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Inaugural Ministries of Aaron
Leviticus 9:1.—On the eighth day. It was the dawn of their Sabbath, and followed a week of seclusion within the tabernacle, where they had daily presented their consecration offerings. With what solemn eagerness they must have anticipated this day: the day of their inauguration into their public ministry as God’s priests for Israel. Moreover, the day was to be distinguished by a sublime manifestation of “the glory of Jehovah” unto them and before the people. Such privileged days enter into all saintly careers, fervently desired, surpassingly blessed: when the soul is led into hallowed spiritual experiences and when “the Lord suddenly comes to His temple.” It intimates the truths that—
1. Preparation for sacred service ought to be made in seclusion with thoroughness and utmost solemnity.
2. Devout waiting for the Lord will in due season be sealed with glad realisations of Him.
3. Entrance upon any sacred project or pursuit should be stayed until God has been sought in patient communion.
4. A ministry for God will only be acceptable and effective as the minister is himself fully and spiritually in readiness for his “high calling.”
That “life hid with God” is symbolic of the sacred separateness to which the Christian is called, and summons us to like retirement from the world, that we may become meet to render true service as “priests unto God.”
Leviticus 9:2.—Take thee a young calf. Was there in this a calling Aaron’s sin to remembrance? Jesus, as He commissioned Peter to his apostolic ministry, called his sin (of denying Him thrice) back to memory by His thrice repeated inquiry, “Lovest thou Me?” And here Jehovah recalls the calf idolatry at the base of Sinai; for on no other occasion was “a calf” appointed for a sin offering. But surely, in now entering upon his high-priesthood, that great occasion of sin should be in his mind to humble his soul in the hour of his exaltation, and teach him how wholly unmerited was the sacred honour into which Jehovah now admitted him. It is well that we, in hours of exalted privilege, “look to the hole from which we were digged,” and have our sins in mind, “lest we be exalted above measure.” Paul needed a like restraint. Human nature is apt to become self-satisfied and arrogant; the remedy is to see our frailty in the light of past follies.
Leviticus 9:4.—To-day the Lord will appear unto you. When an appointment is made to an exalted office in the State, it is accompanied by presentation in person to the Sovereign of the realm. This was Aaron’s introduction, in his high official status, to the very presence of Jehovah, whose priest he was henceforth to be, and in whose Regal presence he was henceforth to minister. The Shekinah, which had dwelt in the secresy of the holy place, would that day “shine forth” in brightness. God’s elect servants should behold His glory. It would teach them to serve with awe, and impress on them the grandeur of their office; thus fostering reverence and circumspection in their ministry. When the like incident occurred to Isaiah, his spirit was utterly overwhelmed (Isaiah 6:5); and even John the beloved fell as one dead at the feet of the glorified Jesus (Revelation 1:17). Blessed are they who have had Paul’s glad yet gentler experience: “It pleased God to reveal His Son in me” (Galatians 1:16) It was then he was designated to his apostolic work; and such a vision calls us also to a sacred life and service.
Leviticus 9:7.—Go unto the altar … make atonement for thyself. Installed though Aaron was as high priest, he yet waited the command to act; and Moses stood to him as God. Hence the words, “No man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron” (Hebrews 5:4-5). Yet it is well that we heed God’s will in the call addressed to us from the demands and opportunities around us. “Go unto the altar”: for there is frequent occasion that we approach the altar in service for man and sacrifice to God.
Atonement for thyself, and for the people. The “people” were concerned in Aaron’s sin of idolatry: “They made the calf which Aaron made” (Exodus 32:25); hence there was to be an inclusive sacrificial offering for both Aaron and the people. But “such an High Priest became us who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners … who needeth not to offer up sacrifice first for His own sins” (Hebrews 7:26-27).
Leviticus 9:15.—The people’s offering. This consisted of the sin offering, burnt offering, meat offering, and peace offering. It was Aaron’s first mediatorial service, standing between God and the people, and propitiating on their behalf. From that hour there never has ceased to be an intercessory priest; nor shall the priesthood fail henceforth; for “the word of the oath has consecrated Christ for evermore” (Hebrews 7:28). How consolatory and assuring the truth, that within “the holy place made without hands” our Lord unceasingly presents the merits of His mighty sacrifice, and intercedes for all who come to God by Him. None need fear neglect, since Jesus assumes the gracious ministry of mediation; it is the office to which He devotes Himself now in heaven: “He ever liveth to make intercession for us.” And as His sacrificial death on the cross was not for Himself, but for mankind, He still presents “the people’s offering.” But He “needeth not daily” to renew the sacrifice Aaron’s duty was to maintain with undeviating regularity and recurrence the burnt sacrifice of the morning (Leviticus 9:17); type of the enduring virtue of Jesus’ atonement day unto day, till time shall be no more.
Leviticus 9:22.—Aaron lifted up his hand toward the people. Sacrifices completed, Aaron now, with hands upraised, pronounced his first priestly blessing upon Israel. The very words of the blessing were ordered by Jehovah: “Speak unto Aaron, and unto his sons, saying, On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them: The Lord bless thee and keep thee: the Lord make His face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: the Lord lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace” (Numbers 6:23-26).
So Jesus, His sacrifice finished, “lifted up His hands and blessed” His Church; and “it came to pass, while He blessed them, He was parted from them, and carried up into heaven” (Luke 24:50-51); whence still and unceasingly that unfinished act of blessing goes on, and its sacred gladness and peace come down perpetually upon an adoring Church.
Leviticus 9:23.—Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle. The last entrance for Moses, the first for Aaron; and it marked the moment for transmitting the priestly duties from the younger to the elder brother. Surely they bowed the knee together when within that “secret place of the tabernacle of the Most High,” and sought on each other’s behalf the succour and grace of God for the onerous responsibilities of their Divine service. Beautiful the thought of such hidden prayer by two brothers, ere they “came out” to their high and holy ministries.
Leviticus 9:24.—There came a fire out from before the Lord. Forth from the effulgent “glory” cloud (Leviticus 9:23) sprang living flames on to the altar, and the smouldering sacrifice was quickly consumed by miraculous fire. This fire was jealously maintained; it went not out by day or night: it burned always as the symbol of Jehovah’s sanction upon the altar presentations, and His acceptance of those who offered them.
When the people saw, they fell on their faces. “Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed”; for still “the Lord is in His holy temple,” though the shekinah is not visible. “O come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker: for He is our God” (Psalms 95:6-7).
Topic: ENTERING UPON PRIESTLY WORK (Leviticus 9:1-2)
“On the eighth day Moses called Aaron and his sons, and said unto Aaron, Take thee a young calf for a sin offering, and a ram for a burnt offering, and offer them before the Lord.”
A train of solemn rites preceded the priests’ admission to their functions. The entrance-path was long and holy. None might draw near uncalled, uncleansed—without atonement made through blood, without the sprinklings of anointing oil (Leviticus 8:6; Leviticus 8:24; Leviticus 8:30).
Through a whole week the victims died, and consecrating services went on. During those days the sacred tent enclosed the devoted band. They might not pass its separating gate. The world was left. A barrier parted them from common life. They dwelt, shut out from man, shut in with God.
I. THERE IS A RIGHTFUL PATH BY WHICH GOD’S MINISTERS REACH THEIR SACRED OFFICE.
Called; cleansed; consecrated.
II. PREPARATION COMPLETED: THE HOLY OFFICE IS ASSUMED.
“On the eighth day” service commenced in fulness. Lite is now one cloud of incense to the Lord. From morn till night the willing perests discharge fore-shadowing forms.
III. IN THE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY THE PRIESTLY SYMBOLS ARE REALISED.
Altars no more are raised: victims no longer die: all vanished in the Cross. No lights now are lighted, no incense burns: twilight ordinances fled when the Sun of Righteousness arose. Yet still wide fields of labour open: and grand facts are to be set forth by your ministry. Your life is to proclaim the Lamb of God, the blood once and for ever shed. Your voice must never cease the cry—Behold this truth; bathe in this stream; trust in this death; plead this atoning Cross.
Shame would it be if legal priests relaxed not typifying work, and your hands wearied in uplifting the grand substance—CHRIST. [Compare “Christ is all.” By Dean of Gloucester.]
[See Addenda, p. 127, Ministerial Dedication.]
Topic: SACRIFICIAL PREPARATION FOR JEHOVAH’S APPEARING (Leviticus 9:2-4)
“Take thee a sin offering, a burnt offering, peace offerings, to sacrifice before the Lord; and a meat offering; for to day the Lord will appear unto you.”
Who would see God? Let the soul make ready. To whom will God show Himself? They who make ready by sacrifices.
I. TO SEE THE LORD DEMANDS SPIRITUAL PREPAREDNESS IN MAN.
1. For man to meet God without readiness would entail on him terror and death.
2. But man may meet God with readiness, prepared even to behold His glory.
3. When man meets God thus prepared, the meeting is propitious and privileged.
II. SACRIFICIAL MERITS PREPARE MAN FOR SEARCHING MANIFESTATIONS OF GOD.
1. By effecting the complete removal of his sin (by Sin offering) and therefore cancelling his condemnation.
2. By presenting an offering of self-devotion (Burnt offering), and thereby appeasing the Divine favour.
3. By conciliatory acts of propitiation (Peace offering), thus removing all strangement.
4. By covenanted communion with God (Meat offering); fellowship with God in the sacrificial feast.
When Jehovah meets a soul thus “made nigh” by sacrificial merit, not only is there “no condemnation,” but “access unto grace” is assured, and even “joy in God.” [Compare Romans 5:1-2; Romans 5:11.]
III. AMID MOST GLORIOUS DIVINE MANIFESTATION THE SOUL PREPARED BY SACRIFICE STANDS FEARLESS AND BLEST.
1. Revelations of God come now to privileged souls: and are “times of refreshing.”
2. The unveilings of death, which will bring the soul to God’s clear presence, will not terrify the believer: it will be “far better.”
3. The Lord’s appearance “in great glory” at the judgment will be welcomed with joyous acclaim by those who “look for His appearing.”
4. And in the splendour of heaven, the ransomed hosts will stand without rebuke; realising in God’s presence “fulness of joy.” [See Addenda, p. 128, Nearness to God.]
Topic: CONSECRATION A QUALIFICATION FOR ACTION (Leviticus 9:7-22)
Between the records of this and the preceding chapter there is a striking contrast.
(a) The cleansing and adornment of the priests—in which the priests themselves took no active part—represent the truth that the soul, in being made ready for sacred office and sanctuary privilege, is a passive recipient of grace which flows from God through Christ our mediator.
As with Aaron and his sons, so with Joshua (Zach. Leviticus 3:3-5); all investiture with purity and dignity was wrought for them not by them. We do not make ourselves clean, do not consecrate ourselves priests. All is of grace, derived from Christ.
(b) Our complete consecration and equipment for privileged relationship and a life of near access with God, are preparatory for a career of service. [See Addenda p. 128, Spiritual Benefactors.]
I. Consecrated souls are called TO SERVE IN THE POWER OF THE GRACE THEY HAVE RECEIVED.
1. New energies are imparted to the soul on which the grace of Christ rests. “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works” (Ephesians 2:10).
2. New qualifications are bestown upon the soul for a life of sacred service. “When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:32). “Go stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life” (Acts 5:20). “Let him that heareth say come” (Revelation 22:17). “Maketh manifest the savour of His knowledge by us in every place” (2 Corinthians 2:14).
3. New inspirations animate the life thus divinely enriched. “The love of Christ constraineth us” (2 Corinthians 5:14). “They which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him who died for them and rose again” (2 Corinthians 5:15).
II. They who have received grace are REQUIRED TO EXPEND THEIR REDEEMED LIVES IN SACRED MINISTRIES FOR OTHERS.
1. The virtue of sacrifice is not exhausted in consecrating us who are made priests in Christ.
2. Sacrificial merits avail for the people among whom we are to serve as priests in offices helpful to their salvation.
3. The peculiar sphere of Christian thought and action is defined—carrying to others the blessings of altar sacrifice. For priestly service now, as with Aaron, is all associated with the SACRIFICE.
III. CONSECRATION AND SERVICE ARE THE TWO SACRED SEALS AND GUARANTEES OF A PRIVILEGED CHRISTIAN LIFE.
1. Merely to dwell apart from men as being ourselves consecrated souls, of a higher sanctity and more heavenly calling than the people, is to miss the end for which we were “called of God as was Aaron.”
2. Equally so, to toil in service thereby to gain assurance of our acceptance with God, is to fulfil the duties and carry the burdens of the priesthood forgetful of the derived and sufficient grace of Christ for ourselves.
3. Sanctity and service: sanctity derived and service rendered; these form the blended credentials of our hallowed priestly life, our blessed relationship to God, and they afford us the full guarantee of sufficiency for and success in our ministries for man.
Topic: A SOLEMN BENEDICTION (Leviticus 9:22)
“And Aaron lifted up his hand towards the people and blessed them.”
It would be an act of presumption in a man to assume the part of blessing others if he were not himself occupying a superior spiritual altitude to those he blessed.
I. In the relations of men to Jehovah there are those who ATTAIN A HIGHER LIFE OF PRIVILEGE AND OF POWER.
The high priest alone was empowered to bless. His was a spiritual elevation above the priests.
1. Conscious nearness to God is not equally attained by all.
2. Sacred power from God is not equally derived by all.
II. HIDDEN FELLOWSHIP WITH JEHOVAH is the SOURCE OF EXALTED QUALIFICATION, the spring of BENEFICENT SPIRITUAL POWER.
Aaron had spent solemn seasons during the seven days enclosed within the tabernacle. It nerved his heart for his high task, it gave him assurance as he assumed the high function of blessing the people in Jehovah’s name. But after that official act, he went into more intimate fellowship and prayer with God (Leviticus 9:23); and when he came forth, he again “blessed the people.” It was the act of one whose soul was full of conscious power, to whom it was no longer an official trust and duty to bless, but a delight and privilege; it was the outflowing of a soul all ardent and adoring.
1. Blessings can only flow from a soul itself rich in the affluence of blessedness.
2. Affluence of blessedness can only be won by the most intimate communion with the Lord.
III. THEY WHO LIVE AN ELEVATED SPIRITUAL LIFE ARE RICH BENEFACTORS TO A SINFUL WORLD.
1. They draw power from God which does not rest unused, but goes forth in blessing others.
2. They exert salutary and saving energy among men, by which earthly life is sweetened, and spiritual health is imparted, and Christian peace is bestown.
3. Their very prayers, unheeded as factors of good, win daily benediction from heaven on many hearts and homes.
4. As a daily influence in society such elevated souls shed a benign grace, making social circles purer, kinder, less selfish and sinful, more gentle, peaceful, and Christian.
5. In all their active ministries for Christ they are potent for good. They cannot “lift up their hands towards the people” but gracious results ensue.
Thus should every Christian seek to be a “light of the world,” “salt in the earth.” Therefore let each (a) live a life of nearest intercourse with the Lord; a “life hid with Christ in God”; (b) fulfil the solemn office of gracious intercessors for men; winning blessings by secret prayers.
“But that from us aught should ascend to heaven
So prevalent as to concern the mind
Of God high blest, or to incline His will,
Hard to belief may seem: Yet this will prayer.”—Milton.
“More things are wrought by prayer
Than this world dreams of. Wherefore, let thy voice
Rise like a fountain for me night and day.”—Tennyson.
“Prayer ardent opens heaven, lets down a stream
Of glory on the consecrated hour
Of man, in audience with the Deity.”—Young.
[See Addenda, p. 128, Spiritual Benefactors.]
Topic: WITHIN THE SECRET OF GOD’S TABERNACLE (Leviticus 9:23-24.)
“And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of the congregation,” etc.
In this first day of priestly work a fact of significance occurs. When all the offerings had been duly made, Moses and Aaron seek the holy tent. For a short season they retire. They leave the busy scene. It is their wish in stillness to seek God’s clearer face. He was before them in the public rite; but calm retreat would give them more calm approach.
I. THE CHRISTIAN SERVANT LABOURS IN OPEN SCENES.
In busy haunts of busy men he strains the toiling nerve. The world is the wide field. There are the precious souls which need the wholesome warning and the faithful word. There sin abounds, and misery dwells, and ignorance spreads its blinding veil. There Satan rules with dreadful sway. In this wild waste the good seed must be sown. Amid graceless crowds grace must be manfully displayed. But—
II. PRIVATE HOURS GAIN STRENGTH FOR PUBLIC ZEAL.
When all is still the opening heavens pour down their dew. In quietude the soul draws nearer to Christ’s arms. Then tender whispers testify of love; then truth unfolds the wondrous page; then promises assume substantial form; then distant prospects brighten to the view. It is when apart from men that grace takes deeper root, temptations wither, the world’s false glitter fades, the inner man is strengthened to resist, and loins are girded for the battle field. The soldier of the cross goes forth from solitude to fight his fight. He who seeks God alone has God in public by his side.
III. COMMUNION WITH GOD ENRICHES THE SOUL WITH PRECIOUS GRACE.
Grace for others. Moses and Aaron soon return; but they come not with empty hands; they are enriched with the best gifts. Here is beautiful evidence of gainful commerce with the Lord. Laden with good, they haste to scatter good around. Their souls are redolent of heaven; “they blessed the people.”
The blessed of the Lord bless earth. And they are the most blessed who seek the mercy-seat. The wise, the rich, the learned, and the strong, are tools employed by God to move the world’s machine, but it is piety which strews real weal on men. They who descend from Zion’s heights are as the clouds which drop refreshing rain.—“Christ is all.” [See Addenda, p. 128, Nearer to God.]
Topic: THE PRIESTS’ ENTRANCE UPON THEIR OFFICE (Leviticus 9:1-7)
At the close of the seven days’ consecration service in the court of the tabernacle, the priests entered publicly upon their office, began their holy and solemn work. On the eighth day, Moses called Aaron and his sons, and the elders of Israel, and gave directions how the sacrifical services of the tabernacle were to be inaugurated. The rites of consecration were to culminate in a public declaration and recognition, in the presence of Israel and the Lord. On this occasion Aaron and his four sons were to slay the victims to be offered; and the ceremony was of the most imposing character. As Aaron and his sons came forth from their seclusion at the call of Moses, they appeared in vestments which were a visible expression of the offices they held, and an outward sign of the power and authority with which they had been invested. Moses here transfers the office he had held to Aaron, and declares that he does so at the command of the Lord. Aaron was now to speak to the people as the oracle of God to man, and the mouthpiece of man to God. As the people saw the high priest ascend the altar steps for the first time, they would recognise the person through whom henceforth they would draw near to heaven. We notice:
I. That the installation of Aaron and his sons to the office of the priesthood, was SOLEMNIZED BY THE PRESENTATION OF SYMBOLIC SACRIFICES TO THE LORD.
Although the consecration service had extended over seven days, and had been most searching and complete, though the high priest had been washed, anointed and clothed with gorgeous and spotless apparel, crowned with the mitre which displayed in pure gold the words, “Holiness unto the Lord”; although appointed sacrifices had been presented during those seven secluded days; yet, when the consecrated priest and his sons came forth to begin their duties, it is necessary that additional sacrifices be offered before they can perform any acceptable service for the people.
This showed that the priests, after all consecrating ceremenies, were
(1) not perfect men, that they were compassed about with infirmity, and that for them as with the rest of the people forgiveness and cleansing from sin must be sought of God. False religions lift the priesthood above human faultiness and infirmity, and invest those who officiate at the altar with superhuman privilege and power. In the Levitical economy this error was not committed, and it is one of the distinguishing works of the divinity of the old dispensation that the imperfections of the best of men are acknowledged as demanding repentance and forgiveness.
(2) The priests of the Levitical economy were not perfect types of Christ; for He was “holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners.”
The order of the sacrifices offered on the first day of the official service of the priests, shows the progressive steps by which we approach unto, and find acceptance with God. (a) The sin offering suggests that first there must be forgiveness of sin, the barrier must be removed which separates between the soul and its Maker. (b) The burnt offering suggests that pardon having been procured, there must be complete consecration to Him who has mercifully forgiven, (c) The peace offering suggests devotion of the life to the Lord, the enjoyment of union and communion with Him, and constant communications from Him. These sacrifices were to be presented in the presence of the people, at the command of, and unto the Lord. Though set apart to the holiest service, no man is perfectly pure. No acceptable service can be rendered to God except by persons who have been pardoned and prepared. The clear statements in the New Testament of the perfect purity of Christ, and the evidence we have that those statements are correct, furnish conclusive proofs that He was infinitely superior to the Aaronic priesthood; that—unlike them—He was not even “the best of men,” but was God-man. “God manifest in the flesh.”
II. That the installation of Aaron and his sons to the office of the priesthood was SIGNALISED BY THE MANIFESTATION OF THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD.
What Moses had done and commanded with respect to the tabernacle and its services, had been by the authority of the Lord. He had received authority not only respecting the sacrifices to be offered, but also to announce that following the presentation, the Lord Himself would make Himself known, and reveal His glory. The offerings were to be presented “before the Lord,” and He would give open demonstration that He both saw and approved. He would show His regard for their obedient worship, by manifesting His glorious presence. In all our acts of worship, in every service we present to the Lord, we shall derive inspiration and stimulus by remembering (a) His commandments; (b) His presence; (c) His promises. He crowns the well doing of earth with His own eternal “well done!” But those who are faithless and despise His Word shall be covered with shame and everlasting contempt.—F. W. B.
Topic: AARON’S FIRST OFFERING FOR HIMSELF (Leviticus 9:7-14)
What unquestioning obedience Aaron yielded to the will of the Lord, as made known through Moses! for we read, “Aaron went therefore unto the altar, and slew the calf of the sin offering, which was for himself.” The ritual is the same as that in chap, 4, except that the blood is not brought into the sanctuary. Holiness without which no man can see the Lord, could only be typically attained by the Levitical priesthood.
I. The offerings presented by Aaron for himself show that HIS PRIESTHOOD WOULD BE ACCEPTED He could not have drawn near to God acceptably for others, had there been any unforgiven guilt resting upon him. The three offerings he presented fully satisfied the Divine claims, and placed him in a position of acceptance and communion; so that he could represent the interests of the people in the presence of Jehovah. God would be well pleased with arrangements He had Himself made.
II. The offerings presented by Aaron for himself showed that HE WAS COMPASSED BY INFIRMITIES. This lesson respecting the servants of the Lord, chosen and appointed to wait upon Him for His own glory and the best interests of men, is continually presenting itself through the sacred scriptures. Aaron had sin that needed to be forgiven, there was natural enmity in his mind that needed to be slain. It was a humbling thing for Aaron to proceed, arrayed in his splendid sacerdotal garments, upon which the people looked with awe and wonder, to slay the calf that was appointed for sacrifice, and to offer it for his own sins. The calf would probably remind him of his great sin in making a golden calf for the people to worship while Moses was up in the mount. Any pride of heart, or presumption of mind, would now be checked by a public acknowledgment of his sins and need of pardon, though chosen and lifted to so high and holy an office.
III. The offerings presented by Aaron for himself show that A GREATER OFFERING MUST HAVE BEEN TYPIFIED, BY VIRTUE OF WHICH THESE WERE ACCEPTED. All the washings, anointings, offerings, and attirings of the seven consecration days had not sufficed to make the priests pure and holy; and one offering now is not enough to make the ceremony complete; nor are the three that are now offered final. None of these could make the comers thereunto perfect, they had only temporary and typical value. Our High Priest’s offering of Himself was accepted, He is therefore able to save all who come unto God by Him. He made no offering for Himself, for He had no sins to own, no guilt to atone for. His sacrifice is final, for by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. Tasting death for every man, no other offering is needed by man, and no other can be accepted by God.—F. W. B.
Topic: AARON’S OFFERINGS FOR THE PEOPLE (Leviticus 9:15-21)
In these offerings for the people, the people were led to express their desire for forgiveness and their complete consecration to the service of Jehovah. They had asked for some one to go propitiously between them and God; their request had been granted, their offerings are taken by Aaron and presented to the Lord for them. By such an arrangement, both priests and people were taught—
I. THAT THEY STOOD ON A COMMON MORAL EQUALITY BEFORE GOD. The election of persons to eminent positions and distinguished service did not imply that they were the favourites of heaven, exempted from responsibility, or from moral blame. The priests were under the same moral obligations with those for whom they officiated at the altar; and had to seek acceptance in the same way, of the God who alone can forgive sins.
II. THAT THEY BOTH NEEDED PARDON FROM, BEFORE THEY COULD HAVE PEACE WITH, GOD. A condition of sinfulness unrepented and unforgiven is a condition of rebellion and hostility. And, as two cannot walk together except they agree, so God and man cannot commune together except strife and variance cease. Both people and priests, after acknowledgment of, and atonement for sin, could draw near to God, and enjoy friendship and fellowship with Him.
III. THAT THEY WERE BOTH EXPECTED TO RENDER IMPLICIT AND COMPLETE OBEDIENCE TO GOD. Priests and people had to do what Moses commanded, and he only commanded what God enjoined. Jehovah alone was the source of authority and power in the commonwealth and theocracy of Israel. The way by which God comes to man is by the blood of sprinkling, and the blood must be applied according to His own will and pleasure. The most minute details had to be carried out, which would test the faith, as well as the obedience of the worshippers. The Word of the Lord was, “Do and live.”
Under the Gospel dispensation, and around the cross of Christ, all men meet on a level morally; and none are saved except through faith in His Name. Being pardoned and justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. But, “no cross no crown.” Faith and works must go together, we are saved by faith, but faith without works is dead. What God hath joined together let no man put asunder. Christ enjoins obedience to His commandments, as well as faith in His Name.—F. W. B.
Topic: BLESSING THE PEOPLE (Leviticus 9:22-23)
How earnestly Aaron entered upon his solemn and responsible work! Having presented the required sacrifices, prompted by the Spirit of the Lord he pronounced his benediction upon the people. Descending the sloping side of the altar Moses conducted him into the tabernacle of the congregation to finally instruct him in his duties. On returning, Aaron blessed the people, for this was to be the outcome of all the rites and ceremonies of the Levitical economy: blessing from the Lord.
The people were not only prepared for a holy and lofty mission by the strict and searching discipline of the Levitical ritual, but they were initiated unto elementary knowledge of spiritual truths, and introduced into the possession of priceless spiritual blessings. The sacrifices themselves had no virtue or power to bless, but they were the tests of the people’s faith and obedience; appointed and approved means by which the demands of God’s law were, for that age of the world, satisfactorily met. God favourably regarded the relation into which Israel had been brought, and His blessing descended upon the people when Aaron outspread his hands Aaron’s act foreshadowed the work of Him who was to come, and in whom all nations would be blessed. When the sacrifices had been offered the blessing fell on the people, denoting that God was satisfied with obedience to His commandments; and typifying the greater benediction of our High Priest, as from the most holy place He dispenses His blessings upon the hearts of men.
In the act of Aaron blessing the people we observe—
I. The recognition of MAN’S GREATEST NEED, viz., GOD’S BLESSING. By sin man had incurred the Divine displeasure; had fled from the Divine presence; his mind had become carnal and alienated from God. The mercy of God could not let man perish; His justice demanded an atonement, in order that reconciliation and restoration might be effected. Divinely appointed substitutionary sacrifices satisfied the claims of Divine justice for the time being; and, through them, friendship and communion with God were enjoyed. Man, as the offspring of God, could not be happy without God, without his reconciled presence, and paternal benediction. The needed blessing was promised, if only the needed conditions for its bestowment were observed. In these incidents, the preliminaries were completed; and Aaron, with the sanction and smile of Heaven, came forth and blessed the people. Probably, the formulary employed was that recorded in Numbers 6:23-27, or Psalms 90:17; words which the Lord commanded Aaron and his sons to use, “The Lord bless thee, and keep thee; the Lord make His face to shine upon thee and be gracious unto thee; the Lord lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.” “And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us; and establish the work of our hands upon us: yea, the work of our hands establish Thou it.” What a complete and comprehensive blessing! Some have thought that the mention of the name of Jehovah three times in the words to be used by Aaron have reference to the triune nature of God, according with the threefold apostolic blessing of the new Testament, and the formulary pronounced at the ordinance of baptism. Man needed the blessing, good will, and aid of the Lord, His friendship and smile. Needed to be kept from all evil within, and from the Evil One. Man needed the face of God to shine upon him, God’s reconciled, cheering, transforming face, the face of his Father and king. The peace of God alone could remove remorse for the past and dread apprehensions for the future. Here, then, was the bestowment of all needed grace, the earnest as well as preparation for final glory. These blessings centre in, and flow from Christ with (a) infinite fulness; (b) inestimable graciousness; for all men and all time. Observe—
II. THE DECLARATION OF GOD’S GREATEST JOY, viz., BLESSING MEN.
How quickly the mercy of God whispered blessing in the ears of the first offending pair ere they were expelled from the blissful bowers of Eden! How He sanctioned the erection of altars and accepted their offerings wherever the patriarchs pitched their tents! How faithfully He now fulfilled the promises made to Moses, to meet with and bless His people if they erected an altar to His name and offered sacrifices thereon. His greatest joy is in blessing man. He is slow to anger, and delights in mercy. Aaron, standing with outspread hands, was the representative of God as well as of the people; and in the words of the Lord, as well as in His name, he pronounced the blessing. God blessed man; (a) in equity: He had not connived at iniquity, had not accepted man into His confidence and communion without obedience and satisfaction. He was just, and yet the justifier of those who came to Him in sacrifices, which typified the one sacrifice of Jesus. (b) Out of the sanctuary The high priest came out of the tabernacle and blessed the people; and God still pronounces His best and brightest blessing out of Zion, where His name is recorded, His worship observed, (c) In connection with human means. It was the blessing of God, but it passed through the lips of Aaron. God employed and honoured human agency. Man could not bless himself; Aaron, of himself, could not bless the people. He could be, and was, the channel to convey the Divine benediction. Moses inducted Aaron to his office, and then Aaron conveyed blessings to men. We cannot be sources, but we can be means of blessing to others; we may glorify God by co-working with Him in His plans and purposes for blessing men. The Gospel, which blesses men, is the Gospel of God’s glory. Aaron blessing men from the holy place where the sacrifices were completed may be regarded as a type of Him who, when on earth, opened His lips and pronounced His benedictions upon men, not only in the beatitudes but all through His life as He went about doing good, when He descended from Olivet with hands outspread, blessing His disciples. He has His hands full of blessing now, since He has led captivity captive and received gifts for men.—F. W. B.
Topic: THE MIRACULOUS FIRE (Leviticus 9:23-24)
According to the word of Moses, when all was completed that the Lord had commanded, the Divine glory was displayed in the presence of the congregation. There was no delay on the part of Israel to comply with the Divine requirements, and there was no delay on the part of the Lord to signify He had accepted their sacrifices. There was a sudden flash of mysterious flame from the resplendent light that filled the holy place. It lighted upon the brazen altar, and consumed the sacrifice which was already on fire; thus, the altar fire was consecrated. Look
I. AT SOME OF THE FACTS WHICH THE FLASHING FIRE CONFIRMED.
(a) That the sacrifices were divinely accepted. The priests had kindled a fire, had done all needed to render their offering complete and acceptable; Aaron had been into the tabernacle, returned, and blessed the people; it needed only now the baptism of fire, the smile of the Lord to be seen beaming forth from the holy place. That radiant and effulgent smile came, took possession of the sacrifice upon the altar, compassed and consumed it. The ascending flame symbolizes that heaven received it.
(b) That the priests were divinely accredited. What Aaron and his sons had done pleased the Lord; He inspected their work, saw that it was good; and, to show to priests and people that the order of the priesthood was confirmed, the fire came leaping forth to crown the fire the priests had lighted. Thus the Lord owned the priests as co-workers with Himself, as mediators between the human and Divine. Henceforth, they would be His accredited servants.
(c) That the tabernacle was divinely appropriated. God had already taken possession of it and had filled it with His glory; but the eyes of the common people were not permitted to see the glory that dwelt within It was well, therefore, for them to witness the glory manifested from within; to see the fire of the Lord leap forth, giving them ocular demonstration that Jehovah had really appropriated the tabernacle as His earthly, local, temporary dwelling place. Jehovah has never ceased to answer by fire. The Scriptures record many instances where, by cloud and flame, the Divine Presence has been manifested to men, e.g., the dedication of the temple; the nativity of Christ; the descent of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost. At the end of the world, by clouds and fire the great assizes will be inaugurated. Let us seek to present acceptable sacrifices to Him in the sanctuaries of our hearts, let us seek for the descent of the fire of His love to consume all selfishness and sin, and make our bodies temples of the Holy Ghost. Consider also:
II. SOME OF THE EFFECIS WHICH THE FLASHING FIRE PRODUCED.
The people, having been told beforehand by Moses that at the completion of their offerings the glory of the Lord would appear, were anticipating the manifestation which took place. There had been atonement, and mediation, sin had been forgiven and removed; all had been declared “holiness unto the Lord,” there was nothing now to dread. The people were filled with holy rapture. A loud simultaneous shout of joy arose. They could not restrain their gladness; adoration blended with praise; they were grateful as well as glad. They felt that God was propitiated by what had been done. They were filled with sacred awe. They fell upon their faces; the glory was so resplendent, or they may have felt how great the disparity existing between them and God, how unworthy they were of His favour. They were not prostrate with dread and terror, but from feelings of reverence and worship. The people had no doubt about the reality of the fire—about its miraculous character—they were satisfied as to its origin and meaning. All the manifestations of God’s glory to men, in nature, and in revelation, are calculated and designed to awaken rapture and beget reverence. The Gospel brings glad tidings of great joy, even a joy unspeakable and full of glory; it begets reverence for it shows us how great our sins and how holy our God. We see God as a consuming fire to consume sin, and to purify from all defilement. Let us so live that hereafter we may enter into the glory unchanging and eternal. Rapture and reverence will characterise the delight and worship of heaven.—F. W. B.
OUTLINES ON VERSES OF CHAPTER 9
Leviticus 9:6.—Theme: CONDITIONS OF BLESSING.
Inanimate nature governed by fixed laws; brute creation by instinct; man by reason. These facts asserted in scripture, obvious to experience and analogy. Man can exercise intelligent and deliberate choice. God compels where law and instinct rule, but commands where reason reigns Animals submitted unconsciously to their fate, but the worshippers voluntarily slayed and intelligently presented them in sacrifice. The people were told to obey the Lord, and then His glory would appear unto them. Thus, a promise was given to inspire, reward held out to stimulate and sustain. Thus the people were taught—
I. THE DUTY OF OBEDIENCE TO DIVINE COMMANDMENTS.
(a) That God has the right to command.
(b) That man has ability to obey.
(c) That man is under obligation to obey.
II. THE BLESSING OF OBEDIENCE TO DIVINE COMMANDMENTS.
(a) It pleases God. He is satisfied—glorified.
(b) It blesses man. Exercises and honours his noblest faculties, awakens keenest delight, secures manifestation of Divine glory. Those who obey increase in knowledge of the Divine will, and become transformed into the Divine likeness. God’s highest delight to exercise mercy, to purify, and save.—F. W. B.
Leviticus 9:12.—Theme: THE BLOOD OF SPRINKLING.
In tabernacle service and furniture almost everything sprinkled with blood. There must have been something peculiarly significant in the fact. Among other things it—
I. INDICATED THAT LIFE HAD BEEN REALLY SACRIFICED.
II. AWAKED FEELINGS OF AWE IN THE WORSHIPPERS.
III. INVESTED THINGS WITH PECULIAR SACREDNESS.
IV. PROCLAIMED THAT PROPITIATION HAD BEEN EFFECTED.
The precious blood of Christ teaches these things, and more; for the blood sprinkled round about the altar had no virtue in itself to wash away sin, whereas Christ’s blood cleanses from all sin. (See Hebrews 12:24; 1 Peter 1:2.) The robes of the glorified are made white in the blood of the Lamb. The new song of heaven extols the efficacy of the blood that was shed on Calvary.—F. W. B.
Leviticus 9:24.—Theme: THE ANSWER BY FIRE.
The flame that leaped out of the tabernacle and consumed the burnt offering, and the fat upon the altar—
I. DEMONSTRATED THE FACT OF THE DIVINE PRESENCE.
II. EXHIBITED THE A WFULNESS OF THE DIVINE POWER.
III. PROVED THE FIDELITY OF THE DIVINE WORD.
IV. TAUGHT THE TENDERNESS OF THE DIVINE MERCY.
The fire might have consumed the sinners instead of the sacrifice, but God is a consuming fire against sin, He loves the sinner, is not willing that any should perish.—F. W. B.
Leviticus 9:23-24.—Theme: GOD’S ACCEPTANCE OF THE SACRIFICES.
When we see the variety of ordinances and multitude of sacrifices, we are ready to ask, What compensation could be made to the people for all the expense and trouble to which they were put? Here we have a sufficient answer: God would not withhold from them communication such as would abundantly recompense all they did for His sake. He gave them such testimonies of His acceptance as made their hearts overflow. Consider—
I. THE TESTIMONIES OF GOD’S ACCEPTANCE.
These were of different kinds:
1. Ministerial. Moses and Aaron having finished all they had to do within the tabernacle, came forth and “blessed the people.” In this they were—
(1) Types of Christ: Showing what He would do as soon as He had finished His sacrifice: He blessed His disciples (Luke 24:50-51) as He was taken up to heaven; and He sent the promised blessing of the Holy Spirit quickly thence (Acts 2:33; Acts 3:26).
(2) Examples to ministers: Showing what all ministers are authorised and empowered to declare to those who rely on the Great Sacrifice. They are to stand forth in the very name of God, and proclaim pardon and peace to all (Acts 13:38-39.
2. Personal. In two ways did God Himself by direct testimonies, apart from all indirect human agency, manifest His acceptance.
(1) He displayed His glory before all the people. Now we have no such visible manifestation, but we have instead, as direct testimonies from God, “the Spirit of God witnessing with our spirit”; and “the love of God shed abroad in our hearts.”
(2) He sent fire upon the sacrifice: Showing what fiery indignation they deserved, but that he had turned it aside from them, and caused it to fall on the altar.
II. EFFECTS PRODUCED BY THESE TESTIMONIES OF GOD’S ACCEPTANCE.
Visible objects affect us strongly; the people now were deeply impressed with what they saw. They were filled—
1. With exalted joy. Had they not been taught to expect this manifestation they would have been terrified thereby, as Gideon and Manoah (Judges 6:21-22; Judges 13:19-22); but being prepared, they rent the air with their shouts.
The inward triumph of Paul seoms more suited to our dispensation (Romans 8:31-39), and that is both the privilege and duty of every one of us to enjoy.
2. With profound reverence. Humility united with joy. Even the seraphim cover their faces and feet before the throne; glorified saints cast their crowns at the feet of Him who sitteth thereon. Exalted joys should be tempered with adoration. Illustrations will be found in Genesis 17:3; Exodus 3:6.
(a) To lay no stress on transient affections. Such a state of feeling in the people ought to have issued well, but soon passed away when temptation arose.
(b) To be thankful for the advantages we enjoy. We are apt to envy the Jews their privileges: they walked by sight, we walk by faith. But our High Priest “blesses us with all spiritual blessings.” Chas. Simeon, M.A.
Leviticus 9:24.—Theme: GRACIOUS FIRE.
A sudden marvel fills all minds with awe. While blessings fall from blessing saints (Moses and Aaron) heaven brightens with resplendent signs. Glory shines around. Fire is sent forth.
I. FIRE SEALS WITH HEAVEN’S OWN SEAL THE ATONING RITES.
Wherefore comes the fire forth? Is it to seize the guilty sons of men? Is it to hurl on them deserved wrath? Far otherwise. It comes with olive branch of peace. It settles on the altar. It feeds on the victim as its feast. Then it brings evidence of God’s delight. Then it fills hearts with tranquil peace. The flame with blazing tongue proclaims: Here is the sacrifice which God selects, approves, calls men to bring, and never will refuse.
II. THE ATTESING FIRE SPEAKS GOD’S ACCEPTANCE OF SUBSTITUTION.
The altar victims were the foreshadowing of Christ. Faith therefore loves this scene. It is one of the wells from which it gladly draws new joy. It is one of the meadows of its richest food
But what is the antitype of the descending flame? The clear Gospel page. There, distinct testimonies answer to this approving sign:—
(1) The angelic host, a shining train, which swept down from heaven at Jesus’ birth.
(2) The baptismal seal (Luke 3:21-22).
(3) Transfiguration glories rest on Him: and a voice from the cloud proclaims, “This is My beloved Son.”
(4) The opened grave, guarded by the angels, for in the resurrection of Christ we have the fiery seal of an accepted sacrifice
When Israels host beheld the fire of God, what were their feelings? “They shouted and fell on their faces.” Sweet joy was theirs. Deep adoration warmed each heart Exulting praise burst forth. Profoundest worship was their instant act.
Shall we not do the like? God sent His Son to seek, to save. He lays on Him our every sin; gives us every pledge that He approves, attests, receives, delights in the accepted offering. Witness after witness from His courts assures that pardon, acquittal, release from every woe, admission to the home of heaven, may be ours. Oh, then, let every breath praise God! Let every hour of every day be inward worship.—Dean Law.
ILLUSTRATIVE ADDENDA TO CHAPTER 9
“If so poor a worm as I may to Thy great glory live,
All my actions sanctify, all my words and thoughts receive;
Claim me for Thy service, claim all I have and all I am.
“Take my soul and body’s powers; take my memory, mind, and will;
All my goods and all my hours; all I know and all I feel;
All I think, or speak, or do—take my heart, but make it new.
“Now, O God, Thine own I am; now I give Thee back Thine own;
Freedom, friends, and health and fame, consecrate to Thee alone;
Thine I live, thrice happy I! Happier still if Thine to die.”—Charles Wesley.
“I thank Thee, Lord, for using me for Thee to work and speak;
However trembling is the hand, the voice however weak.
“For those to whom, through me, Thou hast some heavenly guidance given;
For some, it may be, saved from death, and some brought nearer heaven.
“Oh, honour higher, truer far, than earthly fame could bring,
Thus to be used in work like this, so long, by such a King!
“A blunted sword, a rusted spear, which only He could wield;
A broken sickle in His hand to reap His harvest field.”—Bonar.
NEARNESS TO GOD
Favoured places:—Eden, Peniel, Sinai, Temple, Transfiguration Mount, Olivet, etc.
Favoured persons: Enoch, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, David, Elijah, Daniel Stephen, Paul, John.
SPIRITUAL BENEFACTORS. Oar power to benefit others will just be in proportion to our personal holiness. “Speak for eternity,” says Mr. Cheyne, “but above all, cultivate your own spirit. A word spoken by you when your conscience is clear, when your heart is full of God’s Spirit, is worth two thousand words spoken in unbelief and sin. This was my great fault in the ministry. Remember it is not man but God that must have the glory. It is not so much speaking as faith that is heard.”
“The vertical power of religion in the heart is the truest measure of its horizontal power in the world.”—Bowes.
When one that holds communion with the skies,
Has filled his urn where those pure waters rise,
And once more mingles with us meaner things—
’Tis e’en as if an angel shook his wings;
Immortal fragrance fills the circuit wide,
That tells us whence his treasures are supplied.”—Cowper.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Leviticus 9". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 13 / Ordinary 18