The New Order Basic Principles of Communal Unity - Chapters 43-48
F. Cundick, Luton
In our final consideration, we make a general survey of the effects of the inspiring return of Jehovah's glory as set forth in the last six chapters. Whilst the bearing of the great vision on the coming millennial order is recognized, our chief purpose is to trace the principles interwoven therein for our instruction. The selective technique is adopted so as to embrace as much as possible of the major elements that bring an order of righteousness, peace and blessing to a community of God-fearing people. Already we have perceived that the moral principles demonstrated in other ages very definitely apply to the churches of God of the present day.
The New Altar, 43. 13-27. In all ages of time, as marked out in the Scriptures, altar building and sacrifice have taken place in acknowledgement of the just claims of God. Abel offered sacrifice at the dawn of human history, Gen. 4. 4; Noah in the new world after the flood, Gen. 8. 20; Abraham commencing the history of the chosen race, Gen. 12. 7; Moses commencing the history of the chosen nation, Exod. 17. 15; 24. 4; Ezra commencing the history of the restored remnant, Ezra 3. 2. Then Golgotha, the supreme and only genuine sacrifice of all time, and here the altar of Ezekiel's vision of the coming millennial age. We first find the details of its measurements, then afterwards its consecration. Christ's sacrifice is the great fulfilment of all the sacrifices mentioned in the passage. The young bullock for a sin-offering, 43. 21, points to Christ the perfect, energetic Servant of God, who came to do His will in making expiation for sins upon the cross; the kid of the goats for a sin-offering, 43. 22, points to Christ, who was sent in the likeness of sinful flesh to die a substitutionary death; the ram for a burnt offering, 43. 23, typifies Christ the fully consecrated One, wholly acceptable to God. The salt, v. 24, denotes the preservative power of holiness, and the sign of a covenant which will never suffer failure. The sin-offering comes first on the first day of ceremony only, v. 19. This will be necessary, for when Israel and the nations look upon the resplendent Immanuel as He will appear in this scene of glory, they will by this be forcibly reminded that it was He who once hung in blood and death for their sins upon the cross of shame. The seven days of ceremony according to numerical significance draw attention to the perfection of the work of Christ. The position of the altar, as noticed before, is the exact centre of the house, and consequently, of the land and the whole world. The altar and its sacrifices will be a memorial of the cross, showing that "the restitution of all things" and the presence of glory among men will be the result of Christ's redemptive work. The recognition of this humbling fact is always of fundamental importance for the blessing and prosperity of God's people. No community of the redeemed will prosper in a state of for get-fulness of their relationship with God through His grace.
The New Ministries, ch. 44. "With the consecration of the altar of burnt offering, the way is opened for the congregation of Israel to appear in the sanctuary before the Lord, to serve Him with sacrifices. If, however, the use of the new house of God was to be in harmony with the holiness of God who dwelt therein, it was requisite that still further directions should be given concerning the entering of the people into it, and the character of the servants of both altar and sanctuary". Thus we find instructions regarding the place of the prince, the portion of the Levites and the privileges of the priests. When confronted with so many themes in a short paper one is enforced to say as the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, "of which we cannot now speak particularly". The reader will note the seven laws of the priesthood; the law of dress, ch. 44. 17-19; of hair, v. 20; of drink, v. 21; of marriage, v. 22; of teaching, vv. 23, 24; of defilement, v. 25; of support, v. 28. This ceremonial cleanness symbolizes the moral cleanness of the people. What is there in all this? The paramount fact written over all is that effective leadership in spiritual things arises out of a recognition and practice of the holiness of God.
The New Oblations, 45.1-17. Directions are given for the dividing of the land; the assigning of territory to the tribes of Israel, some in different areas from those originally occupied. Before this division is specifically detailed, the oblation is dealt with, the heave offering, as a grateful recognition by the restored people of Jehovah's grace to them. On both sides of the domain the prince is given a possession in the land, and a law made to offset prince-oppression of the people, v. 9. Everywhere unrighteousness is to cease, just weights and measures to be observed, and the people are to pay certain heave-offerings to provide the sacrifices. binding upon the prince. By all this Ezekiel is revealing that man's chief occupation is to worship God. All commerce, "balances", v. 10; finance, "shekel", v. 12; government, "prince", v. 16, are holy when God is the focal point of life. Mankind now groans under the practice of rejecting the revealed knowledge of God. But a community that recognizes the claims of divine holiness •will be freed from corruption, oppression^ strife and inequality.
The New Ceremonies, 45. 18 to 46. 24. Attention is now given to the seasonal offerings. How appropriate that affliction of soul is omitted at the opening of the seventh month, Lev. 23. 27. The usual two goats used on the day of atonement are omitted, Lev. 16.7. The year opens with an already accomplished cleansing! As regards the passover, Ezek. 45. 21, it is no longer "a lamb for a house", but the prince offers a bullock for a sin-offering. Nearly twenty centuries have passed since the death of Christ upon the cross, and the Jewish nation is still ignorant of their terrible sin; but when through the Spirit this comes to their knowledge, then shall the prince prepare for himself and for all the people of the land the bullock for a sin-offering. Then appreciation of the Messiah's grace will reach a high level in the nation. No wave sheaf offering; the resurrection of Christ will be evident. No feast of weeks, for the gift of the Spirit will be known. No blowingof trumpets; the gathering of Israel will have taken place. No evening sacrifice, for the sun of Israel will no more go down. What means all this and other similar features? The answer lies in the gladsome fact that the service of the temple preserves the deposit of revealed truth given to Israel and the nations. The whole intricate system of legislation is an unfolding of different aspects of communion with God. When the saints of God learn the divine Word, and desire fellowship with God, then unity will not be an object, but a result.
The New Divisions of the Land, 47. 13 to 48. 29. A
comparison of this passage with Numbers 34.1-15 is necessary to see the differences that will be established. Ezekiel does not resort to the extension of the land from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates. By this the Spirit teaches concentration on one's allotment. Rightly it is said that Isaiah had a global strategy, but Ezekiel had internal concentration. It would be well if believers of the present day learn to concentrate on our personal responsibilities as made known to us by God. If we are neglectful in this direction, our wider ambitions are in vain. Gad, Reuben and the half-tribe of Manasseh are no longer "on this side of Jordan". The elements of division and diverted interests are removed! One chief point to observe is the seeming impossible practical outworking of the divisions of the land running in parallel lines. They ignore mountains, plains and rivers with which men must cope. Is this a way of telling us that in this coming day jealousies, selfish ambition, and insistence on rights will go? The people will be one, and in faith will leave to Jehovah the outworking of His chosen division of the land. In this we learn another principle of submission to the distributive choice and justice of God.
The New City, 48. 30-35. The city is laid out in a square, denoting equality and stability in the age to come. Its gates are named after the tribes (note not Ephraim and Manasseh, but Joseph), representing all Israel. Through the gates of the city the inhabitants will pass to the surrounding parkland, temple and promised land. The name ofthecityis "Jehovah Shammah" meaning, "The Lord is there", declaring that the divine purpose of love is realized. The prophet does not dwell on the purpose of the city, its activities and administration. All that matters to him is the presence of God; this transcends everything. Ordered living in the presence of God is the pathway to unity. Perhaps one of the great defects in present local assemblies is that they are not sufficiently stamped with the realization that "The Lord is there". May the import of these visions enable us to grasp more firmly God's present purpose of grace, and quicken our love to rejoice in hope of His glory. (Conclusion of the series).