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Now as we get to chapter 44, we come to a prophecy that is so often misinterpreted. And I must confess to you that I have often misinterpreted this prophecy. And as I read it more carefully and have read it more carefully this time, and this is one of the problems I have with this last portion of Ezekiel, that every time I read it I seem to see something else that I didn't quite understand before and my whole views have to change again.
But he brought me back to the way of the gate of the outward sanctuary which looks toward the east; and it was shut ( Ezekiel 44:1 ).
Now, you go over to Jerusalem today and the east gate of the wall of Jerusalem is shut. It has been walled shut. There are big stones, and the gate is shut. And they will often point to this gate and declare to you that this gate being shut is actually the fulfillment of Ezekiel 44 . And that this gate is shut and it's going to be shut until the prince comes to enter through the gate. But if you'll read the whole thing carefully, you'll come to, first of all, the realization that the prince here is not Jesus Christ. For as we move along a little further, the prince has sons who he gives his inheritance to. The prince is mentioned some thirteen times here and he will be a prince, but not as we so often have thought of as Jesus Christ. The gate that is here shut is open for the prince. He uses it as an entry and as an exit, that is the gate towards the east, and it's only for his entrance into the court. Those others who come in come from the gates to the north and the south. But it is not the gate that is called today the Golden Gate on the east wall of the ancient wall of Jerusalem.
Now, the reason why that gate is closed and walled up is someone misinterpreted this prophecy a long time ago. Of the prince or the Messiah coming in through the east gate and they thought that they would hinder His coming by sealing up that gate towards the east. But as I read this more carefully, I find that this is the gate to the sanctuary. It will be in this new temple and it is the gate into the sanctuary itself, and thus cannot be that gate towards the east that you find blocked over there. And I suggest that you read this again more carefully. Now, I found this a great disappointment, because I love to point out that gate to the people and read to them this prophecy out of Ezekiel, and show to them how, "Look, it's sealed, it's shut, and it's going to remain that way until the Messiah the Prince enters in."
But the prince here is not referred to as the Messiah, nor is he referred to as David. Now in other places we do have the Prince David and the reference there and the prince definitely there is Jesus Christ. But this prince is never referred to as David here in the forty-fourth chapter onward. And it speaks much about the prince, and as I say it speaks of his sons to whom he gives an inheritance and his servants. And that pretty much precludes Jesus Christ as the prince.
But as we read it, "He brought me back to the way of the gate of the outward sanctuary and it looks toward the east; and it was shut."
Then said the LORD unto me; This gate shall be shut, it is not to be opened, and no man shall enter in by it; because the LORD the God of Israel hath entered in by it, therefore it shall be shut ( Ezekiel 44:2 ).
The glory of the Lord entered in by the east gate and for that reason it was to be shut.
But it is for the prince; the prince, he shall sit in it to eat bread before the LORD; he shall enter by the way of the porch of the gate, and he shall go out by the way of the same. And then he brought me to the way of the north gate before the house: and I looked, and, behold, the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD: and I fell on my face ( Ezekiel 44:3-4 ).
So coming around to this gate to the north as Ezekiel looked in, even as the glory of the Lord filled the temple of Solomon, so the glory of the Lord filled the temple area, and Ezekiel falls upon his face.
And the LORD said unto me, Son of man, mark well, and behold with your eyes, and hear with your ears all that I say concerning all of the ordinances of the house of the LORD, and all of the laws thereof; and mark well the entering in of the house, with every going forth of the sanctuary ( Ezekiel 44:5 ).
So he's told now by the Lord to make a careful account of this, mark it well.
Thou shalt say to the rebellious, even to the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; O ye house of Israel, let it suffice you of all your abominations, In that ye have brought into my sanctuary strangers, who were uncircumcised in heart, and uncircumcised in flesh ( Ezekiel 44:6-7 ),
Paul the apostle speaks about circumcision of the heart. And many times people who go through a ritual that has a symbolism soon begin to trust in the ritual, but there is no reality. And thus it is a meaningless ritual. The ritual of circumcision was actually to speak of a people who were not living after the flesh but living after the spirit. The cutting off of the flesh, and so it was the denial of the flesh life to live the life of the spirit. But the rite itself did not guarantee that. Many people who had gone through the rite of circumcision were still living after the flesh. And so the whole ritual was totally negated by the fact that they were living after the flesh.
Now the ritual of baptism is to signify that your old man was crucified and you're living the new life after Jesus Christ. The old man after the flesh is dead; he's buried in the waters of baptism and now you have a whole new life in the spirit. But the ritual is totally meaningless if after the baptism you are still living after the flesh, the old life of the flesh and after the nature of the old man. And I don't care how many ways or times you've been baptized; it's only a ritual and it becomes a meaningless ritual unless there is the reality that has been carried through in your life. And so the important thing is not if you've experienced the ritual, but have you experienced the reality of which the ritual is a symbol.
And so he speaks here of the uncircumcision of the heart and Paul picks that up in the book of Romans showing to the Jews that the rite of circumcision was totally negated by the fact that they were still living after the flesh, for God wants the circumcision of the heart, not of the flesh. And it's the circumcision of the heart that counts. That is, what has gone on within your heart is what really matters to God, not what you've done in outward rituals. And this is where people today who are trusting in rituals are in great danger. Because it could be just a meaningless thing that you have gone through. And the church has many rituals that become totally meaningless unless there is the corresponding reality in your life. The ritual means nothing apart from the reality that has happened in your life.
So you say, "Well, I take communion." So. "I've been baptized." So. Those are marvelous rituals. They are very meaningful rituals if the truth has been actualized in your own experience. But there are many people that are just trusting in the fact that they have taken the communion so my sins are washed. Or I've been baptized so I'm a new creature. But there's got to be a corresponding reality in our lives.
And so God is speaking against these that have come in before Him uncircumcised in their hearts and in their flesh. And so in this future temple there will be nothing allowed in that defiles or that is defiled.
Now there's an interesting thing to me as we get down to verse Ezekiel 44:17 .
It shall come to pass, that [that is when the priests] enter in at the gates of the inner court, they shall be clothed with linen garments; and no wool shall come upon them, while they minister in the gates of the inner court, and within ( Ezekiel 44:17 ).
So once they come into that inner court, the area where the priests came to minister to the Lord the offering and the sacrifices and so forth, there was to be only linen garments worn, no wool.
They shall have on linen bonnets upon their heads, linen breeches upon their loins; they shall not gird themselves with any thing that causes sweat ( Ezekiel 44:18 ).
Now that to me is extremely interesting. God really doesn't want you to sweat when you're serving Him. But perspiration is quite often a sign of the lack of inspiration. And when you don't have inspiration quite often you need perspiration to get through. Now, Jesus said, "My yoke is easy; My burden is light" ( Matthew 11:30 ). One thing God never wants is that man complaining of his service or what he has given to God. That is why the New Testament teaches us that you are to determine in your own heart what you're to give. No one should be pressuring you, pushing you, exciting you to give. But every man should determine in his own heart that which he is going to give to the Lord and then he should give to God with a joyful heart or with a hilarious spirit. For God loves a hilarious giver. God wants you to be hilarious over everything you've given to Him. He never wants you to be begrudging or griping about what you've given. God doesn't want any service that requires sweat.
God doesn't want any complaining over what has been given to Him. Therefore, if you cannot give to God hilariously you would be better off not giving at all. Especially if you find yourself complaining or griping about what you have given to God. What an insult to God that I would go around complaining or griping about what I gave.
That is why we are extremely careful here never to try to excite people to give to God or even to encourage people to give to God. In fact, you notice you who were at the third service I think it was this morning when Mark was making the announcements after he said, "The ushers will now come to ta..receive the offering." I've told the young men, "Now look, we don't take offerings from people. We receive offerings." We'll be glad to receive what you want to give to God, but we're not going to take anything from you. We don't want to take anything from you. If you want to give to God we'll receive it, but it's completely up to you what God has laid upon your heart. There'll never be any pressures for pledges or anything else, because that is something between you and God. And when you give it to God, you should be giving it hilariously, happily, joyfully unto the Lord, and that the Lord accepts and will bless you for it. But He doesn't want you going out of here saying, "Ohhh, I don't know what I'm going to do. I've given so much to God. Ohhh." God just can't stand that, and He doesn't want that kind of giving. Nor does He want pressured service, where I'm under a pressure; I'm sweating as I'm serving God. So it's very significant to me that they are to wear only linen. They are not to wear anything that would cause sweat.
Now when they go out to the people then they change their garments. And the garments that they ministered in, they lay them there in the holy chambers.
Now neither are they to shave their heads, nor allow their locks to grow long; they shall only poll their heads. Neither shall any priest drink wine, when he enters into the inner court ( Ezekiel 44:20-21 ).
Again, God does not want service under any false stimulant. We remember when the tabernacle was first erected there in the wilderness and the fire of God came and kindled the coals on the altar and the sacrifice was consumed. An exciting moment because here was spontaneous combustion. They had set the sacrifice upon the altar, they were ready to institute the whole thing when fire came from God and the altar was kindled. An exciting moment because the glory of God ascended upon the tabernacle. And all of the people fell on their faces when they saw this and it was a glorious, exciting moment. God manifested His presence in the midst of the people. And the two sons of Aaron grabbed their little censors and they put incense in them and they went to offer incense before the Lord, but they lit their censors with fire that God called strange fire. And the fire came out from the altar and the two sons of Aaron were killed, were consumed by the fire that came from the altar. And then the Lord in instructing Moses said, "Tell Aaron and his sons that they are not to drink wine when they come or before they come to offer before the Lord the sacrifice or when the come before the Lord to serve." Not to be drinking wine. Because God does not want service out of any kind of a false stimulant. God wants your mind to be totally clear. I know what I'm doing. I'm not being falsely stimulated as I am serving God.
I know that God has forgiven me, but I am guilty of having stimulated people to serve God with false stimulants. I used to offer to the children bicycles if they would bring so many to Sunday school. The one who brings the most will get a free trip to Disneyland. And I used to offer all kinds of incentives to get the kids to hustle their friends into Sunday school. And these incentives that I was offering to the children were actually false stimulants and I was guilty of offering these kind of false incentives for serving God. The only incentive that God wants you to serve Him with is the incentive of a heart of love. Paul said, "For the love of Christ constrains me." And the only real service that God will accept from you is that service that comes from a heart of love. That's the only stimulant any of us should ever need. We sing the chorus, "I will serve You because I love You," and that's what it's all about. That's the stimulant for serving God. God doesn't want you to serve Him under any other stimulant. He doesn't want you to serve Him in order that you might please the pastor or please the committee chairman, or please the board or whatever. He wants you to serve him only because you love Him. And that is why we have steered so totally away from any kind of contests or anything else that would create a false stimulant for people to serve God. That's why we never ask people to serve God.
So many times people come up and they say, "We've been coming to Calvary for a long time and we used to be involved in church and we love teaching Sunday school. How do you get to... how do you become a Sunday school teacher here?" And we say, "Well, you just found out. You have to ask." No one's going to come asking you putting a Sunday school book in your hand and saying, "Would you please teach our second graders in the third service?" If you want to serve the Lord there are plenty of opportunities for you to serve Him, but no one's going to be pressuring you or pushing you to do it. God's got to do that work in your heart and you're going to serve Him out of your love for Him. And that way we don't have to be kickin' everybody week by week to keep them going. We don't have to be pushing.
I went back to Lubbock, Texas and pastored... or not pastored, I ministered for a week or so in a southern Baptist church in Lubbock. And the pastor back there said something I thought was extremely interesting. He said, "We decided to let every program die a natural death." He said, "We decided to take off the artificial systems and let everything die that couldn't survive on its own. We weren't going to keep things going with artificial support systems." He said, "We've been doing that for too many years." And they just allowed all of the programs in the church to die that just didn't carry with their own momentum. I thought that was extremely wise. Pretty much we do the same thing here. We do not have any artificial life support systems by which we're keeping any programs alive. And we're very blunt and plain about it. If God wants something to go it'll go. He's able to make it go and we're not going to try and push it when God's trying to kill it. Let it die a natural death with dignity and don't keep the thing going with these artificial supports.
So the priests were not to drink any wine when they entered into the inner court. And their wives,
They were not to take a wife who was a widow, nor her who had been divorced: but they shall take maidens [or virgins] from the house of Israel, or a widow whose husband was a priest. And they shall teach my people the difference between the holy and the profane ( Ezekiel 44:22-23 ),
This is something that we were talking about this morning, how important it is for us to discern between what is holy and what is profane. And that's the ministry of the priests. They were to cause them, the people, to discern these things.
In any controversies they would stand in judgment; and judge according to my judgments: they shall keep my laws and statutes in all my assemblies; and they shall hallow my sabbaths ( Ezekiel 44:24 ).
And it goes on to give the laws and all respecting the priests there in the Kingdom Age.
They shall not receive any inheritance; for the LORD is their inheritance ( Ezekiel 44:28 ):
Much as the priests were at the time of Joshua when they came into the land. "
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Ezekiel 44". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany