Ezekiel 43:2 (ESV) … “And behold, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the east. And the sound of his coming was like the sound of many waters, and the earth shone with his glory.”
One of the saddest moments in Israel’s history occurred when the ark of the temple was taken into Philistine hands and Israel was left bereft of God’s help. When Eli heard of the consequent death of his two sons, he fell backwards and broke his neck. His daughter-in-law, in the shock of all the events, gave premature birth, dying in the process. Before she died she gasped out that the child should be called Ichabod, meaning ‘The glory has departed’ (1 Sam. 4).
Israel’s current condition in exile was a similar low point. The collapse of Jerusalem and the destruction of Solomon’s temple underlined the fact that God had departed from his holy city. Ezekiel had been taken to Jerusalem in a vision in chapter 10 to see God depart! That was in 592 B.C. Almost twenty years have passed since that awful day. Nothing could be worse than that. If the new temple in Ezekiel’s vision is to be of any significance other than for architects, the essential nature of its glory has to be underlined. This involves the return of God to dwell in his temple again. This is what these verses now describe.
Ezekiel is brought to the cast gate of the temple complex (43:1); this gate led directly to the temple area. It was from this gate that God’s glory had departed in 10:18–19. What we have in chapter 43 is the reverse of chapter 10: God is going to come back through the same gate by which he left. What Ezekiel sees, he tells us, is a reminder of the glory of God that he first encountered in the opening chapters: a vision of glory in chapter 1 and a vision of God coming to destroy the city in chapter 9 (43:3). Ezekiel for the third time in this book has come face to face with the living God.
If sin had driven the Lord from the temple, then it will be the holiness of his people that will keep him there. It is a word about holiness that Ezekiel now hears as God speaks to him (43:6–9).
What was true in the Old Testament is also true for New Testament believers. Sin separates us from Holy God. If sin drives God away from our lives, then holiness invites God back into our lives. How do we know if God is filling our lives with his blessing? If we are living holy lives, then we should see the Glory of God spilling out. In other words, people and this world are taking notice of God in our lives by way of a genuine and true witness.