(The Ministry of Ezekiel’s Temple)
This is a boiled down and condensed version of a much larger article that was written by Chip Brogden. This is quite good. I’m sure that most all who read this will be very blessed. – D
“But the Levites who went far from Me when Israel went astray, who went astray from me after their idols, shall bear the punishment of their iniquity.” (Ezekiel 44:10)
“… They shall slaughter the burnt offering and the sacrifice for the people, and they shall stand before them to minister to them.” (Ezekiel 44:11b)
“And they shall not come near to Me to serve as a priest to Me, nor come near to any of My holy things, to the things that are most holy; but they will bear their shame and their abominations which they have committed.” (Ezekiel 44:13)
“Yet it will be appointed them to keep charge of the house, and all its service and all that shall be done in it.” (Ezekiel 44:14)
“‘But the Levitical priests, the sons of Zadok, who kept charge of my sanctuary when the sons of Israel went astray from Me, shall come near to Me to minister to Me; and they shall stand before Me to offer to Me the fat and the blood,’ declares the Lord God.” (Ezekiel 44:15)
“They shall enter into My sanctuary and they shall come near to My table, to minister unto Me, and they shall keep My charge.” (Ezekiel 44:16)
Beloved, there is a call going forth to the body of Christ in this day; a trumpet is surely being sounded for a people to prepare for a ministry, the likes of which the world and even the church have never seen or experienced before. Even though a large portion of the body has had an opportunity to hear this call, there seems to be only a handful of people who are actually being stirred by it, and then responding to it.
Dear ones, God is calling forth a remnant from the “church” (a wheel within a wheel, a remnant from within a remnant) to come into the inner sanctuary for the purpose of ministering to Him. Please understand that I am not suggesting that the Lord is calling forth people who are more spiritual than the rest. No, I am simply acknowledging the fact that although many are called by God, few respond, and thus few are chosen.
The above verses quoted from the book of Ezekiel clearly reveal that there is coming a very distinct separation in calling and purpose for God’s people during the age that we are now entering into… the Age of Tabernacles, or the Kingdom Age. Ezekiel reveals that the majority of God’s ministers (the Levites) shall be relegated to an outer court ministry where they will be allowed to minister to the people, but they will not be allowed to come into the inner sanctuary to minister to God Himself. There is a remnant of the Levites that are called to minister to the Lord in the inner sanctuary though. These are symbolically represented by the sons of Zadok. There is a reason why the sons of Zadok are permitted into the Most Holy Place to minister to the Lord while the other Levites are to remain in the outer court to minister to the people. This is not happenstance.
In this article, I will try to make some comparisons between the ministry of the outer court and that of the inner sanctuary, with a hope that we might gain some understanding into God’s purpose for doing this. If we know “what” God is going to do, then we know His will, but if we know “why” He does it, then we know His ways. His will is His desire, His ways are how He goes about to secure His desire. Beloved, we need to know both if we are to know Him.
It has always been the desire of God to secure for Himself a people who will enter into a love relationship with Him on an intimate level. In a sense our Lord has a “need” for man just as man has a need for the Lord, a void which is only satisfied when the two become one. Because of the general failure of our current system of organized religion to truly satisfy the heart of God, He is calling many to come out from that system so that they may then be prepared by the Spirit for the “oneness” that He desires.
As we look at Ezekiel 44, it seems as though the ones who are responding to the call to “come out” are typified as the sons of Zadok. Those who refuse to respond to the Lord’s call to “come out” are thus typified as the idolatrous priests, those who cling to their religious traditions and continue to teach them to others despite the Lord’s warnings (through His messengers) not to do so any longer (Ezekiel 44: 12).
Even now a Zadok remnant is arising from within the church and is learning to minister to the Lord, and the Lord is revealing Himself to these in a mighty way. Beloved, apart from an intimate relationship with God founded upon ministering to Him, there can be no revelation, no prophetic sense, and surely no depth of truly knowing Him, and for this reason, judgment shall surely come to those who keep others from entering into this place.
A stumbling block of iniquity has been placed before many of the Lord’s people by ministers who teach traditions handed down by men rather than revelation brought forth by the Spirit. By doing this they have ministered to the house of Israel before their idols and have kept many of God’s children from truly knowing Him intimately.
Insight into the ministry of the inner court, the ministry that many are now being called into, might be gained by identifying more clearly the outer court ministry, the one that many are being called out of. The outer court represents ministry to the people, the offering up of sacrifices. God has certainly used this ministry greatly during the church age, and it appears that He will continue to use it somewhat during the Kingdom age also, although in a much fuller sense than what we have experienced in the past. What is this outer court ministry? It is visible, public, and full of action. Its ministers are in plain view and easily identified. There is much work to be done. Because it is public, everyone has access to it. This is where all the activity is. The Levites stand in the outer court to minister to the people. But read the text from Ezekiel 44:10 again. Who is serving in this outer court? THE LEVITES WHO WENT ASTRAY AND WORSHIPPED IDOLS! Part of “bearing their iniquity” is that they are forbidden from drawing near to the Lord in the inner court. They are (for what appears to be an entire age) bound to the outer court, the ministry to the people. They are not permitted to go any deeper. Is this not a tragedy?
“And they shall not come near to Me to serve as a priest to Me, nor come near to any of My holy things, to the things that are most holy; but they will bear their shame and their abominations which they have committed.” (v.13)
Here is the greatest single problem with organized religion: it cannot bring people any deeper into God than it can go itself, so the people who refuse to come out of it are destined to remain in the outer court. Technically speaking, they are “in the sanctuary,” but they are far from God, and cannot draw near to Him. Beloved, it is better to be out of “church” and “in God” than to be “in church” and “away from God.” How nice it would be to have both, but the reality is that God and “church” often contradict one another.
Many have come to realize that they have to choose between the two. The ministers of the outer court are in love with their ministry to the people, with the elements and instruments of the work, and with their status and position in the outer court. They cannot lead us where they are not willing to go. Of course, I am speaking generally. I think it is wrong to assume that everyone who pastors a church is part of this group. That would be incorrect. We are talking about an inward thing. I am not saying you must leave the outer court in order to obey God. But I will say this: IF YOU ARE NOT WILLING TO FORSAKE THE MINISTRY OF THE OUTER COURT THEN YOU CANNOT MINISTER IN THE INNER COURT. You cannot stand in both courts at the same time.
Let me get right to the heart of this matter. What is it about organized religion that grieves me the most? I think it is this; the impression that it gives that there is no inner court at all, that the outer court is all that there is. Everything centers on the ministry to the people, and the ministry to the Lord is pretty much forgotten, or worse, it is done in such a way that it deceives the people into thinking they are ministering to the Lord when they are not. I wish a pastor could get up in front of the congregation and say, “It is good for us to be here, and it is right for us to fellowship, but you must understand that this is only the outer court. Everything we are doing is for ourselves. We have yet to touch God. There is an inner court in which we stop ministering to one another and minister to the Lord. That is where we are going. We cannot be satisfied until the Lord is satisfied.” If this is the pastor’s heart, then praise God for it! But how many pastors have you heard say that? And how many, having said it and begun to practice it, would remain in the pastorate very long?
The ministry of the outer court is important, but we have made it important for the wrong reasons. Instead of seeing it as the means through which we enter the inner court, we have made it the entire focus. We are more interested in “curb appeal,” making the outer court look good to visitors and meaningful for those seeking a “worship experience” while the Lord Himself stands in the inner court, forgotten and ignored.
How we feel about the service and whether or not we got anything out of it has become more important than whether or not the Lord’s need is met. Can you not see how far we have fallen?
May I say frankly that the Lord will not come forth out of the inner court, out of the Most Holy Place, to meet you and I in the outer court, no matter how devoted, sincere, or zealous we are. The way is open in Christ, but we must go to Him, and to do so we must pass through the outer court to get to where He is in the inner court. Now just observe how we do the exact opposite. We gather together in the outer court and pray, shout, sing, worship, conduct our bible studies, and expect the Lord to shower us with His presence or move upon us in a tangible way, i.e., “fall upon us” or “visit us” or “show up.” From start to finish this process takes about an hour or possibly two, and sure enough, there is some kind of “manifestation” produced so as to make everyone believe that the Lord responded to them. Nonsense! He will not meet us in the shallowness of the outer court once a week for an hour or two at a time when it is convenient for us and fitting with our schedules. We must enter the Most Holy Place of the inner court in the Spirit to draw near to God. The lesser approaches the Greater, not the other way around.
Now that we have somewhat identified the ministry of the outer court, let us turn our attention to the ministry of the inner court. Keep in mind that this is Ezekiel’s temple, not the Tabernacle, and not the Temple of Solomon. This is also not some temple that shall be rebuilt in a physical Jerusalem either, for this temple is not built with human hands … IT IS A SPIRITUAL TEMPLE!
So what is the significance of the inner court ministry of the sons of Zadok, and how does it apply to us today? The sons of Zadok were selected to minister to the Lord because they “kept the charge” of the sanctuary when the children of Israel went astray from the Lord and worshipped idols. In plain language it means this: when things began to decline and the temple was defiled, the sons of Zadok decided they would no longer try to keep the outer court sanctified, but they moved into the inner court and continued to minister to the Lord. When the outer court was defiled, they were determined to maintain the holiness of the inner court.
This is of extreme importance to us. It is no great thing to point out the many ways in which the outer court has fallen, although it surprises me that more people do not see it. Even so, being able to articulate all that is wrong with it is of very little use if we cannot with equal conviction state what our response to it should be. After we see the problems with the outer court, there seems to be only two viable options: stay where we are and try to change it, or forsake it and go deeper. It seems that all of us, at one time or another, have tried to “change the system” but sooner or later we have met with frustration and aggravation. Immediately when we receive light from the Lord we want everyone else to walk according to that light, but it does not happen. So the only real choice is to go deeper.
The sons of Zadok decided that the outer court was not worth saving, and they sought to preserve the sanctity of the inner court. They did not try to change the outer court; they simply left it in favor of the inner court. It was either that or lose the whole Testimony. Forced to make a choice, they decided to minister to the Lord. Eventually both courts were restored. The sons of Zadok are a type of the overcomer, standing in the inner court, ministering to the Lord on behalf of everyone else, thus preserving both courts even though to the people in the outer court IT SEEMS as if the ones in the inner court are doing nothing. Indeed, IT SEEMS as if the ones in the inner court have disappeared altogether, and they are, perhaps, written off as having “gone astray,” when the exact opposite is true.
“They shall come near to Me to minister unto Me, and they shall stand before Me to offer unto Me the fat and the blood, saith the Lord God.” (Ezekiel 44:15b)
Ezekiel 44 illustrates for us what it means to be an overcomer. When the Church as a whole has failed to maintain the Testimony, God will raise up overcomers from within the Church who will maintain the Testimony on behalf of the others who are unable or unwilling to maintain it.
People will ask, “Do you think I am an overcomer?” But what does it matter what I think? I know you are called to be an overcomer. But look to yourself and you will know instantly if you are an overcomer or not. Everyone is called to be an overcomer, but alas, everyone does not overcome. We do not overcome because we are overcomers; we are overcomers because we overcome. Read that sentence again very carefully, because being called as an overcomer does not make you one, but living as an overcomer definitely means you are one. There is nothing mystical about it. It bears repeating that the overcomers are no better than the rest, they simply rise up and fulfill God’s original intention for them, while the others do not.
If you are an overcomer then the Testimony of Jesus is present in you. Now looking at things as a whole, while the Testimony may be present in some individuals, it is clear that the corporate Testimony is broken down today. God is not the author of confusion, but confusion abounds in our churches. God is not the author of discord and strife, but discord and strife abounds in our churches. So there is not a clear Testimony … it is, for the most part, unclear at best, and contradictory at worst. The Church as a whole has not fulfilled God’s intention for it. That is another way of saying that the Lord’s need is not being met. His Desire is not being fulfilled. His will is not being done. It is not enough for us to examine the outer court and make some cosmetic changes. If we have failed in the ministry of the inner court then we have failed altogether, and THAT is where the root of our problem lies.
Many people have come forward to give us a “New Testament” style or pattern for meeting together. Different forms of church government are being tried. Meeting in cell groups or meeting in homes is being presented as an alternative. The house church has at last begun to call itself a “radical movement.” Before long it may very well turn into a sort of unofficial denomination. We do not want to question or criticize the motives of those involved, and some of these things are well and good, but we want to point out that all of these things pertain to the outer court. Very little if any emphasis is placed on the inner court at all. With some exceptions, there is little ministry to the Lord, no more or less than there is in a “regular” church building. Whether you meet in a church building or in a living room or under a tree, what difference does it make if you are, spiritually and mentally, in the outer court the whole time? It is not a new method or a new system or a new movement that we need, but a new heart that draws near to God to meet His need in the inner court.
Beloved, from the ranks of the outer court the Lord is drawing people to minister to Him in the inner court. We are not saying the outer court has no use. Again, we should see the outer court as a means to an end, as the path one must take in order to access the inner court. That is ALL it is, a path. The problem is when we become stymied in the outer court and take up our residence there, when the ministry to the people becomes more important than the ministry to the Lord. Worse, when THAT becomes the end and we never go deeper, and still worse, when we prevent OTHERS from going deeper.
The fact remains that some are discovering a deeper purpose for themselves in God than what lies in the outer court, and are pressing inward. It is not so much a matter of disillusionment as it is a matter of dissatisfaction. God is calling His people deeper and a remnant is responding. These are those who shall stand before the Lord to minister to Him “the fat and the blood.” What does the fat and the blood typify? It represents the presentation of our bodies as living and holy sacrifices (Romans 12:1). Ezekiel’s temple is unique in that the altar is the center of everything. This temple is a square, and in the middle of the square lies the altar, upon which those who minister to the Lord offer up the fat and the blood. Clearly, the altar represents the Cross, for to minister to the Lord in this way means a complete and thorough DEATH TO SELF. You see, in the outer court you might be a “somebody,” but in the inner court you are a “nobody,” because in the inner court Christ has the preeminence as All in All. There is no room for your ego or your title or your position. You are shielded from the prying eyes of others and hidden from the praise of men.
Another interesting feature is the clothing worn by the priests who minister to the Lord in the inner court. We notice two things: first, they must wear linen so as not to produce any sweat (vs.17,18). Sweat represents the works of the flesh. In the inner court one must learn to stand, not to strive. “Peace, be still” is the order of the day. What a contrast to the noisy activity of the outer court. To not do what the Lord has told us to do is sin, but to go ahead and do what we have not been commanded to do is sin as well. The second thing we notice (v.19) is that they must change their garments when they go out of the inner court, and they must put them on again when they return. They are not allowed to wear their linen into the outer court. Yes, there are times when the priests of the inner court must go into the outer court, and I will discuss that shortly. But the reason for the change of clothing is interesting: “they shall not sanctify the people with their garments.”
In other words, those who minister to the Lord in the inner court are not allowed to impart anything of the inner court to those around them. Again, the God of the inner court will not come forth to meet us in the outer court, we must go to Him in the inner court and offer up the fat and the blood upon the altar by taking up our cross every day. This simply means that each of us must learn to seek God for ourselves. I cannot carry your cross, and you cannot carry mine. We cannot rely upon others to touch God for us, no matter how spiritual or holy they seem to be. For that reason, the ones coming forth from the inner court ACCORDING TO OUTWARD APPEARANCE seem no different than anyone else. There is no room for them to glory in themselves. If we are not careful we may disregard them as no different than anyone else, but if we look closely we will sometimes see them “changing clothes” as they pass from the outer court, into the inner court, and back again. This hiddenness is not only characteristic of those who know the Lord, it is absolutely essential. It will require a sensitive heart, a discerning eye, and a listening ear to recognize and learn from them.
“And they shall teach My people the difference between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean.” (Ezekiel 44:23)
If I may paraphrase verse 23, I take this to mean, “Those who minister to the Lord in the inner court are best qualified to teach others concerning what does and does not satisfy the Lord and meet His need.” It may be that we have done quite a number of things which are pleasing to us or to one another but they are not pleasing to the Lord in the slightest. Thus, it is profane, and it is unclean. It is a blemished sacrifice, and it is unacceptable. Again, in Romans 12, we see the terms “holy and acceptable” used in conjunction with the sacrifice of ourselves to God. The converse of that would be “unholy and unacceptable.” Some people think God will just accept whatever we do in His Name. But we know that the Lord accepted Abel and his offering, but rejected Cain and his offering. (Genesis 4:4-5)
Our inability to perceive, know, or discern the difference between what is and what is not pleasing to God will open the door to all manner of spiritual and religious deception. Abel knew that the Lord wanted “the fat and the blood,” a life for a life, but Cain offered up something produced by his own sweat (good works) without stopping to the think if he was truly meeting the Lord’s need. In essence, Abel stood in the inner court while Cain stood in the outer court. Both offered sacrifices, but one was accepted while the other was not. I wonder; out of all the “sacrifices of praise” offered on a Sunday morning, how many are accepted, and how many are rejected? Listen to me! If only we would draw near to God and stand before Him to minister to Him we will come into possession of a remarkable sense of discernment as to the Lord’s purpose, His Kingdom, His will, His desire, and His need. Only then can we offer ourselves as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to Him. His pleasure will be our pleasure, and His displeasure will be our displeasure. If we do not know what the Lord wants, how can we pray? How can we teach others? How can we obey the Master if we do not know the Master’s will? And how can we know the Master’s will if we do not know the Master? Only those who minister to the Lord can truly know the Lord.
I mentioned earlier that there are times when the priests of the inner court come forth into the outer court. Here we see that though their primary ministry is to the Lord, they will on occasion have a ministry to the people. What do they do? They teach others the difference between the holy and the profane, between the unclean and the clean. They will demonstrate the difference between what Abel offers up and what Cain offers up. When the priests come forth from the inner court they teach people how to minister to the Lord, how to meet the Lord’s need, how to offer up sacrifices that are holy and acceptable to Him. The Hebrew word “teach” in this verse is interesting. Among other things, it means “to lay a foundation” or “to establish.” The basis, the foundation of all ministry is to the Lord first. Learning how to meet the Lord’s need, and then doing it, is what it means to be a priest of the Lord; teaching others to do it is even more honorable. I am not saying there is no place for ministering to people, but I am saying that it is of secondary importance. If we make the outer court more important than the inner court then we have failed. If we have met everyone’s need it means nothing if the Lord’s need has not been met.
The altar, the Cross, is central to Ezekiel’s temple, because to devote oneself to minister to the Lord will require a death-attitude to everything outside of the inner court. The praise and the criticism of man, the expectations of people, the demands of family and friends, the many needs and opportunities which present themselves to us, our own aspirations and ambitions about what WE want to do or what WE are gifted to do, our own ideas as to what is holy and unholy, acceptable and unacceptable: all of it must go. Our fruitfulness is not what we are to one another, but what we are to Him.
“I am their inheritance: and ye shall give them no possession in Israel; I am their possession.” (Ezekiel 44:28b)
What does it mean to minister to the Lord? It means…
– Not my will, but Your Will
– Not my kingdom, but Your Kingdom
– Not my glory, but Your Glory
– Not my needs, but Your Need
It means that in times past we may have served the Lord with the expectation of a future reward, but now we serve the Lord with the realization that He is our Inheritance now. It means that it times past we may have viewed prayer as a way to achieve our own ends, but now we pray in order to ensure that the Lord’s End is achieved. It means that in times past we were obsessed with our needs and getting what we wanted, but now we are obsessed with God’s Need, His Desire, and making sure He gets what He wants from us. It means that in times past our greatest joy was to be seen doing something for God, serving in the outer court, busy with many things, but now, being dissatisfied with that and having discovered Him, our greatest joy is sitting before the Lord in the inner court, quiet and stilled as a child, that we may know Him. In a word, to minister to the Lord is to be content and satisfied, free of ambition, conscious of needing nothing, since He is All in All to us. We were created to love Him. We were created to be loved by Him.
O Lord, make us ministers and priests unto You first and foremost. Teach us to come into the inner court and meet You there. Teach us to seek first Your Kingdom and Your Righteousness, Your Desire, Your Heart, Your Need, Your Satisfaction, Your Glory. You are our Possession, our Inheritance, our Reward. May we never be satisfied with anything less.