Ezekiel 48 is the last chapter in this long book. In this section the land is assigned. The twelve tribes are given their inheritance or place to live. The Temple and holy sections are described. There is land set aside for farming – which is near and dear to my heart. “It will supply food for the city”. There is land set aside all the way around the temple – “a strip of pasture” which would be called green space today. God has a plan – very detailed and exact – that meets the needs of the tribes. He gives “the choice part of the land” to the priests and the Temple. It isn’t what is left. It isn’t what no one else wants. It is right in the middle, best of the available, dedicated and large. You heard that yesterday – 7 miles by 6 miles. That is broken down in more detail in this chapter, but God doesn’t set aside the left overs for Himself or those who serve Him. They have more than enough of the best. Is God into excess? I think not. Nor is He into the crumbs. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. He owns all the money in the universe. He is the Great I AM. And it is normal to assume that when He deals out the land for the city of His people – He gets first dibs. Not out of selfishness, but out of position. We sometimes lose that perspective. Tithing is to come out of the first fruits of our labor, not what is left, if any. For many of us that is how we give. We live life and then if there happens to be anything left, we might give some to God and our church.
Bad answer. God desires and deserves better from us. The best decision I ever made for being a giver and tither was to set up automatic giving to my church of my tithe. It comes out of my account automatically each month and requires no interaction or decision on my part. Some may say that is a poor way to give – no personal interaction with the money. But God put on my heart the need to do that and to interact with Him on the offering part of my giving. The tithe should be automatic – we need to give God 10% because scripture teaches us to do that. No questions – no decision required – just obedience. What we give beyond that is where I think God will lead. That is where I need to be in communication with Him for direction and action. Does God get the best of what He gives to you? Or is it just the crumbs, if any exist. Change this area of your life and watch what happens. It is when we learn to give that we experience fullness of our relationship with Him and those around us.
Ezekiel takes a walk with the Son of man in chapter 47. He starts with water that is ankle deep, then knee deep, waste deep and finally over his head. It is on the east side of the Temple and it is used to teach a very important lesson. Catch what scripture tells us here: “Wherever the river flows, life will flourish….Where the river flows, life abounds”. There is life in a flowing river. It talks in this chapter about how the river will give life to a dead sea of stagnant waters. This is so descriptive of our lives. If we only take things in – never share and give – we become like the dead sea – full of valuable minerals and other stuff but NO life. Life requires us to take in and give out. That is what makes life happen. That is the principle of giving. We need to give freely, but also learn the law of receptivity where we also freely receive. That is when there is power flowing in and through us. This river analogy is just like life. The more we let flow through us to others, the more life we experience and create. But wait, there is more…. “the leaves won’t wither, the fruit won’t fail”…. every month the trees will “bear fresh fruit”. Having life that is really alive also does more than just seem vibrant to the living – it bears fruit – it multiplies and creates more. That is God’s desire for each of us – he said is in Matt 28:19,20 – Go make disciples. We need to reproduce ourselves. We can’t do that if we have no life, if the river does not flow in and through us. Is the river of life flowing in you? Or are you a dead sea, all in and no out?
Ezekiel 46 continues the vision of the Temple and worship – particularly around offerings. There are a number of offerings that scripture lists – but the sacrifice required for each was to be something “without blemish”. Do you give God things without blemish, or does He get the leftovers or that which is past what you want for yourself? Sometimes I am afraid God gets the scraps from me. Scripture tells us the God should have our “first fruits” – we need to give to God first and not just what is left after we have used what we want. An offering to God needs to be just that – something set aside from the first of what He has given us so we can return that to Him. I also was struck by the description of “the prince brings a freewill offering” to God. I believe there is a difference between a tithe and an offering. We owe God 10% as a tithe. It is not optional and really doesn’t require any more thought than the obedience required to bring it to the storehouse. But an offering is what we give beyond the 10% tithe. It is what we give from our excess….do you have excess after your tithe….there should be if we are living the way God desires. Life is not about spending and using every dollar and every minute on ourselves. We need to have margin…excess…that we can use to minister as He leads. Do you?
Ezekiel 46 is all about how the sacrifices were to be offered. I was surprised at the size of the land set aside for the Temple and the houses of the priests – “sacred space” – 7 miles by 6 miles. That is a pretty good size chunk of land God required be set aside as “holy ground”. There is clear definition about the kinds of offerings that were required: “Sin offerings, grain offerings, burnt offerings, and peace offerings for making atonement for the people”. Jesus went to the cross to take away the need for all these offerings from you and me. But we need to recognize that sacrifice was made and accept the atonement offered. It is not something that happens by osmosis or because we sit in the pew on Sunday once a week. It happens because of relationship with the Son of God at a personal and heart level. Have you accepted His gift of being willing to be the offering that paid the price for your sin? That is the only way. Ezekiel also defines the Passover – a seven day celebration feast. That sounds like fun! But the key to remember is that sin has a price to be paid. Jesus went to the cross to pay it, we just have to accept that grace freely through a personal relationship.
Ezekiel 44 continues the teaching from God about the Temple. This chapter deals with the role of the priests. It starts with an interaction with the glory of God. I love how Ezekiel responds: “I fell on my face in worship”. How do you respond when you come into the presence of God? Do you ever consider that? When you enter into prayer or walk into worship, do you recognize that you are entering His presence and approaching His throne. Sometimes I sort of treat Him like “one of the guys” – pretty comfortable and not really with the fear and respect I need to. God is not my buddy. He is not just another person sitting in the pew beside me. He is God. He is the great “I AM”. I need to really consider how I can “fall on my face” in reverence and worship. Much to learn and pray through here – just how I relate to the awesome God we serve.
I also was struck by what God says to Ezekiel about paying attention as well. Check this out: “GOD said to me, “Son of man, get a grip on yourself. Use your eyes, use your ears, pay careful attention to everything I tell you”. Hello – heaven to you. Are you using your senses to get God’s direction for your life. I know sometimes I want to just sit back and wait for God to reveal His will for me. I want Him to send me a big old message I can’t possibly miss. I know a lot of the rest of you are the same way. After all, it is God’s job to make sure I understand isn’t it? He needs to make sure I know exactly what He wants me to do. Not exactly….it is my responsibility to seek Him and understand His plan. He doesn’t line up with me – I line up with Him. I need to actively seek with all He has created in me. It is up to me to “pay careful attention to everything” – that means exactly what it sounds like – I need to be actively focused on and engaged in relationship with Him – my responsibility to seek and seek and seek until I find – with all that I am because He created me with senses and a brain. Don’t blame God if you don’t know what He wants you to. He doesn’t hide it from us, but He also doesn’t always write it in the sky in big letters either. We need to seek it with all our heart – to be in tune with His direction and will.
The rules of the Temple for the priests are written pretty clearly. “Their job is to teach my people the difference between the holy and the common”. I love how the Message version puts it. Help people understand the difference between things of God and things of the earth. Help people know what matters. We are called “priests” a number of times in the New Testament and I think this role is for you and me too, particularly with our family and kids, but in reality for all we touch. What is truth and of God vs. what is of man and full of baloney. We need to know and the standard for that comes from one place – God’s Word. We have a responsibility. Are you doing your job?
Ezekiel 43 continues the description of the Temple, only this time, it is speaking directly about the area of worship and not only the raw dimensions, but also the way things should happen. Ezekiel starts out sharing about the “Glory of God”. Oh how I look forward to experiencing that the way he describes it: “bright…rivered out of the east sounding like the roar of floodwaters…. Glowed….poured in…filled the Temple”. We serve an amazing God. He is awesome beyond compare. He wants to fill our churches today, as well as the “temple of the Holy Spirit” – which is you and me. God wants His glory to shine through us. That means we get the stuff in this chapter right – the throne where He sits and the altar where we worship and sacrifice for the sin in our lives. Those are the two key areas described in this chapter.
God wants us to have His throne filled with Him – not me. Who sits on the throne of your life? That question comes up over and over in scripture and in my daily thoughts. Why? Because we need to ask it often. We tend to push God off the throne and take control ourselves. We have to constantly choose to put Him there. The natural reaction is to sit there ourself until things get tough and then wonder why He is not there in control. Doesn’t work that way at all. God desires to be Lord of your life and mine moment by moment day by day, all day every day. When we live that way, He is on the throne in good times and bad and life is manageable. That is His plan. The second area is that of dealing with our sin. In the times of Ezekiel, it was about sacrifice on the altar. Guess what, it still is. Sin has a price that has to be paid. The difference is that for us, Jesus paid that price on the cross as our “blood sacrifice” and has given us access to God’s grace and mercy through a relationship with Himself. There still is a price for sin that has to be paid
The other thing that stands out in this chapter is what God tells Ezekiel to do in helping educate the people and get them involved in understanding: “Show them the whole plan….ins and outs…. Proportions…. Regulations…. laws. Draw a picture so they can see the design and meaning and live by its design and intent”. I love this concept. We need to seek the same from God’s direction to us – His Word. The Bible is our “plan” for life. God gave it to us to help us know how to live. He alone is the source of direction and success. He alone is the way we can live a life of “fullness”. He alone has the map for happiness. Are you in His Word? Do you know the plan? “Study to show thyself approved”. Get into the Word – read it, know it, memorize it and meditate on it. It will change your attitude and your life if you let it……
Ezekiel 42 continues the details of the Temple. Got a great question yesterday on the purpose of Ezekiel’s vision starting in chapter 40. Remember that the temple had been destroyed not too long before this. I checked a few commentaries and got this info which I want to pass on here about the reason for Ezekiel’s vision: “The prophecy or vision, which begins here, continues to the end of the Book. The Temple of Jerusalem lying in ruins when Ezekiel had this vision, (for its date as the fourteenth year after the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar,) the Jews needed consolation. If they were not promised a restoration of the temple, they would not feel so great an interest in returning home. It ts thought by some that no model of Solomon’s Temple had remained.”(From the Adam Clarke commentary) God knew that the people needed hope – and that the Temple was central to that in many ways. The detail of what is shared is so impressive to me. I often fall into the thinking that God is a big picture God – too busy to worry about the details. How wrong that is. When we were in NYC this weekend, we saw the exhibit called Bodies. There is no doubt that God is a God of detail. The complexity of how He created man, in His own image, is mind boggling. This description of the detail of the Temple is mind boggling to me. God wants this detail recorded and provided to His people to give them hope and assurance that He has already sweat the small stuff. The walls line up, the measurements are in sync, the Temple will stand and be rebuilt. He has that same detail for you and me. He knows every little fact and understands each situation at a level that is far deeper than we often think about it. God has it under control. He is intimately aware of everything in our lives. We need to connect with Him understanding that. He cares about the little things that bother us. He cares down to the detail level about our lives. We should never think He is uninterested and doesn’t have time. While it is true that sometimes as humans we don’t want to be involved in each others lives at the detail level, God is not like that. He has us “measured” and is ready to dig in. We just need to let Him!
Ezekiel 41 contains the details about the inside of the Temple as revealed to Ezekiel. Anyone who thinks God is not a God interested in details needs to read this section of scripture. It is down to the inch and gives a very specific design of what God intended. God does care about the little stuff in our lives. I have always liked the saying “don’t sweat the small stuff” but that should not be confused to mean that God doesn’t care about the small stuff – He does. He cares about every aspect of your life and mine. He cares about the birds of the air and the insects on your windshield. OK – maybe not the insects – will have to ask that when I get to heaven. But He has all those details in His hand and under His control. We need to have faith in that and trust Him. Had a conversation yesterday with a young man about faith. He shared that he has never really trusted anyone other than himself, because he has no control over anything or anyone but himself. Trust is a difficult thing for us to learn. No human is likely worthy of it, but our God is absolutely trustworthy. The thing we have to keep in perspective is that trust cannot be based on perfection of any person – all will let us down at some point. God alone will be the only One whom we can have complete confidence in and know will never fail us!
Ezekiel begins to share a vision that God has revealed to him. I love how this story begins. Realize they are now “twenty-five” years in exile – sometimes we think God moves too slowly but in reality we have no idea just how patient is the God we serve. He does not work on your time or mine. He works on His time. Check out what Ezekiel says as he begins this chapter recording the vision God is giving him: “God touched me”. I love that. Reminds me of the song I sang many times when younger: “He touched me, oh, He touched me, and oh the joy the floods my soul. Something happened and now I know, He touched me and made me whole”. God is in the touching business. He did it to Ezekiel and many others in the Bible, but He does it every day to you, me and those around us. The question is – do we recognize His touch. Often God’s touch is gentle, a small tap on the shoulder, a gentle push to get us moving. Sometimes we ignore it – we don’t want to do what God is encouraging us to do so we pretend it didn’t come from Him or wasn’t actually a touch at all. Do you avoid God’s touch – His leading in your life? God desires us to be connected and paying attention to what He is up to. He wants to use us to make a difference in the world we live in. Life is not a vacation….contrary to what some of us think….God has serious work for us to do here while we breathe and take up space. So we need to be tuned in and plugged in to the source and get direction from Him. He gives Ezekiel the details of the Temple and courtyard area – down to the direction rooms face and the size and space involved. Don’t ever get the idea that God doesn’t have a plan – detailed and well designed. He does and we need to seek Him so we can understand what that plan is. Will He always share the details in a vision like He does here with Ezekiel? Well it doesn’t always work like that in my life. But I know God does have a plan and I find He often gives me pieces of it along the way – probably because He knows I am not paying attention well enough to remember more than the next step anyway. God is touching you – can you feel it? Do you recognize His touch? Oh how much He wants us to know that still quiet voice and that very gentle touch. Much more fun than when He has to touch us with a 2X4 to the side of the head. So pay attention, plug in, and let God touch you today!