The Priesthood - Part 2
John Hall, Harrogate, England [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
Today, all saints are called to be priests unto our God, and, whilst Christ is our Great High Priest, we, as illustrated in the Aaronic system, have a role, and a duty to exercise our priestly office for Him. To gain a deeper and fuller understanding of this responsibility we will look at Leviticus chapter 8 and learn some helpful lessons regarding this important role.
Let us consider the priest’s qualifi-cations in this simple way:
His Call, vv. 1-5;
His Cleansing, v. 6;
His Consecration, vv. 10-36;
His Clothing, vv. 7-9.
Consider carefully the background events that have just taken place prior to the man’s call to priestly service. The call takes place just after Jehovah has come to an end of giving all His instructions on how the offerings were to be selected, prepared, and offered, together with the preparations for the construction, and handling, of the tabernacle and its contents. Here we learn that as an individual, he had to appreciate the significance of the sacrifices, and understand the sanctity of the house of God.
The moment we are saved we become priests but it is unlikely that at that stage we fully appreciate the dignity of the position into which we have been brought. From that moment on we are described as ‘holy priests’. This is the God-ward aspect of our service, addressing God in worship and thanksgiving. The priest of old would wear a linen coat as he approached God. This speaks of his personal purity, and we must approach our heavenly Father in similar mode of purity. The scriptures would also describe the believer as a ‘royal priest’. What an honour to bear such a title! To come wearing garments of glory and beauty, and giving praise that is worthy to the King of kings, into whose presence we have entered!
It was imperative that the priest of old knew how he had to approach God, for were he to do so other than in the God-given manner then the judgement of God would fall upon him. In similar vein, when we come into the presence of God, we should come with all due dignity and decorum. It is inappropriate to approach God in a casual, flippant, or an irreverent manner. It is delightful to hear younger men speaking to God in worship, exercising their prerogative to function as priests, provided that it comes from a deep God-given, Spirit-led exercise that is Christ exalting.
Not only did his call place him in a privileged position as a priest, but we should notice that it also separated him from the people. His call set him apart; it made him different to the rest of the camp! Separation is not a particularly popular subject these days. Modern thinking suggests that if we are more like the lost then we will be more attractive to them and more successful in our efforts to win them for Christ. The scriptures teach that being a Christian makes us different; we are separated unto Christ. Therefore, we should think differently; we should act differently; we should talk differently; we should dress differently. Why? Because we are different, for God has called us to Himself and our lives should reflect this fact – ‘called unto the fellowship of Jesus Christ’, ‘called to be saints’.
The Privilege of the Call
Can you imagine what it must have felt like to be singled out for this unique honour and privilege? It could so easily have gone to the priest’s head, as he thought of himself to be special in God’s eyes. But the call is based on grace; it is God’s sovereign will and His choice totally. I am what I am, by the grace of God, as we are reminded by Paul in Ephesians chapter 4. We should ‘walk worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called, with all lowliness and meekness’.
Over the years, some have asked the question, why was it that Aaron was called in preference to his brother Moses? The scriptures offer us no explanation on this point. However, Moses was brought up for forty years in Pharaoh’s palace, and then had to flee for his life into the wilderness for the next forty years. Aaron, on the other hand had been brought up in the land of Egypt. He had spent all his early days in Egypt, and knew what it was to share in the sufferings of the people. Perhaps he had worked in the brick kilns and had felt the lash of his taskmaster’s whip. Tired, hungry, and sore, he shared the sufferings of the people. Think of our Saviour, the scripture tells us, ‘For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities’, Heb. 4. 15. Think of Him in His sojourn on earth; hungry, tired, weary, lonely, disappointed, betrayed, and rejected by His own. He knows and understands the sufferings of His people. He was tempted in all points as we, but, praise God, sin apart.
The Basis of the Call
Aaron stood on redemption ground. He had been redeemed out of Egypt on the strength of the Passover Lamb, given to us in Exodus chapter 12. He had acknowledged the necessity of the sacrifice and he appreciated the power of the blood. Only a born-again believer can be a priest; they must be saved. But Aaron also stood on sanctified ground. He had the experience of passing through the Red Sea as he left Egypt behind. He knew the rigours of the journey through the wilderness. He knew what it was to be a stranger and a pilgrim. He was a separated man.
We have been separated unto Christ, to bear the reproach of the cross. Before we can be pilgrims, we must be strangers to this world, and live separated and sanctified lives. The priesthood was raised up purely and solely for God’s pleasure, ‘that he may minister unto me’. This man would find that the whole of his ministry was centred on, and was in connection with, the house of God. One aspect of our priestly exercise is to take the Lord’s people into God’s presence, solely for His pleasure. The priest was divinely equipped and fitted for this purpose. Without his priestly garments, he was ill prepared, but, clothed by God he could minister in His presence. Our priestly worship is not based on natural ability, or eloquence. It is the time spent alone with God, and His word, that equips us to lead the saints into His presence.
Prior to commencing his priestly service, it was essential that he was cleansed with water. Moses was instructed by God to ‘wash them with water’, Lev. 8. 6. The washing was related to the priesthood. This is not washing in connection with salvation. The washing that brings salvation from sin is by the blood of Jesus Christ, not with water. It is not related to water baptism but it would speak of the cleansing effect of the word of God in our lives, ‘Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you’, John 15. 3. Paul clearly states that Christ loved the church, and speaks of His sanctification and cleansing of it ‘with the washing of water by the word’, Eph. 5. 26.
Sanctification is essential in the life of the child of God. Anyone called into God’s service must become immersed in the word of God for his own personal sanctification. Sanctified, set apart for the Master’s use just as the priests of old were set apart by Jehovah. In John chapter 13 the Saviour washed the disciples’ feet, and, when dealing with Peter’s objection, the Lord said, ‘He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit’, v. 10. It would remind us of our walk, and our conduct as cleansed priests. As the psalmist said, ‘Who shall stand in his holy place’, Ps. 24. 3. The reply comes, ‘He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart’. Our deeds, integrity, humility, and honesty should all be a reflection of a cleansed man.
A cleansed man was also a consecrated man. The act of consecrating Aaron and his sons is recorded in Leviticus chapter 8. We learn how the priest is equipped and prepared, so that when he comes into God’s presence he has something to offer. But not only does he have an offering, he has a super-abundant offering, literally, he comes with ‘his hands full’. When we come in worship, we can offer only that which we have gleaned in the quiet place. Time spent alone with God and His word will equip us to come and offer priestly sacrifices in His presence.
God had commanded that three times in a year all the males in Israel were to come before Him in worship. There was a specific injunction in connection with this command: ‘None shall appear before me empty’. What a transformation there would be if, when we gathered on a Lord’s Day morning, we all came in such a spirit! Priestly hands are consecrated hands; priestly hands are filled hands; priestly hands present Christ in the presence of the Father.
We would do well to note the threefold action of Moses, as Aaron is consecrated:
First, the holy oil anoints the place where Aaron was going to minister. Whilst where we gather is just a building, nonetheless, when we all come together, we do well to remember that collectively we are God’s house, and that He is there. Dignity and decorum should be the hallmark of our gatherings.
Second, the man himself was anointed. This reminds us of our Saviour at the Jordan river when the Spirit descended out of heaven as a dove. We hear the Saviour’s words, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me’.
Third, we note that the altar was anointed. That was the place of sacrifice. It brings before us the worth and work of Christ at that awesome place called Calvary. Oh the joy of the Spirit-led and Spirit-guided in God’s house, taking of the things of Christ and presenting Him to the Father. That is true worship!