Ezekiel envisaged a new Temple that would replace the one destroyed in the Babylonian invasion. It came complete with the latest systems for greater control restricting who was able to go where. Part of the reason for the demise of the old Temple had been that some of the priests had abused the privileges of the access they had been granted to holy space. So now, most categories of Levites had their security levels drastically reduced. They were allowed to do certain things in the peripheral parts of the new structure, but because of their earlier shameful behavior, God decreed "They shall not come near me, to serve as priest, nor come near any of my holy things" (Ezekiel 44:13).
But the sons of Zadok, who had remained uninvolved in the earlier atrocities, were given the highest possible clearance ratings. They were granted access to "enter my sanctuary, and... approach my table, to minister to me" (Ez 44:16). As special priests, clothed in special garments, they were free to offer the crucial sacrifices.
So what does this have to do with us? It makes a familiar New Testament verse all the more remarkable. Paul tells US in Romans 12:1 to present our bodies "as a living sacrifice,, holy and acceptable to God". This is the practical outworking of the climax of the Gospel that he has been laying out in the first part of his letter. "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" he had declared (8:1). This is the power of the Gospel at work in people whose lives were every bit as unclean as those priests who had defiled the Temple centuries earlier. And now Paul is telling us the practical implications of this wonderful truth: "I appeal to you, THEREFORE, ... to present your...sacrifice" (12:1).
The consequence of the Gospel is that we have been given the highest possible clearance level and have access to the most sensitive location in the universe. "Through him we have obtained access" (Romans 5:2). Access to do what? Access to make a sacrifice in the holy place.
The New Testament speaks of the wonderful doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. We have become Zadok's sons. Paul will go on to talk about the obligations of the Christian life, how we should live and what we should do in these earthly bodies as a grateful response to the good news of our salvation in Christ. But if our focus is on the duties, we've missed the point. Paul starts with the privilege. Yes we are to sacrifice our lives for the sake of the Gospel. But the wonder of it is that it is WE who are to sacrifice our lives. We have been given the freedom of the Temple, access to its most important chambers. With Zadok on our security pass we can get in anywhere.
David rightly understood that it was better to be a doorkeeper in the house of the Lord than to live anywhere else (Ps 84:10). But we are not doorkeepers but priests! What an unimaginable privilege to be granted access to the holy place to make sacrifices every day as we are able to personally minister to the Lord! If we understood that privilege it would be no big deal to make the only sacrifice that we are called upon to make: the living sacrifice of ourselves given over daily for this service!