Monthly Archives: November 2014
Welcome to Daniel! Right away, we discovered that Daniel was a man of principle. When Jerusalem was invaded by the Babylonians, they decided that for bright young men like Daniel, there was more value in using them to serve the King rather than throwing them in jail. There was a problem though.
Dan 1:8 But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.
It is interesting. Sustenance is a very important thing, but Daniel was not willing to violate the law of God by eating meat and drinking wine that was presumably offered to idols. His conscience would not allow him to do that.
I wonder how many of us would be willing to make a similar stand. I would like to say that I would be able to. I would like to say that I would be bold enough to even tell those who had the power of life and death over me that I would not violate the law God for anything, but I don’t know. It is one of those things that is kind of hard to tell until you are in that situation.
However, if we do end up in that situation, the story of Daniel is an encouragement. If you finish the chapter, you clearly see God’s hand at work. Daniel asked for a modification to his diet, and that request is granted because they were allowed to prove that they could eat the way they wanted and still be healthy enough to serve the King.
There is hope here. It may not be easy, and I am sure that Daniel was a little bit nervous making requests of basically his captors, but despite all of that, he was still willing to elevate the law of God over whatever might happen to him.
We all know the story of Daniel, and we know that he was not always the most popular guy because of the stand, but he is a great example of one who stood up for his faith in a hostile situation. We can learn from him.
Ezekiel 48 shows us an interesting shift from Old Testament Israel to this vision of the Temple. As you recall, the tribe of Levi did not receive any land because the Lord with their portion. In this vision though, there is some land given to the priests.
Eze 48:9 The oblation that ye shall offer unto the LORD shall be of five and twenty thousand in length, and of ten thousand in breadth.
Eze 48:10 And for them, even for the priests, shall be this holy oblation; toward the north five and twenty thousand in length, and toward the west ten thousand in breadth, and toward the east ten thousand in breadth, and toward the south five and twenty thousand in length: and the sanctuary of the LORD shall be in the midst thereof.
Eze 48:11 It shall be for the priests that are sanctified of the sons of Zadok; which have kept my charge, which went not astray when the children of Israel went astray, as the Levites went astray.
Eze 48:12 And this oblation of the land that is offered shall be unto them a thing most holy by the border of the Levites.
I want to put this back into the context of the vision that we have been building every chapter. Again, Jesus Christ is the Temple. That is on this piece of land, and the priests will dwell around it. However, this is still a transition because there was no land in the original system for the Levites. Obviously they lived somewhere, but it was not specifically laid out like this.
This seems like a pretty strong indication that the ministers we have today who are doing their job as shown in verse 11 are the ones who are dwelling near God. They interact with God closely and spend their time learning more about who He is so that they can pass on that knowledge to those of us who are not given that calling.
On the other hand, there are many people who claim to be pastors yet preach messages that are not found anywhere in the Bible. They would not be in this portion as shown in verse 11. They have not kept their charge.
I’m not trying to imply here that pastors are somehow above all the rest of us. In fact, the point that they now have actual territory makes the similarities greater. They are a tribe with land just like every other tribe. However, I think that there is something to the fact that the Temple is in the middle of their piece of land, and I think that that shows is their responsibility to draw near God and to use their abilities to help a fallen world.
Ezekiel is over!
The imagery that we have been developing this entire time is incredibly important as we move into Ezekiel 47. Again, Jesus Christ is the ideal Temple, and now we have a situation where there is water pouring out of the Temple and making saltwater fresh.
Eze 47:8 Then said he unto me, These waters issue out toward the east country, and go down into the desert, and go into the sea: which being brought forth into the sea, the waters shall be healed.
Eze 47:9 And it shall come to pass, that every thing that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither: for they shall be healed; and every thing shall live whither the river cometh.
As you read these chapters, the progression seems to make sense. We now have this ideal Temple that we could not build ourselves but only through the power of God, and there is water pouring out of it. The water is healing the land. Wasn’t that pretty much what Jesus did?
He came into our world and totally transformed people. Just like the ocean cannot make itself fresh, we could not make ourselves clean. It is only through the saving power of God that we can have this salvation.
Interestingly, not everyone will be transformed.
Eze 47:11 But the miry places thereof and the marishes thereof shall not be healed; they shall be given to salt.
I think that is also indicative of our world. Clearly, not everyone is living in the way of Christ. There are some who have not found the healing water of Christ. Again, this is very strong imagery again.
It is amazing to have this gift of refreshment from Jesus Christ.
Ezekiel 46 lays out the ordinances for how this Temple is to be used. This is the ideal Temple that any human effort to build fell short. It is what I would argue in the model of the ideal Christian life that conforms to the model laid out by Jesus Christ. Now, in Ezekiel 46 it is shown that there should be a significant portion of time reserved for the worship of God.
Eze 46:1 Thus saith the Lord GOD; The gate of the inner court that looketh toward the east shall be shut the six working days; but on the sabbath it shall be opened, and in the day of the new moon it shall be opened.
Eze 46:2 And the prince shall enter by the way of the porch of that gate without, and shall stand by the post of the gate, and the priests shall prepare his burnt offering and his peace offerings, and he shall worship at the threshold of the gate: then he shall go forth; but the gate shall not be shut until the evening.
Eze 46:3 Likewise the people of the land shall worship at the door of this gate before the LORD in the sabbaths and in the new moons.
Again, if I am interpreting this appropriately, then if this ideal Christian life involves significant worship, shouldn’t we make sure that we give God sufficient worship?
Please don’t misunderstand how I am using the word sufficient. I am not implying in any way that we can confine all of our worship to Sunday morning and forget about the rest of the week. I am not saying that there is some kind of percentage that we can satisfy and then give up on worship for a period of time.
We are told to worship God with everything we have. Psalms 150 is a good one for this. We praise God with whatever we have, and we praise him for being all that He is. We do know that God is awesome, and we do know that worship is an important part of our Christian lives. Sufficient worship is all-consuming worship.
In Ezekiel 45, we are now receiving some more instruction about the division of the land and fair weights and measures during the time of this new Temple. I want to focus on this idea of weights and measures.
Eze 45:9 Thus saith the Lord GOD; Let it suffice you, O princes of Israel: remove violence and spoil, and execute judgment and justice, take away your exactions from my people, saith the Lord GOD.
Eze 45:10 Ye shall have just balances, and a just ephah, and a just bath.
Again, it seems to me that the new Temple is referring to the person of Jesus Christ, the perfect model of the Temple that no one could design on earth. This then implies to me that those of us who are in Christ are called to practice business the right way. Our weights and measures need to be fair and just. We cannot take a little bit extra off the top to put in our own pockets.
I know that there are plenty of people in different jobs who have opportunities every day to do the wrong thing. You can be a business owner who does not treat his or her employees fairly. You can be an accountant and skim a little bit of money off the top without much problem especially in businesses with little control over these processes. Unethical business practices are on the news every day, and it might be easy to justify going along with the crowd. Everybody else is doing it, so why can’t I get rich along with them?
However, that isn’t how we are called to live. In this life that we are building under the instruction of Jesus Christ, we cannot separate out how we act at work and how we act at home. All of our life should be life for God. We do business in the right way because God calls us here in Ezekiel, among other places, to be fair.
Ezekiel 44 takes us back to the outside of the vision of the Temple. The people of Israel have been rebellious at this undefined future time (surprise!), and here is what the offense was.
Eze 44:6 And thou shalt say to the rebellious, even to the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; O ye house of Israel, let it suffice you of all your abominations,
Eze 44:7 In that ye have brought into my sanctuary strangers, uncircumcised in heart, and uncircumcised in flesh, to be in my sanctuary, to pollute it, even my house, when ye offer my bread, the fat and the blood, and they have broken my covenant because of all your abominations.
Eze 44:8 And ye have not kept the charge of mine holy things: but ye have set keepers of my charge in my sanctuary for yourselves.
Eze 44:9 Thus saith the Lord GOD; No stranger, uncircumcised in heart, nor uncircumcised in flesh, shall enter into my sanctuary, of any stranger that is among the children of Israel.
This seems to go along with what I had written yesterday regarding the Temple of the perfect design. Yesterday, we talked about the idea of how it was interesting that the Temple the people had built for themselves could not match up to the ideal design of what God Himself had laid out. I suggested then that perhaps this shows how the human life is not up to the standard that God been set for us. This is powerful commentary on sin nature.
Today expands on that. It seems to suggest that there are people in the Temple who are uncircumcised in heart and flesh. To me this kind of sounds like a lack of orthodoxy and orthopraxy. In the heart, there is not the right attitude. Their beliefs and their orthodoxy had fallen apart. However, they also are not living right in the flesh. Their actions are also not physically right. They’re not living the way they should.
I think this points out some very important things for us. It is a combination of life and belief. I certainly think that salvation comes through faith alone and not by works, but I also believe that a life that is transformed by a true belief will demonstrate the actions that are the consequence of that belief. That is where the right practice comes in. It is the argument for the fruit of the spirit. It comes about from living in the way of Jesus. By living out a life following the principles of Christianity, certain actions and lifestyle choices should come forth.
These have been difficult chapters for me. I am not a professional in Old Testament prophecy, but I’m just being straightforward with you. Interpretation is a difficult job, and I will be happy to get back to more straightforward content, but I hope this might provide at least a little bit of food for thought.
Ezekiel 43 is a difficult one, but it does kind of give you the impression that perhaps we are talking about a Temple that is not meant to be literal. We took all of those measurements, and then we receive this statement from God.
Eze 43:10 Thou son of man, shew the house to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities: and let them measure the pattern.
Eze 43:11 And if they be ashamed of all that they have done, shew them the form of the house, and the fashion thereof, and the goings out thereof, and the comings in thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the laws thereof: and write it in their sight, that they may keep the whole form thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and do them.
On one level, it doesn’t necessarily make sense that this would be a literal Temple because why would the people be necessarily committing a sin if their building did not match the pattern God outlined? It is not as if there was a previous command to build the Temple a certain way. If there had been that command, then it certainly would make sense.
It seems as if there is something a little bit broader to say about this vision. God has given a pattern of an ideal Temple that would be used to worship Him and bring Him glory. Our lives are supposed to do that as well. We’re supposed to conduct ourselves in a way that God had outlined, but we clearly do not fit into His ideal pattern. We have seen the ideal in Jesus Christ, and when we see it, we realize that we come dramatically short. We realize that we have sin in our lives, and, as Christians, we work to walk closer with God.
It seems that that might be a little more appropriate way to interpret in this passage. I’m not saying that there can’t be another Temple in the future (I don’t want to upset people here), but it doesn’t seem that this passage necessarily points to that. It seems more that there is some type of relationship or lifestyle that needs to be repaired in this case.
Ezekiel 42 provides more specifications regarding the building of the Temple. Although this was also true of the old Temple, I find it interesting that there were rooms set aside specifically for the priests that were not available to the general public.
Eze 42:13 Then said he unto me, The north chambers and the south chambers, which are before the separate place, they be holy chambers, where the priests that approach unto the LORD shall eat the most holy things: there shall they lay the most holy things, and the meat offering, and the sin offering, and the trespass offering; for the place is holy.
Eze 42:14 When the priests enter therein, then shall they not go out of the holy place into the utter court, but there they shall lay their garments wherein they minister; for they are holy; and shall put on other garments, and shall approach to those things which are for the people.
Not everyone was able to approach the altar directly. Of course, we know that that was changed both literally and symbolically during the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The curtains surrounding the holy of holies were ripped down the middle. Because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we can have direct access to God.
However, in the Temple, this was not possible, and it is a commentary on human sin nature. It is obvious here that sin is what separates us from God. Even the priests had to undergo a series of purification stages before they were able to enter and put down the offerings. They were not holy, so they could not enter on their own.
I point this out because how amazing is it then that we have the ability to have salvation. We can go to heaven, and the can be in the very presence of God. If we are not even able to enter a holy room on earth, how much more amazing is it that by putting our faith in Jesus Christ we are able to enter heaven? It is worth thing about the magnitude of that event.
Ezekiel 41 continues the famous Temple vision, and as I have been reading these two chapters so far, this specificity amazes me.
Eze 41:2 And the breadth of the door was ten cubits; and the sides of the door were five cubits on the one side, and five cubits on the other side: and he measured the length thereof, forty cubits: and the breadth, twenty cubits.
Eze 41:3 Then went he inward, and measured the post of the door, two cubits; and the door, six cubits; and the breadth of the door, seven cubits.
We even have a measurement for the doorpost in the Temple. I don’t know about you, but I have never measured a doorpost in my life. I know that if you are a carpenter for example you would measure things like that, but the more interesting part is that God, who is in charge of the entire universe, took the time to make sure that Ezekiel provided a measurement for the doorpost of the Temple.
Sometimes, we can get the perspective that God is too big to notice the little problems that plague our everyday lives. We think that God is of course interested in us, but we don’t know if He really is not worried about these kinds of details.
Clearly, the God of the universe who is infinite in every way also has an infinite mind and infinite comprehension. God is not a computer that is going to run out of memory if you overload it. We know that He cares about details, and He has the ability to perceive the details.
This is a comforting passage. Even though it sometimes might seem like we are alone because we don’t want to bother God with our little problems when there are so many big things in the world, we do not need to fear. God is with us always.
Apparently Ezekiel 40 is a very controversial chapter (I appreciate understatement). Ezekiel is shown a vision of the frame of a temple. Most of the chapter proceeds to list the very specific directions regarding the various dimensions of the structure, but Ezekiel is told the following.
Eze 40:4 And the man said unto me, Son of man, behold with thine eyes, and hear with thine ears, and set thine heart upon all that I shall shew thee; for to the intent that I might shew them unto thee art thou brought hither: declare all that thou seest to the house of Israel.
For the moment, I’m willing to put aside the issue of controversy on this chapter and focus on one very important characteristic. Ezekiel was instructed to make sure that he set his heart upon these things because it was his job to communicate them to the people of Israel. It was his unique job, and God was telling him to do it.
I sometimes think about things like that in my life. Are there things that I am uniquely called to do? Obviously, each person is a little bit different, so is it possible that there is a certain opportunity that will come only to me because of the unique way that God created me?
I don’t know that I have an answer for that, but it kind of helps me put this chapter of Ezekiel into perspective. Regardless of what you believe he was being shown and what that vision represents, he was the one receiving the vision, and he was instructed to be the conduit that would transmit that vision to the people of Israel.
When God calls us to do and be certain things, it is because He has chosen us for that purpose. Ezekiel had his job, and, in comparison, I have never been given the job of communicating visions from God. There are many parts in one body, and God calls us to do different things. We need to do them like Ezekiel did. He reported the dimensions faithfully; he did what he was called to do.