Friday, November 22, 2013

To the House or to the Lord

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Friday, November 22, 2013:  Ezekiel 44:1-45:12

10 “And the Levites who went far from Me, when Israel went astray, who strayed away from Me after their idols, they shall bear their iniquity. 11 Yet they shall be ministers in My sanctuary, as gatekeepers of the house and ministers of the house; ...  13 And they shall not come near Me to minister to Me as priest, nor come near any of My holy things, nor into the Most Holy Place;  Ezekiel 44:10,11,13 (NKJV)

15 “But the priests, the Levites, the sons of Zadok, who kept charge of My sanctuary when the children of Israel went astray from Me, they shall come near Me to minister to Me; and they shall stand before Me to offer to Me the fat and the blood,” says the Lord God. 16 “They shall enter My sanctuary, and they shall come near My table to minister to Me, and they shall keep My charge.  Ezekiel 44:15-16 (NKJV)

The great Chinese author and martyr, Watchman Nee, gave us jewels of biblical insight that have had profound effect on the Church today.  His greatest work, The Normal Christian Life, touched me early in my walk with God.  I heard the message of grace in ways that still impact me today.

Watchman Nee

One of the booklet-size works of this prolific Bible teacher was Ministering to the House or to God?   It is a study of Ezekiel 44.   He points out an interesting distinction God made within the priestly order of Ezekiel's day.  There were those who could only minister to the house, and there were others allowed to approach God Himself in the Holy Place to minister to Him.

The reasons for this distinction amount to heart issues.  The first group STRAYED (44:10) while the second group STAYED -- or "kept charge" (44:15).  The straying priests got mixed up with idols and lost their "first love."  The staying priests never lost laser focus on the throne.  As a result, there were actually two different ways to "serve" God: ministering to the house and ministering to the Lord.

The message is this: it is possible to do religious activity (minister to the house) while being far from the Lord Himself (ministering to God).

This is a fundamental question every Christian (and particularly Christian leaders) must answer.  Will I be satisfied with going through the motions or will I press into the heart of a relationship with God?

Pastors must ask, "Do I study the Bible just to get a message for Sunday?"  Or, do I dive into the Word to personally feast on God's Truth?  Is my prayer life a task or a privilege?

The priests who only ministered to the house LOOKED LIKE they were fully serving God.  They were gatekeepers, they handled furniture, they even engaged in meaningful sacrifices.  But all along they were at arms length from the presence of God.

Where would you like to be?  One last insight:  the priests who were allowed to enter God's intimate presence, had to change garments.  They had to wear linen.  They could not wear anything that made them sweat.

That's awesome!  One of the marks of true ministry is NO SWEAT.   Outer court ministry is only duty.  Inner court ministry is delight.  Which do you prefer?

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