by Pastor Mark Hudson
In Ezekiel 43, God’s glory returns to the temple. This must have been one of the happiest moments in Ezekiel’s life. Imagine the same person who saw the glory leave (in chapters 8-11, esp. 11:23) is now witnessing THE most hopeful thing ever. Now the angel is once again escort the prophet around. In 44:1-3, they come to the east gate which is closed. Does this signal that what the Lord shuts stays shut and what God opens stays open?
In verse 4, “the glory of the Lord filled the temple of the Lord.” This signifies that God has returned to His people. In 43:27, if God’s people are reverent and obey Him, “I will accept you.” This is a massive statement. The exile was, in essence, God rejecting the behavior of the people. To some of the Jews, they might have begun to wonder if this was the end of the Jews as a people. The exile was a disorienting, confusing time challenging the Jew’s identity, their relationship with the land, God, and their future.
Now God is back. Yet, He has not merely returned (as if God could do anything we could describe using ‘merely’). God is cleansing their worship. God is regularly reforming our worship because they, and we, are either just leaving idolatry or going toward idolatry. We naturally lean into idolatry. Israel’s history is one of idolatry. In chapter 44, God’s glory fills the temple so Ezekiel falls on his face. But God wants Ezekiel to stand up so he can what see why and what God is doing.
God speaks to Ezekiel and commands him in v. 6 to “say to the rebellious house, to the house of Israel” that God has had enough of their idolatry and He would initiate change. This chapter focuses on the Levites. The Levites needed correction. Evidently, they had allowed uncircumcised people to assist in the sanctuary which was not allowed by God (44:9). “The Levites who went far from me, going astray from me after their idols when Israel went astray, shall be their punishment.” This quotation from v. 10, has ramifications for what follows. We are witnessing discipline, correction, even some sort of censure. These Levites, “ministered to them before their idols and became a stumbling block of iniquity . . . but they shall bear their shame and the abominations they have committed (44:12, 13). Yet there is also grace. God says in v. 14, “Yet I will appoint them to keep charge of the temple, to do all its service and all that is done in it. In verse 13, God says, “They shall not come near to me . . .”
So what are they consigned to in their work? There are a number of duties the Levites were assigned. Some were singers, others were teachers of the Law, some were judges, some sacrificed animals, others helped prepare the people and animals for the moment of sacrifice, still others were guards at the gates. In verses 9-14, some Levites were directed to the people. These Levities were still called by not like the sons of Zadok.
In vs. 15-27, the sons of Zadok “shall come near to me to minister to me” v. 15. You will read phrases like come ear to me, stand before me, they shall enter my sanctuary, approach my table, in this section. There is a clear division of labor. They seem to be standing with their backs to the people facing God. You have also detected the careful directions for clothing. Linen is preferred and wool is forbidden.
For the directions in v. 20 and following it appears these comments are for all the priests not just the sons of Zadok. In vs. 23-24 we discover the three areas the Levites were to minister in: teaching the Law, acting as judges since they knew the law and applying the law to show how to live.
This division of labor is reflected in the early church in terms of teaching elders or pastors, ruling elders or elders (notice both are elders), and deacons. Churches try to match gifts with callings. In other words, God calls us to certain interests. The church would expect a teaching elder to like books, study, and teaching. The same is true of elders and deacons. We look for calling and giftedness. If a person is called to be an elder but is drawn to the work of the deacons, that individual might consider becoming a deacon. Or if a deacon is drawn to the work of a TE (teaching elder) the church may want to encourage that person to ready, study, and teach to see if God is leading in that direction.
In the last section, vs. 28-31, one of the most beautiful verses in the O.T. that shows the generosity of God is found in v. 28. God says to the Levites, “This shall be their inheritance: I am their inheritance; and you shall give them no possession in Israel; I am their possession.” Oh, what an expression of grace. We would all like wealthy grandparents and parents so we can inherit their wealth and we all want more possessions – at least I imagine that is the case. But how I would have loved to be Levite. They get God. “I am their inheritance . . . I am their possession.” Should make the wealthiest person long to be a Levite. The poorest Levite had more than 1 million rich Israelite farmers. More than a billion.
In Christ we are adopted into his family and “we have obtained an inheritance” (Eph. 1:11) which is “according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us” (Eph. 1:7-8). Christ “is the guarantee of our inheritance” (Eph. 1:14). Paul prays we could “see” what we have in Christ. He prays “that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints. . . (Eph. 1:18). Could the Levites imagined that Christians all over the world from so many different nations be given this gift?
Dear heavenly Father, thank you for the hope we see in Ezekiel’s book. His life and ministry draws us to You and yet perplexes us at the same time. We love Your word but we especially love the message of the gospel. We praise Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for the overflowing riches of Your grace in Jesus Christ. Help us to cherish, love, and obey our Lord Jesus Christ. We pray for those who are hurting, destitute, and hungry. May Your church respond with not only good news but generous support. In the wonderful name of Christ. Amen.