Then the man brought me back to the outside gate complex of the Sanctuary that faces east. But it was shut.
God spoke to me: "This gate is shut and it's to stay shut. No one is to go through it because God, the God of Israel, has gone through it. It stays shut.
Only the prince, because he's the prince, may sit there to eat in the presence of God. He is to enter the gate complex through the porch and leave by the same way."
The man led me through the north gate to the front of the Temple. I looked, and - oh! - the bright Glory of God filling the Temple of God! I fell on my face in worship.
God said to me, "Son of man, get a grip on yourself. Use your eyes, use your ears, pay careful attention to everything I tell you about the ordinances of this Temple of God, the way all the laws work, instructions regarding it and all the entrances and exits of the Sanctuary.
"Tell this bunch of rebels, this family Israel, 'Message of God, the Master: No more of these vile obscenities, Israel,
dragging irreverent and unrepentant outsiders, uncircumcised in heart and flesh, into my Sanctuary, feeding them the sacrificial offerings as if it were the food for a neighborhood picnic. With all your vile obscenities, you've broken trust with me, the solemn covenant I made with you.
You haven't taken care of my holy things. You've hired out the work to foreigners who care nothing for this place, my Sanctuary.
No irreverent and unrepentant aliens, uncircumcised in heart or flesh, not even the ones who live among Israelites, are to enter my Sanctuary.'
"The Levites who walked off and left me, along with everyone else - all Israel - who took up with all the no-god idols, will pay for everything they did wrong.
From now on they'll do only the menial work in the Sanctuary: guard the gates and help out with the Temple chores - and also kill the sacrificial animals for the people and serve them.
Because they acted as priests to the no-god idols and made my people Israel stumble and fall, I've taken an oath to punish them. Decree of God, the Master. Yes, they'll pay for what they've done.
They're fired from the priesthood. No longer will they come into my presence and take care of my holy things. No more access to The Holy Place! They'll have to live with what they've done, carry the shame of their vile and obscene lives.
From now on, their job is to sweep up and run errands. That's it.
"But the Levitical priests who descend from Zadok, who faithfully took care of my Sanctuary when everyone else went off and left me, are going to come into my presence and serve me. They are going to carry out the priestly work of offering the solemn sacrifices of worship. Decree of God, the Master.
They're the only ones permitted to enter my Sanctuary. They're the only ones to approach my table and serve me, accompanying me in my work.
"When they enter the gate complex of the inside courtyard, they are to dress in linen. No woolens are to be worn while serving at the gate complex of the inside courtyard or inside the Temple itself.
They're to wear linen turbans on their heads and linen underclothes - nothing that makes them sweat.
When they go out into the outside courtyard where the people gather, they must first change out of the clothes they have been serving in, leaving them in the sacred rooms where they change to their everyday clothes, so that they don't trivialize their holy work by the way they dress.
"They are to neither shave their heads nor let their hair become unkempt, but must keep their hair trimmed and neat.
"No priest is to drink on the job - no wine while in the inside courtyard.
"Priests are not to marry widows or divorcees, but only Israelite virgins or widows of priests.
"Their job is to teach my people the difference between the holy and the common, to show them how to discern between unclean and clean.
"When there's a difference of opinion, the priests will arbitrate. They'll decide on the basis of my judgments, laws, and statutes. They are in charge of making sure the appointed feasts are honored and my Sabbaths kept holy in the ways I've commanded.
"A priest must not contaminate himself by going near a corpse. But when the dead person is his father or mother, son or daughter, brother or unmarried sister, he can approach the dead.
But after he has been purified, he must wait another seven days.
Then, when he returns to the inside courtyard of the Sanctuary to do his priestly work in the Sanctuary, he must first offer a sin offering for himself. Decree of God, the Master.
"As to priests owning land, I am their inheritance. Don't give any land in Israel to them. I am their 'land,' their inheritance.
They'll take their meals from the grain offerings, the sin offerings, and the guilt offerings. Everything in Israel offered to God in worship is theirs.
The best of everything grown, plus all special gifts, comes to the priests. All that is given in worship to God goes to them. Serve them first. Serve from your best and your home will be blessed.
"Priests are not to eat any meat from bird or animal unfit for ordinary human consumption, such as carcasses found dead on the road or in the field.
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)