Last week, in Lessons from
Ezekiel's Temple, Part 11, we discovered that the presence
of the Lord in our hearts should be our number one priority,
and in order to ensure that He comes and stays, we need to
do everything in our power to invite Him in, to make sure
that there is room for Him in the "structure" of our hearts.
Today's lesson takes a look at the meaning and importance of the sacrifices:
"But the priests, who are Levites and descendants of Zadok and who faithfully carried out the duties of my sanctuary when the Israelites went astray from me, are to come near to minister before me; they are to stand before me to offer sacrifices of fat and blood, declares the Sovereign Lord. They alone are to enter my sanctuary; they alone are to come near my table to minister before me and perform my service." (Ezek 44:15-16 NIV)
As you read through the
description of Ezekiel's temple, it soon becomes apparent
that all of the human activity centering on the entire
structure is for one purpose: Sacrifice. You find the
special sacrificial rooms, the sacrificial tables, the tools
and hooks for preparing and hanging the sacrifices (see
Lessons From Ezekiel's Temple, Part 10B), the caldrons for
cooking the sacrificial meat, and of course, the altar for
bringing the sacrifices to God.
But we don't do animal sacrifices anymore. These were done away with at the cross when Jesus became our ultimate sacrifice: "There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood." (Rom 3:22-25 NIV). So what, possibly, could all of this emphasis on sacrifices have to do with us today?
In the book of Philippians, Paul
says: "But even if I am being poured out like a drink
offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your
faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too
should be glad and rejoice with me." (Phil 2:17-18 NIV)
What this verse is saying is that one result of our faith is sacrifice! In other words, when we belong to Christ, we WILL sacrifice! The type of sacrifice and the reason for sacrificing may have changed when Jesus died on the cross, but the idea of sacrificing did not, and this is the reason behind all of the emphasis on sacrifice in Ezekiel's temple.
And just what types of sacrifices are we to give?
The Israelites gave of their wealth (flocks and herds). We are to do the same. Animals are not counted as wealth in our day and age, but money is, and we are to give of what we have.
But the idea of sacrifice is not
limited to money. Hebrews tells us to: "Through Jesus,
therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of
praise - the fruit of lips that confess his name."
(Heb 13:15-16 NIV). This verse intimates that we are to
continually offer God the sacrifice of our praise. We are
even told that when one belongs to Jesus, the praise that
flows from the lips is nothing other than a natural result
of confessing His name!
The Apostle Paul speaks of a different form of sacrifice: "Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account. I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God." (Phil 4:17-19 NIV);
Friends, when we give unselfishly of what we have to others, it is a sacrifice, and God calls it a "fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God"!
There are numerous other examples
in the New Testament of people sacrificing their time (See
Acts 9), their land (See Acts 4,5), their clothing (Remember
Dorcas? See Acts 9:36-39), their homes and food (numerous
references to this throughout the book of Acts), even their
very lives (Peter, Paul, John, Barnabas, to name a few).
Basically it comes down to this: When our hearts are open to
the workings of God's Spirit, we will see the need around
us, and we will be drawn to respond with whatever sacrifice
is necessary at the moment.
But what if everything that we have is needed by us and by our families, and we truly have nothing to give?
This is the beautiful part, friends! When Paul commended the people of Philippi for their gifts (see Phil 4:17-18, above), he knew they were often giving what they needed for themselves, and this is why he concluded his statement by saying, "And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus." (Phil 4:19 NIV) Basically, we don't have to worry about not having enough for ourselves when we give to others, for when we worry about the needs of others, God worries about our own needs! He will provide!
Enough to ponder, but do ponder this: The reason there is so much emphasis on sacrifices in the descriptions of Ezekiel's temple is because sacrifice is still vitally important for us today! The types of sacrifice have changed, yes, but the concept of giving has not. Let's remember Ezekiel's temple and remember to sacrifice lovingly and freely!
There are many other important lessons to be learned from the references to sacrifices in Ezekiel. Join us next week for another important lesson from Ezekiel's temple: Lessons from Ezekiel's Temple, Part 12b: The Purification for Sacrifice
God bless each of you as you seek to draw closer to Him!
In His love,
Lyn Chaffart, Mother of two teens, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, www.scripturalnuggets.org , with Answers2Prayer Ministries, www.Answers2Prayer.org .