Day 248 (Sept. 5): In his vision God tells Ezekiel the rules of the temple, dividing of the land, princes must be just, special offerings and celebrations,

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Ezekiel 44-46:24

Questions & Observations

Q. (Ezekiel 44:1-31): It’s hard to remember that this is still a vision, because it reads to be actual interactions, which in God’s case, it probably is?  Anyway, when I read this, I just think about all these sacrificial rules and cleansing customs and think, “how long will they last?” But, God has banned the Levites that influenced the Israelites into idol worship and God only allowed the faithful Levitical priests from Zadok to minister inside the Temple.  So, God essentially cleansed the line of priests.  I still wonder how long it will last.

A. Zadok’s line (Zadok himself was the first High Priest in Solomon’s temple, 1 Kings 8) would serve for many years after this date, and rabbinic traditions of the modern era (i.e. AD) note the role his dynasty played in the priesthood for centuries.  One of the central characters of Ezra/Nehemiah — Joshua the High Priest — is of this line.

Q. (45:1-8a): So, God is instructing His temple to be built on a vacant piece of land?

A. When the nation is restored under Persian kings (coming soon!), the land God is describing will be “donated” to this cause.  It will not be “vacant,” but will be repurposed for the rebuilding of the nation, beginning with the Temple.  I would quickly add that that Temple that they will build is NOT what is being described here, for reasons that will be revealed later.

Q. (46:1-15): This ceremony is so regimented and formal, a vast difference from how I worship the Lord.  This “properness” will change in the NT?

A. You might feel very differently about how “you” worship if you were from a more liturgical tradition of the Church (say, Catholic or Anglican).  Perhaps the way to think about the change in the NT is that God gave us a freedom in the blood of Christ that we can use to glorify Him in whatever way we see fit.  Now there is not just one “proper” way to worship God, but many.  We will see the way that Paul lays out this argument in the Book of Galatians.

Q. (46:11-12): So far in their diets, I have can recall just hearing about meat, flour, oil, wine and figs.  Did they eat much fruits and veggies?  How come they are not included in the offerings?

A. The priests’ families could grow those themselves on the limited land that they had, and trade for the rest.  Since fruits and vegetables were not capable of shedding blood (obviously), they were not a part of the sacrifice system, which is primarily what this passage is concerned about.  Be careful about applying our own considerations of proper nutrition onto people living nearly 3000 years ago, they had no concept of nutrition, just survival.  I’m sure vegetation was a part of their diet (wheat and grains in particular), but I don’t think it was a primary concern for them.

Q. (46:18): God is really putting an emphasis on the leaders, the “princes,” to be just to the people.  That’s nice to see!

A. God was presenting the desire to see His people put aside the mistakes of the past, and the corruption of the leadership was a big one.  That had to go!  Being a just ruler was the only way God would accept this type of leader.

Day 247 (Sept. 4): Visions of: rooms for preparing sacrifices, rooms for the priests, inner courtyard and Temple, Lord’s glory enters Temple, altar

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Ezekiel 40:38-43:27

Questions & Observations

Q. (Ezekiel 40:38-41:26): Why are there so many specific measurements?  This was just a vision.

A. I don’t know, honestly, but I am sure God had His reasons.  It appears that the point of the vision was for Ezekiel to share what he had been given so that the people would become inspired by the plan.  That’s all I’ve got.

Q. (40:47): I thought the altar was in the most holy place for only the priests to see, but here it’s in the courtyard?  And, I am surprised that God is giving Ezekiel this vision because he has said that animal offerings were not what he desired anymore.  Do I have this wrong?  Maybe it’s because they were empty sacrifices, animals being burned without the right spirit of the people toward the burnings.

A. You’re correct about the animal sacrifices: they were repeatedly offered in the wrong spirit.  They were used as a license to do whatever the people wanted, so the sacrifices were ultimately empty.  As to the altar, there was always an altar in the courtyard for ceremonial use.  It was where the people offered their sacrifices and the priests consumed them.  You’re thinking of the Ark of the Covenant, which was partly made of an altar.  The Ark was kept in the Most Holy Place, but was lost during the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon.  But there was always an altar (made of bronze) for both the Tabernacle and the Temple.

Q. (41:5-6): Ezekiel sees side rooms stacked.  Are they significant?

A. Only in that it allows for more people (i.e. more priests) to be involved in the sacrificial system.

Q. (43:10-12): Why would describing the temple make the people ashamed?

A. They would be most likely mourn for the loss of the great Temple that was destroyed, and would know that it was their sins that caused the loss of the great building which represented their relationship with God.

Q. (43:13-27): You know that I have had problems understanding and accepting the sacrifices.  I do understand that it’s to give your best to God.  I don’t understand how sacrifices cleanse the altar.  And, I don’t know why there are so many rules with sacrifices.  My guess it would be to show obedience?

A. God desires us to understand that there is redemption in the shedding of blood — the cost of sin is paid for in the dying creature (pay close attention to this image as we approach our Holy Week readings in a couple of months).  But outside of that level of understanding, God simply asks for our obedience, as you have said.  He decides what constitutes atonement, since He is the one who alone knows the true cost of sin.

Day 40 (Feb. 9): Tabernacle offerings, blueprints for Ark of the Covenant, table, lampstand, Tabernacle, altar, courtyard, light, priests’ apparel

Exodus 25-28

Questions & Observations

Q. (Exodus 25:1-40): Do we learn anything from God’s instructions on how to construct the Ark?  Is it just that God knows what he wants to be comfortable?  Any significance to the cherubim?  Also, I notice that 27 inches is repeated many times.

A. God is asking His people to sacrifice in order to create a place of gathering that will serve His people for the next several decades.  The Tabernacle will dwell within the center of the community — putting God in the midst of His people — and will be a point of gathering.  The items requested would have made a beautiful gathering — which was very functional as well, it could be folded together and loaded up any time — that would have served the entire community.

I think we’re on the wrong track when we think of God desiring “comfort” as though He wanted a Lay-Z-boy to recline in.  This is not an incarnational presence, like Jesus.  This is the presence of God becoming the literal center of the tribes while they are in the wilderness.  We will see how the instructions for the ark and tabernacle will come into play as we move along, but watch for the importance of the poles and rings when it comes time to move.  There is a very special reason for the rings and poles on the ark.

The cherubs — a name for what we think is a classification of angel, but no one knows for sure — were seen in the OT as symbolic attendants to the throne of God, what we call the mercy seat, the cover to the ark.  And in a throne room, the attendees of a king would have been at his left and right.

Don’t pay much attention to the dimensions, if for no other reason than the NLT uses modern units to help us more clearly understand the dimensions of the items being built.  If you look at the NIV or King James, they give the units in “cubits” rather than feet and inches.  For reference, a cubit equals 1.5 feet, or 1 foot, six inches.  Obviously, there were no “inches” and “feet” as measures in ancient times, and generally there were very few standards of measure.

Q. (28:6): Is there any significance to the thread colors chosen — blue, purple and scarlet?

A. Yes.  These colors were symbolic of royalty and were incredibly expensive.  Like the gold and jewels for the task, God is seeking the best that His people have to offer.  He is requesting them to sacrifice in this instance, as one would do for a human monarch.

Q. We see this lavishness that God commands for himself.  No question, he deserves it all.  I just wondered what kind of philosophy the Bible says churches should have when building their places of worship.  Some churches are lavish, others are basically four walls and a roof.  I have had the mindset that if churches spend a lot on their buildings, they are not using their money wisely.  They could be using it for missions.  But, then, are they showing disrespect for God by not having the best possible place of worship?

A. You’ve obviously asked a complicated question, as you can tell by the various ways that churches and individuals have answered it.  Some churches are much more comfortable with “four walls and a roof” (I’m thinking of the of those pre-fab metal roofed churches that you see in rural areas), while others (I’m thinking of an absolutely amazing Catholic Basilica I visited in St. Louis) desire to create real beauty and glorify God through craftsmanship.  I think that both decisions honor God in different ways: we can say, “Lord be glorified by this place” or “Lord be glorified by what we will do within this place” and be perfectly right in both cases.  In this instance, God required the people to sacrifice their best in order to create something that would benefit everyone in the community.  Overall, I would say there is no one “right” way to build a building for God — unless He gives you one as He did here — and we must be discerning to what God desires of us.

Q. I shouldn’t say this, but this reading is a yawner.  Not much action.  But, I do glean several things from it.  1) There are things made for Aaron’s attire that will remind him who he is, a representative to all the people of Israel.  2) God asks for a beautiful place to dwell among the people.  I would love to see it!!!  3) Anything else I’m missing?

A. Seems like you’ve got the general idea.  The instructions given here are just the groundwork: we will still see these things built later in Exodus, and put into action in the next few stories.  So hang in there.

If you (or anyone else) wants to see what this would have looked like, I find that there are various groups on the internet who have built life-size replicas.  Like this one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Stiftshuette_Modell_Timnapark.jpg