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The Priesthood Initiated and Consecrated
Leviticus 8:2.—Take Aaron and his sons and the garments, etc. All that was to be now done by Moses had previously been specifically enjoined (Exodus 28:29, Exodus 28:30). The office of the priesthood was now to be formally instituted, that office being necessary to the maintenance and performance of the sacrificial system ordained in the preceding chapters. Hitherto, Moses had fulfilled the priestly functions; from this time he ceases such ministries. It is for him a valediction, for Aaron an inauguration. Thus do sacred ministries become transferred, familiar human forms pass away from the services by which God’s people have been aided and blessed; but the work ceases not, for God never fails His Church nor overlooks her needs; while for us in Christ, who has “an unchangeable priesthood,” and is Himself “the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever,” an abiding provision is assured. “He ever liveth to make intercession for us.”
Leviticus 8:6-9.—Washed them with water, etc. Washing is the first stage in the process of priestly consecration. As cleansing from all unrighteousnes is inevitable ere we can enter spiritual privilege. “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord, or who shall stand in His holy place? He that hath clean hands and a pure heart” (Psalms 24:3-4). The priestly washing was by bathing, the whole body being thus cleansed; for entire purifying was required and was symbolised. And “he that is bathed … is clean every whit” (John 13:10). Only they who have experienced this “cleansing from all sin” can stand within God’s sanctuary; but we have “boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus … having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:19; Hebrews 10:22).
Leviticus 8:7-8.—Put upon him the coat, and girded him, etc. The “coat” was a close-fitting garment of white linen, covering the entire body; this was bound about the body with a linen “girdle,” or sash, embroidered with figures, and fringed at its ends; over this was placed the “robe,” called “the robe of the ephod” (Exodus 28:31-35) which was all blue, and was woven without seam; above the robe was the “ephod,” which fell one part over the front, and another part over the back of the shoulders; this compound and ornate upper garment was wrought of blue, purple, scarlet, and fine twined linen, interwoven with threads of gold. The “curious girdle of the ephod” was of the same costly material as the ephod itself, and fastened the ephod below. The “breastplate” was a square pocket, suspended by gold chains from the onyx and gold epaulettes on the shoulders; around its four sides were set twelve precious stones, each stone bearing the name of a tribe of Israel. Within this breast-pocket—open on the upper side to receive them—were placed “the Urim and the Thummim,” the oracular stones by which the priest learned the mind of God on questions of judgment. Then the head-dress or turban of linen, the “mitre,” was placed on his head, across which was tied “the golden plate, the holy crown,” bearing the awful inscription, “HOLINESS TO THE LORD.”
This solemn robing suggested—
1.The installation of the high priest in his pontifical office, as the supreme minister in the sanctuary, and as God’s representative amid Israel.
2. His personal adornment with righteousness and sanctity, the qualities which alone fitted man to dwell in near communion with the Lord.
3. The mediatorial glory and beauty of the coming Messiah, whose graces all these symbolic adornments typified and prefigured.
Surely if Jehovah attached to such minute symbols so great significance and importance, He must value the realities of which they were but signs: the mediatorial graces of Jesus, with which God was “well pleased”; the sanctities of a priestly character in us who, in the Gospel, have become “priests unto God”; and the beauties of the perfect righteousness with which all believers in Christ are adorned.
Leviticus 8:10-13.—Anointed the tabernacle, etc., including the ark of the covenant, the altar of incense, the candlestick, the table of shewbread, the veil, and sacred utensils. Then the anointing oil was “seven times” sprinkled upon “the altar and its vessels,” and “the laver and its foot.” By their anointing they were “sanctified” for sanctuary uses, and as symbols of gracious truths to worshippers.
He poured the anointing oil upon Aaron’s head: not sprinkled it, but in such quantity as that it “ran down unto the beard, and went down to the skirts of his garments” (Psalms 133:2), suggesting the plenteous grace of the Holy Spirit which covered over the entire manhood of God’s consecrated priest, “baptised with the Holy Ghost,” “endued with power from on high,” “receiving an unction from the Holy One.” The Spirit was “given without measure” to Christ, and we may also be richly anointed with His energy and grace. But they who are so “anointed” are consecrated to a holy ministry, sealed for a sacred life on earth.
Leviticus 8:14-17.—The bullock for the sin offering. For the first time in all history, as a new incident on earth, full of interest to all the hosts of heaven, instinct with significance for all humanity, suggesting new conceptions of man’s guilt and Christ’s atonement—the sin offering was now offered. Jehovah Himself must have viewed with peculiar regard the first sin offering ever presented. Calvary witnessed the last ever to be offered! “There remaineth no more offering for sin.” The order of the sacrifices is noticeable:
1. The sin offering first: for substitution is the basis of the sinner’s justfication with God.
2. Next the burnt offering (Leviticus 8:18): as declaring complete self-surrender of life, in its highest qualities and complete devotion, unto God.
3. Then the ram of consecration (Leviticus 8:22), which was the thank offering and the peace offering: representing the grateful joy of those whom God honoured with the privileges of priesthood, and as initiating a career of festal fellowship with the Lord.
Leviticus 8:23.—The tip of Aaron’s right ear, etc. The “right” member conveys the meaning of entirety, thoroughness, fulness, and strength. Every sense and every member, all avenues of feeling, and all life’s active powers, were to be used for God. See here the standard of life’s dedication for all Christians, who owe to their Lord so great a debt of love as should constrain them to most fervent and absolute devotion.
Leviticus 8:30.—Anointing oil, and of the blood. The Spirit’s grace mingles with the Redeemer’s virtue: both are imperative. Salvation must be sealed with sanctification, and the good work of renewing is in no case complete where there is not the blended application of both the “blood” and the “anointing oil.”
Leviticus 8:33-36.—Seven days shall he consecrate you. Within the sacred enclosure they were to tarry during that period. Consecration must not be hurried. Zeal to be engaged in Christian work may lead to rash and reckless haste; let the young convert pause amid the Divine sanctities, and get his soul filled with reverence, nourished into strength, enriched with grace, such as can only be secured by “waiting on the Lord.” Ardour is good, alacrity is often needed, for opportunities summon us to activity; but the young life needs first the sacred fostering, and a “quiet resting place,” or ever it is equipped for the duties of the Christian priesthood. Moreover, God asks for Himself this consecration interlude. Each day of the seven these priests were to “fill the hand,” i.e., were to repeat the same sacrifices. God must be served first, then man. Dwell much and restfully “in the secret places of the Most High,” give Him leisurely your homage, wait on Him in meditation and prayer; you will be more endowed for gracious ministries to men by such solemn seclusion with the Lord. “Wait on the Lord and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord.”
Topic: PRIESTS versus PRIESTISM (Leviticus 8:1-5)
So great have been the abuses of the priestly office, so enormous its pretensions, so offensive its intrusions, that it requires an effort of thought in order to entertain, in these times, pleasant and grateful ideas respecting “priests” and the functions of priesthood. The modern assumptions of priestism are so painful an outrage on Christianity as to start the intelligent mind into revulsion and move the devont heart to grief. Yet—
I. PRIESTS MINISTERED IN ISRAEL WITH THE HIGH SANCTION OF GOD. He—
1. Created the office, and defined its solemn functions, which were of the loftiest character.
2. Invested the person of the priest with splendour, majesty, and beauty, to command admiration and awe.
3. Determined the mediatorial intervention of the priest between man and God; set one man in this august and solemn supremacy among his fellows.
4. Refused any other than the priest to come direct to His altar and stand in His most holy presence.
II. THE PRIESTHOOD WAS A PROVISIONAL ARRANGEMENT ANTIOIPATORY OF CHRIST’S GLORIOUS OFFICES.
1. In the personal excellence and piety of individual priests, the faultless being always chosen, Christ’s perfect humanity was foreshadowed.
2. In the splendid attire with which the priests were adorned, Christ’s majestic attributes and Divine qualities were represented.
3. In the imposing ministries before and within the veil, Christ’s offices as atoning and mediating Priest were pourtrayed.
4. In the sacred and exclusive privileges the priests enjoyed, Christ’s entire acceptableness and God’s great delight in Him were impressively and constantly intimated.
III CHRISTIAN MINISTERS INHERIT MANY OF THE MOST AUGUST AND RESPONSIBLE SPIRITUAL FUNCTIONS OF THE PRIESTHOOD.
1. They have no priestly calling, yet are as distinctly commissioned and divinely consecrated to their work.
2. Their solemn trust places them in highest ministries and responsibilites as mediators between God and human souls.
3. The Christian Church is commanded to maintain them in their ministry and esteem them very highly in the discharge of their sacred commission.
4. As bishops and shepherds of Christ’s flock, they are put in trust with the souls of their people; “they watch for souls.”
IV. MODERN PRIESTLINESS PERVERTS AND PROSTITUTES THE SACRED OFFICE OF THE MINISTRY IN THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH.
1. Its offensive assumption of spiritual supremacy is in defiance of Christ’s law of equality and brotherhood among believers.
2. Its officious intrusion between God and men is an affront to the unfettered liberty and right of every one to seek God for himself, and is an infringement upon the mediatorship of Jesus which always avails for all.
3. Its daring pretensions of altar ministries is a perversion of New Covenant doctrines; neither altar nor sacrificial rites remaining now within the Church.
4. Its appalling misleading of seduced souls, who rest on such beguiling priestliness for spiritual safety, instead of wholly trusting Christ, is sufficient to fill Christian hearts with indignation and to cover the very name of “priest” with anathemas. [See Addenda, p. 114, Priestism.]
(a) There is now no priest but Jesus Christ.
(b) His ministers falsify their trust if they thrust the shadow of a human presence between the soul and Jesus.
(c) The Christian Church will rightly value the ministry as it elevates Christ’s offices before men.
(d) Every believer, though not called to the ministry of the Word, is entrusted with priestly functions, as a pleader with men for God, a pleader with God for men.
Topic: THE CALLING OF THE PRIESTS (Leviticus 8:1-13)
Notable in this record is the exclusive agency of God in placing on His people the blessings of redemption. It recounts the consecration of His priests, those whom He was pleased to call into His sanctuary to know and serve Him: a calling now granted to all the family of faith. Former chapters of Leviticus have revealed the arrangements of God’s mercy in providing the satisfaction due to His own holy government, and in securing the pardon and acceptance of His people. But pardon and acceptance are not the only blessings God has provided through redemption.
I. THE PRIESTLY CALLING.
To what does God summon and set them apart?
1. Intimate access with Him; coming into special nearness to His presence, His altar, and His holy place.
2. Fullest knowledge of Him; learning His secret will, enjoying freest communion with Him.
3. Holy service for Him. “His servants shall serve Him.”
II. A CALLING OF HIGHEST HAPPINESS AND PRIVILEGE.
1. The fact of His being what He is as God, perfect in all goodness and in all blessing, must necessarily make admission into His service, joy; and exclusion from it, woe. [See Addenda, p. 114, Sanctity.]
2. What higher honour than to be employed in carrying out the designs of One who is perfect in wisdom and love, and all powerful likewise, so as surely to accomplish the contemplated end.
II. A CALLING HARMONIOUS WITH A CHRISTIAN’S SACRED INSTINCTS AND ENERGIES.
1. God’s saints have energies, imperishable energies which, if unoccupied, must cause them unceasing sorrow; and how could they be fitly occupied except in His service!
2. But they are not to be unoccupied. He who gave those energies intends that they should be fully occupied, and that not in distance from Himself, but in His own near presence.
IV. A CALLING INTO A WONDROUS LIFE.
Israel was now in the midst of a waste and howling wilderness; and God might have assigned to their priests that they should serve and commune with Him amid those wild and ungenial scenes.
1. But they were called to enter beneath the shelter of the tabernacle of God. Its golden boards enclosed them, its mystic curtains covered them. They were shut in with God, encompassed within the sacred and hallowing seclusion.
2. Amid what solemn experiences they daily dwelt! There they found incense ascending for them, and shrouding them with its fragrance; light shining for them and encompassing them with its brightness; and bread prepared for them as food, even on the table of God. There, in the presence of God’s own goodness, they learned His lessons, and when they went back into the wilderness, they never again entered it as their home, but as those whose dwelling place was with God in the peace of redemption. They might go in or they might go out; but still they were His priests always. [Comp. B. W. Newton’s Thoughts on Leviticus.]
Topic: THE MINISTRY OF THE PRIESTHOOD (Leviticus 8:1-2)
I. DEFINITION OF THE PRIESTHOOD. A priest is one who mediates between God and man He presents the gifts and sacrifices which the worshipper may not, or does not, or dare not offer in person; and brings back from God the assurance of acceptance and favour.
II. DEVELOPMENT OF THE PRIESTLY OFFICE. Among the Hebrews, as among kindred nations, priestly functions were discharged by the head of each family till the institution of the covenant at Sinai. This, by consecrating one family as priests for the nation, and requiring all sacrifices to be presented in front of the tabernacle of meeting, put an end to the ancient practice.
The transition from the family priesthood to the Levitical—the national priesthood was indicated when Moses was entrusted to conduct the sacrifices of Israel, as the mediator of the covenant; and the closing of the old régime was marked by his choosing young men as his assistants in the offering of national sacrifices. As the mediator of the covenant, divinely authorised to communicate God’s messages to the people, and the people’s messages to God, Moses would be the first person thought of for the priesthood. But his hands being already sufficiently occupied, the office was conferred on his brother, as the person nearest to him in consanguinity and harmony of feeling.
III. THE UNIFYING VALUE OF A NATIONAL PRIESTHOOD. It would help to consolidate the families which had before worshipped at different altars. The union of all Hebrews, of whatever parentage, in the worship of the tabernacle, was an important element of national life. The families were henceforth, at least so far as concerns the rites of religion, united together as a nation; and the family of Aaron were, by the appointment of Jehovah, mediators between the nation and Himself.
IV. SELECTION OF THE AARONIC FAMILY. The nation being constituted especially Jehovah’s, by virtue of their election as His covenant people, the family of Aaron were elected to a corresponding eminence above their kindred; not only belonging to Jehovah as all Hebrews did, but being in a peculiar sense His for the service of mediation. As the entire nation was holy, or separate from other nations, so this family was called to be holy, for the office and ministrations of the priesthood. As this separation of the Hebrews from the rest of mankind did not begin with any act of their own, but they were chosen by the Lord to be His; so Aaron and his sons did not take the prerogatives of the priesthood spontaneously, but were called to the office by the election of Jehovah Himself.
V. BENEFICENCE OF THE PRIESTLY OFFICE. The people were not qualified to draw near to God in person; and though, by virtue of their election, they were entitled to dwell in His habitation, their consciousness of sin made them afraid of Him; therefore, in condescension to their inability to understand the greatness of His love, He provided a class of persons who, as representatives of His elect, might in their stead enter the tabernacle. To draw near to God, to be a priest, are equivalent expressions. Aaron drew near in behalf of those who were elected to have spiritual communion with God, but were not yet delivered from the bondage of fear; and his admission within the habitation signified that they were entitled to a corresponding access in spirit, that they were called “a kingdom of priests” for the reason that they might thus draw near God in spiritual fellowship. By his office he was qualified to do outwardly and symbolically what all might do in spirit and in truth.
VI. EXPIATORY MINISTRY OF THE PRIESTHOOD. Before Aaron could enter the holy habitation in behalf of the people, he must officiate at the altar of sacrifice, and expiate sin; for his constituents were sinful, and the representation of their approach to God as members of His household must be preceded by signs that their sin was taken away; otherwise it might be inferred that Jehovah was indifferent whether His people were holy or unholy. The Hebrew priesthood therefore symbolised in general the expiation of sin, and the admission to filial intercourse with God effected thereby. [Comp. Atwater, Sacred Tabernacle].
Topic: QUALIFICATIONS AND MINISTRIES OF GOD’S PRIESTS (Leviticus 8:6-30)
All now done to the tabernacle priests symbolises the experiences of the sanctified soul.
I. Consecration WHOLLY THE WORK OF ANOTHER.
Moses, acting for and representing God did everything needful to complete their consecration; whilst they, the subjects of consecration, stood as passive recipients of blessings which were placed upon them by another’s hand. Moses washed them, clothed them; anointed them, slew the appointed sacrifices, sprinkled the blood, etc. He ceased not from his ministrations until he left them at the door of the tabernacle fully consecrated as the priests of God.
A lesson this to those who desire to be established in grace. We have not properly learned the typical lesson if we trust to either our power of appreciation, or the applicatory power of faith. The garments brought to us and placed upon us by God become the spring of joy, steadfast and abiding, only as we realise that our possession of them rests not in powers connected with the creature, but in God alone.
II. PERFECT CLEANNESS THE INITIAL REQUIREMENT.
Their cleansing was received as a gift from God. They washed not themselves, the hand of another did it. Even as Jesus says to His disciples, “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with Me” (John 13:8).
III. INVESTITURE IN HOLY ATTIRE.
To Moses it had before been said, “Thou shalt make holy garments for Aaron thy brother, for glory and beauty.” Those garments had been made.
1. All the adornments of grace have been prepared for us; wait in readiness for us.
2. A moment of intensest joy to Moses when he brought forth those prepared garments for adornment. Nor less to Christ when He clothes the soul “with the garments of salvation.”
3. Attire symbolic of sacred qualities. They were of blue, purple, scarlet, fine-twined linen, with connecting chains and ouches or settings of gold, indicating:
(a) Heavenliness of character (typified by the blue).
(b) Purity (typified by the white linen).
(c) Official dignity (typified by the scarlet and purple).
(d) Divine power of sustaining others (typified by the chains and ouches of gold); gold being used in the tabernacle as a symbol of Deity.
IV. ADORNED WITH THE CROWN OF HOLINESS.
On his head was placed “the holy crown, the golden plate.”
(a) A “crown” is the symbol of kingship; it declares the royalty of consecrated souls, “kings unto God.”
(b) Holiness inscribed on the crown: it declares that the highest dignity of man is moral rectitude, spiritual sanctity.
That place bore the inscription “HOLINESS TO THE LORD.” It implied that—
1. The vindication of that “holiness” was the avowed object of his priestly service.
2. Bearing that inscription on his brow among the people, during his priestly ministries, asserted that God’s holiness had been and was being adequately maintained.
3. Entering into God’s presence with that inscription was evidence that God acknowledged the fact of His holiness being maintained. It was so with the temple priests; so with our glorious High Priest; is so with every soul who fulfils on earth the ministry of Christian devotion.
V. THE BADGE OF MEDIATORSHIP.
1. From the high priest’s shoulders (the place of endurance and strength), suspended by chains of gold (symbol of Divine sustaining power), hung the “breastplate.” And that badge of his office, to intercede for others, lay upon his heart.
2. It bore upon it the names of those for whom he was appointed to minister, and whose high priest he was. Every one who had a place within that cluster of names had a claim on his ministry and mediatorship.
3. Besides being suspended from the shoulders, the place of strength, it was firmly bound to the pontifical ephod, the distinguishing garment of the mediatorial office of high priest.
The most glorious function of the high priest was the bearing others’ names, not his own; and mediating for others, not for himself, before the Lord. It is certainly the crowning glory of the Lord Jesus. And the Christian soul has a priestly mission, supreme above all others, to “look not every man on his own things but the things of others”; to bring others before the Lord in prayer, and to win souls into blessed reconciliation with God by his gracious interventions and Christly ministries.
VI. SPIRITUAL ANOINTING.
That “holy oil” is the “unction from the Holy One.”
(1) The plenitude of the Spirit; and
(2) the graces of the Spirit; and
(3) the efficient power of the Spirit, are essential to a priestly life of sanctity and service.
VII. QUALIFICATION BASED ON SACRIFICE.
1. The scene suddenly changes; and the gloriously attired and anointed priest stands as a sinner by the sin offering. For sin must be expiated even for the most privileged souls.
(1) Its blood sprinkled upon the altar indicated that appeasement was demanded or ever they could approach that altar in ministry.
(2) Its body being consumed without the camp declared what their doom would be did justice exact its due.
(3) But the blood on the altar and accepted, announced complete propitiation and acceptance.
(4) While the choice inward parts consumed on the altar fire, testified that God’s claim of inward perfectness was satisfied.
2. The burnt sacrifice summoned them to absolute self-devotion; for God will receive no less in any who avowedly become His. “His zeal must consume us”
3. But in the consecration offering they yielded themselves up to God with gratitude and gladness: as those who reach towards the self-devotion of Jesus—“I delight to do Thy will; yea, Thy law is within my heart.”
In every sacrifice the merits of Christ and His atonement are primarily set forth: but there is a subsidiary relevancy to the self-denials of a Christian career.
VIII. APPLIED SACRIFICIAL GRACE.
“Moses took the blood of it, and put it upon the tip of Aaron’s ear,” etc.
1. The value of sacrifice, which had before been accepted for them, was now applied to them.
2. The meaning of sacrifice, also, was now urged upon them: all life laid out for God, and in His service.
IX. SYMBOLIC OFFERINGS PRESENTED TO GOD.
This was their first act of personal presentation within God’s sanctuary of consecrated sacrifices. Moses took offerings and “put all upon Aaron’s hands, and upon his sons’ hands, and waved them for a wave offering before the Lord,’ etc.
The sacrifices which thus filled their hands were those which signified:
1. Inward perfectness: perfectness in the reins, and in the heart; indicating the bringing, on their part, into God’s employ of their purest affections, and highest virtues, and noblest intelligence.
2. Outward developed perfectness of character; represented in the unleavened anointed bread that constituted the meat offering.
It is only in Christ’s perfectness, a perfectness to be appropriated by us, that we can present such offerings before God.
X. SIGN OF DIVINE ACCEPTANCE.
1. Being sprinkled, by the blood which first had been sprinkled and accepted upon the altar, conveyed the fact that God received their consecration: that themselves, their office, and all its various functions were placed under the sanction and the acceptableness of the blood.
2. The sprinkling of the holy anointing oil symbolically connected the Holy Spirit’s grace with those offices into which God was, and is pleased to call His people. Without this, by whatever dignity or beauty they might be clothed, they would remain inefficient and powerless to minister aright before the Lord. But He who calls into holy office bestows the needed grace and power.
3. Their feeding upon the sacrifice signified the communication of strength, for we are nourished by food; and suggested the fellowship now established between them and God. They fed on part of that on which the holy fire of the altar had fed. There was communion, therefore, with God in the sacrifice.
Thus consecrated, they were to abide within the tabernacle, and “keep the charge” of Jehovah. And “blessed is the man whom Thou choosest, and causeth to approach unto Thee.” [See Addenda, p. 114, Sanctity.]
Topic: CONSECRATION OF THE PRIESTS.—A.: THE PUBLICITY OF THE CEREMONY (Leviticus 8:1-5)
Among the Hebrews, previous to the promulgation of the law from Sinai, the priesthood was not confined to particular individuals; though, as a rule, the head of the family discharged duties at the altar of the household associated with divine worship. The Levitical priesthood corresponds, in many of its features, with most of the religions of antiquity, in their sacerdotal institutions. In them, we read of priests, altars, and sacrifices; supposed to be mediums of communication between the worshippers and worshipped, and the means of propitiation.
The institution of the priesthood followed the request of the people that Jehovah would not speak to them except through some mediator. The priests became servants of the Lord, and of the people for His sake. The consecration services, by which Aaron and his sons were inducted to their offices, were calculated to humble as well as exalt them. They were to be free from personal blemish, sanctified from all ceremonial defilement, and were to exercise self-denial by abstaining from wine during the performance of their duties. In this chapter we have the performance of ceremonies directed in Exodus 29:0, and they were not repeated subsequently, except in the succession of the high priest. The ceremony was public—
I. TO CONFIRM ITS GREAT IMPORTANCE. Among a people so prone to be rebellious and jealous, it was necessary that conclusive evidence should be furnished to leave no room for the shadow of a reasonable doubt respecting the persons selected for so distinguished a position. The purposes for which the priesthood was instituted were the most solemn and important; upon the rightful discharge of the duties the most momentous issues hung. Aaron and his sons were to stand in the breach which sin had made between man and God, and be dispensers of life and death.
II. TO CONFIRM ITS DIVINE APPOINTMENT. Had they been consecrated in a private way, suspicions that the offices had been assumed from personal ambition, or for selfish ends, might have been suggested; but the ceremony being performed in the presence of the whole congregation, “at the door of the tabernacle,” the open approval of Jehovah was proclaimed. The congregation would thus be deeply impressed with the sacredness of the priesthood, as selected and anointed of the Lord.
III. TO CONFIRM ITS GENERAL ACCEPTANCE. The people had asked for the intervention of a priest, their request had been granted, and they were now required to show at a public ceremony that they approved and accepted what was done. At the door of the tabernacle they would recognise the divine appointment, and unitedly engage to accord with the arrangements made. They were the subjects of, and witnesses to, the covenant made with Moses and Aaron; and pledged themselves ready to render implicit obedience.
Read in the light of the New Testament, these considerations may be applied to the public consecration of our blessed Lord, when baptised in the Jordan by John. Heaven opened, the divine voice, the descent of the Spirit in the presence of many witnesses, indicated the great importance of the mission He was beginning; showed that He was beloved of God, and possessed His unqualified approval. Such facts place upon all to whom the tidings come binding obligations to accept the Messiah as the Atoning Priest of the world, for all men, for all time.—F. W. Brown.
B.: THE SOLEMNITY OF THE CEREMONY (Leviticus 8:6-17)
Commanded to draw near to Jehovah at the door of the tabernacle, and to observe the ceremony under direct Divine superintendence, the Israelites would be at once impressed with a sense of deep solemnity in the service; they would feel they were standing on holy ground. The solemnity seen—
I. BY THE PREPARATORY ABLUTIONS ENJOINED. Appointed to come nigh to a God spotlessly pure and holy, Aaron and his sons must adopt means fitting to suggest the need of inward holiness and official blamelessness.
II. BY THE SACERDOTAL VESTMENTS REQUIRED. Garments so beautiful and elaborate, rendering the priests (especially the High Priest) imposing in their appearance, would not only adorn the person, but convey the idea that Jehovah’s worship required the presentation of things pure and excellent. The priests’ attire was chosen by the Lord, and each part suggested some solemn lesson. The mind is impressed through the eye, the spirit may be made devout through the senses.
III. BY THE APPROPRIATE SACRIFICES OFFERED. Their “sin” “burnt” and “peace” offerings symbolised death to sin, fulness of consecration, acceptance with God. Every act in connection with sacrifices was calculated to prepare the priests for their holy work, to beget reverence in the people towards them.
IV. BY THE GENERAL ANOINTING OBSERVED. The tabernacle, as well as the priests, was anointed with oil. Israel was to entertain reverence for the place where the priests would officiate, where oblations would be presented; everything associated with divine worship was to be regarded as peculiarly sacred.
When, “in the fulness of time,” Christ came, He was pointed out as “the Lamb of God,” denoting the solemn sacrificial character of His work, as well as the exemplary character of His life. Through Him we have access into the holiest of all by a new and living way.—F. W. B.
C.: THE COMPLETENESS OF THE CEREMONY (Leviticus 8:17-36)
In the consecration observances every place where the priests would officiate, and every faculty of the priest, was impressively dedicated. The head, the seat of intelligence; the shoulders, the repository of strength; the breast, the home of love; all were clothed appropriately to indicate purity, energy, excellence. Beauty in appearance, efficiency in service, comfort for the worshippers, benedictions for the whole congregation, all were arranged for, and guaranteed. As the hands of the priests were lifted towards heaven, and waved to and fro, they were reminded that their ministry would reach to heaven; and at the same time bless the children of men. The completeness of the ceremony is seen in that—
I. THERE WAS NO MARGIN LEFT FOR HUMAN INVENTION.
Every thing was done fully and exactly as Jehovah commanded; the pattern of the tabernacle was given to Moses on the mount, and every minute arrangement in the series of sacrifices, and consecration of the priests, finally fixed. Had the people been left to add, or subtract, there would have been room for manifold innovations and absurdities.
II. THERE WOULD BE NO AFTER NEED FOR DIVINE REVISION.
Jehovah never makes mistakes; what He does stands fast, His plans are perfect, His purposes immutable. The priesthood met the moral needs of the Hebrews; was perfectly adapted to requirements of the age. When the prophetical age dawned, and clearer light shone upon divine revelation, the things instituted in connection with the tabernacle service developed into more spiritual significance; what they taught remained unimpaired. These things continued till they were lost in the substance of which they were only shadows. Christ embraced all the divine teaching, and embodied all the excellencies to be found in Moses and the law. Christianity is not so much a new, as a perfected religion, as the first verse of the Epistle to the Hebrews teaches. The whole of revelation, from first to last, is a development; every stage complete in itself, each growing out of its predecessor, and merging into something better. The completion of redemption will be when we are made kings and priests unto God, and reign with Christ for ever and ever.—F. W. B.
D.: THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE CEREMONY (Leviticus 8:17-36)
The institution of sacrificial worship, through an ordained priesthood, would deepen in the hearts of the Hebrews impressions of Divine truth already there as the outcome of the patriarchal teaching. They were now very clearly taught—
I. That there can be no acceptable service rendered to God without purity in the worshipper.
II. That the imperfection of purity in the worshipper demands an atonement in the sight of God to make up for that defect.
III. That the distance between God and man, produced by sin, can be removed only by a divinely appointed mediator.
The priests were the channels, not the sources, of blessing to the people; they had no power of their own to dispense pardon, nor could they exempt from blame, or furnish indulgences. They existed for the people, not the people for them. They wielded deputed and responsible power. Medieval priestly assumption, papal arrogance, find no sanction in these Levitical rites.
The Epistle to the Hebrews teaches that in the Gospel dispensation we, as priests to God, are, (a) cleansed by the washing of regeneration; (b) clothed with the garments of Christ’s righteousness; (c) offer sacrifices of praise and prayer; (d) surrender ourselves wholly to the Lord; (e) receive the unction of the Holy One.
To seek position and succession in such a spiritual priesthood is the duty and privilege of all.—F. W. B.
OUTLINES ON VERSES OF CHAPTER 8
Leviticus 8:2.—Theme: GOD’S ELECTED PRIESTS.
i. “It is not only historically true that Aaron and his descendants were PRIESTS BY THE ELECTION OF JEHOVAH declared through Moses, the mediator of the covenant, and confirmed by the sign of the almond rod, but such a calling of God is essential to the idea of the office; for a priest is one who comes near to God, dwells with Him in His home as a companion in behalf of others, because more acceptable than they. The priest is preferred before those he represents; therefore no man may take this honour to himself, or be exalted to it by his fellows. ‘Blessed is the man whom Thou chooseth, and causest to approach unto Thee, that he may dwell in Thy courts; we shall be satisfied with the goodness of Thy house, even of Thy holy temple’ (Psalms 65:4). Only those thus chosen by God were priests.
ii. “This divine election of the family of Aaron out of Israel signifies that those who had been admitted to filial fellowship with the Holy One of Israel were called thereto by the SOVEREIGN CHOICE OF GOD. As Jehovah chose the family of Aaron out of the tribe of Levi, the Levites out of the twelve tribes of Israel, and the Hebrews out of all the nations, so has He chosen His spiritual seed out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation. Without such election they would have remained, like the rest of mankind, strangers to the covenant, instead of becoming ‘a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices.’ The New Testament writers make this Divine election very prominent, declaring that those who, by receiving Christ became sons of God, were ‘born not of the will of man, but of God’ (John 1:13), were ‘called to be saints’ (Romans 1:17), were ‘chosen before the foundation of the world that they should be holy’ (Ephesians 1:4, were ‘predestinated to the adoption of children’ (Ephesians 1:5), were ‘elect unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ’ (1 Peter 1:2).
iii. “The priesthood were ELECTED TO HOLINESS. The whole people, as a kingdom of priests, were to be a holy nation; but the family of Aaron were chosen to a still higher ceremonial purity than was required of their brethren. When Korah and his companions claimed the right to officiate as priests, they did so on the ground that all the congregation were holy, and the reply of the mutineers was, ‘To-morrow Jehovah will show who are His, and who is holy; and will cause him to come near unto Him; even him whom He hath chosen will He cause to come near unto him’ (Numbers 16:5). The budding of Aaron’s rod decided the question between him and those who claimed the office on the ground that all were holy. It was a sign that Aaron was elected to a superiority of holiness among the Hebrews, as the nation was to a similar eminence among the nations of the earth.
“The election of the Hebrews to be a holy nation set forth before the eyes of men the truth that Jehovah is holy, and that the true Israel who in spirit and in truth have access to Him must be holy; the calling of the priests to a greater strictness of life than was required of the common people, and the requirements of a still higher degree of holiness in the head of the sacerdotal order, were concurrent and cumulative testimonies to the same truth.—Atwater, Sacred Tabernacle.
Leviticus 8:3.—Theme: AN ELECT PEOPLE. “And gather them,” etc.
The circumstances amid which Divine directions were given to the people, as well as the directions themselves, were calculated to impress the fact upon all Israel that they were an elect nation, brought out from Egypt to inaugurate a new era for the world. Every other nation was sunken in idolatry, and Israel had proneness to it, as evinced in the worship of the calf at the foot of the Mount. All idolatry debases and degrades; has never been known to develop into civilisation, much less into pure and undefiled religion. Man could not develop from his innate wisdom or inner consciousness such ideas of God, holiness, duty and worship, as those which were promulgated and established around Sinai. The institution and consecration of the priesthood taught that God is holy, and that “holiness becometh His house for ever.” Man, without supernatural aid, has always transferred and affixed his own sinful passions to priests and gods; and, has sought to become like them, to avoid their anger, and secure their benediction. In Israel, Jehovah showed who He was; and how His favour might be secured. Consider:
I THE CONGREGATION ASSEMBLED All the people were to meet, they had been prepared for united service. In Egypt they had become bound together by strong and tender ties—they had no prejudices or predilections in respect to government, were ready to take directions from their Divine king. Had Jehovah revealed Himself equally, and at once, to all men, revelation would have seemed the spontaneous and simultaneous growth of human inquiry; and the plan by which God governs our race would have been thwarted.
Israel was chosen to high honour, but onerous duties were associated with their privileges; they wore called to self-denying service, and to the attainment of holiness, requiring constant self-mortification. The priest could convey knowledge of God through the medium of the senses; thus, the revelation in the wilderness was adapted to the infancy of the Jewish Church.
II. THE PLACE OF ASSEMBLY. “The door of the tabernacle.” Everything done in order to beget devoutness and solemnity. There was no image of Jehovah before which the people would bow; but they were to remember that God had taken up His abode among them, and revealed His will from the tabernacle. What a contrast the place would be to the heathen temples in Egypt, with which Israel had been familiar. They were places where revolting abominations were practised; here, all would impress the mind with purity. The priests who were to officiate in the holy place must be sanctified, to denote how spotlessly pure the God of Israel was. The gathering of the congregation at the door of the tabernacle, and the consecration of the priesthood would meet the great wants of man’s moral nature. He has something in him that compels him to recognise and worship a superior Being; he becomes like the Being he worships; he seeks to commune with and receive communications from, the Being he worships; he desires a mediator between him and his God.
All the light and purity that gathered around the Levitical priesthood was symbolic of the purity of character required in those who draw near to God; and typical of the perfect purity of Him who was “holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners.”—F. W. B.
Leviticus 8:8.—Theme: ISRAEL’S GLORY.
“And he put the breastplate,” etc.
To outward seeming at this time the people, in themselves and their circumstances, did not present a very dignified appearance. With no visible means of subsistence, a horde of emancipated slaves, and before them as their new arena for enterprise a waste, howling wilderness. Yet they were the Lord’s freemen; He was their Deliverer and King. Through and with their priests, consecrated in their presence, they would draw very near to God. They had not been permitted to engrave their names upon tablets of fame in the land of bondage, but now their names are engraved upon the breastplate of the high priest, and presented before the Lord. This denoted—
I. THAT THEY WOULD BE EVER REMEMBERED IN THE DIVINE PRESENCE.
Their names uncovered; plainly immediately seen.
II. THAT THEY HAD A PLACE NEAR THE HEART OF THEIR REPRESENTATIVE.
Not behind his back, or beneath his feet, but on his breast.
III. THAT THEY WERE REGARDED AS VERY PRECIOUS BY THE LORD.
Their names not written in the sands of the desert, which would be soon obliterated, nor on raw and rough material, but on precious stones. The Lord esteems those as His “jewels” who become His people.
IV. THAT THEY MIGHT RECEIVE LIGHT AND DIRECTION IN ALL THEIR JOURNEYINGS.
The Urim and Thummim in the breastplate would, in some way unknown to us, indicate the Divine will to priests and people. The precious stones of the breastplate may suggest the paradise lost by the fall, where there were gold and precious stones; and paradise regained by the redemption of Christ, where precious stones abound. Our great High Priest carries us, not only on His breast, but in His heart. He remembers, represents us, pleads for us. Through His righteousness we may hereafter be admitted into the holiest of all.—F. W. B.
Leviticus 8:9.—Theme: THE HOLY CROWN.
“Upon his forefront did he put the golden plate, the holy crown; as the Lord commanded Moses.”
Man is the only creature whose forehead fronts the temple of the sky. Fitting that the head of High Priest, “the human face divine,” should be crowned with gold when approaching the King of kings, and representing Him among the people. The gold band upon the mitre shone like a diadem, caught and reflected the glory of heaven. On it in letters patent to all: “Holiness to the Lord.” Gold denotes preciousness and incorruptibility. Such ever are the nature and character of Jehovah. The holy crown upon the head of the High Priest implied—
I. THAT HE HAD REGAL DUTIES TO DISCHARGE. He was in the service of the King, immortal, invisible, the only wise God. Nothing he commanded to be performed could therefore be mean or unimportant.
II. THAT HE HAD REGAL POWER TO EXERCISE. Weak, like other men, in himself, he was a plenipotentiary, full of power, because of the authority by which He was commissioned and sustained. Ambassadors in councils and courts are powerful on account of the Sovereign and Realm they represent: so here.
III. THAT HE HAD REGAL DIGNITY TO SUSTAIN. He, a kingly priest, would need to magnify his office. He was under necessity to keep the glory of the crown unsullied. The people would look up to Aaron as their exemplar, as well as mediator. Every thought, word, deed to be “Holiness to the Lord.”
Here we have a significant type of Christ our High Priest. He was anointed with the oil of gladness above His fellows. He is King and Priest. Our great Intercessor was seen by John (Revelation 14:14,) “having on His head a golden crown.” Holiness is the crown and glory of the universe; constitutes the nature and blessedness of God; is the ultimatum of human redemption. Holiness and blessedness are wedded together by indissoluble bonds.—F. W. B.
Leviticus 8:12.—Theme: SANCTIFICATION. “To sanctify him.”
Aaron was set apart to his grand work, not only by lavations and lustrations, but by annointings. This would show—
I. THAT HE WAS ENTIRELY DEDICATED TO GOD’S SERVICE. As the oil was poured profusely upon his head, it symbolised the fact that so readily and cheerfully would he pour out his life’s best and brightest energies in Jehovah’s service.
II. THAT HE WAS COMPLETELY SANCTIFIED IN GOD’S PRESENCE.
As the oil made the face of Aaron shine, and he submitted to every preliminary in connection with his entry upon his office, he would have the inward witness, and give ocular proof, that the needed preparation was complete.
Christ, as our great High Priest, “sanctified Himself,” not for His office simply, but for the sake of His disciples; and His will is that we should be “sanctified through the truth.” We all need the “unction of the Holy One,” sanctification by the grace of Christ, and the influences of the Holy Ghost to fit us for sacred service and communion with the Lord.—F. W. B.
Leviticus 8:21.—Theme: PERFECT SERVICE. “And he washed the inwards,” etc.
The minute and strict directions given respecting the offerings presented at the consecration of the priests showed—
I. THE NEED OF INWARD PURITY. Man looks only on the outward appearance; the Lord looks upon the inward parts, and in the hidden parts He would have us to know wisdom. The inwards, as well as the legs of offering were to be cleansed before being presented.
II. THE NEED OF UNRESERVED SURRENDER. The whole ram was to be offered. This same truth fully taught in the holocaust. The new dispensation demands that we present our bodies living sacrifices holy and acceptable unto God. Let us seek, then, to please the Lord and to be accepted of Him.—F. W. B.
Leviticus 8:23.—Theme: LIVING SACRIFICES.
“And he slew it; and Moses took,” etc.
Aaron and his sons laying their hands upon the ram of consecration, identified them with it; denoted their unqualified surrender to Jehovah. The blood of the victim being put upon the priests’ ears, hands, and feet, must have been intended to teach important lessons. The blood sprinkled upon the right ear, suggests—
I. THAT THE PRIESTS WERE TO ATTENTIVELY LISTEN TO THE COMMANDS OF THE LORD. They were not to exercise their own ingenuity in forming precepts, they were not to listen to anything that would border on collusion, or conspiracy. Ear-gate was ever to be open and ready to receive the communications from heaven; was to be kept sacred to the Lord. The sprinkling of blood upon the thumb of the right hand suggests—
II. THAT THE PRIESTS WERE TO READILY RECEIVE THE COMMANDS OF THE LORD. The hand is an emblem of receptivity, as well as energy; represents capacity and will. By it, we distribute and receive. The hands of priests would be busy in offering sacrifices, in waving incense, in presenting prayer. They must be therefore clean and consecrated, ever ready to present gifts to God from the people, and to convey blessings to them from God. The sprinkling of blood upon the great toe of the right foot suggests—
III. THAT THE PRIESTS WERE TO IMMEDIATELY OBEY THE COMMANDS OF THE LORD. By our feet we move in the direction our hearts prompt and lean. The feet of the priests would stand in the holy place, it was fitting they should be sanctified.
Our great High Priest gave the words to His disciples that He received from His Father; His holy hands were ever busy doing good; His “holy feet, trod the sacred fields of Palestine for our advantage.” Let us seek that all our powers may be sanctified by and consecrated to the Lord.—F. W. B.
Leviticus 8:27.—Theme: HEARTY SERVICE.
“And he put all upon Aaron’s hands,” etc.
Moses had the honour of inducting Aaron to his office, as well as robing him for it. Placing the offering upon the hands of Aaron and his sons—
I. CLEARLY INDICATED THEIR WORK. Gave them practical knowledge of the duties to be prepared.
II. FULLY DEDICATED THEM TO THEIR WORK. Not only were they sanctified and attired in sacerdotal vestments, but really began their work.
Waving the offering in their hands, showed—
I. THE SUBORDINACY OF THE PRIESTHOOD. They were only servants, with hands full of obligations; they held gifts which already belonged to Jehovah: of His own they would offer at the altar.
II. THE SUPREMACY OF THE LORD. Themselves, as well as the offering, belonged to God; they stood before the Lord acknowledging His sovereign claims.
Let us do the work of the Lord with both hands earnestly. Our work is (a) important—requires both hands; (b) great—fills both hands; (c) urgent—prompts both hands. Thus our Redeemer toiled for us, so let us labour for Him.—F. W. B.
Leviticus 8:33.—Theme: SEVEN DAYS’ CONSECRATION.
“Seven days shall he consecrate you.”
The protracted period of consecration within the tabernacle would suggest—
I. The deep dyed character of sin.
II. The immaculate purity of God.
III. The need of patient preparation for sacred work.
IV. The conditions of success in sacred work.—F. W. B.
V. 36.—Theme: EXEMPLARY OBEDIENOR. “So Aaron and his sons did all,” etc
Though many things commanded to be done seemed strange and unimportant, yet “all things” were done by Aaron and his sons that the Lord directed. Indicating—
I. WILLINGNESS FOR THE SERVICES to which they were called. Thus they enjoyed—
II. GUARANTEE OF SUCCESS IN THE WORK to which they were called.
Fulfilling their part of the covenant, the Lord would fulfil His part. Those who honour the Lord He will honour. Through the priesthood priceless blessings would be vouchsafed to Israel; through our Great Prophet, Priest, and King, innumerable and inestimable blessings came to the world.—F. W. B.
ILLUSTRATIVE ADDENDA TO CHAPTER 8
“Go forth and preach impostures to the world,
But give them truth to build upon.”
“The power to bind and loose to Truth is given,
The mouth that speaks it is the mouth of Heaven;
The power which in a sense belongs to none,
Thus understood, belongs to every one.
It owes its high prerogatives to none,
It shines for all, as shines the blessed sun;
It shines in all who do not shut it out
By dungeon doors of unbelief and doubt.
To shine, it does not ask—O, far from it—
For hierarchal privilege and permit!
Rabbi and priest may be chained down to lies
And babes and sucklings winged to mount the skies.”
—Abraham Coles: The Evangel.
“Led so grossly by this meddling priest,
Dreading the curse that money may buy out.”
—King John, III., i.
“Hateful to me, as are the gates of hell,
Is he who, hiding one thing in his heart,
Utters another.”—Bryant’s Homer’s Iliad.
“O what a godly outside falsehood hath!”
Merchant of Venice, I., 3.
“Priest, beware your beard;
I mean to tug it, and to cuff you soundly;
Under my feet I stamp thy cardinal’s hat;
In spite of pomp, or dignities of Church,
Here by thy cheek I drag thee up and down.”—Henry VI, i., 3.
“Holiness—as I then wrote down some of my contemplations on it—appeared to me to be of a sweet, calm, pleasant, charming, serene nature, which brought an inexpressible purity, brightness, peacefulness, ravishment to the soul; in other words, that it made the soul like a field or garden of God, with all manner of pleasant fruits and flowers, all delightful and undisturbed, enjoying a sweet calm and the gentle vivifying beams of the sun. The soul of a true Christian—as I then wrote my meditations—appeared like such a little white flower as we see in the spring of the year, low and humble on the ground, opening its bosom to receive the pleasant beams of the sun’s glory; rejoicing, as it were, in a calm rapture, diffusing around a sweet fragrance, standing peacefully and lovingly in the midst of other flowers round about, all in like manner opening their bosoms to drink in the light of the sun.”—Jonathan Edwards.
“A Christian should let us see his graces walking abroad in his daily conversation; and, if such guests are in the house, they will often look out of the window, and be publicly seen abroad in all duties and holy actions.’—Gurner.
“When courtiers come down into the country, the common home-bred people possibly think their habits strange; but they care not for that. ‘It is the fashion at Court.’ What need, then, have the godly to be so tender-foreheaded, to be out of countenance because the world looks on holiness as a singularity? It is the only fashion in the highest Court, yea, of the King of kings Himself.”—Salter.
“Inward holiness and eternal glory are the crown with which God dignifies His elect. But they are not the cause of the election. A king is not made a king by the royal robe he wears and the crown that encircles his brow; but he therefore wears his robes and puts on his crown because he is a king.”—Salter.
“True ornaments to know a holy man.”
—Richard III., iii., 7.
“Our holy lives must win a new world’s crown.”—Richard II., v., 1.
“Holiness and happiness are always an indissoluble connection; yea, holiness is felicity itself.”—Alex. Macworter.
And, doubling that, most holy.”
—Cymbeline, III., 4.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Leviticus 8". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 13 / Ordinary 18