10 And the Levites that are gone away far from me, when Israel went astray, which went astray away from me after their idols; they shall even bear their iniquity.11 Yet they shall be ministers in my sanctuary, having charge at the gates of the house, and ministering to the house: they shall slay the burnt offering and the sacrifice for the people, and they shall stand before them to minister unto them.12 Because they ministered unto them before their idols, and caused the house of Israel to fall into iniquity; therefore have I lifted up mine hand against them, saith the Lord God, and they shall bear their iniquity.13 And they shall not come near unto me, to do the office of a priest unto me, nor to come near to any of my holy things, in the most holy place: but they shall bear their shame, and their abominations which they have committed.14 But I will make them keepers of the charge of the house, for all the service thereof, and for all that shall be done therein.15 ¶But the priests the Levites, the sons of Zadok, that kept the charge of my sanctuary when the children of Israel went astray from me, 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:
In these verses, the Lord tells Ezekiel that there is to be a difference in the duties given to priests who participated in idolatry versus priests who kept themselves from idolatry. The unfaithful priests are still mercifully allowed to serve in the temple… but their duties are limited and they are not permitted to participate in the most sacred parts of the service. It is interesting to see what they are permitted to do.
Less faithful priests are to:
· Have charge at the gates of the house (v11)
· Minister to the house (v11)
· Slay the animals for the sacrifices (v11)
· Stand to minister for the people (v11)
· Not come near to God (v13)
· Not come near the holy things (v13)
· Not come in the most holy place (v13)
· Keep the charge of the house (v14)
Faithful priests have much greater privileges, and the list continues to verse 31. They are to:
· Come near to God to minister to God (v15)
· Stand before God to offer the fat and blood as sacrifices (v15)
· Enter the sanctuary (v16)
· Come near the table to minister to God (v16)
· keep the charge (v16)
· Clothe themselves in linen garments as they enter the inner court (v17)
· wear the linen bonnet, breeches, and girdle (v18)
· Remove the linen garments (and put ordinary clothes on) before they go to the outer court to minister to the people (v19)
· Teach Israel to know the difference between good and evil, sacred and profane (v23)
· Render judgment in controversy (v24)
· not touch the dead (v24)
· inherit the Lord instead of land (v28)
· eat the sacrifice offered in the temple (v29-30)
When I was reading these verses with the description of the separate roles, it seemed to indicate to me how the Lord wants to show there are consequences for being unfaithful and they consist of losing privileges of doing the holiest service in the temple.
And yet another way of looking at it is to see how a subtle lesson about degrees of glory is taught here. The priests who stayed faithful even when the rest of Israel was worshipping idols were in effect valiant in the testimony of Jesus. Their privileges in the temple are celestial. They can minister in the presence of God in the most holy place, while the priests who were not faithful can’t go into the sanctuary at all. Faithful priests can offer sacrifices for the people, while unfaithful priests must kill the animals for the sacrifices. Faithful priests can minister to God and the people, while unfaithful priests only minister to the people. Faithful priests wear priestly robes in the inner courts, while the unfaithful priests seem to have no such privilege.
This reminds me of how important it is to make sure that I keep myself from sin in order to be worthy to go to the temple. It reminds me to think about the questions that I’m asked during my recommend interviews to gauge myself and how I’m doing. God is not mocked. If we are not worthy to go to the temple, we pollute the Lord’s house and He knows it, and He will remove our spiritual privileges. But if we go worthily, we will be blessed with the Lord’s power and revelation.