My Everything Forever

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“It was round about eighteen thousand measures: and the name of the city from that day shall be, ’The LORD is there.’” Ezekiel 48:35

 
David shared about God’s glory in Psalm 19: 1-4, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night shows knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them has He set a tabernacle for the sun…” So since the time of creation, God’s glory has been present. Paul reiterates this in Romans 1:20, “For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” What were they without excuse about? How about not becoming personally involved with that eternal power and divine nature?  Could God’s demonstration through all of creation be more than just a demonstration? Could it be a demonstration for the purpose of invitation? Could it be a calling back into His presence, into the place where man and woman were created to live all along?

 
Beyond manifesting Himself through nature, God has chosen to manifest Himself directly to His people in many ways. In redeeming His people from Israel He was there as a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night. The Shekinah glory cloud showed His “presence, provision, protection, and guidance” Also associated with the Shekinah cloud is the Angel of God. In Numbers 14:13,14 we see the pillar of cloud there to comfort Israel and to stand in the way of her enemies. The pillar, or presence of God moved with the people.

If we jump to Moses we have God manifesting His presence in the burning bush. Again He manifests His presence and provision in the giving of manna, the bread from heaven. And there He is again, with Moses, giving the Law at Sinai with His fingers in stone. And tell me that wasn’t for the benefit of His people to understand how much He is with them.  I mean, does God even really need fingers like we have to write with?  Yet, He chooses to manifest Himself in ways that we can understand even though He is beyond understanding. Imagine, there He was, on Mt. Sinai, manifesting Himself as a consuming fire and the fear the people felt did not drive them to awe but they turned shortly thereafter to a golden calf instead.

Solomon new that the temple was there as a place for God to meet His people and yet how could a temple hold His awesomeness? “Will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain Thee, how much less this house which I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27) That does not negate God’s presence but it makes us appreciate that He is present for us all the more.

God manifested Himself through and to Elijah, Elisha, David, Jacob, Abram. He manifested Himself to the children of Israel and to the Egyptians. He manifested Himself before other attacking nations.

Now, He manifests Himself through us as we let our “light shine before others, so that they may see [our] good works and give glory to [our] Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16) We are living sacrifices according to Paul. Our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit and we are no longer our own. Why? We have been bought with a price. The price of the sacrifice of Christ for us. So it is only right and makes sense that we should glorify God in our body with all that we are. After all, I owe my whole life to Him. Today, God is here in individual believers. And individual believers are members of the body of Christ which is the church. Are we living as though God is here in us? And are we living as though we are truly members dependent upon the other members of the body of Christ? Or do we, like the mixed multitude, see the glory of God and walk another direction and worship toward another?

The great news is that there is coming a day when the glory of God will be fully manifested. He will be there forever and ever. Because God made an unconditional covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, He will never break His covenant. Haggai 2:9 tells us “’The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts.’” And what makes this time more glorious? The King of kings is returning to defeat His enemies and take His throne! The Lord will be there with His people forever! Revelation 3:21-22 promises, “He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” The Shekinah will return. The glory of God will be present with us. There will be rejoicing and shouts of joy. There will be encouragement for the exhausted, strength for the feeble, courage for the fearful, and salvation for the helpless.

When I was a little girl and started hearing about Jesus, all I could do was think about Him. All I wanted more than anything was to be with Him. I thought to do that I would have to go back in time or God would have to let my mom give birth to Jesus again. Neither one of those was the way. And it wasn’t until I was about 15 years old that I learned that I could walk with Jesus in my life now by surrendering my life to Him and trusting Him as my Lord and as my Saviour. His presence is not just a literary fact that I hang on to. His presence is manifested in my life. There are times when you can strongly feel His presence. There is the touch of God on the person inside as He changes me. There are times He intervenes on my behalf. There are times He is silent and makes me learn to wait and trust and love Him more than my answer to prayer. But still, there is something even more special about this day in the future when Jehovah Shama becomes the name of His great city. In that day when we can say, “The Lord is here!” it will be like walking with Jesus here on earth again, only far more amazing because Jesus will be acknowledged as Lord. For a millennium we will see what life ought to be like in His presence here on earth. We, all people at that time, will get to live life in the midst of His peace and presence.

Do you know why? It’s because God is faithful even when we are not. God made a covenant of peace with His people, an everlasting covenant way back in what we call the Old Testament. His people have broken that covenant. But God is not a covenant breaker. He is and always will hold true to His promises. And He promised to place His people and multiply them, and set His sanctuary in their midst forever. And He has said that He will be with His people, and He will be their God, and they will be His people. And it doesn’t stop there! Even the nations, the Gentiles like most of us, will know that He is the Lord and that He sets us apart from the “profane” or ordinary and makes us holy. And when He is in our midst we will know the difference between ordinary and holy because it’s not just about a temple being in the middle of our society, it’s about God being in the midst of our hearts forever. This is the joy and promise of the Millennium; a time on earth of knowing God, of living in His presence.

 
This word in Ezekiel actually came at a time when the Lord was not there. His Shekinah, His presence had left Israel because of their continued rejection of Him. Judah would receive judgement and then the nations around them would receive judgement. This message was to give Israel hope that they could return to God and He would restore them to Him again. But here is the problem. Do we believe and trust God by acting in faith? Or do we reject His promises and search out our own restoration our own way?
I think of Jonah who didn’t want restoration for Ninevah God’s way. So he tried to run from it and from God. But where can you hide from God? Psalm 139:7-12 reminds us, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night,’ even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You.”

When I was little, I thought that God was far away, but God tells Jeremiah, “‘Am I a God who is near,’ declares the Lord, ‘And not a God far off? Can a man hide himself in hiding places so I do not see him?’ declares the Lord, ‘Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?’ declares the Lord.” Yes, He is a God who is near and far at the same time. He encompasses the whole universe and more and yet, He knows the intimacies of my heart. He knows not only that Adam and Eve have run to hide, but He knows their most intimate thoughts and reasonings.

One of the names for Jesus is Emmanuel, meaning, God with us. This is not an afterthought or because there was an oops moment when God realized that maybe the tree of knowledge wasn’t a good idea because now man has sinned and we need another plan. This, God with us, has been God’s plan and way from the beginning. It’s the reason God gave Adam and Eve a choice. Think about it. God never had to choose to be with us. He created us. We could be puppets. Yet He chose to relate with us, to interact with us, to love us and to know us and to be known by us. Now it’s up to us, each of us, and all of us, to reciprocate that privilege. It’s up to me to know my Maker. But I must choose to know Him. God’s promise is that all the earth will be filled with His glory because His desire is that all would know Him.

It makes sense to know the One who created me and who loves me most. Paul reiterated that, that it makes sense “that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your poets have said, ‘For we are His children.’” (Acts 17:27-28) After all, He is the I AM THAT I AM, the Self-Existent One. There is no one else like God. Who else should we grasp on to?

 
There are lots of broken hearted people in the world today. Sin is like that. It breaks hearts and lives. But Jesus came to save and heal the brokenhearted. David reminded us in Psalm 34:18 that “the Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Isaiah shared God’s heart in chapter 57 verse 15, “For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, ‘I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.’” He is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. (Psalm 145:18)

 
You know, Moses was a smart man. He was smart because he wouldn’t take a step without knowing God was present with him. Listen to his own words, “Then he said to Him, ‘If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here. For how then can it be known that I have found favour in Your sight, I and Your people? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we, I and Your people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth?’” (Exodus 33:15-16) Didn’t God honour that attitude with His presence? Didn’t God take Moses and the people through the waters and stay with them? Didn’t He keep the rivers from overflowing on them? Did He keep the flames from scorching and burning Shardrach, Meshach, and Abednego? Wasn’t He in their midst? Wasn’t He their warrior? Do You know that He rejoices over His people?
Paul shares in 1 Corinthians 14 about the reaction of someone coming under conviction of God’s Spirit. Now understand that you can’t come under conviction of God’s Spirit without His Spirit being present, right?

 

So what happens when we realizefaith the presence of God’s Spirit working in us? The secrets of our heart are disclosed, we fall on our face and worship God, knowing and declaring that He IS HERE among us. Jesus taught us to teach each other to follow and obey God’s commands and that He would be with us always, even to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:20) It’s not a light thing that Paul, in 1 Corinthians 3:16 tells us that as believers we are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in us. The temple was designed by God as a place where He would make His presence known with His people. That ought to effect my life, shouldn’t it? John 14:18 tells us that Jesus will not leave us as orphans but will come unto us. Paul in Ephesians 2:22 reminds us that we are being continually built together into a dwelling place of the Spirit of God. How closely present is that! Yes, Jesus wants to be present not just with us, but in us. John reminds us in 1 John 3:24, “The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.” Yes, God’s presence is a reality. It’s a glorious reality!

But here’s the thing. I can choose to live in the glorious reality of His presence by following Him and following His ways and living in them. Or I can choose to deny this glorious reality of His presence by living my own way. My choice to deny His presence won’t change His glory but it will change my ability to show forth His glory in and by my life. And it will mean that instead of experiencing the presence of the Lord in my life, I will experience his absence, but that is not by His choice. His choice is that each one of us would know Him and live and walk in His presence. And some day, God knows when, there will be a day when all the people on the face of the earth will know and experience and walk in His presence. And you would think that everyone would think that the most awesome experience ever and that no one would want to turn back to our old ways or our own selfish ways. But you know, the millennium only lasts for that, a millennium. And when the end of the millennium comes, do you realize there will still be people, who even after living in a millennium of perfect peace in the presence of God Himself, they won’t be satisfied and they will rise up against God one more time? Well, I want to so enjoy and thrive on the presence of God even now, that nothing else, ever, would satisfy me or draw me away. I want to know You God for who You are, all of You, so that nothing else compares to You. I want to be so taken and overwhelmed by You that You are my everything forever. Guide me that closely in You, Lord, until You alone are my Everything even today until forever.

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On Being Who He’s “Put” You to Be

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“And the Lord said to me, ‘Son of man, mark well, and behold with your eyes, and hear with your ears all that I say to you concerning all the ordinances of the house of the Lord, and all the laws thereof; and mark well the entering in of the house, with every going forth of the sanctuary.’” (Ezekiel 44:5)

 
When I hear God saying, “Mark well…” it makes me think I’m really supposed to be paying attention. It seems to be confirmed when He follows it up with “behold with your eyes, and hear with your ears.” And what am I supposed to be paying attention to? The ordinances of the someday sanctuary of God, of it’s laws, and even who gets to enter and exit through the different doors. Well, really this was told to Ezekiel. And Ezekiel was to relay it to the children of Israel. But God allows us to be privy to this information today. So I would assume that we also ought to mark it well, to behold with our eyes and hear with our ears because some day, when that day comes this will be an experience shared by all believers, including those already with the Lord. So, I may not understand fully now, but there will come a day when I will appreciate fully the significance of every utterance of God concerning this.

 
But that’s me thinking about this as a 20th century Gentile. And it’s not totally wrong thinking. But if I stop to think about the Hebrew words, it makes me think and respond even more. Like that word “mark” is from the Hebrew word “siym”. It actually means “to put”.  Genesius’s Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon gives the first definition as “to put, to set, to place.” It can mean in that respect “to plant, to beget children, to construct a nest or habitation, to dispose an army or to set an array, to constitute, to found, or to set a statute or place.” It’s next definition can be “to put, to place, or to lay inanimate things.” In that case it’s used like “in putting garments on, laying down a pledge, putting or imposing on someone something to be done, putting or imposing a name on anyone, putting before one’s own eyes as in highly regarding, propounding or explaining to someone, laying up in a treasury, or laying up on the heart.” Even the third definition has to do with “putting, placing, or setting as in directing to turn in any direction.” It’s like “setting the eye on, to see, setting the face on or towards, setting the heart upon, attending.” Next is the definition “of making or rendering anyone so and so.” And lastly, “to make, to prepare for anyone.” After reading all of those and thinking about it, it’s less like just a warning or good advice and more like a commission or anointing in a sense. Let me share another verse which leads me to think that this is God’s way of saying, “Here is my purpose for you, here is where I’m placing you and equipping you, so understand and then live accordingly.”

 
Let’s go back to the beginning. That’s always a good place to start. So we go back to Genesis 2:8, “The Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed.” See that word for placed? It’s the same word “siym” as “marked”.  I’m not saying that one word can’t have multiple meanings. But I’m wondering if it still doesn’t carry some of those meanings over. Here, Adam was being put in the garden. He didn’t start out there. He was put or placed there by God for a purpose. God placed Ezekiel in the temple. He was placed for a purpose. God places each of us where He will and it is for a purpose. Am I accepting and living out His purpose in my placement?

 
God has a plan. He had it for Adam and beyond Adam. God still has a plan. He had it for Ezekiel and beyond Ezekiel. God still has a plan. He has it for me and beyond me. He has it for you and beyond you. Guess what? God is even in charge of our geography! Oh, wait a minute! But Adam was placed in a perfect paradise, my life isn’t. Was Adam placed in a perfect paradise? As I recall, God planted the garden and everything in it. God planned the tree, that tree of the knowledge of good and evil that was the downfall of man. From the beginning, that tells me that the Garden had the potential for what we know as “evil” from the start.

 
But what I do know is that God placed Adam in the garden for His purpose and to have a fully untainted relationship with Him, and to be able to eat of the tree of life. God fully nourished man there and provided everything he needed and man was able to exhibit his own free choice. It was a fully satisfying place, yet a dangerous place. But it was “only dangerous because it contains the possibility of disobedience.” (Skip Moen) God knew what He was doing. None of this is a surprise or oops moment. God planted and placed that tree in the Garden, the one that Adam chose over Him. Does that make you stop and think? It does me.

 
Being planted and placed carries a heavy responsibility and commitment to the One who plants and places. I have to continually realize and be reminded that I am not and never have been the planter and placer of myself or anyone else. God is my planter and placer. God is the planter and placer. I better mark this well because my life depends on it. My satisfaction depends on this. My nourishment depends on Him. I better understand the purpose and importance and significance of my placement in life by God. I better use my eyes for their correct purpose, to see and obey His will for my life and those around me. I better use my ears to hear and obey Him. I better surrender my whole body and being to His purpose or I am fighting against my very purpose in life.

 
Where has God planted me? Am I marking His planting and responding according to Him? Are His ordinances and laws and ways of life and love flowing from me where He has put me? I’m here for His purpose, not my own, and yet at the same time He has made His purpose the very purpose of my being. Am I fulfilling that in Him. Am I preparing the way for others to fulfill His purpose in them or am I making my own plans and spreading them? Adam spread his own plans. And look how it affected his family and others down the road. But Ezekiel was spreading God’s plans even to the point of spreading them to you and me today.

 
I suppose that even those who are placed with a purpose must learn the difference between holy and profane and how to discern between the unclean and clean. And that means to me, that there had to be a choice from the beginning. But it’s a sad thing to have to learn the hard way that we should have chosen God all along. Lord, may I cling to that which is holy and of You so tightly that the profane no longer has any appeal for me. I pray that my desire is so strong to fulfill Your purpose that I would stop thinking about my purpose and just let Yours more than suffice in me. May I continually come to the Tree of Life for Your sustenance and direction and may knowledge not even be an interest because knowing You and knowing You are in charge is all I need to know to live.

 
“The end of the matter, all having been heard: fear God, and keep His commandments; for this is the whole man.” Want to be whole? Want to fulfill your God-given purpose? Mark God’s word. Be who He’s “put” you to be in Him.

Measuring Up

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Photo credit to readingrockets.org.

 

“You, son of man, show the house to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities: and let them measure the pattern.” Ezekiel 43:10

 
God doesn’t just build houses to build houses. God is intentional. He has reasons for what He does. And He is intentional about inviting us into His reasoning. Whether it’s in the midst of directions on how to build a giant ark or in the midst of the instructions in a future temple that He will inhabit on earth with man, it’s more than just empty details. There’s something worth paying attention in it for us. It wasn’t just rules and regulations for the children of Israel either. God’s “patterns” matter. We, like the children of Israel need to learn to measure them as well.

 
But before we can learn to measure God’s measures in His patterns rightly, we need to measure our own hearts and lives before Him. We need to acknowledge, be ashamed of our own sin in our lives, and turn from them to Him. That’s part of real measuring. I have to measure up to God’s standards, not my own, not any one else’s, and definitely not the world’s. I don’t want to be weighed in the scale and found wanting. I don’t want to not measure up to God’s standard.

 
That’s what this word measure means. Over and over again, madad or measure, means to stretch that line for that measurement. There’s a comparison and a measuring against something, like when the manna was gathered and they “did mete it with an omer.” (Exodus 16:18) Wasn’t there a lesson in the manna and measuring it out? In Numbers 35:5, You had the Israelites measure a place for the Levites to live. It’s not just random. In Deuteronomy 21:2, if a man is found slain in the middle of a field, the elders and judges would measure the distance to the nearest city and those elders and judges would be responsible for making a sacrifice in order to make things right. They would be responsible for putting “away the guilt of innocent blood from among you, when you shall do that which is right in the sight of the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 21:9)

 
Boaz measured out six measures of barley for Ruth, using this word. David destroyed Moab and “measured them with a line…” (2 Samuel 8:2) And Elijah, when he stretched himself over the dead child’s body to bring him back to life, was using that “measuring” in the stretching. I wonder if that was like Elijah saying, “This is the power of God in me measured over against you, child. The measure of the power of God is life abundantly. Let us measure that out in you.” In Isaiah 40:12 we hear of You God, “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?”

 
The thing is, this God who measures the waters and the heavens and the mountains and the dust, measures our hearts and actions. He lays Himself against us like Elijah layed against the boy, and by our response to our iniquities, our sin in Him, He determines His response to us. Like in Isaiah 65:7 we will all see how we stand up to Your measuring, Lord. “‘Your iniquities, and the iniquities of your fathers together,’ says the Lord, ‘which have burned incense upon the mountains, and blasphemed Me upon the hills: therefore will I measure their former work into their bosom.’” Do I want my actions and decisions and works to be measured against me or for me? Am I blaspheming You in my walk in life? Or am I dependent upon You and walking in You? Because to have You turn Your face to me and measure Yourself against me is a terrible thing for me. I will lose in the measuring every time. There is no comparison. But to have You cover me by Your measure, to be totally dependent on You, to walk in You and love Your ways and receive Your grace and mercy and love, is a totally different story. It’s a story that measures me and finds me sufficient in Your grace, sufficient in You, loved and covered and empowered by You.

 
In Ezekiel alone, this word for measuring is used 35 times. Maybe it’s important that we each understand that we are being measured. Maybe it’s really important that we pay attention so we know what is required to make the measurement and what the consequences are for not measuring up. Our life today, tomorrow, and into eternity depends upon this measurement. If I want to live, I need to understand God’s measure. It’s the path to real life today, tomorrow, and forever.

 
So what are we measuring up to? A living God, actually, THE LIVING GOD. Like Israel, we all were once not a people, especially not Your people, God. But just like You called Israel out of Ur and made them a people, You call us out of this world and make us Your people, alive in You. You fill us with Your measure and make us sons of the Living God! (Hosea 1:10)

 
We’re called to measure the pattern. A pattern is a sum, it’s a picture of things that You want us to understand and it has a value. It adds up to something really important. Every one of it’s parts matter. The measurements, all of them, are integral to the formation of the whole thing. “How precious are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them!” (Psalm 139) It’s the substance, the completion, the height.

 
And sure, I’ve spent a lot of time in the Old Testament. But this isn’t just an Old Testament concept. This is a God concept, established from the start. That’s why it’s there already in the Old Testament and reiterated in the New Testament, because it’s a timeless truth. Paul tells Timothy of how God used him to show forth the pattern of believing. “Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on Him to everlasting life.” (1 Timothy 1:16) And that’s what we’re called to just as well. “In all things showing thyself a pattern of good works [that measure up to God!-my note]: in doctrine showing incorruptness, gravity, sincerity…” (Titus 2:7) And Paul re-emphasizes how we are serving unto “the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, ’See,’ saith He, ‘that you make all things according to the pattern shown to you in the mount.’” (Hebrews 8:5)

 
So, who’s measure am I living by? Who’s pattern am I following? Lord, I want to live by Your measure and by Your pattern and not by my own because I know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that my measure can never measure up and that my pattern is flawed. But not Yours. Your measure is beyond compare. Your measure is perfect and complete. Your measure is more than enough for me. And Your pattern is too beautiful for words. As You measure me, may I not be found wanting because You find me filled to Your measure of You. It’s not easy but there is nothing in life that is worth more.

A Peculiar People, Most Uncommon!

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Photo credit to everydayfamily.com

 

“He measured it by the four sides: it had a wall round about, five hundred reeds long, and five hundred broad, to make a separation between the sanctuary and the profane place.” Ezekiel 42:20

 
So here You are, Lord, continuing to give us detailed information about Your future sanctuary. And then at the end of this chapter You tell us You are making a separation between the sanctuary and the profane place. And I wonder if most of the time we just read over that like the reading itself is beneficial for us. Now I’m not saying the reading isn’t beneficial, but reading without thinking or understanding, where is the benefit? Reading and thinking this was only important then but not now, how beneficial is that? What if You want me to grasp some of this now? What if You do want it to be beneficial to me? What if it does matter today as well as then?

 
Maybe it would do me good to take time to see what You mean by this separation. Maybe I should try to understand Your meaning of sanctuary and what You mean by the profane place. Maybe all this would help me as I live out my life in You today.
The sanctuary in Hebrew is from the word qodesh. On the other hand, the profane place is from the Hebrew word chol. In one sense we can think of it as a separation (Hebrew badal) between the holy and the secular. But I think this requires a deeper investigation to understand. This word chol actually means profaneness or commonness. Qodesh, on the other hand, is sacred and holy. So right away we can see that there is a contrast between these two words, these to concepts.

 
If we jump back to Leviticus 10:8-11 we can see these words in play. “And the Lord spoke to Aaron, saying, ‘Drink no wine or strong drink, you or your sons with you, when you go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest you die: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generation: and that you may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean; and that you may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the Lord has spoken unto them by the hand of Moses.” Is separating between holy and unholy and unclean and clean that important? It appears so. But what does that mean to us today?

 
Here were Aaron and his sons set apart by God to represent His holiness and to be the ones to come before Him in the Holy of Holies on behalf of the people of Israel. Not only were they to live and act separated unto Him, but they were to teach the people to be separated unto Him. But separated from what? Separated from the common, separated from the world, separated from the secular. But here’s the deal. Hey, we are secular, we live in the secular, so how can we be separate from what we are? After all, secular is just the stuff of the world without regard to the spiritual. It’s the mundane part of living without attaching the spiritual aspects. It’s the common stuff of life.

 
But maybe here’s the other part of the deal. We’re not just secular. Or at least we weren’t created to only be secular and common. We were created with a spiritual aspect in the image of God our creator. And the spiritual acts differently than the wholly common or secular. The spiritual knows there is something greater and far more valuable to life.
I can just stop and think about God’s words to Aaron and his sons. Wine and strong drink are common things, secular if you will. They are not inherently bad. But if Aaron and his sons have been chosen and set aside to point people to God and to act as intermediaries, then their focus and energy and hearts ought to be focussed on God and bringing people back into right relationship with God and each other. God is not common. God is holy and above all. God should be in control of our every thought, not alcohol. We are called to make a separation. What is important? No, what is beyond important for my life? What does holiness look like in my life? What needs to be separated out so that my focus truly is in God?

 
It’s important that I understand this. There are things that are not harmful but neither are they beneficial. There are things that are common but will only lead me to the common. And then there is the holy. And then there is the holy which can use some common things and make them holy. But be careful because some common things can make the holy, unholy, like strong drink that led Aaron’s sons to not be able to separate between holy and common. And they took a holy censor and offered common worship and were killed in their commonness. That’s a tragedy because they were set apart to be holy and to know holiness. They were called out of the common to lead others to holiness. But they didn’t understand and they didn’t let go of their commonness.

 
Yochanan Zaqantov explains that qodesh (holy) has nothing to do with being untouchable or more righteous or greater than we. Qodesh has everything to do with being set apart and made “not ordinary.” We can see that in Exodus 3:5 when Moses was told to approach the burning bush and told to take off his sandals because “the place on which you stand- it is holy ground.” What made that ground holy? Before the bush was burning, wasn’t it ordinary ground that Moses may have walked over many times before? But now, God had set this ground apart for a purpose and because God had set it apart, it was to be treated and responded to differently.

 
In Exodus 16:23 God reminded again that the Sabbath, that particular day of the week was to be set aside. It was set apart to be different from the others. Prepare for the Sabbath so that the Sabbath can be what it was set apart to be. We can treat it like any other day, but God has set it apart as no longer common. It has been set apart and made holy. Do I treat it as common? Am I guilty of the sin of Aaron’s sons?

 
In Exodus 28:36-38 God instructs a pure plate of gold to be made with “Holines for Adonai” engraved upon it. This gold plate was to be threaded onto Aaron, the high priest’s turban, over his brow so that “Aaron is to bear the iniquity of the holy-offerings that the Children of Israel offer, all their gifts of holiness; it is to be on his brow regularly, for (receiving) favour for them before the presence of Adonai (God).” So stop and think about that. Who was Aaron? Aaron was just a common man. In himself he had no ability to bear the sin of the people. But God called Him and separated Him unto Himself and equipped Him by Himself to be holy. God separated Aaron onto Himself and imparted His holiness upon him. But Aaron, like his sons, and like us, must choose to differ between the common and the holy and walk in the holy where and as told to walk.
So now I’ve seen where You, God, take the common and make it holy and You teach us the difference between holy and common. I saw Aaron’s sons die because they would not live by the difference. Are they the only ones?

 
Hear what God tells to his people through Ezekiel in Ezekiel 22:24-26. “Son of man, say unto her, ‘You are the land that is not cleansed, nor rained upon in the day of indignation. There is a conspiracy of her prophets in the midst thereof, like a roaring lion ravening the prey; they have devoured souls; they have taken the treasure and precious things; they have made her many widows in the midst thereof. Her priests have violated My law, and have profaned My holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and the profane, neither have they showed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from My Sabbaths, and I am profaned among them…’” Do I get that? When I take what is holy and make it everyday and disrespect what God has set apart, I not only make it common or chol, I make God appear as common, as profane.
The priests themselves were guilty of doing this, were guilty of taking what they knew God had set apart for Himself, had set apart as holy, and they irreverently used it or displayed or misused it in common ways for their own purposes. And it destroyed the people because it marred the image of God before them. Do I want to be guilty of that? Do I want to profane what You have set apart, God? Do I want to take what is sacred and make it irreverent?  Do I want to be one that abuses Your sacred things and treats them and You with irreverence? Would I rather be filled with contempt than reverence for You? It’s what will happen if I don’t keep separated what You have already separated in my life and the life of others.

 
Let’s go one more place in the Old Testament. Here we are in Ezekiel 44 hearing about the sons of Zadok again. Ezekiel 44:15-24, “‘But the levitical priests descended from Zadok, who maintained the service of My Sanctuary when the people of Israel went astray from Me- they shall approach Me to minister to Me; they shall stand before Me to offer Me fat and blood-‘ declares Adonai. ‘They alone may enter My Sanctuary and they alone shall approach My table to minister to Me; and they shall keep My charge.’” Notice that in contrast to the previous priests who had profaned God’s separations, the sons of Zadok had been faithful when everyone else bailed out on God. Now, not all of Aarons descendants will be priests but only those of the line of Zadok.

 
If we keep reading further on, God separates the clothing they must wear, linen and not wool. He separates how they are to dress. He separates them from the people in the outer court and has them remove their clothing from the inner court so as not to “consecrate” the people by touching the clothing. Get that? God’s set apart clothing could set a person apart? Wow! He sets apart their hair style and their consumption of alcohol while on duty. He sets apart their future wives. He sets them apart as judges. Why? Because they know how to set things apart. They already know how to divide the holy from the common, the clean from the unclean. They understand the difference and they already chose to live by it in a time when everyone else abandoned it.

 
These sons of Zadok are set apart to instruct others in understanding and choosing what is sacred and what is profane, what is clean and unclean. They have been set apart to live in accord with God’s rules and to teach others to do so. They are set apart to preserve God’s teachings and laws and fixed occasions and Sabbaths. Why the sons of Zadok? Because they were set apart and accepted their set-apartedness when others rejected it. They lived as they were created to be by God. I have that same choice.

 
David got it. He was a common kid. Even his dad and his brothers didn’t think anything special of him. But God set him apart for purpose in Him. In Psalm 4:3 David says, “But know that the Lord has set apart him that is godly for Himself: the Lord will hear when I call unto Him.” The funny thing is that David wasn’t born godly, and neither was I. I think we’re born, all of us, with this godly potential. And God wants to set each of us apart into that godliness of Him. But not all of us accept His invitation when He sets us apart. Why? Because being set apart for God and in God means being separated from many other common things we are used to. Being set apart for and in God means we don’t use the common as common any more. We follow His lead on when to use and how to use and if to use it because He takes the common and makes it uncommon and holy in Him.

 
One of my favorite verses in the New Testament is in Revelation 17:14. It says, “These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for He is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with Him are called, and chosen, and faithful.” God is still setting people apart for Him. He calls, He appoints, He separates and it’s up to us to be faithful to His calling, His appointing, and His separating.

 
Have I allowed God to separate me for His service? Am I allowing Him to separate me every day and every moment of my life? Am I living according to His separation? 1 Peter 2:8 tells me, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, that you should show forth the praises of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvellous light…” See, peculiar is not strange. Peculiar means I’ve been acquired and set apart by God. And if that makes me peculiar by this world’s standards, it’s because I’m not just common and secular any more. I belong to a God who is changing me into His image instead of the image of the world. The common is being folded into something uncommon and holy. I am God’s masterpiece, learning to imitate Him as I conform to His separation. May I continually learn and live the difference between the common and the holy.

Walking with God in the Details

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“But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” Genesis 6:8

 
Today I’m back in Ezekiel reading about the measurements and specifications of the future temple, the future house of God. Only here I am quoting Genesis. Why? As I was reading and thinking about all the specifics in Ezekiel and about how the details matter to You God and how Your details ought to matter to us, I couldn’t help thinking about Noah and how You equipped him to build the ark.

 
Here was the condition of the world and the condition of the hearts of the people of the world in Noah’s day: “And the Lord said, ‘I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repents me that I have made them.” Why did it repent You or make You sorry You had made us? Because “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” And that grieved Your heart because man, people like me, had so twisted who we were, by twisting our thoughts and our actions, that we no longer resembled what we were created for. And why couldn’t we resemble our purpose any more? Because we threw away the details. We wouldn’t pay attention to the Master plan. And get this. The Master Plan was someone we could know and respond to, like Adam and Eve or Cain or Abel. But like Cain, we turned to our plans instead of Yours and our lives became twisted.

 
But then comes this beautiful verse. “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” Maybe I’m wrong, but I see that as saying when God looked at Noah and examined his heart and life, He found within Noah a spark of something beautiful to God. What was it? What was that beauty in Noah? That Noah still held on to the presence of God in his life. That He remembered the stories and clung to the God he knew.

 
In this corrupt world of Noah’s time, He was just and perfect. What? Noah was a perfect man? Not in the sense that we think of perfect. He was “entire.” He was full of integrity and truth. He was without spot and undefiled. He was whole. He was perfect in God’s eyes because His heart clung to God and followed Him. He walked with God. Come on now. Look back at Adam and Eve. Isn’t that what we were created to do? Aren’t we to be walking with God every day of our lives? Hasn’t He designed us to know how and to do it? If a man without a written instruction book can figure out how to do that and do it, then what’s our problem? What’s my problem?

 
So Noah walks with God. That means that he cares about and acts upon what is on God’s heart. And God includes Him in what He’s doing. And here come all these measurements as God instructs Noah on how to build this ark, this first of it’s kind, this giant boat in this place where there isn’t even water to float it. But Noah doesn’t stop to say, “Hey, God, why are You giving me all these details? What’s up? Do I really need this? Is this important?” I think for Noah that this is a no brainer. He already knows that God’s way is the right way and the only way. He already lives like every detail matters because it does. And because He’s already living in God’s will, God is already protecting him and preparing him from the coming judgement. Not only that, but God is making Noah a beacon to others, an opportunity for others to walk with God instead and rejoice in God’s plan and in His details.

 
This has nothing to do with Noah’s abilities. He was just a man who walked with God. Because he walked with God, God walked with him. God gave him everything he needed to be His representative on earth. That’s what we were created for, to be God’s vessels on earth, to shine forth the power and love of God. And God does that work in us. Noah couldn’t build the ark without God. God gave Noah everything he needed from the detailed measurements, to the physical provision, to the skill to do so. And it didn’t stop there. God was the One who sealed Noah and his family safely inside the ark.

 
Which takes me back to Ezekiel. Chapter 41 starts with, “Afterward he brought me to the temple…” Doesn’t that sound like people walking together again? It does to me. It sounds like God is walking Ezekiel through something special here, something worth thinking about and valuing. And like Noah, if Ezekiel hadn’t already been walking with God, he would have missed this. And it’s not like this is just any building that You are showing Ezekiel. This is the temple that will one day be where every believer can walk into Your presence in Jesus Christ. This is the reality of You come to earth.

 
God’s word and instructions are all about being invited into an intimate relationship with our Maker. He gives us the details so we can participate fully with Him. They matter. As we participate with Him, we get to come to see and know things about Him. Building the ark wasn’t some mundane task that Noah was expected to do. It was amazing participation with God and amazing protection and salvation and deliverance. But if Noah had not participated with God? If Noah had disregarded the importance of the directions?

 
And what about Ezekiel. He didn’t get to build the temple but He paid close attention and then He declared what He was asked to declare so that this would be words of future encouragement. One day God is going to bring every one of those details to pass. Just like Noah had to wait for that appointed time before the ark was complete, so Ezekiel knew that the appointed time would come. So we can know also. What does this temple tell me? That God is coming, here to earth, to be with us. Jesus is coming back. Jesus will reign in His full capacity and I can look forward to that.

 
And since Jesus is coming back, we ought to be busy letting people know so that they can be ready for that appointed time. How do we get ready? We respond to God’s word by participating with Him in what He says. We pay attention to the details. Sometimes we hold onto it and ponder it in our hearts like Mary did until it was time for it to make sense. But all along, we obey. Listening isn’t listening unless the appropriate action to the listening follows. If I want God to be close then I ought to be close enough to His word to know how to be close to Him. And the only way to be close to Him is to participate with Him.

 
That’s why Jesus came. He redeemed us so that God’s glory could shine in us again. He redeemed us so that we could be reunited with God and participate with Him again in the way we were created to. Grace is there, always. But we won’t find it unless we find the One who offers it. Noah found grace because He walked with God. He found where grace flowed from and clung to Him. Ezekiel found grace because He walked with God and clung to where grace flowed from. What about me? May I cling to the One that grace flows from and walk with You in obedience and in intimate relationship by loving all Your words and allowing them to have their way in my life.

The Details Matter

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“And the man said unto me, ‘Son of man, behold with your eyes, and hear with your ears, and set your heart upon all that I shall show you; for to the intent that I might show them unto you are you brought here: declare all that you see to the house of Israel.’” (Ezekiel 40:4)

 
Here we have Ezekiel again. He’s in the middle of a vision from God. That would be something, wouldn’t it? And he sees this man whose appearance looked like brass and he was holding a line of flax in his hand like a measuring reed. He takes Ezekiel and walks him through the chambers of this future temple, giving the measurements of every room and even telling what the rooms are for and who will stay in them. Detail by detail God has the “brass man” walk Ezekiel through. It seems pretty exact to me. It’s one of those passages that maybe we want to speed through because it’s just “measurement details” over and over again. It’s kind of like the books about the priesthood and the sacrifices and all those other detail by detail things. You know, it’s the stuff we want to skip over to get to the “good stuff.”

 
But what if the good stuff lies in paying attention to these minute details? Wouldn’t it seem that those things which God takes the time to stop and give us the little details about just might be that important that He stopped to give us all the little details? Have I stopped to think about that?

 
As a Gentile, you know, a non-Jew, it’s not like I grew up with an understanding of the Jewish feasts and festivals or much of anything that was a part of Jewish life according to Scripture. But it’s in God’s word. Could it be there because He wants me to know about it and understand more about it? Could all these things that seem so foreign and trivial to me matter in my life now and in His future kingdom? Could they tell me something about Him that He really wants me to know? I think so.

 
I was reading a commentary about Ezekiel 40 and the future temple being described here. The commentator referred to this temple as a resurrected temple. I wonder where he got that idea from? It pretty much seems to me that this temple was not resurrected but started fresh. I’m thinking it’s got brand new walls and brand new everything, except for maybe the ground where it will stand.

 
Another commentator, John Parson’s shared his commentary in Hebrew for Christians. This new Temple is to be raised during the Messianic era, that time when Jesus returns and dwells on earth and the Jewish nation returns to God and He reigns. John shares how some of the Jewish sages have had trouble with understanding the book of Ezekiel and even holding it as objectionable. One reason is because of Temple service laws that are different in this vision than in the Torah. That doesn’t sound like a totally resurrected Temple, does it? Some rituals and rules have been changed from the earlier temple service to this one. But here the temple is, important again in it’s role. Would God make the temple important again in the millennial age? I suppose this raises some questions for Christian believers also. Why would God have temple sacrifices again? Hasn’t Jesus already been the ultimate sacrifice for all?

 
Well, yes, He has and He is and He always will be. But what if the temple and the festivals aren’t about pointless ritual or religious service? What if all this is about worship and understanding and knowing? What if we need to see and experience certain things that God has designed to help us to see and remember Him more? What if that is what the God ordained festivals are all about? What if that is what the Temple and it’s service is all about?

 
It’s interesting. In this new temple, not even the priesthood is the same. The priesthood will come from the line of Zadok. That means that not everyone from the line of Aaron will serve as priest. Zadok had remained faithful to David. He is believed to be the direct descendant of Phinehas who was promised “a covenant of priesthood for all time.” You can read about this later in Ezekiel 44. Remember Phinehas? He was the grandson of Aaron the high priest who saw his people worshipping Baalpeor and bringing Midionite women into camp. Moses called the judges of Israel to slay those that were doing such. When Phinehas saw it happen right in front of him, he immediately rose up and took a javelin in his hand and drove it through the perpetrators. Wow! That’s harsh! But flagrant defiant sin infects. If the disease is not eliminated, how many more will be lost forever in God’s judgement by their own choice? God is looking for individuals who know Him and will follow Him and will allow Him to hold their thinking and their lives.
Now don’t get me wrong. God isn’t expecting us to drive a javelin through a rebellious couple or anyone else. But God is expecting me to love and be so devoted to Him and to His ways that I would live in them as though my life depended upon it. I should be so influenced by His word and His Spirit in all the minute details of my life and living that it not only changes my life and makes me live like Him, but so that others around me are influenced by those changes He’s brought into my life. See, the little details matter. It shows that I understand that God doesn’t just mandate. He mandates because He cares and He knows what is best for me because He is the One who created me and knows what He created me for and all of my capabilities, both good and bad.

 
God knows all the consequences of every choice I will make before I even make those choices. The problem is that if I’m not paying attention to God, if I’m not paying attention to His details, I won’t be prepared for the consequences and I won’t be able to avoid them because I will have stepped right into them just like the couple that invited the javelin into their lives. Oh, you may say, “How would they have known?” A Hebrew knew. They had been told. It was all laid out before them. But sometimes they, like us, didn’t care about God’s details, and wanted life their own way. Now, maybe the Midianite woman didn’t know, but I’m not so certain about that either. As I read it, the surrounding nations knew about the God peculiarities of the children of Israel. Their reputation spread like wildfire everywhere.

 
We have a choice. We can pay attention to God’s details and understand that they are for our good to grow in Him. Or we can ignore God’s details, flagrantly defy them, and even mock them. The choice is ours. But our choice will not negate the consequences. God has already established the consequences when He shared the details. What will I choose, the blessing or the curse, life or death?

 
Maybe we, like Ezekiel, have been brought before God today for a purpose. Maybe we, like Ezekiel need to stop and behold with our eyes what God is telling us and showing us. Maybe we, like Ezekiel, need to hear with our ears what You are telling us and set our hearts upon it all. God is very intentional here with Ezekiel and I’m pretty definite that God is very intentional throughout all of His word. May we have eyes to see and respond correctly. May we have ears to hear and respond in obedience. May we have hearts that follow and act and receive and live out Your ways and bind ourselves to You. There’s a reason I’m here today in Your word. There’s a reason You have brought me where You have brought me. The details matter. You are there in the midst of them. Let me not ignore them, but respond to them wholly.

Is God an Egotistical Tyrant?

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“Then shall they know that I am the Lord their God, which caused them to be led into captivity among the heathen…” (Ezekiel 39:28)

 
It must be really important to God that we know that He is the Lord. Is that because He is an egotistical tyrant? Absolutely not! All one has to do is look at what happens to those who deny Him. Cain waters the seeds of hate and kills his brother. People build towers to heaven and neglect the weightier things of life, like family and moving forward. Parents offer their children to the fires of Molech. Others exchange the natural for unnatural. Ecstasy outweighs love and commitment. Power and prestige are more important than compassion. People devalue other people. Why does this happen? Because people don’t KNOW God and won’t acknowledge Him as their Lord.

 
It happens to heathen nations, those nations and people who follow the masses instead of God. I guess that’s basically what a heathen is. It’s a Gentile. It’s someone outside of Abram’s seed who didn’t answer the call to follow God. It’s someone who was outside of the family of God, outside of the nation of Israel, outside of the children of God.

 
I wonder why there are so many heathen nations? Do you stop to think about that? Do you go back to Abram’s beginning as a child of God? He was living in a heathen nation. Actually, I think it would be accurate to say that all people had become heathen at that point. There were none who followed God. But something started moving in Abram’s heart and he realized something wasn’t right. Jewish oral tradition has Abram realizing the inability of idols. And then God speaks to Abram. And Abram listens and obeys and leaves his people and nation. And God begins forming from his obedience a new nation, a nation in God, His own children, from one man who chose to listen to Him. From one man who walked by faith.

 
Now, maybe there were some others scattered somewhere around the earth, but if we look at the story, there weren’t many. And maybe there weren’t others. But compare the numbers. It’s daunting, isn’t it?

 
So we see that there are many among the non-God followers or heathen that don’t know God at all. But it’s God’s desire that they know Him. Only, if they won’t turn to Him like Abram and follow Him, the knowing at long last isn’t going to be a pleasant thing. The proof is going to come in judgement and not reward.

 
But the problem isn’t just one for the non-believer. Israel was suffering judgement too. Do I get that?  Israel, the nation of God, who were supposed to be God-fearers and God-knowers, had forgotten God and walked away from His ways. That means that this problem of not knowing and acknowledging God isn’t just a heathen problem. It effects believers too. It could wind up being my problem if I’m not careful.

 
There is a time that God sets his face against us, when He looks at us and judges us. And there is a time when God will hide his face from us as He allows the judgement to fall. But then there is also a time, when judgement has taught its lesson and God turns His face back in compassion. Is it egotistical for God to want us to learn to love rightly, to know Him and to know how to love others? Is it egotistical for a parent to punish the child who beats his siblings? Is correction wrong? Isn’t there a chance in correction that the harmful behavior and character might be corrected and changed? Or should Cain be allowed to slay his brother?

 
Imagine the patience and long-suffering of God as He waits and watches the travesties of our hearts where we mistreat and tear apart the lives of our fellow man. This is not His end goal. This is not His desire. This exists because of our choice and not His. He allows it but for a time. This is not His will. His will is far better. His will is love personified through and in Himself. His will is to know Him, our Creator and Benefactor. His will is to know Him intimately, by knowing His Character and His delights. His will is to know Him so intimately that we become like Him, that we are wholly influenced by His Spirit. His will is for Himself, His life, His love, His power to be spread from person to person throughout our planet.

 
Was that the heathen’s desire or goal? Was that Israel’s goal at this point? No. Their goal was to promote their own desires and themselves. Their goal was what they wanted. So God redirected them through situations they could not control. So God redirected them through times where they were confronted with the smallness of themselves so that they could see the bigness of God. God redirected them so that they could remember Him, and come to see their need for Him, and learn to rely on Him.

 
There is a time for everything. God will place a time in our lives that will be designed to be able to come to know Him. What we do with that time is up to us. I can fight the One who is wooing me to Himself. I can detest the One who puts the hard times in my life, who knows the egotism of my own heart. I can reflect it back on Him. It doesn’t matter if I’m a heathen or a Jew, my egotism can be the heart of my lack of knowing Him. But if I respond to Him, I can know Him and I can surrender to Him as my Lord. Because surrendering to Him as my Lord is the only way I can know Him. If anything else is lord of my life, I might as well prepare for judgement.

 
One way or another, I will know that God is Lord and God is God. I will either know it in the day of full judgement against me, or I will know it by my full surrender into His compassionate arms. The choice is mine. Even the heathen and the Jews had that choice. Look at Abram. He chose to know God. He chose to follow Him and obey Him. He escaped judgement because He attached Himself by faith to the Judge. What will I do? Whose side will I choose? I choose to stick to You God and wait for Your Spirit. I choose You, even through the tough times. You’re all there is.