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PART II. THE INSTITUTION OF AN HEREDITARY PRIESTHOOD
THE CONSECRATION OF AARON AND HIS SONS is the natural sequel of the foregoing division of the book. The sacrificial system, which had now been instituted in its completeness, required a priesthood to administer it. Originally the head of each Hebrew family was priest to his own household, to offer gifts betokening self-surrender and communion with God—burnt sacrifices and sacrifices similar in character to the peace offerings. The first step from hence to the hereditary priesthood was the hallowing the firstborn of the Israelites to God's service, after the Israelitish firstborn had been delivered from the destruction which fell upon the firstborn of Egypt (Numbers 3:13). The second was the substitution of the tribe of Levi for the firstborn (Numbers 3:41-45), on account of the zeal which the Levites exhibited above the other tribes at the time of the idolatry of the golden calf (Exodus 32:26). Now, out of the tribe of Levi is chosen the one family of Aaron, to form an hereditary priesthood, consisting at first of five persons, quickly reduced to three by the death of Nadab and Abihu. This small body would have been sufficient for the needs of the people while they were still in the wilderness, and leading the life of the camp. With the increase of the nation the family of Aaron and his sons increased likewise, until, in the time of David, it was necessary to subdivide it into twenty-four courses for the orderly fulfillment of the functions of the priesthood. As the institution of the priesthood was necessary for carrying out the sacrificial system, so the sacrifices were necessary for the consecration of the priests. By means of the sacrifices the priests are consecrated, Moses performing on the occasion, and for the last time, the priestly functions. Appended to the record of their consecration is an account of the first acts of the newly created priests (Leviticus 9:1-24), and of the death of two of them (Leviticus 10:1-20). This is the only historical section in the book; and the death of the blasphemer (Leviticus 24:1-23.)is the only other historical event recorded in it, if at least we except such passages as, "And he did as the Lord commanded Moses" (Leviticus 16:34; Leviticus 21:24; Leviticus 23:44),
These verses contain the preliminaries of the ceremony of consecration. Aaron and his sons are to be brought to the door of the tabernacle, together with all that is necessary for the performance of the rite that is about to take place. The words in the second verse, a bullock for the sin offering, and two rams, and a basket of unleavened bread, should be translated, the bullock for the sin offering and the two rants and the basket. The garments, the anointing oil, the bullock, the two rams, and the basket of unleavened bread and cakes, had all been previously enjoined, when Moses was on the mount (Exodus 28:1-43, Exodus 29:1-46, Exodus 30:1-38). These previous injunctions are referred to in the words, This is the thing which the Lord commanded to be done (Leviticus 8:5).
Washing, robing, anointing, sacrificing, are the four means by the joint operation of which the consecration is effected. The washing, or bathing, took place in the sight of the people. The whole of the person, except so much as was covered by the linen drawers (Exodus 28:42), was washed. The symbolical significance is clear. Cleansing from sin precedes clothing in righteousness and spiritual unction.
The robing. The various articles of the priestly dress had been appointed and described before (Exodus 28:1-43, Exodus 29:1-46). In these verses we see the order in which they were put on. After the priests had, no doubt, changed their linen drawers, there came, first, the coat, that is, a close-fitting tunic of white linen, made with sleeves and covering the whole body; next the girdle of the tunic, that is, a linen sash for tying the tunic round the body, with variegated ends hanging on each side to the ankles; thirdly, the robe, that is, a blue vesture, woven of one piece, with holes for the head and arms to pass through, reaching from the neck to below the knee, the bottom being ornamented with blue, purple, and scarlet pomegranates, alternating with golden bells; fourthly, the ephod, which consisted of two shoulder-pieces, or epaulettes, made of variegated linen and gold thread, fastened together in front and at the back by a narrow strap or band, from which hung, before and behind the wearer, two pieces of cloth confined below by the curious girdle of the ephod, that is, by a sash made of the same material as the ephod itself. Into the ephod were sewn two onyxes, one on each shoulder, in gold filigree settings, one of them engraven with the names of half of the tribes, and the other with the remaining half; and from two rosettes or buttons by the side of these stones depended twisted gold chains for the support of the breastplate. Fifth came the breastplate, which was a square pocket, made of embroidered linen, a span long and a span broad, worn upon the breast and hanging from the gold chains above mentioned, the lower ends of the gold chain being tied to two rings at the upper and outer corner of the breastplate, while the upper and inner corner of the same was attached to the ephod by blue thread running through two sets of rings in the breastplate and ephod respectively. The outer side of the breastplate was stiffened and adorned by twelve precious stones, set in four rows of three, each stone having on it the name of one of the tribes of Israel. The breastplate being double and the two sides and the bottom being sewn up, the pocket formed by it had its opening at the top. Into this pocket were placed the Urim and the Thummim, which were probably two balls of different colours, one of which on being drawn out indicated the approval of God, and the other his disapproval, as to any point on which the high priest consulted him. (The Jewish tradition, that the Divine answer by the Urim and the Thummim came by a supernatural light thrown on certain letters in the names of the tribes, has no foundation.) The last part of the dress to be put on was the mitre, or head-dress of linen, probably of the nature of a turban; to which, by a blue string, was attached the golden plate, in such a way that it rested lengthwise on the forehead, and on this plate or holy crown were inscribed the words," Holiness to the Lord." The investiture took place as the Lord commanded Moses, that is, in accordance with the instructions given in Exodus 28:1-43. Its purpose and its meaning in the eyes of the people would have been twofold: first, after the manner of the king's crown and the judge's robe, it served to manifest the fact that the function of priest was committed to the wearer; and next, it symbolized the necessity of being clothed upon with the righteousness of God, in order to be able to act as interpreter and mediator between God and man, thus foreshadowing the Divine Nature of him who should be the Mediator in antitype.
Leviticus 8:10, Leviticus 8:11
The anointing is still more specifically the means of consecration than the investing or the washing. (For the anointing oil, which is here referred to as a thing well known, see Exodus 30:22-25, where its component parts are designated.) The consecration of things as well as of persons is sanctioned by the action of Moses, who anointed the tabernacle and all that was therein, and sanctified them. They were thus set apart for holy purposes. By all that was therein would be meant the ark, the vail, the altar of incense, the candlesticks, the table of show-bread. After the tabernacle and its furniture had been anointed, the altar—that is, the brazen altar—and all his vessels, both the laver and his foot, were sprinkled; not once only, as the things within the tabernacle, but seven times, to show that it was specially holy, although situated only in the court. The laver, for the priests' use, was between the door of the tabernacle and the brazen altar of burnt offering. Its foot, or base, is described in Exodus 38:8, as made, according to the translation of the Authorized Version, "of brass, of the looking-glasses of the women assembling, which assembled at the door of the tabernacle.''
He poured of the anointing oil upon Aaron's head. The change of the verb poured for sprinkled, indicates that the amount of "the precious ointment" poured "upon the head, that ran down unto the beard, and went down to the skirts of his garments" (Psalms 133:2), was far greater than that with which the furniture of the tabernacle had been anointed. The oil sprinkled on the holy things sanctified them as means of grace. The oil poured upon Aaron represents the grace of the Holy Spirit, coming from without, but diffusing itself over and throughout the whole consecrated man.
The investiture of Aaron's sons—Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, Ithamar—follows the consecration of their father. They are robed, according as the Lord commanded Moses in Exodus 28:40, in the white tunic, the sash, and the cap. But there is no statement here of their being anointed, although their anointing is ordered in Exodus 28:41, and still more imperatively in Exodus 40:15. They are spoken of as "anointed" in Leviticus 7:36, and as having "the anointing oil of the Lord upon them" in Le Exodus 10:7. On the other hand, the high priest is specially designated as "the priest that is anointed" (Leviticus 4:3). It is probable that the personal anointing of the ordinary priests was confined to their being sprinkled with oil, as described below in verse 30; but that they were regarded as virtually anointed in Aaron's anointing. The Levites had no special dress until they obtained permission from Herod Agrippa I[. to wear the priestly robes (Joseph; 'Ant.,' 20.9, 6).
After the bathing, the robing, and the anointing, follow the sacrifices of consecration—the sin offering (Leviticus 8:14-17), the burnt offering (Leviticus 8:18-21), the peace offering (Leviticus 8:22-32).
The sin offering. This was the first sin offering ever offered. There had been burnt offerings and sacrifices akin to peace offerings before, but no sin offerings. At once the sin offering takes its place as the first of the three sacrifices before the burnt offerings and peace offerings. Justification comes first, then sanctification, and, following upon them, communion with God. The victim offered by and for Aaron and his sons is a bullock, the same animal that is appointed for the offering of the high priest (Leviticus 4:3).
And Moses took the blood. Moses continues still to act as priest, and the new sacrifice is once offered by him. He performs the priestly act of presenting the blood; but on this occasion, which is special, the blood is not dealt with in the manner prescribed for the high priest's offerings (Leviticus 4:6). The reason of this is that Aaron was not yet high priest, and also that the offering was made not only for Aaron, but also for his sons; and further, the blood as well as the anointing oil was required to purify the altar, and sanctify it (see Hebrews 9:21). Although the blood was not "brought into the tabernacle," yet the bullock was burnt with fire without the camp, not eaten according to the rule of Le Leviticus 7:26, Leviticus 7:30. This was necessary, as there were as yet no priests to eat it.
There is no deviation on the present occasion from the ritual appointed for the burnt offering. After the sin offering, righteousness is symbolically imputed to Aaron; after the burnt offering, holiness; then follows the peace offering of the ram, which completes and sacrificially effects the consecration.
The ram offered as a peace offering is called the ram of consecration, or literally, of filling, because one of the means by which the consecration was effected and exhibited was the filling the hands of those presented for consecration with the portion of the sacrifice destined for the altar, which they waved for a wave offering before the Lord, previous to its consumption by the fire. This portion consisted of the internal fat and tail, which was usually burnt (Leviticus 7:31), and the heave offering of the right shoulder, or hind leg, which generally went to the officiating priest (Leviticus 7:32), and one of each of the unleavened cakes. After this special ceremony of waving, peculiar to the rite of consecration, the usual wave offering (the breast) was waved by Moses and consumed by himself. Ordinarily it was for the priests in general (Leviticus 7:31). The blood was poured on the side of the altar, as was done in all peace offerings, but in addition, on the present occasion, it was put upon the tip of the right ear, and upon the thumb of the right hand, and upon the great toe of the right foot of the priests who were being consecrated, symbolizing that their senses and active powers were being devoted to God's service. The same ceremony is to be used in the restoration of the leper (see Leviticus 14:14).
The sprinkling with oil and blood completes the ceremony of anointing, and suffices of itself for the sons of Aaron, in addition to their virtual participation in the anointing of their father (Leviticus 8:12). "In the mingling of the blood and oil for the anointing seems to be taught that not sacrifice for sin alone suffices; but that with this must be joined the unction of the Holy Spirit" (Gardiner).
Leviticus 8:31, Leviticus 8:32
The flesh of the peace offering is given to Aaron and his sons to eat, not in the capacity of priests (for the peace offerings were not eaten by the priests), but as the offerers of the sacrifice.
The sacrificial ceremonies were repeated for seven days, during which Aaron and his sons remained in the court of the tabernacle, but did not enter the holy place, abstaining throughout that time from ministering, as the apostles did during the interval between the Ascension and the day of Pentecost. The words, Ye shall not go out of the door of the tabernacle, should rather be, Ire shall not go away from the entrance of the tabernacle, and for seven days shall he consecrate you, should rather be, during seven days ye shall be consecrated
which had existed from the beginning of the world, is now for the first time made the exclusive and hereditary function of one family so far as the Israelitish nation is concerned.
I. AARON AND HIS SONS ARE APPOINTED, NOT BY THE NATION, BUT BY GOD. In Exodus 28:1, we read, "And take thou unto thee Aaron thy. brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister unto me in the priest's office." In Le Exodus 8:2-5, "Take Aaron and his sons with him And Moses said unto the congregation, This is the thing which the Lord commanded to be done." In Numbers 18:7, "I have given your priest's office unto you as a service of gift." In 1 Samuel 2:28, "Did I choose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to offer upon mine altar, to burn incense, to wear an ephod before me? and did I give unto the house of thy father all the offerings made by fire of the children of Israel?" These texts and the whole tenor of Holy Scripture clearly declare that the appointment of Aaron and his sons to the priesthood was the act of God. On the other side, there is no statement whatever to prove or to indicate that they were, as has been affirmed, merely the delegates of the people, so far as the priestly capacity of the latter is concerned. The only passage alleged to have a gearing in that direction is the following:—"Take the Levites from among the children of Israel, and cleanse them And thou shalt bring the Levites before the Lord: and the children of Israel shall put their hands upon the Levites" (Numbers 8:6-10). It is argued that the laying on of hands upon the Levites by the congregation was a delegation of power already existing in the congregation to them. If this were so, still the Levites were not the priests; the act would have been a delegation of the right and function only which the Levites possessed—and these were not priestly functions, but the office of waiting upon the service of the tabernacle. But the laying on of hands, in itself, means no more than setting apart, and, in the case of the Levite, we are told that its special meaning was setting apart as an offering or sacrifice. "And Aaron shall offer the Levites before the Lord for an offering of the children of Israel, that they may execute the service of the Lord.… And Aaron offered them as an offering before the Lord; and Aaron made an atonement for them to cleanse them. And after that went the Levites in to do their service in the tabernacle of the congregation before Aaron, and before his sons: as the Lord had commanded Moses concerning the Levites, so did they unto them" (Numbers 8:11-22). The consecration of the priests was entirely distinct from the dedication of the Levites, and had taken place previously to it. The priest was the minister of God; the Levite was the minister of the priest. None can make a priest of God but God himself.
II. QUALIFICATIONS FOR THE PRIESTHOOD.
1. Aaronic descent (see Exodus 28:1-43; Exodus 8:1-32; 2 Chronicles 31:17-19; Ezra 2:62; Nehemiah 7:64).
2. Physical integrity and freedom from blemish. "No man that hath a blemish of the seed of Aaron the priest shall come nigh to offer the offerings of the Lord made by fire: he hath a blemish; he shall not come nigh to offer the bread of his God. He shall eat the bread of his God, both of the most holy, and of the holy. Only he shall not go in unto the vail, nor come nigh unto the altar, because he hath a blemish; that he profane not my sanctuaries" (Leviticus 21:21-23).
3. Respectable marriage (Leviticus 21:7); in the case of the high priest, marriage with one previously unmarried, "in her virginity" (Leviticus 21:13). The two last qualifications symbolize the integrity of heart and purity of life and surroundings which are requisite in the minister of God, Further, at the time of his ministrations, the priest must be free from any ceremonial uncleanness (Leviticus 22:3, Leviticus 22:4), and must abstain from wine (Leviticus 10:8, Leviticus 10:10), the purity and collectedness demanded of God's minister at all times being specially required while he is officiating.
III. WHEREIN THE PRIEST'S OFFICE CONSISTED.
1. It consisted in "offering gifts and sacrifices for sins" (Hebrews 5:1), this expression including all kinds of offerings and sacrifices by which men drew near to God, together with the burning of incense symbolical of prayer. The priest's action was necessary for the offering of the sacrificial blood and burning the flesh upon the altar, and in some cases for consuming a portion of the victims themselves.
2. It consisted in bestowing benedictions (see Numbers 6:23-27, "Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying, On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel.… And they shall put my Name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them").
3. It consisted in mediating between God and man, as in the rebellion of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, when "Moses said unto Aaron, Take a censer, and put fire therein from off the altar, and put on incense, and go quickly unto the congregation, and make an atonement for them: for there is wrath gone out from the Lord; the plague is begun. And Aaron took as Moses commanded, and ran into the midst of the congregation; and, behold, the plague was begun among the people: and he put on incense, and made an atonement for the people. And he stood between the dead and the living; and the plague was stayed" (Numbers 16:46-48).
4. It consisted in their being the teachers of the people, "That ye may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the Lord hath spoken unto them by the hand of Moses" (Leviticus 10:11). "They shall teach Jacob thy judgments, and Israel thy Law" (Deuteronomy 33:10). "For the priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the Law at his mouth" (Malachi 2:7). Besides being teachers, they Were judges of differences, "By their word shall every controversy and every stroke be tried" (Deuteronomy 21:5; see Deuteronomy 17:8-12; 2 Chronicles 19:8-10). They were also leaders of the people's devotions: "Let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O Lord, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God?" (Joel 2:17).
5. In addition, "to the priests belonged the care of the sanctuary and sacred utensils, the preservation of the fire on the brazen altar, the burning of incense on the golden altar, the dressing and lighting of the lamps of the golden candlestick, the charge of the shew-bread and other like duties. They were necessarily concerned in all those multitudinous acts of the Israelites which were connected with sacrifices, such as the accomplishment of the Nazarite vow, the ordeal of jealousy, the expiation of an unknown murder, the determination of the unclean and of the cleansed leprous persons, garments, and houses; the regulation of the calendar, the valuation of devoted property which was to be redeemed;—these and a multitude of other duties followed naturally from their priestly office. They were also to blow the silver trumpets on various occasions of their use, and, in connection with this, to exhort the soldiers about to engage in battle to boldness, because they went to fight under the Lord" (Gardiner).
IV. THE EXERCISE OF THE PRIEST'S ESSENTIAL FUNCTIONS WAS CONFINED EXCLUSIVELY TO THEIR ORDER. It has been argued that the office of performing sacrifice was shared by
(1) the Jewish monarchs,
(2) the rulers,
(3) the Levites,
(4) the people in general.
1. The first hypothesis has been supported by an appeal to the following passages:—Solomon "came to Jerusalem, and stood before the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and offered up burnt offerings, and offered peace offerings, and made a feast to all his servants" (1 Kings 3:15); "And the king, and all Israel with him, offered sacrifice before the Lord. And Solomon offered a sacrifice of peace offerings, which he offered unto the Lord" (1 Kings 8:62, 1 Kings 8:63). They do not, however, mean more than that Solomon presented the offerings for sacrifice, the essential part of which ceremony was no doubt performed, as always, by priests. Saul, indeed, sacrificed at Gilgal, on plea of necessity, but, in spite of even that plea, was reproved by Samuel as having "done foolishly" (1 Samuel 13:13); and Uzziah "went into the temple of the Lord to burn incense upon the altar of incense;" but Azariah the priest "withstood Uzziah the king, and said unto him, It appertaineth not unto thee, Uzziah, to burn incense unto the Lord, but to the priests the sons of Aaron, that are consecrated to burn incense: go out of the sanctuary; for thou hast trespassed; neither shall it be for thine honour from the Lord God And the leprosy even rose up in his forehead before the priests in the house of the Lord" (2 Chronicles 26:16-20). These cases disprove the priestly power of the monarch.
2. The supposition that the nobles could perform priestly acts rests upon the fact that the name cohen is sometimes applied to them (2 Samuel 8:18; 1 Kings 4:2, 1 Kings 4:5); but the word (the derivation of which is doubtful) appears to have a wider usage than that of "priest," and to mean also "officers" (cf. 1 Chronicles 18:17).
3. The destruction of the company of Korah, because, being Levites, they "sought the priesthood also" (Numbers 16:10), disposes of the priestly rights of the tribe of Levi.
4. And the swallowing up of Dathan and Abiram, whose sin was that of desiring to equalize themselves with the family of Aaron, on the plea that the latter "took too much upon them, seeing that all the congregation were holy, every one of them" (Numbers 16:3), disproves the right of all the congregation to exercise priestly function, however much they might be, in a sense, a nation of priests. According to the Mosaic legislation, the spirituality and temporality were kept apart, nor were they united, except when royal powers came, in the later days of the nation's history, to be attached to the office of high priest—a course which a considerable section of the Christian Church attempted, with less excuse, to follow in mediaeval and subsequent times, when the principle, "My kingdom is not of this world" (John 19:36) became obscured or forgotten.
V. THE CEREMONIES OF THE CONSECRATION.
1. Bathing, robing, anointing, signifying cleansing, justifying, sanctifying.
2. Sacrifices in their behalf—sin offerings, burnt offerings, peace offerings, symbolizing their reconciliation with God, the surrender of themselves to him, and their peace with him.
3. Watching for seven days in the tabernacle court, each day renewing the sacrifices; giving opportunity for self-recollection, and for devoting themselves heart and soul to him whose special servants they were to be.
VI. THE AARONIC PRIESTHOOD WAS A TYPE OF THE PRIESTHOOD OF CHRIST. The type was accomplished in the Antitype, and the Levitical priesthood is now wholly abolished (see Hebrews 7:1-28 and Hebrews 8:1-13).
VII. LIKENESS YET CONTRAST OF THE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY. We learn from Ephesians 4:8, Ephesians 4:11, Ephesians 4:12, that on Christ's ascension into heaven, he received of his Father the gifts of the holy Ghost, which he then bestowed upon his Church, to be administered and dispensed by apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers; the grace of government being ministered by apostles, and, after they had died out, by bishops; the grace of exposition by prophets; the grace of conversion by evangelists; the grace of edification by pastors and teachers, or presbyters. We should note here the superiority of the Christian to the Jewish ministry, the functions of offering sacrifice and of mediating between God and man being far inferior to that of being the dispensers to man of the gifts of the Holy Ghost himself; and the error of any who think to dignify and elevate the character of the Christian ministry by assimilating it to the Jewish.
VIII. THE NEED OF AN OUTWARD CALL IN BOTH CASES. "NO man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron" (Hebrews 5:4); so that even Christ waited to be "called of God" before commencing his ministry. The outward sign of Aaron's having been called of God was his anointing, and the other ceremonies of initiation; and every subsequent high priest had to be anointed and initiated in the same manner as Aaron, and by the same forms, before he was regarded, and before he could become, high priest. The outward sign of the call in the Christian ministry is the laying on of hands. So it was in the case of the seven deacons (Acts 6:6), and in St. Paul's case (Acts 13:3), and in that of Timothy (1 Timothy 4:14). And all subsequent ministers of Christ have to be appointed in like manner by those "who have publick authority given unto them in the Congregation, to call and send Ministers into the Lord's vineyard" (Art. 33).
IX. ALL CHRISTIANS ARE A ROYAL PRIESTHOOD (1 Peter 2:9). As the Israelites were a kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:5), so too are Christians consecrated to God in baptism, channels of grace to each other, and therefore each in a special manner his brother's keeper. Practical duties thence flowing—brotherly affection, loving-kindness, care for the souls of others, tenderness to the weak.
HOMILIES BY R.M. EDGAR
cf. Luke 3:21, Luke 3:22; Hebrews 4:14-16; Hebrews 5:1-14; Hebrews 7:1-28; Hebrews 8:1-13; Hebrews 9:1-28; 1Pe 2:4, 1 Peter 2:5, 1 Peter 2:9. In this chapter we have the history of the consecration of the Aaronic priesthood. The stages were briefly these:—Lustration, or, as we would now say, baptism; investiture; anointing; atonement; dedication; consecration; and, finally, communion. The mediation and ministry of this priesthood were essentially dramatic in character, hence it took a long time to present, in the dramatic form, the various ideas which have been just set down as the stages of consecration. Not only so, but they were emphasized by a sevenfold repetition; for seven days the process was to be repeated, at the end of which time Aaron and his sons were regarded as duly set apart for their work. Let us, then, compare the consecration of the high priests with the consecration of the immortal High Priest, Jesus Christ; and, secondly, the consecration of the minor priests with the consecration of believers, who are, as the passage cited from 1 Peter shows, "priests unto God."
I. THE CONSECRATION OF AARON COMPARED WITH THE CONSECRATION OF CHRIST,
Now we have in this comparison, first a contrast, and then a parallel. It will be useful to take these up in this order—
1. The elements of contrast in the consecrations. And here we notice:
(1) That Aaron's consecration implies his infirmity and sinfulness, whereas Christ never assumed the penitential position. The baptism of Jesus Christ (Luke 3:21, Luke 3:22) is the historical counterpart of Aaron's consecration. And although John's baptism was unto repentance, we know our Lord took up the sinless position even unto the end, challenging all comers to convince him of sin (John 8:46). We shall see presently what his acceptance of John's baptism signified. One thing meanwhile is clear, that he professed to be "holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners." Now, in this respect he was a complete contrast to Aaron. Aaron, in the consecration, takes up the penitential position. He has to be typically washed and sprinkled with blood.
(2) Aaron's consecration implied a temporary high priesthood, while Jesus is set apart to an everlasting priesthood. The association of Aaron's sons with him in the priesthood indicated plainly that death would sooner or later necessitate a successor. Moreover, there are sundry indications in the regulations about the successors. It was, therefore, only a temporary office. "They were not suffered to continue by reason of death." But Jesus was set apart to an everlasting office. "This man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood" (Hebrews 7:24-28). So much briefly about the contrast.
2. The parallel in the consecrations. And here we have to notice:
(1) Both Aaron and Christ are formally set apart. What Moses did for Aaron, John the Baptist did for Christ. Not, of course, that our Lord's priesthood had an existence only after his baptism; we merely mean that the baptism in the Jordan was the formality with which his ministry began, and corresponded to the consecration of Aaron by Moses. The crowd at the tabernacle door to witness Aaron's consecration corresponded to the crowd of candidates at the Jordan who witnessed the baptism of Jesus, though its significance and singularity they did not appreciate.
(2) Both Aaron and Christ willingly dedicated themselves to their work. We have already noticed how Aaron needed a cleansing by water and blood, which Jesus did not. The sin offering is what Jesus provided for others, not what he requires for himself. But when we enter this caveat about the different relations of the two persons towards atonement, we are in a position to appreciate the parallel between them in personal dedication. This was what Aaron's burnt offering implied, lie offered himself willingly for the priestly work. And the same dedication of self we find in the baptism of Jesus. He claimed baptism after all the people (ἅπαντα τὸν λαόν) were baptized (Luke 3:21), in other words, after the movement inaugurated by John had become national. John did not at first understand why a sinless One like Jesus should demand baptism from one who was sinful. But Jesus quieted his fears by the assurance, "Thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness" (Matthew 3:15). The meaning of the act on Christ's part can only have been that he dedicated himself to the fulfillment of all that was needed to realize the national hope. Now, the national repentance was in hope of pardon, and so Jesus' dedication at the Jordan was to death and to all that his priesthood implies, that the people may have their place as pardoned and accepted ones in the kingdom of God. This dedication of Jesus at the Jordan was the spirit of his ministry, and above all of his death. It is this he refers to in the momentous words, "For their sakes I sanctify (ἁγιάζω) myself, that they also may be sanctified through the truth" (John 17:19).
(3) Both Aaron and Jesus received certain blessings from God in response to their self-dedication, the gracious gifts of God to his high priests may for brevity's sake be summed up into three.
(a) The gift of REVELATION, to enable them to understand their office, and faithfully to fulfill it, This is presented in the investiture of Aaron, especially in the arrangement about the Urim and Thummim. The beautiful garments and this mysterious portion which lay upon the high priest's bosom were to convey certain ideas about the office, and to secure in him the oracular man, Now, in the baptism of Christ, as he was praying with uplifted eye, he saw "heaven opened;" that is, the source of light, the fountain of all knowledge, was opened to him, In other words, he obtained and had continued to him a full revelation of all which he needed for his work.
(b) The gift of UNCTION OR INSPIRATION, to enable them to interpret the revelation already guaranteed. This was indicated by the anointing of Aaron, not only on the head, but on the ear, hand, and foot. In this way the needful inspiration was symbolized, and the ritual of the ram of consecration coincided therewith. In Christ's case the perfect inspiration was symbolized by the descent of the dove. The dove being an organic whole, a totality, indicates that to Jesus there was communicated the entirety of the Holy Spirit, for the purposes of his priesthood. "The Holy Spirit was not given by measure unto him," and "out of his fullness do all we receive, and grace for grace" (John 3:34; John 1:16).
(c) The gift of COMMUNION AND ABIDING. Aaron, after the ritual of the sin offering, burnt offering, and consecration offering was over, and the best portions had been laid upon God's altar, was called to communion in the feast at the door of the tabernacle. There he was to abide in the enjoyment of fellowship with God, and in this spirit was to do all his work. And the assurance of sonship which Christ received in baptism corresponded to this. The words of the Father, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased;" and "Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17; Luke 3:22), spoken respectively to John and to Jesus, convey the state of sweet assurance of sonship in which our Lord lived all his life. It was this supported him when he foresaw the dispersion of the disciples, "Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me" (John 16:32). The Great, High Priest performed his mediatorial work in an assurance of sonship and in the enjoyment of fellowship. It was only in the climax of his sufferings on the cross, when the desolation came upon him, that for a season he seemed to lose sight of his sonship, and was constrained to cry, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
II. THE CONSECRATION OF THE MINOR PRIESTS COMPARED WITH THE CONSECRATION or RELIEVERS. NOW here we have to notice—
1. That the sons of Aaron were consecrated along with Aaron. It was one consecration. Although the high priest received special anointing, and was chief of the group, the others shared his consecration. The one oil and the one consecrating blood went upon all. The one burnt offering was presented on behalf of all, and they all partook of the one feast and fellowship at last. And is this not to indicate that all believers share in the consecration of Jesus, their Great High Priest? It is the Spirit of Christ and the mind of Christ which is made over to them. He is the reservoir, and out of his fullness all the minor receptacles receive.
2. This fellowship in consecration was with a view to fellowship in service. The priestly service was so arranged that all had a share in it. There were, of course, services in connection with atonement which only the high priest could perform, but there was ample work about the tabernacle for all the minor priests. In the same way the life of believers is to be a consecrated fellowship with Christ in work. "Fellow-workers with God" is the great honour of the religious life. A Divine partnership is what we are asked to enter upon, And this is the greatest honour within the reach of man.—R.M.E.
HOMILIES BY S.R. ALDRIDGE
Leviticus 8:4, Leviticus 8:5
The installation of Aaron.
The origin of any order of men is traced with .interest, and the account given of the appointment of a special class to wait upon the Lord in the service of his sanctuary cannot be read without profit.
I. THE ASSEMBLING OF THE PEOPLE TO WITNESS THE INSTALLATION.
1. It deeply concerned them; the office was created for their benefit. We may witness the investiture of a knight of the Garter, and deem it a gorgeous scene, but one bearing no practical relationship to us. Not so with the coronation of our prince or the ordination of our pastor. By the mediation of the priests the Israelites were to find acceptance with God. And Jesus Christ has been inducted into his lofty position for the advantage of his people. Why, then, turn away and refuse to enjoy this best of privileges? He waits to intercede on our behalf. It is no idle ceremony that the Word of God records, but one having to do with our daily sins, fears, trials, troubles, joys, and blessings. The titles and qualifications of Jesus Christ are of vital moment to our welfare.
2. It was designed to impress them with a sense of the dignity and authority of the priesthood, and of the need of holiness in order to have access unto God. How important the functions to be fulfilled by men who are thus solemnly prepared for their efficient discharge? And how august the Being who could demand such qualifications in those devoted to his service! No careful student of the Gospel narratives but must be struck with the manner in which Jesus Christ was fitted for his office, "perfected" by his obedience, made a "a merciful and faithful High Priest" by his humiliation, and with "the blood of his cross" making reconciliation with God.
3. The presence and tacit concurrence of the people signified a willingness to obey the priests, to honour and support them. They were made parties to the transaction, and acquiesced in its significance. It were well that the meaning of our presence at various meetings were better realized, and that we did more fully redeem the pledges thus implicitly given. God would have all his people enter into contracts with a clear understanding. To secure a compact by concealment of the obligations imposed is no part of his plan of procedure.
II. THE DECLARATION OF MOSES: "This is the thing which the Lord commanded to be done:"
1. Reminds us of the caution to be exercised lest human devices should be thrust forward in religious notions or practices. Men are ready to formulate their own ideas, and to make them ordinances of God's house or kingdom, Ready, too, to renounce what has been instituted, to abolish observances as unnecessary, or to relegate certain attitudes of the Spirit to heathenism and infancy, to make light of sin and of the need of a high priest or a sacrifice.
2. A Divine call is requisite to the undertaking of religious functions, Moses acted as the representative of Jehovah, empowered to consecrate Aaron and his sons. "So also Christ glorified not himself to be made a high priest, but he that said unto him," etc.
3. Contained an intimation that he who appointed could also dismiss the Aaronic priesthood. The legislator has power to revoke his edicts. It was God who caused the order of Aaron to be succeeded by the order of Melchizedek.
4. Indicates the intrinsic superiority of the prophetic to the priestly office. Moses institutes Aaron, the prophet consecrates the priest. Priesthood is remedial, adapted to a peculiar constitution of things. It is a sort of interregnum that is finally to pass away when "the Son shall have delivered up the kingdom to God the Father." It is connected with sin, and sin is being destroyed. Before Adam fell, he received communications from God; the prophetic revelation preceded the priestly sacrifices. The subordination of the priests is often evinced in the Hebrew records, where the denunciations of the prophets show that the priestly ceremonies were intended to be subservient to, not exclusive of, moral sentiments and duties.—S.R.A.
The High Priesthood of Christ.
To direct the thoughts of a congregation to Jesus Christ is never unseasonable. The Epistle to the Hebrews warrants the assumption that in the rites here described are symbolized the characteristics of our Great High Priest. The consecration consists of two parts—the anointing and clothing of the person of Aaron, and his offering of sacrifices; and it is on the former we are now to dwell, reminding us of that Person in whom "all beauties shine, all wonders meet, all glories dwell."
I. See typified THE PURITY OF CHRIST in the washing of the priest from head to foot. As an Eastern climate demands thorough ablution for cleanliness, so was this a lesson man needed to learn, that only purity is tit to come into contact with God. Priesthood bridged the gulf between sinful man and a Being unsullied by admixture of evil. Like all God's dealings, it humbled and exalted man. Taught plainly that he was too polluted to approach his Maker, with equal distinctness he was shown a way in which he might draw near with clean hands and a pure heart. The material and ceremonial purity of Aaron was eclipsed by the total freedom from taint of Christ. He bathed, indeed, in the crystal waters of Jordan at his entrance upon his public ministry, but those waters were stained compared with the purity of his soul.
II. Observe THE SPLENDOUR OF HIS ENDOWMENTS. For every post a certain character is requisite. The putting on of garments represented the bestowment upon Aaron of the qualities essential to the proper discharge of his duties. This was the apparel respecting which the Lord said unto Moses, "Thou shalt make holy garments for Aaron thy brother, for glory and for beauty." Looking at the high priest thus arrayed, we see symbols of the ornaments and graces of Jesus Christ. Note the choice quality of the attire. Everything of the best, fine linen, gold unalloyed, stones precious and rare. The oil is "costly ointment." Search out all that is best in human nature, all that challenges admiration and excites esteem, and an example of all is found in Jesus Christ. Possessed of every gift, power, and skill, loveliness and majesty, perfect in intellect, emotion, and will, he was victorious over every temptation, and unscathed by every trial. This dress of Aaron emblematized positive virtue; so Christ was upright, not only like Adam as he left the hands of God, but as acquiring and exhibiting every grace that can adorn humanity. There was virtue in exercise, virtue visible and potent. The tree put forth its leaves, its blossoms, and its fruit.
III. The high priest maintained A CONSTANT REMEMBRANCE OF THE PEOPLE. Hence the breast-plate bearing the names of the twelve tribes, which were also inscribed upon the onyx stones of the shoulder. The people were borne in the positions that indicated power and sympathy. What the bosom desires the arms accomplish. Let others write their names upon lofty pillars or granite rocks; let statesmen, warriors, nobles, inscribe themselves upon the roll of fame; "Give me," says the Christian, "a place upon the Saviour's breast; for there on the heart of Christ, under the glance of infinite mercy, where the love of God delights to rest, are the names of all his followers graven for ever."
IV. In the breast-plate were put the Urim and Thummim, by means of which was ascertained and made known the will of God. REVELATION OF GOD was thus part of the high priest's functions. The priestly and prophetic offices were intertwined. Though we may single out an office of Christ for distinct consideration, as we may distinguish one of the hues of the rainbow, yet let us not forget that it is the combination which is of such surpassing excellence and glory. It has been well said that Christ is called the Wisdom of God in the Old Testament, and the Word in the New. Full vocal expression was reserved for the time when he could joy to say, "I have declared unto them thy Name, and will declare it." It is by the priesthood of Christ that we learn in particular the grace of God. It is written on all creation, but to our blurred vision the letters are oft obscure. On the cross of Christ, where he becomes at once the Offerer and Victim; these words glisten with heavenly radiance, luminous not only in noontide prosperity, but in the dark midnight of affliction, "God is love."
V. The high priesthood is AN OFFICE OF AUTHORITY, and this authority is THE SUPREMACY OF HOLINESS. Upon the head is placed the mitre, a cap or turban, and upon the mitre is fastened a golden plate or diadem, inscribed "Holiness unto the Lord." Christ's is a royal priesthood, and his sway is the result of his consecration to God. He rules by right of character, by right of rank, by right of work. The "holy crown" is the guarantee for the acknowledgment of his claims to hearty, unreserved obedience. If today men demand authority as priests, at least let the holiness of their lives support their pretensions.
VI. By the pouring of the oil upon Aaron's head we see intimated ENTIRE DEDICATION TO GOD'S SERVICE. This holy unction set apart the high priest for hallowed toil, and became an emblem of the fortifying, sustaining, vitalizing presence of the Spirit of God. "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because he hath anointed me." It is the oil of gladness, the dew of the blessing of the Lord. It is a token of perpetuity. The brightest pageant fades, the show of today is forgotten ere the morrow dawns, but the priesthood of Christ knows neither ebb nor flow.—S.R.A.
The triple offering.
Under the Christian dispensation only two classes of priests remain—the real High Priest, Jesus Christ, and his people who are figurative priests offering up spiritual sacrifices. The ceremonies described in this chapter may throw light upon our position and duties as the followers of Christ, and remind us of the superiority of Christ to Aaron.
I. OUR RESEMBLANCE TO AARON IN THE TRIPLE OFFERING WE ARE REQUIRED TO MAKE.
1. The sin offering. Priesthood commences by self-abnegation, the confession of sin and renunciation of personal merit. By this offering the altar is sanctified (Leviticus 8:15), on which afterwards all other gifts will in due course be laid. Until the Saviour has been recognized as made a curse for us, there is no foundation for the life that will please God. The house must be cleansed ere its worthiest inhabitant will condescend to enter.
2. The burnt offering. Here the positive side begins, of devotion to God. The parts of the ram are placed upon the purified altar, and the flames emit an odour fragrant to God. The man who has confessed his unworthiness and pleaded the merits of Jesus Christ, dedicates himself to him who died for him. He is not his own, and must henceforth glorify God. "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" is his cry.
3. The consecration offering, This results from the others, and is their natural completion by bringing full hands (consecration equals "foulnesses" in original) to God. Entire dedication and consequent communion with God its signification. The blood of the ram is sprinkled upon the ear, that it may hearken to the commands of God, and, whilst attentive unto him, disregard the whispers of evil. Also upon the right hand, that all its acts may be in conformity with righteousness, the might of the man going forth in holy deeds. And upon the right foot, that its steps may be ordered by the Lord and its owner may ever tread the ways of obedience and sanctification. Every faculty is enlisted in the service of God. By the wave and heave offerings and the presentation of cakes we learn the necessity of looking upon all our property and all that supports life as belonging to God, who must have his special share and be glorified thereby as well as by our joyful use of the remainder. To fill the hands for God is to complete our consecration, and to live upon heavenly food in the enjoyment of his blessing. By giving to him we get for ourselves.
II. THE SUPERIORITY OF CHRIST TO AARON.
1. His consecration was total, whilst Aaron's was but partial. There were many periods when the high priest was seeing to his own peculiar wants and offering for his own especial infirmities. The whole career of Jesus Christ was an offering for others, originated and executed for the good of man and the glory of his Father. He "came not to do his own will." Aaron might lay aside his robes of office and take his repose, but the Son of man was ever clothed with his official character. And this is still clearer when we remember the present position of our High Priest and his unceasing, unintermitted intercession.
2. The holiness of Aaron was ceremonial and symbolical, that of Christ is literal and real. Jesus was on earth holy, harmless, undefiled. The searching eye of God can discern in his righteousness no stain nor flaw. So far was Aaron from reaching perfection that, because of rebellion at Meribah (Numbers 20:24), he was not permitted to enter the land of promise.
3. The atonement of Jesus Christ is actual, that of Aaron was only typical. After these rites of consecration were observed, the priests were qualified to present the offerings and sacrifices of the people unto God, and to make reconciliation for them. But there was no inherent virtue in those sacrifices to remove the guilt of sin; it is the blood of Christ that has power to cleanse the conscience from dead works. He bore our sins in his own body on the tree, and brought in everlasting righteousness.
4. The priesthood of Christ is perpetual, that of Aaron only survived by successors. The high priests died and passed away, their places occupied by others. Jesus abides for ever; he hath an unchangeable priesthood, after the order of Melchizedek. If, then, the Israelites found satisfaction in contemplating the functions of dying men, with what profound delight should we avail ourselves of the intercession of him who ever lives to save!—S.R.A.
HOMILIES BY J.A. MACDONALD
The baptism of Aaron and his sons.
Hitherto this book consists of precepts and directions concerning the sacrifices and services of the tabernacle; but here a new section commences, in which the directions are described as carried into effect. This section appropriately commences with the history of the consecration of Aaron and his sons, with whom principally was to rest the carrying out of the laws. The verses before us describe—
I. THE PREPARATIONS FOR THE CEREMONY.
1. These were directed by the Lord.
(1) He had formerly given very particular directions from the summit of Mount Sinai (Exodus 28:1-43, Exodus 29:1-46). In pursuance of these instructions, the holy garments were made and other preparations completed. Note: The leadings of providence should be closely followed.
(2) Now the time has come for carrying the directions of Deity into fuller accomplishment. The tabernacle has been finished and occupied by the presence of God; the laws have been published; and the next thing in order is the consecration of the priests to serve the tabernacle. The Lord is a God of order. In his service "all things" should be done "decently and in order."
2. His directions were given by the hand of Moses.
(1) Moses was instructed to "take Aaron and his sons," etc. (Leviticus 8:2, Leviticus 8:3). These instructions he punctually obeyed (Leviticus 8:4). In this fidelity Moses was a type of Christ, with these differences:
(a) Moses was faithful "as a servant," Christ "as a Son."
(b) The house of Moses was ceremonial and typical, that of Christ spiritual and living (see Hebrews 3:1-6).
(2) Moses, who was instructed to consecrate Aaron and his sons, had himself no human consecration. He was an extraordinary servant of God. We do not read of the apostles of Christ receiving any baptism of water or ordination by imposition of hands. God can send by whom he pleases and when he pleases, without any human sanction (see Galatians 1:15-19).
3. The congregation was assembled to witness the ceremony.
(1) This was a wise arrangement, to inspire them with proper respect for the servants of God. They were prone enough to say, "Ye take too much upon you, ye sons of Levi." Ministers were publicly ordained in the primitive Church.
(2) The address of Moses to the congregation was brief and to the point: "This is the thing which the Lord commanded to be done" (Leviticus 8:5). The command, which was given from Sinai, the congregation were acquainted with. The time to carry it out was now given from the sanctuary (Leviticus 1:1). We should look to God for guidance in reference to times and seasons, as well as to the services to be rendered for him.
II. THE BAPTISM OF AARON AND HIS SONS.
1. This was the initiatory rite of the consecration.
(1) It was the first act (Leviticus 8:6). And as Moses washed Aaron at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, so was Jesus washed by John at his entrance upon his public ministry (see Matthew 3:16; Matthew 4:1, Matthew 4:17). Like Moses, John also was a Levite.
(2) The sons of Aaron were baptized with him. To them also it was the rite of initiation. So are the sons of Jesus initiated into his discipleship by baptism. The initiatory office of baptism is also expressed in the phrase "born of water" (John 3:5).
2. It set forth the necessity of purity in the servants of God.
(1) Water, being one of the great purifiers in the kingdom of nature, is used in Scripture as an emblem of the Holy Spirit, the Great Purifier in the kingdom of grace (Isaiah 44:3; John 7:38, John 7:39). Hence a dispute about "baptism" is called a "question about purifying" (John 3:25, John 3:26).
(2) The requisition of baptism declared the necessity of the baptism of the Holy Ghost. This is the source of the spiritual birth in which commences the spiritual life which is the life of heaven.
3. As to the form of this baptism.
(1) The record here is simply that "Moses brought Aaron and his sons and washed them with water" (verse 6). But by reference to Exodus 30:1-38, we learn that this washing was done at the laver. In allusion to the ceremonial baptisms of the Law, the baptism of the Spirit under the gospel is described as the "laver of regeneration" (Titus 3:5, Titus 3:6).
(2) From the same reference in Exodus we learn, further, that the washing of Aaron and his sons extended to their "hands and feet." There is no proof that they were bodily plunged in the laver. We are reminded how Jesus washed his disciples' feet (see John 13:8-10). The Jews have a tradition that a tap was turned on, from which, by the flowing of the water over their hands and feet, the washing was accomplished. In baptism, the element should be active and the subject passive, for the thing signified, the Holy Ghost, certainly is not passive (see Acts 2:16-18, Acts 2:33; Acts 10:44-48).—J.A.M.
The holy garments of Aaron.
The high priest of the Levitical dispensation is allowed to be an eminent type of the "Great High Priest of our profession." His attire was intended to foreshow the qualities by which the Redeemer is distinguished. Else it would be difficult to account for the minute care with which they were designed, and the manner in which the workmen were inspired to make them (see Exodus 28:2-4; Exodus 31:3-6). Let us attend to—
I. THE COAT WITH ITS GIRDLE.
1. The coat.
(1) According to Josephus, "it was a tunic circumscribing the body, with light sleeves for the arms, and reaching to the heels" ('Ant.,' Leviticus 3:7). It was white, to denote purity.
(2) It was bound with the girdle about the loins. This also was white, and denoted truth, which is another expression for purity (see Ephesians 6:14).
(3) The coat was an inner garment, and bound close to the body with the girdle, to suggest that purity and truth should be found "in the inner parts" (Psalms 51:6; Jeremiah 31:33; Romans 2:29).
2. There were also breeches.
(1) These are not mentioned here, but they are described in Exodus 28:42, "And thou shalt make them linen breeches to cover their nakedness" (Hebrew, "the flesh," etc.); "from the loins even unto the thighs they shall reach."
(2) These also were white, expressive of purity, and without these the priest may not appear in the presence of God. They imported that "flesh and blood cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven" until "clothed upon" (see Ezekiel 44:17, Eze 44:18; 2 Corinthians 5:2, 2 Corinthians 5:3; Proverbs 3:18).
II. THE EPHOD WITH ITS ROBE.
1. The ephod.
(1) It was a short tunic, according to Josephus, reaching to the loins. It consisted of a rich cloth composed of blue, purple, scarlet, and fine twined linen, interwoven with threads of gold, and wrought, some think, into figures of cherubim and palm trees. It was without sleeves, but resting upon the shoulders.
(2) It was an emblem of redemption. Ephod (אפוד) comes from the verb (פד or פדה), to redeem. This is the derivation given by Alexander Pirie, the author of a learned 'Dissertation on Hebrew Roots.'
2. The robe of the ephod.
(1) This, and the holy garments in general which were associated with the ephod, from it derive the name of the "robe of righteousness" and "garments of salvation". They were the garments in which the typical high priest carried out the business of redemption.
(2) The colour of the robe was blue—the dye of heaven, which was with the ancients the symbol of divinity. This over the coat, the emblem of purity, would mark the purity of Messiah to be Divine; so, not derived, but essential and absolute.
(3) Upon the hem of the robe round about were "golden bells," which, when they sounded, indicated the sound of salvation. And they were on the "hem" of the robe when the high priest went up into the holy place, that the sound might be heard below. The sound of the gospel accordingly was heard below, as a "sound from heaven," when Jesus went up into the heavens.
(4) The pomegranates alternating with the bells suggested the fruit which follows the preaching of the gospel.
III. THE BREASTPLATE WITH THE URIM AND THUMMIM.
1. The Urim and Thummim were the stones set in the breastplate.
(1) In the text we read of the Urim and Thummim, but here is no mention of the stones. In the parallel place (Exodus 29:8-12) the stones are mentioned, but we read there nothing of the Urim and Thummim. This is intelligible if they be the same; but if not, the double omission in things so important is inexplicable.
(2) An attentive consideration of Exodus 28:29, Exodus 28:30 will show that the Urim and Thummim are the substance upon which the names of the tribes were engraven. The use ascribed to the stones in one verse is in the next ascribed to the Urim and Thummim.
2. They represented the saints as cherished in the heart of Christ.
(1) The names of the tribes of Israel were there; and the spiritual Israel are upon the heart of Jesus. These names were engraven to show how deeply and permanently our interests have entered into his sympathies. They are engraven in gems to show how precious to him are his saints (Malachi 3:17). The gems were various, and yet all were united in the breastplate of the high priest, to show how individuality can be preserved in those who are united in the love of Jesus.
(2) These were called the Urim and Thummim, lights and perfections, or lights and perfect ones. So are Christians called the lights of the world, because they reflect the splendours of the Light of the world. They are perfect ones also, viz. in the loveliness of Jesus (Matthew 5:15, Matthew 5:16; Jude 1:24).
(3) The breastplate was fastened to the ephod with golden chains, which were also connected with rings in the curious girdle of the ephod, from which it was forbidden to separate it (Exodus 28:28). So are we with precious bonds girded to the Redeemer, from which blessed union it would be sinful and disastrous to become dislinked.
(4) There were also connected with this robe of redemption on the shoulders of the high priest onyx stones, set in sockets of gold, upon which the names of the tribes of Israel were again engraven. So does Jesus bear his saints upon his shoulder as well as upon his heart. They have his sustaining power as well as the animation of his love.
IV. THE MITRE WITH ITS GOLDEN PLATE.
1. The mitre.
(1) This was like a turban bound round the head.
(2) It was an ornament of honourable distinction. The term here used is rendered "diadem" in Job 29:14.
2. The golden plate.
(1) This was upon the front of the mitre. It appears to have been ornamented with flowers and leaves. Possibly there is an allusion to this when the Psalmist, speaking of Messiah, says, "but upon himself shall his crown flourish." This plate is called the "holy crown" in the text.
(2) The inscription upon it characterized Christ. The words were "Holiness unto the Lord," or "The Holy One of Jehovah." If these holy garments were intended to create respect for the priesthood among the people of Israel, how we should reverence the glorious Antitype!—J.A.M.
The subjects of these anointings, as brought under our notice in the text, are, generally, "the tabernacle and all that was therein." From amongst these included things we have afterwards particularly specified, "the altar and all his vessels," and "the laver and his foot." The anointing of Aaron also is distinctly mentioned. We shall review these in order.
I. THE TABERNACLE.
1. This was an emblem of the moral universe. The holy places represented the heavens (Hebrews 8:1, Hebrews 8:2). Thus
(1) the most holy place, where the shechinah was, represented the "heaven of heavens," the "third heaven," or that which, by way of distinction and excellence, is called "heaven itself" (Hebrews 9:24).
(2) The holy place, which must be passed through in order to reach the most holy, represented those regions of the moral universe through which Jesus passed on his way from his cross to the throne of his majesty (Hebrews 4:14; Hebrews 7:26). In that passage he was "in paradise," and sometimes manifesting himself to his disciples (see Psalms 16:10; Acts 2:23-32; Luke 23:43; Luke 24:15, Luke 24:16, Luke 24:31, Luke 24:36, Luke 24:51). The spiritual world is not far from us.
(3) If the most holy place represented the "third heaven," and the holy place leading to it the second, then the court of the priests will stand for the first. It describes the "kingdom of heaven" on earth, in other words, the spiritual Church of God. In this we are already "come," in faith and hope and joy, "unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem," etc; and hear the very voice of Jesus from the heavens above us (see Hebrews 12:22-25).
(4) The courts outside represented the Church in its visible part, viz. the court of Israel, the court of the women, and the court of the Gentiles. The distinctions which formerly existed here are now done away, so that instead of three, the courts are one (see Galatians 3:25-28; Ephesians 2:11-19). It is well to be found in these courts, for all outside are in alienation. But we should not rest satisfied with the profession of the outer court. Without the spiritual experience of the court of the priests we can never pass into the heavens "whither the Forerunner is for us entered" (Hebrews 6:19, Hebrews 6:20).
2. It was sanctified with the holy anointing oil (Leviticus 8:10).
(1) This oil represented the Holy Spirit in his gifts and graces (comp. Acts 1:5 with Acts 10:38; see also 2Co 1:21; 1 John 2:20, 1 John 2:27). It was of peculiar composition. The formula is given in Exodus 30:23-25; but on pain of excommunication it must not be put to common use (Exodus 30:31-33). The person and offices of the Holy Ghost must be held in the greatest reverence; to profane these is fatal wickedness (Matthew 12:31, Matthew 12:32).
(2) With this oil the tabernacle was "sanctified," that is, separated to God. It was so separated to him for services of worship. Also to be a shadow of heavenly things. So the moral universe is claimed by God. The gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit arc the principles of universal sanctification.
II. THE ALTAR AND THE LAVER.
1. The altar and all his vessels.
(1) This is obviously the altar of burnt offerings which stood in the court of the priests. The "vessels" were those for receiving the blood of the sacrifices, and all the implements used in connection with the service of the altar.
(2) It typified Calvary, the altar upon which the Great Sacrifice of the gospel was offered. And taken in a grander sense, in consistency with the magnificence of the figure in which the tabernacle represents the great universe of God, this earth was the altar upon which our Lord was offered.
(3) The altar was sprinkled with the oil "to sanctify it." The earth is thereby marked out as destined to be sanctified to God, and sanctified too by the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit. It was sprinkled "seven times," to show the perfectness of that sanctification. And is not this the burden of prophetic hope (Psalms 37:10, Psalms 37:11, Psalms 37:34; Isaiah 11:6-9)?
2. The laver and his foot.
(1) This also was located in the court of the priests. In it they washed their hands and feet, and also the parts of the sacrifices requiring washing according to the Law.
(2) The anointing of this was "to sanctity it," or separate it to God. It was separated to him for the purposes of the ceremonial service. It was also separated, to represent the "laver of regeneration" under the gospel, or the "renewing of the Holy Ghost" (Titus 3:5). Those who are spiritually baptized into Christ are anointed with the gifts and graces of his Holy Spirit.
1. The oil was poured upon Aaron's head.
(1) This anointing was profuse. "Poured" (see Psalms 133:2).
(2) It was "to sanctify him." He was thus separated to accomplish the service of God in the tabernacle. He was also separated to typify the Great High Priest of the gospel.
2. But when was the true oil poured upon Jesus?
(1) We have seen that, as Aaron was washed with water, so was Jesus, viz. at the Jordan (notes on Exodus 30:1-6). But the baptism of Jesus there was not so truly that conferred by John as that which came upon him from heaven (Matthew 3:16).
(2) The second act in the consecration of Christ appears to have been in the mount of transfiguration. There he had the "oil that maketh the face to shine," and was "anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows" (Psalms 45:7). This dazzling luster of the Holy Spirit was so profuse as to stream not only out of the pores of his skin, but to brighten all his raiment (comp. Psalms 133:2; Matthew 17:2).
(3) .As at the Jordan the voice of the Father was heard from the excellent glory approving, so on Tabor the same voice is heard again (comp. Matthew 3:17; Matthew 17:5). He that received the Spirit "not by measure" is emphatically THE Messiah, THE Anointed One.—J.A.M.
The vesting of the priests and the offerings for them.
In the order of the ceremonies at the consecration of the priests, after the anointing of Aaron, we have—
I. THE CLOTHING OF AARON'S SONS. (Leviticus 8:13.)
1. They were types of Christians.
(1) The high priest, as we have seen, was a type of Christ. So were the priests in general types also of him, viz. in everything in which they acted as representatives of the high priest.
(2) But under usual conditions they should be viewed as emblems of Christians. This is evidently taught in such references as Exodus 19:6; Hebrews 10:9-22; 1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 1:6; Revelation 5:10.
2. Their holy garments resembled some of Aaron's.
(1) Aaron had some by which he was distinguished from his sons, and so has Christ unique qualities. In everything pertaining to his Divinity he stands alone. He claims the deepest reverence.
(2) The coats and girdles which Moses put upon the sons of Aaron were similar to those articles bearing the same name in which Aaron was clothed. In Aaron's case, as we have seen, they denoted purity and truth; and so do they denote these qualities in relation to his sons (see Ephesians 6:14; Revelation 19:8).
(3) This identity suggests that Christians have their righteousness in virtue of their association with Christ (see Jeremiah 23:6; Rom 3:22; 1 Corinthians 1:30; Philippians 3:9). This is otherwise shown in the fact that the claim of the Levitical priests to those holy garments was in virtue of their being sons of Aaron. Only the "seed" of Messiah (Isaiah 53:10, Isaiah 53:11), are clothed in the "white linen which is the righteousness of the saints."
3. Moses also "put bonnets upon them."
(1) These, like the coats, were made of white linen, and so, likewise, expressed purity. They were similar to the turban of Aaron, minus the "plate of the holy crown of pure gold," and its fastenings of lacework of blue (Exodus 39:30, Exodus 39:31).
(2) These bonnets were "for glory and for beauty" (Exodus 28:40). For "glory," i.e; honour, viz. as they served to distinguish the priests as the ministers of God. If a messenger be despised, his message may be brought into contempt. And for "beauty," viz. as they represented the "beauty of holiness." True Christian honour is evermore the associate of holiness.
II. THE OFFERINGS FOR THE PRIESTS. In respect to these we observe:
1. The priests laid their hands upon the heads of the animals (Revelation 5:14, 18).
(1) This was the sign of the confession of sin. It was also the sign of the transfer of sin, so constituting the animal (in type) vicariously a sinner or sin-bearer, liable to suffer its penalty
(2) The next thing in order, therefore, was the bleeding of the animal, in consideration of which the offerer stands justified or released from the obligation to suffer.
(3) The reference in all this to the vicarious sacrifice of Christ and our justification through faith in him cannot be mistaken.
(4) But why did Aaron, the type of Christ, act thus? Christ had no sin of his own to confess, and needed no sacrifice for himself. The answer is that Aaron, in this, acted not as a type of Christ, but for himself as a sinful man, and representatively for the people (see Hebrews 5:1-3). In this Aaron is contrasted with Jesus (see Hebrews 7:26-28).
2. The altar was purified with the blood (verses 15, 19).
(1) The earth, as the altar upon which the great Antitype was offered, is purified by his blood.
(a) As respects its inhabitants.
(b) As respects itself. The inheritance of man is also redeemed by Christ from the curse of sin.
(c) The full effects of this will be seen "in the regeneration" or renewed state of the earth indicated in prophecy.
(2) The altar was purified with the typical blood "to make reconciliation upon it." So is this earth for the same purpose sanctified by the blood of Jesus. There is no other planet, at least so far as we are concerned, thus sanctified. Therefore if we be not here "reconciled to God through the death of his Son," there is no hope for reconciliation hereafter or elsewhere (see Hebrews 10:26, Hebrews 10:27).
3. The offerings were presented upon the altar.
(1) In the case of the sin offering, the fat was burnt upon the altar, while the body of the beast was burnt without the camp (verses 16, 17). Not only was Christ offered up as a sacrifice for sin generally upon this earth, but more particularly "without the gate," viz. of Jerusalem (comp. Hebrews 13:11, Hebrews 13:12).
(2) In the case of the burnt offering, the whole ram was burnt upon the altar. This holocaust showed how absolutely God claims us, and therefore how completely we should be devoted, and, so to speak, consumed, in his worship and service (Psalms 69:9; John 2:13-17).—J.A.M.
The ram of consecration.
This and the ceremonies connected form the principal subject of the verses now recited. We notice—
I. THAT IT WAS A PEACE OFFERING.
1. The first ram was a burnt offering.
(1) It was wholly consumed upon the altar. It was regarded wholly as the "food of God" (Leviticus 3:11; Leviticus 21:6; Ezekiel 44:7; Malachi 1:7, Malachi 1:12).
(2) In this sacrifice God is contemplated as a righteous Judge, whose justice claims everything we are and have, and who, until that justice is satisfied, can have no fellowship with man.
2. Burnt offerings were usually accompanied by peace offerings.
(1) Of these a portion was eaten by the worshipper. This was the expression of peace, reconciliation, fellowship. Constantly associated with the holocaust, the opportunity of ceremonially feasting with God was never wanting. In the peace offering faith discerns the sacrifice of Christ to have so completely met the claims of infinite justice, that we are now accepted into favour.
(2) As in the other sacrifices, the hands of Aaron and his sons were laid upon it to confess their sinfulness, their need of a Saviour, and their faith in the Redeemer of promise. It was slain accordingly, to foreshadow the death of Messiah. The fat and gall were burnt, to show how our evil passions, the old man, must be crucified with him, that the body of sin may be destroyed.
II. THAT ITS BLOOD WAS USED IN A REMARKABLE WAY.
1. It was sprinkled upon Aaron.
(1) Upon his person.
(a) On the tip of his right ear, to express obedience (Exodus 21:6). And our Lord's obedience was unto death (Philippians 2:8).
(b) On the thumb of the right hand, to express the service of doing. Christ fulfilled all righteousness, and finished the work that was given him to do (John 4:34; John 5:17; John 9:4; John 17:4; Hebrews 10:5-7).
(c) On the great toe of the right foot, to express the ways. All the ways of Jesus were infinitely pleasing to God (Psalms 1:6; Psalms 18:20, Psalms 18:21; Acts 10:38).
(d) The comprehensive teaching here is the complete consecration of all faculties and energies (see 1 Peter 1:15).
(2) Upon his garments. In this baptism oil also was used (Leviticus 8:30). While in detail these garments represented moral qualities, collectively taken they expressed office. Hence from the earliest times a person introduced into office is said to be invested in it, from in, used intensitively, and vestio, I clothe. The office of the high priest was to minister in the very presence of God (see Hebrews 8:1, Hebrews 8:2).
(3) Jesus, who was washed with water at the Jordan, and anointed with oil on the mount of transfiguration, received the final baptism of his consecration, that of his own blood, in Gethsemane and Calvary. As the voice of God accredited him in each of the earlier baptisms, so it accredited him again as he was about to enter into this (comp. Matthew 3:17; Matthew 17:5; John 12:27-33).
2. It was sprinkled upon Aaron's sons.
(1) Upon their persons (Leviticus 8:24). The sons of Aaron were here treated in like manner as Aaron was, to show how in all these things Christians are called to be like Christ (see Matthew 20:22, Matthew 20:23). This remark will be especially applicable to ministers, who should be "examples to the flock" (see Isaiah 66:21; 1 Corinthians 9:13).
(2) Upon their garments (Leviticus 8:30). The office of the priesthood was to minister in the presence of God in his tabernacle. So the spiritual priesthood have access to God in heaven. We must be anointed with the unction of the Holy One, and sprinkled with the blood of Christ, that we may enter into that most holy place (Hebrews 10:19-22; 1 John 2:20, 1 John 2:27).
III. THAT IT FILLED THE HANDS OF AARON AND HIS SONS.
1. It was treated as a wave offering.
(1) The breast had the fat laid upon it. A bread offering also was laid upon it. The whole was then waved before the Lord. The shoulder also was heaved (see Exodus 29:27). Thus God was praised as the Creator and Dispenser of every good and perfect gift.
(2) Moses acted as priest in all this ceremony. He put these things upon the hands of Aaron and his sons, and waved and heaved them. From this action the ram of consecration took its name (איל מלאים, eil milluim), the ram of filling up. Thus the essence of the consecration was the filling the hand with the oblation, or conferring the right to offer sacrifices to God.
(3) The wave breast then came to the lot of Moses, and Aaron and his sons appear to have shared it with him as the feast upon the sacred food (see Leviticus 8:31).
2. The ceremonies of the consecration lasted seven days.
(1) Seven is the numeral of perfection, so at the close of the seven days this was a perfect consecration, intimating that all the powers of the consecrated ones should be wholly given to God.
(2) They "kept the charge of the Lord," during these seven days, "at the door of the tabernacle." They were not as yet qualified to enter the holy place, and they must not leave the court of the priests on pain of death (see 1 Kings 19:19-21; Matthew 8:21, Matthew 8:22; Luke 9:61, Luke 9:62).
(3) "Aaron and his sons did all things which the Lord commanded by the hand of Moses." Had Jesus failed in any point, his consecration would be imperfect; he could not have become our Saviour.—J.A.M.
HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON
A time for publicity.
The solemn inauguration of Aaron and his sons into their sacred office was to have the utmost possible publicity. This was—
I. A DIVINE INSTRUCTION. The Lord said, "Take Aaron … and gather thou all the congregation together," etc. (Leviticus 8:1-3). "This is the thing which the Lord commanded to be done" (Leviticus 8:5).
II. A PROVISION AGAINST POPULAR JEALOUSY. The scene described in Numbers 16:1-50 shows only too well how necessary it was to convey to "all the congregation" the truth that Aaron and his sons were divinely appointed to their office. This the more because of the near relationship between Moses and Aaron.
III. A PROVISION FOR POPULAR ESTEEM. It was in the last degree desirable that the people should have an exalted idea of the priesthood, and, more especially, of the high priesthood. Everything which would contribute to this would be of real religious service. It was, therefore, fitting that "all the congregation" should be spectators of the impressive solemnities of the inaugural scene.
IV. A HELPFUL INFLUENCE ON THEIR OWN MINDS. It was of equal importance to the Hebrew commonwealth that the priests themselves should cherish a profound sense of the sacred and elevated character of their work. For any irreverence or neglect of theirs was calculated to involve the community in sin and in disaster (see 1 Samuel 1:17; Malachi 2:8). So solemn and impressive a ceremony as this, in the sight of all the people, would exert a salutary influence on the mind both of father and sons.
In ordinary life, piety and publicity are strangers. Devotion shuts itself in the inner chamber (Matthew 6:6), or climbs up into the fold of the mountain (Matthew 14:23). We nourish our holiest thoughts, and form our best resolves, not in the glare of the public gathering, but in the secret place, when alone with God. Nevertheless, there are occasions when we should not shun publicity; when it is not modesty but weakness to do so. When we avow our attachment to our Saviour, and thus "confess him before men" (Matthew 10:32); still more, when we enter upon any responsible office in connection with his Church (e.g; the Christian ministry); and yet more, if we are summoned, as Aaron was, to any post of unusual eminence and responsibility, we do well to take the vows of God upon us before "all the congregation." If not "a thing which the Lord commanded to be done," it is
(1) a Divine suggestion (Acts 6:7; Acts 13:3; 1 Timothy 6:12);
(2) instructive to the people;
(3) helpful to ourselves.
We need all the influences we can gain from every source to incite us to zealous labour, and to strengthen us against temptation. It is right and wise to avail ourselves of all the help we gain from the remembrance that we have confessed Christ our Lord, and pledged ourselves to do his work before "all the congregation," "before many witnesses."—C.
Leviticus 8:6-9, Leviticus 8:14
The human and Divine priesthood-contrast.
The setting apart of Aaron for his life-work, the high priesthood of Israel, naturally suggests to us the entrance of our Great High Priest on the work which his Father gave him to do. Between Aaron and Christ there are many points of resemblance (see below); there are also significant contrasts. Respecting "the High Priest of our profession" (Hebrews 3:2), it is not the case that there was—
I. APPOINTMENT TO OFFICE IN VIRTUE OF HUMAN BIRTH. Aaron was chosen to the office of high priest, partly in virtue of his descent from Levi (perhaps partly in virtue of his brotherhood to Moses). His personal qualities were not such as to make him the most suitable man for the office, independently of considerations of lineal descent and human relationship. Jesus Christ did not owe his position as our High Priest to his human birth. He was not, indeed, of the tribe of Levi, but of Judah, "after the flesh." And though, through his mother, he was a son of David, in the matter of human descent, this was not in any way material to his ascent to royal power. His right of office came not thence.
II. IMPOSING INAUGURAL CEREMONY. The scene described in this chapter was striking, imposing, memorable; it would long be borne in mind, never, indeed, forgotten by those who witnessed it. It formed part of the national history. Imagination on our part readily places before us the solemn and suggestive ceremonies which riveted the eyes of the congregation of Israel. Through no such solemnities did One greater than Aaron think well to pass as he entered on his work. It is said that his contemporaries expected the Messiah to descend amongst them from the heavens while they were worshipping in the temple. This he distinctly refused to do (Matthew 4:5-7). The ceremony of the baptism by John was simple in the extreme. Long chapters of Old Testament Scripture (Exodus and Leviticus) are occupied in narrating the inaugural ceremonies of the human priesthood; five verses suffice to chronicle those of the Divine (Matthew 3:13-17). The profounder work of the Lord from heaven was more fittingly commenced by that quiet scene on the banks of Jordan.
III. OUTWARD AND VISIBLE DISTINCTION. (Verses 7-9.) The appearance of Aaron and of his successors in their pontifical attire, as described in this chapter, with rich and coloured garments about them, and the mitre on their head glittering with golden diadem, must have been impressive and imposing enough in the eyes of the people. How striking the contrast with him who was the carpenter's Son of Nazareth, who shunned all ostentation and parade (Matthew 12:19), who had "no beauty" (of outward appearance) "that we should desire him" (Isaiah 53:2), who attracted disciples to his feet, and sinners to his side, only by the wisdom of his words, and the grace of his spirit and the beauty of his life!
IV. NEED OF PURIFICATION. "Moses brought Aaron and his sons, and washed them with water" (verse 6). It was needful that they should go through a ceremony which signified the putting away of "all filthiness of the flesh and spirit" (2 Corinthians 7:1). [No need of this in the case of the holy Saviour. Whatever his baptism signified, it did not mean this. He was "a High Priest, holy, harmless, undefiled," requiring no cleansing streams whatever (Hebrews 7:26; see John 14:30).
V. NEED OF PARDON. "And he brought the bullock for the sin offering: and Aaron," etc. (verse 14). Before the human high priest could be admitted to the altar, his own sin must be forgiven. Christ entered on his work, not needing to present any oblation. With him, as he was, the Divine Father was "well pleased" (Matthew 3:17).
In entering on any work to which we may be called of God, we must remember that
(1) we have need to purify ourselves of the sin-stains that are left on the soul;
(2) we have need to seek for pardon for a faulty past before we go forth to a new future;
(3) we may be careless of outward distinctions, considering the lowliness of our Lord.—C.
The human and Divine priesthood-comparison.
Between the priesthood of Aaron and that of the Lord Jesus Christ there are not only points of contrast (see above) but also of resemblance. The "holy garments" in which the human priest was attired supplied marked and intentional suggestions of the attributes and the work of the Divine. Thus we are reminded by Aaron's appearance of—
I. HIS PERSONAL HOLINESS. "The stuff of all of them was linen, and … must be understood to have been white." This was associated with the idea of bodily cleanness, and hence with righteousness of soul (see Revelation 19:8). The High Priest of our profession was he "that loved righteousness," of whom it was true that "the scepter of righteousness was the scepter of his kingdom" (Hebrews 1:8, Hebrews 1:9).
II. HIS ALL-SUFFICIENT STRENGTH. The girdle with which Aaron was girded (Leviticus 8:7) was suggestive of strength, activity, readiness for the appointed work. To "gird up the loins" was to be prepared for immediate and effective action. Christ is he who always stands ready and mighty to save; prepared at the moment of our readiness to put forth his arm of power, and to redeem us with the "saving strength of his right hand."
III. HIS REPRESENTATIVE CHARACTER. On the breastplate of the ephod (Leviticus 8:8) were the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. With these on his person he appeared before God in the holy place; evidently representing them and appearing on their behalf. Our Divine Redeemer, assuming our human nature, suffered and died in our stead, and now "appears in the presence of God for us" (Hebrews 9:24).
IV. HIS SPIRITUAL FITNESS FOR HIS GREAT WORK. The "Urim and Thummim" (Leviticus 8:8) signified "lights" and "perfections;" they were the means by which Aaron received inspiration from Jehovah. Our Lord was one "in whom dwelleth all the fullness of the godhead bodily" (Colossians 1:9), particularly (see context) Divine wisdom. He is—not merely has, but is—"the truth" (John 14:6), and He is "the wisdom of God" (1 Corinthians 1:24, 1 Corinthians 1:30; Colossians 2:8). He who, in the exercise of absolute wisdom, knows the mind of the Father, and "knows what is in man" also, is that omniscient One who is perfectly equipped for the wondrous problem he has undertaken to work out.
V. THE FINAL TRIUMPH OF HIS CAUSE. "He put the mitre upon his head" (Leviticus 8:9). The high priest of Israel had a touch of royalty—he wore a crown upon his head. The High Priest of man is royal also. "Upon his head are many crowns." He is "exalted to be a prince" as well as a Saviour. And he is "able even to subdue all things unto himself" (Philippians 3:21; see Philippians 2:9, Philippians 2:10).
VI. HIS ULTIMATE DESIGN. "Upon the mitre, even upon his forefront, did he put the golden plate" (Leviticus 8:9), and on this golden diadem were inscribed the sacred, significant words, "Holiness to the Lord" (Exodus 28:36). Did not this sentence, placed in the forefront of the high priest's mitre, signify that the great end of his ministrations was the establishment among all the tribes of Israel of" Holiness to the Lord"? The purpose for which he was appointed would not be attained until that great and noble aim was reached. For that he lived and wrought. That, too, is the end of the Divine priesthood. Christ came to "put away sin by the sacrifice of himself" (Hebrews 9:26), to establish on the earth that kingdom of God which is "righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost."
Let us learn—
1. The exceeding greatness of our privilege. In Jesus Christ himself (and in his salvation) are these great excellencies; they were only upon and outside the Hebrew priest.
2. The corresponding guilt of
(1) defiant rejection,
(2) frivolous disregard,
(3) continued indecision (Hebrews 2:3).—C.
"Take Aaron and his sons with him and the garments." Aaron and his sons were about to be invested. Their formal investiture of the priestly office was to be signified and symbolized by their putting on the sacerdotal garments. The robes of office are fully described (Leviticus 8:7-9). These "holy garments" (Exodus 28:2) not only gave an imposing and inspiring appearance to the officiating priests, but they severally and separately suggested certain spiritual qualities. The white linen spoke of righteousness, the girdle of activity or strength, etc. (see above).
We who are servants of Jesus Christ are also priests (1 Peter 2:5; Revelation 1:6). There are certain things in which we are to be robed. We are, speaking generally, to "put on the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 13:14); to put on the new man," etc. (Ephesians 4:24).
But there are certain graces which we are more particularly to wear.
I. THE ROBE OF HUMILITY. This is the beginning and the end, the first and the last grace, the foundation and the topstone of Christian character: we may call it an undergarment and an overcoat of the Christian wardrobe. "Be clothed with humility" (1 Peter 5:5).
II. THE GARMENT OF FAITH. This is that clothing without which we cannot be justified before God now, nor permitted to sit down to the heavenly banquet hereafter (Matthew 22:11, Matthew 22:12).
III. THE GIRDLE OF TRUTH. (Ephesians 6:14.) It is truth, heavenly wisdom, which knits all other things together, and gives play and power to the spiritual faculties.
IV. THE SANDALS OF PEACE. (Romans 10:15; Ephesians 6:15.)
V. THE CROWN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS. (2 Timothy 4:8.) Righteousness is the regal thing; when that is gone the crown is fallen from our head (Lamentations 5:16).
To those who "overcome" (Revelation 3:5), who are "faithful unto death" (Revelation 2:10), who "keep the faith" (2 Timothy 4:7), it shall be given to:
1. Be clothed in white raiment" (spotless purity).
2. To receive "the crown of life" (life in all its celestial fullness and blessedness).
3. To wear "the crown of righteousness"—"a crown of glory that fadeth not away" (1 Peter 5:4).—C.
Leviticus 8:6, Leviticus 8:8, Leviticus 8:23, Leviticus 8:24, Leviticus 8:30
Equipment for special work.
There was a sense in which the whole congregation of Israel constituted a priesthood. It was an early promise that they should be a "kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Exodus 19:6). And such, indeed, they were, so far as they entered into and fulfilled the purposes of God. They were:
1. Separate from surrounding people (holy unto the Lord).
2. Permitted to draw near to God.
3. Allowed to bring the sacrificial victim to the holy place and slay it; indeed, in the case of the paschal lamb, they acted as priests without aid from any other hand.
But there were those who were:
1. Separated from them, and were thus holier than they.
2. Allowed to draw nearer to the Divine presence.
3. Designated to be continually offering up sacrifices to Jehovah. These were the priests and the high priests of the Lord in an especial sense, and they needed special equipment for their special work.
From this chapter we select four principal points—
I. SPECIAL CLEANSING OF SOUL. (Leviticus 8:6.)
II. SPECIAL CONSECRATION OF SPIRIT. (Leviticus 8:23, Leviticus 8:24.) One of the most significant rites in the entire ceremony of consecration was the taking by Moses of the blood of the "ram of consecration" (Leviticus 8:22), and putting it "upon the tip of Aaron's right car, and upon the thumb of his right hand, and upon the great toe of his right foot." The interpretation of this symbolism hardly admits of error. What other truth could it import but that Aaron was thus set apart, not only generally for the service of the Lord, but specially in every member of his frame, in every faculty of his mind? He was to have:
1. An open ear, to welcome every word of the Lord.
2. A ready hand, to discharge diligently and conscientiously his daily duties.
3. A quick foot, to run in the way of God's commandments.
III. SPECIAL SYMPATHY WITH MEN. (Leviticus 8:8.) The plate on which were inscribed the names of the twelve tribes was, as the word indicates, a breast-plate: so that the high priest symbolically bore the children of Israel on his heart. He carried their burden into the presence of God.
IV. SPECIAL ENDOWMENT. (Leviticus 8:30.) The precious ointment, the anointing oil, upon the head that ran down upon Aaron's beard, that went down to the skirts of his garments (Psalms 133:2), probably symbolized the grace of the Spirit of God outpoured upon the heart, affecting the whole nature, diffusing the delightful fragrance of piety and virtue.
We learn from these particulars—
1. That we must not covet posts of special difficulty except we are equipped with peculiar qualifications. Not every good or every earnest Christian man is fitted to take high office in the kingdom of God.
2. That if we feel ourselves summoned to special work, we must seek all possible spiritual equipment. The conditions of successful service are those indicated above:
(1) The full cleansing of our souls and lives from impurity (Psalms 51:7, Psalms 51:10, Psalms 51:11, Psalms 51:13; Isaiah 52:11; 1 John 3:3).
(2) The dedication of our whole selves to the service of Christ; heart and life; soul and body; having every faculty of the mind, every organ of our frame (ear, hand, foot), ready for sacred work.
(3) Tender sympathy with men; "a heart at leisure from itself to soothe and sympathize." We shall do but little for men except we acquire the blessed art of sympathizing with them. A sympathetic spirit is a helpful, influential, winning spirit.
(4) Endowment of all needful grace from on high. This must be gained from God, who, in answer to believing prayer, "giveth liberally." Purity, consecration, sympathy, grace,—these are the qualifications for high office, the sources of power, the assurance of success.—C.
The burden of the Lord.
It is in our nature to love distinction, office, power. The instincts and impulses of our humanity enter with us into the service of the Lord; they belong to us as subjects of the kingdom of Christ. But here, as elsewhere, distinctions and duties, prizes and perils, honours and anxieties go together. We are reminded—
I. THAT PROTRACTED PREPARATION MAY BE NECESSARY for high office in the Church (Leviticus 8:33). Aaron and his sons were required to go through consecration services fur seven days. It seems to us as if they must have become wearisome by exceeding length. But for such services as he and they were to render, such preparation was none too long. Consider how Moses was long in Midian, and Paul in Arabia, preparing for after-work. Our Lord himself went "into the wilderness" and into "desert places," preparing himself for his Divine ministry. In proportion to the seriousness, the greatness of the work we have to do, we may expect to find the extent and severity of the preparatory work.
II. THAT UNPALATABLE COMMUNICATIONS MAY HAVE TO BE MADE, in conformity with God's will. Moses might have shrunk (probably would have done so) from voluntarily imposing such protracted services on Aaron; but he had no option. God's will was clear, and he had no course but to obey; "so I am commanded," said he (Leviticus 8:35). Again and again the minister of Christ has to say or do things he would gladly leave unsaid or undone. But in such cases he must "not confer with flesh and blood" (Galatians 1:16), but do the will of the Master he serves (see 1 Samuel 3:1-21).
III. THAT DISOBEDIENCE TO THE CLEAR WILL OF GOD INVOLVES great danger: "Keep the charge of the Lord, that ye die not" (Leviticus 8:35). We cannot undertake great duties without incurring the most serious responsibilities and running grave risks. If we take the post of "watchman unto the house of Israel," we must speak the true and faithful word, or the blood of souls will be required at our hand (Ezekiel 33:7, Ezekiel 33:8). They who stand in God's house and speak in his Name, but who depart from his Word, grievously mislead their brethren, and must be answerable to the Lord their Judge at the day of account.
IV. THAT AN OBEDIENT HEART NEED NOT, AND WILL NOT, SHRINK FROM THE COMMANDMENTS OF THE LORD. (Leviticus 8:36.) Aaron and his sons did not question or hesitate; they obeyed. Doubtless they found, as we shall find, that:
1. What seems formidable in prospect becomes simple and manageable in actual engagement.
2. God helps with his inspiring Spirit those who go with alacrity to their work.
3. There are unsuspected pleasures in sacred service. "His commandments are not grievous;" his "yoke is easy, his burden light ;" his statutes are not our complaints but our songs in the house of our pilgrimage (Psalms 119:54).—C.
HOMILIES BY R.A. REDFORD
Public inauguration of Divine service.
I. ALL THE PEOPLE GATHERED TOGETHER.
1. Religion is universal, as human necessity and sin. God and man reconciled and united in fellowship. No human condition dispenses with worship. We should labour to get all the people to the tabernacle, God invites them. His ministers should summon them. No excuse can be suffered either for their absence or for the lack of success in gathering them together, We shall succeed best when we speak to them in the Name of God and with his own Word. Lower means and motives, if employed at all, must be kept in subordinate places.
2. There are no secrets in religion; no esoteric doctrine; no rites or privileges which are not for the people. If the priests are set apart, the people witness their consecration, and sanction it and take part in it. The priests are for the people. A Church which withholds a part of the Lord's Supper from the congregation cannot be a true Church. In the commandment to gather the people was the implicit doctrine of universal priesthood, afterwards (as in 1 Peter) more expressed when the great High Priest had come.
II. THE FOUNDATION ON WHICH ALL RELIGION STANDS IS THE REVEALED WORD AND WILL OF GOD. The Lord spake to Moses. Moses did as the Lord commanded him. Moses said to the congregation, "This is the thing which the Lord commanded to be done." Mere will-worship is unacceptable to God. We must beware of two errors.
1. Dependence on mere tradition in contrast with the Word. No need of a supplementary revelation, for it implies that the Word was not sufficient—no authority in it, for the fathers and those who handed on the tradition were liable to err and falsify.
2. Expediency may mislead us into disobedience; fashion in worship; convenience consulted; pure truth hidden; man usurping God's place.
III. PUBLIC CONSECRATION OF PRIESTHOOD. The people saw the men, their garments, the consecrating oil, the atoning sacrifices, the basket of unleavened bread.
1. Spiritual leaders should be distinguishable, both personally and officially.
2. We should remember they are men, and liable to sin, and needing the same sacrifices as all others.
3. The unleavened bread of sincerity and truth is their main qualification.
4. They are nothing unless anointed, i.e. they are wholly dependent on the Spirit of God—not a line of succession, but a personal inspiration.
5. Their ministry being for the people, among the people, and with the help of the people, let the people by their assembly sanction their election and approve their consecration. A God-given ministry is not imposed upon congregations, but welcomed by their free choice.—R.
And Moses brought Aaron and his sons, and washed them with water.
Not hands and feet only, as in daily ministrations, but the whole body, symbolizing entire spiritual cleansing.
I. Take this cleansing as MAN'S OBEDIENCE. It set forth:
1. Confession of sin and dependence on Divine grace.
2. Personal consecration—entire devotion to the service of God.
3. As performed by priests, the acceptance of a place in the priestly office and before the altar demanded conspicuous holiness and purity.
II. Thus was typified THE DIVINE PROMISE.
1. That man should be cleansed really by the Spirit.
2. That a perfect high priesthood should be provided.
3. That the necessary imperfection and impurity of an earthly service should be swallowed up hereafter in the holy perfection of the heavenly service, when all that approach God shall be like him.—R.
Coat, girdle, robe, ephod, breastplate, Urim and Thummim, mitre, golden plate, and crown,—all significant, and fulfilled in Christ. The two main ideas are mediation and government.
I. The high priest is clothed as MEDIATOR.
1. To offer sacrifice for sins.
2. To enter into the presence of Jehovah as intercessor.
3. To obtain and pronounce, as representative, the Divine benediction.
II. The high priest is clothed as KING.
1. With power to guide, counsel, command as an oracle.
2. With exalted personality to receive homage as the king of righteousness, the glory of God revealed.
3. As crowned, to establish and maintain his kingdom among men—ruling their hearts and lives, not by the power of this world, but by the priestly power of fellowship with God, for man is himself made kingly as he is admitted into the innermost chamber of God's presence.—R.
The tabernacle, the altar, the vessels, the laver and its foot, Aaron the high priest. The main intention to lift up the thoughts of all, both priests and people, to Jehovah as the Source of all good gifts. The sprinkling was seven times, to denote the covenant relation between God and Israel.
I. The service of God requires SPECIAL CONSECRATION—both of persons and places and instrumentalities.
1. To keep the world's corruption away.
2. To exalt the faculties and feelings.
3. To help us to maintain the remembrance of the Divine covenant, and therefore to lay hold by special intercourse with God of his gifts.
4. To enable us, by concentration of efforts, to make the influence of religion more powerful in the world. Great mistake to suppose that, by breaking down distinctions between the believing and the unbelieving, the multitudes are brought nearer to God; on the contrary, the effect is to lessen the spiritual efficacy of religious ordinances, and to postpone the triumph of God's people.
II. The TRUE ANOINTING OF THE SPIRIT, THE TRUE DISTINCTION OF THE MINISTRY AND OF THE MEANS EMPLOYED.
1. Distinguish between the rite itself and its fulfillment. Man anoints with oil, God with the Spirit. The two baptisms with water and with the Holy Ghost.
2. Special responsibility of those in office for the possession of spiritual power. We must not worship our own nets. They are nothing if not successful. By their fruits the living trees will be known.
3. God will be inquired of to bestow his grace; the anointing by his commandment was a renewal of his promise to bestow his gifts when they are asked. It was a covenant ceremony, and represented a covenant life.
4. Spiritual men engaged in the fulfillment of spiritual duties will, as much as possible, separate themselves from all earthly entanglements and incumbrances. The oil was poured on the head of the priest, and flowed downwards to the skirts of his garments, to signify that he must be totally possessed by the claims of his office, and endowed in every energy and act by the bestowment of the Spirit. What an encouragement to holiness, and at the same time what an incentive to prayer! We are kings and priests. If we forget our anointing, we not only lose our priestly purity, but our princely power over the world. A degraded priesthood the curse of the Church and the plague of mankind. A revived ministry the hope of the future. "Brethren, pray for us." "Ye have an unction from the Holy One."—R.
The sacrifices of consecration.
Aaron and his sons. Holy week of separation. "So Aaron and his sons did all things which the Lord commanded by the hand of Moses." Moses, the mediator of the covenant, consecrated those who should afterwards fulfill the functions of the sanctuary. The order of the sacrifices was:
1. The sin offering.
2. The burnt offering.
3. The peace offering. Or
The three great facts of the covenant life of God's people. That all these should be included in the consecration of the priesthood betokened the entire subordination of that mere temporary mediation to the fundamental relation between God and man. The priest was between the holiness of God and the sinfulness of men in any other sense than as a servant of that covenant which came out of the free grace of God. Here there is—
I. THE TRUE BASIS OF RELIGION set forth. It rests on
(1) the universal necessity of man, and
(2) the universality of Divine grace.
Illustrate from history of man's religions how this basis has been ignored. Priesthood raised above people as though holy in themselves. Favouritism in heaven the exciting motive to sacrifices. Merit in man the measure of peace.
II. The typical significance of the Mosaic economy pointing to the PERFECTION OF THE DIVINE PROVISION FOE HUMAN SALVATION. All the priests, Aaron and his sons, are sinful, and require sacrifices of atonement. Their confession of imperfection was itself an appeal to God to supply the sinless priest, the perfect service, the everlasting mediation. Jesus Christ the High Priest.
1. His official perfection, arising out of his personal dignity as Son of God, and yet able to sympathize with those for whom he intercedes as Son of man. Spotless purity and perfect obedience could alone satisfy the requirements of a perfect Law.
2. Our faith in Christ sees in him not only a priestly Person, but a Sacrifice actually offered. The true sacrificial work of Christ was not merely his humiliation in living a human life, but his death on the cross, which was supremely the offering up of his blood, his life, as a true substitution for man. The death of the victim was a necessary part of the ceremony. Thus our High Priest must enter the holiest with blood, and no blood but his own could represent the whole humanity of man offered up-no sufferings but his could express perfect fulfillment of the Father's will.
3. The priesthood of Christ secures our acceptance, and makes our religious life liberty, not bondage.—R.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Leviticus 8". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29