Saturday, August 15, 2015


For the week beginning Sunday August 16, 2015

(Special offerings and celebrations)
Ezekiel 45-46

In Ezekiel 45, verses 1-7, the LORD tells Ezekiel that when the Israelites divide the land after their return from Babylon, they must first set aside a section for HIM as HIS holy portion. This piece of land must measure 8 1/3 miles long and 6 2/3 miles wide. A section of this land measuring 875 feet square was to be set aside for the Temple itself, with an additional strip of land 87 ½ feet wide left empty all the way around the Temple area (Vs.1-2).
Within this sacred plot of land, GOD instructed HIS prophet that there will be measured out, a strip of land 8 1/3 miles long and 3 1/3 miles wide, and within it, is where the Most Holy Place will be located. It is there that the holy priests will minister to the LORD in the sanctuary (Vs.3-4a). The priests will use this space for their homes, and the Temple will be located there also (v.4b).
The remaining strip of land next to the priests and the Temple (8 1/3 miles long and 3 1/3 miles wide) would be used as a living area for the Levites who worked in the Temple. They were to build their towns and villages there. Adjacent to the larger sacred area of land will be a somewhat smaller strip of land, 8 1/3 miles long and 1 1/3 miles wide where anyone in Israel can come to live (Vs.5-6).
And then there would be two special sections of land set apart for the prince. One of those sections will share a border with the east side of the sacred land and city, and the other section would share a border with the west side. Therefore, this strip of land would extend along the east side of the Jordan River, and on the west side of the Mediterranean Sea (Vs.7-8).
In verses 9-12 GOD uses “the offerings of HIS future promised blessings” to inspire, or exhort the coming princes, or leaders of Israel to repentance. The civil leaders of Israel’s pre-exilic days, because of their out-of-control greed and selfishness, had recklessly disregarded and ignored the rights of the common people that they were sworn to protect. Here in these verses we see these rules being set for the civil leaders to abide by, coming from the mind of GOD, and the mouth of Ezekiel;

For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: Enough, you princes of Israel! Stop your violence and oppression and do what is just and right. Quit robbing and cheating my people out of their land. Stop expelling them from their homes, says the Sovereign Lord. 10 Use only honest weights and scales and honest measures, both dry and liquid. 11 The homer will be your standard unit for measuring volume. The ephah and the bath will each measure one-tenth of a homer. 12 The standard unit for weight will be the silver shekel. One shekel will consist of twenty gerahs, and sixty shekels will be equal to one mina.” (NLT)

Weights used in the Old Testament times varied somewhat, and oftentimes people used those variations to cheat their fellowman. Here GOD is admonishing the leaders to incorporate and use a more consistent way of measuring in the marketplace and elsewhere.
In verses 13-25 we see attention being given to “special offerings” and “celebrations”, starting with those offerings of the people that are presented to GOD by the princes, or civil leaders of Israel (Vs.13-17). Here the LORD sets aside a tax to be paid to the civil leader. These taxes would represent the various offerings that will be used to make atonement for the people who bring them, and those people are told to join the civil leader when he brings their offering. The civil leader would be required to provide all of the various offerings that were given at the various required festivals, and at the Sabbath days.
In the early spring, on the first day of each year, Nissan 1 (mid-April on Gregorian calendar), the sanctuary had to be purified. This day called for the sacrificing of a young bull with no physical defects as a “sin offering”, and perhaps represented a “Day of Atonement”, much like the one traditionally observed during the seventh month of the year (Leviticus 23:26-32). On this occasion the priest would take the blood from the bull and put it on the doorposts of the Temple, the four corners of the upper ledge on the altar, and, on the gateposts at the entrance to the inner courtyard. This was also done on the seventh day of the new year, for anyone who had sinned unintentionally through error, or ignorance (Vs.18-20).
On the fourteenth day of the new year the Passover was celebrated in all of Israel. The Passover would last for seven days, and during that time, only bread without yeast could be eaten. On the first day of the Passover the prince would provide a young bull as a sin offering for himself and the people of Israel (Vs.21-22). Every day, for the duration of the Passover feast, the prince would also prepare a burnt offering to the LORD. This daily offering required seven young bulls, and seven rams free of any defects, along with a provision of a half bushel of flour for a grain offering, and a gallon of olive oil with each bull and ram. It also required the sacrifice of a male goat each day as a sin offering (Vs.23-24).
And finally, during the seven days of the third festival, the “Festival of the Tabernacle”, or “Festival of Shelters”, which begins on the fifteenth day of the seventh month each year (early autumn), the prince will provide the same sacrifices for the sin offering, the burnt offering, and the grain offering for himself and the people.
In Ezekiel 46, after instructing Israel on the religious feasts that are required by GOD, Ezekiel now informs GOD’s people on what GOD expects from them regarding their daily worship, and regarding keeping HIS regulations for the Sabbath Days and New Moon sacrifices. He begins by instructing the people that the east gateway of the inner wall must be kept closed during the six workdays each week. It was only to be opened on Sabbath Days, and those days of the New Moon offerings (v.1). On those days, the prince will enter the foyer of the gateway from the outside, and stand by the gatepost while the priests offer his burnt offerings and peace offerings up to the LORD. The details of those offerings are highlighted in verses 4-7. The civil leader (the prince) will worship inside the gateway passage and then go back out the same way he came in, and the gateway will remain open until the evening. Meanwhile, the common people will worship the LORD in front of the gateway on those Sabbath days, and days of New Moon offerings (Vs.2-7).
In verses 8-10, the LORD lays out the orderly way in which everyone will “enter” and “exit” the Temple. There was no entrance to the Temple on the west side, and the east gate was permanently restricted to everyone except the prince. Thus access and exits for the common people would be on the north and south sides of the Temple. Those who came in through the north gateway would have to exit through the south gateway, and those who entered through the south gateway would have to exit through the north gateway. And the prince could only enter and exit through the east gateway at all times. Unlike on Sabbath Days and New Moon Days, when the east gateway will remain open until the evening, on the days of special religious festivals, the east gateway will be closed immediately after the prince leaves. If the prince decides to give a “freewill offering” to the LORD, the east gateway will be opened for him (v.12).
In verses 16-18 the LORD says that; “If the prince gives a gift of land to one of his sons as his inheritance, it will belong to him and his descendants forever. 17 But if the prince gives a gift of land from his inheritance to one of his servants, the servant may keep it only until the Year of Jubilee, which comes every fiftieth year. At that time the land will return to the prince. But when the prince gives gifts to his sons, those gifts will be permanent. 18 And the prince may never take anyone’s property by force. If he gives property to his sons, it must be from his own land, for I do not want any of my people unjustly evicted from their property.”
The “Jubilee Year” comes once every fifty years and “goodwill gifts” are governed by those years for gifts that are given to servants. The Jubilee Year also affects the ownership of property that is sold to non-relatives, because every fifty years property that was sold to non-family members would have to revert back to the original owner (Leviticus 25:10-13). Land that was sold or given to family members would remain permanently with the buyer or beneficiary, and does not have to be returned to the original owner in the Jubilee Year. 
In verses 19-24 the “Temple Kitchens” where the sacrifices are prepared are addressed. In this passage the angelic being brings Ezekiel to the entrance of the north gateway and led him to the sacred rooms of the priests. He then showed Ezekiel a place at the extreme west end of their quarters. He explained to the prophet that this was where the priests cooked the meat from the guilt offerings and sin offerings, and bakes the flour from the grain offerings into bread. The cooking was done there to keep from having to carry the sacrifices through the outer courtyard where the general public was permitted to go.
Afterwards, he brought Ezekiel back to the outer courtyard and led him to each of the four corners of the area. In each corner there was an enclosure that measured 70 feet long and 52 ½ feet wide, surrounded by walls. All along the walls were fireplaces situated under a ledge of stone. These were the kitchens that were used by the Temple servants and assistants to boil the meat sacrifices offered by the people of Israel. When the people offered “fellowship offerings” to the LORD, they would be able to eat part of those offerings in a fellowship meal with other parishioners, as well as with the widows, orphans, and others who were in need of food provisions.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website

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