Showing posts with label Ezekiel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ezekiel. Show all posts
Saturday, March 22, 2014 0 comments

When a Man Goes Crazy with a Tapemeasure in Ezekiel 40

In Ezekiel 40, Ezekiel is brought in vision to a place where there is a city framed, and a man with a line and measuring reed (or rod, which is the ancient equivalent of a tapemeasure) takes him all over the city and measures everything in it.  At the beginning the man says to Ezekiel:
Son of man, behold with thine eyes, and hear with thine ears, and set thine heart upon all that I shall shew thee; for to the intent that I might shew them unto thee art thou brought hither: declare all that thou seest to the house of Israel. (Ezekiel 40:4)
And then the measuring commences.  The man measures the height and breadth of the building, the threshold of the gate, the little chambers, the porches, the posts, etc.  If you want to read it all, you can go look at Ezekiel 40.  There is so much measuring and describing that readers eyes begin to glaze over and we naturally begin to wonder, “Why is he telling us all of this?”  Why not just show Ezekiel the city without measuring it?  What are we to learn from all of these measurements?

Measuring implies great precision.  It seems to me that this is supposed to teach us that the Lord can be incredibly precise in giving visions and prophecy.  This city and temple are to be built sometime and it was measured out in Ezekiel’s vision so that it can be recognized and checked when the time comes.  (How that checking will happen, I don’t know because I have a hard time getting a mental picture of everything and how it fits just by reading Ezekiel’s writing, but I trust that the time will come when it will be recognized.)  This is to teach us that the Lord does know the end from the beginning, and when prophecies come to pass, they are not loose analogs, but exactly fulfilled.

The man’s instructions to Ezekiel also show us how we are to respond to precise prophecy.  “Set thine heart upon all that I shall show thee.”  If we set our hearts on wanting to help fulfill purposes and prophecies from the Lord, we will be united with the Lord and can work with Him.

Further, this vision (and the vision in the chapters following) were given 14 years after the destruction of Jerusalem and the carrying captive of the inhabitants into Babylon.  The vision was undoubtedly given as a means of encouraging the Jews to lift up their hearts, to encourage them to repent and prepare spiritually for it, and to show them their captivity would not continue forever.  I think the Lord intended to cite the Jews’ minds forward so they could live in joyful anticipation.

Today let’s remember the prophecies we can anticipate fulfillment of in the future—the gospel going to countries who haven’t heard it yet, the construction of the New Jerusalem, the Second Coming of Christ.

Friday, February 1, 2013 2 comments

Seemeth it a small thing?

This comes in the middle of Ezekial 34, which is a chapter about shepherding.  In the middle, it switches to a talk with the flock itself.
18 Seemeth it a small thing unto you to have eaten up the good pasture,
but ye must tread down with your feet the residue of your pastures?
and to have drunk of the deep waters,
but ye must foul the residue with your feet?
 19 And as for my flock,
they eat that which ye have trodden with your feet;
and they drink that which ye have fouled with your feet.
 20 ¶Therefore thus saith the Lord God unto them;
Behold, I,
even I,
will judge between the fat cattle and between the lean cattle.
(Ezekiel 34:18-20)
It took me several years to figure out what this was talking about, when it refers to cattle eating the good pasture and then treading down the rest with their feet.  It refers to members who are participating in nourishing spiritual experiences and then ruining those experiences for others, whether with a lack of attention, or inappropriate comments, or criticism, or improper deportment.    

Ruining it for others arises out of a lack of reverence and appreciation for the blessings of those experiences.  The question that comes at the beginning is very apt—“Seemeth it a small thing unto you?”   When we are not reverence or grateful, then yes, it does seems a small thing to us.  Everything is “no big deal” when we aren’t reverent. 

The Lord doesn’t let these things go.  It says in verse 20 that He will judge between fat cattle and lean cattle.  It is not clear whether the “fat” cattle are those that are nourished spiritually or whether they are so self-satisfied that they aren’t willing to ‘eat’ any more or let anyone else do so.  It is not clear whether the “lean” cattle are those who have been deprived because of others’ lack of reverence or whether they are deprived because of their own lack of reverence.  Whichever is the case, though, we are assured that the Lord will hold accountable those who ruin it for others.

This is a good scripture to use if you’re trying to teach a church class and someone is consistently driving away the Spirit with smart-aleck comments.  If my mom had known about this one when I was a teen, she probably would have used it on me on a few occasions.

Monday, August 27, 2012 0 comments

Ezekiel on consequences of unfaithfulness in the priesthood

 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:
 16 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 44:10-16)

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.

Thursday, September 8, 2011 2 comments

How the writings of Judah and Joseph grew together

Wherefore, the fruit of thy loins shall write; and the fruit of the loins of Judah shall write; and that which shall be written by the fruit of thy loins, and also that which shall be written by the fruit of the loins of Judah, shall grow together, unto the confounding of false doctrines and laying down of contentions, and establishing peace among the fruit of thy loins, and bringing them to the knowledge of their fathers in the latter days, and also to the knowledge of my covenants, saith the Lord. (2 Nephi 3:12, emphasis added)
Those words “shall grow together” seem oh-so-simple, but they represent an amazing process that occurred just thirty years ago. It describes nothing less than the production of the LDS version of the Bible, with the extensive footnotes that cross-reference between the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenents, and the Pearl of Great Price. (Not to mention all the amazing study aids..)

The verse above reminds me of Ezekiel’s promise that the stick of Joseph and the stick of Judah would become one in our hand. Previously, I thought this was nothing more than slapping the books together in one binding into a quadruple combination, but Nephi’s words about how the writings would GROW TOGETHER evoke so much more. It implies GRAFTING two living plants together so that they begin to take nourishment from one another. That is exactly the case in our scriptures, as each standard work takes strength from the cross references to all the other standard works. The Bible verses are supported with footnotes to the BofM, D&C, and PGP and vice versa. (The books follow the law of witnesses.)

My husband and I recently watched a documentary on BYU TV called “That Promised Day: The Coming Forth of the LDS Scriptures” which describes how this "grow together" process occurred. It was marvelous and made me so much more grateful for my scriptures. (I highly recommend it as a good Family Home Evening activity… or even just a treat.)

Here are some interesting things I learned that I didn’t know before:
  • Elder McConkie wrote the chapter headings. (Consider what the headings do to prepare us for the chapter contents. Consider how much information is compacted in so few words.)
  • When President Monson was Elder Monson, he chose the typeface for the Bible so it would be extra readable and yet fit more words on the page.
  • Before our current Bible, three different Bibles were being used in the church—one for primary, one for seminary, and one for Sunday school.
  • Before our current Bible, footnote letters were done on the chapter level instead of on the verse level. If the alphabet was used up, they started using double letters. It got pretty hairy in Isaiah that way.
  • I learned where the Guide to the Scriptures came from and why we English speakers don’t hear much about it. It’s more for other languages to use because it is very difficult to directly translate the Topical Guide into different languages. (But we Englishers are not prevented from using Guide to the Scriptures as well as the Topical Guide! ;-))
The purpose for having the LDS scriptures over others is to increase the level of gospel scholarship in the church, so that every Saint can speak in the name of the Lord because of their scriptural knowledge.

I am so grateful to have been born at this time when these scriptures are available. I knew they were awesome, but I never knew how awesome until I learned what was used before.
Wednesday, January 5, 2011 3 comments

Ezekiel sees four creatures: Lessons on traits of servants of God and heavenly cooperation

It's been a while, but I'm back! Woo-hoo!

A few days ago I was puzzling over these verses in Ezekiel 1:
3 The word of the Lord came expressly unto Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar; and the hand of the Lord was there upon him.
4 And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the colour of amber, out of the midst of the fire.
5 Also out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance; they had the likeness of a man.
6 And every one had four faces, and every one had four wings.
7 And their feet were straight feet; and the sole of their feet was like the sole of a calf’s foot: and they sparkled like the colour of burnished brass.
8 And they had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides; and they four had their faces and their wings.
9 Their wings were joined one to another; they turned not when they went; they went every one straight forward.
10 As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle.
11 Thus were their faces: and their wings were stretched upward; two wings of every one were joined one to another, and two covered their bodies.
12 And they went every one straight forward: whither the spirit was to go, they went; and they turned not when they went.
13 As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, and like the appearance of lamps: it went up and down among the living creatures; and the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning.
14 And the living creatures ran and returned as the appearance of a flash of lightning. (Ezekiel 1:3-14)
One thing that I notice is the overwhelming emphasis on the number four. There are four living creatures, each with four faces, and four wings, and four sides. So it seemed to me that it was important to learn what the number four symbolized. Four symbolizes the earth or everything that was created, and in the scriptures there are a number of references to “the four corners of the earth” (see Isaiah 11:12, Ezekiel 7:2) (We also refer to the four seasons and the four winds and the four dimensions, etc.) We will come back to this at the end to see how it helps us make more sense of the rest of these verses and understand the message that the Lord was giving Ezekiel.

I’ve previously noticed that wings frequently symbolize heavenly power. In these verses, Ezekiel notices that each of the four creatures have four wings (v6), which conveys an idea that the heavenly power in these creatures is over the whole earth. To me this begins to give an idea that these creatures are servants of God and that they are meant to represent to Ezekiel all the servants of God in the whole earth. But I’m getting a little distracted here; let’s go back to wings. In verse 11, we are told that their wings stretched upward, with two wings of each creature joined to each other, and two wings covered their bodies. Symbolically, this is very significant. Wings stretching upward communicates how heavenly powers in all servants of God are striving to grow, stretching toward heaven, trying to become better, seeking the Lord. That two wings of each of these creatures join to each other conveys how servants of God cooperate with each other and are united through their heavenly power. (We know this is definitely true. The Spirit and the priesthood power build unity among all servants of God.) That two wings of each creature also cover their bodies communicates how servants of God are also very modest, not just in their dress, but also in their acts. They focus on results rather than feeding ego, and this must certainly help them work together.

One aspect that puzzled me in verse 10 was the four faces each creature had. Why a man, lion, ox, and eagle? Why different faces? Finally I realized that the faces must be representative of different personality traits that servants of God must have. I also noticed that it seemed like the faces were being paired in a certain way—the man with the lion and the ox with the eagle. As I thought it about it, it seemed like the lion symbolized strength and courage and even fierceness for truth and righteous principles, while the man symbolized humanity, kindness, and reason. It seemed like the “lion” and “man” characteristics were meant to balance each other. In the ox and eagle pairing, I noticed right away that the ox face might be conveying down-to-earth, practical-thinking, detail-oriented hard work (like an ox pulling a plow in a furrow), while the eagle face might be far-seeing, visionary, and uplifted on flights of the Spirit, seeing the big picture (like an eagle soaring hundreds of feet in the air). Once again, those character traits would balance each other. So it seems that Ezekiel was shown symbolically some character traits that all servants of God should have.

“And they went every one straight forward: whither the spirit was to go, they went; and they turned not when they went.” (v12) These creatures followed the Spirit within them, which was a righteous spirit. Their path was straight, not crooked. Also their feet were straight (v7), not crooked, which seems to confirm that they were righteous servants. They didn’t turn out of the way, which teaches us they didn’t get distracted or change their minds in the middle of what they were doing. All of this is a great example of what servants of God are like.

“And the living creatures ran and returned as the appearance of a flash of lightning.” (v14) To me this communicates how quick they were to obey and how quickly they accomplished their righteous tasks.

Now we see how understanding what “four” means helps us. These four creatures with four wings and four faces communicate to us that the Lord wants ALL His servants on the earth to have those certain personality characteristics along with the powers of heaven.

Why did Ezekiel receive this vision at the very beginning? As a prophet of the scattered Israel in Babylon, he would begin the preparation for the return of the Israelites to their homeland, and even though it would take several generations, they had to start immediately by preparing themselves to be obedient servants of God. In fact, it would be impossible to begin preparing too soon. It is significant that the first thing Ezekiel is shown is a vision teaching symbolically the character traits of all servants of God and how they must cooperate together.

It also shows the mercy and long-suffering of God. God warned the Israelites for years to repent or He would destroy them and scatter them, but they refused to listen. So He destroyed and scattered them. But rather than completely abandon them in that state forever, He immediately began teaching and preparing them to gather together again. He called Ezekiel as a prophet and started teaching about the important character traits servants of God must have and the importance of cooperation and humility and the power of God.

I think this is definitely relevant and applicable to us today, since we are engaged in helping to gather Israel. We need to cultivate these characteristics and get good at working together with humility.

How have you seen these traits at work today? Will you share some stories or examples with me?