Matt Redman revealed the inspiration behind his song “The Heart of Worship” as a time when the church in which he served had entered a time of devotional apathy. While the music was stirring, it became apparent that the singing was glorifying the musicians rather than the Lord. The leadership took the decision to strip the singing of all accompaniment and enter a season of only acapella singing. This enabled the church to refocus its worship and led, eventually, to the reintroduction of musical accompaniment. It was a necessary step to restore the church to the heart of worship, as reflected in the lyrics of the song: “I’m coming back to the heart of worship, and it’s all about you, it’s all about you, Jesus.”
Ezekiel 43, the text before us today, serves a similar purpose. For years, worship at the temple had been stripped of its significance. This had led the Lord to abandon the temple (Ezekiel 10), which had resulted in the structure’s eventual destruction. God’s people needed to spend time reflecting on how they had lost the heart of worship. But worship would eventually be restored. We saw, previously, that the vision of the rebuilt temple (chapters 40–42) promised wonderful restoration to worship. But the vision of chapter 43 stands at the heart of it, for it shows the glory of God returning to the reconstructed temple. The promise here is that God would so fill this temple that his people would never again lose the heart of worship.
In vv. 1–12, the Lord promised his return to the temple and vv. 13–27 again focus on the altar, which was the new centre of the temple. The altar received, in some ways, the least attention in the earlier records of tabernacle/temple construction, but here it serves a place of prominence, highlighting the centrality of sacrifice.
But the overriding significance of this chapter is the return of Yahweh’s presence to the temple. Without the shekinah glory, worship was meaningless. To be sure, God’s presence could be dangerous (as Nadab and Abihu discovered when they offered an unauthorised sacrifice [Leviticus 10:1–3]), but the absence of God’s presence was equally detrimental to worship. God’s glory was necessary to worship, but it must be properly treated if worship would be acceptable.
Verses 10–12 form the central thought of this chapter. They show the purpose of the description of the new temple. The temple is described in such detail not as a blueprint for future construction but as a means of theologically showing God’s people the shamefulness of their sin.
But, for our purposes this morning, I want us to zero in on vv. 6–9. As Ezekiel stood beside the man with the measuring equipment, Yahweh himself spoke. He revealed the temple to be his throne, from which he would permanently rule his people. He would ensure that his people no longer defiled his throne, as they had previously done. Previously, they had defiled the temple “by their whoring” (i.e. by their idolatry) and “by the dead bodies of their kings at their high places.” “Dead bodies” here spears to be used euphemistically to describe the erection of monuments to the Jewish kings in the temple complex. This was unacceptable. The temple was God’s throne, not the throne of human kings. He was to receive the glory, not they. These monuments in the temple compound diverted glory that belonged to God alone to the human kings.
There is a sense in which we too often fall into the same trap. While we know, and even profess with our mouths, that God must be at the centre of our lives, too often we glorify ourselves. We know that he should occupy a place as King on our lives but too often we act as our own kings. We pay lip service to the Lord Jesus Christ but, really, we decide how we spend our money, how we spend our time, and how we arrange our priorities. It is not difficult to discern God’s priorities from Scripture, but too often we submit only when those priorities are convenient for us.
Churches often fall into the same trap. Too often, contemporary Christian music uplifts and glorifies the singer rather than God. The focus becomes how God makes us feel rather than how we can submit to and exalt the glory of God. Sometimes, we leave worship more impressed by the preacher or the musicians than by God himself. That may not always be the preacher’s or the musicians’ fault, but sometimes it may be. We forget that God must be at the heart of our worship.
The real danger of forgetting that God must be at the heart of worship is that, when he is not, he may withdraw himself—and we may not even notice!
As you meditate on Ezekiel 43 this morning, ask God for grace to keep him at the heart of your worship—personal, family, and corporate. Ask to see and feel the weight of his glory transform his worship.