Over a dozen years after Jerusalem’s fall, and while still in exile, Ezekiel received another vision from God. This new vision was for a new Temple. Along with many precise details of its measurements and what materials to use, God also explained the duties and the privileges of the faithful Levite priests. The first of the ripe fruits and all the gifts brought to the Lord will go to the priests. The first samples of each grain harvest and the first of your flour must also be given to the priests so the Lord will bless your homes.
This blessing from God contained conditions for God’s people. As a real reminder to them that all blessings come from Him, they were to give the first of their harvest back to the Lord. In this case the gift was given to the priests who had been set apart to serve God. Once this was done, God would bless their homes. Ezekiel’s devoted ministry prepared many people to return to the Lord, and to see afresh that He is the Giver of all things good. Centuries after Ezekiel faithfully served, godly leaders continue to teach that the blessings received from God are not to be hoarded but given.
With much prayer and informational build-up, Houston’s First Baptist Church launched an incredible giving opportunity in February 2013 called Mission 1:8. Funds given would support numerous ministries in our city, country, and world. Russell and I were committed as a couple to embrace the incentive by contributing financially as well as with our service. But I wanted to give money individually too. The challenge was that I did not have a job. So as I prayed, I wrote on my pledge card that my desire was to offer my first paycheck. What blessing was mine as within a month, I was able to give my “first fruits” check, for God provided me with a wonderful job! He continues to bless our home, our family and the work of our hands. It is a joy to give back to God and give forward to people.
Ezekiel 44:30 NLT
Themes are found throughout God’s Story. Love, redemption, justice, mercy, peace, freedom, and responsibility are just a few. One of the responsibilities God gave Ezekiel was to let the leaders of Israel know that they were bad shepherds, and that they would be held responsible because they did not care for their flocks. God says that He himself will look after the lost sheep. “I will make a covenant of peace with them and eliminate dangerous animals in the land, so that they may live securely in the wilderness and sleep in the forest. I will make them and the area around My hill a blessing: I will send down showers in their season—showers of blessing. The trees of the field will give their fruit, and the land will yield its produce; My flock will be secure in their land. They will know that I am Yahweh when I break the bars of their yoke and rescue them from the hands of those who enslave them.”
God’s loving care never stops. Through all generations He shows justice and mercy far beyond what humanity deserves. He even gave Jesus, His dearly loved Son, to mankind to offer us life instead of sin and death. Jesus is the Good Shepherd for all of us who are still like sheep and go astray. He cares for us. Thank You, Lord, for Your shower of blessings! Thank You, Lord Jesus, for washing us clean! Thank You for breaking us free from our habitual shortcomings and giving us true peace in You. Amen.
Ezekiel 34:25-27 HCSB
As a good priest serving in Jerusalem (where Jeremiah continued to prophesy) Ezekiel was another man who was brought into Babylonian captivity. These were dark years in Judah’s history and God’s Story does not shirk from showing them to us. Ezekiel and Daniel were about the same age and by this time, Daniel was established within the government, and Ezekiel’s new job was to be a missionary to his fellow captives. The language barrier was not a problematic issue as it often is on the mission field. What Ezekiel faced in Babylon was similar to what he encountered in Jerusalem: hard, stubborn hearts that refused to respond to God’s love and lordship and His offer for restoration.
God gave dramatic signs to Ezekiel, to strengthen him during the two decades of challenging service before him. Ezekiel wrote, “Then the Spirit lifted me up, and I heard behind me the voice of a great earthquake: “Blessed be the glory of the Lord from its place!” It was the sound of the wings of the living creatures as they touched one another, and the sound of the wheels beside them, and the sound of a great earthquake.”
Ezekiel recorded over sixty interactions with God and each conversation ended with God saying, “Then they will know that I am the LORD.” Do we live today knowing that He is the Lord? If so, we will seek to obey our Lord and when we get off track, we will be quick to turn our way back to Jesus who is the Way. A restored relationship with God gives us hope. Being filled with His love helps us as well as those we seek to communicate His love with. Blessed be the glory of the Lord! May we be like Ezekiel, a magnifying glass of God’s goodness wherever God seeks to move us.
Ezekiel 3:12-13 ESV