Last week, in Lessons from Ezekiel’s Temple, Part 5b, we discovered that the gates described in Ezekiel’s temple, in their exactness and their order, help us to remember two vital truths: God’s ways are totally opposite from the ways of the world, and when we go through hard times, God knows. He saw it from the beginning, and He sees the way out. No matter what our circumstances, we can trust Him to get us through.
Today’s lesson takes a look at the meaning and importance of the number and position of the gates:
“Then he went to the gate facing east … Then he measured the length and width of the gate facing north … Then he led me to the south side and I saw a gate facing south.” (Ezekiel 40:6,20,24)
We are told about three different gates in the angel’s initial description of the temple: A gate to the east, a gate to the north, and a gate to the south. Why so many? And what is the significance of their positions?
We are told that the gate to the east was a special gate. This was the gate where God’s glory entered: “The glory of the Lord entered the temple through the gate facing east.” (Ezek 43:4). We are also told that this gate was to remain shut: “The Lord said to me, ‘This gate is to remain shut. It must not be opened; no one may enter through it. It is to remain shut because the Lord, the God of Israel, has entered through it.'” (Ezek 44:2) In other words, God used this gate and to show respect for His holiness, no one else was to use it.
There was one, however, who could enter the portico of the gateway: The prince: “The prince himself is the only one who may sit inside the gateway to eat in the presence of the Lord. He is to enter by way of the portico of the gateway and go out the same way.” (Ezek 44:3)
This eastern gate, then, was only for certain, select people, and it was only open at certain times. If Ezekiel’s temple would have had only one gate, the one facing to the east, it wouldn’t have been open to everyone, and it wouldn’t have been open all the time! But this was not God’s intent. He wanted the temple to be open to everyone at all times, so He instructed a gate to be built to the north and another to the south.
What does this mean to us today?
Just this: We need to set apart a place in our “temple hearts” dedicated to the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. It must be a Holy place, a place that only we can access to worship and to praise our God, the Lord and Master of our Hearts. This gate isn’t open to the rest of the world, only to ourselves and to God. This implies a private place, a place where God can commune with us on a personal level. This is so vital in the establishment of any relationship, but especially in the establishment of a relationship with God.
The Bible makes many references to the “Children of the East” (Judges 6, 1 Kings 4, etc). These references seem to imply a people famous for their wealth and wisdom. Could it be that another reason that the temple was to have more than just an eastern gate was to imply that not only was God’s temple open to the wealthy and wise, but also to the simpler, the poorer, the less civilized?
This is a vital lesson for us today as well. We must remember that EVERYONE is welcome in God’s presence, no matter what background, no matter how poor, no matter how sinful. And because God welcomes everyone in His presence, we must also do the same! Away with prejudices. Away with preconceived ideas. God’s presence is open and available for EVERYONE! All the time!
One of the things we are told about the gates to the north and to the south is that those who enter through one must exit through the other: “When the people of the land come before the Lord at the appointed feasts, whoever enters by the north gate to worship is to go out the south gate; and whoever enters by the south gate is to go out the north gate. No one is to return through the gate by which he entered, but each is to go out the opposite gate.” (Ezek 46:9-10 NIV)
There have been many suggestions as to why the people were not to enter and exit through the same gate. It has been suggested that this reduces the amount of jostling that might happen in a crowd of people, and serves to remind us that God is a God of order. It has also been suggested that leaving through the opposite gate allows more walking time to get home. This would allow for more meditation upon the visit with God. And finally, it has also been suggested that this serves to remind us to follow Paul’s suggestion in Phil: “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 3:13-14 NIV) 
What does this mean to us today?
This reminds us that God is a God of order, that God encourages us to spend time meditating upon our encounters with Him, and that God encourages us to always be looking forward, forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead!
Join us next week for another important lesson from Ezekiel’s temple, Part 6: Why Alcoves?
God bless each of you as you seek to draw closer to Him!
In His love,
Lyn Chaffart, Mother of two teens, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, www.scripturalnuggets.org , with Answers2Prayer Ministries, www.Answers2Prayer.org .
 (from Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, PC Study Bible Formatted Electronic Database Copyright © 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All Rights reserved.)
(To access the entire “Lessons From Ezekiel’s Temple” mini-series, please click here.)