Notes on Ezekiel 44:15-31

Ezekiel 44:15‑31  •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 9
If evidence be wanted to know the just application of this final vision (chaps. 40-48), one can hardly conceive of anything plainer or more decisive than the latter verses of our chapter convey. It is not at all a ministry to preach the good news of God in indiscriminate grace or to establish the children of God in His truth and their privileges. The church state is gone before this prophecy begins to be fulfilled, as surely as that church state began long after the prophecy was written. As we have seen the house of Jehovah with its inner and outer courts, its gates and its porches, its separate place, its chambers, and its sanctuary, so now we have the sons of Zadok as the priests the Levites who alone are authorized to draw near in divine services for Israel.
It is in vain to plead that under Christianity there are priests; for this does not mean a class of Christian officials who represent their brethren and enjoy a greater nearness to God than the rest. It is the mystic priesthood of those who believe in Christ. They are all free to draw near to God, being equally brought nigh by the blood of Jesus. To assert a relationship of greater nearness for some is to deny the gospel not only for the others but for all; inasmuch as it is the very essence of it that grace now puts all who are Christ's in the same absolute perfection by His blood. The efficacy of His sacrifice is complete, unchanging and everlasting. He annuls the work of Christ who attributes to it a various value; he has only a human traditional notion of it; he has not learned what God reveals as to it. The teaching accordingly of the New Testament is that all who believe are priests. The same precious blood which has blotted out their sins has brought themselves near to God. They are in Christ before Him. As there was no difference of old in their sinfulness, so is there none in their access to God. We have therefore, all alike, boldness for entering into the holy places by the blood of Jesus, the new and living way which He has dedicated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh (Heb. 10:19-2019Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; (Hebrews 10:19‑20)). We are a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifice to God by Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 2:55Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:5)), yea, a royal priesthood to set forth the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness to His wonderful light (1 Pet. 2:99But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: (1 Peter 2:9)).
But here it is a certain favored portion of the chosen people who could represent all where the rest could not go; and as this is an earthly priesthood, so the offerings are akin. “But the priests the Levites, the sons of Zadok, that kept the charge of My sanctuary when the children of Israel went astray from Me, they shall come near to Me to minister unto Me, and they shall stand before Me to offer unto Me the fat and the blood, saith Jehovah God: They shall enter into My sanctuary, and they shall come near to My table, to minister unto Me, and they shall keep My charge” (vss. 15-16). “The fat” and “the blood” according to the law were Jehovah's portion, as we see claimed punctiliously in the directions for the peace-offering (Lev. 3; 7). It has been pointed out already that, though the altar in the Old Testament is designated the table of Jehovah, nowhere is the Lord's table in the New Testament spoken of as His altar. The altar of old might fittingly be styled His table because thereon was laid and consumed “the food of the offering made by fire unto Jehovah” (Lev. 3:1111And the priest shall burn it upon the altar: it is the food of the offering made by fire unto the Lord. (Leviticus 3:11)). This in no way applies to the New Testament, where it is no question of any such oblation but of the church's communion in the remembrance of Christ and thus in showing forth His death.
The details quite fall in with the remarks just made and confirm them. Thus, linen was enjoined for the priestly ministration and wool forbidden; and this for the head as well as the body. Their ordinary clothes are all well outside, but they must wear the due priestly garments in their office and lay them in the holy chambers. They must neither shave their heads nor wear long hair; they must drink no wine when they enter into the inner court. They must not marry a widow save of a priest or maidens of Israel. “And it shall come to pass, [that] when they enter in at the gates of the inner court, they shall be clothed with linen garments; and no wool shall come upon them, whiles they minister, in the gates of the inner court, and within. They shall have linen bonnets upon their heads, and shall have linen breeches upon their loins; they shall not gird [themselves] with anything that causeth sweat. And when they go forth into the outer court, into the outer court to the people, they shall put off their garments wherein they ministered, and lay them in the holy chambers, and they shall put on other garments; and they shall not sanctify the people with their garments. Neither shall they shave their heads, nor suffer their locks to grow long; they shall only poll their heads. Neither shall any priest drink wine, when they enter into the inner court. Neither shall they take for their wives a widow, nor her that is put away: but they shall take maidens of the seed of the house of Israel, or a widow that had a priest before” (vss. 17-22). It is clearly a repetition of Levitical order for the earthly priests of Israel in the days of the future kingdom, with even increase of strictness in this that all the priests are to be put under the conditions of marriage laid of old on the high priest. But in their literal bearing these precepts have no reference to Christians, still less to any class among them.
Their duties are next shown to embrace both ceremonial and judicial decisions. “And they shall teach My people [the difference] between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean. And in controversy they shall stand in judgment; they shall judge it according to My judgments; and they shall keep My laws and My statutes in all Mine assemblies; and they shall hallow My Sabbaths” (vss. 23-24).
The law of defilement for the dead holds as rigidly as ever. “And they shall come at no dead person to defile themselves; but for father, or for mother, or for son, or for daughter, for brother, or for sister that hath had no husband, they may defile themselves. And after he is cleansed, they shall reckon unto him seven days. And in the day that he goeth into the sanctuary, unto the inner court, to minister in the sanctuary, he shall offer his sin-offering, saith Jehovah God” (vss. 25-27). Death may be but rare and exceptional in that day, but so much the more reason why the priests should not be under its power in any way.
They are to be content with Jehovah as their inheritance, instead of the carnal portion of an Israelite. But they are appointed their share out of His offerings, dedicated things and first-fruits, abstaining from any food of what had died of itself or been torn. “And it shall be unto them for an inheritance: I [am] their inheritance: and ye shall give them no possession in Israel: I [am] their possession. They shall eat the meat-offering, and the sin-offering, and the trespass-offering; and every dedicated thing in Israel shall be theirs. And the first of all the first-fruits of all [things], and every oblation of all, of every [sort] of your oblations, shall be the priest's; ye shall also give unto the priest the first of your dough, that he may cause the blessing to rest in thine house. The priests shall not eat of anything that is dead of itself, or torn, whether it be fowl or beast” (vss. 28-31). Surely it is not needful to demonstrate that these regulations are wholly outside Christianity; yet will they assuredly be in force when the glory of Jehovah visits and governs the earth. In heaven, or to the partakers of the heavenly calling, they are quite inapplicable. They will be lessons beautiful in their place and season. They are but beggarly elements now if taken literally, whatever spiritual instruction they furnish, as they undoubtedly may and do.
All turns on Christ. If He is known to faith while He is on high on the Father’s throne, a heavenly relationship is formed; and “as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly” (1 Cor. 15:4848As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. (1 Corinthians 15:48)). But when He is manifested in glory and takes the earth, there will be a corresponding change in the relative place of His people. They will be no longer heavenly but earthly; and the Holy Spirit will not form them into the one body of a heavenly Head, but place them as Israel and the nations in their due positions, and of course, distinct; though the old enmity and jealous alienation shall have passed away under the reign of Him whom all own as Jehovah, king over the whole earth. Hence also earthly distinctions as priests and Levites, with the other features of an earthly worship, are again set up according to the will of God, instead of a common place of heavenly nearness in Christians as now.