In which the exiles take measure
And God saw the earth and, look, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted its ways on the earth. And God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh is come before Me, for the earth is filled with outrage by them, and I am now about to destroy them, with the earth. Make yourself an ark of cypress wood, with cells you shall make the ark, and caulk it inside and out with pitch. This is how you shall make it: three hundred cubits, the ark’s length; fifty cubits, its width; thirty cubits, its height…”
Ezekiel 41:1, 2, 3, 5, 13, 15, 19, 21, 22
And he brought me into the great hall and measured the pillars to be six cubits wide on each side, the width of the pillar. And the width of the entrance was ten cubits, and the supports of the entrance five cubits on each side. And he measured its length to be forty cubits and its width twenty cubits…And he came within and measured…And he measured its length…And he measured the wall of the house…And he measured the house…And he measured the length…And the palm design had a human face on one side and a lion’s face on the other, fashioned for the entire house all around…and facing the sanctum a look like the look of an altar, of wood, three cubits high and twelve cubits its length, and it had corners, and its length and its walls were of wood. And he spoke to me: “That is the table that is before the LORD.”
The ark, with its careful measurements and attentive construction, stands first for the new Temple to be built in Jerusalem, and secondarily for the boundaries of a restored homeland for the returning exiles. Noah stands for the faithful remnant who will undertake this task and experience this blessing. The Temple is to be the place of mercy within the context of judgement, and the exiles are to fashion this space within the world as it is. It begins with careful listening, careful observation, with obedience, which is to hear and to take to heart.
The world, as we know it, is always passing away, is always in need of a sanctuary, not of our own determining but springing from divine initiative and grace. Such a space is not private, but God still looks for those who have constructed such room in their lives. What disciplines have you learnt, for building a life that holds out meaningful hope in the face of the Flood?
Biblical texts: Robert Alter, The Hebrew Bible: A Translation with Commentary