The Gift of Faith

Christian faith is a gift from God.  We do not earn it.  However, we can refuse this gift.  We must accept this gift with our mind, our heart, and our will.  Our whole person believes in Jesus Christ.  My mind believes that it is true.  My heart says I trust.  I will love and have a concern for others.  The initial Christian faith is a gentle longing, a search for meaning.  For some it comes in a blinding flash, like the apostle Paul.  Dorothy Day (1897-1980) found it working with the poor, while others see it in the presence of a priest or minister who witnesses to goodness, or at the time of a tragedy or death.  Still others grow up within a cultural community of Christians that grows with them throughout their life.  My faith in Jesus Christ is a continuous growing mysterious reality.

 

The Levite territory (Ezek 45:5-45:5)

“Another section,

Twenty-five thousand cubits long,

Ten thousand cubits wide,

Shall be

For the Levites

Who minister

At the temple,

As their possession,

For cities to live in.”

The other half of this large holy land space was for the Levites who were not Zadok priests. They would do the menial tasks around the Temple. Thus, they had the other half of the 25,000 by 10,000-cubit area. They would minister at the Temple, but they also had their homes in little cities in this sacred portion of the holy land.

The Zadok Levitical priests (Ezek 44:15-44:16)

“‘But the Levitical priests,

The descendants of Zadok,

Who kept the charge

Of my sanctuary,

When the people of Israel

Went astray

From me,

Shall come near

To me

To minister

To me.

They shall attend me

To offer me

The fat

With the blood.’

Says Yahweh God.

‘They shall enter

My sanctuary.

They shall approach

My table.

They shall

Minister

To me.

They shall

Keep my charge.’”

It was a different story for the Zadok Levitical priests, as mentioned in the previous chapter. These Levitical priests from the family of Zadok came from a righteous priest, who was descended from Eleazar, the son of Aaron. This Zadok aided King David during the revolt of his son Absalom in 2 Samuel, chapters 13-22. Then this Zadok helped bring King Solomon to the throne in 1 Kings, chapters 1-2. After Solomon’s building of The First Temple in Jerusalem, this Zadok was the first High Priest to serve there in 1 Kings, chapter 4. Thus, the house of Zadok occupied the high priesthood throughout much of the Second Temple period. These Zadok Levitical priests had been loyal to Yahweh, when the other Levites went astray. They were the ones who could come near to Yahweh to minister to him. They would offer the fat and the blood. They would enter Yahweh’s sanctuary and approach his table. They would be in charge and directly minister to Yahweh.

The punishment for the idol loving Levite ministers (Ezek 44:10-44:12)

“‘But the Levites,

Who went far from me,

Going astray

From me

After their idols,

When Israel went astray,

Shall bear

Their punishment.

They shall be ministers

In my sanctuary,

Having oversight

At the gates

Of the temple.

They shall serve

In the temple.

They shall slaughter

The burnt offerings.

They shall slaughter

The sacrifices

For the people.

They shall attend

On them.

They shall serve them.

Because they ministered

To them

Before their idols,

They made

The house of Israel

Stumble into iniquity.

Therefore,

I have sworn concerning them.

They shall bear their punishment.’

Says Yahweh God!”

In a diatribe against the Levitical priests who had served idols in the high places, Yahweh was upset. However, his punishment was merely lowly menial tasks in the Temple, not a drastic death sentence. These Levites had sinned because they had led Israel astray with their idol worshipping. They made Israel stumble into iniquity. Thus, they were to be punished. They would only have oversight at the gates to the Temple, not in the sanctuary. They also would slaughter the burnt offerings and other sacrifices. They would continue to minister to Yahweh and his people, but only in the more pedestrian roles. This seems like a mild form of punishment for idol worship and leading the Israelites astray.

The dedication of the altar (Ezek 43:18-43:20)

“‘On the day

When it is erected

For offering

Burnt offerings

Upon it,

For dashing blood

Against it,

You shall give

A bull

For a sin offering.

The Levitical priests

Of the family of Zadok,

Who draw near to me

Shall minister to me.’

Says Yahweh God.

‘You shall take

Some of its blood.

You will put it on

The four horns

Of the altar.

You will put it on

The four corners

Of the ledge.

You will put it

On the rim,

All around.

Thus,

You shall purify it.

You will make atonement

for it.’”

The first thing to be done on this new altar, after it was erected for offerings, was a burnt offering. The Levitical priests of the family of Zadok was based on a righteous priest, who was descended from Eleazar, the son of Aaron. Zadok had aided King David during the revolt of his son Absalom in 2 Samuel, chapters 13-22. Then this Zadok helped bring King Solomon to the throne in 1 Kings, chapters 1-2. After Solomon’s building of The First Temple in Jerusalem, Zadok was the first High Priest to serve there in 1 Kings, chapter 4. Thus, it was not strange that the house of Zadok occupied the high priesthood throughout much of the Second Temple period. These Levitical priests were the ones who came near to Yahweh to minister to him. The first of the sin offerings was a bull. These Zadok Levitical priests were to put its blood on the 4 horns of the altar, plus on the rim all around it for a purification and an atonement at the same time.

 

Chambers for the priests (Ezek 40:45-40:46)

“He said to me.

‘This chamber

That faces south is

For the priests

Who are in charge

Of the temple.

The chamber

That faces north

Is for the priests

Who are in charge

Of the altar.

These are the descendants

Of Zadok.

They alone,

Among the descendants

Of Levi,

May come near

To Yahweh,

To minister to him.’”

The bronze man told Ezekiel how these two chambers worked. The chamber that faced south was for the priests who were in charge of the Temple. The chamber facing north was for the priests who were in charge of the altar. Those in charge of the altar were descendants of Zadok. Who was he? Zadok was a descended from Eleazar, the son of Aaron. He helped both King David and King Solomon in 1 Kings, chapters 1-3. Because he was the first high priest for the Solomon Temple, his descendants had a higher rank than the rest of the Levi priests. Thus, these Zadok priests could come near to Yahweh to minister to him.

 

The covenant about future kings and Levites (Jer 33:19-33:22)

“The word of Yahweh

Came to Jeremiah.

Thus says Yahweh.

‘If any of you could break

My covenant with the day,

If any of you could break

My covenant with the night,

So that day and night

Would not come

At their appointed time,

Only then could

My covenant

With my servant David

Be broken.

Thus he would not

Have a son

To reign on his throne.

My covenant is

With my ministers,

The Levites.

Just as the host of heaven

Cannot be numbered,

Just as the sands of the sea

Cannot be measured,

So I will increase

The offspring

Of my servant David.

I will increase

The Levites

Who minister to me.’”

Once again this is an oracle of Yahweh to Jeremiah. Yahweh seems to say that if you can make day and night not appear at the correct time, then he would break his covenant with David. Otherwise, David would have a son to reign on his throne. It was very clear that no one could become king without a Davidic background. He also includes the Levite ministers, when he compares the numerous heavenly hosts and the immeasurable sands of the sea that cannot be measured or counted. Thus there would be offspring of David and Levites to minister to him.