My dad used to tell me stories about how his parents had rules for sitting on the furniture. They weren’t people of great means, but they knew how to take care of their things so that it would last as long as possible. This is why one of the rules was in order to sit on any piece of living room furniture, it had to be covered in a specially-designed plastic slipcover. This was an intentional space and an important rule.
Many households have similar kinds of rules, setting apart certain spaces in a home for specific purposes. Some have rules like taking shoes off at the door. Maybe it’s who is allowed and when in the formal living room or dining room, or the older daughter’s room in a home full of destructive younger brothers. In many of these cases, like in my father’s house growing up, the rules are restrictions that limit use to preserve the space.
Ezekiel envisioned a day when the glory of God would return to Israel, the people of God would be restored, and a sacred space would be set apart for the new temple and for the worship practices of God’s people. The rules prescribed were not for limiting the use of the space, rather, they described filling it with sacred practices of worship that Israel had abandoned. This vision described a renewal of God’s people and the world.
Justice and peace are just as much a part of the worship practices of God’s people as sacrifices and observing the sabbath. The restoration that Ezekiel envisions is total—spiritual, moral, ethical, and so forth. When the hearts of God’s people return to Him in humility, in His mercy, God welcomes them home, and they flourish.
The season of Lent reminds us that one day all sin—including injustice and violence—will be gone. The whole world will be witnesses to the glory of God. During Lent, we are confronted by sin—ours and the worlds. In God’s mercy, He invites us again to remember the cross where His extraordinary love is demonstrated in Christ. And He again points us to be set apart our lives and hearts as sacred space for the dwelling of the Lord, which is the new temple in which He resides. In response to the mercy of God, we’re invited to empty ourselves of sinful practices and be filled with worship to our wonderful, merciful Savior.