and our devotions as spiritual sacrifices, that we and they may be to him for a name, and for a praise, and for a glory. The dedication of the altar is here called the cleansing and purging of it, Ezek. 43:20, 26. Christ, our altar, though he had no pollution to be cleansed from, yet sanctified himself (John 17:19); and when we consecrate the altars of our hearts to God, to have the fire of holy love always burning upon them, we must see that they be purified and cleansed from the love of the world and the lusts of the flesh. It is observable that there are several differences between the rites of dedication here and those which were appointed Exod. 29:1-46, to intimate that the ceremonial institutions were mutable things, and the changes in them were earnests of their period in Christ. Only here, according to the general law, that all the sacrifices must be seasoned with salt (Lev. 2:13), particular orders are given (Ezek. 43:24) that the priests shall cast salt upon the sacrifices. Grace is the salt with which all our religious performances must be seasoned, Col. 4:6. An everlasting covenant is called a covenant of salt, because it is incorruptible. The glory reserved for us is incorruptible and undefiled; and the grace wrought in us is the hidden man of the heart in that which is not corruptible. 2. Concerning the constant use that should be made of it, when it was dedicated: Henceforward the priests shall make their burnt-offerings and peace-offerings upon this altar (Ezek. 43:27), for therefore it was sanctified, that it might sanctify the gift that was offered upon it. Observe further, (1.) Who were to serve at the altar: The priests of the seed of Zadok, Ezek. 43:19. That family was substituted in the room of Abiathar by Solomon, and God confirms it. His name signifies righteous, for they are the righteous seed that are priests to God, through Christ the Lord our righteousness. (2.) How they should prepare for this service (Ezek. 43:26): They shall consecrate themselves, shall fill their hand with the offerings, in token of the giving up of themselves with their offerings to God and to his service. Note, Before we minister to the Lord in holy things we must consecrate ourselves by getting our hands and hearts filled with those things. (3.) How they should speed in it (Ezek. 43:27): I will accept you. And if God now accept our works, if our services be pleasing to him, it is enough, we need no more. Those that give themselves to God shall be accepted of God, their persons first and then their performances, through the Mediator.