“‘This is the land which you shall divide by lot as an inheritance among the tribes of Israel, and these are their portions,’ says the Lord God.”
As the prophecies of Ezekiel come to a close, he describes the allotments of land that will be given to each of the tribes of Israel. It is striking to me that seven times in the chapter theses districts are called “holy.” The inheritance the Lord gives to His people is always holy, and the life we live should be lived in holiness.
Holiness is often misunderstood. For many, it is reduced to outward actions. We define it as the clothes we wear, the music we don’t listen to, or the things we no longer practice. While it is true, holiness will affect the way we dress and behave, holiness is much more than that. Perhaps a better definition would be, a life that reflects the life of Christ. That is what God has called each of us to, as we grow in the Lord we become more like Jesus. We become more loving, gracious, merciful, kind, and willing to reach out to and share with others. Jesus lived a righteous life without sin, yet He did not live a life of isolation. Instead He sought to bring life to others.
Whatever “lot” has been assigned to you. Whether you are a student or a working mom, married or a single believer, you have been given a holy district, where you have been called to let the light of Christ shine into the life of others. Let your light shine today. Who knows how God may use you in the life of another.
“When it reaches the sea, its waters are healed. And it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live.”
Jerusalem sits atop the mountain range known as mount Moriah. The city is surrounded by valleys, and is supplied with water through various springs, because there are no rivers that flow through the city or surrounding hillsides. Ezekiel is seeing into the future, to the time of the millennial reign of Christ. As Jesus sits upon the throne of David to rule the nations, the topography of Jerusalem is changed. A stream flows from the temple of God into the Kidron Valley, then turning south continues past the Hinnom Valley, heading toward the Dead Sea. What Ezekiel is seeing is both literal and symbolical. His vision is a beautiful picture of God, as the Source of life for a world that thirsts for spiritual truth, including forgiveness and salvation.
One day Christ will reign over the earth, and a river will flow from the Temple, supplying abundant food and a source of healing for the nations. While we must wait for that day to ultimately come, much of what is promised is available to those who are in a relationship with Christ.
John 4:14 “. . . but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”
An open invitation is given to everyone of us to come to Christ and experience true life. Jesus compared a relationship with Himself to a flowing river. Later, Jesus would explain that the source of this life is the Holy Spirit. The more of the Spirit we have the more of the life we will experience.
Take time right now to ask God to fill you to overflowing with His Spirit. As you do, be prepared to lay things aside that might be keeping you from the abundant flow of life He promises.
“But when the people of the land come before the Lord on the appointed feast days, whoever enters by way of the north gate to worship shall go out by way of the south gate; and whoever enters by way of the south gate shall go out by way of the north gate. He shall not return by way of the gate through which he came, but shall go out through the opposite gate.”
Ezekiel is establishing some rules that will guide the people as they worship at the Temple. Some of these guidelines were clearly spelled out by Moses hundreds of years earlier, while others seem to be brand new. One such regulation required the people to leave the city from the opposite gate from which they had entered. If they came in from the south, they had to leave from the north, and vice-versa. No clear explanation is given, but it is not too difficult to draw some application for the believer today. Simply put, we should leave worship different than how we arrived.
True worship is drawing near to God, and getting our eyes on the Lord. When this happens, we will begin to see ourself in light of who God is. The brightness of His glory will illuminate our lives and expose those things He desires to change. If I come into worship angry, bitter, or filled with unforgiveness, the glory of who God is will shine upon my heart. His glory will expose those things, and lead me to the cross, where I can lay them down and leave free of their burden. If we leave worship the same as we came into worship, it is likely we were involved in more of a concert or a sing along, than a time spent in the presence of the God of Glory.
It is valuable to prepare your heart to seek the Lord. To take a few moments before you begin singing to simply ask God to search your heart, and give Him license to make any changes He determines necessary. One of the great benefits of worship is that we are in the presence of the only one with the actual power to change us.
“Then it shall be the prince’s part to give burnt offerings, grain offerings, and drink offerings, at the feasts, the New Moons, the Sabbaths, and at all the appointed seasons of the house of Israel. He shall prepare the sin offering, the grain offering, the burnt offering, and the peace offerings to make atonement for the house of Israel.”
Recently, I was captivated by the different titles given to political leaders. In one news segment, I saw references to presidents, kings, prime ministers and even a supreme ruler. It is interesting the view men have of rulers. In some settings, they are seen as gods, while in other settings, servants of the people. Here, in Ezekiel, we get a glimpse into how God views those who rule over men. He sees them as representatives of Himself, and expects them to set an example for the people of what it means to be committed to Him. In God’s economy, a ruler of the people must first be a follower of YHWH. Israel’s greatest leader was described as a man after God’s heart (Acts 13:22). This evidenced itself in a desire to please God and properly represent Him to the people.
What the world needs today are men and women who will lead others by being committed to the Lord. This kind of leadership will transform a nation, a business, and especially, a home.
“No priest shall drink wine when he enters the inner court.”
Ezekiel is given instructions concerning those who will serve the Lord in His Holy Temple. Three of the rules seemed to jump off the page as I read through them this morning.
First, the priests were required to wear linen as they served the Lord. The more common material for garments in Ezekiel’s day was wool, which was much heavier and would cause a person to perspire when working hard. The ministry is something that should never become burdensome. Jesus explained, His yoke was easy and His burden light (Matthew 11:30). When serving the Lord seems like a heavy task, we may be doing something wrong.
Second, they were not to drink wine in the service of God. Paul later wrote, we should not be drunk with wine but be filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). To effectively serve Christ, we need to be empowered by the Spirit and given gifts beyond what we naturally possess. Alcohol makes a person think they are more brave, intelligent, outgoing or creative; while the Spirit of God will actually gift us and equip us to do what God for calling.
Finally, those serving the Lord were to treat marriage differently. Even as far back as Ezekiel’s day, marriages were being tossed aside as disposable. Divorce was common, even among believers. Those who wanted to serve the Lord were being called to a higher standard. Paul explained, if a person cannot keep his own home in order, how can he expect to keep order in the house of the Lord (1 Timothy 3:5). We must first take time to invest in our families, if we want to have an impact for the kingdom.
“The Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court; and behold, the glory of the Lord filled the temple.”
What a glorious sight this must have been, as Ezekiel watched the glory or radiance of God descend upon and fill the Temple. What had been a building made with men’s hands, now became the temple of the living God. The presence of the Lord within its walls transformed this building and set it apart from all others.
This is not the only time we read of the glory of God filling or transforming something. When Moses and his team first erected the Tabernacle, God’s glory rested upon it with such power that no one could even enter its gates (Exodus 40:34-35). Years later Solomon’s team completed the Temple and the glory of God once again rested upon it in a powerful and visible way (2 Chronicles 7:1-2). It is clear, when the glory of God fills a structure dedicated to God, it is visibly transformed.
The New Testament teaches us that God no longer dwells in temples made with men’s hand, but those who have received Christ as Savior and Lord, actually become the dwelling place of God. When we receive Christ, the Spirit of God enters us, and like the Temple of old, we are visibly transformed, being filled with the Spirit of God. We are no longer just another building, we are now the dwelling place of the Living God. It is through this transformation that the world around us will begin to see the God of glory. Let’s seek to be people dedicated to revealing the glory of God, by dedicating ourselves completely to Him.
“When the priests enter them, they shall not go out of the holy chamber into the outer court; but there they shall leave their garments in which they minister, for they are holy. They shall put on other garments; then they may approach that which is for the people.”
For the priest to be involved in ministery, there must be a change of apparel. What was appropriate for some things, was not appropriate for others. This imagery is continued throughout Scripture.
Jesus told a parable where a man had a lavish feast and all who attended were given garments specifically designed for the feast. One man was found in the banquet room who was not appropriately dressed and he was removed (Matthew 22:11-13). The story illustrates that none of us will access heaven through our own accomplishments, but must be clothed in the righteousness of Christ. Zechariah painted the same picture when he described Joshua the high priest standing before the Lord in filthy garments only to have the Angel of the Lord remove those garments and clothe him in new ones Zachariah 3:3-4).
Paul also spoke of proper garments. When he wrote to the Ephesian church, which was made up of those who had received Christ and been clothed in His righteousness, he stated that certain behaviors needed to be set aside like a worn out garment if we are going to live a life pleasing to the Lord (Ephesians 4:22-24). This is illustrated in the Lazarus miracle. As soon as Lazarus came back to life and out of the tomb, Jesus commanded that they take off his burial clothes (John 11:44). The clothes appropriate for a dead man are not appropriate for the living. As believers, many of our behaviors need to be laid down because they no longer fit.
Finally, after His resurrection, Jesus told the twelve to wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came upon them and they were clothed with the power of God (Acts 1:4). This power was designed to transform them and to equip them for ministry. This power is illustrated in Peter who had denied Christ in the courtyard, only to boldly stand for Him in the temple courts. Certainly all of us need a fresh filling of the Spirit of God as we walk out our doors this morning.