Further Principles of Holy Living

Text Ezekiel 45 Time 15/02/09 Place Childs Hill Baptist Church

We are looking at the final chapters of Ezekiel. These are difficult chapters to read and to understand. As we have said, one of our difficulties with these chapters is that though they are speaking chiefly of the New Covenant or New Testament era in which we now live, they are written entirely in language and forms appropriate to the Old Covenant or Old Testament period. We suggested last time that it's a little like the difference between how a child might express himself and how an adult would or how you might write for a child and how you might write for an adult.
In Ezekiel 45, Ezekiel is writing about the dividing up of the Promised Land, about ephahs and baths and shekels and about sacrifices and offerings and Passover – but once again he is really talking about the holiness of God's people. So many things have changed since Ezekiel's day but, as we said before, both as individual Christians and corporately as God's people, we are to be a holy priesthood and temple.
Last time we spoke from Chapter 44 of four important principles in the matter of holiness – we spoke of a closed door principle, an exclusion principle, and idolatry principle and a priestly principle. This week we want to speak from Chapter 45 of three more important principles of holiness. I remind you that without holiness no-one will see God. We must get this right. These three principles will help us.
1. The centring principle - Keep central things at the centre
In the opening verses of Chapter 45 we begin on the allotting of the promised land. However, the bulk of this is not dealt with until Chapter 47. The first and chief concern is a strip of land that will occupy the Promised Land from the Mediterranean to the Jordan and that includes the city of Jerusalem where the Temple had always been. First, a general point is made and then three specific things are said about this strip of land. We can learn both from the fact that this is where the allotting of the Promised Land begins and from the particular sections that are to be included in this strip. In both cases there are some obvious applications for us today.
1. Consider the general point and the need to keep the Lord central.
The chapter begins with God saying (1) When you allot the land as an inheritance, you are to present to the LORD a portion of the land as a sacred district, 25,000 cubits long and 20,000 cubits wide; the entire area will be holy. At the heart of this new Promised Land then there is to be a large section of land (several miles long ad wide) that is the lord's and that is holy, a sacred district.
God's people are no longer expected to live in one part of the world but rather in every part. It is neither require nor something practicable to set apart holy districts. However, at the heart of every church and every individual life there must be, as it were, a part set off for God -
2. Consider the need to keep these important things central
1 Holy worship
2 Of this sacred district a section 500 cubits square is to be for the sanctuary, with 50 cubits around it for open land. A the heart of the heart of the Promised Land then was the Temple – the place where God was worshipped. @ Always at the the heart of our lives it must be God – at the centre of our thinking, of our living, of all we are and do. The same goes for church life and family life and community and national life. If only it were so.
2 Priestly service
3-5 In the sacred district, measure off a section 25,000 cubits long and 10,000 cubits wide. In it will be the sanctuary, the Most Holy Place. It will be the sacred portion of the land for the priests, who minister in the sanctuary and who draw near to minister before the LORD. It will be a place for their houses as well as a holy place for the sanctuary. An area 25,000 cubits long and 10,000 cubits wide will belong to the Levites, who serve in the temple, as their possession for towns to live in.
@ We have said before that all believers under the new covenant are priests. We must live as priests then. We must so arrange our lives that we can carry on all our priestly duties – prayer, praise, the sacrifice of life and strength – keeping these things always central.
3 People
Are you the sort of person ho has time for people? Do you have time for God's people? In 6 we read You are to give the city as its property an area 5,000 cubits wide and 25,000 cubits long, adjoining the sacred portion; it will belong to the whole house of Israel. We must find time for Christian fellowship – to encourage each other and help each other.
4 The Prince
7, 8a The prince will have the land bordering each side of the area formed by the sacred district and the property of the city. It will extend westward from the west side and eastward from the east side, running lengthwise from the western to the eastern border parallel to one of the tribal portions. This land will be his possession in Israel.
Not all agree on this but we have suggested that the Prince here points us to the Messiah. Again, Christ must be central in our lives as individuals, as families, as a nation, as a church. It is so easy to let other things (good things) become central. $ I like the Navigators' wheel – the various spokes are prayer, Bible intake, witness and fellowship but at the centre, at the hub, is Christ. It has to be that way. In church communion helps us, at home we need to read the Word and pray – alone and with our families, etc.
2. The honesty principle - Turn from violence and oppression and do what is just and right
Having mentioned the Prince in 8a it goes on And my princes will no longer oppress my people but will allow the house of Israel to possess the land according to their tribes. That then leads into a section about doing what is just and right. This is also an obvious element in true holiness. All violence and oppression or anything like it must go and there must be honesty and integrity in its place. The pattern here is negative, positive, negative, positive.
9 This is what the Sovereign LORD says: You have gone far enough, O princes of Israel! Give up your violence and oppression
and do what is just and right.
Stop dispossessing my people, declares the Sovereign LORD.
10-12 You are to use accurate scales, an accurate ephah and an accurate bath. The ephah and the bath are to be the same size, the bath containing a tenth of a homer and the ephah a tenth of a homer; the homer is to be the standard measure for both. The shekel is to consist of 20 gerahs. Twenty shekels plus 25 shekels plus 15 shekels equal one mina.
It is the princes who are in the firing line here as they had a responsibility to make sure weights and measures were accurate. There is a responsibility on government in this area and we should be thankful to God that we live in a country where many of the more obvious abuses are not allowed to take place. Our weights and measures are carefully described and accurately kept. Further, weights have to be marked on certain goods, for example, and be accurate. There are still infringements, however, and dubious tricks. $ Manufacturers know that we realise sugar is not good for us and so when they list ingredients instead of putting sugar first they use different sugars (fructose, glucose, etc) and list them separately so that they come lower down the list! Such things must be guarded against.
@ Personally, we have to be very honest too and be determined not to take advantage of others. Honesty in every area of our lives is so important. Are we being fair and just and honest? Are we showing the integrity we ought to?
Cf Ephesians 4:22ff
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbour, for we are all members of one body. ... He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. ...Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
3. The worship principle - Take the worship of the Lord seriously and look to the Lord
The rest of the chapter talks about the various offerings in the Temple Ezekiel has described. The connection is again the Prince. He has a central role in it all. There is also a connection between weights and measures and the food that is to be used in sacrifice. We all need not only to be honest towards men but honest towards God and worship him. We must take worship seriously.
A number of points are made, firstly about a special gift for the Prince that all must make (13-17) and then about various feasts (18-25).
1. The special gift
This is specified as being (13) a sixth of an ephah from each homer both of wheat and ... barley. To this is added (14) The prescribed portion of oil, measured by the bath, is a tenth of a bath from each cor (which consists of 10 baths or one homer, for 10 baths are equivalent to a homer). Verse 15 Also one sheep is to be taken from every flock of 200 from the well-watered pastures of Israel.
These will be used for the grain offerings, burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to make atonement for the people, declares the Sovereign LORD. All the people of the land will participate in this special gift for the use of the prince in Israel.
A note is then added (17, 18) saying that It will be the duty of the prince to provide the burnt offerings, grain offerings and drink offerings at the festivals, the New Moons and the Sabbaths - at all the appointed feasts of the house of Israel. He will provide the sin offerings, grain offerings, burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to make atonement for the house of Israel.
There is something reciprocal here then – the people must make a gift to the Prince but he is the one who provides the burnt offerings, grain offerings and drink offerings at the festivals, the New Moons and the Sabbaths - at all the appointed feasts of the house of Israel. He will provide the sin offerings, grain offerings, burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to make atonement for the house of Israel.
We must make our lives living sacrifices to Christ it is true. It is often not easy to take up the cross and to follow him, to serve him faithfully as we should. It's hard at times. However, let's never forget that he is the one who provided the sacrifice to make atonement for us. We give him gifts – he gave himself. Glory to his name.
2. Sacrifices for three particular times of the year
These are specified in connection with what the Prince had to supply.
1 New year atonement for the temple
18-20 In the first month on the first day you are to take a young bull without defect and purify the sanctuary. The priest is to take some of the blood of the sin offering and put it on the doorposts of the temple, on the four corners of the upper ledge of the altar and on the gateposts of the inner court. You are to do the same on the seventh day of the month for anyone who sins unintentionally or through ignorance; so you are to make atonement for the temple.
2 Passover
21-24 In the first month on the fourteenth day you are to observe the Passover, a feast lasting 7 days, during which you shall eat bread made without yeast. On that day the prince is to provide a bull as a sin offering for himself and for all the people of the land. Every day during the 7 days of the Feast he is to provide 7 bulls and 7 rams without defect as a burnt offering to the LORD, and a male goat for a sin offering. He is to provide as a grain offering an ephah for each bull and an ephah for each ram, along with a hin of oil for each ephah.
3 Tabernacles/Shavuot
25 During the 7 days of the Feast, which begins in the seventh month on the fifteenth day, he is to make the same provision for sin offerings, burnt offerings, grain offerings and oil.
All such sacrifices remind us of the importance of holy worship. We must live lives of worship. They remind us of the seriousness of this solemn task. Above everything they remind us of the centrality of Christ's atoning sacrifice. Without him and his death we are sunk. Look to him then and worship him.