18 November 2011

A Survey of the Old testament Law--Consecrating Aaron and his sons (part 1)

We’ve seen what the tabernacle and all its furnishings probably looked like. We have seen what the garments of the high priest probably looked like. And today we are going to see Aaron and his sons set apart—consecrated—for the priestly service. And before we read our text, I think it would behoove us to understand the reason for the priesthood. And that reason is quite simple. We are vile, wicked, sinful, prideful people who have sinned against a perfectly righteous God. We have broken His law, despised His commandments, and rebelled against His authority. And because we have done these things, we are spiritually separated from God, and cannot approach Him directly. We need someone to plead with Him on our behalf, to ask Him to have mercy on us because of our sins. And that is where the office of priest comes in. Now most people, when they think of the word ‘priest’ they think of a guy in a black robe with a funny-looking collar. And the Roman Catholic church has indeed misappropriated the term ‘priest’ and has convinced those who have been deceived into following her that only the ‘priest’ can forgive you of your sins. The Roman Catholic priest can do nothing for you.

Now here’s the good news—we have a High Priest who has already entered God’s courtroom and who continually intervenes on our behalf. Hebrews 7:24-2524 He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. 25 Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. And He has made us priests as well. Revelation 1:5-65 To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, 6 and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. And because we are kings and priests we can call upon this holy and righteous God at any time. Hebrews 4:16Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. However, until that Great High Priest came, the only way for a person to come to God was—well, first you had to become Jewish, and then you had to go to the Jewish priest, and you had to have an acceptable offering to give. The priest would then kill it, cut it up and burn it, thus making intercession for you. Now, as we've seen in the videos we've watched over the last couple weeks, God was very particular about how things were to be done. Very detailed in His descriptions of the building of the tabernacle and its furnishings and the garments of the high priest. Very intricate details.

And not only was God very specific about the tent and the furnishings and the garments, He was also very specific about who could serve as priest. And it was God’s will that only the “sons of Aaron” could become priests. If we go way back to Genesis, we know that God made a covenant with Abraham that all nations would be blessed through faithful Abraham. Genesis 22:18"In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice." Then Abraham had two sons, Isaac and Ishmael. But the promise was only to come through Isaac. Genesis 21:12“In Isaac shall your seed be called.” Then, Isaac had two sons, Jacob and Esau. Jacob was eventually given the name “Israel.” And Jacob—Israel—had 12 sons, who became the heads of what we call the “Twelve tribes of Israel.” These 12 sons were Simeon, Reuben, Gad, Naphtali, Dan, Issachar, Benjamin, Zebulon, Joseph, Judah, Asher and Levi. Levi had sons who had sons who had sons and eventually the line of Levi produced two sons named Moses and Aaron. The duty of serving in the tabernacle was given, in general, to the male descendants of Levi. And only the descendants of Levi. If you belonged to the tribe of Benjamin—forget it. If you belong to the tribe of Simeon—sorry. If you belong to the tribe of Reuben—not a chance. Gad, Dan, Naphtali? Step aside. To serve in the tabernacle you had to be a descendant of Levi. Not only that, but in order to enter the priesthood, not only did you have to be a descendant of Levi, more specifically you had to be a descendant of Aaron.

And it is in chapter 29 of Exodus that we see these sons of Aaron set apart for the priesthood. Exodus 29:1-4“1 And this is what you shall do to them to hallow them for ministering to Me as priests: Take one young bull and two rams without blemish, 2 and unleavened bread, unleavened cakes mixed with oil, and unleavened wafers anointed with oil (you shall make them of wheat flour). 3 You shall put them in one basket and bring them in the basket, with the bull and the two rams. 4 And Aaron and his sons you shall bring to the door of the tabernacle of meeting, and you shall wash them with water.” Now, I want to stop right here for a moment. What we have here is this: These commands were to be carried out once the tabernacle and the furnishings were finished. So, chronologically, this would have taken place some time after about Exodus 39 or 40 (And in fact we read about this ceremony taking place in Leviticus chapters 8 and 9). At any rate, Moses is to bring the sons of Aaron—Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar—to the door of the tent, and to bring a bull and two rams and all these unleavened breads and wafers. And the first thing that Moses was to do was to wash them with water. Head to toe, not just a little dab under the pits and behind the ears. This was to be a full-body bath. And here we have one of those places where the Law pointed to Christ. Once Aaron and his sons were washed at the door of the tabernacle—and of course they had to go through all the other rituals we’ll be looking at—they were then admitted into the priesthood. After that, the only time they needed to undergo a washing was when they would offer a sacrifice on the altar of burnt offering. One of their priestly duties was, of course, to kill, cut up and burn the sacrifice on the altar of burnt offering. After they burned the offering, before they could go into the tent they had to go to the bronze laver and wash their hands and feet. But they did not have to wash the whole body. That had already been done. How does this act as a prefiguring of Christ? I'm glad you asked. Hold your place here, and turn with me to the gospel according to John.

John chapter 13. This is the night before the crucifixion, Christ and His apostles are in the upper room celebrating Passover Seder. And Jesus does something interesting. John 13:5-105 After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. 6 Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, "Lord, are You washing my feet?" 7 Jesus answered and said to him, "What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this." 8 Peter said to Him, "You shall never wash my feet!" Jesus answered him, "If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me." 9 Simon Peter said to Him, "Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!" 10 Jesus said to him, "He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean." Once a person has been cleansed by Christ, they need only go back to “have their feet washed” so to speak, because their whole body is clean.

Listen to Jesus’ words again, John 13:10"He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean." Notice He uses several different words here—bathed and washed ans clean. And these are two different words in the Greek.The first is λούω (louo), which means to bathe—that is, to bathe the whole body. The second word, νίπτω (nipto), means to wash various parts of the body. Then "clean" is translated from καθαρός (katharos). And this is the point that we see Jesus making here. The priest washed his hands and feet, but only because he was handling offerings for sin. Christ is our offering for sin, so we no longer need to handle dead animals. But what Christ is saying is that as we walk through this world, we build up dirt and grime on our feet—spiritually speaking. But we have already been bathed—spiritually speaking. Titus 3:4-54 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing—literally, the λούω (louo), the bathingof regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit. We have been washed, regenerated, renewed, consecrated, set apart to God by being bathed by the Holy Spirit. First John 1:9If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse (καθαρίζω (katharizō)) us from all unrighteousness. The word ‘cleanse’ is from the same Greek word (καθαρός (katharos)) that Jesus uses in John 13:10 that is translated ‘clean.’ “He who is bathed…is completely clean (καθαρός (katharos)).” If we have been bathed λούω (louo) in the Holy Spirit, we wash νίπτω (nipto) our feet by asking for forgiveness, and God will cleanse (καθαρίζω (katharizō)) us from the dirt and grime that we have built up on our feet from our daily walk in this world. Because we are never going to be perfect. In these bodies, we will get messy from time to time. But if we have been bathed by the Holy Spirit, we only need to go back to have our feet washed. 

Exodus 29:5-7“5 Then you shall take the garments, put the tunic on Aaron, and the robe of the ephod, the ephod, and the breastplate, and gird him with the intricately woven band of the ephod. 6 You shall put the turban on his head, and put the holy crown on the turban. 7 And you shall take the anointing oil, pour it on his head, and anoint him.” And again we stop here. Once Aaron put on the garments that signified his office, they took the anointing oil that we will look at in Exodus 30, and they poured it over him—they were to pour the oil over his head, and it was to run down to his beard. Thus he was set apart as belonging to God and ministering for the people. This of course was a picture of Christ, specifically our fellowship in Christ, the Holy Spirit having been poured out upon all Christians. Psalm 133:1-31 Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! 2 It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down on the beard, the beard of Aaron, running down on the edge of his garments. 3 It is like the dew of Hermon, descending upon the mountains of Zion; for there the LORD commanded the blessing—Life forevermore. This was not a neat and tidy ritual. It’s a good thing this was done in the desert, in the sand, than on a marble floor because that could have gotten very messy and slippery.

In Luke 4:18-19, Jesus reads from Isaiah 61:1-2“1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2 to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.” And it is this section of the scroll of Isaiah that Jesus read from in one of the earliest parts of His ministry (see Luke 4:16-21). The pouring of oil—many times you will run across the phrase “poured out”—it is a picture of the Holy Spirit being “poured out” upon either Jesus as the Christ or on the individual believer. The Greek word “Christ” is a synonym for the Hebrew word “Messiah” and both of these words mean “anointed.” And in the OT, we see the act of anointing being performed in order to set apart certain men to certain important positions. We of course have Aaron anointed to set him apart as high priest:
  • We see Elisha anointed as prophet in 1st Kings 19:16And Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel Meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place.
  • We see David anointed as the future king of Israel in 1st Samuel 16:13Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward.
Aaron was anointed as high priest; David was anointed as king; Elisha was anointed as prophet. What’s the connection I'm making here? This anointing of priest, prophet and king with oil was symbolic of God anointing Christ—King, Prophet and Priest—with the Holy Spirit. But I also think there was another event in Christ’s life that this pointed to. And it’s not one that we like to think about.

Many times when we read about what Pilate and Herod and the Roman soldiers did to Christ during His crucifixion, we often point out how the crown of thorns and the purple robe were meant to mock the claim that Christ made to being king of the Jews. And during His ordeal we read about the servants of the high priest spitting in the face of our Lord in Matthew 26:67Then they spat in His face and beat Him. The Roman soldiers also did the same, in Matthew 27:30Then they spat on Him, and took the reed and struck Him on the head. And remember this: these men that we’re talking about here, both the servants of the wicked priests as well as the Roman soldiers. They were driven in their disgraceful actions by Satan. These were men that would eventually drive metal spikes through the flesh of His wrists. Do you think they were going to stop with a few drops of spittle? They, for all intents and purposes, “anointed” Him with their spit. The servants of the high priest “anointed” Him as prophet and priest, the Romans soldiers “anointed” Him as king. We see this foreshadowed in another place, Isaiah 50:6I gave My back to those who struck Me, and My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard; I did not hide My face from shame and spitting. Job 30:10 (NET)They detest me and maintain their distance; they do not hesitate to spit in my face. I wonder what they will say when they stand before the Great White Throne of Christ? The very same Christ that these wicked men treated with such contempt—will be the one who passes ultimate judgment on them. But here is the grace of God—if one of those servants or one of those soldiers had followed Christ up Golgotha, and watched as He was lifted up, and if that man had fallen down and begged forgiveness—he would be forgiven.

So, coming back to Exodus, Aaron was to be bathed head to toe. He was to be clothed in the high priestly garments and anointed. Verses 8-9 we will take next week. For now we’ll look at Exodus 29:10-14“10 You shall also have the bull brought before the tabernacle of meeting, and Aaron and his sons shall put their hands on the head of the bull. 11 Then you shall kill the bull before the LORD, by the door of the tabernacle of meeting. 12 You shall take some of the blood of the bull and put it on the horns of the altar with your finger, and pour all the blood beside the base of the altar. 13 And you shall take all the fat that covers the entrails, the fatty lobe attached to the liver, and the two kidneys and the fat that is on them, and burn them on the altar. 14 But the flesh of the bull, with its skin and its offal, you shall burn with fire outside the camp. It is a sin offering.” Going all the way back to the book of Genesis, even to that point immediately after Adam sinned, we see that the cost of sin is what? Death. Whenever and wherever there is sin, there must necessarily be death. And blood. By placing their hands on the heads of this bull, they were acknowledging their sins, and are confessing that this animal was being killed to cover over their sins. And until these men confessed their sins and made restitution for their sins, they could not be set apart as priests to God.

Oh, and you see those beautiful, hand-made garments up at the top of the page? The ones that God gave the instructions concerning their intricate detail and to make these garments that would glorify God? Well, after killing and cutting up these animals, guess what happened to these lovely works of man's hands? They were covered with blood. Almost symbolizing the fact that no matter how much work you did, unless your works were covered by blood, they were useless. Just like our "good works" today. Many people do "good things." But unless those things are done in the name of the Lord Jesus, and for the glory of God, and unless one is covered by the blood of Christ--all those "good works" will not do the person a bit of good. And unless the garments of these priests were covered in blood, they were useless as well.

Now, getting back to the sacrifice. What functions do the kidneys, intestines and liver perform? They get rid of stuff. What these men were doing was acknowledging the despicableness of sin. These were—and are—some of the most disgusting parts of an animal. I don’t care if you like chitterlings, they're disgusting. They were to burn them on the altar, right then and there. Now, let me finish up with what they were to do with some other parts of that bull. Exodus 29:14“But the flesh of the bull, with its skin and its offal, you shall burn with fire outside the camp. It is a sin offering.” I like how the NET renders it, it says “It is a purification offering.” Now, the word “offal” literally means, how can I say this nicely, ‘dung’. The flesh, the skin, the dung—these were the only things that were to be taken outside the camp. Once they had gotten the tabernacle finished, and had gotten all the tents of the various tribes in their proper places, they perform these rituals, everything that was to be killed, cut up and burned to consecrate Aaron and his sons and the tabernacles and all its furniture was to be burned on the altar of burnt offering—except the flesh, skin and dung of this purification offering. This purification offering was meant to bear the sins of the men who were set apart as priests.

And wouldn’t you know it; we have a picture of Christ. Where was Christ crucified? Golgotha. Was Golgotha inside the city walls of Jerusalem? No, it was outside the city. Christ is not only our High Priest; He is also our offering for sin, true? He is the Offering that purifies us—our Purification Offering, since we too are priests to God. Listen to Hebrews 13:10-1310 We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat. 11 For the bodies of those animals, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned outside the camp. 12 Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. 13 Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach. Only the sin offering—that we will see in Leviticus 4—and this purification offering for Aaron and his sons were to be burned outside the camp. Christ, our sin offering, bore our reproach when He was crucified outside the walls of Jerusalem, and what I think the writer is saying here is, “Let us no longer serve the weak and beggarly elements of the Law that could not make us righteous. Let us instead look to Christ as being the author and finisher of faith and righteousness, since we have been crucified with Him.” By fulfilling these things that were symbolized in these rituals, He has fulfilled all righteousness.

Jesus Christ is Lord.