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Who May Ascend the Hill of the Lord?

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Holiness bothers us. It bothers us when we try to pursue holiness, and it bothers us when we see holiness in others.
[ILLUS] I once heard a man complain about his pastor, “He’s so heavenly minded that he’s no earthly good.”
We would all be doing well to have someone complain about our holiness like that.
[ILLUS] In times past, people would complain about the Puritans in the same way. To be called “puritanical” was a great insult.
While some of the Puritans made mistakes in trying to enforce holiness onto others, at least they understood that all of life was to be lived as holy unto the Lord.
And what’s more, they understood why all of life was to be lived as holy unto the Lord—greater holiness meant greater intimacy with God both now and in eternity.
asks an important question and provides a clear answer...
Psalm 24:3–4 ESV
Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.
In other words, only the holy may come near to God.
In we’ve seen the prince who is only allowed to come into the east gate of the temple Ezekiel envisions. That’s as close as he’s allowed to get to God.
We’ve also seen the Levites who are only allowed to minister in the outer court of the temple. It’s closer than the prince, but its not the inner court were the Zadokite priests were to serve.
In the inner court was the altar and the Zadokite priests were to come to the altar to minister to the Lord.
The question is, why were they allowed to do this?
The answer is in v. 15...
Ezekiel 44:15 ESV
“But the Levitical priests, the sons 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. And they shall stand before me to offer me the fat and the blood, declares the Lord God.
While the kings of Israel treated God’s house like their personal club house, and while the Levites outsourced their responsibilities in the temple to foreigners, the Zadokite priests were faithfully keeping charge of God’s sanctuary.
Thus, they are able to ascend the hill of the Lord; they are able to stand in his holy place.
[CIT] revealed that those given greater access to God in the future are those who have lived with greater faithfulness to God in the past.
[PROP] We should understand that greater faithfulness to God in the present means greater intimacy with God both now and in eternity.
But intimacy with God doesn’t mean what it should to us. We’d rather be some earthly good than be so heavenly minded. We’d rather be like the world than be called puritanical.
[INTER] Why is that?
[TS] Well, we’ll come to the answer as we look at three MAJOR IDEAS in vv. 15-31...


Major Idea #1: Greater access to God (vv. 15-16).

Ezekiel 44:15–16 ESV
“But the Levitical priests, the sons 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. And they shall stand before me to offer me the fat and the blood, declares the Lord God. They shall enter my sanctuary, and they shall approach my table, to minister to me, and they shall keep my charge.
[Exp] Zadok was a priest from the line of Aaron who gained notoriety in David’s time. He was faithful to David and then to Solomon when the kingdom of Israel was divided into Israel, with its own line of kings in the North, and Judah, with the God-ordained Davidic line of kings in the South.
In we read...
1 Kings 1:39 ESV
There Zadok the priest took the horn of oil from the tent and anointed Solomon. Then they blew the trumpet, and all the people said, “Long live King Solomon!”
That faithfulness to the Davidic kings was apparently the result of faithfulness to God because we read in v. 15 that these Levitical priests, the sons of Zadok, kept charge of God’s sanctuary even when the rest of the people of Israel went astray.
We should understand, however, that the faithfulness or holiness of the Zadokite priests was relative to the rest of Israel.
Like Noah, who was a righteous man in his generation, the Zadokite priests were not perfectly righteous or faithful or holy. They were just more faithful than the other people of Israel.
How were they more faithful?
Well, they had kept charge of God’s sanctuary, which is reference to Solomon’s temple, while the kings, Levites, and people in general had not.
The had honored the temple of God as holy while everyone else treated it as gathering place for idolatry.
As a result, these Zadokite priests would be given greater access to God in the new temple.
They would come near to God to minister to him.
They would stand before him to offer the fat and the blood on the altar in the inner court.
They would enter his sanctuary, approach his table, minister to him, and keep charge of his new temple as well.
Greater faithfulness to God leads to greater access to God.
[Illus] We understand that the perfect faithfulness of Jesus has secured for us a place in the presence of God, but what if that place could be nearer to the center of God’s presence or farther away based on our faithfulness?
I’ve heard stories about husbands who’ve gone from the bedroom, to the couch, to the garage, to out of the house completely because they were increasingly unfaithful to their wives.
We also know of husbands already close to their wives who are drawn even further into their hearts as they continually prove themselves faithful over the course of a lifetime.
Which type of marriage would you want?
One where you’re in the house, but only sleeping in the garage?
Or one where you are drawn more and more into the heart of your wife?
Which kind of relationship with God do you want?
[App] If we’ve trusted Jesus, then we’ll never be out of God’s house, but let it not be enough for us to barely be in God’s house.
Let us pursue holiness in all areas of life and faithfulness with every fiber of our being so that we can be drawn further and further into the heart of God; so that we can have greater access to God—i.e., greater intimacy with him— both now and in eternity.
[TS] Major Idea #1: Greater access to God.

Major Idea #2: Greater responsibility before God (vv. 17-27).

Ezekiel 44:17–27 ESV
When they enter the gates of the inner court, they shall wear linen garments. They shall have nothing of wool on them, while they minister at the gates of the inner court, and within. They shall have linen turbans on their heads, and linen undergarments around their waists. They shall not bind themselves with anything that causes sweat. And when they go out into the outer court to the people, they shall put off the garments in which they have been ministering and lay them in the holy chambers. And they shall put on other garments, lest they transmit holiness to the people with their garments. They shall not shave their heads or let their locks grow long; they shall surely trim the hair of their heads. No priest shall drink wine when he enters the inner court. They shall not marry a widow or a divorced woman, but only virgins of the offspring of the house of Israel, or a widow who is the widow of a priest. They shall teach my people the difference between the holy and the common, and show them how to distinguish between the unclean and the clean. In a dispute, they shall act as judges, and they shall judge it according to my judgments. They shall keep my laws and my statutes in all my appointed feasts, and they shall keep my Sabbaths holy. They shall not defile themselves by going near to a dead person. However, for father or mother, for son or daughter, for brother or unmarried sister they may defile themselves. After he has become clean, they shall count seven days for him. And on the day that he goes into the Holy Place, into the inner court, to minister in the Holy Place, he shall offer his sin offering, declares the Lord God.
[Exp] The greater faithfulness of the Zadokite priests not only led to greater access to God but greater responsibility before God as well.
Now, when I say “greater responsibility,” I could refer to the various duties that the Zadokite priests were to perform in the new temple that Ezekiel envision.
What I am referring to, however, is the responsibility of greater holiness before God that accompanies greater access to God.
Because the Zadokite priests would be nearer to God than had to nearer to holiness.
That holiness would be reflected in their garments and grooming as we saw in vv. 17-20.
Many emissions from the body were considered unclean before the Lord. Sweat, as another emission from the body, was likely considered unclean or unholy before God as well.
For that reason, everything the Zadokite priests wore as they ministered before the Lord had to be made of linen rather than anything that causes sweat (v. 18).
In some way those linen garments would become holy as they were worn by the Zadokites as they ministered before the Lord.
Therefore, those garments had to be removed in the holy chambers before the Zadokites left the inner court for the outer court.
If the sinfulness of the people in the outer court came into contact with the holiness of those garments that had been used to serve God in the inner court, the holiness of God might consume the people.
[Illus] We might remember here the example of the poor soul who reached out his hand to steady the ark of the covenant and was immediately consumed by the holiness of God.
This is the result when God’s holiness encounters man’s sinfulness.
That’s why the Zadokite priests had to change their clothes.
And we see in v. 20 that had to keep their hair trimmed—not shaved and not long but trimmed.
But we also see that this holiness was to be reflected in their temperance (v. 21). They were not to come before God drinking wine in the inner court.
[Illus] You recall the story of Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, who offered strange fire before the Lord—fire which the Lord had not commanded them.
With all God’s warnings against such a thing, we might wonder how they could do such a thing knowing that it could very likely cost them their lives.
The answer may be found in the command from God to Aaron immediately after his sons had died. In we are told...
Leviticus 10:8–9 ESV
And the Lord spoke to Aaron, saying, “Drink no wine or strong drink, you or your sons with you, when you go into the tent of meeting, lest you die. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations.
Leviticus 10:8 ESV
And the Lord spoke to Aaron, saying,
Nadab and Abihu had likely been drunk when they offered strange fire before the Lord, and they paid with their lives.
This served as a stark reminder of why God would say to the Zadokite priests, “No priest shall drink wine when he enters the inner court, (v. 21).
Holiness was to be reflected also in the women they chose as wives. We see this in v. 22.
They were to teach holiness by teaching the people the difference between the holy and the common, the clean and the unclean (v. 23).
They were to judge with holiness and keep all God’s feasts and Sabbaths holy (vv. 24).
They were only allowed to step away from holiness—i.e., defile themselves—in the burial of a close relative (father, mother, son, daughter, brother, or unmarried sister).
However, after the burial, the Zadokite priests were to pursue holiness once again by cleaning themselves, waiting the prescribed amount of time, and offering their sin offering in the inner court (vv. 25-27).
In all of this we see that holiness was a responsibility from beginning to end, from top to bottom, inside and out, through and through for these Zadokite priests.
[Illus] There was a song released in 1981 by a band called Loverboy, which was titled Everybody’s Working for the Weekend.
The song is not going to go down as a classic in my book, but it does reflect the idea that most people are working so they don’t have to work anymore.
I think that’s the way some people think about holiness.
I know that’s the way some false religions view the afterlife.
Some false religions believe that the afterlife will be sexual immorality unrestrained. They think that because they’ve restrained their flesh on earth, they’ll be able to engage in all manner of sexual immorality in the afterlife.
[App] But as Christians we know that we don’t pursue holiness so we can be unholy once we’ve drawn nearer to God.
In fact, we know the opposite is true—the nearer to God we get, the more holy we must become.
And as we’ve seen with these Zadokite priests, holiness must be an all-encompassing venture for the Christian.
Every part of his life must reflect the holiness of God from the way he dresses to the way he interacts with his family.
Holiness must be reflected in what he eats and drinks and what he refuses to eat and drink.
Holiness must be reflected in how he wears his hair and how he speaks.
Holiness must be reflected in what he sees and refuses to see and in what he hears and refuses to hear.
Maybe that sort of holiness sounds puritanical to us, but its the kind of all-encompassing holiness that the Lord requires of us if we are to draw nearer and nearer to him.
It is our ever increasing responsibility to pursue holiness in every area of life if we would be nearer to God both now and in eternity.
[TS] Major Idea #2: Greater responsibility before God.

Major Idea #3: Greater reward in God (vv. 28-31).

Ezekiel 44:28–31 ESV
“This shall be their inheritance: I am their inheritance: and you shall give them no possession in Israel; I am their possession. They shall eat the grain offering, the sin offering, and the guilt offering, and every devoted thing in Israel shall be theirs. And the first of all the firstfruits of all kinds, and every offering of all kinds from all your offerings, shall belong to the priests. You shall also give to the priests the first of your dough, that a blessing may rest on your house. The priests shall not eat of anything, whether bird or beast, that has died of itself or is torn by wild animals.
[Exp] The greater reward for holiness is God himself.
The Zadokite priests were not promised land in Israel but the God of Israel.
He would sustain them by way of the offerings that the people made to God. A memorial portion would be offered to God and the Zadokite priests would live on the rest.
God himself would be their reward and sustenance.
[Illus] This is what the man who accused his pastor of being too heavenly minded didn’t understand. This is what people don’t understand about the Puritans when they criticize them unduly.
For some, God is enough.
They would rather be heavenly minded than earthly good.
They would rather live all of life to the glory of God than gain the approval of the world.
They would rather keep in step with the Spirit than keep in step with the times.
[App] We must ask ourselves tonight, “Is God reward enough for me?”
If he is, then holiness will be our aim, because greater faithfulness leads to greater reward, and the greater reward is God.
[TS] {see below}


Of course, this pursuit of holiness cannot begin until we drawn near to God through Jesus Christ.
says, “The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him...”
Drawing near to God through faith in Jesus, is the first step in a life of holiness for the Christian.
[PROP] And a life of holiness in the present means greater intimacy with God both now and in the future.
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