The Biblical Illustrator
Sanctified Aaron . . . and his sons.
Aaron and his consecration
The chapter before us gives a description of the ceremonies by which the priests were consecrated and formally inducted into their high office. These ceremonies were, for the most part, the same for Aaron and his sons; but it is the case of the high priest more particularly that I propose to present now. The case of the common priests is reserved for another occasion.
I. Fixing attention, then, upon Aaron, as about to be set apart for the high priesthood, the first thing I notice is the publicity with which the consecration was performed. The whole congregation of Israel had to be gathered together to witness the solemn transaction. The creation of so high an officer for the whole people required to be done in open daylight and in the view of all concerned. And the scene presented an imposing spectacle. But, through this scene in the Hebrew camp, I ascend at once to the contemplation of a more glorious spectacle. There rises up before me, in awful grandeur, the mount of Almighty Holiness. Around it, in serried orders, lie the princedoms and principalities of heaven. Myriads of holy ones, who looked on when the world was made, stand in compact throngs to watch in solemn silence the development of that new thought which has been thrown into their Celestial contemptations. The four-and-twenty elders, with their crowns of gold glittering in the sublime effulgence of the great white throne, wait in impressive seriousness; when out upon the glassy sea, spanned by emerald bows, and radiant in jewelry of Gods head, steps the blessed Son, saying, “Lo! I come to do Thy will, O God!” “I will redeem them from death: I will ransom them from the power of the grave!” and the Father from His everlasting seat lifts up His hand in solemn oath and says, “Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedek!”
II. The first thing to be done after the appearance of Aaron before the congregation as the designated priest, was to wash him with water. It was meant to impress the idea of cleanness in him who was to act as an attorney between man and his Maker. And Aaron in his outward purification shows us our great High Priest in the sublime purity which He brought to His mediation work. Jesus “was holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners.” It was partly in token of this pureness and separation that John, as another Moses, baptized Him in Jordan vale. He needed no cleansing. He always was pure. But, to indicate this purity, and to enter upon His priesthood in the regular way, He consented to be washed, as was Aaron. His baptism was part of His priestly installation.
III. The next thing done for Aaron’s consecration was the putting of the sacred vestments upon him. The priest was to be endowed with grace and glory as well as purity. He had to be clothed in righteousness, and girt for active obedience. He needed covering for those shoulders, which were to bear the people’s guilt, and for that brow, which was to be lifted up in confession. A rich, curious, graceful, and imposing suit was therefore provided for him--a suit which received its pattern from God, and was made according to specific Divine directions. A glorious High Priest is Jesus. Fold upon fold of glory and beauty encompass Him. With round upon round of heavenly excellency and celestial praise is He girded. Purity, and holiness, and power, and grace, and majesty, and ten thousand indescribable attractions, cluster upon Him, and surround Him with flames of perfection and light, which only the most costly jewelry can typify, which angels bend to contemplate, and which archangels cannot find words competent to express.
IV. The next thing in this impressive service was the holy chrism, or the anointing with oil This was not common oil, but the sacred, fragrant, and costly compound used only in solemn consecrations. It was “precious ointment on the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard, and went down to the skirts of his garments,” enveloping him in aroma as grateful to the smell as his garments were to the eye. It was the symbol of Divine gifts and unction. It pointed to that solemn chrism or christing of Jesus, by the pouring out upon Him of the Holy Spirit and energy of God “without measure.”
V. But still, Christ was not yet “made perfect.” Moses had yet to mark and sprinkle Aaron with the blood of sacrifice; and, as the Captain of our salvation, Christ had to be “made perfect through sufferings.” He needed to have upon Him the marks of blood. And as He was both the sacrifice and the priest, He had to give Himself to death before He could enter the Holy Place as our availing intercessor. We read that “Moses took of the blood, and put it upon the tip of Aaron’s right ear, and upon the thumb of his right hand, and upon the great toe of his right foot. And he took of the anointing oil, and of the blood upon the altar, and sprinkled it upon Aaron and upon his garments.” It was the picture of “the blood of Christ, who through the Eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God,” marking our great High Priest with the final touches of His installation as the Saviour of the world. Thus “being made perfect, He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him.” (J. A. Seiss, D. D.)
The spiritual signification of Aaron’s anointing
1. Some will have it to signify the power of consecration, which from the high priest was diffused upon others--as the oil ran down from the head to the inferior parts.
2. Some refer it to the graces of God’s Spirit upon ministers, whereby their ministration is made acceptable unto God.
3. Some that this abundance of oil poured upon the high priest’s head would have thereby expressed that he should excel others in the fragrant smell of good works.
4. But it is better referred to Christ, in whom there was a perfection of gifts, who is said to be anointed with the oil of gladness above His fellows; and the Evangelist saith, “ God giveth Him not the Spirit by measure.” So also Rupertus understandeth it for the fulness of grace in Christ, whereof all have received, as again the Evangelist saith, “Of His fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.”
5. Hesychius taketh this unction also for the incarnation of Christ, who was anointed in His blessed flesh with the Spirit of grace. He anointeth, as He is God, in respect of His Divine nature, and is anointed in His humanity. God the Father anointed Him, as it is said in the Psalms, “God, even Thy God, hath anointed Thee”; and the Holy Spirit anointed Him, as the Prophet saith, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me; therefore He hath anointed Me.” (A. Willet, D. D.)
The consecration of Aaron’s sons
I. These sons of Aaron, as well as Aaron himself, had been previously and divinely called to be priests. They had not been erected by men, but designated of God. Even so our calling and election to be priests of God and of Christ has come not from any workings of nature, but from the supernatural interposition of Divine grace. God, by His word and Spirit, has come forth, and nominated every one of us to the high service of ministering at His altar. He has sent forth His ministers and commissioned them to set apart all men whom they can reach, to be His priests.
II. Aaron and his sons obediently assented to their divine appointment. Would to God that I could say as much for all who are called to be priests under the new and better covenant! But it cannot be said. Though God calls, many refuse. They prefer to be priests of sin and self to being priests of God and of Christ. They choose rather to minister for iniquity and Satan than minister at the pure altar of Him who made them.
III. Aaron and his sons were consecrated according to specific divine directions. As Moses proceeded to attend to it, he said, “This is the thing which the Lord commanded to be done.” No wisdom or ingenuity of man can set apart priests for God. No rites that we can devise, no observances which this world’s sages may invent, can ever induct a man into Christian offices. Not even Moses had any right to proceed a single step, or to do one thing, except as God directed him. And everything which God commanded had to be done. Nor is it different now. We can only be set apart as priests of God and of Christ by the ceremonies which God Himself, by His Son, has prescribed. No rites of human make, no decrees of councils, or commands of earthly sovereigns, in Church or State; no liturgies; no manual impositions; no services, however solemn or dignified; nothing can avail one feather’s weight toward making any one a priest of God. His own clear and specific appointments alone can do this. It must be done by means of God’s own unmutilated prescriptions, or it cannot be done at all.
IV. The consecration of Aaron and his sons was A public and open transaction. The command of God was, “Gather thou all the congregation together”; and the history says, “the assembly was gathered together unto the door of the Tabernacle of the congregation,” around the spot where the solemn deed was done. We cannot secretly be inducted into the holy priesthood to which the gospel calls us. If there is any such a thing as secret discipleship, it is a very imperfect discipleship. Christ requires of us to confess Him before men. He demands of us an open and unreserved following of Him. He exacts submission to all His holy ordinances, some of which are essentially public. And if we are not willing to be openly known as God’s consecrated priests, I doubt whether our secret religion is of a sort that will avail in the Great Day. We come now to consider the particulars of the consecration itself.
1. “And Moses brought Aaron and his sons, and washed them with water.” This was the first item in the service. And what does it typify, but that “ washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost, shed on us abundantly, through Jesus Christ our Saviour”?
2. “And Moses brought Aaron’s sons, and put coats upon them, and girded them with girdles, and put bonnets upon them.” This was the second item in the service. After their cleansing they had to be clothed with ornaments “for glory and for beauty.” We must be pure, and we must be holy. Our native deformities must all be covered. We must “put on the Lord Jesus Christ,” and be arrayed in His loveliness. His own glorious attirements are to be reflected in ours.
3. A third item in this consecration service, was the leaning of hands upon the head of the sin-offering. Everywhere, even in our holiest moods and most sacred doings, there still flashes out the stern and humiliating accusation--“O man, thou art a sinner! All thy goodness is but abomination apart from Christ!” There must, therefore, be a habitual recurrence of our minds to this fact. Our hand must be ever kept on the brow of the atoning Lamb.
4. “And Moses put of the blood upon the tip of their right ear, and upon the thumbs of their right hands, and upon the great toes of their right feet.” The whole person is visibly dedicated to the Lord. Every faculty and power is consecrated with the blood of the Lamb.
5. “And Moses took of the anointing oil, and of the blood which was upon the altar, and sprinkled it upon Aaron, and upon his garments, and upon his sons, and upon his sons’ garments with him.” Even after their setting apart to be priests, they needed to be yet further sanctified as priests. Not only themselves, but their very garments also, were marked as holy. The sacred oil was emblematic of the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit. And so the Holy Ghost, in conjunction with the blood of the Lamb, sanctifies and endows us for holy services. Sprinkled with these sacred elements--touched with moral unction and constrained by the dying love of Jesus, we become equipped for duty, and qualified “to show forth the praises of Him who hath called us out of darkness into His marvellous light.”
6. Still another item in the consecration of God’s ancient priests was that they had to eat the boiled flesh of the offered lamb with unleavened bread, at the door of the Tabernacle. This boiled lamb of course typifies the Saviour as offered for our sins. It calls to mind the great sufferings which He endured as our Substitute and Sacrifice of consecration. And now that He is thus made an offering for our sanctification, it appertains to us to put forth our hands, and eat of that offering, as the life and feast of our souls. He is the bread of life, and upon that bread we must feed to be God’s priests.
7. Aaron and his sons, having attended to these several particulars, were further required to “abide at the door of the Tabernacle day and night seven days,” before they could enter fully upon the high offices to which they had been consecrated. The number seven is very often used in the Scriptures as the type of perfection and completeness. The consecration period was a complete period--a full measure of time. It was not only the fact of completeness, but a duration through which this fact was brought out. We are not only to be completely consecrated to a complete spiritual priesthood, but it is to take a complete period of time in which this completeness is to be effected. We must yet wait the revolution of a complete period before we can come into the Holy of Holies. That complete period can be nothing short of our entire earthly life. It is necessary to complete our glorious installation as priests of God and of Christ. And it will soon be over. It is only “seven days”--the shortest o! all the complete periods of human reckoning. Before we think of it, it will have passed. For some of us, much of it has already gone. (A. Willet, D. D.)
The calling of the priests
I. The priestly calling.
1. Intimate access with God.
2. Fullest knowledge of God.
3. Holy service fur God.
II. A calling of highest happiness and privilege.
III. A calling harmonious with a Christian’s sacred instincts and energies,
IV. A calling into a wondrous life. (W. H. Jellie.)
Priests versus priestism
I. Priests ministered in Israel with the high sanction of God. He--
1. Created the office, and defined its solemn functions, which were of the loftiest character.
2. Invested the person of the priest with splendour, majesty, and beauty, to command admiration and awe.
3. Determined the mediatorial intervention of the priest between man and God; set one man in this august and solemn supremacy among his fellows.
4. Refused any other than the priest to come direct to His altar and stand in His most holy presence.
II. The priesthood was a provisional arrangement anticipatory of Christ’s glorious offices.
1. In the personal excellence and piety of individual priests, the faultless being always chosen, Christ’s perfect humanity was foreshadowed.
2. In the splendid attire with which the priests were adorned, Christ’s majestic attributes and Divine qualities were represented.
3. In the imposing ministries before and within the veil, Christ’s offices as atoning and mediating Priest were pourtrayed.
4. In the sacred and exclusive privileges the priests enjoyed, Christ’s entire acceptableness and God’s great delight in Him were impressively and constantly intimated.
III. Christian ministers inherit many of the most august and responsible spiritual functions of the priesthood.
1.° They have no priestly calling, yet are as distinctly commissioned and Divinely consecrated to their work.
2. Their solemn trust places them in highest ministries and responsibilities as mediators between God and human souls.
3. The Christian Church is commanded to maintain them in their ministry and esteem them very highly in the discharge of their sacred commission.
4. As bishops and shepherds of Christ’s flock they are put in trust with the souls of their people; “they watch for souls.”
IV. modern priestliness perverts and prostitutes the sacred office of the ministry in the Christian church,
1. Its offensive assumption of spiritual supremacy is in defiance of Christ’s law of equality and brotherhood among believers.
2. Its officious intrusion between God and men is an affront to the unfettered liberty and right of every one to seek God for himself, and is an infringement upon the mediatorship of Jesus which always avails for all.
3. Its daring pretensions of altar ministries is a perversion of New Covenant doctrines; neither altar nor sacrificial rites remaining now within the Church.
4. Its appalling misleading of seduced souls, who rest on such beguiling priestliness for spiritual safety, instead of wholly trusting Christ, is sufficient to fill Christian hearts with indignation and to cover the very name of “priest” with anathemas. There is now no priest but Jesus Christ. (W. H, Jellie.)
Qualifications and ministries of. God’s priests -
I. Consecration wholly the work of another.
II. Perfect cleanness the initial requirement.
III. Investiture in holy attire. To Moses it had before been said, “Thou shalt make holy garments for Aaron thy brother, for glory and beauty.” Those garments had been made.
1. All the adornments of grace have been prepared for us; wait in readiness for us.
2. A moment of intensest joy to Moses when he brought forth those prepared garments for adornment. Nor less to Christ when He clothes the soul “with the garments of salvation.”
3. Attire symbolic of sacred qualities. They were of blue, purple, scarlet, fine-twined linen, with connecting chains and ouches or settings of gold, indicating:
Heavenliness of character (typified by the blue).
IV. Adorned with the crown of holiness. On his head was placed “the holy crown, the golden plate.”
1. The vindication of that “holiness” was the avowed object of his priestly service.
2. Bearing that inscription on his brow among the people, during his priestly ministries, asserted that God’s holiness had been and was being adequately maintained.
3. Entering into God’s presence with that inscription was evidence that God acknowledged the fact of His holiness being maintained.
V. The badge of mediatorship. “Breastplate.” Bearing others’ names is the crowning glory of the Lord Jesus.
VI. Spiritual anointing. That “holy oil” is the “unction from the Holy One.”
1. The plentitude of the Spirit; and--
2. The graces of the Spirit; and--
3. The efficient power of the Spirit, are essential to a priestly life of sanctity and service.
VII. Qualification based on sacrifice.
1. The scene suddenly changes, and the gloriously attired and anointed priest stands as a sinner by the sin-offering. For sin must be expiated even for the most privileged souls.
2. The burnt-sacrifice summoned them to absolute self-devotion; for God will receive no less in any who avowedly become His. “His zeal must consume us.”
3. But in the consecration-offering they yielded themselves up to God with gratitude and gladness: as those who reach towards the self-devotion of Jesus--“I delight to do Thy will; yea, Thy law is within my heart.”
VIII. Applied sacrificial grace. “Moses took the blood of it, and put it upon the tip of Aaron’s ear,” &c.
1. The value of sacrifice, which had before been accepted for them, was now applied to them.
2. The meaning of sacrifice, also, was now urged upon them: all life laid out for God, and in His service.
IX. Symbolic offerings presented to God.
1. Inward perfectness: perfectness in the reins, and in the heart; indicating the bringing, on their part, into God’s employ of their purest affections, and highest virtues, and noblest intelligence.
2. Outward developed perfectness of character; represented in the unleavened anointed bread that constituted the meat-offering. It is only in Christ’s perfectness--a perfectness to be appropriated by us--that we can present such offerings before God.
X. Sign of divine acceptance.
1. Being sprinkled by the blood which first bad been sprinkled and accepted upon the altar conveyed the fact that God received their consecration: that themselves, their office, and all its various functions were placed under the sanction and the acceptableness of the blood.
2. The sprinkling of the holy anointing oil symbolically connected the Holy Spirit’s grace with those offices into which God was, and is, pleased to call His people.
3. Their feeding upon the sacrifice signified the communication of strength, for we are nourished by food; and suggested the fellowship now established between them and God. (W. H. Jellie.)
Clothed and anointed for service
Moses having, in obedience to the Lord’s command, gathered all the congregation to the door of the Tabernacle (Leviticus 8:3-4)
, “brought Aaron and his sons, and--
I. Washed them with water (Leviticus 8:6). We must bear in mind that in this ceremonial Aaron is made to be representatively what Christ is intrinsically, while Aaron’s sons represent the Church, as she is in Christ. This ceremonial was “to hallow,” sanctify, or set apart--Aaron and sons “to minister unto” the Lord “in the priest’s office” (Exodus 29:1). Jesus, “sanctified” of Father (John 10:36; Hebrews 5:4-6), did also sanctify Himself for His people’s sake (John 17:17-19).
1. Aaron’s sons must be “clean,” to “bear the vessels of the Lord” (Isaiah 52:11). By nature all are “as an unclean thing “ (Isaiah 64:6); nor can any wash himself (Jeremiah 2:22); but God can cleanse the vilest (1 Corinthians 6:9-11), and does so in His grace and mercy. Jesus sanctifies “the Church” “with the washing of water by the Word” (Ephesians 5:26; John 15:3); and none can draw nigh to God without such “washing” (Hebrews 10:22; Titus 3:5).
2. Clothed (Leviticus 8:7-9). In the holy garments made for Aaron, “for glory and for beauty” (Exodus 28:2; see Isaiah 4:2, marg.), Christ is shadowed forth as the God-man, Priest, Saviour, King; able to meet His people’s every need for time and for eternity. Moses put on--
1. The coat. The Lord clothes (Isaiah 61:10; Zechariah 3:4-5). “Body,” “prepared” (Hebrews 10:5); “the Word . . . made flesh” (John 1:14).
2. Girdle, emblem of service (John 13:4; Luke 12:37). Jesus, Servant (Isaiah 42:1; Isaiah 49:6; Isaiah 53:11).
3. Robe; blue, heavenly, Jesus, “the Lord from heaven.” There, even when on earth, returned thither; will come from thence (1 Corinthians 15:47; John 3:13; Mark 16:19; Philippians 3:20). Heavenly in nature, character, all. Where Jesus is, there is heaven.
4. Ephod. Same materials as glorious inner covering of Tabernacle.
5. Curious girdle, like ephod. “Righteousness “ and “faithfulness” of our “Great High Priest” (Isaiah 11:5; Hebrews 4:14).
6. Breastplate. Jesus bears His people on His heart, proof of love. He loves to end (John 13:1). “Gave Himself” for Church, and now appears “in the presence of God for” His people (Ephesians 5:25; Hebrews 9:24).
7. Urim and Thummim in breastplate, by which the mind of God was made known. Literally, “Lights and Perfections.” Jehovah Jesus, in the midst of His chosen ones, is “the Light” and outshining of the Father’s glory (John 8:12; Hebrews 1:3); the Manifestation of His love (1 John 4:9); the Declarer of His mind and will (John 1:18).
8. Mitre and crown (see Zechariah 3:5; Zechariah 6:11; Zechariah 6:13). Essential holiness and purity of our High Priest and King, who bare the “ iniquity of the holy things” of His people (Exodus 28:38; Isaiah 53:11). Next see--
III. AARON’S SONS clothed (Leviticus 8:13) in coats, girdles, bonnets “of fine linen” (Exodus 28:40; Exodus 39:8-9; Exodus 39:27; Exodus 39:29).
1. Coats. Putting on “the Lord . . . Christ” (Romans 13:14).
2. Girdles. Serving Him (Colossians 3:24; Hebrews 12:28).
3. Fine linen. Death and resurrection with quickened “seed” (1 Corinthians 15:36; John 12:24).
4. Bonnets. Mind, intellect. A “royal priesthood” purified. Every thought brought “into captivity” (Ephesians 4:23-24; 2 Corinthians 10:5).
5. “For glory and for beauty” (Exodus 28:40); which His people to share with their risen Lord (John 17:10; John 17:22; Romans 8:30; 2 Corinthians 3:13; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Psalms 90:17; Ezekiel 16:14); as they shine for Him and reflect His image; “for as He is, so are,” &c. (1 John 4:17).
6. Woven. Righteousness wrought out (Romans 3:22; Romans 3:25-26; Ephesians 1:20; Psalms 132:9; Revelation 19:8); by the Head, Christ, who directs His “members” in the service of God.
IV. Anointed. Moses having “anointed the Tabernacle, and all therein” (Leviticus 8:10-12), where Aaron was to minister, as type of Jesus, “minister” of “true Tabernacle” (Hebrews 8:2); then “poured” anointing oil on Aaron’s head (Psalms 23:5; Psalms 133:2). Here Aaron stood alone, nor were his sons clothed till after his anointing. Jesus, holy from birth, yet anointed for service (Luke 3:21-22). “God anointed Jesus,” &c. (Acts 10:38; Luke 4:18); “above” those He graciously deigns to call His “fellows” (Psalms 45:7; Hebrews 1:9). He must “have the pre-eminence” (Colossians 1:18); being “above all,” and “the Head” (Ephesians 1:21-22). Oil poured. “God giveth not the Spirit by measure,” &c. (John 3:34), but in sevenfold power (Isaiah 11:2; Isaiah 61:1; Isaiah 16:2; Revelation 3:1); for service, death, resurrection (Acts 2:22; Acts 4:27; Hebrews 9:14; 1 Peter 3:18). But the Spirit could not be given to His people till His atoning work was accomplished and Himself “glorified” (John 7:39). Hence, till the sacrifices were offered, Aaron’s sons were not anointed (Leviticus 8:30). Then, together with Aaron, because Head and “members” one (Hebrews 2:11). First, blood was put on ear, hands, feet (Leviticus 8:24), then Moses “sprinkled “ it “upon the altar.” After which, following the “wave-offering” (Leviticus 8:27)--typifying resurrection with Christ--“Moses took of the anointing oil, and of the blood which was upon the altar, and sprinkled” upon them and upon their garments. Oil and blood, blood and oil (Exodus 29:21); significant of justification and sanctification, which are inseparably connected (1 Corinthians 6:11; 1 Peter 1:2). Sealing and sanctifying (Ephesians 1:13) are the work of the blessed Trinity. God not only cleanses and clothes, but anoints (Ezekiel 16:9-10; 2 Corinthians 1:21-22). Here see in type the sanctifying power of Jesu’s blood shed for us, and Holy Spirit’s work within, when the Father draws to Jesus those whom He has given Him (John 6:37; John 6:44-45). Thus, behold Aaron and sons, washed, clothed, anointed--
V. Consecrated, or set apart for service of God. The oneness of Christ and His people seen in Aaron and sons laying hands on head of each victim (leaning with weight, as word implies); Jesus--Antitype of offerings. His people partakers of the benefits resulting from His great work.
1. Sin-offering. Pardon and justification.
2. Burnt-offering. Acceptance and worship.
3. Ram of consecration. Consecration and devotedness, all in and through Christ.
VI. Filling the hand. See marginal reading of “consecrate” (Exodus 28:41; Exodus 29:9). The personal reception and appropriation of the Father’s Gift of love (Leviticus 8:25-28; 2 Corinthians 9:15), even Christ. His rich preciousness (fat and inwards), His life (cakes), His death (ram slain), His strength (shoulder). “All things are yours; and ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s” (1 Corinthians 3:21-23); and all given back to God as burnt-offering, “a sweet-smelling savour” (Ephesians 5:2; Romans 12:1).
VII. Feeding and communion (Leviticus 8:31-36) are needed to maintain the life given and consecrated to God. No fitness of service without. Seven days, complete cycle of time, as appointed by God. Some would rush into service directly the heart--through the operation of the Holy Spirit--has opened to receive Jesus; but ofttimes God sees fit to give long training. Only let God feed, strengthen, and fit for the service to which He calls, and then go forth in His strength. (Lady Beaujolois,Dent.)
1. Of the office of the law, which prepares for the gospel
2. A good life much available unto the understanding of God’s Word.
3. None should take upon them the office of the ministry, but thereunto called.
4. Without the knowledge of God, all other science is vain and unprofitable.
5. No laws or doctrine to be brought into the Church, but by warrant from God in His Word.
6. That every good gift is of God, and that we can do nothing of ourselves.
7. No sacrifice, sacrament, nor priesthood out of the Church. (A. Willet, D. D.)
The separation of Aaron and his sons
We are already familiar with the use that has been made of separation in the third age to inculcate the absolute necessity of holiness in order to intercourse with God. Abraham was separated from an idolatrous and wicked world, to be the head of a family and a nation that should be holy to the Lord; and accordingly, in comparison with the heathen world Israel as a whole was a priesthood, as is set forth in Exodus 19:6 : “Ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” Observe now how the same principle is further carried out. From the entire nation one tribe, the tribe of Levi, is set apart to be, above all the others, holy unto the Lord. From the tribe of Levi, one family, that of Aaron, is set apart to be, above all the other families of the tribe, holy unto the Lord. And finally, from the family of Aaron a single individual, the high priest, is set apart to be, above all the other members of the family, holy unto the Lord. The washing with water (verse 6) led the mind still farther in the same direction. The effect of this on the minds of the people may perhaps be illustrated in this way: Suppose you wish to give the idea of perfectly pure water to some person who has never seen it, and you have no means of showing him the genuine article; by taking water in different degrees of impurity, and leading him to look at the different specimens, beginning with that which is most impure and going on to that which is least, you will at all events set his mind in the direction of the conception which you wish him to attain. And in the same way, though there was no way open of showing Israel at this time a genuine specimen of that holiness without which no man can see the Lord, yet by these successive separations of officially (or, if you choose, artificially) holy persons, the mind of Israel was set in the direction of that holiness up to which the Lord was educating them. It must be remembered that they had the moral law to help them to translate the symbolical holiness into the reality, of which it was the mere expression in language addressed to the eye. While Aaron and his sons represented Israel, they typified Christ and His Church. (J. M. Gibson, D. D.)
Divine institution of ministry
The reasons why the Lord thus precisely appointed these priests, and would not leave it to every man to perform this office, were these and such like.
1. It was to be known that not every man--no, not any man but the Man Christ Jesus could appease God’s wrath, satisfy His justice, and take away the sins of the world, reconciling us to God and putting us in assurance of eternal life. This could not be figured out better than by secluding all the whole host of Israel from this office and choosing but Aaron and his sons as types of Christ, this only able Priest, and therefore they only were chosen, and so by such ordinance the majesty, authority, and (if we may so speak)
the propriety of Christ’s office resembled and shadowed.
2. God was ever the God of order, decency, and comeliness, and therefore in His Church would have all things done accordingly, not enduring any to be an invader of another man’s right, an intruder of himself into another man’s office, and a busybody out of rule, out of order. Certain men, therefore, are appointed, and they only shall do it. Others, if they meddle, being strangers, because not called, shall die the death as you hear before. Thus hath He also in the New Testament established a ministry, and given some apostles, some evangelists, some pastors and doctors for the building up of His Church, &c. He also decreed that the contempt of these is the contempt of Him; and then judge you, first or last, what punishment will ensue. (Bp. Babington.)
The essential significance of the priesthood
The essential significance of the priesthood cannot be deduced from the etymology of the Hebrew word thus translated, since that is not clear; nor is the extra-Levitical usage of the word so restricted as to afford an unequivocal solution of the question. A direct declaration of the Mosaic conception is, however, given in connection with the Korahitic rebellion (Numbers 16:1-50.)
; in which passage the notes of the priesthood are given by Moses himself as follows:
1. A Divine choice or call (“Whom He hath chosen”).
2. A right of Divine service (“Who are His”).
3. Holiness (“Who is holy”).
4. A right of Divine access (“Come near unto Him”).
The priest was one who, having been Divinely selected, had accepted his call without reservation, and being possessor of an imputed righteousness, was privileged to draw near the Majesty from on high. A closer analysis might still further simplify this Mosaic conception of priesthood. Of the attributes just enumerated, it may be said that the second and the fourth are identical; then the first and the third rather belong to the prerequisites of priesthood than to its essence. The essential significance, therefore, of the priesthood may be stated to lie in its privilege of Divine approach. It will thus be seen that in a limited degree every Jew was, as the primary form of the covenant announced, a priest; nevertheless the right of Divine approach, restricted as it was to the court of the Tabernacle, was so meagre as to be unworthy of the name of priesthood. It was to the Aaronites, with their more tangible privileges of worship before the veil, that the name seemed more especially applicable; whilst to the officiating high priest alone was it permitted to occasionally enter within the veil, and participate in that highest access, in that most exalted priesthood, which was possible to Judaism. Guarded by so many restrictions, and rising through such gradations, how lofty the dignity, how sublime the privilege, of standing in the presence of the Holy One of Israel to worship and petition I The essential significance of the priesthood may be otherwise stated. For, if it be remembered that the privilege of Divine approach carried with it the privilege of representing others to whom such approach was denied, it may be said that the essence of the priesthood was mediation, that of the ordinary priests being indirect, and that of the high priest direct. Again, the essential attribute of the high priest, the privilege of access to the Holy of Holies, implying the purpose for which that access was made, the essence of the high priesthood, may be roughly described, as in some passages of the New Testament, and in popular theology, by its exceptional privilege of atonement. (A. Cave, D. D.)
The altar and the laver
As the sacrifices are ever leading us to the great altar of brass, and as the continual washings that are mentioned in this chapter will be ever turning us to the laver of brass, let us here, for a moment, fix our eye upon them. The one shows us pardon of sin by Christ’s death, the other shows us purification of heart by Christ’s Spirit. But why is there such a singular peculiarity in the construction of both altar and laver? The former was covered with the brass of the censers that had been held in the polluted hands of Korah, Dathan, and his company (Numbers 16:38)
; and the latter was formed of the brass that was obtained from the mirrors of the women (Exodus 38:8) who worshipped at the Tabernacle door, and had been used but too frequently to gratify the unholy feelings called forth by “the lust of the eye.”
I. The brazen censers of korah and his company contrasted very evidently with the golden censer of a true priest. The gold of the latter marked its heavenly character and use, as we see also in the gold of the candlestick, of the table, and of the mercy-seat, or in the golden streets and golden harps of New Jerusalem. But nevertheless, out of these polluted materials, the Lord forms the altar where atonement for sin was to be made. Shittim-wood (very durable and incorruptible) is spread over with plates of this brass. Is not this fitted to remind us that Christ had the “likeness of sinful flesh”--the shittim-wood being veiled and hid by the brass? In the very nature that sinned so presumptuously the Lord Jesus appears; and, wearing that nature, presents in it His offering--only, in His person it was so pure that the “Altar sanctified the Gift.” When He arose and ascended, He threw off this obscurity, and was “the Golden Altar.”
II. The laver, made of the mirror brass, held pure water, the type of the holy spirit. In our very nature, which in our hands serves only the purposes of sin and vanity, the Redeemer exhibited purity--the very purity of the Holy Ghost, who dwelt in Him without measure! He took our true nature from the womb of the Virgin; and, assuming it to Himself, thereby made it holy. And so it became a holy vessel for the Spirit to fill.
The main ideas symbolised in the vestments of the high priest
The ephod with its girdle signified the beautiful character and the exalted service which are becoming to the Holy Place; and the shoulder-pieces and the breastplate, with the precious stones and the engraving on them, signified that the children of Israel as a whole, and each child individually, was borne on the strong shoulders and carried in the warm heart of their representative in the presence of the Lord, giving the conceptions of strength to sustain and love to cherish; the Urim and Thummim added the thought of heavenly guidance along a path that “shineth more and more unto the perfect day”; the pomegranates and bells on the blue robe of the ephod symbolised heavenly fruitfulness and joy; while the climax of all was reached in the golden graving of “Holiness unto the Lord.” You see how rich was the symbolism of the high priestly vestments. And how expressive as types of the glory and the grace of our great High Priest! The Lord Jesus needed no priestly vestments; for He had the great realities, of which these were only the symbols. He really possessed the lovely character which was only symbolised in the ephod; and no “curious girdle” was needed to make it evident that it was a high and holy work in which He was engaged. His strength to save and His love for lost sinners were so conspicuous all through His strong and loving life, that onyx stones upon His shoulders or precious stones ripen His breast would have been superfluous. No symbol of Urim and Thummim was needed for One who could say: “I am the Light of the world; He that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” Nor were bells and pomegranates needful on that garment hem, the very touching of which, in the spirit of trembling faith, brought health to a cheek that for twelve years had been pale, and joy to a heart that after every remedy had been tried in vain, had bidden farewell to hope (Luke 8:43-44). And why should there be a plate of gold with “Holiness to the Lord” inscribed upon it, on the forehead of One who could fearlessly issue the challenge: “Which of you convinceth Me of sin?”--One who was really, as the Other was only symbolically, “holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners”? Verily, in a far higher sense is it true of Him than it was of Aaron, that “Holiness unto the Lord” is “always on His forehead, that we may be accepted before the Lord.” (J. M. Gibson, D. D.)
The Urim and the Thummim
The Urim and the Thummim
The Urim and the Thummim was something distinct from the twelve stones in the pectoral of the high priest. Evidently the breastplate with its jewels was outward and visible; the Urim and the Thummim were inward, and concealed beneath the ephod, for it is said of the former, “they shall bind the breastplate unto the rings of the ephod, that it may be above the curious girdle of the ephod.” With regard to the Urim and the Thummim, on the other hand, it is enjoined “thou shalt put in “ (enclose within)
“the breastplate the Urim and the Thummim, and they shall be upon” (next) “Aaron’s heart when he goeth in before the Lord.” Nor is it to be overlocked that, with carefully selected terms, Moses speaks of the stones in the breastplate being “set, or filled in,” but the Urim and the Thummim he describes simply as “put in,” as if the one had been fixed with elaborate art, the other merely deposited by the hand--dropped in. Nay, it is stated expressly that “Moses put the breastplate upon Aaron,” and that, after he had thus put on him the breastplate, all gemmed and finished, “he put in the breastplate the Urim and the Thummim.” The artificers, therefore, must have prepared the sacerdotal vestment, even to the stones of the breastplate, whilst Moses provided the Urim and the Thummim.
II. Urim and Thummim are proper names susceptible of a very definite and obvious meaning. “Urim” might have been translated “light,” or “manifestation,” for it imports “a light or shining thing”; and “Thummim” might have been rendered “truth or perfection,” meaning, as it does, “the perfect or the true.”
III. If, however, the Urim and the Thummim be not the breastplate of the high priest, and something distinct from the stones thereof; it, likewise, it be entitled to the designations of “light and truth,” a “perfect and a shining thing,” being thus loftily characterised of God Himself, what else could it mean than the law as given on Sinai, and written by Moses, when he descended from the Mount?
1. It is to be noticed that, when the article is first introduced, Moses refers to it as already in existence, and not as a thing that needed to be prepared. “Thou shalt put within the breastplate the Urim and the Thummim”--all which accords wholly with the idea that the law was meant, it being already in possession of Moses, and known to all the camp.
2. Let it also be taken into consideration that tile law received different names according to the light in which it was viewed. It is called “ the Ten Commandments” when its moral precepts are numbered. It is designated “ the table of covenant “ when regarded as the tenure by which Israel held Canaan. It was spoken of as “a commandment” considered as being stamped with Divine authority. It went under the name of “judgment” when adduced as the standard that fixes all moral truth. And it is “a testimony” when meaning a public declaration of what God expects from His creatures. If, however, the law were thus denoted by expressions taken from some of its aspects and properties, there is nothing forced in the supposition that it may also have received the designation of “light and perfection” (“Urim and Thummim”) as another formula by which briefly to signify its character as a whole.
IV. And the appellations given both to the breastplate and the Urim and Thummim add probably to this view. The former is entitled “the breastplate of judgment,” which can only mean the breastplate including judgment or containing the law. Urim and Thummim are likewise designated as “the judgment,” that is, the law of Israel. It enhances the argument to consider that the terms “ Urim and Thummim” (“light and perfection”) answer precisely to the description God has given of His law: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my paths.” Nay, “the law of Jehovah is perfect” (Thummim); “the law of Jehovah is pure, enlightening the eyes” (Urim). This explanation invests the practice of consulting the Urim and the Thummim with dignity and reasonableness. Were the Urim and Thummim a mere ornament of skilful jewelry, it would seem not only unmeaning, but a direct encouragement of idolatry to associate it with the revelation of the Divine mind. But let it be admitted that the law is within the sacerdotal robe, and it is at once apparent that the man who consults by Urim and Thummim is only advising with the high priest as to the statutes of Jehovah, and ascertaining their import from him who had been ordained to interpret them. Taking the Urim and the Thummim to mean the law, this article completes the typical character of the sacerdotal apparel, as pointing out the offices of Christ. The robe and mitre worn by Aaron denoted the priesthood of Christ; the golden plate on the forehead signified the royalty of the Saviour; and the Urim and the Thummim, if interpreted to be the law, would shadow forth the Redeemer’s prophetic office. The view now taken throws light on several passages of Holy Writ.
1. To hide a law would, according to usual notions, mean anything but showing it reverence and obeying it with anxiety. Yet “Thy law,” says David, “have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee.” The phrase, therefore, is strictly a Jewish one, and can only be explained by the custom now illustrated. The allusion is to the high priest depositing the law within his breastplate for the purpose of being consulted.
2. Throughout the whole of Psalms 40:1-17. Christ is shadowed forth in reference to the ancient priesthood, and in the words “I delight to do Thy will, O my God; yea, Thy law is within my heart,” the allusion is manifestly to Aaron carrying the law beside his heart within the breastplate. The meaning is, therefore, not simply that Christ is holy. But, first, it is to be understood that, as Priest of the Church, Jesus is prepared to fulfil all that has been typified in the law; and, next, that, as the Prophet of God, He alone can guide and sanctify.
3. The prayer, “O send forth Thy light and Thy truth; let them lead me,” is just a request that the Urim and Thummim might be David’s guide, so that he may not miss his way to God, or come by a forbidden road. But the Urim and the Thummim being the law, the Psalmist’s desire was to approach God in the observance of those rites and in possession of that spirit which the law required.
4. The Jew ever turned to his high priest for information on all religious points, and guidance in all perplexing junctures, knowing that in him was hid a source of light and the means of perfection which could neither fail nor mislead. But the apostle asserts that the High Priest of the Christian profession is also thus gifted and benignant. “In Christ are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Within His breast there is a spring of knowledge as exhaustless--a law of holiness as authoritative--a beam of light as pure. He will lead in the paths of truth and holiness all who ask counsel at His lips.
5. It may be asked, To what are the Jewish phylacteries to be traced but to the Urim and Thummim of the high priest? There is a Divine command to bind the law as a bracelet on the hand--on the head, as a frontlet, but the practice of inscribing portions of the law on parchment and depositing them in a case is evidently the Urim and the Thummim on a smaller scale. Indeed, the idea of interpreting literally the order of Moses above alluded to must have arisen from observing what the high priest did with the scroll of the law entire, and a desire to imitate his practice. The view taken suggests some practical lessons.
Moses took of the blood.
Consecration by blood
1. There is, first, the selection of the victim. “Behold My servant whom I have chosen,” is God’s message to us concerning Him; and again, He says, “I have exalted one chosen out of the people”; and, in the New Testament, He is called “the Christ, the chosen of God” (Luke 23:35)
. The Great Sacrifice, the propitiation for our sins, the lamb for the burnt-offering, is entirely of God’s selection. And in this of itself we have the blessed assurance of its suitableness and perfection.
2. There is the transfer of the sinner’s sin to this selected victim. Though in one sense this is done by God, through that same eternal purpose by which the victim was selected, yet in another sense, and as a thing brought about, or becoming a fact, in time, it is the sinner that does this when he accepts the sacrifice, and, putting his hand upon it, confesses his sin over it
3. There is the death of the victim. Without that shedding of blood, which is the means of death, and the evidence of its having taken place, is no remission.
4. There is the transfer of this death to the sinner by putting the blood upon him. The sinner’s death is first of all transferred to the Surety, who dies as the sinner’s substitute. Then the Surety’s death is transferred back again to the sinner, and placed to his account as if it had been his own. In confession we transfer our death to the Surety. In believing we transfer His death to ourselves, so that, in the sight of God, it comes to be reckoned truly ours. This transference of the Surety’s death to us is that which is set before us by the putting the blood upon us. For blood means death--or life taken away; and the putting of blood upon us is the intimation the death has passed upon us--and that death, none other than the death of the Surety. Put yourself in the position which God asks thee to do; that is, believe the Father’s testimony to the death of His Son. The moment that then believest, the blood is sprinkled, the death is transferred, thou art counted as one who hast died, and so paid the penalty--and thou art forgiven, accepted, clean!
5. There is the sinner’s new life thus received through death. Made partakers of Christ’s resurrection and Christ’s life, they go forth to do His will, in the strength of His risen life. It is as resurrection-men that they serve Him, and who are drawing from that resurrection-fountain daily treasures of life, wherewith to labour for Him who died for them and who rose again. If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things that are above, and make use of your risen life for duty, for temptation, for battle, for trial, for suffering. It will be sufficient for every time of need.
6. There is the entire consecration of the whole man to God, in consequence of His having thus died and risen. That which proclaimed them dead, in consequence of the applied death of the sacrifice, sets them apart for holy purposes in God’s house. Thus it is that the death and resurrection of our true ram of consecration, our better sacrifice, operate upon us. They “sanctify” us, as the apostle’s expression is, in the Epistle to the Hebrews: “Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered without the gate.” The whole man, from head to feet, becomes a sacred thing, dedicated to the service of the living God. (H. Bonar, D. D.)
The days of your consecration.
Consecration and service
It seams singular and almost frivolous that the priests were commanded not to go out of the door of the Tabernacle of the congregation for seven days. This is our own practice. The accident has changed, but this is the philosophy of all calculated and well-set life. No priesthood is worth accepting that any fool may step into without notice, without preparation, and without thought. The great priesthoods of life are all approached by a seven days’ consecration. Does the medical priest run into his priesthood without consecration? is he not hidden for many a day in the tabernacle of wisdom--in the tent in which he meets all the authorities of his science? For a long time he may not prescribe; for a considerable period he has but to inquire and to give proof of capacity and industry. A whole week of time--meaning by that some perfect period--must elapse before he goes forth authoritatively to feel a pulse or to prescribe a remedy. Apply this to the preaching of the gospel. The preacher must be long time hidden, during which no man may suspect that he is a preacher; his silence may be almost provoking; people may be driven to inquire what the purpose of his life is: he says nothing; he never reveals himself; he looks as if he might be about to speak, but speak he never does; he is full of books and thoughts, and prayer seems to be written upon his transfigured face. What is the meaning of this? He is in the tent of meeting; he is in conference with the Trinity; he is undergoing consecration--in no merely ceremonial sense; in the sense of acquiring deeper knowledge of God, fuller communion with the truth, and entering into closer fellowship with all the mysteries of human life. (J. Parker, D. D.)
The spiritual application of this abiding of the priests seven days in the Tabernacle
1. Hesychius applieth it to the Pentecost, which was seven times seven days from the resurrection of Christ, and the apostles were commanded not to depart from Jerusalem till they had received the Holy Ghost, as these are not to go out of the door of the Tabernacle during the time of their consecration.
2. Lyranus would have understood by the seven days seven things from which the priests should abstain--long sleep, pleasure in eating, unprofitable actions, multiplicity of distraction, vanity of talking, variety of fiction, vileness of affection.
3. Some hereby would have signified that they which are to receive orders should exercise themselves with spiritual meditations in some retired place.
4. Some would have this a type of baptism, so such as were baptized did use to go seven days apparelled in white.
5. But these are fitter applications: That ministers should learn hereby to frequent the Church and to attend Divine things, or that these seven days may betoken all the time of this life, that we should not day or night, in prosperity or adversity, depart from the faith of the Church, or that the priests, as long as they live, should not depart from the observation of the Divine law, and should be admonished that all their life they are devoted to another’s service; and the staying in the Tabernacle showeth two principal duties of the priest--to learn somewhat of God or to teach the people; but he should teach what he hath learned out of Scripture, not out of his own brain. (A. Willet, D. D.).
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Leviticus 8". The Biblical Illustrator. https://beta.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25