When God commanded Ezekiel to show the children of Israel a vision of the plans for His ideal Temple, He commanded him to preface the vision with a message which blended both hope and despair: “[Now] you, O mortal, describe the Temple to the House of Israel, and let them measure its design. But let them be ashamed of their iniquities: When they are ashamed of all they have done, make known to them the plan of the Temple and its layout…” (Verses 10-11)
The combination of these two ideas in a single message led the sages and later commentators to ponder the significance of this odd pairing. Rabbi David Kimche (13th century Provence) maintained that God showed them the design of the Temple to remind them that it was their sins which caused the destruction of the First Temple so now, that they should feel shame and not repeat them when the Temple is rebuilt. Rabbi Eliezer from Beaugency (13th century France) thought that by presenting the image of the Temple as something distant, it would symbolically remind the people that it was on account of their sins that the rebuilding of the Temple was distant from them, prompting them to repent. Rabbi Isaac Abrabanel (15th century Spain) concluded that Ezekiel’s message was aimed at his fellow exiles in Babylonia. He wanted them to desist from their idolatrous behavior and return to the worship of the God of Israel. He thought that showing them the plans for the Temple in Jerusalem might inspire their loyalty to God.
A late midrash, Tanna debe Eliyahu, offered up Ezekiel’s message from God’s vantage point: “The [following] vision later appeared to Ezekiel. And He said to me… Now you, O mortal, for My own glory I raised Israel above all of the nations of the world. Is this not My glory and the House which I have built for you? As it is written: ‘Show the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed… Make known to them the form of the Temple, etc. (Ezek. 43:10-11) If you should say that [without you] I lack someone who will worship Me, isn’t it well-known that six hundred thousand four hundred and ninety-six ministering angels stand and sanctify My great name every single day from when the sun rises until when it goes down, saying: ‘Holy, holy, holy’ (Isaiah 6:3), and from the setting of the sun until it rises, saying: ‘Blessed is the Lord’s glory from His place’ (Ezekiel 3:12). So then, why are your ways loathsome and your words inappropriate? And you scorn the afflictions that come upon you. But what should I [God] do? I must redeem you for the sake of My great name, by which you have been designated, as it is said, ‘But I will do for My name’s sake, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations, among whom they were’ (Ezekiel 20:14) (adapted from Eliyahu Rabba 6, Ish Shalom ed. p. 34)
This midrash captures God’s disappointment and disillusionment with His people to the point where He has almost given up on their ability to change course. This is very much in line with Ezekiel’s overall message God will redeem His people for His own sake despite their behavior. Still, God out of concern for His people, wants them to align their behavior with His purposes. This aspect of the redemption is ultimately up to us.