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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

God's Standards for Ministers (Ezekiel 44:16)

 "They alone are to enter my sanctuary; they alone are to come near my table to minister before me and perform my service" (Ezekiel 44:16)

Back in the day, when Jeroboam led the ten tribes in their rebellion against King Solomon's successor, he established a new religion with new gods and new priests. The LORD had established the Levites as priests to serve in his temple; they had to wear special garments; they couldn't touch the dead or marry whomever they wished. Jeroboam, however, had no standards. He allowed anyone to serve as priests.

Even today the LORD requires certain things of pastors. He must "be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous, one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence, not a novice . . . he must have a good testimony among those who are outside" (1 Timothy 3:2-4, 6a, 7a).

In a most unusual passage the LORD lays out standards for the priests (the descendants of Zadok), who will serve Him during the millennium. They are to wear linen; they must not shave their heads or let their hair grow long; they shall not drink wine; they must not marry widows or divorced women.

What do God's standards for priests teach us about God and the ministry?
(1) God makes certain men responsible for teaching, in word and by example, the difference between the holy and the common.

(2) Standards always accompany calling. People are attracted to the ministry for various reasons. Attraction to the ministry, however, doesn't constitute calling. Since ministry is God's business He gets to set the rules.

(3) Just because men are "ministers" doesn't necessarily mean that they are God's ministers.

Ministers, therefore, must understand that their service is both an honor and a responsibility.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading (Ezekiel 44-46):
  • Why is the east gate so significant?
  • What does Ezekiel see from the north gate and how does he respond?
  • What three things does the Lord tell Ezekiel to do? What does this tell you about God? His word?
  • Why is Ezekiel told to pay close attention to the entrance and exits of the temple?
  • Who are allowed to come near and minister to the Lord?
  • What requirements are the priests given in order to perform the Lord's service?
  • What are they to teach the people?
  • Which feasts are the people to observe?
  • What regulations does Ezekiel give for the Sabbath and New Moon sacrifices and for the conduct and offerings of the people in the temple?
These chapters speak of the Millennium period. Some theologians believe the prince is to be King David while others believe him to be Jesus. David never saw the first temple which was built by his son. It is important to review Isaiah 46:9-10. The Bible is the only religious book that prophecies of coming events. No other religious writings are prophetic in nature. Only God knows the future. He speaks of future things to give us hope and to teach us to trust Him.

Turning truth into prayer
Offer thanksgiving to the Lord for giving us a record of what He has done in the past and will do in the future. Thank Him for His faithfulness to Israel and for His promises regarding Jerusalem and the temple. Thank Him that one day His glory will once again fill the temple. Ask Him to take His rightful place in your physical body--His temple here on earth. Ask Him to allow you to experience His glory. And, finally, pray for your pastor.