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Aaron therefore went unto the altar.
Aaron in the duties of his office
The duties of the high priest, as exhibited in this chapter, divide themselves into two general classes. Some of his services related exclusively to himself, and the rest exclusively to the people. Aaron, though a priest, was still a man, with all the wants and infirmities of men. He consequently needed atonement as much as those for whom he was to officiate. And before he was allowed to proceed with his duties for others, he was required to offer sacrifices for himself.
1. Aaron was first of all to offer a calf for a sin-offering. And it may be that this was intended to refer back to his great sin in the matter of the “golden calf,” which he had been prevailed upon to make for the worship of the people while Moses was in the mount. It is a hard thing to shake off the degrading recollection of any marked deed of wrong! The soil of sin upon the conscience cannot be easily washed out. I once heard a man say with tears upon his cheeks, that if he owned a world, he would willingly and gladly give it to have certain recollections of crime blotted from his mind. He was a pious man--a man who had solemnly consecrated himself to labours for the good of his kind; but the thought of his former deeds of shame haunted him like a demon, and clouded his brightest peace. Aaron had done a great evil in the sight of God, and the dark shadow of its remembrance followed him even into the honours of his high priesthood, and stood before him every time he came to enter into the Tabernacle of the Most High.
2. The second offering which Aaron was to make for himself was the holocaust, or whole burnt-offering. In addition to his special sin he was a common sinner with all other men. He needed justification by the blood of Jesus, just as everybody else. There is a sense in which all are equally guilty before God, the high and the low, the rich and the poor, the young and the old, the learned and the ignorant, the priest and the people. And the only deliverance from this common guilt, as from all other guilt, is through the one great offering of “The Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.” Even Aaron in his priesthood needs it just as much as the wickedest and vilest of the race. These preliminary and personal services having been attended to, Aaron proceeded, as God directed, to perform the duties of his office for the people for whom he was ordained. A sin-offering, a burnt-offering, a peace-offering, and a meat-offering had been prescribed, and his functions with reference to these he now proceeded to discharge. Let us, then, contemplate him in the solemn service.
1. Aaron’s first official duties were connected with the altar at the door of the Tabernacle, and were all performed in the presence of the people. Now, in order to understand the typical meaning of all this, it will be necessary to observe that Christ is at once the priest and the sacrifice. It was impossible to unite these two things in the type. They stand in the Levitical ritual as distinct, and they are not at all confounded together in the great mediation of Calvary. But we must bear in mind that Christ is at the same time the victim and the High Priest who officiates in offering that victim. When He was led forth to His immolation, He was the lamb without blemish and also the one who was to lay its body upon the fire, and sprinkle its blond upon the altar. As the apostle tells us, “He offered up Himself.” He is the great High Priest who officiated at His own immolation. It was He Himself that presided at the awful ceremony, in which all His joints were relaxed, and all the binding ligaments of His being cut asunder, and all the tender parts of His most interior nature torn out for burning--and His body, soul, and spirit, laid down as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. It was by His own will that the blow was struck; that the blood flowed; that every covering and protection was torn off; and the whole blessed Christ reduced to a mangled and lifeless mass around and upon the altar of God. And it is this very fact that so infinitely ennobles, exalts, and dignifies Christ’s sacrifice. It was a willing surrender of Himself to death. There is a very remarkable expression in the fifteenth verse to which I desire to call your particular attention in this connection. You read there that Aaron “took the sin-offering for the people, and slew it, and offered it for sin.” A stricter rendering of the original, as noted by various critics, would be, “He sinned it,” or, “He made it to be sin.” The same diction occurs in Leviticus 6:26. The idea is, that the sin-offering somehow had the sin transferred to it, or laid on it, or was so linked with the sin for which it was to atone as to become itself the sinful or sinning one, not actually, but imputatively and constructively. The animal had no sin and was not capable of sinning; but, having been devoted as a sin-offering, and having received upon its head the burden of the guilty one who substituted its life for his own, it came to be viewed and treated as a creature which was nothing but sin. And this brings us to a feature in the sacrificial work of Christ, at which many have stumbled, but which deserves to be profoundly considered. Jesus died, not only as a martyr to the cause He had espoused, not only as an offering apart from the sins of those for whom He came to atone, but as a victim who had received all those sins upon His own head, and so united them with His own innocent and holy person as to be viewed and treated, in part at ]east, as if He Himself had sinned the sins of all sinners. “The Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” “He made Him, who knew no sin, to be sin for us.”
2. Having attended to what was to be done with the sacrifices at the altar, in presence of the people, the next duty of Aaron, as the high priest, was to enter into the sanctuary and the most Holy Place with the blood of the sin-offering, as directed in Exodus 30:1-38. But before entering upon this second grand department of his priesthood he “lifted up his hands towards the people, and blessed them.” It was a very significant act. It was as if he were emptying over them from his bloody hands all the effects and virtues of that blood. And it pointed forward to those gracious transactions of the Lord Jesus subsequent to His offering of Himself for us, and prior to His ascension into heaven. But having thus spread his hands in blessing towards the people, Aaron “went into the Tabernacle,” and was hidden from the view of the solemn worshippers. How beautiful the connection between type and Antitype! Of our Aaron it is written, “He lifted up His hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while He blessed them, He was parted from them, and carried up into heaven”; “while they beheld, He was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight.” Aaron was to enter into the Tabernacle with the atoning blood of the victim slain without. “But Christ being come an High Priest of good things, which were to come, entered into a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, not by the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood . . . For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.” Moses, as the representative of Jehovah in these transactions, accompanied Aaron into the holy places, and delivered over to his care all the vessels of the sanctuary, and put the ordering of all the sacred services into his hands. And thus also hath Jesus “received from God the Father, honour and glory.” But Aaron did not stay in the Tabernacle. He went in after the morning sacrifices were made; bat before the evening sacrifices he again “came out, and blessed the people.” The soul kindles as we proceed with these ancient types. They portray so beautifully the grand mysteries of redemption’s progress. When I read of Aaron returning from his duties in the Holy Place the words of the bright angels that kept guard at the Saviour’s ascension gather new preciousness. “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven.” When Aaron came out of the Holy Place, it was to bless the waiting people. And so it is written of our great High Priest in heaven--“Unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” Most people are afraid of the Saviour’s second coming, and never think of it but with dread. It is because they have not sufficiently considered its nature, and what it is for. It is not to curse, but to bless. It is not to distress, but to heal and save. It is not a thing to be dreaded, but to be prayed for and most earnestly desired. It is the event that is to finish our redemption and complete our bliss. When Aaron came out of the Holy Place, “the glory of the Lord appeared unto all the people.” Nor shall it be otherwise when Christ’s epiphany shall occur. Then shall Jerusalem’s light come, and the glory of the Lord arise upon her. Then shall the pure in heart see God, and the righteous behold the King in His beauty. When Aaron came out of the Holy Place, “there came a fire out from before the Lord, and consumed upon the altar the burnt-offering and the fat.” These things had been “made sin.” It was the exact picture of what is predicted concerning the reappearance of our great High Priest (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9; Malachi 4:1; Hebrews 10:26-27)
. But the fire that darted forth before Aaron, and burned up what was accounted to be sin in that congregation, touched not ,me of the waiting worshippers. They saw it leap out with lightning fierceness, and lick up the guilty mass in a moment, but it came not near either of them. Not a saint of God shall be burned by the terrific fires of the Great Day. When the wicked are cut off, they shall see it. But He who upholds the worlds, yet marks the sparrow’s fall, says to His people: “When these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads: for your redemption draweth nigh.” Nay, when the congregation of Israel saw the fires, “they shouted” and adored. They “fell on their faces” for very ecstasy, and holy worshipful admiration. They had expected much, but the thing transcended their most rapturous imaginings. And so, in the day of our Saviour’s coming, there is a joy, and glory, and holy exultation, and adoring gladness, for the people of God, which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived. (J. A. Seiss, D. D.)
For to-day the Lord will appear unto you.
Sacrificial preparation for Jehovah a appearing
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 affecting 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 obtaining the Divine favour.
3. By conciliatory acts of propitiation (peace-offering), thus removing all estrangement.
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” (cf. 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.” (W. H. Jellie.)
Sometimes, perhaps, you have passed in the daytime through some public place where at night there was to be a magnificent exhibition of pyrotechnic art, and you have seen the figures that are to be lighted up as they stand ready for the exhibition. They are very plain and common-looking. You can see in the rude outlines the forms of men, the crown upon the kingly brow, and the jewels that flash from it; but there is no beauty and glory whatever about them. But wait till the eventide, till the sun goes down, and the master of ceremonies appears on the scene, and suddenly, at the signal, perhaps of a trumpet-blast or a chorus of melody, the lights are turned on and a blaze of glory lights up the scene. Every figure stands out in radiant light, and the whole scene is illuminated, transfigured, and seems almost supernatural. So it will be when our Master appears, and these bodies of humiliation shall be lighted up with His brightness, and all the members shall shine with the beauty and majesty of their living Head, and He shall reveal all His glory in His heavenly Bride.
Aaron lifted up his hand toward the, people, and blessed them.--
A solemn benediction
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 a, dent 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 bestowed.
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--
(1) Live a life of nearest intercourse with the Lord--a “life hid with Christ in God”;
(2) fulfil the solemn office of gracious intercessors for men, winning blessings by secret prayers. (W. H. Jellie.)
Blessing the people
I. THE RECOGNITION OF MAN’S GREATEST NEED, viz., GOD’S BLESSING. Probably the formulary employed was that recorded in Numbers 6:23-27, or Psalms 90:17. What a complete and comprehensive blessing! 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--
1. Infinite fulness.
2. Inestimable graciousness; for all men and all time.
II. The declaration of god’s greatest joy, viz., Blessing men. 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.
1. In equity. He had not connived at iniquity, had not accepted man into His confidence and communion without obedience and satisfaction.
2. 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.
3. 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. (F. W. Brown.)
Christ’s priestly blessing
Jewish priests were required to give the blessing--or, as we say, “pronounce the benediction”--at the close of their religious meetings, as the ministers of the gospel do now. And this was especially done at the close of the solemn service here among the Jews every year on what was called “the great Day of Atonement.” We know what the words were which the priests used on these occasions. We find them in Numbers 6:24-26. They are these: “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.” These words are very beautiful. But then the Jewish priests could only use them as a kind of prayer. But they had no power to give the people these blessings. And here we see the great difference between all other priests and Jesus, our heavenly Priest. He not only speaks the words of blessing, but He really gives the blessings those words represent. This was what He meant when He said to His disciples, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you” (John 14:27). The world, or the people in the world, can only wish or pray that we may have peace. But Jesus can give peace. Yes, and not only peace, but pardon, and hope, and joy, and grace, and every blessing that we need, Jesus is able to give. He came to bless the world. He did bless it while He was in it. He “went about doing good.” He was scattering blessings wherever He went. And He is doing the same still. He loves to bless; and the store of blessings He has to draw upon is so large and full that it never can fail. Look at yonder sun. For thousands of years it has been shining away all the time; and yet the sun has as much light to give to-day as it had in the day when God first made it. Or look at yonder ocean. It has been giving up its water to supply the springs and fountains of the earth ever since it was made; and yet there is as much water in the ocean to-day as there was thousands of years ago. And so it is with Jesus. For thousands of years He has been giving away blessings continually; and yet He has as many to give to-day as though He had never given one before. He came to bless the world. He has blessed it, and He is blessing it still. He is blessing nations and families and individuals in such a way as nothing else can bless them. (Richard Newton, D. D.)
There came a fire out from before the Lord.--
The miraculous fire
I. Some of the facts which the flashing fire confirmed.
1. That the sacrifices were Divinely accepted.
2. That the priests were Divinely accredited.
3. That the Tabernacle was Divinely appropriated.
II. Some of the effects which the flashing fire produced.
1. Holy rapture.
3. Sacred awe.
4. 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; 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. Brown.)
God’s acceptance of the sacrifices
I. The testimonies of God’s acceptance. These were of different kinds.
1. Ministerial. Moses and Aaron having finished all that 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 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 Mancah (Judges 6:21-22; Judges 13:19-22); but being prepared, they rent the air with their shouts. The inward triumph of Paul seems 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.
(1) 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.
(2) 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.)
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 attesting 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. Three 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 Israel’s 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. Oh, then, let every breath praise God! Let every hour of every day be inward worship! (Dean Law.)
Of the divers occasions of the sending of miraculous fire upon the sacrifices
1. One occasion was when in the confusion of things they had need of some unwonted confirmation; as when Gideon was appointed to be the deliverer of the people this figure was given him in that confused state to confirm him in his calling (Judges 6:21).
2. Another reason was when God’s worship was to be maintained against idolatry and false worship; as when Elijah contended with Baal’s priests the like miracle was shown (1 Kings 18:38).
3. And further when the Lord was pleased to give assurance of His favour and reconciliation after some sin committed; as when David had numbered the people, and the Lord being therewith offended had sent a great plague, He showed his acceptance of David’s sacrifice by answering him by fire from heaven (1 Chronicles 21:26).
4. By the sending also of fire the Lord gave assurance of His perpetual presence and assistance; as at the dedication of Solomon’s Temple. Thereby He testified that the mount of Sion pleased Him.
5. And hereby also the Lord gave approbation of His own ordinance, as here He doth demonstrate Himself to be the Author of the legal priesthood. (A. Willet, D. D.)
The fire in the gospel
This fire which came from God upon Aaron’s sacrifice representeth the spiritual force of the gospel. The fire hath four properties--to give light, to heat, to examine and try, to consume; so the Word of God is a lantern to our feet; it inflameth the heart; it trieth our life and doctrine; it consumeth and purgeth our sin. Ambrose here saith well, “Thou art the bush, I the fire in the bush; I therefore am as fire in the flesh, that I may give thee light and consume thy sins.” (A. Willet, D. D.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Leviticus 9". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28