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1 Kings 16, Ezekiel 46

Today’s readings are 1 Kings 16 and Ezekiel 46.

This devotional is about Ezekiel 46:9-10: “‘When the people of the land come before the Lord at the appointed festivals, whoever enters by the north gate to worship is to go out the south gate; and whoever enters by the south gate is to go out the north gate. No one is to return through the gate by which they entered, but each is to go out the opposite gate. The prince is to be among them, going in when they go in and going out when they go out.”

This chapter continued the lengthy vision Ezekiel received way back in chapter 40. This vision described how Israel should rebuild the temple and worship as a nation at some point in the future.

Here in chapter 46 the Lord described how the people should gather and worship each Sabbath and during New Moon feasts (v. 3). The prince of Israel was commanded to bring a burnt offering as described in verses 4-7 and verse 8 described where he was to enter and exit the temple area.

Here in verses 9-10 we read these strange instructions. When the people came to worship in the temple on the Sabbath and the New Moons, God commanded them to enter by one gate and leave by the other. These gates were on the north and south sides of the temple. If you came in through the north gate, you were required to cover the rest of the distance and go out the through the south gate. If you came in through the south gate, you had to keep going forward and exit through the north gate. Just so nobody was confused, the end of verse 9 said, “No one is to return through the gate by which they entered, but each is to go out the opposite gate.”

Verse 10 included the prince in all of this. He was required to use either the north or south gate and he must go out the gate opposite the one that he entered. He was not allowed to use some side entrance to avoid the people; the prince must travel in and out like everyone else did.

Why on earth would the Lord care about this?

We don’t know for sure because Ezekiel did not give any explanation for these instructions. But it is interesting to think about why the Lord might have commanded this. One commentator I glanced at said it was probably either:

for crowd control or because turning around and showing your backside might be offensive to God or because “every detail in the worship of Yahweh was ordered.”[1]

The first answer could be true, the second one is just weird and the last one makes decent sense. There were a lot of precise instructions given in these chapters; maybe this is just another one of those.

But think about it. You have two large groups of people. One came in from the North and is now facing South. The other came in from the South and is now facing North. They are facing each other and have to cross paths with everyone else on the other side to get out. To me, it seems like crowd control would be easier if everyone turned around and left the way they came in.

So it makes me wonder if God commanded this to make it harder for his people to avoid each other and for the prince to avoid the people. In any large group of people, there were bound to be some who were estranged from one another. There were some who may have sued each other, married and divorced each other, or just generally didn’t get along with each other. These instructions made hiding from people you dislike even harder to do. Remember Jesus’s instructions in Matthew 5:23-24: “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” That could literally happen if you had to either walk in with half the crowd or cross paths with the other half of the crowd on your way out.

These commands also emphasized that the prince was just a worshipper like everyone else. He had greater responsibilities and recognition, but he was just a man before God like everyone else, a sinner allowed by God’s mercy and grace into his presence.

These thoughts of mine are totally speculative and may well be wrong. But it is interesting to think about the principles. Do you ever try to avoid someone on Sunday morning when you come to church? If we only had two doors open to the building and they were opposite each other and we wouldn’t let you leave through the door that you entered, don’t you think you’d see more people than you usually do?

We can’t really be the church without socializing with others in the church. Do you come late and leave early or immediately after the service just to avoid people? Do you think the Lord is pleased if we act that way toward our brothers and sisters in Christ?

[1] Daniel Isaac Block, The Book of Ezekiel, Chapters 25–48, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997–), 673.

Joshua 23, Acts 3, Jeremiah 12, Matthew 26

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Joshua 23, Acts 3, Jeremiah 12, Matthew 26. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Joshua 23.

People are social creatures and that means we are drawn to conform to whatever the people around us are doing. Part of our desire to conform is social acceptance. This gives us comfort because we feel like we belong; we blend in to feel accepted. The other part of our desire to conform is called “social proof.” This means that, if enough people are doing something, we feel confident that it is the right thing to do. 

As Joshua neared the end of his life, he was concerned about the social affect of other nations on Israel’s worship of God. In verse 6, he urged the people to be obedient and dedicated to God’s law. In verse 7, he warned them not to “associate with these nations that remain among you; do not invoke the names of their gods or swear by them. You must not serve them or bow down to them.” He knew that associating with these nations would cause them to reject the Lord and turn to idols. Verses 12-13 spelled out the consequences that would follow if they “intermarry with them and associate with them… they will become snares and traps for you, whips on your backs and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land, which the Lord your God has given you.” Israel’s history played out exactly as Joshua warned that it would. Their example reminds us to be careful about our associations. While we should not isolate ourselves from unbelievers, we also should not be too comfortable among them. Their beliefs, their lifestyles, and their outlook will create social pressure for us to turn away from obedience to the Lord. Our natural, human desire to be accepted will wage war against the desire to become holy like God is. And the “social proof” aspect will tempt us to minimize the differences between God’s will for us and the lifestyles of those around us.

Isolation is not the will of God for us because the Lord wants us to love unbelievers and use our social influence to gain a hearing for the gospel. But the Bible reminds us not to love the world, either, because it is corrosive to spiritual growth. This passage warns and reminds us to be careful about how we are being influenced by those around us who do not know the Lord.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.