[On Sabbath] Laws and Order (Ezekiel contd.)

Bible opened to Ezekiel 46 with Green and Black's Organic Mint Dark Chocolate on snowman plate

Today’s Chocolate: Green & Black’s Organic Mint Dark Chocolate

Today’s PassagesEzekiel 44:21-24, 45:13-17, 46:1-12

God’s message to Israel in the book of Ezekiel isn’t just judgment and wrath. Ezekiel also carries a vision of restoration for the temple and Israel, and that restoration encompasses Sabbath.

Structurally, this vision of restoration takes up the final third of the book, chapters 33-48. The Sabbath gets its first mention in Ezekiel 44:24: “[The priests] shall also keep My laws and My statutes in all My appointed feasts and sanctify My sabbaths.” The restoration, for the class of Levitical priests, includes keeping the traditional ordinances of God and maintaining ritual purity. Moreover, the prince of Israel has a special role to play in administrating the sacrifices on the Sabbaths and Jewish holidays: “It shall be the prince’s part to provide the burnt offerings, the grain offerings and the drink offerings, at the feasts, on the new moons and on the sabbaths, at all the appointed feasts…to make atonement for the house of Israel” (45:17). The prince, first identified in Ezekiel 34:24 as “God’s servant David,” was traditionally viewed by the Rabbis as the Messiah (Ellicott’s commentary on Ezekiel 44:3). In the restored temple, the prince acts as priest, making the sacrifices of atonement for the people’s sins.

Ezekiel goes on to specify in detail the procedure for the prince’s Sabbath offerings. The specifications include when the door of the inner court should be opened and closed, where the prince should enter and exit, where the prince, priests, and people should worship during the offerings, what sacrifices should be offered and when and how much (46:1-12), and in conclusion, the list goes on.

I think routine gets a bad rap in Christian circles. We want adventure and passion, we want deep, intense feeling, we don’t want to go through the motions. But we say that as if “going through the motions” were necessarily opposed to passion, when in fact we can perform our religious rituals such as worship services with passion and deep commitment. These familiar patterns provide consistency, stability, and space to grow in. Now, rituals aren’t inherently good, and they can become stifling if they allow no room for freedom; I’m not saying we all need to start following Ezekiel’s prescription for temple sacrifices. But all too often we throw the baby of tradition out with the bathwater of legalism. And I’m certainly saying that it’s good to take a day of rest every six days.

 

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