In that ye have brought into My sanctuary strangers.
The relation of the stranger to the service of the temple
What is reprobated is not of course allowing foreigners to present sacrifices to Jehovah, which they might do (Leviticus 17:10; Leviticus 17:12), but allowing them to officiate in the offering, and in general in the ministry of the sanctuary. This is regarded by the prophet as a profanation of the house, and an infraction of the covenant between Jehovah and Israel. It is the latter from the nature of the case. Israel was the people of the Lord, and His service must be performed by Israel. These heathen were uncircumcised both in flesh and heart; their service was purely mercenary, and without religious reality. (A. B. Davidson, D. D.)
No stranger, uncircumcised in heart, nor uncircumcised in flesh, shall enter into My sanctuary.
God’s care of His altar
Is not this rather severe upon the stranger? The injunction does not rest upon the fact of the strangeness of the stranger, because in Ezekiel 47:22-23 there is a distinct provision for the stranger in Israel. God will therefore have the stranger in Israel have his inheritance, his lot; but when it becomes a question of the altar, God naturally looks round for the Levite. In this case the Levite was not present; the Levite had “gone away.” How had the Levites disqualified themselves? The facts are given in the context and in the text itself. First, in Ezekiel 47:10, they “are gone away.” The man who has exchanged vows with God should always be found in his place. When he goes away it is like high treason in the army; when such a man goes away it is as if a troop had been cut down with the edge of the sword. Gone away far. Observe that next word. It was not a little lapse, one step aside; but “gone away far from Me.” You cannot stop one inch away from God; one inch means two, and two inches mean a foot, and the foot soon grows into furlongs and miles. To what had they gone? They “went astray from Me after their idols.” Here is the prostitution of reason. Here is no theological mystery, but a mystery of daily life,--that a man shall know the true God, and turn away from Him; a man shall know that there is a coming eternity, and yet shall tabernacle himself in the huts of minutes and hours and all the other little details of perishing time. To know the right, and yet the wrong pursue, is the miracle of manhood. But were the Levites without excuse? They had their reasons. There was a general decadence in Israel. In Ezekiel 47:10 we have these awful words--“when Israel went astray.” It was not the movement of a man or two here and there, or of a Levite or a priest, or an eminent legislator or leader; but all Israel in one great mass, as it were, went away, and the Levites went with them. Were not the Levites justified? May we not follow the times? The Lord will not have it so. It is the part of the Levite to stem the torrent of the crowd. It is the part of great statesmen and great writers and great characters to stop others from doing evil, not to go along with them. The Levites should have stood firm, whatever others did. Yet we must not make a perverted use even of this explanation. There God expects every man to be firm, and we only increase in responsibility as we increase in capacity, in opportunity, in faculty, and in profession. Whilst, therefore, it is quite right to expect that certain men should keep the faith and walk in the right way, our expectancy concerning them is no excuse why we ourselves should go wrong. The Lord will not deal with us in crowds, but in individual relationship to Himself, His throne, and His law. What was the result? Were the Levites wholly discharged? No; the word “yet” with which the eleventh verse opens point to an exercise of the Divine clemency that is really wonderful, and it is worth while to indicate this in words, because it continues unto this day. The Lord will never give up a man until the man literally wrenches himself out of the Divine grasp. What became of the errant Levites? First, they were deposed, put down to lower work; degraded, we may say, to the second place; taken down one step, three steps, a dozen steps, but still not wholly banished and excommunicated from the service of the sanctuary. Now this may happen with all of us. What some men might have been! They might have led us; instead of that they are put down to menial service. Search into the reason, and you will find there has been a moral lapse, or an intellectual infirmity, or some proof of disqualification. They are not cast into the bottomless pit, they are not put beyond the reach of light and hope and mercy; but it is of necessity that they should be deposed or degraded. What is true of men individually is true of men ecclesiastically. Churches are put into the second place; churches are put back into the third place. The Church that ought to lead the world because of its wealth, its learning, its historical opportunities and advantages, may so act that men who have no name, no status, no background of history, shall come forward by the voice and appointment of God, and lead the world into redemption and liberty and prospect of heaven. Was the Lord then left wholly without faithful men? You find the contrast in Ezekiel 47:15. There is always a contrast in history. We thought in the preceding verses that all Israel had gone astray, we find in the 15th verse that the sons of Zadok “kept the charge of My sanctuary when the children of Israel went astray from Me.” There has always been a faithful party in the state. There has always been an element of constancy in all the mutation of men and times and institutions. God keeps watch over that permanent quantity; it is as His own ark in the wilderness of time. Sometimes the case of the ark has been brought very low; now and then in history it would seem as if the kingdom of God had been within a very short distance of extinction: but what is a “short distance” in the estimation of God? A hair’s breadth is a universe; if there is one moment between a nation and destruction, in that one moment God can work all the miracles of deliverance. “Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity.” This lies within our province and within our hope, may it lie also within our sense of duty, that it is possible for us though few to be faithful; it is possible when all others have proved faithless for us to be faithful found. (J. Parker, D. D.)
Faithful to our charge
“A beautiful story was told by Dr. Cooke, of Belfast, about a gunner at Waterloo. Just as the recruits came up, who were the means of turning, under Wellington, the great battle of modern days, the smoke and noise was so great that he could not see five yards in front of him. But he felt the swaying tides of the battle going this way and that, and did not know at one time whether he was among English or French, friends or foes; and Dr. Cooke asked him afterwards, ‘Well, my friend, and what did you do?’ ‘I stood by my gun,’ replied the man. And that is what we have to do.”
They shall teach My people the difference between the holy and profane.
Steering between the rocks
I. You can judge of the moral character of any amusement by its healthful result, or by its baleful reaction. In proportion as a ship is swift, it wants a strong helmsman; in proportion as a horse is gay, it wants a stout driver; and people of exuberant nature will do well to look at the reaction of all their amusements. If an amusement sends you home at night nervous, so that you cannot sleep, and you rise up in the morning, not because you are slept out, but because your duty drags you from your slumbers, you have been where you ought not to have been. If any amusement sends you home longing for a life of romance and thrilling adventure, love that takes poison and shoots itself, moonlight adventures and hairbreadth escapes, you may depend upon it that you are the sacrificed victim of unsanctified pleasure. Our recreations are intended to build us up; and if they pull us down as to our moral or as to our physical strength, you may come to the conclusion that they are in the class spoken of by my text as obnoxious.
II. Those amusements are wrong which lead you into expenditure beyond your means. The table has been robbed to pay the club. The champagne has cheated the children’s wardrobe. Excursions that in a day make a tour around a whole month’s wages; ladies whose lifetime business it is to “go shopping”; bets on horses and a box at the theatre have their counterparts in uneducated children, bankruptcies that shock the money market and appall the Church, and that send drunkenness staggering across the richly figured carpet of the mansion, and dashing into the mirror, and drowning out the carol of music with the whooping of bloated sons come home to break their old mother’s heart. When men go into amusements that they cannot afford, they first borrow what they cannot earn, and then they steal what they cannot borrow. First, they go into embarrassment, and then into lying, and then into theft; and when a man gets as far on as that, he does not stop short of the penitentiary. There is not a prison in the land where there are not victims of unsanctified amusements.
III. Those are unchristian amusements which become the chief business of a man’s life. Your sports are merely means to an end. They are alleviations and helps. The arm of toil is the only arm strong enough to bring up the bucket out of the deep well of pleasure. Amusement is only the bower where business and philanthropy rest while on their way to stirring achievements. Amusements are merely the vines that grow about the anvil of toil, and the blossoming of the hammers. Alas for the man who spends his life in laboriously doing nothing, his days in hunting up lounging places and loungers, his nights in seeking out some gas-lighted foolery! The amusements of life are merely the orchestra playing while the great tragedy of life plunges through its five acts--infancy, childhood, manhood, old age, and death. Then exit the last chance for mercy. Enter the overwhelming realities of an eternal world!
IV. Those amusements are wrong which lead into bad company. If you belong to an organisation where you have to associate with the intemperate, with the unclean, with the abandoned, however well they may be dressed, in the name of God quit it. They will despoil your nature. They will undermine your moral character. They will drop you when you are destroyed. They will give not one cent to support your children when you are dead. They will weep not one tear at your burial. They will chuckle over your damnation.
V. Any amusement that gives you a distaste for domestic life is bad. How many bright domestic circles have been broken up by sinful pleasuring! The father went off, the mother went off, the child went off. There are today the fragments before me of a great many blasted households. Oh, if you have wandered away, I would like to charm you back by the sound of that one word “home.” Do you not know that you have but little more time to give to domestic welfare? Do you not see, father, that your children are soon to get out into the world, and all the influence for good you are to have over them you are to have now? Death will break in on your conjugal relations, and alas, if you have to stand over the grave of one who perished from your neglect! (T. De Witt Talmage.)
I am their inheritance.
God an inheritance
We possess God as the flower the sunlight; as a babe the mother. All His resources are placed at our disposal. The seed cast into the ground immediately begins to take from earth and air the nutriment of its life, and we have the same power of deriving from the infinite fulness of God all that shall make us pure and strong and gentle. Ours are the unsearchable riches of Christ; we are made full through the fulness which God the Father has been pleased to make dwell in Him. All the resources which have been placed at His disposal in His ascension and eternal reign are gifts which He holds for men. Alas for us that we fail to possess our possessions! (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
God the portion of the people
Christ is all in all to His people. He is all their strength, wisdom, and righteousness. They are but the clouds irradiated by the sun, and bathed in its brightness. He is the light which flames in their grey mist and turns it to a glory. They are but the belt and cranks and wheels; He is the power. They are but the channel, muddy and dry; He is the flashing life which fills it and makes it a joy. They are the body; He is the Soul dwelling in every part to save it from corruption and give movement and warmth.
“Thou art the organ, whose full breath is thunder;
I am the keys, beneath Thy fingers pressed.”
(A. Maclaren, D. D.).
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Ezekiel 44". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany