Twelve Marks of a Spiritual Priest

Terry Dunn, Johannesburg

Category: Exposition

THE MEN OF ZADOK: PRIESTLY LEVITES, EZEKIEL 44. 4, 5, 15-31

The Book of Ezekiel may be divided into three parts or sections:

1. The rebellion of Israel, as God sees it, when he pleads His cause, chs. 1-24.

2. Judgment on Israel's neighbour­ing nations, Israel's enemies, chs. 25-32.

3. Prophecy concerning Israel's future restoration, chs. 33-48.

We might notice a few things in the Book not mentioned elsewhere in the Bible:

1.    Israel's idolatry in Egypt, 20. 1-9.

2.    The past history of Satan, 28. 11 - 19.

3.   Full details of the temple which will be built in the future, chs. 40-42, and of the new mighty river, ch. 47.

I n chapter 8 we see something of the depths of Israel's declension. Four examples of their depravity are given, and they make sad reading !

1.    The image of jealousy set up in the entrance to the temple, v. 5.

2. Elders involved in wicked abomin­ations, vv. 7-12.

3. Women weeping for Tammuz (Adonis), natural lust, vv. 13, 14.

4. Worshipping the sun, with their backs to the temple, vv. 15, 16.

Then in chapter 34 we find a record of the failure of Israel's pastors. This chapter should be studied by all who seek to do the work of an elder in an assembly. Israel's shepherds failed because they neither fed nor helped the needy sheep, but only fed them­selves. Then, instead of leading, they resorted to force and rigour in ruling over them.

The book of Ezekiel begins with a vision of God, ch. 1. It also records the departure of the Shekinah glory of the Lord from Israel, 11. 23. But it also prophesies the return of that glory, 43. 1-5.

Our present portion deals with events just following the return of God's glory, and concerns the priestly Levites of the family of Zadok. This will have a literal fulfilment in a coming day, but we can apply some of these things to ourselves today, if we desire to see the Lord glorified in our midst here and now. Let us look then at twelve marks of a spiritual priest.

1. The First Essential, v 15 They have a spiritual charge to keep, for we read that these men kept the charge of the Lord. Zadok means "righteous" and the things suggested in these verses demand that the service of a holy God requires righteousness on the part of all who serve Him. It seems that Zadok had not followed in the general apostasy occurring about the time of David, and so he was chosen to be high priest; see 1 Chron. 24. 3; 29. 22. It also appears that, as some­times happens, a godly man had godly descendants. Godliness is imperative in the Lord's service.

The two Epistles to Timothy have much to say regarding the Christian's holy charge. In 1 Timothy 5. 21, this charge is given to be observed, and that in a completely impartial way, without*any favouritism. Then in 6. 20, Timothy is commanded to keep that which is committed to his trust. In 2 Timothy 4. 1 -2, the charge also embraces preaching the Word, reproving, rebuking and exhortation. Verses 3 to 5 continue the charge, reminding us how easy it is to turn away from Scripture truth, and to obtain the service of un­sound teachers. So the charge con­tinues, "But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry". Again, the charge is "keep thyself pure", 1 Tim. 5. 22, and "keep that which is committed to thy trust", 6. 20. The charge sets a very high standard.

2. The Second Essential. There is a holy service to perform, Ezek. 44. 15, 16. The priests are to (a) come near to God, {b) minister unto God, (c) stand before God, (d) enter into His sanctuary, and (e) come near to His table. "Come near to me". How close am I ? Sometimes, when a brother prays publicly, it is very evident that he is not in definite touch with God. A spiritual priest must keep close to God.

"Minister unto me". All service must be of, for, and unto God. A great danger is for a preacher to become "hearer conscious" and "people pleas­ing". In Colossians we read of two essentials for faithful service. In 3. 17 we are commanded to do all things in word and deed in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him. Also in 3. 23 we are exhorted to do all things heartily, as unto the Lord, and not unto men.

"Stand before me". The word for "stand" here means to stand still, or to stand fast.

"Enter into my sanctuary". Spiritual priests need to get alone with God, for prayer, meditation, study of the Word, and worship.

"Come near to my table". In Ezekiel 41. 22 we read of the altar of wood, and this is followed by the words, This is the table that is before the Lord". Does this speak of an altar/ table? It seems to be different from every piece of furniture in the original tabernacle, in regard to both material and measurement. But in the taber­nacle, every whit of it speaks of the Lord. In the tabernacle there were sacrifice, worship, feeding and light and we have the perfect fulfilment of all these things in the Lord Jesus Christ. Spiritual priests have a holy service to perform.

3.  The Third Essential. There are holy garments to wear, vv. 17-19. The garments are linen garments—no wool was to be used. Wool causes sweating as a mark of labour, and reminds us of the energy of the flesh. In true spiritual priestly activity, there is no place for the flesh. Clothed in linen reminds us of the righteous acts of the saints. They have linen bonnets on their heads v. 18. True righteousness in the life begins in the thought life. Proverbs 23. 7 reminds us of this, "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he". Again, Philippians 4. 8 tells of the things which ought to occupy our thoughts, things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous and praiseworthy.

"Linen breeches on their loins". The loins speak of power, vigour, maturity, suggesting the power of a man controlled by the Holy Spirit. In 1 Peter 1.13 we are told to gird up the loins of the mind, suggesting that we put our power of thinking at the dis­posal of God, putting into practice all that He reveals to us in His Word.

4.  The Fourth Essential, Ezek. 44. 20: their hair to acknowledge Head­ ship. Moderation was to be shown in their hairstyle. They must not shave their heads, nor let their hair grow long. Today we draw our lessons from 1 Corinthians 11, the great chapter on Headship, and not a popular one in some quarters today. 1 Corinthians 11. 2-16 should be read in conjunction with Ephesians 5. 22-33, which also deals with Headship. In 1 Corinthians 11 we are taught that Christ is the Head of believers, and so we should be subject to Him. Men are to pray with their heads uncovered, without anything down on his head. This can­ not refer to hair else only bald men could pray! The sisters however must wear a covering, and by so doing acknowledge divine Headship, and must submit to it. Again, in verses 14, 15, we read that a man must not have
long hair. How long should it be? Perhaps verse 15 gives a clue, for we are told that the woman is to have long hair, and it is given her for a covering. This latter word is different from that used in verses 5, 6, 13. In verse 15 the word used means "that which is thrown around", suggesting that if a man has hair long enough to toss around on his head, it is too long.

5.  The Fifth Essential, Ezek. 44. 21, their abstinence from wine. There are six places in the New Testament where the word nepho occurs. Twice it is translated "watchful" and four times as "sober". The word means to be sober, temperate, abstinent, es­pecially in respect of wine. No doubt the warning is against all that stimu­lates the flesh, clouds the mind, thus preventing clear discernment regarding spiritual things. The true spiritual priest will avoid worldly and carnal methods, and also the love of the world. How we need that sober judgment and discernment which comes from habitual communing with God, prayer and Bible study !

6.   The Sixth Essential, v. 22, their purity in marriage. In order for there to be purity in marriage, there must be chastity before marriage. Our day has been called the permissive age, but remember the standards of God have not changed. There is a charge concerning sanctification found in 1 Thessalonians 4. 2-8. It has to do with moral purity, "For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication". The spiritual priest must abstain from illicit intercourse, for this is the will of God ! The vessels of our bodies are to be possessed in sanctification and honour. The passion of lust must not be allowed to burn within us. "Keep thyself pure", 1 Tim. 5. 22, follows the injunction, "neither be partaker of other men's sins". One field we need to watch is that of our reading matter. We can read of evil, sensual things in books, and thus become partakers of other men's sins, entering into their sins within the thought life. Many a Christian has wanted God's will for the individual life, yet believing there is something special, just for him or her! This often leads to the neglect of the plain statements in the New Testa­ment regarding God's will, e.g. 1 Thessalonians 4. 3. We cannot expect to get to know God's will if we are engaged with evil things !

7. The Seventh Essential, Ezek. 44. 23, teaching the truth. This in­volves the teaching of separation, and has a moral and a spiritual basis. The teaching was designed to enable the hearers to distinguish between the holy, separated things, and the com­mon, unclean things. Surely one of our greatest needs today is teaching which is conducive to bringing about separa­tion from evil, and which guides us in practical Christian living. All teaching should have a doctrinal basis, and ought also to be aimed at the heart and conscience of the hearer. Again, teaching should be Christ-centred, as indi­cated in Colossians 1. 28, "Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus".

8. The Eighth Essential, Ezek. 44. 24a. The priest must have spiritual discernment. He must be prepared to stand in judgment, and judge accord­ing to God's judgments. Spiritual discernment requires a knowledge of the Bible, and of God's mind and will in any particular matter. Human logic and wisdom are of no avail. In 1 Corinthians 2. 14, 15 we read that the things of the Spirit require spiritual discernment if we are to understand them. Natural ability and intelligence are not able to interpret spiritual things. "But he that is spiritual judgeth (discerneth, separates, investigates) all things".

9. The Ninth Essential, Ezek 44. 24b. He must respect and obey God's Word. God's laws and statutes were meant to be kept. So we must know and keep what is written in His Word. His Word is to be kept in all His assemblies, or appointed gatherings. Some today say we must keep to God's Word at the breaking of bread meeting, but it is not essential at other gather­ings! God's name is to be hallowed, and His Word respected and obeyed, for God has magnified His Word above all His name!, Psa. 138. 2.

10.  The Tenth Essential, Ezek. 44. 25-27. He must be separated unto God. There must be separation from all that defiles, from that which is dead. We are to have no fellowship with unrighteousness, no communion with darkness, for these things do not go with life and light. When defilement has occurred, cleansing must be sought before the priestly function can be exercised.

11. The Eleventh Essential, v. 28

He must be heavenly minded, Christ centred ! Our citizenship is in heaven, "Christ our life". So we are to set our affections (minds) on things above, where Christ sits today, if we are to be true spiritual priests. The Lord Jesus must fill and thrill our being, and then we will function effectively.

12.   The Twelfth Essential, vv.

29-31. He must feast on pure food. We find the food of the men of Zadok is that provided in the offerings, the dedicated things, and the first fruits of every sort. Surely we have in these things types of that which should occupy our hearts and souls. We are to feast on, and meditate upon the peer­less humanity of Christ, as seen in the meat offering. We must consider afresh, and that daily. His sacrificial death for us, as shown in the sin and trespass offerings. We must muse on all that is dedicated or devoted to God, shown in the dedicated things. We must see that there is a freshness in all our worship and service, as the first fruits would suggest.

The closing verse of our chapter warns us of the evil of reading about, and thinking on, things which are evil, that which is dead of itself. Philippians 4. 8 gives a list of those things which should occupy our thoughts.

By these means can we be "an holy priesthood", 1 Pet. 2. 5.