Fallen Priests

Haftarah Reading: Emor (Ezekiel 44:15-31)
Gospel Reading: Hebrews 7:11-28; 10:1-18
Commentary by: Matthew Day

Ezekiel 40-48 relates to us the building of a Temple (commonly known as Ezekiel's Temple). A couple of different theories have been put forward as to where in time we find this Temple. Some place it in the Millennial reign. Others note the parallels between it and Herod's Temple. My purpose here is not to identify the timing, however, but rather look at the tone. Ezekiel is known for having a very pessimistic tone of voice and the Ezekiel Temple is no exception. According to the prophet, the purpose for showing Israel these plans is so that "they may be ashamed of their iniquities" for Israel had defiled God's holy name (Eze. 43:10, ESV). Furthermore, their Levites had failed to guard the sanctuary, instead letting every unclean thing into it. Even when giving the actual laws of the Temple, you can hear the stern voice of strictness for a people unwilling to humble themselves and submit to our King.

Several hundred years later, we have the book of Hebrews, again written concerning the priesthood and the sanctuary, again written during a time of exile. Here, however, the audience is not the stubborn masses, but the remnant elect. Here the message is not so much one of discipline and reproof as it is one of hope and encouragement. You see, the believers in the days of the Apostles were restricted from access to the Temple. They were not allowed to offer sacrifices or worship God in the way the Torah prescribed. That's a big deal. The author of Hebrews reassures us, however, that we have a better high priest and a heavenly sanctuary. He does not do this to diminish the earthly Temple, but rather offer hope to a people rejected by the then present leadership and to refocus their attention on eternal matters.

Ezekiel points to our need for a better priesthood and Temple. The earthly ones are faulty for one simple reason--they're human. They're fallible. They can never achieve a state of perfect purity so long as they're run by depraved human beings. As our Haftarah portion states, even in the magnificence of this Temple that Ezekiel describes to us, the priest still needs a sin offering (44:27). In the heavenly Temple, however, where God Himself serves as High Priest, it is written:

Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin (Heb. 10:18)

The difference between the earthly Tabernacle and the heavenly one, between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant, is that the former requires regular maintenance. It is not a cure; it is a mitigation. What Messiah offers is complete transformation.