I’m reading in Ezekiel still, and it’s the part where the angel gives Ezekiel all the measurements for the Temple, the division of land, the types and numbers of sacrifices, and all that. Interesting, yes, because it’s so detailed. I can imagine it was a lot to write and understand. But, I am not sure of the significance. Obviously, it’s in the Bible, so God has a purpose for it. However, it leaves me with more questions than answers. For example, has this Temple been built or is it something yet to be seen? And, why is God so particular about all the measurements? Also, is there a reason why God gave certain lands to certain tribes? Moreover, goodness, they had to sacrifice a lot of animals! So, nothing earth shattering, but lots of questions about this portion of Ezekiel… Anyone have any answers?
Ezekiel 44:19b They must leave them in the sacred rooms and put on other clothes so they do not harm the people by transmitting holiness to them through their clothes. I have to admit, this is pretty strange to me. First, I didn’t know holiness could be transmitted through clothes. Second, I didn’t know it could be harmful. But, I think it’s like Moses after he received the ten commandments. His face shone with the holiness of God and the people were frightened. His face transmitted the holiness of God. That can be an overwhelming thing, and if the people were not prepared it could be deadly, maybe… Remember how the priests would die if they went into the holy place without offering a sin sacrifice and being ritually clean? The ordinary people of Israel weren’t clean. They didn’t have the salvation through Jesus that we have today… so to be in the presence of such utter and true holiness could have been deadly. Even the glory shining from a person who had been in God’s presence was too much. Moses had to cover his face because he was so shiny. Similarly, the priests had to leave their clothes behind because they would be too much to behold. I wonder if they shone when they came out of the presence of God the way Moses did? If their clothes transmitted holiness, did their faces and hands transmit it, too? And ultimately, it leaves me with the question: do I transmit holiness after I spend time in the presence of God? I am blessed with His Words and His presence all the time (sometimes it’s more physical than others). Do I transmit holiness?
Ezekiel 43:12 And this is the basic law of the Temple: absolute holiness! Ezekiel has another vision. In this one he is watching the Temple being measured. My thoughts… this thing is huge! Some of the walls are 8 feet thick!!! Crazy! Anyhow, God enters the Temple (sounding like roaring, rushing waters) and speaks with him about this coming Temple. But the law of the Temple is absolute holiness! For humanity, on our own, holiness is a pipe-dream. We can’t be holy because we are imperfect… However, there’s hope! Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection gives us the ability to be holy. No, not on our own or on the merit of what we try to do (imperfect beings can’t achieve perfection since our very nature is flawed), but through the mercy and sacrifice of Jesus. Being washed in His blood we become like Him. Not God, certainly, but in His image. So through Jesus we can at least attempt holiness. He does, after all, say “be holy as I am holy” (although that definition of holy may not be the traditional meaning – you can read my other post on that one). So, there is hope! By the blood of the perfect Lamb we are made clean and holy… and therefore we can come before the Lord of Hosts in His absolutely holy Temple worshiping Him and bringing Him glory!
Psalm 135:13 Your name, O Lord, endures forever; your fame, O Lord, is known to every generation. In my American Literature class we are studying the Declaration of Independence, and I read an interesting comment about why God is mentioned 9 times in the preamble section alone. It’s not about religion (well, maybe partly about religion, but the writers were rationalists and some were deists). It’s about power and corruption. If our rights are given to us by humans they are subject to the corruption and greed that often comes with power (absolute power corrupts absolutely). If our rights are given to us by God, then no one but God can take them away, thus limiting the power of government. So, when people try to remove God from things like the Pledge of Allegiance (one nation under God) then in essence they’re not removing God from government, they’re actually removing the obstacle between them and power. By taking the right to give inalienable “natural” rights (like the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness) out of God’s hands and putting it in man’s hands, they suddenly gain the power to limit those rights for whomever they choose. The crux of the Declaration was that the God-given, natural rights of the colonists were being infringed upon by the king. But if our rights are no longer God-given but rather man-given, then it becomes much easier for man to take those rights away if it’s convenient for him. We go back to the problem from which the colonists were declaring their independence. So, God in the Declaration isn’t so much about religion as it is about power and control. Are our lives given and controlled by a higher power? Or are they given and controlled by government, courts, and politicians? Kind of a scary thought, huh?
Ezekiel 37:10 So I spoke as he commanded me, and … they all came to life and stood up on their feet – a great army of them. Who says Hollywood has the corner on creepy? Here, Ezekiel is taken to a valley full of old dried bones. First, God pulls the bones together. Then He puts muscle and skin back on them, and eventually breathes life back into them!!!! So now there’s a huge army of formerly dead people walking around this valley… The end. What? What happened then? What did all these formerly dead people do? Did they go back to the city and start life over? Did they go back to being dead? Were they angry at being alive again? I have so many questions!! They don’t get answered. The rest of the chapter goes straight into another symbol that God asks Ezekiel to create. But the dried bones are symbolic, too. In this illustration they’re symbolic of Israel who were old and dried up with no hope. Their second life represents their restoration and rescue from exile. But, they’re also a picture of us today. Each person is dead in our selfishness and sin. All hope is gone. But God breathes life back into us and gives us new bodies when we believe in Him. Then, all us formerly dead people are alive again. So, what do we do then? That’s the great question. What do we do? The best thing to do is ask the One who gave you new life. After all, we owe Him everything. He knows everything. So it’s a safe bet to say that He’s got something up His sleeve. But, probably, like with Ezekiel, it has to do with being a walking, talking symbol of God’s mercy and trying to get others to turn around and get life breathed back into them, too. We are not zombies.
Ezekiel 36: 26-27 And I will give you a new heart with new and right desires, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony heart of sin and give you a new, obedient heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so you will obey my laws and do whatever I command. I love this verse. I love the fact that God loves His people so much that He refuses to totally abandon them. Granted, part of why He doesn’t abandon them and why He says He will do all these things is because the nations were mocking His name saying that He couldn’t protect His people. But whatever the motivation, He didn’t just say He’d rescue them, He says He will totally restore them and make them new inside and out! I love that God can give us a new heart, and a new spirit. He doesn’t just change our hearts, He completely replaces them, taking out the old! So, that old nasty heart is gone completely, and in its place is a new, obedient heart. That means all the old junk that went along with that old heart is also gone! And God gives us right desires along with our new, obedient heart. That’s pretty awesome! Another thing to note is that there is nothing that we do; it’s all God. He removes the old and replaces it with the new. He gives us right desires. He does all the work. The end result, after all His hard work, is our obedience and a new softness, a Spirit that is like His as we grow to be more like Christ. It’s not about us, it’s about Him. We can’t do it ourselves. That’s the beauty of salvation and change. It forces us to let go and trust that God is big enough and strong enough and loving enough to do all these things for us. Yeah God!
Ezekiel 34:31 You are my flock, the sheep of my pasture. You are my people, and I am your God,” says the Sovereign Lord. The Lord is angry at how the leaders of Israel have abused the flock, not caring for the sick or the injured or the weak. He promises that He Himself will search for and find His sheep, caring for them and healing them. And He also promises to judge between the sheep and the goats. But, finally, amidst all the promised terror and destruction, there is a glimmer of hope. God clearly loves His people, and He states several times that the purpose of his destruction is not to crush the people. He truly hopes that they will turn from their sin so He can hold back the tide of death. But he does warn them earlier that “the good works of righteous people will not save them if they turn to sin, nor will the sins of evil people destroy them if they repent and turn from their sins.” (Ez 33:12) Repent, repent, come back to Me, cries the Lord over and over. What I loved about this is the personal touch. He isn’t going to send an angel to find His people and care for them. He isn’t going to send another human. He’s coming Himself to find His sheep. Although He is the God of the universe and has untold resources, He still cares enough about us to come Himself. That’s pretty cool! You, I, everyone, we all matter that much to God! Makes me feel pretty special!