Keep Your Distance

Fourteen years after the destruction of Solomon’s Temple, the Jewish exiles in Babylon receive a message from God through the prophet Ezekiel. It came as a vision of how to construct a new temple when God brought them back to Israel from captivity. God reminded the people of why Jerusalem with its temple was destroyed and why they were sent into exile. Here is the rather strange charge from Ezekiel 43:8,
“They placed their threshold next to my threshold and their doorposts beside my doorposts, with only a wall between me and them, they defiled my holy name by their detestable practices. So I destroyed them in my anger.”
What does that mean? In the last few decades of the Kingdom of Judah, some of their kings actually built shrines to foreign gods within the courtyard of YHWH’s Temple. The doors and doorposts of these shrines were right next to those leading into the Holy of Holies where God had promised to dwell among the Israelites. Holy means, “set apart for special use.” It was bad enough that the Jews worshiped other gods, but to do so within the temple courts showed utter contempt for the holiness of God’s name (his reputation).
Back to the plan for the new temple. The new temple, where God’s glory was to reside, was to be quite small; 172 feet by 172 feet. It was to sit in the center of the Temple Mount where only the priests were allowed. That was an area of almost seventeen acres. All of that was to be surround by the Holy Precinct; land dedicated to God and his service. That area was a staggering fifty-three square miles (137 km sq.)! God’s message? “I am holy … keep your distance.”
When Jesus died on the cross, Luke 23:45 tells us that “the curtain of the temple was torn in two.”  No more would man be separated from God. The grace of God poured out through the sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ, made a way for us to approach the Holy God (Hebrews 4:15-16). In fact, God now dwells directly in and among his people through the Holy Spirit. Wonderful news! God is still Holy … how should the knowledge of His constant presence affect our daily lives?