26 November 2011

A Survey of the Old Testament Law--Consecrating Aaron and His Sons (Part 2)

Last week we started looking at the various offerings and rituals that Aaron and his sons had to go through to be consecrated—set apart—to the Old Covenant priesthood. God was very specific about how these animals that were offered up for the purification offerings were to be cut up and what was to be done with the various parts. And at the time these things were being done, these fellows may not have had any idea why these things were done the way they were being done. But now that Christ has come we can see the symbolism involved in these rituals either pointed to Christ or were fulfilled in Christ. Because we also are priests, 1st Peter 2:9But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood. Being sinful, fallen humans, we need someone to plead with God on our behalf. Since Christ has come, He intercedes with the Father on our behalf, and has in fact given us the privilege of being counted as priests to God. So now, we don’t need to find a descendant of Aaron to mediate for us. I can come before God on Richard’s behalf. Dave can go before God on Eddie’s behalf. We can all go before God on behalf of others because we are a “royal priesthood."

But, under the old covenant, that role was fulfilled by the priest. And if you recall, not just anybody could be priest, you had to be a male descendant of Aaron. And before Aaron and his sons could be set apart as priest they had to offer sacrifices for their own sins. This sacrifice included one young bull and two rams without blemish, unleavened bread, unleavened cakes mixed with oil, and unleavened wafers anointed with oil (Exodus 29:1-2). Last week we saw what they did with the bull, today we get to what they did with the rest of these things. Exodus 29:15-18“15 You shall also take one ram, and Aaron and his sons shall put their hands on the head of the ram; 16 and you shall kill the ram, and you shall take its blood and sprinkle it all around on the altar. 17 Then you shall cut the ram in pieces, wash its entrails and its legs, and put them with its pieces and with its head. 18 And you shall burn the whole ram on the altar. It is a burnt offering to the LORD; it is a sweet aroma, an offering made by fire to the LORD.” The bull was the sin offering; the ram was the burnt offering. They laid their sins on the head of the bull, then they were to offer this ram to sanctify themselves to the most important office any man could ever hold. By killing, cutting up and burning this ram, they were making a covenant with God that they would serve Him all their days and be worthy of the office of priest. And we see this principle as we read Exodus 29:19-21“19 You shall also take the other ram, and Aaron and his sons shall put their hands on the head of the ram. 20 Then you shall kill the ram, and take some of its blood and put it on the tip of the right ear of Aaron and on the tip of the right ear of his sons, on the thumb of their right hand and on the big toe of their right foot, and sprinkle the blood all around on the altar. 21 And you shall take some of the blood that is on the altar, and some of the anointing oil, and sprinkle it on Aaron and on his garments, on his sons and on the garments of his sons with him; and he and his garments shall be hallowed, and his sons and his sons' garments with him.” This was the ram of consecration—the offering that set Aaron and his sons apart from the rest of the nation of Israel and sanctified them for the priesthood. This offering was different from the other offerings for the priesthood or even the common person that we will see in later chapters.

And the one act that sets this apart is found in Exodus 29:20“Take some of its blood and put it on the tip of the right ear of Aaron and on the tip of the right ear of his sons, on the thumb of their right hand and on the big toe of their right foot, and sprinkle the blood all around on the altar.” Did I tell ya this was going to get kinda messy? Did I lie? Before you ask, yes, the blood of this animal was indeed to be put on the right ear, right thumb, and right big toe of Aaron and his sons. I'll throw this question out to you—what do you think was the significance of this act? Why the ear, thumb, and toe? Adam Clarke—
“That they should dedicate all their faculties and powers to the service of God; their ears to the hearing and study of his law, their hands to diligence in the sacred ministry, and their feet to walking in the way of God’s precepts.”
Here are two questions I will be asking today, so you should know the answers by the time we’re done. Are we kings and priests to God? Are we a royal priesthood? These are not insignificant statements. We are priests to God, and what this means for us is that we are to be careful how we conduct ourselves. Take the ears for example. Consider a person who claims to be saved. Let’s say they listen to a certain type of music. Whether it’s Led Zeppelin or Metallica or Lady Gag. Does the kind of music we listen to determine whether we are saved or not? No, and you will never hear me say that.

But what I will say is this: the person who listens to those kinds of music—why would they want to listen to music that glorifies those things that God hates? We can't necessarily say that person is not saved, but we do have many warnings in the NT about how we are to be careful about those things that we find acceptable. Galatians 5:13For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh. We are no longer under Law but under grace—but that does not mean we should go out and live like the lost. In 1st Corinthians 8:1-13 and Romans 14:1-23, Paul lays out his concerns about those who were eating meat that had been offered to idols. And he warns the Corinthians and the Romans that when a mature Christian—a “stronger brother”—eats meat offered to idols in the presence of a younger Christian—a “weaker brother”—there is a danger that the “weaker brother” may start to wander into those things that can jeopardize his soul. And in both places he tells the “stronger brother” to put aside his own desires for the sake of the “weaker brother.”

Romans 14:14-1514 To him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. 15 Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died. 1st Corinthians 8:9-129 Beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. 10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol's temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols? 11 And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? 12 But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. That’s quite a stinging indictment. That when we put our own personal preferences over the safety of another’s soul that we sin against God. So what was Paul’s solution to such a dilemma? 1st Corinthians 8:13Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat. If his eating of meat would cause others to think it was OK to offer meat to idols, he would never eat meat again for the rest of his life. That was the care that the OT priests were to take in conducting their office. Their conduct was essential to their office. They could not offer sacrifices for the sins of the people if they still had sins of their own that had not been taken care of. So this blood that was applied to their ear, thumb, and big toe was meant to not only purify those organs for use in the sanctuary, they were a covenant these men made to use these organs in a manner worthy of their office.

Exodus 29:22-25“22 Also you shall take the fat of the ram, the fat tail, the fat that covers the entrails, the fatty lobe attached to the liver, the two kidneys and the fat on them, the right thigh (for it is a ram of consecration), 23 one loaf of bread, one cake made with oil, and one wafer from the basket of the unleavened bread that is before the LORD; 24 and you shall put all these in the hands of Aaron and in the hands of his sons, and you shall wave them as a wave offering before the LORD. 25 You shall receive them back from their hands and burn them on the altar as a burnt offering, as a sweet aroma before the LORD. It is an offering made by fire to the LORD.” We have seen the sin offering and the burnt offering, and now we see the wave offering. The same ram whose blood was applied to their ear, thumb and toe, they were to take all the fat from the tail, intestines and kidneys. Then take the right thigh (right hind quarter) and the bread we find in Exodus 29:2. Take it all, put it all together in a separate pile.

Then Aaron and his sons (Eleazar, Ithamar, Nadab, Abihu) would all be gathered in a circle. They would put out their hands, and all the things you find in Exodus 29:22-23 would be heaped into their hands. Did I say this was gonna get kinda messy? It was one big, doughy, gooey mess. That is why this “wave offering,” in Hebrew, literally means “the fill-offering.” Because, as you could well imagine, all their hands would be full of stuff. Then Moses would put his hands underneath the hands of Aaron and his sons, and they would “wave them as a wave offering” (Exodus 29:24). They would simply “wave” them from side to side. What does all this signify? I'm glad you asked. Well, they’ve already taken the blood and smeared it and sprinkled it on Aaron and his sons, as a promise that they will walk, listen and act in a manner worthy of their office. They’ve had the blood of this ram sprinkled on them, as a way of saying that this innocent animal died because of their sins. That is to say, that innocent blood was on them. Matthew 27:25And all the people answered and said, "His blood be on us and on our children." Now, they take the fat, with a pile of bread, wave it from one side to the other and finally set it on the altar and burn it all. And God declares that this would be “a sweet aroma” to Him. A “sweet aroma.” Have you ever smelled burning fat and bread? Romans 12:1I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. In order to be consecrated as priests, all these guys had to do was burn some fat and bread on a man-made altar. Was it the smoke from the burning fat and bread that pleased God? No. It was the obedience they displayed in performing these rites.

Are we kings and priests to God and a royal priesthood? Now, we are to give not just bread and the fat of rams, but our whole body and our life to serving the true altar in the Holiest of All in the Heavens. What Paul is telling us in Romans 12:1 is to give our whole body as an offering to God, telling God that all of us is His, and that our lives are but a puff of smoke (James 4:14). And that if He wants to bring our lives to a sudden end that is certainly His right. I like what John Gill says about Romans 12:1
“By their bodies are meant…all the powers and faculties of their souls, and members of their bodies; and the presenting of them…with all readiness and willingness, to the service of God for his honour and glory, without putting any confidence in themselves…Under the Gospel dispensation all believers are priests; and the sacrifices they bring are not the bodies of slain beasts, but their own bodies, their whole selves.”
Next, we see the “heave offering.” Exodus 29:26-30“26 Then you shall take the breast of the ram of Aaron's consecration and wave it as a wave offering before the LORD; and it shall be your portion. 27 And from the ram of the consecration you shall consecrate the breast of the wave offering which is waved, and the thigh of the heave offering which is raised, of that which is for Aaron and of that which is for his sons. 28 It shall be from the children of Israel for Aaron and his sons by a statute forever. For it is a heave offering; it shall be a heave offering from the children of Israel from the sacrifices of their peace offerings, that is, their heave offering to the LORD. 29 And the holy garments of Aaron shall be his sons' after him, to be anointed in them and to be consecrated in them. 30 That son who becomes priest in his place shall put them on for seven days, when he enters the tabernacle of meeting to minister in the holy place.” The same ram whose blood was put on their ear, thumb and toe; the same ram whose fat was waved as a wave offering—Moses was then to take the breast (brisket) and wave it as a wave offering—and he gets to keep it after they're all done. But before he keeps that brisket, he takes it, along with the thigh (right hind quarter) and they would heave these things into the air. At least one significance to this action—maybe two. The clearest significance is the parts that were used. The breast and the thigh. How are we to love the LORD our God? “With all your heart, with all your soul, all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5). The breast, as you can now gather, signifies loving God with all your heart and soul. With the thigh you confess that you love God with all your strength. Another meaning may be this: that as hard as we may try to get rid of our sins—as far as we may try to toss them with our own effort—we can never get rid of them. And the harder we try and work and do “good deeds” to throw our sins away from us, if we are depending on our own efforts our sins are going to keep coming back to us. BUT—if we lift up Christ, our sins will be taken away. John 12:32“If I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all peoples to Myself.” If we look to Christ as being our “heave offering,” He will take our sins from us forever. And they will never come back to us.

Now, what do these two offerings, when seen together, point to? Watch this. The wave offering was waved back and forth and to and fro. The heave offering was tossed up into the air. The wave offering (back and forth) and the heave offering (up and down). Hmmmm, I wonder if there’s some symbolism there. Charles Francois Houbigant was a Frenchman who lived in the 1600’s. He was a scholar in the field of Old Testament study as well as biblical Hebrew. Listen to what he says about these two offerings:
“The heave-offering and wave-offering, as two ceremonies in the same offering, are distinguished here. The wave-offering implies that the victim was moved hither and thither, to the right hand and to the left; the heave-offering was lifted up and down, and this was done several times. In this way the Jews explain these things, and teach the Christians, that by these acts the cross was foreshadowed, upon which that Peace-offering of the human race was lifted up which was prefigured by all the ancient sacrifices.”
So much of Scripture becomes so much clearer in light of the Law. To separate the New Testament from the Old Testament is like separating your heart from your lungs. They need each other to function properly. The lungs need the heart to pump blood; the heart needs the lungs to provide oxygen so it can continue pumping. You can't have one without the other.

Exodus 29:31-34“31 And you shall take the ram of the consecration and boil its flesh in the holy place. 32 Then Aaron and his sons shall eat the flesh of the ram, and the bread that is in the basket, by the door of the tabernacle of meeting. 33 They shall eat those things with which the atonement was made, to consecrate and to sanctify them; but an outsider shall not eat them, because they are holy. 34 And if any of the flesh of the consecration offerings, or of the bread, remains until the morning, then you shall burn the remainder with fire. It shall not be eaten, because it is holy.” This same ram whose blood is on their ear, thumb and toe; the same ram that they have taken the fat off the tail, intestines and kidneys and waved these as a wave offering; the same ram that they have taken the breast and thigh and heaved as a heave offering. Now, they take this ram, boil its flesh in the sanctuary, and then eat that meat—along with the bread that was offered with the fat—at the door of the tabernacle. And if there was anything left over it was to be burned. How much of it was to be given to anyone who was not at this table? None. Exodus 29:34“And if any of the flesh of the consecration offerings, or of the bread, remains until the morning, then you shall burn the remainder with fire. It shall not be eaten, because it is holy.” Matthew 7:6“Do not give what is holy to the dogs.”

This was a special table, an exclusive supper that only Moses, Aaron, and Aaron’s sons were to take part in. No one else had any right to partake of this. Now, last week we read a verse from Hebrews that I think is probably rooted, at least in part, in this occasion. Hebrews 13:10We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat. Are we kings and priests to God? Are we a chosen generation, a royal priesthood? BUT—we have been ordained, not by human hands, not by the laying on of hands by any human authority. We have been chosen, set apart by God Himself. Not because we somehow “deserved” it. But Titus 3:4-5 takes away any hope of earning God’s forgiveness. And being set apart by God as a royal priesthood, we have an altar that no one who is trying to establish their own righteousness can eat from. While they are trying to make themselves righteous—which they can never do—we have been made righteous by God, by Him taking our sins and laying them on the head of the Lamb that He provided, and giving us the righteousness of God in Christ. No one can ever earn that. You can “heave” all your sins up in the air all you want—but if you do not know Christ they will always come back to you. But we have a great High Priest who has taken away our sins forever, and they will never return to us.

Jesus Christ is Lord.