PRIESTS IN GOD’S TEMPLE

Rom 15:4; 1Cor 10:11  For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we, through the patience and the comfort of the Scriptures, might have hope; our example at the end of the age  

Last week we looked at an overview of the Temple, from the days of the Tabernacle in the wilderness through the two temples in Jerusalem,  on to the present time of the persons who are born-again and the Body of Messiah as being God’s Temple in the Spirit, and on into the Millennial Kingdom when the Scriptures seem to indicate that there will be another physical temple in Jerusalem, and ultimately into eternity when the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are seen as being the Temple.  The whole new creation and all that is in it will be holiness!  

God gives us these visions of the future – He gives us these prophecies – to encourage us and ‘push us’ into going on to attain the goal and obtain the prize.  For the Lord, our growth is measured spiritually.  The Word of God and the Holy Spirit do reprove and correct us in the light of the future, so that in the present we would sanctify ourselves by His truth and righteousness, ceasing to do evil and learning to do good 

The last nine chapters of the book of Ezekiel describe in great detail what can only be understood as referring to the time when the Kingdom of God is restored to Israel once the Lord Jesus Christ has returned to save His people and to judge the nations.  In these chapters, there is also a section pertaining to the priesthood as YHVH God ordains it in accord with His righteousness and His grace.   

Ezek 44:10-14; 2Ki 23:8-9   And the Levites who went far from Me, when Israel went astray, who strayed away from Me after their idols, they shall bear their iniquity.  Yet they shall be ministers in My sanctuary, gatekeepers of the house and ministers of the house; they shall slay the burnt offering and the sacrifice for the people, and they shall stand before them to minister to them.  Because they ministered to them before their idols and caused the house of Israel to fall into iniquity, therefore I have raised My hand in an oath against them, says YHVH God, that they shall bear their iniquity.  And they shall not come near Me to minister to Me as priest, nor come near My holy things, nor into the Most Holy, but they shall bear their shame and their abominations which they have committedBut I will let them keep charge of the temple, for all its service, and for all that has to be done in it.   

Ezek 44:15-16; 1Chr 29:22; 2Sam 8:17; 1Kg 1:34   But the priest, the Levites, the sons of Zadok, who kept charge of My sanctuary when the children of Israel went astray from Me, they shall come near Me to minister to Me; and they shall stand before Me to offer to Me the fat and the blood, says YHVH God.

We see here that the Levites, except for the family of Zadok, are appointed to keep guard and do the service of the Temple, but not to function as priests.  In God’s government, He has kept them out from this higher place because of their previous history, when they followed the people into idolatry, and were a stumbling block of iniquity instead of resisting the evil coming into the worship of the true God.  It had been their responsibility to instruct the people the laws of the covenant which established their relationship with YHVH.  God will take into account our past, and we will suffer loss if we depart from His revealed will, even though we are still personally safe in our salvation.  God’s grace does not set aside His righteousness and righteous judgment and evaluation of our spiritual character.  We reap what we sow.  

This lesson we see here in the case of the Levites.  They would ‘bear their iniquity and their shame’ as they fulfilled their service, and would be an example to the whole nation of their past sin, in which the Levites had participated.  At the same time, they would be thanking and praising the Lord for His grace and mercy shown to them!  Eli and King David examples:  to whom much is given, more is required.

This same principle of God’s righteous government is seen in the priests of Zadok’s descendants.  He (they) had remained faithful when Israel departed from YHVH, and now in the coming day of Messiah’s Kingdom, God gives them the nearest place.  Their past faithfulness receives its reward.  

The difference between the Levites and the Priests (Cohanim) is that the former stand before the people and minister to them under God’s authority, while the priests minister to YHVH, stand before Him, and enter the sanctuary.  This holy privilege of going into God’s presence and of fellowship with Him at His table is characteristic of the priestly role.  (In Israel, all cohanim are Levites; not all Levites are cohanim.  In Messiah, all are priests after the order of Melchizedek, not of Levi and Aaron.)  

The letters from the exalted and glorified Lord to His churches express the truth that believers will be judged for our works, whether good or evil.  Some use what talents and gifts God has given them more or less profitably than others.  Paul wrote to the Philippians that he wanted to so know Christ that he would have part in the [first] resurrection from among the dead.  Those who are ‘good and faithful servants’, like Zadok, serve in the presence of the Lord; those who are not, but are yet the Lord’s, will suffer loss of privilege.  

Ezek 44:20-31   God’s view of the priestly features during the Millennial Kingdom.  What do they have to do with us now as believers in Jesus and the New Covenant?  

Ezekiel was a priest, and also a prophet.  God gave Ezekiel to see all the sins and abominations which Israel – especially as represented by the priesthood – had committed against YHVH and His covenant.  Just as Paul wrote Timothy in order to bring correction and order into the local churches, so, too, did Ezekiel write to Israel and her leaders what the holy God requires and expects from His chosen people.  Both Israel and the Church are called to be a Kingdom of Priests.  

Habits and Relationships   

MODERATION regarding Hair

Ezek 44: 20; Ex 9:32 כסם spelt – wheat- with short ‘hair’; Lev 21:5; Dt 14:1; 2Sam 14:25-26 (Absalom); 2Kg 2:23 (Elisha);
Is 3:17,24; 15:2 (baldness a judgment upon women’s beauty; shame upon men); Num 6:5 (Nazirite); 1Cor 11:14-15;
1Pt 3:3-6; Rev 9:8a
‘They shall neither shave their heads, nor let their hair grow long, but they shall keep their hair well trimmed.’  

I heard a radio interview recently with a famous hairdresser who was helping women who had lost their hair from chemotherapy recover their dignity and identity by making them wigs from real hair that people donated for the cause.  He said that a woman’s identity is in her hair.  I think if men are honest, we look in the mirror to see if our head/hair looks the way we want it, too!  

Hair has an important place in the Bible.  For one who was a Nazirite (not to be confused with Nazarene), his long hair signified lowly dependence upon God, which is the proper attitude of a ‘creature’, and separation and withdrawal from the things of the flesh and what stimulates it, such as wine. (Num 6)  Baldness was a sign of mourning the loss of a close relative, and also a form of judgment from God for sinfulness.  In the New Testament hair is used to show the relative place of man and woman in the divine order – the short hair of the man indicating his headship and responsibility to rule; the long hair of the woman that of her dependence, yet helpfulness, which completes the man.  So we can see that hair is a sign of separation in devotedness to God, a symbol that all that we are is brought into subjection to God’s will, and so of obedience to His order for us in whatever sphere of relation or influence we may be placed.  We know that there are examples of extreme asceticism, on the one hand, which dishonors the ‘creature’ of God, and, on the other hand, of turning the grace of God into being loose in morals, appearance, or behavior.  Neither of these extremes is of God.  This rule for the priests seems to be a guard to avoid these fleshly extremes.  (Grant/Bloor)
   –to look normal – not extreme; moderate, modest; male/masculine
   —not [intentionally] bald like pagan priests, such as in Buddhism, nor as an expression of mourning which would render the priest unclean to perform his priestly duties
   —not long, with pride in themselves, like Absalom, or like barbarians in war; neither as a vow that could prevent the priest from serving (a Nazirite vow was more severe than priestly restrictions)
   —Scriptures inspired by Holy Spiritcut the hair, not shave as is customary amongst mourners

*For sure, if the Holy Spirit says in the N.T. that long hair on a man is a dishonor to him, then those who would be priests/overseers – ‘nearest’ to God in service and held responsible for their spiritual faithfulness – would be instructed regarding their hair length and ‘style’.  It is also certain that neither would the Son of God have had ‘long hair’, for He always honored His Father and God.  

   WHY?
Lev 21:5-6   They shall be holy to their God and not profane the name of their God, for they offer the offerings of YHVH made by fire, food of their God; therefore they shall be holy.
             –What MESSAGE do we give to those who ‘read’ us by our hair, face, clothing  

Heb 13:12-16   Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate.  Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp [of any other religion or culture] bearing His reproach [of being despised and rejected, of being made a scapegoat].  For here [in the world] we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come.  Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.  But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well  pleased.  

Rom 12:1-2   I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrificeholy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service;  to know God’s good, acceptable, and perfect will Paul is beseeching us by God’s mercies!  Do we realize the sinful condition not only out of which He saved us, but, with Israel as our example, the terrible state to which the Church has descended in maintaining God’s honor and His character that He wants in His people, and especially in those who are His priests, serving Him in His Temple?!  

Rom 11:33-36   God’s purpose for us is first this:  We are to glorify God by our faith and obedience to the Son of God, of whom and through whom and to whom are all things 

God’s thoughts are clearly not like ours!

What does our hair say about who we are in our relationship to God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ?

SOBRIETY

Ezek 44: 21; Lev 10:8-11; Eph 5:17-18; 1Tim 3:2-3; Tit 1:7
‘No priest shall drink wine when he enters the inner court.’
   –not to drink alcohol before performing service to God or to teach His statutes
   –to have control over one’s faculties to honor God and to know what is acceptable and what is not
   —priests are to exercise clear discernment of what is or is not according to the mind and nature of God
   –our judgment of things needs to be sobered by the reality of God’s holy sanctuary and not by what seems to determine success or suitability outside (Ps 73 

PURITY in Marriage

Ezek 44: 22; Lev 21:7-9, 13-15; Mal 2:16; 1Cor 7:8-16, 39; Mt 5:31-32; 19: 3-9; Mk 10:2-9; 1Tim 3:2-5; Tit 1:6
‘They shall not take as wife a widow or a divorced woman, but take virgins of the descendants of the house of Israel, or widows of priests.’
   –divorce a result of a hard heart, and God hates it, even if He ‘allows’ it
      –marry a believer (in Christ all are priests) and honor the Lord’s admonitions regarding divorce and remarriage
   –a guard for those who serve the Lord against giving in to mere passion or in being unconcerned in forming the most sacred and important of all human relationships
   –Children, honor your mother and your father by not having sexual relationships before marriage!
      –Our father’s reputation is affected
      –To be eligible under the Law and under the New Covenant Law for the Millennial, only virgin women are suitable for marriage to a priest
      —(Rev 14:3-4)  God is going to seal 144,000 virgin men, those who have not defiled themselves with women
   –Under the grace of the present age, if we have sinned in ignorance and afterwards confess the sin as sin, then God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us! (1Jn 1:9-10 

Those who grow up in a priestly family — that is, a household where especially both parents are believers in Yeshua as the Messiah and the Son of God – have a calling on their life from early on.  If it is in your heart to serve the one true God in truth, then you will take to heart His requirements of personal and practical holiness.  

Priests are to show by their habits and life a good witness for God on the basis of the holiness of the blood sacrifice which allows us access into His presence.  Having our own life ‘in order’, we are better equipped to fill our priestly responsibility of serving others in the work of teaching and judgment.  How can we be godly examples to the flock and have moral authority to instruct them in the holy things of God if we are like those described in Rom 1:28, 32?: 

“And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting. . ., who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.”  

SERVICE TOWARDS THE PEOPLE FOR GOD: Teaching

Ezek 44: 23; Lev 10:3, 8-11; Neh 8:7-8; Mt 28: 18-20; Eph 4:11-15; Acts 17:11; Rev 3:8
‘And they shall teach My people between the holy and the unholy, and cause them to know between the unclean and the clean.’  Discipleship is bringing believers to know for themselves how to live in accordance with the teachings of the Lord and His apostles, given to us in the Scriptures.
   –doctrine and hypocrisy of the religious/political authorities:  Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes, Herodians
        Mt 16:1-12; 21 – 23; Mk 8:11-15; Lk 11:28-53; 12:1   have keys kingdom, but keep themselves and others out   

Judging, Oversight

v. 24; Ex 18:19-23; Dt 16:19; Ex 20:8-11; Lev 23; Mt 7:1-5; Jn 7:24; 1Cor 5:9-13; 6:1-6
‘In controversy they shall stand as judges, and judge according to My judgments.  They shall keep My laws and My statutes in all My appointed times, and they shall hallow My Sabbaths.’
   —Judge with righteous judgment, not with partiality, nor taking a bribe to pervert justice, nor by appearances.   Judgment is to be based upon God’s authority:  His will be done.
   –who is competent/sufficient for these things! 2Cor 2:16
   —Observe and care for each of the appointed times with their own regulations to be followed for worship Lev 16; 23; Dt 12:12-15; 16:1-15
       –the Lord’s Supper (1Cor 11:23-32) – maintaining God’s holiness and the Father’s grace
   —the Sabbath a covenant sign between YHVH God and Israel (Ex 31:13-17)
       –the first day of the week/ the day after the Sabbath (Lev 23:11,15; Mt 28:1; Mk 16:9; Jn 20:19-23; Acts 20:7; 1Cor 16:2)

SEPARATION FROM DEFILEMENT as to the Dead, their Inheritance, their Food 

Ezek 44: 25-27; Lev 11:31; 21:1-4; Mt 22:9-13; Lk 10:30-32; 2Cor 6:14-18; 7:1; Gal 2:19; 1Pt 1:13-16; Rev 21:22-27
‘They shall not defile themselves by coming near a dead person.  Only for father or mother, for son or daughter, for brother or unmarried sister may they defile themselves.  After he is cleansed, they shall count seven days for him.  And on the day that he goes to the sanctuary to minister in the sanctuary, he must offer his sin offering in the inner court, says YHVH God.’

   –Even in cases where being connected with death was permitted, cleansing was required.  Death is the remedy for the defilement which death brings in as the penalty of sin!  The wages of sin is death.
     –The Law makes no one righteous: it only requires duty and condemns us for sin and for sins.  The Levite in the story of the ‘good Samaritan’ may have obeyed the letter of the Law for priests not to come near a [possibly] dead body, and so become defiled/unclean; but the Spirit of the Law is “love your neighbor as yourself”, and had the priest acted with that overriding concern, the Law provided a sacrifice to restore him to his holy and religious duties cleansed from his [potential] defilement.

   –We can only come into God’s presence with liferesurrection life after the accepted death of the acceptable sacrifice which paid the penalty for sin.
   –Be holy, for YHVH is holy!
   –do not be defiled by bonding with those – apart from close relatives – who are spiritually dead or unclean
     –a sister marries into the family of her husband (consider also Ps 45:10-11 [11-12 Heb])
   –No one and no thing that is defiled with death will enter the holy city of the New Jerusalem!   

GOD IS OUR INHERITANCE!

Ezek 44: 28-30; Gen 15:1; Lev 7:28-36; Num 18:8-14, 20-32; 1Cor 9:13-14; 1Tim 5:17-18
‘It shall be, in regard to their inheritance, I am their inheritance.  You shall give them no possession in Israel, for I am their possession.  They shall eat the grain offering, the sin offering, and the trespass offering; every dedicated thing [to YHVH] in Israel shall be theirs.  The best of all firstfruits of any kind, and every sacrifice of any kind from all your sacrifices, shall be the priests’; also you shall give to the priest the first of your ground meal, to cause a blessing to rest on your house.’
   –the priests received the best of all things:  YHVH Himself and all that is His
   –those who minister the holy things of the Temple – those who preach the gospel – should live from the offerings of the people.  The laborer is worthy of his wages.
   –living by faith:  Yeshua is our portion and inheritance!  We are joint heirs together with Him!  

FOOD SANCTIFIED UNTO YHVH GOD

Ezek 44: 31; Lev 11:39-40; 17:15-16; 22:8; Acts 15:29; 1Tim 4:3-5
 ‘The priests shall not eat anything, bird or beast, that died naturally or was torn.’  
     —The Lord has sanctified us to keep His ordinances.  We are not to eat (also in spiritual sense) that which has no life – no freshness or which may carry disease or other decay – nor which has been mauled, or treated without dignity – its innards exposed and contaminated.
       –This applies to all of God’s people, not only to the Levites and Priests    

     –The food of the priests was that which was offered to YHVH by the people:  His portion became the priests.  The people were to give healthy animals for sacrifices to God, and the priests received their portion from this.  

     –Yeshua said that He is our food.  He is our Life.  

     –He was killed on the cross, but not left there to be torn by birds or beasts, and lovingly carried away to be buried in a clean place (a new grave).  

To love the Lord is to obey Him with a willing heart to honor HIM over receiving the approval of men.

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