The first three verses of this chapter bring the prophet to review something that he had already surveyed; for although we have often looked into the things of God, they can always endure to be looked over again – for there is such a copiousness in them! Every time we review the sacred fabric of holy things in the Scriptures, we shall still find something new which we never took notice of before. The prophet is brought for the third time to the east gate of the spiritual Temple, and finds it shut; and the account that is given of this gate’s being shut puts honor upon the God of Israel. This was the gate through which His glory entered when He took possession of the house; and ever afterwards, it was kept shut, and no man was allowed to enter in by it. The reason for this gate being shut while the others remained open was so that the people would remember the solemn entrance of the glory of the Lord into the house, and so that their minds would have a reverence for the Divine Majesty. Let us give thanks that Christ, our Great High Priest, has entered into and opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers!
In verses 4-9, the prophet is told words that were very similar to what we had in the beginning of chapter 43. Here, as before, he sees the house filled with the glory of the Lord – which strikes an awe upon him, so that he falls down flat on his face at the sight; for that is the humblest posture of adoration, and the expression of holy awe. The Lord charged Ezekiel to take a very particular notice of all that he saw, and all that was said to him. And then He sent the prophet on an errand to the rebellious people of Israel. What a beautiful example of God’s rich mercy! Although they had been rebellious, yet – since they were the house of Israel – He did not cast them off; but rather, He sent an ambassador to them, to invite and encourage them to return to Him. The whole human race has fallen under the same character that was here given of the house of Israel; but our Lord Jesus, when He ascended on high, received gifts for men – yes, even for the rebellious also, so that the Lord God might dwell among them! (Ps. 68:18)
In verses 10-16, the Lord – as the Master of His house – takes account of His servants, the priests. He sees who are fit to be turned out of their places, and who are to be kept in; and He deals with them accordingly. Those priests who had gone astray from God after their idols, and caused the house of Israel to fall into iniquity, and led them to sin and hardened them in it – they were justly put under the mark of God’s displeasure. They were sentenced to be demoted from their office of the priesthood; yet there is a mixture of mercy in this sentence, for they were put down into the position of ordinary Levites, so that they might still serve the Lord in some of the other lesser duties of the Temple. As for the priests who had remained faithful to Jehovah, they were honored and established. God will put marks of honor upon those who give proofs of their faithfulness and constancy to Him in the midst of times of general apostacy. If we keep close to God, He will keep us close to Him!
The rest of the chapter (verses 17-31) lays down rules for the priests to govern themselves by, and encouragement is given to them to live up to those rules. Directions are here given concerning several things, and the first was respecting their clothes. The priests were to wear linen garments when they went in to minister or do any service in the inner court; and nothing that was woolen, because it would cause sweat. They must dress themselves so that they would remain cool, in order that they might go about their work more readily – especially because they were to attend the altars, which had constant fires upon them. And they must also dress themselves clean and fresh, and avoid everything that was sweaty and filthy, to signify the purity of mind with which the service of God is to be attended to. Sweat came in with sin, and was part of the curse; and therefore, the priests must dress in clothing that was as light as possible, so that it would not cause sweat. When they had finished their service, they were to change into their ordinary clothes again, and lay aside their linen garments in the chambers that had been appointed for that purpose (verse 19; chapter 42:14). They were forbidden to go among the people with their holy garments on, lest the people should imagine themselves to be sanctified by touching them.
Other directions for the priests to govern their lives by were in relation to their hair, their diet, their marriages, their leadership among God’s people, and their support. It was part of the priests’ work to bless their people in the name of the Lord – not only their congregations in general, but also their families in particular. The comfort and prosperity of any house and family must have the blessing of God upon them and resting among them. And the way to have the Lord’s blessing abide upon our homes and possessions is to honor Him with them, and to give Him and His ministers their rightful share out of them. The Lord surely blesses the habitations of those who are just (Prov. 3:33). And ministers, by instructing and praying for the families that are kind to them and support them, should do their part toward causing the Divine blessing to rest upon them!
Lord Jesus, thank You for making us kings and priests to the Father, by Your own blood. Help us to live accordingly and pursue holiness in our daily lives! Amen.
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illustration by LUMO – The Gospels for the visual age | Lightstock.com