Lessons from Leviticus - Chapters 6-10
E. L. Lovering, Ilfracombe
Chapters 6 to 10 relate firstly to the Portion of the Offerings, 6. 8 to 7.38, and secondly to the Preparation of the Priests, 8.1 to 10. 20.
The First Section may be summarized, "this is the port/on of the anointing of Aaron, and of the anointing of his sons, out of the offerings of the Lord made by fire, in the day when he presented them to minister unto the Lord in the priest's office; . . . This is the law of the burnt offering, of the meat offering, and of the sin offering, and of the trespass offering, and of the consecrations, and of the sacrifice of the peace offerings", 7. 35-37.
First, in relation to the offerings, there is the command of Jehovah, "which the Lord commanded Moses in mount Sinai, in the day that he commanded the children of Israel to offer their oblations unto the Lord, in the wilderness of Sinai", 7. 38. Concerning the burnt offering there is constant reference to the fire which "shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out", 6. 13. It was the duty of the priest "to burn wood on it every morning, and lay the burnt offering in order upon it", 6. 12. As Moses and Aaron emerged from the tabernacle of the congregation following the presentation of the offerings, the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people, and "there came a fire out from before the Lord, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces", 9. 24. It is evident that although the origin of the fire was from God, its continuance was the privilege and duty of man. Holiness requires constant attention to consecration, for by God's abundant grace every believer is holy, but is commanded to be "holy in all manner of conversation", 1 Pet. 1.15. His state in practical living should always be consistent with his standing in the sight of God, as it is written, "Be ye holy; for I am holy".
Secondly, there is the care of Jehovah for the priests engaged in this holy service. "This is the portion of the anointing of Aaron, and ... of his sons, out of the offerings of the Lord made by fire", Lev. 7. 35. The Godward aspect of the sacrifices has been previously emphasized," now the portion of the priest and the offerer is described. It is the believer's portion to share with the Father in His satisfaction and pleasure in the Son, and to feed upon the One in whom is all His delight.
The sin offering, 6. 25-30, the meal offering, 6. 14-23, and the trespass offering, 7. 1-7, are described as being "most holy". Never was the Lord Jesus more fully seen to be the holy One of God than when He was "made sin" upon the accursed tree. The most heinous crime of the cross only intensified the revelation of the most holy character of the Christ.
Concerning the peace offering, 1.13, we read, "Besides the cakes, he shall offer for his offering leavened bread with the sacrifice of thanksgiving of his peace offerings". The worshipper is commanded to offer with the peace offering, "unleavened cakes mingled with oil, ... of fine flour, fried", 7. 12. The peace offering being the symbol of communion, based on reconciliation with God, depicts both the Godward and the manward aspects of thanksgiving. There is that which is Godward in its content, always unleavened, free from evil and corruption, and there is that which is manward in its presentation and has much of leaven and imperfection. We should always remember that in our praise and thanksgiving boasting is excluded, for as the hymn writer has so aptly expressed the thought,
Unworthy our thanksgiving, All service stained with sin,
Except as Thou art living Our Priest to bear it in.
The Second Section of the lesson directs attention to the Preparation of the Priests, 8. 1 to 10. 20. The first demand in priesthood is its sanctity, 8. 1-36. Here is described the sanctification and consecration of Aaron and his sons to the priesthood; their separation from sin and separation to God being two requisites permanently necessary for the spiritual exercise of priesthood. "As the Lord commanded Moses" only too clearly emphasizes this truth. To abide by the only true source of authority, God's word, is to reveal "the glory of the Lord", 9. 6. It was a divine necessity that all priests should first be cleansed, "And Moses brought Aaron and his sons, and washed them with water", 8. 6. As living stones, all believers are "built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ", 1 Pet. 2. 5. Having been cleansed Aaron was then clothed, and Moses "put upon him the coat, and girded him with the girdle, and clothed him with the robe, and put the ephod upon him", Lev. 8. 7. With the mitre upon the head and the golden plate, the holy crown, upon the fore-front of the mitre, Aaron was consecrated, as Moses "poured of the anointing oil upon Aaron's head, and anointed him" to consecrate him, 8. 12. When Aaron and his sons laid their hands upon the head of the ram of consecration, the ram was slain and "Moses took of the blood of it, 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", 8. 23. In these activities, blood, oil and water were used. The blood reminds us of the death of Christ, and God's perfect provision for the sinner's need, while the water stands for the Word of God. Eph. 5. 26, and the need for daily cleansing. The oil would symbolize the Holy Spirit in His sanctifying power. God claims the whole man for Himself, the ear being open to accept His will, the hands ready to do His work and the feet prepared to walk in His ways. Thus redeemed, cleansed and empowered, believers are exhorted to "present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service", Rom. 12. 1. For seven days Aaron and his sons waited together in the holy place, during which time they were sustained, as they fed on the consecrated food until the eighth day when they began their priestly duties, Lev. 8. 31. Thus separated from the rest of the congregation they did "not go out of the door of the tabernacle of the congregation in seven days, until the days of your separation be at an end", 8. 33. Believers, associated with Christ and shut in with God, await the day of glory, and feed upon the riches of divine grace in the power of holiness. Sustained by God and separated from the world, they appreciate in the sanctuary the contents of the divine portion, "the basket of consecrations".
Chapter 9 describes the priesthood and its service. On the eighth day the newly consecrated priests entered upon their active duties. Having completed all things according to the divine plan, Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of the congregation, and then came out and blessed the people, 9. 23. Here is an abiding principle, for no servant of God has power to minister to men unless it results from communion with God. Worship in the sanctuary must always precede work in the camp, for it is always better to seek the face of God before you see the face of man.
The conditions of the Lord's commandments having been fulfilled, the consequences were now evident to all, for, "the glory of the Lord appeared unto all the people. And there came a fire out from before the Lord, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces", 9. 23, 24. The expression of divine approval in the "ascending offering" was followed by the experience of victory and humility. When the servant of the Lord ministers as from the sanctuary, men will say, not "what a wonderful sermon" but "what a wonderful Saviour".
Chapter 10 directs attention to the priesthood and the sin of sacrilege, with the sad and serious consequences of the abuse of this divine order. We think first of strange fire, as "Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not", 10.1. Though the nature of the sin would appear to have been complex, the offering of strange fire was undoubtedly the cardinal sin. First there was the sin of contempt of the commandments of the Lord, for each took his own censer and not the sacred censer of the sanctuary, and putting incense thereon acted on his own initiative, offering strange fire before the Lord, Secondly, there was the sin of competition of the priests of the Lord. Contrary to the divine order, they offered together fire upon the altar and not individually as did Zacharias, Luke 1, 9, and the high priest alone, Exod. 30. 7-8. This would suggest a spirit of rivalry and jealousy in this holy exercise. Believers should beware of the "spirit of malice and bitterness" as they function together in matters of the sanctuary.
Thirdly, there was the sin of complacency in the will of the Lord. Had they considered the Lord's time for the sacrifice, morning or evening, so unimportant? There are no insignificant details in the Lord's will for His people; the accepted time is never man's but God's.
During this tragic experience "Aaron held his peace", Lev. 10. 3, exhibiting a sacred fortitude throughout. Natural affection for his wayward sons would have broken his heart, but spiritual acquiescence in the will of God accepted the divine judgment. How careful must those be who "bear the vessels of the Lord", Isa. 52. 11. The Lord's command to Aaron, "Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die", Lev. 10. 9, might indicate that this unholy act of sacrilege had taken place under the influence of strong drink. The need for spiritual filling in this high and holy calling is an absolute necessity. Wine and strong drink symbolize that which would excite the flesh, blunt the spiritual perception, and dim the priestly vision. Spiritual power not carnal energy should characterize the priests of the Lord. Paul commands the Ephesian believers, "be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit", Eph. 5. 18.
The passage concludes with the touch of sympathetic feeling, as Moses listens to the words of Aaron, "And when Moses heard that, he was content", Lev. 10. 20. Nadab and Abihu had offered strange fire and met with divine judgment; Eleazar and Ithamar, because of what had befallen them, were not in a condition to eat th3 sin offering and were met with divine forbearance. The former was a deliberate sin against divine command, whereas the latter was a failure to accept divine privilege. In such a case mercy was joined with judgment. Habakkuk's prayer was that God might "in wrath remember mercy", Hab. 3. 2.
What peace and confidence fills the heart of the believer when he remembers that, "if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness", 1 John 1. 9.