Today’s selected reading continues in the Old Testament prophetic book of Ezekiel, and more specifically, is found in the ninth chapter. THE MARK BEGINS AT THE SANCTUARY! THE MARK BEGINS IN THE SANCTUARY! When you begin reading this particular chapter, you will discover an incredibly peculiar event which the prophet Ezekiel was permitted by the Spirit of the sovereign Lord to see. This chapter opens with these words—“He cried also in mine ears with a loud voice, saying, Cause them that have charge over the city to draw near, even every man with his destroy weapon in his hand” (Ezekiel 9:1). As this chapter opens, it opens with the One who had appeared to Ezekiel in the previous chapter crying with a loud voice for something very specific to take place. The One who had appeared to Ezekiel in the previous chapter called for those which had charge over the city to draw near, and not just draw near, but “every man which his destroying weapon in his hand.” The Lord was preparing, the Lord was calling for something very specific to take place within the land and within the city of Jerusalem—something that is properly understood in the context of an event which is recorded in the life of David king of Israel. In the twenty-first chapter of the Old Testament book of First Chronicles we notice the Lord responding very specifically to David’s actions concerning the number of the men in Israel. Beginning with the seventh verse we not only learn of the Lord’s displeasure concerning that which David had done, but we also learn of the Lord’s response to David’s actions. “And God was displeased with this thing; therefore He smote Israel. And David said unto God, I have sinned greatly, because I have done this thing: but now, I beseech thee, do away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly. And the Lord spake unto Gad, David’s ever, saying, Go and tell David, saying, Thus saith the Lord, I offer thee three things: choose thee one of them, that I may do it unto thee. So Gad came to David, and said unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Choose thee either three years famine; or three months to be destroyed before thy foes, while that the sword of thine enemies overtaketh thee; or else three days the sword of the Lord, even the pestilence, in the land, and the angel of the Lord destroying throughout all the coasts of Israel. Now therefore advise theyself what word I shall bring again to him that sent me. And David said unto Gad, I am in a great strait; let me fall now into the hand of the Lord; for very great are His mercies: but let me not fall into the hand of man. So the Lord sent pestilence upon Israel: and there fell of Israel seventy thousand men. And God sent an angel unto Jerusalem to destroy it: and as he was destroying, the Lord beheld, and he repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed, It is enough, stay not thine hand. And the angel of the Lord stood by the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite. And David lifted up his eyes, and saw the angel of the Lord stand between the earth and the heaven, having a drawn sword in his hand stretched out over Jerusalem” (1 Chronicles 21:7-16).
The reason I have elected and chosen to reference this particular chapter is because it is within this chapter where we encounter the Lord sending an angel unto Jerusalem to destroy it. It is within this particular passage of Scripture that we find the Lord sending an angel unto Jerusalem to destroy it—not merely because of David’s actions, but also because of the decision David made. When given the choice between three years famine, three months of being subdued and conquered by the enemies and adversaries of Israel, or three days of the sword of the Lord within the land, David chose to thrust himself before and upon the mercies of the Lord. David believed within his heart that it was better for himself, and better for the kingdom and people of Israel to fall into the hands of a merciful God than to fall into the hands of merciless men. Oh that we would recognize and understand the tremendous reality that it is far better for us to fall into the hands of a merciful God than it is to fall into the hands of merciless men. It was Jeremiah who wrote on more than one occasion in the prophetic and poetic book of Lamentations concerning the mercies of the Lord which are new every morning., When given the option of being thrust before the judgment of the Lord or the wrath of man, David chose to thrust himself before and thrust himself upon the judgment of the Lord. David understood that even in the midst of the judgment of the Lord, the mercies of the Lord were still new every morning, and the Lord would choose to be merciful unto the kingdom and people of Israel. In this chapter we find the Lord sending an angel unto Jerusalem to destroy it, yet as he was destroying, the Lord beheld the destruction, repented him of the evil, and instructed the angel of stay his hand. The Lord had indeed begun the process of destroying Jerusalem as a result of the wicked actions of David, yet in His infinite mercy, the Lord called the angel to stay and steady his hand that it not make a full and complete end of Jerusalem. This particular chapter is both peculiar and relevant to the passage we read in the prophetic book of Ezekiel, for it is within this particular chapter that we read of the Lord sending an angel unto the city of Jerusalem to destroy it—an act which the. Lord would repent Himself of committing, and an act which He brought to a swift and immediate end.
When you come to the ninth chapter of the prophetic book of Ezekiel you will find the Lord crying out with a loud voice in the ears of Ezekiel for those who had charge over the city to draw near. Those who had been given charge over the city of Jerusalem were to draw near before the Lord—each with his destroying weapon in his hand. Ezekiel records how six men came from the way of the higher gate, which lieth toward the north, and every man’s slaughter weapon was in his hand. What’s so incredibly fascinating about this passage is that while six men came near unto the Lord with their destroying weapons in their hand, there was another man—a seventh man—who was clothed with linen, and with a writer’s ink horn by his side. These men who came forth at the command of the LORd went in and stood beside the Braden altar, and the glory of the God of Israel was gone up from the cherub, and came upon the threshold of the house. When the glory of the Lord came to the threshold of the house, His first instruction is one that we must clearly understand. If one is to have a clear and proper understanding of this passage of Scripture, one must recognize that the instruction given to the man clothed with linen, which had the writer’s ink horn by his side came before any other command or instruction. When reading this passage of Scripture, please note that the instruction of the Lord first came to the one clothed in linen who had the writer’s ink horn by his side, for his was the greater mission and assignment among all those who drew near unto the Lord. As you come to the fourth verse of this chapter you will find the very specific set of instruction that was given to this particular man who was clothed in linen—“And the Lord said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof” (Ezekiel 9:4). This one who was clothed in linen was given a very specific set of instructions, and that was to “set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.” The Lord’s instruction to this one clothed in linen was to set apart and to separate those in the midst of the city who sighed and cried for all the wickedness, all the abominations, all the rebellion that was present within the land—those whose hearts and souls were given to anguish and travail before all that was being committed within the land.
It’s absolutely imperative that we begin with the one clothed with linen, who had the writer’s ink horn by his side, for everything that takes place within this chapter is directly linked and connected to his assignment. The assignment of the mark was what set the stage and made it possible for the others who had the destroying weapon in their hands to fulfill their assignment. It was the assignment of the mark that served as the catalyst for the movement of the destroying weapons to move within and move throughout the city. In essence—until and unless the assignment of setting the mark on the foreheads of all those who sighed and cried over the abominations committed in the land was completed, those who had their destroying weapons in hand could not move throughout the city. This is actually quite a remarkable revelation when you consider it, for before judgment could even begin within the land, mercy was first given, and mercy was first bestowed. Those with the destroying weapons in their hands were not released to move throughout the city and strike until all those who were to be sealed with the mark were accounted for. The assignment of the one clothed in linen was absolutely crucial, for while judgment and destruction was going to enter into the city, there would be those who would be spared that which was to come. The Lord had called for those with destroying weapons in their hands to move throughout the city, yet they could not do so until all those who were to be marked upon their foreheads were marked. BEFORE THE SWORD COMES THE MARK! BEFORE DESTRUCTION COMES THE MARK! I can’t help but be reminded of the words of one who wrote that the Lord knows those who are His, for this particular passage reveals this truth in a powerful way. The one clothed in linen was to essentially mark the righteous within the city, for those who were righteous before the Lord would not perish by the destruction and devastation He was about to release. It was their sighing and crying that qualified and positioned them to receive the mark, yet it was the mark itself that protected and guarded them from experiencing the judgment and destruction that was going to come upon and consume the city. THE SECRET OF THE MARK! What’s more, is that within this chapter, those who were to receive the mark upon their foreheads would be completely oblivious to what was being done. I do not believe for one moment that those who received the mark of the one clothed in linen were aware of what was being done, for it was a work that was done in the unseen and spiritual realm.
THE INNER WORK OF BEING MARKED BY GOD! THE INVISIBLE WORK OF BEING MARKED BY GOD! As I spend time reading and considering this passage, I can’t help but be aware of a silent work that is being done in the earth in this generation. In all reality, it is, it was, and it will always be a silent and quiet work that cannot be observed by human eyes. This work is accomplished in the unseen realm of the Spirit, as the Lord of hosts is setting apart and separating unto Himself those who are righteous in His sight. There is a deep, inner work of the Spirit that is taking place in this generation—a work where the Spirit sets a mark and places a seal upon those who belong to the Lord and are truly and completely His. I can’t help but be reminded of the words of the apostle Paul when writing to the Ephesian congregation, and is recorded in the first chapter of the epistle—“According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace; wherein He hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; having made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself: that in the dispensation of the fullness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on the earth; even in Him: In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will: that we should be to the praise of His glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, YE WERE SEALED WITH THAT HOLY SPIRIT OF PROMISE, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:5-14). Within this particular passage of Scripture the apostle Paul speaks of the Holy Spirit as being a seal, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession. When considering the person, the presence, and the work of the Holy Spirit, we must recognize and understand that one of the single greatest roles and functions of the Holy Spirit is to seal us before the Father as those who belong to Him. The Spirit of the Lord was given unto us in order that we might stand before the Father as adopted sons. It is the Holy Spirit as a seal which enables us to be able to cry out unto the Father, saying, “Abba”—a specific title that denotes intimacy, communion, fellowship, adoption and relationship with the Father. When seeking to understand the Holy Spirit, it’s necessary that we understand the Holy Spirit as a seal that not only confirms, but also guarantees our place and position as adopted sons and daughters of the Father—and not just adopted sons and daughters, but also joint-heirs with Christ. In other words, as adopted sons and daughters—those who were sealed by the Holy Spirit—we are able to enjoy and experience everything that was promised and given unto the eternal, begotten Son of the Father.
What we read in this particular passage of Scripture is an inner work that is completely unseen and invisible to the naked eye. There is no human eye that can look upon or behold the sealing of those who are righteous before the Lord, for it is a work that is done in the secret place. The work of being sealed with the mark of the Father is one that cannot be accomplished by human hands, for there is no human hand that can confirm or guarantee that you are righteous before the Lord. There is absolutely no man upon the face of the earth who can set you apart and separate you as righteous before the Lord. I recognize there might be those who would try and challenge this statement by referring to the separation of Paul and Barnabas in the New Testament book of Acts, but one must recognize and understand that it wasn’t man who called for the separation of these two men, but the Spirit of the sovereign Lord. The Levites in the Old Testament were chosen because when the call from the Lord of hosts came, they responded. It was Jesus who declared that many are called, yet few are chosen, and this reality is perfectly demonstrated in the Old Testament book of Exodus. Moses called for all those who were on the Lord’s side, yet it was only the Levites who answered and responded to the call. It was because of their response and answer to the call that they were chosen by the Lord. Their response to the call of the Lord enabled and allowed them to be separated and set apart as unto the Lord. Even Aaron himself was not set apart and separated as high priest before the Lord by any will of man, but by the Lord of hosts Himself. I can’t help but be reminded of the words of the author of the epistle to the Hebrews concerning the appointment of the high priest—“For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins: who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity. And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins. And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron” (Hebrews 5:1-5). I am also reminded of the words of the apostle John in the first chapter of his gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ—“He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:11-13).
It is clear from both of these passages that both the power to become sons of God, as well as the appointment to stand before the Lord as high priest came not according to the will of man, but of and according to the divine will, plan and purpose of the Father. There is absolutely no man that can separate you unto the Lord, nor is there any man that can set you apart as holy and consecrated unto the Lord. Any example and/or account you find in Scripture of one or more being set apart and separated as holy and consecrated unto the Lord came not of the will of man, but according to the divine will of the Father. There is a divine work that is taking place right now—it is an unseen, and perhaps even unfamiliar work to many—as the Spirit of the Lord is setting apart, separating, and setting a mark upon those who belong to Him. The Lord does indeed and does in fact know those who are His, and He has absolutely dilemma or quarrel with setting a mark upon such individuals. Those who were marked by the one clothed in linen were completely unaware of the fact that they were being marked, yet there was one who was given instruction to set them apart from all those around them. We must recognize and understand that the Lord is indeed and is in fact in the business of setting apart and separating unto Himself those who belong to Him—those who are holy and righteous before Him in His sight. Ezekiel saw the man clothed in linen move throughout the city and set a mark upon the foreheads of all those who cried and sighed over and concerning the abominations which were committed within the land. All were called to cry and sigh over and concerning the abominations that were committed within the land, yet not all who were called responses to the voice of the Lord. Those who did indeed response to the call of righteousness and holiness were chosen by the Lord to receive a mark upon their foreheads—a mark that would set them apart from those around them, and spare them the destruction and devastation that would be released released in the midst of the city. Despite the fact that devastation and destruction was being released in the city, there were those whom the Lord had marked and set apart as holy and righteous unto Himself. One can’t help but be reminded of the words which the Lord spoke to the prophet Elijah when he felt that he was the only one left who was righteous before the Lord. Consider the words which the Lord of hosts spoke to him at Horeb in the wilderness—“And the Lord said unto him, Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus: and when thou comest, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria: and Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room. And it shall come to pass, that him that escapeth the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay: and him that escapeth from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay. YET I HAVE LEFT ME SEVEN THOUSAND IN ISRAEL, ALL THE KNEES WHICH HAVE NOT BOWED UNTO BAAL, AND EVERY MOUTH WHICH HATH NOT KISSED HIM” (1 KINGS 19:15-18). Make absolutely no mistake about it—the Lord not only knows those who are His, but the Lord has also set aside and set apart those who have not bowed down unto the false gods of this age, nor kissed them with their mouths.
The mark and seal which we read in this passage of Scripture is actually quite remarkable, for it bears a striking similarity to what we read in the Old Testament book of Exodus. When the Lord was preparing to send His death angel within and throughout the land of Egypt, He gave very clear and priciest instruction to Moses concerning the children of Israel. Consider if you will the words which the Lord spoke unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt—“This month shall be unto you the beginning months: it shall be the first month of the year to you. Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, IN the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house: and if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and high neighbour next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats: and ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening. And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, w herein they shall eat it. And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast it with fire, and unleavened bread; and with glitter herbs they shall eat it. Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire; his head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof. And ye shall let nothing of it remain until. The morning; and that which remained of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire. And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, Your chooses on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the Lord’s Passover. For I will pass through the land of of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord. And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt. And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the Lord throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance forever” (Exodus 12:1-14). This particular passage of Scripture reveals a very specific set of instructions given to the children of Israel, for they were to set a seal and mark their houses with the blood of the lamb, and if and only when the Lord saw the blood upon the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses would He pass over that house and not cause His judgment and destruction to befall and come upon it.
When you read this particular passage in the prophetic book of Ezekiel you will notice that the mark began at the sanctuary of the Lord. What’s more, is that when you read this passage of Scripture, you will notice that the mark didn’t just begin at and with the sanctuary of the Lord, but the mark began at the altar of the Lord in the midst of His holy courts. IN the second verse we read that when those who were called by the Lord came forth, they went in, and stood beside the brazen altar. Please don’t miss the significance and importance of this, for the seal and mark of the Spirit of the Lord doesn’t merely begin at the house of the Lord, but it begins at the altar. The one who was clothed with linen stood beside the altar, which reveals that when he moved forth from that place, he would move forth from the altar. Please make absolutely no mistake about this reality, for it holds the key to understanding this whole process. When speaking of, and when seeking to understand the setting apart, the separating, and the sealing of those who are holy and righteous unto the Lord, that process begins at and in the sanctuary of the Lord. More specifically, and perhaps more importantly, that process begins at the altar of the Lord—at the place of sacrifice and offering. If you want to truly recognize and understand where this process of being set apart and separated unto the Lord takes place, you must understand that it takes place in the place of sacrifice and offering. Lest you think that this reality is not true and is somehow misguided, consider the fact that the only way the blood was made available to strike the two side posts of the door and the upper door post of the door was through, by and after the shedding of the blood of the lamb. The only way the children of Israel could receive and obtain the blood that would be used to mark their houses was after the lamb had been killed—and not only killed, but eaten as well. It wasn’t enough to merely kill the lamb, and take its blood and strike the door posts of the house, but the children of Israel were also instructed to eat the lamb, and to let none of it remain until morning. This same reality is still true and still relevant in this generation, for consider the words which Jesus spoke in the sixth chapter of the gospel according to John—“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any man eat of this bread, he shall live fore ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world…”Verily, verily, I say unto you, Escept ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise Him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him” (John 6:47-51, 53-56).
The children of Israel weren’t merely instructed to slay the lamb in order to access the blood which would mark the doorposts of their houses, but they were instructed to eat the lamb roasted over fire with bitter herbs and unleavened bread. Mark this and mark this well, for it is not enough to merely take the blood of the Lamb and mark the doorposts of our houses, and the doorposts of our hearts and lives, for we must also take, and eat, and partake of the Lamb as well. Jesus declared of Himself that He was the Bread of life, and He would go on to call men to eat His flesh and to drink His blood. It is in the place of sacrifice and offering that the process of our being sealed and marked takes place, but it is also in the place of eating and partaking of the Lamb that the process continues. There are many who will stop at and stop with the slaughtering of the Lamb, and they think that the blood is enough, yet I would strongly convey to you that that even the sacrifice of Jesus Christ upon the cross, and His shed blood isn’t enough. Without the shedding of blood there can be no remission of sins, but it wasn’t enough to merely take the blood of the lamb and mark their houses, for they still needed to partake of the Lamb over fire with bitter herbs and unleavened bread. Our problem is that we want the blood of the Lamb without and apart from the unleavened bread and without the bitter herbs. We want the blood of the Lamb without having to partake of His flesh. We cant the blood of the Lamb without understanding the importance of living lives that are free from the leaven of this world, and free from the leaven of the Pharisees. We want the blood of the Lamb without and apart from the bitterness this life may indeed bring our way. The truth of the matter is that if we truly want to be sealed, set apart and marked by the Spirit of the Lord, we must not only wash our garments in the blood of the Lamb and mark the doorposts of our hearts and our homes, but we must also take and partake of the Lamb with bitter herbs and unleavened bread. The mark begins at the sanctuary, but more importantly, the mark begins at the altar before the divine glory of the Lord. We bear a tremendous responsibility to allow the work of being sealed, set apart, separated and marked by the Lord to begin in the place of sacrifice and offering, but it must not end there. We must continually and daily feast upon the Lamb which was slain and slaughtered, for only until and unless we are willing to partake of the Lamb can we truly be marked and sealed by the Holy Spirit. The sacrifices makes the blood available, but the sacrifice also opens up to us the divine meal of partaking of the bread and the blood. Let us this day make it our daily pursuit and our daily ambition to partake of the bread and wine, the body and the blood. Let us this day pursue the partaking of the bread and the blood, for unless we are willing to do so, we have no part in Him.