Ezekiel was led out of the inner court altar area to the east gate of the outer court. This gate opened toward the Kidron Valley and the Mount of Olives. He had just seen the LORD enter through this gate as His glory filled the temple (43:4). Now, that gate was to be shut because the LORD had entered through it.
There is different speculation about who the prince could be in 44:3. Some commentators think it is Christ. Others say it could not be Christ because he offers sacrifices (46:4). Many commentators believe it is the literal King David based on 34:24 and 37:24-25. Some think it is an unknown just and fair ruler of the city (45:8). Others view it as a picture of Christ offering Himself as a sacrifice of His own life.
Ezekiel would go back into the inner court and see the glory of the LORD filling the temple again, and it caused him to worship! God reiterated here that only those prepared for worship could enter the temple. Therefore, no foreigners could come. In 47:22-23, we will see that aliens are allowed if they follow the Law (Leviticus 24:22; Numbers 15:29).
The remainder of Ezekiel 44 involves the instructions to the Levites and priests. Because of the sin of the Levites prior to the captivity, they would only be allowed to serve in secondary roles and not be allowed to serve as priests. See 1 Chronicles 15:16; 16:4; and 23:28-31 to see what their tasks were at the inception of Solomon's temple.
The only Levites who would be allowed to function as priests were the descendants of Zadok. He was chief priest during Solomon's reign (1 Kings 1:32-35; 2:26-27, 35). The people had sinned, but this line had remained faithful through the years of idolatry leading up to the Captivity.
The remainder of the chapter covers priestly regulations originally given to God's people during the wilderness wandering in Exodus and Leviticus. All these regulations set the priest apart as holy and clean (44:23).
REFLECTION - Looking to God and Not the Culture
I want to be like the line of Zadok who continued to remain faithful to God despite the fact that the rest of God's people had gone AWOL! When we look to God for our standard of holiness, we can be like a fish swimming upstream, even among believers. That can be exhausting. How amazing that the line of Zadok continued to swim through all of those years of Israel's idolatry!
I had a mom over here the other day. She was sad that her daughter was pushing to go do something because "all the other Christian kids are doing it," but it was just not a godly thing to do! This mom kept saying, "We are so deceived in our culture." I had to agree.
The line of Zadok looked to God for their standard of measure in order to learn the difference between what is holy and common (profane). They were to teach this to others also (44:23), just as this mom can model and teach holiness to her teenage daughter regardless of what everyone else is doing.
I have recommended this before, and I will recommend it again: The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges
Lord, You are holy. Teach us how to live holy lives in today's world. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.