Today’s selected reading continues in the Old Testament prophetic book of Ezekiel, and more specifically, begins with the thirtieth verse of the fortieth chapter and continues through to the forty-ninth verse. The fortieth chapter of the prophetic book of Ezekiel opens up and begins with the timing during which this particular prophetic word had been released unto the prophet. “In the five and twentieth year of our captivity, in the beginning of the year, in the tenth day of the month, in the fourteenth year after that the city was smitten, in the selfsame day the hand of the Lord was upon me, and brought me thither” (Ezekiel 40:1). I have to admit that I absolutely love the timing of the release of this prophetic word, for this word was released twenty-five years after the Hebrew people were carried away as captives into the land of the Chaldeans. Twenty-five years living as captives and exiles in a strange and foreign land undoubtedly came with a tremendous amount of despair, as well as sheer and utter hopelessness. I can’t help but wonder how many priests and how many Levites were carried away as captives from the land of Judah, and how many sons of Levi were cut off and separated from the Temple and courts of the Lord. If there is one thing we must recognize and understand concerning their being carried away as captives from the land of Judah, it’s that it wasn’t simply a removal from the inheritance which had been promised and given unto them according to the word that was spoken unto their forefathers. The removal from the inheritance carried with it something else that very few actually take the time to explore—the removal, the cutting off, and the separation from the courts and sanctuary of the Lord. Twenty-five years and thirty-nine chapters later we discover the Lord beginning to speak to His people concerning a Jewish Temple which would stand in the midst of the city once more. After spending twenty-five years living as captives, as exiles, and strangers in a land not their own, the word of the Lord begins to be released concerning another Temple that would stand within and upon the earth. The first verse of this chapter not only speaks of the length of their captivity, but it also speaks of Jerusalem’s destruction, for the prophet acknowledges that this word came in the fourteenth year after the city of Jerusalem had been smitten. The prophetic word of the Lord concerning the Temple and courts of the Lord would not be directly connected to the captivity, but also to the destruction of the city of Jerusalem. It was the captivity of God’s people that would begin to set the stage for the ultimate and final destruction and devastation of the enemy and adversary, for the adversary would cast fire into the sanctuary, and would utterly and completely destroy it with fire.
The fortieth chapter of the prophetic writing of Ezekiel marks an incredibly powerful transition within the prophetic ministry of Ezekiel, for it is within this chapter when the Lord begins to remind the prophet of His Temple and His courts within the earth. There is a part of me that can’t help but wonder if those who sat by the rivers of Babylon wept—not only because they remembered Zion, but also because they believed in their hearts they would never see the Temple of the Lord, or His courts ever again. There is a part of me that can’t help but wonder if there were those who had given themselves to completely forgetting about the Temple and courts of the Lord. Think about it—after twenty-five years of living as captives and exiles in the land of the Chaldeans, the Hebrew people might very well have given up all hope of ever returning to the inheritance. What’s more, is that there is not a doubt in my mind that as twenty-five years had passed, those living in captivity and exile began striking any and all memories and remembrance of the Temple from their hearts and their minds. PREPARING FOR LIFE APART FROM THE TEMPLE OF THE LORD! PREPARING FOR LIFE SEPARATED FROM THE COURTS OF THE LORD! PREPARING FOR LIFE CUT OFF FROM THE SANCTUARY OF THE LORD! Ezekiel himself was a priest who undoubtedly ministered in the courts of the Lord, and fulfilled some sort of service and ministry within the Temple and sanctuary of the Lord. In fact, I would dare say that were it not for the Lord raising up Ezekiel—this prophet in the midst of exile—those who were living as captives and strangers in the midst of the land of the Chaldeans would have given up any and all hope concerning the inheritance. Through the prophetic ministry of Ezekiel, the Lord not only reminded His people of their inheritance within the earth, but also began speaking to them concerning a time that would come when they would be released from their captivity and exile, and would be permitted to return to the land once more. What’s more, is that within this passage of Scripture we find the Spirit of the Lord not only reminding Ezekiel, but also reminding the Jewish people concerning the reality of the courts and sanctuary of the Lord. The author of the one-hundred and thirty-seventh chapter of the book of Psalms spoke of forgetting Jerusalem, and not making Jerusalem their chief desire, and how if they ever gave themselves to such a reality, may their left hand forget its cunning, and their tongue cleaving to the roof of their mouth. DON’T FORGET JERUSALEM! DON’T FORGET THE SANCTUARY! DON’T FORGET THE COURTS OF THE LORD! DON’T FORGET THE ALTAR OF THE LORD! There is not a doubt in my mind that when we come to this particular passage in Ezekiel, we find the Spirit of the Lord beginning to remind and call the Hebrew people into remembrance concerning the Temple, the sanctuary, and the courts of the Lord.
I am convinced there is a prophetic word and warning that is found within the concept of being reminded of the courts and sanctuary of the Lord. The more I consider this reality, the more I am convinced that the longer men and women spent separated from the courts of the Lord, and the longer men and women spent separated from the sanctuary of the Lord, the easier it was for them to forget about the Temple which once stood in Jerusalem. One of the greatest dangers and problems that surrounded the captivity and exile of the Jewish people is that there within that land there were essentially three distinct realities that were cut off from among them in their midst. If you read the one-hundred and thirty-seventh chapter of the book of Psalms, you will discover two of these realities presented by the author of the psalm. “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” (Psalm 137:1-4). If you read this passage of Scripture, you will discover and encounter two distinct realities that were cut off when the people of God entered into the land of their captivity and exile. The first is found in the second verse, for it is within the second verse we read how those who sat down by the rivers of Babylon hung their harps upon the willows in the midst of the land. This is quite important for us to recognize and pay attention to, for the harps were used to produce a sound within the earth—a sound of music that would be used in corporate worship before the Lord. As I pause and consider the reality and concept of harps being hung upon the willows in the midst of the land of the Chaldeans by the rivers of Babylon, I can’t help but be reminded of one who ministered before the Lord with his harp. I can’t help but be reminded of one who ministered before the Lord with his harp, and how that ministry with his harp caused that evil spirit which tormented and already mad king to depart. This reality is found in the sixteenth chapter of the Old Testament book of First Samuel, and concerns Saul who was at that point the king of Israel, and one whom he sought out for a very specific purpose. “But the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him. And Saul’s servants said unto him, Behold now, an evil spirit from God troubleth thee. Let our lord not command thy servants, which are before thee, to seek out a man, who is a cunning player on an harp: and it shall come to pass, when the evil spirit from God is upon thee, that he shall play with his hand, and thou shalt be well. And Saul said unto his servants, Provide me now a man that can play well, and bring him to me. Then answered one of the servants, and said, Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Beth-lehemite, that is cunning in playing, and a mighty man, and a man of war, and prudent in matters, and a comely person, and the Lord is with him. Wherefore Saul sent messengers unto Jesse, and said, Send me David thy son, which is with the sheep. And Jesse took and ass laden with bread, and a bottle of wine, and a kid, and sent they by David his son unto Saul. And David came to Saul, and stood before him: and he loved him greatly; and he became his armourbear. And Saul sent to Jess, saying, Let David, I pray thee, stand before me; for he hath found favour in my sight. And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him” (1 Samuel 16:14-23).
It is important and imperative we consider this passage found in the Old Testament book of First Samuel, for it reveals something absolutely incredible that surrounds the concept of the harp. There is not a doubt in my mind that there was a tremendous significance in the hanging up of their harps upon the willows in the midst of the land of the Chaldeans, for according to Scripture, the harp was directly connected to key realities within and among the people of God. In the Old Testament book of First Samuel we discover that when David played the harp in the company and presence of Saul—particularly when the evil spirit sent from God was upon and tormenting him—the evil spirit that tormented him would depart, and Saul would become well again. Mark this reality, and mark this reality well, for it was the sound and music that came forth from the harp that caused the evil spirit which tormented Saul to depart, and Saul to once more become well before and in the company of his servants, soldiers, and the like. Oh dear brother, dear sister—the enemy and adversary would love nothing more than to not only bring you into a place of captivity and exile, for it is within that place he will cause you to hang up your own harp. It is in that place the enemy and adversary will cause you to hang up that which when used before the Lord, would cause evil spirits to flee. Oh, what is in your hand that when used before the Lord causes evil spirits to flee from before you? What is in your hand right now, or has been in your hand in times past that the enemy has caused you to hang up, for he knows that when you minister with that instrument, freedom and deliverance begins to manifest. WHAT’S THAT IN YOUR HAND? There is not a doubt in my mind the Lord of hosts has given each and every one of us something in our hands, which when used and ministered before the Lord according to the Spirit of Almighty God, produces a sound within the earth. It is that sound which is produced and manifested that causes evil spirits to flee, causes chains to break, causes prison doors to be open, and causes salvation and deliverance to come forth. The harp was of tremendous significance in Scripture, and is expressed in great measure within the Old Testament book of Psalms. Consider but a few references found within this Old Testament book: “Praise the Lord with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings” (Psalm 33:2). “Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy: yea, upon the harp will I praise thee, O God my god” (Psalm 43:4). “I will incline mine ear to a parable: I will open my dark saying upon the harp”: (Psalm 49:4). “Awake up, my glory, awake, psaltery and harp: I myself will awake early” (Psalm 57:8). “”Take a psalm, and bring hither the timbres, the pleasant harp with the psaltery” (Psalm 81:2). “Upon an instrument of ten strings, and upon the psaltery; upon the harp with a solemn sound” (Psalm 92:3).
It is clear from the passage found in the Old Testament book of First Samuel, as well as various passages within the book of the Psalms, that there was something about the sound that was produced from and by the harp that was significant within and upon the earth. When David played the harp in the presence of Saul—and not only in the presence of Saul, but also in the presence of the evil spirit which tormented Saul—the evil spirit departed from Saul. When reading the Old Testament book of the Psalms, you will read how the sound which came forth from and was produced by the harp was used in the service and ministry of the Lord, and was used in corporate worship before the Lord of hosts. BRING ME A HARP! If you read the twenty-fifth chapter of the book of First Chronicles, you will read of the sons of Jeduthun, which were Gedaliah, and Zeri, and Jeshaiah, Hashabiah, and Mattithiah, who ministered under the hand of their father, who prophesied with a harp, to give thanks and to praise the Lord. Those who sat by the rivers of Babylon—those who wept when they remembered Zion, and those who hung up their harps—actually bring us face to face with the tremendous tragedy that surrounded the hanging up of those harps, for with the hanging up of their harps came the silencing of the sound that was used to produce and make music before the Lord within the earth. Hanging up their harps upon the willows in Babylon was a tremendous tragedy, for the sound of worship and music which was once heard within the earth was no longer heard. That which was used in the service and ministry of the Lord—perhaps even in the courts of the sanctuary of the Lord—were and had been hung upon the willows in Babylon, as men and women couldn’t bring themselves to take them up and play them. While in captivity and exile, the sound of worship and the sound of music before the Lord was silenced, as instead of harps being found within the hands of the people of God, they were instead hung upon the willows in the midst thereof. There in the midst of their captivity and exile, the people of God had hung up their harps—those instruments that were used to minister before the Lord, those instruments which were used to lead others in corporate worship of the Lord in the earth, and those instruments which were used in the very courts and sanctuary of the Lord. Oh how I am absolutely and utterly convinced that there are men and women have hung up the harps that were once found in their hands, and have ceased producing the sound of worship before the Lord in the earth. RESTORING THE MINISTRY OF HARPS IN THE EARTH ONCE MORE! CALLING ALL MEN AND WOMEN TO PICK UP AND TAKE UP THEIR HARPS ONCE MORE! IT’S TIME TO PICK UP YOUR INSTRUMENT ONCE MORE! YOU’VE BEEN WITHOUT YOUR INSTRUMENT FOR FAR TOO LONG NOW! GO BACK AND GET YOUR INSTRUMENT!
As you read the one-hundred and thirty-seventh chapter of the book of the Psalms, you will not only notice the presence of the sound, but you will also notice the presence of the song as well. In case you missed this second reality, read and consider these words once more—“For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” (Psalm 137:3-4). In the second verse we read of the silencing of the sound, as the instrument(s) which were used before the Lord to produce that sound were hung upon the willows. In the third and fourth verses, we not discover that not only was the sound silenced by the rivers of Babylon, but the song had ceased in the midst thereof. WHEN THE SOUND IS SILENCED AND SONGS CEASE BY THE RIVERS OF BABYLON! The author of this particular passage not only speaks of the sound that was produced when hands moved upon the strings of the harp, but the author also speaks about and concerning the reality of song within the earth. The author of this particular passage writes how those which carried away the people of God required of them a song, and how those which wasted them required of them mirth. Now, what is truly remarkable within this passage is not necessarily those in Babylon requiring the captive people of God a song, or even those which wasted the people of God requiring mirth. What we must pay attention to when reading this passage is the response of the people of God when asked for a song and mirth within the land. “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” Please don’t miss or lose sight of that reality, for their response reveals something incredibly powerful that had taken place when they entered into the land of their captivity and exile. Despite the fact that those who carried them away captive required of them a song, they could not sing one of the songs of Zion in a strange land. There is not a doubt in my mind that there by the rivers of Babylon—not only was the sound of harps silenced, but also the songs of the people of God were no longer heard. There by the rivers of Babylon the people of God could and would not sing before and unto their captors the songs of Zion, for they could not bring themselves to sing those songs in a strange land. We must pay close attention to this particular reality, for not only was the sound silenced, but the songs ceased as well. When the people of God entered into their captivity and exile, they not long lost their desire, their passion and their willingness to make music upon their harps, but they also lost their desire, their passion and their willingness to sing unto the Lord one of the songs of Zion. The author of this particular psalm expressed something that was undoubtedly within the hearts and minds of all those who sat down by the rivers of Babylon—namely, that they couldn’t bring themselves to sing the Lord’s song in a strange land. Oh, it is true that at one point they sang the Lord’s song without hesitation and without reservation, yet now that they found themselves in a strange land, they couldn’t bring themselves to sing that song. What a tremendously tragic place it is to not only find yourself living as a captive in a strange and foreign place, but also being unable to sing the Lord’s song in and from that place.
In order to truly understand why their unwillingness and their refusal to sing the Lord’s song in a strange land is so incredibly tragic, it’s worth noting a few passages found within Scripture concerning the power of song before the Lord. One of the most noted and known passages is found in the New Testament book of the Acts of the apostles. In the sixteenth chapter of the book of Acts, we read of Paul and Silas being laid hold of by certain within the city of Philippi, after the crowd and mob was incited against them. As a result of the outcry against Paul and Silas, those in the city not only laid hands on them, not only laid many stripes upon them, but also cast them into prison. Those who cast them into prison charged the jail or to keep them safely, and upon hearing this charge, the jailer thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks. When we come to the twenty-fifth verse of this chapter, however, we notice something absolutely incredible take place. “And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed. And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we all hear” (Acts 16:25-28). This passage is absolutely incredible when considering the power and reality of song, for at the midnight hour—despite the fact that Paul and Silas had been beaten, despite the fact that they were cast into the inner prison, and despite the fact that their feet were fast in stocks—Paul and Silas prayed, and not only prayed, but sang praises unto God. It was the combination of their prayer, as their singing praises unto God that caused something to shift and break in the atmosphere, as a great earthquake came upon the earth, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. As a result of their prayer and the singing of praises unto the Lord, all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed. Mark this account well, for it was the songs which Paul and Silas sang—together with their prayers unto God—that not only caused the foundations of the prison to be shaken, but also caused prison doors to be opened, and everyone’s bands being loosed. What I absolutely love about this particular passage is that it wasn’t simply Paul and Silas’ prison door that was opened, nor was it simply the bands of Paul and Silas that were loosed. As a result of their prayer(s), and as a result of their singing praises unto the Lord their God, everyone’s prison door was opened, and everyone’s bands were loosed. In all reality, this should be the norm when the people of God gather together to pray unto the Lord their God, and sing praises before and unto Him in the earth. When the people of God gather together to pray and sing praises unto God, prison doors should be opened, and bands, shackles, chains and fetters should be loosed.
There is another passage in the Old Testament book of Second Chronicles that describes the tremendous power that surrounds singing the song of the Lord in the earth—particularly and specifically when staring down and facing the threat of the enemy and adversary. Consider if you will what is recorded in this particular passage beginning with the fourteenth verse—“Then upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jewel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, came the Spirit of the Lord in the midst of the congregation; and he said, Hearken ye, all Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem, and thou king Jehoshaphat, Thus saith the Lord unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s To morrow go yet down against them: behold, they come up by the cliff of Ziz; and ye shall find them at the end of the book, before the wilderness of Jersey. Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the LORd with you, O Judah and Jerusalem: fear not, nor be dismayed; to morrow go out against them: for the Lord will be with you. And Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground: and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell before the Lord, worshipping the Lord. And the Levites, of the children of the Kohathites, and of the children of the Kirstie’s, stood up to praise the Lord God of Israel with a loud voice on high. And they rose early in the morning, and went forth into the wilderness of Tekoah: and as they went forth, Jehoshaphat stood and said, Hear me, O Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem; Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper. And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the Lord, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the Lord; for his mercy endureth for ever. And when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushments agains the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, which were come against Judah: and they were smitten. For the children of Ammon and Moab stood up against the inhabitants of mount Seir, utterly to slay and destroy them: and when they had made an end of the inheritance of Seir, every one helped to destroy another. And when Judah came toward the watch tower in the wilderness, they looked unto the multitude, and, behold, they were dead bodies fallen to the earth, and none escaped. And when Jehoshaphat and his people came to take away the spoil of them, they found among them in abundance both riches with the dead bodies, and precious jewels, which they stripped off for themselves, more than they could carry away: and they were three days in gathering of the spoil, it was so much. And on the fourth day they assembled themselves in the valley of Merachah; for there they blessed the Lord: therefore the name of the same place was called, The valley of Berachah, unto this day” (2 Chronicles 20: 14-26). Within this particular passage we once more find the songs of the Lord being sung in the earth, and as a result of these songs being sung, the Lord brought forth His salvation in the earth on behalf of His people, as He set ambushments against Moab, Ammon and Seri, and caused them all to be defeated and destroyed before His people. Oh that we would recognize and understand the tremendous importance and power that surrounds our coming and gathering together before the Lord to sing praises unto His holy name, for when we do—not only our prison doors opened and shackles loosed, but the enemy which we see before us is routed, defeated and devastated.
[As a side note, there is something we must consider when reading this particular passage in the book of Second Chronicles, and considering it in light of the passage we read in the fourteenth chapter of the book of Exodus. In the fourteenth chapter of the book of Exodus, we find the enemy and adversary behind the people of God pursuing them in the wilderness to take a spoil and to cause a great plunder. Moses encouraged the people of God to stand still, and that from that place of standing still, they would see the salvation of the Lord. The children of Israel would indeed witness the salvation of the Lord, as the Lord drowned both horse and rider in the waters of the Red Sea. On the other side of the Red Sea, Moses and all the children of Israel sang a song of victory, a song of triumph, and a song of praise before the Lord. In the book of Second Chronicles, however, we notice the same terminology used, for the Spirit of the Lord encouraged the people of Judah and Jerusalem to stand still and see the salvation of the Lord. This time, however, the enemy and adversary was not behind them pursuing them, but was before them threatening attack and advancement. This time, however, instead of singing after experiencing the salvation of the Lord, they would sing and then experience the salvation of the Lord. In both cases the people of God were instructed to stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, yet on the one occasion the song came before the salvation, while on the other occasion the song came after the salvation. While it is important for us to learn how to sing praises unto the Lord after experiencing His salvation within our lives, I would dare say we must learn how to sing praises unto the Lord before witnessing and experiencing His salvation. We as the people of God need to learn how to sing praises unto the Lord while we might very well still be waiting for the salvation of the Lord. There is tremendous power in singing before the Lord, yet there is something to be said for those who know and understand how to sing unto the Lord before they have even walked in, witnessed and experienced the salvation of the Lord within their lives.]
When you come to the final portion of this particular chapter within the prophetic book of Ezekiel, you will notice the third reality that was absent within the land of captivity and exile. In the one-hundred and thirty-seventh chapter of the book of Psalms we learn and read of the absence of the sound and the song, yet in the final portion of this chapter we read of the final reality that was missing—the sacrifice. THE SOUND, THE SONG AND THE SACRIFICE! “And in the porch of the gate were two tables on this side, and two tables on that side, to slay thereon the burnt offering and the sin offering and the trespass offering. And at the side without, as one goeth. Up to the entry of the north gate, were two tables; and on the other side, which was at the porch of the gate, were two tables. Four tables were on this side, and four tables on that side, by the side of the gate; eight tables, whereupon they slew their sacrifices. And the four tables were of hewn stone for the burnt offering, of a cut and an half long, and a cubit and an half broad, and one cubit high: whereupon also they laid the instruments wherewith they slew the burnt offering and the sacrifice. And within were hooks, an hand broad, fastened round about: and upon the tables was the flesh of the offering” (Ezekiel 40:39-43). Within the land of captivity and exile, not only was the sound of instruments heard, but also the songs of the Lord were absent as well. What’s more, is that on top of all this, sacrifices were cut off from before the Lord, as the people of God were separated and cut off from the altar of the Lord. What I absolutely love about this particular chapter, is that when you come to the end, you not only notice the promise of sacrifice being restored in the midst of the people of God, but you also notice the Lord reestablishing and restoring ministry before and unto Him in the courts of the sanctuary. “And without the inner gate were the chambers of the singers in the inner court, which was at the side of the north gate; and their prospect was toward the south: one at the side of the east gate having the prospect toward the north. And he said unto me, This chamber, whose prospect is toward the south, is for the priests, the keepers of the charge of the house. And the chamber whose prospect is toward the north is for the priests, the keepers of the charge of the altar: these are the sons of Zadok among the sons of Levi, which come near to the Lord to minister unto him. So he measured the court, and hundred cubits long, and an hundred cubits broad, four square, and the altar that was before the house” (Ezekiel 40:44-47). Please read this particular set of verses very carefully, for within these verses we begin to discover the promise of the restoration of the sound of instruments once more, the restoration of the song(s) of the Lord once more, as well as the offering of sacrifice once more. This particular passage brings us face to face with the reality that the Lord was not only going to restore the sound of instruments once more, not only was He going to restore the song(s) of Zion once more, but He was also going to restore sacrifice once more. I am utterly convinced that this particular passage serves as a powerful prophetic word to countless churches, assemblies and congregations, as they are and have been in desperate need of the restoration of the sound, the song and the sacrifices. This particular passage serves as a powerful prophetic word to countless individuals in this generation who desperately need to experience the restoration of the sound, the restoration of song, and the restoration of sacrifice once more within their lives.