Zadok priests – a separated life

There were two groups of priests in the temple – those whose compromised lives made them fit only to minister to the people and the faithful Zadok priests who ministered to the Lord. This is a longish passage but it describes the distinction between the two groups.

Ezekiel 44:10-16 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. Yet they shall be ministers in My sanctuary, as gatekeepers of the house and ministers of the house; they shall slay the burnt offering and the sacrifice for the people, and they shall stand before them to minister to them. Because they ministered to them before their idols and caused the house of Israel to fall into iniquity, therefore I have raised My hand in an oath against them,” says the Lord GOD, “that they shall bear their iniquity. 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; but they shall bear their shame and their abominations which they have committed. Nevertheless I will make them keep charge of the temple, for all its work, and for all that has to be done in it. 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. They shall enter My sanctuary, and they shall come near My table to minister to Me, and they shall keep My charge.

You would think that these Zadok priests would have lives so very prosperous and blessed because of their faithfulness to God. Perhaps the very windows of heaven would be open over their lives, pouring out blessings and wealth they couldn’t contain. Blessings surely must be chasing them down and overtaking them. Shockingly, this was not the case.

Ezekiel 44:28 It shall be, in regard to their inheritance, that I am their inheritance. You shall give them no possession in Israel, for I am their possession.

They had no land of their own, nothing they could say was theirs …except for God. He was their portion.

The Lord provided their food from what was His:

Ezekiel 44:29-30 They shall eat the grain offering, the sin offering, and the trespass offering; every dedicated thing in Israel shall be theirs. The best of all firstfruits of any kind, and every sacrifice of any kind from all your sacrifices, shall be the priest’s; also you shall give to the priest the first of your ground meal, to cause a blessing to rest on your house.

The Lord provided their housing from what was His:

Ezekiel 45:1 Moreover, when you divide the land by lot into inheritance, you shall set apart a district for the LORD, a holy section of the land; its length shall be twenty-five thousand cubits, and the width ten thousand.

Ezekiel 45:4 It shall be holy throughout its territory all around. It shall be a holy section of the land, belonging to the priests, the ministers of the sanctuary, who come near to minister to the LORD; it shall be a place for their houses and a holy place for the sanctuary.

They ate what was holy. They lived in a holy place. The presence of God and ministry to Him was the center of everything- literally.

I wonder if others thought it was a restrictive life, feeling sorry for these Zadok priests who did not have a possession of their own. Meanwhile, these priests lived near the very presence of God and spent their days serving Him, feeling sorry for those who did not have Him as their possession.

The Nazarite – separated

“All the days of his separation he shall eat nothing that is produced by the grapevine, from seed to skin.”  Numbers 6:4

Under the old covenant, a person could take the vow of a Nazarite and separate themselves to God for a period of time.  There were some people that were Nazirites from birth.  Samson and John the Baptist are examples.  But it seems for the most part to be a vow that was taken voluntarily.

Numbers 6:2 gives us the purpose for this vow – “to separate themselves unto the Lord.”

Separation – this is a word that fascinates me.  My attention has been intensely riveted on this concept for many months.  It is clearly a Biblical concept, demonstrated in the Old Testament by God choosing Israel as His own people from among the nations and then in the New Testament by Christ calling His own people from out of the world.  In neither case was there a physical separation from the world, but there was a clear expectation that there would be such a profound difference in the manner of life, that a distinction would be noticeable.

This separation of belonging to Christ is to be radical and all encompassing.  Just as the Nazarite ate no part of the grape, from seed to skin, we are to be radically separated from the world.  Our interests, our priorities, our conversations – these should not follow the pattern of those who do not name Christ.  From the innermost hidden recesses of our hearts to the outer person we present to the world, we should be different.  From seed to skin. 

But God forbid that we should merely take on the external forms of religion.  How does God receive any glory from one who separates himself only to becomes a Pharisee, glorying in his separation, too holy to associate with “lesser beings”??  We do not turn away from the pleasures this world has to offer to follow a system of rules.  But we have discovered what Thomas Chalmers calls “the expulsive power of a new affection”.  We are not only separated from, but we are separated to.  Separated to this Christ, this Saviour who has so mercifully redeemed us.  All else pales in comparison and the world’s entertainments and amusements seem dull and lifeless after a glimpse of the glory of the eternal Lord.

I will close with these words from Mr. Chalmers

The love of the world cannot be expunged by a mere demonstration of the world’s worthlessness. But may it not be supplanted by the love of that which is more worthy than itself? The heart cannot be prevailed upon to part with the world, by a simple act of resignation. But may not the heart be prevailed upon to admit into its preference another, who shall subordinate the world, and bring it down from its wonted ascendancy? If the throne which is placed there must have an occupier, and the tyrant that now reigns has occupied it wrongfully, he may not leave a bosom which would rather detain him than be left in desolation. But may he not give way to the lawful sovereign, appearing with every charm that can secure His willing admittance, and taking unto himself His great power to subdue the moral nature of man, and to reign over it? In a word, if the way to disengage the heart from the positive love of one great and ascendant object, is to fasten it in positive love to another, then it is not by exposing the worthlessness of the former, but by addressing to the mental eye the worth and excellence of the latter, that all old things are to be done away and all things are to become new.