Surely the Levites who wandered away from Me when Israel went astray, and who wandered away from Me after their idols, will bear the consequences of their iniquity.
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.
p with God: — The Spirit took Ezekiel up and brought him into the inner court, I want you to observe that while the prophet was in the inner court he saw the glory of God and heard God speaking to him. That inner court represents to us the innermost fellowship with God.
The glory of the Lord filled the house.
( M. Henry.)
I. IN THE INNER COURT HE SAW THE GLORY OF GOD. You stand outside some great cathedral, looking at the large stained-glass window that is said to be of such immense value and noted for its exquisite loveliness. You have heard of its beautiful design, of its rich colouring and delicate shadings. But you are disappointed. All you can see is a dim, dull easement, blotched here and there. But that is because you have been judging it from the standpoint of the exterior of the building. In that position you can see no glory. Get into the interior, — into the inner court, and your opinion will suddenly change. The scientist, if an unbeliever, cannot see the glory of God in Nature as can the man who has been brought into the inner court of fellowship with God. The man in the outer court may see a great deal of beauty in natural phenomena, and a wonderful design in "the operations and effects of natural laws"; but there are beauties in Nature to the believer that far surpass those. Jonathan Edwards, speaking of his own experience of having enjoyed a wonderful sense of God's pardoning mercy, said, "The wisdom, purity, and love of God seemed to appear in everything: in the sun, moon, and stars; in the clouds and blue sky; in the grass, flowers, and trees; in the water and all nature, which greatly fixed my mind. I beheld the sweet glory of God in all these things, and in the meantime sang with a low voice my contemplations of the Creator and Redeemer." As with Nature, so with Revelation. The Bible has been called a glorious temple. "When He the Spirit of Truth is come, He will guide you into all truth." There our Lord indicates the faculty of spiritual perception and interpretation. How little of the glory of God we have seen! How seldom, as by a mystic hand, are we led beyond the vestibule into the inner sanctuary of the Most High! There was a time when God, maintaining strict reserve, dwelt in a peculiar way in the Holy of Holies of the ancient Temple. On the mercy seat was the Shekinah — the great symbol of His presence and unapproachable glory — which burned and glowed perpetually in bright and vivid splendour. Before this was hung the closely woven veil. There was no admission save for the High Priest, and he might pass within but once a year. But now we have "boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say His flesh." The High Priest of old could not look at the glory without seeing the blood that was sprinkled on the mercy seat. "The same blood, the same atonement by which we draw near to God, is the same by which we must remain in communion with God." "And," says the prophet Ezekiel, "the man stood by me." Jesus Christ, the God-Man, is the glory of God. "God, Who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." The Holy Spirit is the light of God that we may see Him.
II. WHILE EZEKIEL WAS IN THE INNER COURT, GOD SPAKE TO HIM. Few live in the higher condition of perpetual fellowship with the Father and the Son; but it is in that higher condition that the noblest faculties of the soul are brought into use, Habakkuk said, "I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what He will say unto me" (Habakkuk 2:1). He would get above the crush and clamour of worldly things. As he who stands upon some eminence of cliff is not disturbed by the murmuring wavelets channelling the sands beneath, so the "lifted up" spirit, liberated from a narrow, mundane view, is unaffected by the carking cares which annoy and the anxieties which absorb the many, — the frettings which disturb serenity and scare away peace. We want to live above the corroding, cloying, flippant, superficial pleasures of time. We must get into a calm atmosphere, — the "sphere of silence," — the unbroken solitudes of "the heavenlies," if we are to hear His voice. Professor Smythe was engaged for some weeks in making astronomical observations on the Rock of Teneriffe. When he and his party descended from the height, they were surprised to find that a storm had been raging of which they had heard and seen nothing.
(A. W. Welch.)
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