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THE FIRST PRIESTLY ACTS OF AARON AND HIS SONS are recounted in the chapter following that which narrates their consecration.
On the eighth day. The seven days of consecration being now over, Aaron for the first time offers a sin offering and burnt offering for himself, and a sin offering, a burnt offering, a peace offering, and a meat offering for the congregation. He is still instructed by Moses as to what he is to do, but it is through him that the command is given to the people to present their offerings, and it is he that slays the victims and offers their blood. His own sin offering is a young calf, or young bull calf, whereas the sin offering commanded for the high priest on ordinary occasions was a young bull, further advanced in age (Leviticus 4:3); and in presenting the blood he does not take it into the sanctuary according to the regulations in Leviticus 4:6, but uses it as Moses had done in the sin offerings of the previous week, the purpose of the difference being to show that Aaron's full dignity had not yet devolved upon him. This did not take place until he had gone into the tabernacle with Moses (Leviticus 4:23). A ram is again taken for the burnt offering, as had been the case in Moses' sacrifice of the previous week. The children of Israel now present a kid, the offering generally made by a prince, that for the congregation being a young bull. In the words for today the Lord will appear unto you, Moses promises the Divine appearance afterwards vouchsafed (Leviticus 4:23).
Make an atonement for thyself, and for the people. By means of the sin offering for the high priest, whose sin brought guilt both on himself and upon the people (Leviticus 4:3). After he had (symbolically) purified himself and them of this guilt, he was to offer the offering of the people, which should purify them from the guilt contrasted by their own sins, and make an atonement for them.
The high priest's sin offering and burnt offering for himself. The meat offering does not appear to have accompanied the burnt offering—the law having not yet been promulgated which ordered that the two sacrifices should always be presented together (Numbers 15:4). The burnt offering, with the pieces thereof, in Leviticus 9:13, should rather be the burnt offering in its several pieces. The sinfulness of the Aaronic priesthood and the need of a perfect priest is indicated by this sacrifice (see Hebrews 7:24-27).
The people's sin offering, burnt off, ring, meat offering, and peace offerings follow. The meat offering is said to have been burnt upon the altar, beside the burnt sacrifice of the morning. It is probable that, on this occasion, the people's burnt offering, which consisted of a calf and a lamb, took the place of the ordinary morning sacrifice of a lamb (Exodus 29:38). Aaron is said to have offered the burnt offering according to the manner, or, as it is given in the margin, ordinance, that is, he burnt the flesh on the altar (Leviticus 1:7-9); he also burnt the handful of the meat offering, and he burnt the fat of the peace offering, upon the altar. He had previously burnt the fat of his own sin offering, and the flesh of his burnt offering. Fire, therefore, was present upon the altar, and was used by Aaron, as by Moses, for sacrificial purposes before the fire came out from the Lord as described in Leviticus 9:24.
And Aaron lifted up his hand or (according to the more probable reading) hands. This was the first priestly benediction by Aaron, given from the elevated standing-place which he occupied by the side of the altar.
Moses (for the last time) and Aaron (for the first time) went into the tabernacle in the character of priest. During this visit Moses committed to Aaron the care of the things within the tabernacle, as he had already given him the charge of all connected with the sacrifices of the court. Not till after this is Aaron fully initiated into his office. "No man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron" (Hebrews 5:4). On coming out from the tabernacle, Moses and Aaron, standing near the door, unite in blessing the congregation, in order to show the harmony between them and the capacity of blessing in the Name of the Lord enjoyed by Aaron as by Moses. The latter has now divested himself of that part of his office which made him the one mediator between God and his people, Aaron is henceforth a type of Christ as well as Moses. While giving the joint blessing, the glory of the Lord appeared unto all the people, proceeding from the ark, and enveloping the lawgiver and the priest as they stood together.
And there came a fire out from before the Lord. The sacrifices were already smouldering on the altar, a ram, a calf, and a lamb, besides the internal fat of a young bull, a kid, a bullock, and a ram, and a handful of flour. They would have continued smouldering all the day and the night, but a miraculous fire issued from the tabernacle, and consumed the whole in the sight of the people. So fire fell and consumed Solomon's sacrifice at the dedication of the temple. Jewish tradition reports that the fire was always kept alive until the reign of Manasseh, when it became extinguished. When the people saw this sight, they shouted, and fell on their faces. They had been standing in a state of intense expectation, awaiting the fulfillment of the promise that the Lord would appear unto them today, and watching the acts of the two brothers; and their feelings are now raised to the utmost enthusiasm and awe by the appearance of the glory of the Lord and the notion of the Divine fire. See 2 Chronicles 8:3.
The first act of the new priesthood is sacrifice, by which reconciliation was ceremonially effected; the second (Leviticus 9:22, Leviticus 9:23), a double benediction. As soon as the people are reconciled to him, God's blessing abundantly pours itself on them. The sacrifice is:
1. For themselves, showing the weakness of the Aaronic priesthood.
2. For the people, showing its power.
Miraculous confirmation of the new polity
is given by a fire issuing from the presence of God.
I. INSTANCES OF A LIKE KIND OF DIVINE AGENCY BY FIRE.
1. The case of Gideon. "And the angel of God said unto him, Take the flesh and the unleavened cakes, and lay them upon this rock, and pour out the broth. And he did so. Then the angel of the Lord put forth the end of the staff that was in his hand, and touched the flesh and the unleavened cakes; and there rose up fire out of the rock, and consumed the flesh and the unleavened cakes" (Judges 6:20, Judges 6:21).
2. The case of Elijah. "Call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the Name of the Lord: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken.… Then the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench" (1 Kings 18:24-38).
3. The case of Solomon. "Now when Solomon had made an end of praying, the fire came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the Lord filled the house. And the priests could not enter into the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord had filled the Lord's house" (2 Chronicles 7:1, 2 Chronicles 7:2).
II. THE RESULT IS EACH CASE IS AWE.
1. "Gideon said, Alas, O Lord God! for because I have seen an angel of the Lord face to face. And the Lord said unto him, Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die" (Judges 6:22, Judges 6:23).
2. "And when all the people saw it, they fell on their hoes: and they said, The Lord, he is the God; the Lord, he is the God" (1 Kings 18:39).
3. "And when all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the Lord upon the house, they bowed themselves with their faces to the ground upon the pavement, and worshipped, and praised the Lord, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever" (2 Chronicles 7:3).
III. THE PRESENT A FITTING OCCASION FOR A MIRACULOUS INTERVENTION. A miracle is to be expected at the introduction of any new system which emanates from God, because it is a means of showing Divine approval which cannot be gainsaid; but it is not to be expected frequently afterwards, or it would lose its special effect of impressing By its strangeness. The institution of the Law is such an occasion, and accordingly fire and smoke and earthquake showed the presence of God on Sinai. The institution of an hereditary priesthood was a part of the legislation which, being a vast change on the previously existing system, specially required a sign of God's approval which all might see. The erection of Solomon's temple was a like occasion. So at the institution of the Christian dispensation, miraculous gifts were vouchsafed to the apostles—speaking with tongues, prophecy, gifts of healing, and the rest—which were not intended to continue, and died out as soon as the Church was regarded as no longer coming into being, but fully formed. No new doctrine must be accepted except upon the testimony of miracle, hut a succession of miracles is not required to certify doctrine which has been once confirmed by miraculous means.
IV. SIMILARITY YET DIFFERENCE OF THE PENTECOSTAL FINE. It was given at the institution of the new apostolic ministry. It was a confirmation of its authority to the minds of the recipients as well as others. But it indicated more than a mere Divine approval of a new system. It symbolized the gift of the Holy Ghost, and therefore it did not consume a sacrifice, but "it sat upon each" of those who were to be the instruments of the Holy Ghost in converting the world, and the ministers of the new dispensation. The fire of jealousy, which struck to the earth those who approached the Divine presence unbidden, has become the fire of love.
HOMILIES BY R.M. EDGAR
A sign expected and received.
cf. 2Ch 5:13, 2 Chronicles 5:14; Ezra 6:10-22; Acts 1:1-26, Acts 2:1-47. We have now before us the hopeful fashion in which Aaron and his sons entered upon their work. The consecration being completed on the eighth day, Moses directed them to take for themselves a sin offering and a burnt offering, and to receive at the hands of the people similar offerings, and, in addition, a bullock and a ram for peace offerings, with the usual accompaniment of a meat offering, and to expect a sign from the Lord at the conclusion of the service. "Today," said he, "the Lord will appear unto you." A penitent yet consecrated priesthood, acting on behalf of a penitent and consecrated people, are warranted in expecting a sign from God himself. The first priestly service is thus filled with hope, and the hope was realized at the end of it. The following lessons are plainly taught by this passage—
I. THE ONE INDISPENSABLE PRELIMINARY TO EXALTATION FROM GOD IS HUMILIATION BEFORE HIM. Both priests and people must bring their sin offering and appear in penitential mood. Unless we humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, we need not expect to be exalted (Matthew 23:12; 1 Peter 5:6). Hence the Law of the Divine dealings has been to "hide pride from man" (Job 33:17). It is only when we have pride eliminated that we have room for blessing.
II. CONSCIOUS DEDICATION TO GOD IS AN EARNEST OF BLESSING ON ITS WAY. The priests and people both bring their burnt offerings as well as their sin offerings. They realize how reasonable it is to dedicate themselves to the Lord, who has been so merciful in his dealings with them. It was the same with Solomon and his associates at the dedication of the temple. It was the same with the disciples previous to the Pentecostal baptism. It was consecrated men and women who expected special blessing. And it is the same stilt; self emptied, self-dedicated sinners are being qualified for special blessing.
III. THE UNION OF NUMBERS IN DESIRE AND IN HOPE IS ALSO A SIGN OF A COMING BLESSING. The people assembled in their thousands before the tabernacle, and the priests cooperated with them in their offices. One heart and hope animated the host. We see the same unity at the dedication of Solomon's temple. "It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound," etc. (2 Chronicles 5:13). We see the same unity before Pentecost. "These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren" (Acts 1:14). Such a union of numbers in desire and in hope should be encouraged continually. It need not be disregarded. It is a sign surely that blessing is on its way when such happy union of heart and hope takes place.
IV. GOD'S RIGHTS MUST BE CAREFULLY REGARDED IF HIS SPECIAL BLESSING IS TO BE OBTAINED. The priests were directed to lay the best portions on the altar, to pay thus their due to God, before the blessing is vouchsafed. This element is sometimes overlooked. People make "systematic beneficence" depend upon special blessing, instead of preceding it. But it is manifest, from Malachi 3:10, that God asks for proof, in the payment of Divine dues, of people's desire for special blessing. It is idle to expect great blessing from above if men wrong God as they do. His proportion of our substance can be calculated in cool blood and. paid conscientiously, without waiting for a baptism in order to do so, and if we are prepared to exhibit our sense of obligation to God in this real way, we may hope for a very special baptism.
V. BENEDICTION MAY BE PRONOUNCED WITH CONFIDENCE IN THE LIGHT OF PROMISED BLESSING. At the conclusion of the ritual, Aaron proceeded to bless the people. His benediction preceded the Divine manifestation. It was pronounced in full view of the promise. It was, as we shall soon see, amply redeemed. And does not this fact throw light upon all benedictions? They are not blessings conveyed through the person pronouncing them, but blessings guaranteed, so to speak, to proceed from God himself on the ground of his own promise. It is the faithful Promiser the people are to look to, not his officer in pronouncing the benediction.
VI. GOD WAS PLEASED TO MANIFEST HIMSELF AS CONSUMING FIRE UPON HIS ALTAR. What God gave was additional fire to the sacred deposit already so carefully preserved.
An intense flame rose up from the altar, having first issued from the tabernacle; and all the people rejoiced because of it. "When all the people saw it, they shouted, and fell on their faces." God is a consuming fire in the way of acceptance, just as well as in the way of wrath. The psalmist gives us clear evidence of this in his prayer, "Remember all thy offerings, and accept ('reduce to ashes,' יְדַשְּׁנֶה) thy burnt sacrifice" (Psalms 20:3). The case of Elijah at Carmel goes to demonstrate the same thing (1 Kings 18:24, 1 Kings 18:36). And when we reach the history of Pentecost, with the Spirit as "tongues of fire" settling down on the disciples, we can have no doubt as to the significance of the manifestation (Acts 2:1-47). "God is light," and along with light there is heat and sublimation. He interposes no screen to prevent the heat-rays from reaching men's hearts. They become fervent in spirit, and thus serve the Lord (Romans 12:11). It is this visitation we all need—God accepting us as "living sacrifices," and enabling us most ardently to serve him. May none of us experience the consuming fire of the Divine wrath, but that of the Divine love and mercy!—R.M.E.
HOMILIES BY S.R. ALDRIDGE
Leviticus 9:23, Leviticus 9:24
The glory of the Lord.
The petition of Moses was, "Show me thy glory." The wisdom, power, and goodness of the Almighty are visible in all his works, and "the heavens declare his glory," but man longs for a fuller display of the matchless perfections of Deity. The artist is superior to his handiwork, and to view God is a greater satisfaction than to contemplate the evidences of his existence and skill that lie around us. To behold him as he is, to "see his face" in its undimmed luster,—this is reserved as the special joy of heaven. In the mean time, it was permitted the Israelites to gaze upon material manifestations of his presence, and it is the delight of Christians to cash spiritual glimpses of his glory, by faith seeing him who is invisible.
I. THE FORM ASSUMED BY THE GLORY OF THE LORD.
1. A brightness manifest to all the people. Compare this passage with Numbers 16:42, and the conclusion is natural that there was a brilliant illumination of the cloud that ordinarily rested upon the tabernacle. Therein Jehovah was ever visible, but now revealed in such wondrous guise that his glory was patent to the dullest eye. Deity no longer concealed but expressed. When Jesus Christ came as the Word, the evangelist declares, "We beheld his glory, as of the only begotten of the Father." The face is the noblest part of the body, the dial-plate of character, the index of the soul; hence in the face of Jesus Christ we behold the light of the knowledge of the glory of God. The gospel dispensation "exceeds in glory" (2 Corinthians 3:9), for it is the "ministration of the Spirit," the "ministration of the righteousness" of God. The answer to the request of Moses was contained in the assurance that all the goodness of God should pass before him; and when there is an outpouring of the Spirit, so that many turn to the Saviour and rejoice in the mercy and loving-kindness of God who will have all men to be saved, then is the glory of the Lord revealed and all flesh see it together.
2. A mighty energy, as flaming fire, attesting the acceptance of the sacrifices. These were suddenly consumed, showing that the power of God can accomplish at once what at other times requires a long period under the operation of customary laws. There is not merely attractive brilliancy in God, there is majestic might which may be used for or against us, according to our obedience or disobedience. When tongues of fire sat upon the disciples at Pentecost, their whole being—body, soul, and spirit, mind, affection, and will—seemed immediately permeated with the Spirit of Christ, and they spoke with boldness and witnessed with great power, so that thousands were added to the Church. Let God appear, and men shall be saved, not in units, but in multitudes. Who can tell what shall be the result of Christ's appearing in glory? This we know, that the offerings upon the altar, the Christians dedicated to his service, shall be transformed into his likeness, the imitation not gradual as in ordinary seasons, but instantaneous.
3. The unusual glory proceeding from the ordinary manifestation. The fire "came out from before the Lord." It was not a different power, therefore, but the usual Shechinah fire exhibited to all in wondrous operation. The truths that evoke such feeling and lead to such holy action in times of refreshing and revival, are those which have been previously insisted on, only now accompanied with potency, the breath of the Spirit kindling the embers into a glow, and causing the heat so to radiate as to affect large circles of humanity. The arm of the Lord, always present, is revealed; its might, perceived by the few, is shown to the many.
II. THE TIME AT WHICH THE GLORY OF GOD APPEARS.
1. We may expect it at eventful stages in the history of his Church. Here at the establishment of the order of priesthood, to sanction it, to express approval of the men appointed, and to complete their consecration. The altar fire and all its future offerings were thus hallowed. When some principle of the Divine government is to be vindicated, or some messenger honoured in the sight of the people, or a new departure made in the accomplishment of his purposes, then may we anticipate displays of supernatural beauty and force.
2. When, his instructions have been respected, his commands faithfully observed. There had been seven days of watching, and the eighth day was marked by confession of sin and dedicatory sacrifices. God was honoured, and evinced his delight thereat. Sanctification precedes the manifestation of Divine power (Joshua 3:5; Joshua 9:4).
3. When it has been prophesied by his servants. This was a fulfillment of Moses' prediction, and may incite us to study Scripture and value its prophetic statements. It is remarkable how the way has been ever prepared for "mighty works" by previous announcement, as if to fit men to appreciate the miracles and to recognize them as coming from God. The herald proclaims the advent of the king.
4. When his servants have drawn nigh to his presence, and invoked a blessing upon the people. Prayer is the fleeting breath that proves of such marvelous efficacy in securing tokens of God's favour. Would we see the glory of God in the sanctuary? then let us try to approach the very throne of Deity. To be led in supplication into the holiest of all is to "bring all heaven before our eyes." Jesus, our Prophet-Priest, ascended as he was blessing the disciples; the fruits of his invocation were quickly seen at Pentecost, and they continue to enrich and. gladden the Church.
III. THE EFFECT IT PRODUCES,
1. Enthusiasm. The people "shouted" for joy and thanksgiving, they gave utterance to their admiration and excitement. That Jehovah should condescend thus to visit his children, that the Infinite One should so openly reveal himself! The coldest are warmed into emotion, the hardest surfaces yield, the sternest natures cannot repress exclamations of astonishment when they perceive the signs of a presence more than mortal.
2. Reverence. "They fell on their faces," to worship. Awe filled their minds and prostrated their bodies. Never should excitement lead to forgetfulness of the respect due to God. And if it be otherwise, there is reason to suspect the genuineness of the professedly Divine exhibition of approval. We may fear lest the fire has been begotten not of heaven but of earth.
CONCLUSION. Will any refuse to behold in Christ "the brightness of the Father's glory"? Here "all" the people saw the glory. Age, sex, or rank no hindrance. There may be a difference in the apprehension of the significance of the spectacle, but it should awaken gratitude and veneration in every breast.—S.R.A.
HOMILIES BY J.A. MACDONALD
The eighth day.
There is sacred mystery in the numbers of Holy Scripture well worthy of attention. We have an example before us.
I. ON THIS DAY THE CONSECRATIONS WERE COMPLETED.
1. The eighth is a day signalized by sanctity.
(1) All children were, according to the Law, in the uncleanness of their birth until the eighth day. Then they received circumcision, and thenceforward were recognized as holy, having the seal of the covenant or purification of God upon them (Leviticus 12:2, Leviticus 12:3).
(2) The young of beasts, in like manner, were ceremonially unclean before their eighth day. They were therefore unfit to be offered as sacrifices. But on the eighth day and thenceforward that unfitness ceased; they were accounted clean (Leviticus 22:27).
(3) Persons unclean through leprosy, or through any issue, or a Nazarite in case of accidental defilement by the dead, all had to abide seven days in uncleanness. The eighth day, in all such cases, was memorable as that upon which they were accounted clean (Leviticus 14:8-10; Leviticus 15:13, Leviticus 15:14; Numbers 6:9, Numbers 6:10).
(4) So here, the tabernacle, the altar, all the vessels of the ministry, together with the priests, were seven days in the process of purification, and on the eighth day the purity of all became established (comp. Ezekiel 43:26, Ezekiel 43:27).
2. These things point to gospel times.
(1) The pollutions of the birth refer to original sin. This, in the case of the children, is so obvious as to need no comment. The reason of the law of uncleanness in relation to the young of animals is that in the Levitical system they were made representatives of human beings.
(2) The pollutions of adults would stand for sins committed "after the similitude of Adam's transgression."
(3) All were "purged with blood," the blood of circumcision or that of animal sacrifices, which anticipated that precious blood of Christ by which we are redeemed from "all sin."
3. But what has this to do with the "eighth day"?
(1) The eighth day remarkably characterizes the gospel. Since in the week there are seven days, the "eighth" day and the "first" are obviously the same. Now, it was on the "first day of the week" that Jesus rose from the dead (Matthew 28:1). On the first day he seems to have several times appeared to his disciples during the forty days of his sojourn on the earth after his resurrection. On the first day he ascended into heaven, if we take the "forty days" to be clear days. The memorable day of Pentecost is calculated to have fallen upon the first day of the week. The early Christians kept the first day sacredly, as the seventh had been by the Jews (see Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2). This was called "the Lord's day" (Revelation 1:10), just as our Eucharist is called "the Lord's Supper," because he instituted it.
(2) But why should the eighth day have been chosen dins to characterize the gospel? This question may be better answered as we proceed to notice—
II. THAT ON THIS DAY THE LORD WAS TO APPEAR. (Leviticus 9:4.)
1. This promise had an immediate fulfillment. The Shechinah that had been in the thick darkness of the most holy place, shined forth in brightness upon the people (Leviticus 9:23).
2. It had a fuller accomplishment in the gospel.
(1) Christ is the true Shechinah (comp. Isaiah 40:5 with Matthew 3:3; see also Matthew 17:2; John 1:14; John 2:11; John 11:40; John 14:9; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3).
(2) The Shechinah also appeared after our Lord's ascension, viz. in the wonders of the memorable day of Pentecost.
3. The crowning manifestation is reserved to the great day,
(1) Then Jesus will be revealed "without sin." He will not then appear amid circumstances of humiliation, as in his first advent.
(2) He will be revealed "in all his glory."
(a) "His own," Messiah's, glory.
(b) That of "his Father," as "the God of glory."
(c) "With the glory of his holy angels," who attend the "King of glory" as his retinue.
4. This will be the glory of the eighth day.
(1) The six days of the creation week are supposed by Barnabas to represent six chiliads, or periods of a thousand years, during which the world is to be in toil and sorrow. The sabbath at the end of these represents the thousand years of John (Revelation 20:6), distinguished as "the Millennium." The Rabbi Elias and other authorities are cited in favour of this view; and it is countenanced by the course of the fulfillment of prophecy.
(2) At the close of this age is the final judgment, which introduces a still more glorious state, described as "a new heaven and a new earth" (see Revelation 21:1-27 and Revelation 22:1-21). This, then, is the eighth day. As the Millennium (Revelation 20:1-15) is the fulfillment of the Jewish sabbath, so is the superior blessedness to follow the fulfillment of the Christian. Then will everything in earth and heaven be consecrated.
III. THEN WILL THE VALUE OF THE GREAT SACRIFICE APPEAR.
1. As averting the evils of sin.
(1) Who, without the purification of the gospel, can encounter the brightness of that Epiphany (Malachi 3:2)?
(2) But those who possess this purity need have no fear of the horrors of the "outer darkness" (Revelation 21:7, Revelation 21:8; Revelation 22:14, Revelation 22:15).
2. As procuring ineffable bliss.
(1) The consecration of the eighth day resulted from the ceremonies of the days preceding. So will the purity of the heavenly state rise out of the tragedies and horrors of Calvary.
(2) The summoning of the sacrifices on the eighth day was, amongst other things, to witness this. All were summoned, viz. sin, burnt, peace, and bread offerings. In the blessings of the gospel we have all that was foreshadowed by Levitical oblations of every kind.
(3) The song of Moses and of the Lamb will swell the rapture of heaven.—J.A.M.
Aaron's first priestly services.
Moses officiated as the priest of the Lord until the consecration of Aaron and his sons was completed. Now they enter upon their functions, and the verses recited furnish us with an account of their first services. In reviewing these we notice—
I. THE OFFERINGS.
1. Aaron's offering for himself.
(1) The Jews say this was intended to make atonement for his sin in connection with the golden calf. Possibly this may have been so; for we have no record elsewhere of any formal atonement for that offense. Aaron, doubtless, had many offenses to atone for. The sacrifice of Christ is not only for sins, but also for sin.
(2) Aaron's own hands slew this victim. What a graphic confession of sin was this! What an unequivocal acknowledgment of his deserving to die! Our confession of sin before God should be with deep conviction and reality.
(3) He put the blood upon the horns of the altar. These were fronting the vail, behind which was the ark of the covenant and the glory of the Lord. This putting of the blood with the finger before the face of God was, as it were, pointing it out to him, calling his attention to it. So should the faith of the sinner point out to God's mercy the blood of the cross which satisfies his justice.
(4) Aaron's sons served with him at the altar. They brought the blood to have it sprinkled. This was the confession of their part in the guilt of their father. Guilt is hereditary and relatively distributive (see Numbers 16:32, Numbers 16:33; Joshua 7:24, Joshua 7:25). It was also an expression of their faith in the blood of the common Redeemer.
(5) This offering of Aaron for his own sin before he could offer for the people suggests the imperfection of the Levitical priesthood, and therefore the necessity of the priesthood of the gospel (see Hebrews 5:3; Hebrews 7:26-28; Hebrews 9:7-14).
2. The offerings for the people.
(1) Aaron himself slew also these victims (Leviticus 9:15, Leviticus 9:16). This he did as the representative of the people. Individuals were directed to slay their own victims (comp. Le Leviticus 1:5, Leviticus 1:11; Leviticus 3:4, Leviticus 3:8, Leviticus 3:13). But these were for the congregation.
(2) The sons of Aaron helped him here also. They "presented unto him the blood, which he sprinkled upon the altar round about." They also brought the fat of the inwards to him (Leviticus 9:18-20). This was suggestive of the nature of the Levitical priesthood, which was destined to pass from hand to hand. The comparison here is favourable to the priesthood of Christ, which is "unchangeable" (Hebrews 7:23-25).
(3) The breast and shoulder were waved and heaved, and afterwards came to the lot of Aaron and his sons. Here we are taught that it is God's order that "they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel" (see 1 Corinthians 9:13, 1 Corinthians 9:14; Matthew 10:10).
II. THE BLESSING.
1. The blessing from the altar (Leviticus 9:22).
(1) As Aaron, standing upon the altar, pronounced his first blessing upon the people, this shows the Source from whence all blessing springs. Even in heaven, the Great Sacrifice of the altar of Calvary will be the burden of the song of the redeemed (Revelation 5:9-14).
(2) In blessing, Aaron acted as the type of Christ, who, while he moved about upon this earth, which was the altar of his sacrifice, dispensed blessings in a thousand forms. Witness
(a) the beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount.
(b) The miracles of beneficence.
(c) His official benedictions.
(3) As Aaron, standing upon the altar, lifted up his bands, blessed the people, and then went into the holy place, so Jesus, standing on the Mount of Olives, after lifting up his hands and blessing his disciples, ascended into the holy place of the heavens (comp. Luke 24:50, Luke 24:51).
2. The blessing from the holy place.
(1) Coming forth from the holy place, Aaron again blessed the people. The words of the benediction are given in Numbers 6:23-27. Between these and those of the apostolic benediction, which sets forth the genius of the gospel, there is remarkable correspondence (see 2 Corinthians 13:14).
(2) In response to this second benediction, "the glory of the Lord appeared unto all the people." We are here reminded how Jesus, before ascending into heaven, encouraged his disciples "not to depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father," and how, "when the day of Pentecost was fully come," that promise was verified.
(3) "And there came a fire cut from before the Lord," etc. (Numbers 6:24). This was the emblem of the Holy Spirit, whose baptism, like fire, searches into substances, while water can only wash the surfaces (Matthew 3:11, Matthew 3:12). So in the baptism on the day of Pentecost, tongues of flame sat on the disciples (Acts 2:3).
(4) The consuming of the fat of the inwards on the altar by the sacred fire foreshowed how the body of our sins is destroyed in the sacrifice of Christ, who, "through the Eternal Spirit, offered himself without spot to God" (Hebrews 9:14). It also describes the manner in which the wicked will be treated who persist in their rebellion against God (Psalms 37:20). Those whose sins are not consumed in the fires of love will themselves be consumed in the fires of wrath.—J.A.M.
HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON
Appearing together before God.
It is true that we are always "in the presence of the Lord." "He is not far from any one of us." "He compasses our path and our lying down: he besets us behind and before." There is no man who at any moment may not use the prophet's words, "The Lord, before whom I stand." But it is also true that God would have us place ourselves consciously and in company before him; that we should gather together at his house and worship in "his holy temple." We gain thoughts on this subject from our text, viz.—
I. GOD'S CALL TO HIS OWN PRESENCE. (Leviticus 9:5, Leviticus 9:6.) It was at the Lord's own command that "all the congregation drew near and stood before" him. The entire scene was due to explicit Divine direction. It is God himself who calls us to his presence. We may venture to ask why he does so, and to answer by suggesting:
1. That it is a part of his Divine satisfaction in us to receive our united homage and thanksgiving; and
2. That he knows that public worship is best suited to impress our minds and strengthen our souls in heavenly wisdom. But we are certain that it is his will, for whatever reasons. "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together," etc. (Hebrews 10:25; see Acts 2:42). The presentation of ourselves before God should be measured thus:
(1) multiplied by
(a) our sense of God's pleasure with our worship;
(b) our need of spiritual refreshment and elevation;
(c) usefulness to others by way of encouragement in piety.
(2) Limited by home duties and the other claims of our outer life.
II. THE HUMAN INSTRUMENT IN THIS SACRED SUMMONS. (Leviticus 9:1, Leviticus 9:3.) Here we have a double human instrumentality: Moses called Aaron, etc. (Leviticus 9:1), and Aaron was instructed to take on himself the duty of summoning the children of Israel to bring their sacrifices before the Lord (Leviticus 9:3). God continually speaks to us through man. Some men are his spokesmen in an especial sense and in a large degree; all of us are to be listeners to those who speak in his name. Those who speak for him are to be faithful and earnest in summoning his people to "stand before the Lord." Does the prophet ask, "What shall I cry?" Surely, one answer of the heavenly voice is, "O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our Maker" (Isaiah 40:6; Psalms 95:6; see Psalms 100:2, Psalms 100:3, Psalms 100:4).
III. THE SPIRIT IN WHICH WE SHOULD RESPOND. We should come before the Lord:
1. In a spirit of humility. Aaron himself was to take a sin offering (Leviticus 9:2), and this after all the sacrifices described in the preceding chapter. The people also were to present a sin offering (Leviticus 9:3). Though we may be in a state of reconciliation with God, we have need of the spirit of penitence at all times, and, when we draw near to the throne of grace, should ask that the mercy of God in Jesus Christ may cover our offenses and shortcomings.
2. In a spirit of consecration. Aaron was to take a ram for a burnt offering (Leviticus 9:2); the people a calf and a lamb for the same kind of sacrifice (Leviticus 9:3). They were—as we are—to be ready to consecrate themselves unto the Lord, to offer themselves in spiritual sacrifice on his altar. We are to go up to God's house ready to renew our vows unto him.
3. In a spirit of gratitude and joy. The children of Israel were not to omit the meat offering or the peace offering (Leviticus 9:4). We are to take with us before God a heart full of thanksgiving for his bounty; also of social, sacred joy. We are to rejoice together before him.
4. In a spirit of devout expectation. The Hebrew worshippers were to look for the manifestation of Jehovah: "Today the Lord will appear unto you" (Leviticus 9:4). We, too, are to expect that God will be with us; that he will draw nigh unto us when we draw nigh unto him (James 4:8); that Christ our Lord will "manifest himself unto us," will "come unto us, and make his abode with us" (John 14:21-23).—C.
Sacrifice for sin.
We may look first at our subject simply as an incident in human history, apart from the consideration of its place in the respired record. Then we have—
I. A REPRESENTATIVE SCENE IN THE HISTORY OF MAN. The most eminent civilian in the nation says to the most eminent ecclesiastic, "Go unto the altar, and offer thy sin offering,… and make an atonement for thyself, and for thy people." Under every sky, in every age, we have the sad, solemn facts of which these words are the expression.
1. Man conscious of sin, saying, "I ought" and "I ought not," knowing in his heart that he has done that which should have been left undone, and has omitted to do that which he should have done; with the language of conscious guilt upon his lips.
2. Man seeking reconciliation with an offended God, feeling and owning that, in addition to other duties, and even above all other considerations, he must seek and find a way by which God, by which the Supreme Power, may be conciliated.
3. Man seeking restoration by sacrifice; practically acknowledging that death is due to sin, dramatically appealing to the offended Power to accept the life of the slain animal instead of his own; "making atonement" for sin. The priest at the altar is a picture which all nations have presented—a picture of humanity conscious of its guilt seeking mercy and restoration, hoping to attain it by a substitutionary sacrifice. The want deep and wide; how shall it be met? It was met, in the first instance, by the ritual under the Law, by—
II. GOD'S TEMPORARY PROVISION. "The Lord commanded" Moses to say to Aaron, "Go unto the altar," etc. This act of religious service was done by Divine direction. Elsewhere men were blindly groping after him, and endeavouring to find a way of approach and reconciliation. Here, in the wilderness of Sinai, was a people, the nucleus of a nation, which "knew what it worshipped" (John 4:22), which was taught of God himself. The Hebrew nation had been divinely instructed, and by its sacrifices declared:
1. That God had included all under sin, both priest and people, "for thyself and for the people."
2. That sin was deserving of death.
3. That a sin offering would be accepted by the merciful and righteous One.
4. That only a separated and holy man might approach the altar in sacrifice.
5. That the sin offering, having been presented and accepted, by the Holy One, all who would might, in sacred symbolism (the burnt offering), consecrate themselves to the service of a gracious God. But we must look further to—
III. THE DIVINE INTENTION WHICH LAY BEHIND. "This commandment of the Lord" was not final. It was adequate for the purpose. It was good for a time, for a dispensation; but it did not meet the wants of the race. Nor did it realize "the eternal purpose which he purposed" (Ephesians 3:11), nor exhaust the possibilities of the Divine wisdom and grace. "It is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins" (Hebrews 10:4). God would manifest his power and love in a far mightier way than this.
1. The altar should give place to the cross.
2. The victim from the herd and flock to the Lamb of God himself.
3. The fallible, changing priesthood to the holy, ever-living Savior.
4. The many offerings continually repeated to the "one Sacrifice for sins for ever" (Hebrews 10:12).
1. With the pagan and the Jew, we share the common human consciousness of sin and need.
2. With the Jew, in distinction from the pagan, we have a divinely sanctioned method of approach and reconciliation.
3. With immeasurable advantage over Jew and pagan, we all have access at all times through the one Mediator, and can plead at every hour the one all-sufficient Sacrifice for sin. flow great and high the privilege! How serious and solemn the responsibility!—C.
The priest at the altar.
Aaron now enters on the great and high work to which he is appointed—that of God's chosen high priest. He "went unto the altar." As we follow him in that first official act (Leviticus 9:8) and see him, with the help of his sons (Leviticus 9:9), slaying the calf or the goat (Leviticus 9:8, Leviticus 9:15), putting the blood on the horns, or pouring it at the bottom of the altar (Leviticus 9:9), we are reminded of fundamental truth which does not belong to one dispensation or one race, but to man everywhere and arrays.
I. THE SAD ASSUMPTION—UNIVERSAL GUILT. Some truths are rather assumed than enunciated in Scripture: this is one. Not that it is not stated (Romans 3:9, Romans 3:23; Galatians 3:22, etc.). But it is more often taken for granted. Thus in this scene. Aaron and his sons present sin offerings for themselves. It is assumed that there are not only "sinners of the Gentiles" needing mercy, but that the "holy nation" itself, the priestly family itself, nay, the high priest himself, is numbered among the sinful. This accords with our experience.
1. A large proportion of men are notoriously, presumptuously guilty; their lives proclaim aloud that they are transgressors against God.
2. Of the rest, a very large proportion are confessedly guilty; they allow freely that they have sinned by omission and commission.
3. The rest are evidently mistaken concerning themselves. If not apparent to human eye, it is obvious to the Divine that their lives are faulty and their souls stained. There is not one exception in the whole camp, in the entire congregation, in the nation, in the race. All have sinned, and need atonement.
II. THE FIRST DEEP NEED OF THE SOUL—DIVINE MERCY. The first sacrifice presented by Aaron for himself was "the calf of the sin offering" (Leviticus 9:8); the first for the people was "the goat which was the sin offering" (Leviticus 9:15). Man can do nothing in God's service till he is pardoned and accepted. "Forgiveness of sins" is the first great need of the soul, as it is the first great gift of the gospel (Luke 24:47; Acts 2:38; Acts 26:18, etc.). "There is forgiveness with God, that he may be feared" (Psalms 130:4). There would be no "fear," no reverence, no worship, no service of the Holy One, if forgiveness of sin were not attainable at once. That is the starting-point and. condition of human devotion.
III. THE ATTENDANT SPIRITUAL STEP—SELF-SURRENDER. When Aaron had presented the sin offering for himself, he had not concluded his oblation; "he slew the burnt offering" also (Leviticus 9:12). So with "the people's offering" (Leviticus 9:15, Leviticus 9:16). The significance of this second sacrifice was that the worshipper consecrated himself on the altar (to the service) of Jehovah. A perfect picture of sacred and abiding truth. We cannot go in humility and penitence, seeking mercy through Christ Jesus, without offering ourselves to him who has bought us with the price or' his own blood. The soul longing for reconciliation with God offers itself freely in holy service unto him, lays itself on his altar, a "whole burnt offering unto the Lord." A living faith in Christ implies the eager taking of everything from him, and the cheerful giving of everything to him.
IV. THE CERTAIN ISSUE—A BLESSED SPIRITUAL ESTATE. A "meat offering" and "peace offerings" (Leviticus 9:17, Leviticus 9:18) came after the other two. Sin forgiven, self-surrendered,—then comes a sense of reconciliation, grateful acknowledgment of God's kindness, a holy joy in him (Romans 5:1, Romans 5:11). The assurance in the heart of Divine forgiveness, and the consequent surpassing peace and elevated joy, may not immediately fellow. In the Divine life, the peace offering does not always come directly after the burnt offering. But it will come; it does come; and then, "oh, the blessedness of the man whose transgression is forgiven!" etc. (literal translation, Psalms 32:1). "Seek, and ye shall find" (Matthew 7:7).—C.
This was an imposing act of piety, one which our imagination easily presents to our minds, and which affects us as profoundly interesting. The high priest, after solemnly and with holy awe offering the sacrifices of himself and the people, comes forth from the Divine presence, and with hands lifted up to heaven, utters, amid intense silence, the sacred words, "The Lord bless thee and keep thee," etc. (Numbers 6:23-26). It was a scene fitted to subdue and sanctify the heart. It was also a beautiful act of piety. There is an admirable conformity to what is fitting and. excellent in the nature of things, that the man who had gone with the people's burden of sin into the presence of God, and who had there sought and found for the people the Divine mercy, should, as he came from the holy place, bring to the people the blessing of the Most High. It was also an instinctive act of piety. It teaches us—
I. THAT HE WHO WOULD BLESS HIS RACE MUST FIRST BE RIGHT WITH GOD. Aaron could not have ventured on the holy invocation, if he himself had not been in the conscious enjoyment of the Divine favour. We must not expect to render any substantial religious service to our generation, if we have not ourselves returned unto our Father, and been reconciled unto him through Christ. Without all contradiction, the less is blessed of the better, and "he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than" any one who stands without.
II. THAT THE NEARER A MAN IS TO GOD THE MORE EFFECTUAL IS HIS HOLY INVOCATION. It was directly after offering sacrifice, and in close connection with that act, immediately after standing at the altar of Jehovah, that Aaron "lifted up his hand and blessed the people." It is not the official in the kingdom of Christ—all we are brethren—but it is the man who "walks with God," who "stands before God" continually, who "abides in Christ," who is "beloved of the Lord,"—it is he whose word of holy, earnest invocation will most avail to bless.
III. THAT THERE ARE MANY UNKNOWN BENEFACTORS OF OUR RACE WHO BRING DOWN THE BLESSING OF GOD UPON US. "More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of"—by interceding prayer, by the earnest, believing invocation of the holy. Who shall say what essential service some have rendered who have quietly and secretly brought down the blessing from on high? Perhaps the uplifting of holy hands in the silent chamber may have done more to end the great campaign which is lasting through the centuries, than some notable and noisy lives men talk much of.
IV. THAT THOSE WHO HAVE INTERCEDING KINDRED SHOULD REALIZE THEIR SPECIAL RESPONSIBILITY. They are the subjects not only of direct human influence, but of those Divine influences which are thus drawn down from above.
V. THAT CHRIST ALONE CAN CONFER THE PEACE WE NEED. "The Lord … give thee peace," uttered the Hebrew priest (Numbers 6:26). "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you," said the Lord from heaven (John 14:27). Aaron's was a human invocation; Christ's was a Divine bestowal. Aaron might hopefully invoke; Christ positively confers. "In him is life," and all that makes life precious in the sight of God; it is in his right hand to bestow fullness of life on us. Let us be attracted to him, be attached to his service, abide in him, walk with him, and he will "lay his hand upon us," and bless us with all those heavenly blessings which reside in him and are in his power to impart.—C.
Leviticus 9:23, Leviticus 9:24
The manifested presence.
The fulfillment of the Divine promise (Leviticus 9:6) by the manifested presence of Jehovah suggests—
I. ITS CONSISTENCY WITH OTHER DIVINE MANIFESTATIONS. God so revealed his presence when he did visibly appear to man, that there should be no delusion in the matter. None could, none did, mistake the "glory of the Lord" for the Lord himself (Exodus 3:2; Exodus 24:16, Exodus 24:17; Exodus 33:9; 2 Chronicles 7:1; 1 Kings 18:38; Isaiah 6:1).
II. ITS THREEFOLD SIGNIFICANCE. It plainly intimated:
1. God's presence in the midst of the camp.
2. His acceptance of their sacrifice and his pleasure in his people.
3. His approval of the Aaronic appointment, and of the way in which his service had been conducted.
This emphatically, for the time chosen was the first day on which the high priest had served at his altar.
III. ITS IMMEDIATE EFFECT ON THE MIND OF THE MULTITUDE. When "all the people saw," they were incited to
(1) rapturous delight: "they shouted;" and
(2) reverential prostration: they "fell on their faces."
At such a vision reverence and joy mingled within them, and stirred their souls to intense spiritual emotion. A visible appearance, acting strongly on the soul through the senses, produces an immediate and powerful present effect. How deep it will descend, and how long it will last, depends on the sincerity, spirituality, fullness of the meditation, prayer, resolution, which follows the awe-inspiring spectacle. Far more depends on the wisdom with which the next hour (day) is spent, than on the excitements of the moment.
IV. ITS CHRISTIAN COUNTERPART. There is in the Christian dispensation:
1. The temporary miraculous element. Here we have, as the counterpart, the "cloven tongues like as of fire" (Acts 2:3).
2. That which is more important is the permanent supernatural element. Here we have the Divine illumination, the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Not the "glory of the Lord" visible to the eye, but the grace of God apprehended by the understanding mind; not the outward appearance, but the inward influence and indwelling; not the symbol of the Divine presence outside the tabernacle, but the very Spirit of the living God within the temple of the human body (1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19). When we go up to the house of the Lord to "behold the beauty of the Lord," to "see his glory … in the sanctuary" (Psalms 27:1-14 and Psalms 63:1-11), we go up to behold no visible grandeurs, but to do that which is better far for all spiritual well-being:
(1) to realize his nearness to us;
(2) to learn and welcome his truth;
(3) to pour out our hearts before him in adoration, praise, and prayer;
(4) to open our souls to receive his indwelling, sanctifying Spirit.—C.
HOMILIES BY R.A. REDFORD
Subject: God's glory manifested in the blessedness of his people.
The priests enter upon their office, offer sacrifices for themselves and the people, and receive tokens of Jehovah's presence and blessing. "And Aaron lifted up his hand towards the people," etc. (Leviticus 9:22-24). The main facts described are:
1. The joint blessing of the mediator of the Law and the high priest on the people, the solemn conclusion of the consecration and inauguration.
2. The glory of the Lord appearing unto all the people.
3. The fire from before the Lord consuming the burnt offering and the fat.
4. The whole people beholding the sign, accepting it as from God, and. rejoicing in it with adoring homage.
I. MAN BLESSED IN GOD.
1. Religion as revealed and set forth in the mediation of law and sacrifice, the only true element of fellowship between the creature and Creator. Natural religion a spurious substitute and insufficient. Moses and Aaron both typical of him in whom God invites us to receive the fullness of grace.
2. The blessings pronounced and published. In the promises of Scripture, in the history of redemption, in the individual experience of believers. Godliness hath the promise of both worlds in the best sense. Old and new covenants really one.
II. DIVINE GLORY MANIFESTED in response to man's faithfulness.
1. Look for it, especially in connection with the sanctuary. After crest confession and universal seeking of God's favour. An outpoured grace in revived religion, in manifest success in spiritual service, in the fellowship of priests and people with one another, in the providential signs of Divine interposition for the Church's extension.
2. Unto all the people. The blessing of religion is for the multitude, for the nation, for the world. Yet those who would see the glory must come around the center of its manifestation in the holy place. We can see the glory of the Lord in creation, in providence, in the written Word, only as we are taught by the Spirit and recognize the true order of the Divine kingdom, which places the throne of righteousness, the mercy-seat, in the midst, and makes the glory to radiate from that,
III. RELIGIOUS JOY AND PRAISE stirred up by signs of grace.
1. Heartfelt and outspoken.
2. Uniting all in common exaltation.
3. Deeply humble and adoring.
4. Not dependent on external miracle,
but finding occasion in every proof of fire from heaven, in the Church and in the world.—R.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Leviticus 9". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 13 / Ordinary 18