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!
In Ezra 8, we find out that Ezra was ready to lead a group of people back to Jerusalem. However, he was a little bit worried there were no Levites in that group. He must have been worried that when they got to Jerusalem, there would be no one to perform all of the sacrifices that were necessary in the Temple.
This made him call back to the city and try to find some more volunteers.
Ezr 8:18 And by the good hand of our God upon us they brought us a man of understanding, of the sons of Mahli, the son of Levi, the son of Israel; and Sherebiah, with his sons and his brethren, eighteen;
Ezr 8:19 And Hashabiah, and with him Jeshaiah of the sons of Merari, his brethren and their sons, twenty;
Ezr 8:20 Also of the Nethinims, whom David and the princes had appointed for the service of the Levites, two hundred and twenty Nethinims: all of them were expressed by name.
Notice that he immediately attributes all of this to God. He could have said that there were some really nice guys who decided to volunteer. However, the first point he hit was that because of the help of God, the people were coming.
I think that we need to develop this attitude in our lives and recognize that without God, we can do nothing. Jesus himself said that while he was in his earthly ministry.
Joh 15:5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
If we can indeed do nothing without God, then when we do something, God is the one who made the difference. Ezra realized that, and he was grateful that God had supplied priests for him as he went back to Jerusalem to reestablish the Temple.
Ezra chapter 2 is mostly a long list of all of the people who left captivity and were allowed to go back to Jerusalem. What is very interesting about the list is that people were known by their lineage. They obviously did not list everyone’s names individually, but they were identified as a family.
In fact, when they found someone who could not be verifiably tied to a family, the person was disqualified from the priesthood.
Ezr 2:59 And these were they which went up from Telmelah, Telharsa, Cherub, Addan, and Immer: but they could not shew their father’s house, and their seed, whether they were of Israel:
Ezr 2:60 The children of Delaiah, the children of Tobiah, the children of Nekoda, six hundred fifty and two.
Ezr 2:61 And of the children of the priests: the children of Habaiah, the children of Koz, the children of Barzillai; which took a wife of the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite, and was called after their name:
Ezr 2:62 These sought their register among those that were reckoned by genealogy, but they were not found: therefore were they, as polluted, put from the priesthood.
The priesthood was a privilege given to the tribe of Levi, so that people who were not part of that tribe could not be priests. Being in the family was what granted a person that privilege.
A very similar process will happen with a much larger family in the future. This time, we all will need to be able to say that we are children of God.
Rev 20:11 And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.
Rev 20:12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
Rev 20:13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
Rev 20:14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
Rev 20:15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
I know that there is a lot of controversy as to the exact nature of the final judgment, and it might not be the happiest note to end this post on. However, we can safely conclude from this passage that it is a whole lot better to be written in God’s book of life.
Obviously, our human lineage has no impact on whether or not we get to heaven. God doesn’t care if our parents were pastors or missionaries. He cares that we are in His family.
In Old Testament times, the tribe of Levi was incredibly important. They were the ones who had the duty of offering sacrifices and doing most of the worship of God. In 1 Chronicles 23, we get a pretty good picture of what their job description was at the time of Solomon.
1Ch 23:30 And to stand every morning to thank and praise the LORD, and likewise at even;
Of course they had all of their priestly duties to do during the day, but near the beginning and near the end, they had to give time to thank and praise God.
I like the pairing of these two verbs. The first part requires that we acknowledge everything that God did. It is hard to thank somebody for something that has not happened yet.
The second part requires that we acknowledge everything that God is. You can praise Him for how awesome He is, how faithful He is or really about whatever you want. You can also praise God for what He has done, but I think two different words were used it to emphasize that difference.
I want to think about this difference through the lens of someone like Job. God had given Satan a license to really do whatever he wanted to Job as long as he did not kill him. Life did not look so good after a little while, and I don’t think that there was an awful lot that Job could be thankful for. I get it that he could be thankful for his life, and he probably was. However, I’m trying to make a very fine differentiation here. Both of them are good, but we want to make sure that we don’t only praise God for the results that we see here on earth. If all we did was praise God for the physical manifestation of His work in our lives, we are missing half of the picture.
Praising God for who He is needs to become part of our worship routine as well.
Judges chapter 17 seems a lot like selective listening to me. Micah knew that God wants our worship, but he decided to take matters into his own hands.
First for some background:
Jdg 17:1 And there was a man of mount Ephraim, whose name was Micah.
Jdg 17:2 And he said unto his mother, The eleven hundred shekels of silver that were taken from thee, about which thou cursedst, and spakest of also in mine ears, behold, the silver is with me; I took it. And his mother said, Blessed be thou of the LORD, my son.
Jdg 17:3 And when he had restored the eleven hundred shekels of silver to his mother, his mother said, I had wholly dedicated the silver unto the LORD from my hand for my son, to make a graven image and a molten image: now therefore I will restore it unto thee.
Essentially, he stole a large amount of silver from his mother. However, perhaps his conscience instructed him to give it back to her, and she was obviously glad to have it back. Then, she said that she dedicated the money to God, and she wanted an idol to be made out of it.
You can imagine that God was probably not too thrilled about this development given that idolatry is generally what got Israel in trouble over the years. If we advance a few verses, the situation is explained perfectly.
Jdg 17:6 In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.
However, Micah was not satisfied with having his idol. He made an elaborate setup, and even went out to hired a priest to work in his house.
Jdg 17:10 And Micah said unto him, Dwell with me, and be unto me a father and a priest, and I will give thee ten shekels of silver by the year, and a suit of apparel, and thy victuals. So the Levite went in.
Jdg 17:11 And the Levite was content to dwell with the man; and the young man was unto him as one of his sons.
Jdg 17:12 And Micah consecrated the Levite; and the young man became his priest, and was in the house of Micah.
Jdg 17:13 Then said Micah, Now know I that the LORD will do me good, seeing I have a Levite to my priest.
In my mind, hiring the priest in this situation was little more than window dressing. By reading that last verse, you can see that that the priest was almost like a steppingstone to success. To make God happy, he decided that he needed to have a Levite living within his house.
There is nothing wrong with that, but he was missing the idea that having all of the idols was wrong. You cannot selectively listen to God. I hope that none of us are doing that. Idolatry is a powerful opponent, and we need to resist its temptation.
Numbers chapter 18 made me think a little bit about the nature of possessions. Basically, this situation involves God speaking to Aaron about the Levites. He is outlining all of the rights and responsibilities of being the tribe of priests, but one particular thing stood out to me.
Num 18:20 And the LORD spake unto Aaron, Thou shalt have no inheritance in their land, neither shalt thou have any part among them: I am thy part and thine inheritance among the children of Israel.
I think it is particularly interesting in this situation that this is very similar language to what we see in the New Testament. Because we are believers in Jesus, we also have an inheritance in heaven.
1Pe 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
1Pe 1:4 To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,
1Pe 1:5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
Essentially, we have hope of living with God forever because of the resurrection of Jesus. In fact, God Himself is our inheritance on some level.
The reason I am jumping to that conclusion is because, without faith in Jesus as well as His mercy, we would spend eternity separated from Him. Consequently, if we do know Him, our inheritance is spending eternity with Him. That is how I drew that conclusion.
Think about the implications of this though. The Israelites needed to have a specific tribe that had God as their inheritance. Now, we are allowed to directly approach Jesus Christ who acts as our mediator. It is an amazing privilege.