The Millennial Treasure

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Photo credit to Evangelical Focus, an article by Will Graham.

 

“Thus says the Lord God; ‘If the prince gives a gift unto any of his sons, the inheritance thereof shall be his sons’; it shall be their possession by inheritance.’” Ezekiel 46:16

 
A millennium with Jesus, wouldn’t that be an awesome thing? Now I’ve seen some disagreement over whether this prince of Ezekiel’s vision is Jesus or not, but the Jewish rabbis looked to this prince as the Messiah. On the other hand, there is disagreement through commentaries upon whether this prince is Jesus or an appointed prince by God among the people. Frankly, I’m not an official Bible scholar, so I don’t know for sure, but when I read this, it sure makes me think of Him.

 
I wouldn’t have a problem with this being Jesus as the prince, after all, He is the Prince of Peace and He is the One who can atone for our sins. I’m just wondering why God would have anyone else approach the Holy of Holies now that the veil was torn through Jesus. What greater picture for all mankind at the time than to see Jesus standing in the place for us right before our very eyes?

 
But sacrifices? All that ritual? Why would Jesus die only to re-institute the sacrifices and rituals again? What purpose would that serve? What about a visual reminder? It seems to me that we as people need more reminders than we like to admit. And our reminders need to be pretty strong and visual. It’s not like a light nudge is often enough. Often, don’t we find that we need the cold water thrown on our faces to wake us up? Well, I don’t really look at these sacrifices as being cold water unpleasant. Let me explain.

 
What if the ritual and sacrifice we see in the Old Testament, that here God is saying He will re-institute in the millennium, isn’t about ritual experience? What if it never was about following ritual and obeying because you had to obey or else? What if walking through these rituals and walking through these sacrifices was always about understanding our relationship to God in different ways? What if it was about understanding different pieces of God, so to say? What if every step of obedience was supposed to be a step of love and adoration? What if understanding the reasons behind the ceremonies and celebrations and offerings was to understand more of our relationship with God and His relationship with us? Could there be a reason that God said these would be perpetual celebrations and perpetual offerings? Could they always have been intended as more than ritual and more than just commanded obedience? Is there more to this than meets our eyes?

 
Why can’t Jesus enter the East gate and offer up sacrifices for us? Wasn’t Jesus just as holy and just as much Jesus when He came to earth? Didn’t He obey all that God required of “Temple worship” and walking with others and submitting to authority then? If it wasn’t wrong for Jesus to participate then as an example before us of how we are to participate in the life that God has called us to, then why wouldn’t it be right for Him to continue to exemplify all things God for us, all things life for us?

 
Why are we so afraid of sacrifice and God’s ordained feasts and festivals and commandments? Is it because we really don’t understand them? What if they weren’t so foreign? What if it was all more about uncovering God like a glorious Treasure than following a ritual? What if participation was participation with God?

 
I can get stuck in the rut of ritual whether I am Jewish or Christian or any other religion or even not of any religion. That’s called a habit. But this isn’t about ritual and never was from God’s perspective. It’s always been about relationship. Abram didn’t follow after ritual. He followed a God whose voice he heard and who showed Himself on his behalf. He obeyed because He found a Treasure worth selling his whole life for! Moses would have followed ritual for sure at first. But God stripped him of that thinking. God brought Moses to the point where God was his Treasure, where the reality of life was the God of the burning bush. Moses became a man after God’s own heart, so humble, which was the total opposite of the Moses leaving Egypt.

 
I’ll skip ahead to the New Testament and look at Paul. Paul was a man of devout ritual. That wasn’t God’s choice. I know it wasn’t God’s choice because God confronted him about it. “Why do you kick against the goads?” And once Paul’s relationship with God changed through Jesus, the Treasure of worship in all the affairs of the Temple and Scripture opened anew to him and he was able to invite others, both Jew and Gentile, into the beauty of that Treasure! I must not forget that those first Gentile converts worshipped along with the Jews, not separate from them. Oh, the beauty of what was opened to their eyes! Even if it was only in part, the measure of the new understanding and beauty of God would be wonderful.

 
So, who are the sons of the prince? What if they are the children of God? What is the inheritance of the children of God? Isn’t the most precious inheritance to know God and be known by Him? Isn’t God through Jesus Christ our Treasure? I’m not sure what else there is to focus on. I mean, if you ask me, heaven isn’t as grand a treasure as God because heaven, without God, would be nothing but hell. Maybe if my real focus in life was the inheritance of God, you know, believing and acting as though God was my only treasure, then maybe I’d act a lot differently as I walked through this life. Maybe some things wouldn’t be so important any more. And maybe other things would be more important than ever.

 
But I do know this one thing, if there is a desire in my heart to spend a millennium with Jesus, I ought to start living in my inheritance now. I ought to start rejoicing in everything that represents the Treasure of my God every day because if I’m in Him, my inheritance in Him has already begun. I don’t get to be lazy. Because there will come a day, during that millennium when there will be people who turn from the Prince because He never was their Treasure and there will come a time when the Treasure passes judgement. And only those who know the Treasure will inherit the Treasure Himself. There is only one gift and the Gift is God Himself through Jesus Christ. I don’t ever want to ignore You.

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The Details Matter

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Photo credit to modernobserver.com

 

“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.

More Than Rules to Live By

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“And you shall serve the LORD your God, and He shall bless your bread, and your water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of you.”  Exodus 23:25

These are the words of the LORD to Moses to give to the people of Israel as they were in the wilderness.  Well, Lord, You shared a lot more than these words, but this is a good start.  This is exactly where our new beginning begins.

I’m not so different from the Hebrews here.  They had lived in Egypt so long that Egypt’s ways had become patterned into their life.  Egypt’s thinking and eating styles and thinking styles were ever so familiar to them.  Yet You were turning them to You, calling them back, showing Yourself to them, and showing them a Better Way.  Actually, You are more than a better way, You are the Only Way.  You are the True Way.  You are the Way that leads to what we were created to search for.  You are the Way that leads to fulfilment of our heart’s desires.  You are Satisfaction in every way.

But we can’t get into the promised land, we can’t find satisfaction, without first learning what it is to come to You, to see our need for You, and to serve You.  But if I go back and read the rest of this chapter or the prior chapters, maybe I find myself asking, “What do all these ‘rules’ mean?”  Are they really rules?  Or are they invitations to know You and understand Your character?  Are they really rules or are they invitations to come and experience Your character and subsequent provision and personal acquaintance with You by our identification totally with You in every aspect of our life?  If you want to look at them as rules, you can.  But I want to look at them as invitations.

If all you see them as are rules, that’s all they’ll ever be.  And all the Lord will be to you is a task master.  You won’t be able to keep all those rules.  But, if you switch your perspective and hear God’s invitation to You to experience Him and to learn firsthand from Him, You will.  I mean, why would You, Lord, “make” the people keep three particular feasts in the year?  Isn’t that just keeping a ritual?  So what if people form a habit of offering and celebration.  Everybody loves a holiday but what does that really do for us?

What if Exodus 23:14 is an invitation?  “Three times you shall keep a feast unto Me in the year.”  What feasts and why?  If I read on I find You invite me to keep the feast of unleavened bread, the feast of harvest or firstfruits, and the feast of ingathering.  Isn’t it funny how yesterday we talked about this whole process from a different aspect?  Hmm.  Is that funny or supernatural?  Are You trying to tell me something?  Are You inviting me to understand You more deeply?

How would the feast of unleavened bread be an invitation?  The feast of unleavened bread is tied to the celebration of Passover.  The feast of unleavened bread leads to receiving and celebrating the deliverance in the Lamb of God.  That’s You, Jesus.  It reminds us of the preparation it takes of our lives in You.  It’s a turning from the old ways unto the new ways.  It’s about obedience to the You instead of our habits or our culture.  It’s about trust.  It’s about readiness and removing sin.  We’re removing death and decay’s effects from our lives, removing the “evil impulse” from within us.  It’s an invitation to sanctify ourselves by removing the influences that corrupt us.

But the unleaved bread isn’t just about us.  It represents You, Jesus.  It’s about Your purity, holiness, and sinlessness.  It’s about the truth that in You there is no corruption, no decay.    Paul, continued to encourage us to remember this feast.  Why?  To have another ritual?  Or so I could remember to “purge” the old ways out of my life and be inhabited by Your new ways?  Paul encouraged us to keep the feast with the new leaven we have received in Christ.  I can’t do that if  it’s just a holiday.  A holiday has no power.  But if this is something that You actually do in me, if this is actually a part of Your character that You have imparted in me, and You want me to realize that and live empowered in that, then by Your power, I can keep this feast because it’s not just a holiday; it’s a reality in my life in You!

This is where You have planted Your seed in me.  This is where You scattered and I took root.  And once I get rid of the old leaven, I can receive the new leaven, the Heavenly Leaven, the Heavenly Seed.  Now, this unleavened bread is also known as the “bread of affliction.”  This is where I trust in Your afflictions.  This is where I identify with all that You went through, all that You suffered for me.    You make me holy by what You endured.  You make me into delicious bread by what You are performing in my life.  The old leaven did the work in itself, through the effects of decay.  But the unleavened bread isn’t effected by history, there is no sourdough starter inside.  It’s just pure ingredients mixed together.  It’s a new lump, not  created by my own labor or design, not created by my past history.  It’s all about Your work in me and You miraculously spreading Your kingdom in Your power.  It’s all about You creating a seed after Your own heart and then planting it and giving it life.  I want to be part of that festival!

The feast of harvest, firstfruits, follows.  Actually, there is an overlap.  First I come to trust in the You, Lord, and Your work on the cross and Your subsequent work in me.  I need to see my need for Your work in me.  This is when the first stalks of the grain would be waved before You by the priest while they were still green.  This is acknowledging You in the whole process of growth and provision.  Paul puts it into spiritual life perspective for us.  “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep (like a seed dies when it is planted to arise in new life-new form!).  For as by a man came death (Adam), by a man (Jesus) has come also the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.  But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at His coming those who belong to Christ.” (1 Corinthians 5:20-23)  Christ was waved before the Father as an offering but did you realize we are His firstfruits?  He waves us before  the Father?  The day He died, the day He became the offering for us, He waved His firstfruits before God.  “The tombs also were opened.  And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.”  (Matthew 27:52-53)  And Jesus is still waving His own before our Heavenly Father!

And then the feast of  ingathering. The feast of ingathering, Sukkot, or the Feast of Tabernacles is a time of celebrating  “the blessings of God’s provision and care for our lives.”  It’s a time of restored fellowship with You, Lord.  This is when You came to dwell with Your people.  Am I seeing the progression here and what You want me to come to realize in Your “holidays”?  You want me to come to know You and experience You and walk with You.  You want to gather me to You.  You want me to gather You to me.  You want me to wave You before everyone and You want to wave me.  You want to say, “Look, all of creation, this is the beautiful work of my hands!  This is the beauty of My life in My child!  This is the power of my Spirit in My child!  Look and see what I have done!”  You planted, You caused it to grow, You and I rejoice together over the work You have done and allowed Your people to each be partakers in.

And as You wave me around, all I can do is say, “Look, all of creation, see what My God has done!  Look what He has done in me.  Adonai, you are my God.  ‘I exalt You, I praise Your name.  For You have accomplished marvels, [fulfilled] ancient plans faithfully and truly…For You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in distress, shelter from the storm, shade from the heat…See!  This is my God!  I waited for Him to save me.  This is Adonai; I put my hope in Him.  I am full of joy, so glad He saved me!'”  (from Isaiah 25)

So what does all this have to do with that first verse, “And you shall serve the LORD your God, and He shall bless your bread, and your water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of you.”  (Exodus 23:25) ?  I only become a part of Your harvest, Lord, if I choose to serve You and You alone.  Have I made You my Lord and my God?  Are You my ONLY LORD and GOD?  If I have become Yours and You are mine then You will take care of me like that beautiful seed You invested Your life in.  You will feed me and water me and meet my every need so that I can bear the fruit that You intended me to bear.  I don’t have to worry about how it’s going to happen or where or when it’s going to happen.  I can just trust You that in the right order, in the right time, You will do everything You need to do in me to bring me to full fruition.  I can count on being a seed filled with the fruit of the Father.  I can count on bearing that fruit just like the Father.  I can count on everything that the Son has done for me and everything that You have promised to do in me.  I can count on the blessing of You in my life and it’s influence on those around me.  I can count on the blessing of the presence of God in my life, the work of God in my life, and the power of God in my life because of the price of Jesus Christ and His investment in me because I have invested all of myself in Him.  Yes, I will and I can serve the Lord because He first served me.  And in Him I can always count on His blessing and His work to be completed in me.  What You promise, Lord, will come to pass.  This is my God!  I am so glad of that!