1 PETER 2
The next step from ‘New Birth’ leads us logically to new babies growing up, eagerly desiring the ‘milk’ of the word of God and a close relationship with the Lord. For us, these are just as essential as milk is to a young child.
Jesus is like the cornerstone, the keystone of a great building. We are the other stones that form part of it. Using a different analogy, we are a group of royal priests, part of the King’s family, and whose job it is to worship the King and to ‘mediate’ between the King and those who are not yet part of the family. As priests, we are part of Heaven and part of Earth, a foot in each camp! Furthermore, we are likely to be treated in the same way as the Great Priest (Jesus) was treated, so get ready!
In our largely godless society, where any genuine faith in a supernatural God is laughed at, we have many temptations. But the first thing to do is to live such good lives that no-one can criticise our lifestyles and our characters. In this way we start to make the gospel favourable to others.
Just as in Romans 13, we are called to submit to every legitimate human authority – for the Lord’s sake – including unpopular governments and leaders. We are called to live as free people, by becoming Christ’s slaves (a paradox, but true!). Do we show proper respect to all? Do we love the family of believers? Do we fear God? Do we honour our earthly rulers?
Suffering for the sake of the Kingdom is commendable and Christ-like. He was insulted but did not retaliate. He made no threats but put his trust in his Father. Of course, he went far, far beyond that in his payment of the price for our sins. We cannot emulate the atonement aspects of his life, but we can certainly live the life that he ‘purchased’ for us.
EZEKIEL 44 and 45
Back to Ezekiel’s vision of the temple: “This gate is to remain shut. It must not be opened; no one may enter through it. It is to remain shut because the Lord, the God of Israel, has entered through it” (44:2). This was the East Gate. God had just re-entered the temple (see 43:1-2) after having left it at the beginning of Ezekiel (11:23) and had come in through that gate – this made that entrance holy, so no one else was permitted to use it. Another reason that the gate is to stay shut might be to indicate that God would never again leave his temple. Yet another reason could be that the idolatrous sun worship would be prevented from happening, since that also occurred at the East gate.
“The Prince” is the earthy ruler – since the ‘King’ is the Lord himself – and he had a privileged status in the temple. Many people interpret the Prince as being the Messiah. For example, the Prince was permitted to sit inside the eastern gateway “to eat in the presence of the Lord”.
Ezekiel entered the temple via the North gate and stood in front of the temple; and, because of the absence of any doors or curtain in the temple, he looked and saw the glory of the Lord filling the entire temple. Unsurprisingly, Ezekiel fell facedown and worshipped. His response was rather like that of Isaiah (chapter 6) who also saw the Lord’s glory. We would do the same too under those circumstances.
In similar fashion to Isaiah’s experience, Ezekiel is then given a task by the Lord: “Prophesy to rebellious Israel”! The rules seemed quite harsh: no bringing ‘foreigners’ (i.e., the uncircumcised) into the sanctuary at all. And also, those Levites who ‘wandered astray’ to idol-worship must bear the consequences of their sins. They have only a limited role in serving the Lord and may not draw near to the closeness of his presence or to other holy things. Whereas those who have remained faithful throughout are invited to draw close and enjoy greater intimacy with him.
What is this teaching us? That God is only interested in Jews? I don’t think so. In Isaiah 56:6-7 makes it clear that “Foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant – these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations”. The slightly more straightforward prophetic genre of Isaiah helps us to interpret the more obscure, visionary passage here in Ezekiel. This is a fundamental rule of scriptural interpretation that you start with the obvious and work towards the more obscure, not vice versa.
So the Ezekiel passage must be taken figuratively to represent the people of God, possibly the church. ‘Foreigners’ then, are those who are completely unsaved, in opposition to the Messiah. They will have no place in the sanctuary at all. Then there will be a differing scale of reward for those who are in the Kingdom, dependent on how faithfully they have served the King. There is a passage in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, that warns Christians to build ‘wisely’ on the foundation of Christ and that the ‘Day’ (of Judgment) will test the quality of each person’s work. So, our works will not actually save us, but will obtain for us a reward; lack of good works will not cause us to be punished, but simply to fail to achieve such a great rewards.
In Ezekiel 45, there are strict commands to use accurate scales and volume measures in the marketplace. Of course, this can easily be taken literally, but it may also have a more metaphorical interpretation that implies that justice will be perfect and complete in the coming Kingdom of the Lord.