Last week, in Lessons from Ezekiel’s Temple, Part 12a, we discovered that the reason there is so much emphasis on sacrifices in the descriptions of Ezekiel’s temple is because sacrifice is still vitally important for us today. The types of sacrifice have changed, but the concept of giving what we have to the Lord has not.
Today’s lesson takes a look at the concept of purification for sacrifice:
“You are to take some of its blood and put it on the four horns of the altar and on the four corners of the upper ledge and all around the rim, and so purify the altar and make atonement for it.” (Ezek 43:20 NIV)
The Old Testament descriptions of both the tabernacle in the wilderness and Solomon’s temple emphasize the concept of purification:
The altar was purified: “Sacrifice a bull each day as a sin offering to make atonement. Purify the altar by making atonement for it, and anoint it to consecrate it.” (Ex 29:36-37 NIV);
The priests and Levites were purified: “Take the Levites from among the other Israelites and make them ceremonially clean. To purify them, do this: Sprinkle the water of cleansing on them; then have them shave their whole bodies and wash their clothes, and so purify themselves.” (Num 8:6-8 NIV);
The house of the Lord was purified: “The priests went into the sanctuary of the Lord to purify it.” (2 Chron 29:16 NIV);
Even the people who would come and worship and bring their sacrifices were purified: “Whoever touches the dead body of anyone and fails to purify himself defiles the Lord’s tabernacle.” (Num 19:13 NIV).
With all of this emphasis on purification, it isn’t any wonder that Ezekiel’s temple was to also be purified. But what can this possibly mean for us today?
We are considered temples of God’s Spirit, and we, too, are encouraged to purify ourselves: “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:8-10); “Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” (2 Cor 7:1)
How can we purify ourselves before bringing our sacrifices to the Lord?
First and foremost, we must realize that nothing WE do can purify us. Even in Bible times, blood or holy water were the only things that were considered to be purifiers, and we have a Savior who has shed His own blood for the purification of His people:
“If that animal blood and the other rituals of purification were effective in cleaning up certain matters of our religion and behavior, think how much more the blood of Christ cleans up our whole lives, inside and out.” (Heb 9:13-14 THE MESSAGE)
This is the ritual cleansing of the temple of God’s Spirit, and this must happen before God’s Spirit can move in. Therefore the first step to being pure enough to offer sacrifices to God is to accept His gift of redemption, to allow His blood to cover our sins so that we can stand in the presence of His glory, without fault and with great joy (see Jude 24)!
But there are other cleansings mentioned in the Bible as well:
1. By confession our sins: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.“ (1 John 1:9)
2. By humbling ourselves in the presence of the Lord: “Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” (James 4:9-10)
3. Through obedience to God: “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth …” (1 Peter 1:22 NIV)
4. By faith: “He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith.“ (Acts 15:9-10 NIV)
5. By separating ourselves from sin: “Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” (2 Cor 7:1 NIV)
If you think about it, being human and of a sinful nature, everything we touch is defiled by sin. In order to be a fit offering for a Holy God, we must purify ourselves, so that when we touch the sacrifice, it, too, will be pure!
Sounds difficult, doesn’t it? Friends, God has not left us alone with this burden. He has sent us His Spirit to help us: “who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood” (1 Peter 1:2 NIV)
If we allow God’s Spirit to lead us in everything we do, then we have all the help we need to purify ourselves before the Lord!
Enough to ponder, but do ponder this: God does desire our sacrifices of love, time, money, whatever we have to give, but in order to present them to a pure and holy God, we must make sure that we, as the givers, are also pure. We must first have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus, then we must purify ourselves by confessing the sins that we continue to commit, and we must allow God’s Spirit to work in us to help us separate ourselves from our pet sins, to help us humble ourselves before God, to help us grow in our faith, and to help us to be obedient. Then our sacrifices will be acceptable in His sight!
Join us next week for another important lesson from Ezekiel’s temple: Lessons from Ezekiel’s Temple, Part 12c: The Preparation of Sacrifice
God bless each of you as you seek to draw closer to Him!
In His love,
Lyn Chaffart, Mother of two teens, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, www.scripturalnuggets.org , with Answers2Prayer Ministries, www.Answers2Prayer.org .
(To access the entire “Lessons From Ezekiel’s Temple” mini-series, please click here.)