Ezekiel 44
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
The regulation prescribed in these verses is very remarkable, and is not free from difficulties. It appears that a peculiar sanctity attached to the eastern gate of the temple, owing to the fact that it was by this gate that the glory of the Lord entered, and by this same gate that the glory of the Lord had previously forsaken, the sacred precincts. To mark this sacredness, the gate was kept shut, and no one was permitted to pass through it, except the prince. He, as the head, the representative, the ruler, of Israel, was permitted to enter and to depart by this gate. And further, it was appointed that he should in this gateway eat bread - whether by this be meant the meat offering or the showbread. This was a priestly privilege, but it seems to have been shared by the prince, who, after the return from the Captivity, was not only the representative of the consecrated people, but also the representative of the premised Messiah. This singular prerogative suggests to our minds certain principles which have a special application to a religious community and state.

I. THE UNITY OF A RELIGIOUS AND CONSECRATED NATION IS PERSONIFIED IN A RELIGIOUS SOVEREIGN. David was not only the greatest of the Hebrew monarchs; he was the representative of the Hebrew monarchy and theocracy. In the prophets and in the later national religions literature, David appears as the ideal king, personifying the people of the covenant and foreshadowing the promised Messiah. And the" prince" of the people is, in this and other passages, regarded as the successor of the cherished son of Jesse. The prince is looked upon as worthy of his station, worthy of his illustrious and beloved predecessor. The true head of a great and religious people is that people's representative, not only before man, but before God.

II. THERE IS IMPLIED IN THIS PROVISION THE DIVINE ORIGIN AND CHARACTER OF POLITICAL AUTHORITY. There are some students of Scripture who find in the Word of God much relating to the authority of the Church, but who fail to remark the many assertions of the Divine authority of the state and of its officials and rulers. But it is very instructive for those in such a position to remark how, in this and similar passages, stress is laid upon the position and power of the prince. "The powers that be are ordained of God;" the state is as much Divine in its origin and sanction as is the Church. In the theocracy the monarch no doubt occupied a very special position. But religion certainly has for one of its functions the upholding of government as a Divine institution and of authority as a Divine principle. Independently of the form of government, and of the designation of the chief ruler of the state, it is for teachers of religion to follow the example of the scriptural writers in requiring justice from the governor and loyalty from the governed.

III. THE OBLIGATION IS APPARENT THAT THOSE IN AUTHORITY SHOULD CULTIVATE AND PRACTICE TRUE RELIGION. It is taken for granted by the prophet that the prince will appreciate and will use the prerogative here described. Nevertheless, it is probable that some who occupied the highest position in the nation were far from being truly devout and pious men. In every age and country men are found who come short of the ideal of their station. This, however, does not affect the fact that the occupation of a high position, the primacy of a great people, imposes upon a man a peculiar obligation to honor God, the Fountain of all authority and the Judge of every earthly sovereign. He who leads a people should lead them in the ways of righteousness and of piety. - T.

What is the true significance of this closure? Much has been made of it by fanciful exposition; but surely the true lesson is that which lies upon the surface, viz. that the closed gate would be a continual reminder that the people must reverently abstain from using the entrance through which the Most High himself had once passed. It was another symbolic utterance of the truth that we must "put off our shoes" when we stand on "holy ground." The fact that there was a closed gate in this visionary, this ideal temple, may not unfittingly suggest to us (though it cannot be said to teach us) -

I. THE WAY THAT IS BARRED. If we try to enter the kingdom of God by the way or the gate of:

1. A false independence; if we attempt to reach the saving and redeeming truth of God by our unaided intelligence, unwilling to learn of him who came to teach us, to be to us "the Wisdom of God," - then we shall find no entrance there (see Matthew 18:3; 1 Corinthians 3:18). The same may be said of:

2. Unholy indulgence; and of:

3. The favorable opportunity in the future. Whoever seeks to enter the kingdom of Christ by these doers will find no open gate, but a barred way; he must enter by the way of childlike faith, of purity, of immediate decision. The closed gate may also suggest to us, by contrast -

II. THE OPENNESS OF THE KINGDOM. There is a very valuable and most precious sense in which no gate is shut that was ever open into the kingdom of God. No man, let him be who or what he may, let him have been anything whatever in the past, coming to the gate of the kingdom of Christ in sincere penitence and simple faith, will find it closed against him. By whatever path he may have approached, by whatever influences constrained, if he be earnestly desirous of seeking God and serving him, he will find himself before an open door. Christ himself/s the Door, and he is ever saying, "Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out." But the true lesson of the passage is -

III. THE CONSTANT DUTY OF REVERENCE IN THE WORSHIP AND SERVICE OF GOD. The shut gate said (in effect), "Where God has come, you may not enter; there must be another way for the feeble and sinful creature than that taken by the almighty and holy Creator; realize the immeasurable difference between yourself and him." It is well that there should be raised, now and again, the reminder that the Lord whom we serve is the Most High and the Most Holy One; that it becomes us to worship him and to speak for him in the spirit of deepest reverence; that if a "holy boldness" may be cultivated, an unholy irreverence is to be most sedulously shunned; that our dearest Friend is our Divine Lord, worthy of the profoundest homage our hearts can pay him, claiming the fullest subjection we can bring to his feet, as we worship in his house or work in his vineyard. - C.

The prophet was brought "the way of the north gate before the house," because it was thence that, on a previous occasion, he had been directed to gaze upon the provision for idolatrous worship which aroused the indignation of Jehovah. Instructions were about to be given which would be the means of preventing a repetition of the infamous defilement of God's holy place which in times past had taken place within the temple precincts. And that a suitable impression might be made, "the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord." It was upon this occasion that the prophet, filled with reverence and awe, fell upon his face.


1. When men revere worldly greatness and splendor.

2. When men revere idols and deities, which are nothing but the work of their own hands and the invention of their own minds.

II. THERE IS JUSTIFIABLE AND BECOMING REVERENCE. Such was that felt and manifested by Ezekiel in the presence of the glory of the Lord.

1. The nature of man is capable of true and profound reverence. There is groveling and degrading homage offered to men or to supposed supernatural powers - homage not worthy to be designated reverence. But man has the capacity of honoring the noblest and the best; and this is among the sublimest capacities of his nature.

2. The attributes, the character, of God deserve such reverence. The more the Eternal is studied, as manifested in his works and in his Word, the mere will it be felt that he is the one fit Object of reverential regard and worship. The admonition of the angel addressed to the seer of the Apocalypse was just and is universally applicable, "Worship God!"

III. THERE IS APPROPRIATE EXPRESSION OF TRUE VENERATION AND ADORATION. A natural manifestation of reverence is that accorded in the text: "I fell upon my face." The attitude of the body and the expression of the countenance are the natural revelation of the deep feelings of awe and veneration. A more articulate expression is the language of prayer and praise, which must indeed always be inadequate, which yet may in all conceivable circumstances be employed by the Church of Christ. All attitudes and all language are vain except as the manifestation of the deep feelings of the heart. Yet it is not possible for men to have a just view of God, to feel aright towards him, without presenting some audible or visible, some manifest expression of such thought and emotion. Man is both soul and body, and the movements, the attitudes, the utterances, of the bodily nature are the expressions of what is intellectual and spiritual. Whilst worship, to be acceptable, must be in spirit and in truth, they who are in the flesh will bow in reverence or kneel in supplication, will pour forth their gratitude in song, and their faith and adoration in petition and in praise. - T.

As the heart is vital to the body, and sends its tide of life to every organ in the system, so the sanctuary is the central source of spiritual life to the human commonwealth. What the Church is, the home will be, the town will be, the nation will be. The guilt contracted by Israel in the temple was a fount of iniquity whence defilement spread to every part of the body politic. The sin of the sanctuary was the sin of sins. On the other hand, the sanctuary may be a well-spring of salvation. The loftiest expectations cherished here God will satisfy. "This is my rest for ever; here will I dwell." Here, "he that asks, receives." "I looked, and, behold, the glory of the Lord filled the house."

I. CHURCH-WORSHIP IS SUPREMELY IMPORTANT. "Son of man, mark well, and behold with thine eyes, and hear with thine ears, all that I say unto thee concerning all the ordinances of the house." Of such moment to human interests are these laws and ordinances, that the prophet must give concentrated attention to the matter. Every faculty of soul must be engaged to learn the will of God, and to do it. There are subtle bonds of vital connection between the human soul and temple-worship, which easily escape the notice of the eye. To gain the good which God intends we must prepare the heart and mind beforehand. "Mark well the entering in of the house" High expectation of blessing should be raised. A state of mind free from selfish care should be fostered. As the photographer carefully prepares his plate to receive a faithful impression, so equally concerned should we be to prepare our hearts for high and intimate converse with God. Nor should we be unmindful how we depart from that august Presence. What care is needed to bury deep in our memory the truths we have received! What care ought there Be to retain the anointing of holy influence upon the soul!

II. CHURCH-WORSHIP EMBRACES ELEMENTS VISIBLE AND INVISIBLE. To be acceptable worshippers God required that they should Be circumcised in flesh and circumcised in heart. The one was designed to be the visible symbol of the other. To circumcise the flesh would Be useless if there was not also the circumcision of the heart. The circumcision of the flesh was instructive and disciplinary - was a test of obedience. To neglect this was a willful and open breach of the covenant made with Israel. In our present earthly state, outward religions forms are highly useful; but if they remain only forms - done without heart or willinghood - they are barren of blessing to men. As the race advances in religious culture, simpler and fewer forms will suffice. Men will be able to rise to communion with God without the intervention of rites. In the heavenly home no temple is found, for God himself is the Temple, and the redeemed have immediate access to his presence. But for the present, visible ordinances are the best channels by which we can gain fellowship with God.

III. CHURCH-WORSHIP REQUIRES PURITY OF CHARACTER. Had the God of Israel demanded internal purity as the condition of approaching him, he would have shut out the whole race of men from his house. But his high design is to create holy character among men, and every arrangement of temple-worship has purification for its end. The uncircumcised Gentiles were allowed to enter an outer court; the circumcised could have nearer approach; an inner circle was reserved for the children of Levi; and only one of all the human race was permitted to enter the holiest sanctuary - the very presence-chamber of Jehovah. In this way the world was taught the value of moral purity. In proportion to holiness of character is the nearness of access to God, The pure in heart shall see him. Hence the cardinal distinction between the circumcised and the uncircumcised, which God so wisely imposed. With that man God dwells who has a humble and contrite heart. To promote moral purity is the proper design of Church-worship.

IV. CHURCH-WORSHIP DEBASED IS THE FOULEST OFFENCE. It is to repel God in the act of his most gracious approach to men. It is to wound God in the tenderest part of his nature. Sacrilege has always been counted a most heinous offence. To secularize the temple is to destroy the only ladder by which we can climb to heaven. To trifle with religion is to commit spiritual suicide. On this head our Lord asks, "If the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!" As new-fallen snow is among the most beautiful of natural objects, so tarnished snow is most offensive to the eye. If the only fount of living water be poisoned, how can the life of men Be sustained? To abuse the ordinances of the sanctuary is to starve one's own soul, is to make religion obnoxious to our fellows, is to insult Jehovah. This is man's crowning sin - "a sin unto death."

V. RELIGIOUS SERVICE MUST BE PERSONAL AND INDIVIDUAL. "Ye have not kept the charge of mine holy things: but ye have set keepers of my charge in my sanctuary for yourselves/' In the eyes of God it was a foul offence that the priests had delegated their work to others - to persons whom Jehovah had not appointed, did not approve! It is impossible for any man to devolve his service for God upon another person. God's service cannot be discharged by proxy. Just as no man can transfer to another his talents, or his qualities, or his position, so no man can transfer his responsibilities or his work. Already God has supreme claim to the entire service of that man to whom I may wish to transfer my task. Already he is under tribute to serve the same Master. Moreover, by abandoning my service, I abandon my reward and my joy. Delegation of service in God's kingdom is forbidden. "Each one of us must give account of himself before God." Rightly understood, service is privilege. To serve is to reign. - D.

Provisions such as this were no doubt of an educational character, and were intended to teach the Israelites the necessity and the duty of holiness. The consecrated nation was called to present to Jehovah a pure offering. The alien was denied the privileges appointed for the Israelite; being uncircumcised, and not a child of the covenant, he was forbidden access to the holy place.

I. THE SANCTUARY WAS A SYMBOL OF THE DIVINE PRESENCE, FELLOWSHIP, AND FAVOR. The Lord's holy temple was the scene of the especial manifestation vouchsafed by Jehovah to Israel. The Divine presence, naturally ubiquitous, was for a purpose localized. Here was, so to speak, the point of contact between the God of Israel and his chosen people; the media of communication being the sacrifices and services ministered by the consecrated priesthood. Here the acceptance and good will of Jehovah were sealed. They who conformed to Divine appointments were ceremonially justified and cleansed; and they who drew near with hearts prepared to receive a spiritual blessing were abundantly rewarded.

II. THE SELECTION OF THE CIRCUMCISED AND CONSECRATED, AND THE EXCLUSION OF THE UNCIRCUMCISED AND THE ALIEN, WERE SYMBOLICAL OF THE SPIRITUAL CONDITIONS OF ACCEPTABLE WORSHIP. No one can suppose that there was "favoritism" in the treatment of worshippers by the just, impartial God; we know that in every nation those who wrought righteousness were accepted. But so far as the temple at Jerusalem was concerned, there were regulations intended to draw attention to the character of true worship, and to the qualifications of acceptable worshippers. No doubt impure Israelites were admitted, and just and benevolent aliens were excluded. But all were taught the indispensable necessity of compliance with Divine regulations, and of the possession of prescribed qualifications. This provision was a preparation for the introduction amongst men of a higher and purer conception of true holiness, that which is not ceremonial, but real.

III. IN CHRISTIANITY WE HAVE THE FULFILMENT OF THE TYPE AND PROMISE OF THIS PREPARATORY DISPENSATION. The religion of Christ lays stress upon the new nature, the new heart, the new birth, the new life. It requires a cleansing, a putting off of the old nature, the circumcision of the spirit. It requires a naturalization in the new and Divine kingdom, a citizenship such as no physical birth and no external legislation can impart. A man must be born anew and from above in order to enter into the kingdom of God, of heaven. The conditions of acceptable worship at Jerusalem have to be translated into the language of spiritual reality in order to be applicable to the new dispensation.

IV. THE CONDITIONS OF ENTRANCE INTO THE HEBREW SANCTUARY WERE AN ANTICIPATION OF THE TERMS OF HEAVENLY CITIZENSHIP. In this, as in so many passages; the prophecies of Ezekiel point on to the language of the Apocalypse, and the reader of the New Testament interprets these ancient declarations, prescriptions, and promises in the light of the closing book of the canon. The ceremonial preparation required of the Hebrew worshipper prefigured the qualifications laid down as a condition of admission into the celestial temple. Into the abodes of immortal purity there enters nothing that worketh abomination or maketh a lie. The citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem are renewed and purified and thus fitted for the privileges and occupations of the city whose Builder and Maker is God.

The prophet is necessarily expressing himself in the terms of the old dispensation; and he declares, in God's name, that no man who has not received a right spirit ("uncircumcised in heart"), and that no man who has not been admitted to the citizenship of the kingdom of God ("uncircumcised in flesh"), can "enter the sanctuary" - can come into closest contact with, and render holiest service unto, the Lord (see ver. 9). And he further declares that those of his people who had grievously sinned against him by their guilty apostasy should be excluded from the more sacred offices of the priesthood; yet that they should be admitted to the humbler posts of guarding the doors, of slaying 'the sacrificial animals, and of ministering to those priests who were worthier than themselves (vers. 11, 14). The general lesson we learn is that God deals with us graciously and generously, but discriminately. He gives to all his children, but he does not give the same kind, nor does he give the same measure, to all; he is merciful to the penitent, but he does not let his mercy obscure or reduce his righteousness. Those who have done serious wrong "bear their iniquity" (ver. 10), they "bear their shame" (ver. 13); and yet they have their place and do their work in the day of restoration (see vers. 11, 14). In that kingdom of God wherein we now stand we see illustrations of this Divine discrimination in -

I. THE DISPENSING OF THE DIVINE BOUNTY. God gives much to all his creatures, to all his children; but he gives much more to some than he does to others. Herein is no favoritism or injustice. It is simply the presence of a most desirable variety; the conferring upon every one more than he deserves or can claim, and upon some a very large inheritance of good. Not any one of us is entitled to our being, or our comforts, or our powers; but God, in the fullness of his bounty, gives us these. Shall we complain because there are those to whom he has been even more bountifully than he has to us? Shall we not rather rejoice and be grateful that he has not limited his love as he might well have done? In fact, although very much inequality here is due to our own unwisdom, much is due to the variety in the Divine distribution. To some he gives more vigorous health, a clearer or more active mind, a stronger will, a fuller or longer life. Surely gratitude and not complaint is the note of the wise and the good.

II. THE DIVERSITY OF THE DIVINE BESTOWAL OF "GIFTS." While there is no one who may not and who should not bring his contribution to the cause of Christ and of man, it is clear that some may do a much higher and a much greater work than others can. To some it is given to guard the door only; to others to present the sacrifice unto the Lord. Some with a feeble intelligence and a scanty knowledge may be quite equal to a humble post; others with versatile and vigorous powers and a well-stored mind may render most important and vital service. And there are many degrees between the humblest and the highest office in the Christian ranks. Let every man feel that to be or to do anything for Christ is a joy and an honor; let those who are invited to the "chief seats" remind themselves that they "have nothing which they have not received," and let them do everything "as with the ability which God giveth."

III. THE EXERCISE OF DIVINE MERCY. The "Levites that went astray after their idols' were to receive the Divine mercy; they were to be restored to their place in the commonwealth of Israel; they were to be admitted to service at and indeed in the sanctuary (see vers. 11, 14); but they could not wholly regain what they had lost; some of their iniquity (or shame, ver. 13) they would have to bear; at a certain point their privileges stopped. Now, in the kingdom of Christ, we have the same kind of Divine discrimination.

1. There is mercy for those who have gone furthest astray. Into whatever alienation of heart, rejection by the mind, guiltiness of behavior, they have wandered, there is forgiveness to be had in Jesus Christ.

2. The mercy of God means much. It means the absolute pardon of all past sin; the restoration of the soul to the favor and the friendship of God; access, full and free, to his praise, his throne, his table; liberty to serve him in the broad field of sacred usefulness.

3. But there is some serious and necessary qualification. They who have gone very far into wrong-doing, or have spent many years in sinful estrangement, must "bear their iniquity" in one sense - they must suffer the injury which their sin has wrought in the formation of evil habits (mental or physical) which cannot be immediately cast forth; in the loss of reputation which cannot be at once regained; in the enfeeblement of the soul (or, at any rate, the loss of strength and influence that might have been acquired) which has to be endured. Sin means some considerable measure of absolutely irreparable loss. - C.

According to rank and position in the Church is responsibility. Example is contagious. Treachery by a military officer is a graver sin than treachery by a soldier in the ranks. Pollution at the fourth is a greater evil than pollution in a branch-stream. Disease in the heart is a more serious matter than disease in the skin or at the extremities. If the priests of God sanction idolatry, the whole nation will follow suit, and the cause of God is betrayed. The sin of Judas lay in this - that he had been a trusted friend and companion of Jesus. God's ministers hold responsible posts.

I. MEN ARE OFTEN SUBJECTED TO A CRUCIAL TEST. The present race is mainly tempted to infidelity, but the earlier generations of men were tempted to idolatry. As infidelity is now the ally of vice, so was and is idolatry. Both chime in with the lower passions of human nature. In the period preceding Ezekiel's birth Israel had gone astray after idols. On every side false deities were being set up. Idolatry was in the atmosphere. A great opportunity opened to the Levites. As ministers of Jehovah, set apart for the service of religion, they should have stood in the gap and raised barriers against the inflowing tide of idolatry, the honor of God was in their keeping. The well-being of the nation rested with them. They were the trustees of God's truth for the world. It was a testing-time. Men's favor or God's - which would they choose? Popularity for the moment or enduring fidelity - which? Alas! they made a suicidal choice! They chose the path of selfish ease. Like a physician summoned to a critical case, they too might have abated the raging fever and saved the patient's life. But they had no religious earnestness. They were mere functionaries of a system; and so long as duty was light and a livelihood secure, religion might take care of itself. Honored with a tremendous trust, they proved themselves unworthy - faithless. Regard for God was lacking. Moral prowess was lacking. They drifted with the stream. Their sin was the sowing of evil tares, which developed into a harvest of misery and disaster.

II. IN SUCH CASES TWO LINES OF CONDUCT ARE POSSIBLE. In the stress of temptation men can either resist or yield. In no case is it a necessity to succumb. Moral principle in man has withstood the incoming deluge of temptation, and it always can. Unseen resources are on the side of him who steadfastly adheres to right. God is at his side. So far as public action went, Elijah stood alone in the days of Jezebel's idolatry. In Babylon Daniel stood erect as the sole witness for Jehovah, and notable triumph was his. Martin Luther was for years the only champion of Bible truth on the continent of Europe - one man against the world; yet he prevailed. So, in the instance narrated here, one family remained faithful. The sons of Zadok were worthy sons of a worthy sire. A good name is a good heritage, and no better name can a man wear than Zadok, i.e. "Righteousness." If a man trusts to his good name, he is a fool; but if he lives up to a good name - makes that his model - he is wiser than Solomon. A rotten ship will not survive the storm, though she is named Impregnable. These sons of Zadok were like Abdiel, "faithful among the faithless found." "They kept the charge of the sanctuary" when Israel went astray. They had moral backbone - some iron principle in their blood. It is the basest cowardice merely to go with the majority. Numbers are not the arbiter of truth or of right. Men who deserve the name inquire for themselves, judge for themselves, seek guidance from the Unerring Source, and act according to the result. There was no external necessity to follow the crowd of idolaters. The sons of Zadok resisted. So in every case a man's conduct is the outcome of his own choice.

III. AS THERE ARE TWO LINES OF CONDUCT, THERE ARE TWO KINDS OF AWARD. It is only the blindness of men that supposes that God's justice ever slumbers or ever mistakes. God can patiently wait his time, and can generously forbear. Yet with perfect calmness he metes out justice to every man. Touching these Levites he declares, "they shall even bear their iniquity." If any sensitiveness of soul was left in them, they must have been sorely pained, during the seventy years of captivity, with the self-conviction that their unfaithfulness had been a main cause of Israel's disaster. Nor was this all. A perpetual stigma was upon their name. An everlasting degradation was imposed on them and on their posterity. Their children and their children's children through many generations were involved in the disgrace and in the deprivation of office. So far as it had been an honor to be a Levite, now it shall be reversed - it shall be a dishonor. "They shall not come near unto me, to do the office of a priest unto me, nor to come near to any of my holy things, in the most holy place." They had put God far away from them; it was simple retribution that God should forbid them to come near to him. Sin always bears its Own natural fruit. Still, judgment was tempered with mercy. They shall not be entirely superseded. They shall not be banished from the new temple. Inferior office they may yet fill; subordinate service they may yet perform. And in their degraded rank they shall learn that God's service is real honor; that nearness to God is man's heaven. "They shall be ministers in my sanctuary, having charge at the gates of the house, and ministering to the house; they shall slay, the burnt offering and the sacrifice for the people." But, on the other hand, special honor is conferred on the loyal sons of Zadok. "They shall come near to me to minister unto me, and they shall stand before me... They shall enter into my sanctuary, and they shall come near to my table," etc. Here is unmistakable promotion. "They had kept the charge of the sanctuary;" now "they shall keep my charge." In other words, "They shall be my treasures: I will entrust my honor and all my precious things unto them." Their fidelity is established; yea, is strengthened and enlarged by this strain of temptation. Their characters have come forth from the furnace like burnished gold. They shall be trusted in the heavenly kingdom because they are trustworthy. The omniscient eye of God does not overlook the least meritorious deed. High reward is in course of preparation for the righteous. Men often deceive themselves with specious hopes of escape. They often deceive others with plausible semblances, they can never deceive God! - D.

The priests were an essential element in the Mosaic system, and their duties were prescribed with a precise exactness. After the Captivity, they still fulfilled their appointed duties, although their relative importance was probably diminished, whilst the scribes became growingly the religious leaders and teachers of the people. In the dispensation of the Spirit, the priesthood, so far as it is perpetuated, has been widened so as to include the whole Christian congregation.

I. MINISTRY IN THE CHURCH IS THE APPOINTMENT OF GOD. As the priesthood was instituted by Divine wisdom, so the will and pleasure of the great Head of the Church is that the members of the spiritual society should regard themselves as called by God to the fulfillment of varied duties as his servants.

II. MINISTRY IN THE CHURCH IS UPON THE PATTERN OF THE MINISTRY OF CHRIST THE HEAD. The Son of man came, not to be ministered unto, but to minister. The Lord was himself Servant of all, and those who are his are summoned to follow the example of him who declared that he was among his people as One who served.

III. MINISTRY IN THE CHURCH IS FOR MUTUAL BENEFIT. It is sometimes taken for granted that there are certain persons who minister to their fellow-Christians, whilst the rest simply receive and enjoy the advantages of their services. But in reality there is no one member of the true Church who is not commissioned for some special work which it is for him to do, who has not some gifts and opportunities for serving his fellow-disciples, for the edification of the body of Christ.

IV. MINISTRY IN THE CHURCH IS FOR THE SALVATION OF THE WORLD. The Jewish Church was restricted; the Christian Church has a universal mission - a mission for the benefit of mankind. They who have Christ's Spirit will live as disciples of him who said, "I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto myself."

V. MINISTRY IN THE CHURCH INVOLVES ACCOUNTABILITY TO GOD. With calling and gifts and influence there is associated responsibility. And this responsibility is to him who is the one, only, all-sufficient Judge and Lord. From this responsibility there is no escape; and it must ever be the aim and the hope of every Christian that he himself and his work may be acceptable and approved at last, when every man shall have praise of God. - T.

We do not suppose that the statement respecting the sons of Zadok is to be pressed to historical exactitude. Their steadfastness is assumed for the purpose of exhortation, to point out the reward of fidelity in the kingdom of God. We have -

I. THE FACT AND THE ACCOUNT OF UNFAITHFULNESS. There is no more patent fact before our eyes than that men do "go astray;' they go astray, like these Levites, from God, from truth, from wisdom, from purity, from their earlier convictions and their noble life. The frequency of the fact cannot dull our eyes to the extreme sadness of it. What sadness was there in the tone of the Master's question, "Will ye also go away?" With what profound regret do we now witness the descent or' a human soul from the heights of heavenly wisdom to the depths of disbelief or iniquity! If we are asked to account for it, we suggest three powerful temptations which prove too strong for resistance.

1. The fascinations of novelty; the love of looking at things in new lights or of treading new paths.

2. The strength of the social current; the unconscious and (often) the wholly unreasonable deference we pay to the opinions of those around us. It is difficult to row against the stream of current thought and practice; it is pleasant to go with the tide, even though we suspect it is bearing us out to the open sea of uncertainty and unbelief.

3. Concern for our temporal interests; for it often happens that a firm adherence to conviction means a painful parting, not only from friends, but from the source of "food and raiment."

II. THE SUMMONS TO FIDELITY. Many things demand of us that we should be faithful even to the end. Fidelity is:

1. Obligatory. We cannot leave the service of God or of truth without breaking the most sacred bonds, without laying ourselves open to self-reproach and doing that which we shall look back upon with shame and sorrow. We owe it to those who are coming up after us - especially to our own children - that we turn not our back on our old principles.

2. Excellent. There is something honorable and admirable in a very high degree in a consistent and faithful life; not, of course, the unintelligent repetition of the old sounds, but the adherence, through good report and evil report, through storm and sunshine, to the vital principles we learnt at the feet of Jesus Christ. The head that has grown white with the consistent advocacy and illustration of elevating and ennobling truth does wear a glorious crown.

3. Attended with a large and a true reward. Steadfastness, as compared with vacillation or apostasy, not only commands the esteem of men, and not only enables its possessor to enjoy his own self-respect, but it secures for him the abiding favor of God. God calls such men not only to the gate or door of the sanctuary; he bids them "enter into it," and "come near to his table," to "minister unto him." For them is reserved the closer fellowship and the more honorable and essential service. In the service of Christ fidelity not only aspires to the higher and better service of the Master and of mankind below, but it looks forward to an admission within the blessed gates, and sitting down to the "table" of the Lord in the heavenly kingdom (Luke 22:30). - C.

What the faithful priest was under the Law, that the "good minister" is under Christ (1 Timothy 4:6). And while the form of service is altogether different, the spirit should be the same. The ideal priest, as here delineated, is, mutatis mutandis, the true bishop or pastor of the New Testament. The latter is -

I. STUDIOUS OF HIS MASTER'S WILL, EVEN IN SMALL PARTICULARS. The priest was to carry out very minute instructions (see vers. 17-20). The minister of Christ is freed from the observance of such particulars, but still he is to be regardful of the will of Christ in everything. He is to carry a Christian temper and bearing everywhere. If in the view of the Master there was a right and a wrong way of entering a room and taking a seat (see Luke 14:7-10), so may there be a right and a wrong way of entering a pulpit, or reading a chapter, or visiting a cottage.

II. CAREFUL TO BE AT HIS BEST IN PUBLIC MINISTRATIONS. The priest was to avoid the drinking of wine at or near the time of sacrifice (ver. 21). The true minister of Christ will

(1) shun everything in the way of bodily indulgence which unfits him, and

(2) study and practice every habit, whether physical or mental, which will qualify him, for the discharge of his sacred duties with the utmost efficiency.

III. AN EXEMPLAR IN ALL MATTERS OF PURITY. (Vers. 22, 25, 26.) In all domestic relations, as husband and father (see 1 Timothy 3:1-5; Titus 1:6). And in all his relations with either sex it becomes him to be a pattern of purity; not only shunning that which is positively wrong and guilty, that which is condemned in terms, but avoiding even the approaches to evil in this direction, knowing the great importance that he should encourage all, more especially the young, in that thorough purity (of heart, of word, and of deed) without which no character can be beautiful in the sight of God.

IV. ONE THAT EXPOUNDS AND ENFORCES PRACTICAL RIGHTEOUSNESS. (Ver. 23.) What the people have a right to look for from their Christian teacher is:

1. A full, clear, forcible declaration of those truths which determine their relation to God, First of all, men want to be brought into a right relation with him; until that is done it may be said that nothing is done; estranged and separated from God, there is no rest or rightness for the human heart. Then comes:

2. A clear enunciation of Christian morals; such an exposition of duty that men shall know and feel the distinction between what is right and what is wrong in all their dealings with their fellow-men, in all their home relations, in all the varied spheres in which they, move.. The minister of Christ is to be, like Noah, a "preacher of righteousness, he is so to speak that those who hear him will be powerfully encouraged in every virtue, strongly dissuaded from every evil way and all unworthiness in temper and spirit.

V. A MAN OF AN ESSENTIALLY DEVOUT LIFE. (Vers. 24, 27, 28.) One that delights in the worship of God, that does not fail to use well the privileges provided by the day and the house of the Lord, that finds his chief and best inheritance in God himself; to whom the Fatherhood of God and the friendship and service of Jesus Christ are (and not merely bring) an "exceeding great reward." He is to be a man who can say that "to him to live is Christ," and that, conversely, to know and love and serve Christ is life indeed. - C.

It was one great office of the Jewish priesthood to instruct the people to discern between the unclean and the clean. No doubt this office was often discharged in a perfunctory manner; yet a valuable purpose was answered by the importance which the Israelites were thus encouraged to attach to obedience to the behests of the great King.

I. THERE IS AN ARBITRARY AND FACTITIOUS DISTINCTION BETWEEN THE HOLY AND THE PROFANE. Such is the distinction drawn in heathen communities, simply in the interests of the priests themselves, with no moral bearing or intention.

II. THERE IS A CEREMONIAL AND SYMBOLICAL DISTINCTION BETWEEN THE HOLY AND THE PROFANE. Such was the difference which was established by the Law given by Moses to the Israelites, and maintained by Divine command by the instrumentality of the priests of Jehovah.

III. THERE IS A SPIRITUAL AND REAL DISTINCTION BETWEEN THE HOLY AND THE PROFANE. It cannot be doubted that the ceremonial differences were intended to be the emblems of deeper and more real distinctions of a moral nature. In the Christian dispensation men were early taught upon the highest authority to call nothing common or unclean. But whilst Christ abolished distinctions, which were a means to an end, which served a temporary purpose of preparation, he emphasized those distinctions which, in the sight of a holy God, are real and important. Especially was this the case with the eternal difference between moral good and evil, between what is in accordance with, and what is repugnant to, the nature, the character, and the will of God, This distinction is one which the Church of Christ is bound to maintain, both by teaching and by conduct, before a sinful and disobedient world. - T.

In every part of the world there is hunger, more or less, to possess land. By long observation men have discovered that to possess land is to possess influence and honor among their fellow-men. Is not land essential as the foundation of the harvest-crops? And are not crops of corn and fruit essential to the life of men? Is not agriculture the mainstay of a nation's well-being? Yet without land agriculture is impossible; is it not therefore reasonable that men should eagerly long to call the land their own? On the other hand, this anxiety chains down men's thoughts to inferior occupations and to a provision for their inferior nature. Such anxiety tends to draw away their attention from God and to weaken their sense of pious trust. In order to counteract this disastrous tendency, God appointed a class of men whose business it should be to keep God prominently before the eyes of their fellow-men. These servants of God were precluded from acquiring wealth. They were to be wholly employed in fostering the religious life in men. For their maintenance God provided in a special manner. These priests were designed to be models of human life, patterns of later Christians. God's method for teaching the race is this - viz., to set down a good man in their midst, and to inspire others with the desire to imitate him. If one man can live and prosper by virtue of implicit and practical faith in God, other men can. By diligent culture of the land, God has ordained that human life shall be sustained. Yet God is not shut up to this one system. "Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God."

I. EARTHLY POSSESSION IS ONLY A MEANS TO AN END. It is not a blessing, but only a medium of blessing. It is part of God's system of means. The land exists with a view to harvest. The harvest is produced with a view to man's bodily life. Man's bodily life is sustained with a view to his spiritual character. On the whole, it is best that the land should be appropriated to personal possession. This secures that the land shall be cultivated in the highest degree, and that the crops shall be protected from premature use. If all land should remain as common property, there would be lack of inducement to cultivate it; there would be lack of inducement to personal exertion; there would be no check to extravagant waste. Personal possession is best for a community; yet it becomes a waste and an injury if a man possesses more than he can cultivate. God gives not land to a man in order that he may be tyrannical, selfish, puffed up with overweening conceit. This is a miserable perversion of a Divine gift. Land is created for cultivation. Cultivation of laud is designed for the support of human life. And all the laud in the world is worth nothing to me except as it ministers to the health and vigor of my life.

II. GOD CAN SECURE THIS END BY OTHER SYSTEMS OF MEANS. The best proof that, he can do so is the fact that he has done so on many occasions. It would be the height of folly to suppose that God has not made the wisest possible arrangement for the well-being of men. Yet if men abuse the arrangement and push God away from his rightful place, God can alter his system, and bring about his end by other agencies. He sustained the life of Abraham, gave him wealth and influence among men, while, at the same time, he refused to give him a rood of land. He was the Special Protector of the Hebrew nation; yet he led them about the desert for the lifetime of a whole generation, where harvests could not be gathered, and where land was not desired as a possession. Yet they wanted not for food or for clothing. God was to them better than all harvests. So Jesus Christ called away the twelve from their secular pursuits; yet he did not suffer them to want any good thing. Jesus himself preferred to have no encumbrance of land or wealth. He freely chose the state of poverty. To him, living in such intimate union with his Father, landed possession would have been a needless burden; yet, not only were his own wants supplied, but he royally spread a table for others. What the Son did on earth was the visible effect of his Father's working.

III. UNSELFISH SERVICE BRINGS TO A MAN THE LARGEST GAIN. He who forgets himself in his generous kindness is not forgotten by his fellows - is not forgotten by God. The family of Zadok were prohibited from being landholders. Nevertheless, they shall not want. "Every dedicated thing in Israel shall be theirs." "The first of all the firstfruits" shall be theirs. God out-distances all his creatures in generously rewarding faithful service. In his book every item of devoted toil and sacrifice is noted; for it ample reward is preparing. Just as one pain of corn will produce, in the harvest, a hundred grains, so consecrated service is living seed - it shall fructify into splendid results. Did Abraham ever regret his unswerving fidelity to God? Does St. Paul feel today that he made too great sacrifices of himself for others? Has any one been a loser for serving God? It almost savors of profanity to propose such a question. The true servants of God shall enjoy the tribute due to God himself. Statesmen, under a mighty king, are rewarded with a goodly share of the revenue of the empire; so the tribute paid into God's temple God distributes among his priests. For them who serve God well other men labor. Other men till the ground and prepare the produce. They who do the highest work shall have the best reward. Thus it was predicted, "Strangers shall stand and feed your flock, and the sons of the alien shall be your ploughmen and your vine-dressers; but ye shall be called the Priests of the Lord." Like many other good things, the name and the office of the priest have been made a curse. Yet a true priest - God's servant to mankind - is a very fount of blessing. He is like salt in the earth - a preserving and purifying power. Wherever he comes he is a spring-season of life and joy. He is to be well cared for, so "that he may cause the blessing to rest in thine house."

IV. THE DEVOTED SERVANT OF GOD OBTAINS A PROPRIETORSHIP IN GOD. "I am their Inheritance... I am their Possession." An estate is not really ours because we call it ours. We cannot call anything ours unless it becomes a part and parcel of ourselves. If it adds to our character and our strength, then, and only then, is it ours. The land estate is often the master of the man. He lives to improve it rather than to be improved by it. We possess property when we really get some advantage out of it. So is it also with respect to God. If we make God our Friend, we extract advantage from him. If we believe his promises and open our souls to his vitalizing grace, we are enriched from him. God's wisdom becomes our wisdom. His righteousness becomes our righteousness. His love becomes a fountain of love in us. We are "partakers of the Divine nature." In a very emphatic sense God gives himself to us. Every capacity in us may be filled with God. If we are fully God's property, God is our Portion - our Inheritance. This is transcendent condescension, the sublimity of love.

V. TO POSSESS GOD IS TO POSSESS ALL THINGS. On this account it would have been a superfluity if Jesus had been a Proprietor of wealth. Of what advantage would it have been for him to possess fields, if he could create a sufficient supply of bread by the magic of command? Although the poorest, he was yet the richest of men. It is understood that he who possesses the key of the bank possesses the contents of the hank. If the Creator be mine, if I can call him "my Father," then whatever his creation contains of good is mine also. It is clear that I must, as a creature, be dependent. Is it better to depend on law or on the Lawgiver? on the cistern or on the Fount? on blind circumstances or Omniscient Wisdom? on natural forces or on the all-creative God? My faith is founded in common sense. God undertakes to be my Friend - my Father. Then I am his child; and" if a son, then an heir - heir of God; "All things are yours, for ye are... God's." - D.

There was a special sense in which the Lord was the Inheritance of the Levites and priests among the sons of Israel. A provision was made for them to compensate them for the lack of a territory such as was apportioned to the other tribes. Jehovah himself undertook the care of those who ministered in his sanctuary; he was their Inheritance. This declaration is suggestive of a wider truth, viz. that God is the Portion and Inheritance of all his people.




APPLICATION. Such a declaration as this should assist those who profess themselves to be God's people to overcome the natural tendency to be anxious and careful concerning their temporal state and prospects. It should encourage them to set their affection upon things above - upon the true riches. "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." -T.

There were objects, both animate and inanimate, in connection with the worship and the sacrifices of the temple, which were in an especial sense dedicated and devoted to the Lord. By this provision, spiritual instruction was afforded, and religious reverence was encouraged. As in the Christian dispensation nothing is common or unclean, we are taught to regard everything that belongs to and is associated with the Christian as consecrated to the Lord.


1. Everything is the Lord's gift. What have we that we did not receive?

2. Everything is redeemed by Christ, who, in giving himself a ransom for us, redeemed our possessions and our powers unto himself.


"Yet if I might make some reserve, And duty did not can, I love my Lord with zeal so great That I would give thee all!" As it was foretold that upon the bells of the horses should be inscribed, "Holiness unto the Lord," so, as a matter of fact, should the sincere Christian devote to his Redeemer all the common possessions, all the daily opportunities, with which Providence enriches him.

III. THE PRINCIPLE LENDS A NEW BEAUTY AND DIGNITY TO ALL THAT THE CHRISTIAN OWNS AND DOES. Every Christian's life is dedicated, and all his property and all his talents and influence are devoted. He is not his own. Thus the light of heaven is shed upon the darkness of earth, and common things are not without a glory, because they are sanctified and ennobled as used for the service and the praise of God. - T.

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