Monday, September 15, 2014

Justification By Faith

Reading Galatians 2 today in my endeavor to read the Bible through during the year. The problem with reading Paul's letters quickly is he gives us so much to think about. 


My first thought is that his literary structure is elegant. The first story (2:1-10) shows the leaders of the Jerusalem church, the apostles, acceptance of Gentiles and Paul's message to them. It sets  up a jarring contrast to the second story, where Judaizers do not accept Gentile believers and influence even Peter, one of the "pillars" of the Jerusalem church.


Now that you see this contrast, Paul gives the theological conclusion. The conclusion (2:15-21) states the doctrine of justification by faith. Justification means to be declared righteous by God. We are justified through our faith in Christ, not by our works. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

EZEKIEL 42-32 continued: The Altar




I find it interesting that Ezekiel does not see an ark of the covenant. In the Tabernacle and Solomon’s temple, the Lord’s presence was seated on the top of the ark, on the atonement cover. Here in Ezekiel’s temple, no ark is mentioned. The whole complex would be evidence of God’s presence.

This calls to mind Jeremiah 3:16-17:
“And I will give you shepherds after my own heart who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. And when you have multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, declares the Lord, they shall no more say the ark of the covenant of the Lord. It shall not come to mind or be remembered or missed; it shall not be made again. At that time Jerusalem shall be called the throne of the Lord…”

It also calls to mind the description of the New Jerusalem in Revelation. John said he saw no temple in the city for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. (Rev. 21:22) He said the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in this new city. (Rev. 22:3)

The Need for Repentance & Obedience
43:10-12

The Lord told Ezekiel to describe the temple to Israel that they might repent. He said that they may be ashamed of their iniquities. (10) They shall measure the plan. (10) They will not be told the whole design of the temple unless the repent (if they are ashamed of their iniquities). (11) Before God’s people may come into his presence, they must repent of sin. Repent means to turn away from the wrong way and return to the right way. If they repent, Ezekiel can show them the design of the temple so that they will see the perfect holiness of God.And if they repent, they must observe God’s laws. There must be a commitment to obedience and holiness. (11)

So, it appears to me that the design of the temple is meant to tell something about God to the Jews. It must if it will lead them to repent and turn to God. I believe it teaches his holiness, his perfection and his hatred of sin.


The Altar of Sacrifice
43:13-27

The measurements of the altar are given. It is square, as is the temple, with horns on each corner. It was layered, getting smaller as it went upward. It’s measurements are actually a bit smaller than the one in Solomon’s temple. (2 Chronicles 4:1)

Ezekiel is also given the “ordinances” for the altar. (18) The necessary sacrifices were also described in detail. Blood is thrown against the altar. It took seven days of sacrifices to cleanse the altar itself so that offerings could be made for the people. (26) The number seven is used in the Bible to show perfection.

When the altar is consecrated, the regular offerings can be made, resulting in the Lord’s acceptance of his people. This is because the altar is common when it is built. It is built by human hands of earthly materials. It must be transformed from common to holy. Thus blood is thrown against it to purify it. This is similar to the purification of the tabernacle in Exodus 29.

This world of the new temple is a God centered and worship centered world. It is a temple centered world. And, at the heart of it all, is an altar, where blood is spilled for the atonement of sins and peace with the Father. Sins must be atoned for men and women to fellowship with the Lord.




Jesus has now made that sacrifice for us, once for all. He came and dwelt among men while on earth and promises to dwell with us until the end of this age. He has poured out his Holy Spirit on us to help us. He has opened access to the Father to us.

The Father demanded holiness of Israel.

Jesus demands holiness from us. He said “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)

Sunday, September 07, 2014

THE PRIESTS CHAMBERS & THE RETURN OF THE LORD - Ezekiel 42-43





The Chambers of the Priests
42:1-14

Having taken Ezekiel from the outside of the temple complex to the inside of the temple building, the guide now takes Ezekiel back toward the outside. So, he led Ezekiel from the temple building back out into the outer court. In this court, looking north, Ezekiel saw the priests chambers. He tells us the measurements. (1) This is a bit different from the other measurements, as Ezekiel just tells us rather than reporting that the guide told Ezekiel the measurements.

It was a three story building. One side faced the inner court and one side faced the outer court. (3) There was a passage through it. It appears you could enter the chambers from the outer court, go through the chambers and exit in the inner court.

The Man of Bronze explained the use of the chambers to Ezekiel. (13) He called them “holy chambers”. It was where the priests ate the holy offerings and kept them. (13) Remember that only a part of the offering was burned or poured out for the Lord. The remainder was given to the priests for their food and drink. It was given to them instead of land.

The barrier between the sacred and profane (or common) continues to be maintained. The priests cannot go from the Holy Place to the outer court without changing clothes. They cannot take their holy clothes into the common area. ((14) The Roman Catholic Church preserves this tradition with the sacristy. It is a place where vestments are stored and the priests change clothes. Members of the congregation are not allowed in the sacristy.




The Outer Wall
42:15-20

Having proceeded from the Holy Place, through the inner court, through the priests’ chambers, to the outer court, the man led Ezekiel outside through the east gate. (15) He measured the walls to get the measurement of the perimeter of the complete temple complex. He measured in this order: east, north, south, and west. Revelation 21:13 follows the same pattern, The whole complex was a perfect square. (In the Tabernacle, only the most holy place was square.) It was 500 cubits on each side. That is 9,000 inches if you measure the cubit as 18 inches, 750 feet or 250 yards. The perimeter was, therefore, 2,000 cubits or 1,000 yards. (The area would have been 62,500 square yards.) This purpose of this wall has been shown symbolically by the measurements, but is now stated: to make a separation between the holy and the common (sacred and profane). Nothing profane will invade the holy space as it had before.

In chapters 8 and 9, we saw that Israel had violated the holiness of the temple. They allowed both pagan people and pagan worship inside the holy areas. As a result of this, the glory of the Lord vacated the temple. Now, in chapter 42, the holiness of this visionary temple is absolutely protected by walls, gates and buildings. Since the holiness of God is again protected, the stage is set for the return of the presence of the Lord.

Similarly, the New Jerusalem of Revelation 21, is described as the place where “nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Revelation 21:27)

There is a great sense of order here. The temple dimensions are exact. The entire complex is a perfect square. The Most Holy Place is square. When God first made the earth, it was without order. It was “without form and void”. (Genesis 1:1) But, when God prepared it for mankind to live in his presence, he made it in perfect order. He made a garden for man. It had everything needed for life. God declared it to be good.

But man’s sin caused God to cast him from the garden back into chaos, or disorder. He put an angel at the entrance so this unholy man and woman could not invade his holy space. But, in Ezekiel, the disorder is restored to order. God again made a perfect space where his presence dwelt. Walls kept the impure out and kept the holy men and women in. Perfect worship is restored. But it takes the work of God on the hearts of men and women to accomplish this.

The Glory of the Lord Returns
43:1-9

Next, the Man of Bronze led Ezekiel back to the east gate. This is where the tour of the temple complex began. It is the front door to the complex. (43:1) The glory of the Lord left the old temple via the east gate.

Ezekiel saw the glory of the Lord coming from the east. Ezekiel described the sound of his coming as the sound of many waters. John, in Revelation 1:15, described the risen Lord Jesus and said “his voice was like the roar of many waters”. His glory made the earth shine. (2) He recognized it as the glory of the Lord because it was like his first vision and the vision he saw when the temple was destroyed. So, the glory and presence of the Lord was very bright and very loud.

The return of the glory of the Lord to the temple reflects two previous and similar events. The first is the construction of the Tabernacle in Exodus 25-40 and the second is the construction of Solomon’s temple in 1 Kings 6-8. In both accounts, the glory of God came to reside when the structure was completed. It signified God’s approval of the construction of his house.

Confronted with the glory of the Lord, Ezekiel fell on his face. Confronted with God’s holiness and glory, Ezekiel could not stand before the Lord. He could only fall face down in humility and worship.


The Spirit, however, lifted up Ezekiel and brought him into the inner court so that he could see the glory of the Lord fill the temple. (5) This is a new beginning for the relationship between God and his people. The Lord declared to Ezekiel that he would dwell in the temple, in the midst of his people Israel forever and Israel will no longer defile his holy name by their idolatry. All of this is still spoken in the context of the renewal of God’s people, when the descendant of David will rule and the Spirit is poured out on the people.

Notice that God will not only dwell there, he will rule there. The temple is his palace and he is king over Israel. He said “this is the place of my throne”.

God not only dwells with his people. He rules.

It is the same for us. Romans 10:9-10 says we must confess Jesus as Lord to be saved. Receive him as your Lord and Master today and be saved.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Giving All To Jesus


Another person who gave up all for Christ was Mary, the sister of Lazarus and Martha. John 12 records the event.

Lazarus and his sisters threw a dinner party for Jesus. Jesus had recently raised Lazarus from the dead, so you can imagine people were interested to meet him. Martha served dinner, of course. Lazarus reclined at the table with Jesus and the other men.

Mary came into the room, carrying an alabaster jar of nard and fell at the feet of Jesus. She broke the jar, poured the perfume on Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair.

Why do I say she gave all for Jesus? This was not a small gift. Nard was a very expensive perfume. This jar of nard was worth a full year’s wages. (12:5) Imagine giving a year’s gross income to Jesus as an act of worship. In addition, the alabaster jar was valuable.

This was likely a gift from Mary’s father, a dowry item or even an investment. It represented security and savings, such as we might put gold coins or savings bonds in a lock box. When Mary poured this out on Jesus, she did not just give a token. She gave up security. She gave up her future to Jesus. By doing this, she effectively said “to know you is more valuable than my future”, “to worship you is more satisfying than wealth and security”.

It a physical representation of Paul’s statement that he counted everything he lost as rubbish compared to knowing Christ and being found in him.
Sometimes the folks around us do not appreciate this kind of extravagant worship and devotion. There was some grumbling amongst the dinner guests here.

But Jesus defended her. He accepted her worship and he chastised those who thought it was too extravagant.

Jesus is worthy of all we have. Paul and Mary both understood this and lived it out.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Is Life a Vanity?


Solomon is famous for writing "vanity of vanities, all is vanity". (Ecclesiates 1:2) At the end of his life, he found no satisfaction in his work or accomplishments (2:11). He saw death as proof, because the rich and poor, wise and foolish, all die. (2:16).

He came to hate his very life. (2:17) This man, whose wisdom and wealth took a queen's breath away (1 Kings 10:4-5), whose palace took 13 years to build (1 Kings 7:1), who had 1,000 women at his disposal (1 Kings 11:3), and whose kingdom stretched from the Euphrates to the border of Egypt (1 Kings 4:21), found nothing to live for and saw death as the proof that his life had no meaning.

In contrast, a Jew named Saul met Jesus and lost all he had. He lost it gladly. He considered those things rubbish. (Philippians 3:8) Nothing was more important than gaining Christ and being found in him. He said "to live is Christ". (Philippians 1:21) He saw death as the blessing of of being with Christ. He longed to be with Christ. (Philippians 1:23)

Jesus put it simply: blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. (Matthew 5:6) To seek righteousness is to seek God, the only righteous one. Only those who seek after God will find satisfaction.

Solomon saw life as meaningless and death as the bitter proof of it. That was because of his pursuit of earthly things. Paul pursued heavenly things instead. He found meaning in life and saw death as the entrance to the presence of Jesus. Paul found joy in life and joyful expectation in approaching death. I want to be like Paul.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

EZEKIEL'S FINAL VISION - PART 2 - EZEKIEL 41



In Chapter 40, Ezekiel described the outer and inner courts of the temple complex as he saw it in his vision. He followed his guide from the outside of the complex further and further inward toward the temple building.

In chapter 41, the guide, the man of bronze, measured the temple building while Ezekiel watched. Ezekiel described the building and gave the measurements.


The temple building has three parts: a portico, the outer sanctuary and inner sanctuary. The portico is described in 41:48-49. It is like the porch of the house, but very fancy. The man measured it.It was 20 cubits wide and 12 cubits long. Pillars lined the sides.


Walking through the portico into the temple, Ezekiel and his guide first came to the outer sanctuary (NIV) or nave (ESV and NASB). First, we see that the entrance was only 10 cubits wide, compared to the portico, which was 10 cubits wide. (2) This is a severe narrowing. This symbolizes restricted access to the holier place. In fact, it does not appear that Ezekiel went into it. Rather the guide went in, measured it, then returned to tell Ezekiel the measurements. Ezekiel did not describe the outer or inner sanctuary. He just repeated the measurements the guide gave him.

Next, the guide measured the inner sanctuary or Most Holy Place. The entrance was only six cubits wide. (3) The access to the Most Holy Place is the most restricted.

The sanctuary itself was a perfect square, 20 cubits by 20 cubits. Again, the symbolizes its holiness. It is the only completely square space within the temple building.

Around the temple building are three stories of rooms. There are 90 in all. (5-11) Ezekiel does not tell us what the rooms were for. There is one interesting note, though. Verse 6 says “there were ledges all around the wall of the temple to serve as supports for the side rooms, so that the supports were to inserted into the wall of the temple.” There was no intrusion of the profane into the sacred.

There was also a building on the west side. That would locate it behind the temple building. Its measurements are given, but no description. (12) It may have been there for the purpose of preventing access to the temple from the back side.

The temple was completely paneled with wood. It was decorated with the images of palm trees and cherubim. (17-18) The cherubim had two faces: one of a man and one of a lion. The walls of the outer sanctuary were covered with cherubim. It is a picture of God’s domain attended by angels.

Only one piece of furniture is mentioned. It is a wooden altar . The man said it is the table that is before the LORD (Yahweh). (22) I think that is the table where the bread of the Presence was set before the Lord. The original table is described in Exodus 25:23-30. The measurements are not the same. The original table was covered in gold. Twelve loaves of bread were put in two stacks on the table. There was one loaf for each of the12 tribes.


Aaron, the high priest, and his sons, ate the bread as representatives for the people. It was a sort of communion meal. It was holy and had to be eaten in the holy place. It was also a food offering to God. Since God does not eat, he gave it back to the priests for their sustenance. There is a sense here of peace with God resulting in the provision of God.

Chapter 42 will continue the description of the temple.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Giving to the Poor - Psalm 41


Psalm 41 says a man is blessed when he considers the poor. The Lord will bless him with deliverance from trouble, protection, life, health and a recognition from others that he is blessed.

Jesus said "give to everyone who begs from you" (Luke 6:30) and "…lend, expecting nothing in return and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful." (Luke 6:35) And, "give and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you." (Luke 6:38)

Giving to the poor reflects God's merciful character, pleases him and results in blessings to ourselves.