Have you ever watched someone performing a very dangerous task and gone away glad that it is that person risking his neck, rather than you? As a rule, I am not fearful of heights. But I saw a documentary on the TV about those who paint the Golden Gate Bridge. Some of the pictures they showed made my stomach a little queasy. Or how would you like to clean the outside of the windows in a very tall skyscraper? Anyone who wants to risk their life in such occupations has my full support.
I would imagine that if I had lived in the days of Moses and the ancient Israelites, I might have felt the same way about those whose occupation was the priesthood.
WHY MIGHT I FEEL THAT WAY?
Because of what happened to Nadab and Abihu. Nadab and Abihu are struck dead by God during what appears to be their very first act as a priest. What do you think went through the minds of Aaron's remaining two sons? I can imagine my thoughts, if I had been Eleazar or Ithamar. They were immediately thrust into being the only two priests under their Father.
In Exodus 28,we find God giving Moses the instructions on setting up the priesthood under Aaron. In Leviticus 8 - 10, we find the first implementation of God's instructions. Between the two passages were probably only a few weeks. One thing taking some time would be making the garments for the priest. Also, we know that Aaron, once he went through the cleansing process, was to spend 7 days in the tabernacle. Only after that would the priests be able to carry out their functions.
But, the concept of priesthood is not new in Exodus 28. The Bible mentions the existence of priests prior to God formally establishing the Aaronic priesthood.
WHAT PRIESTS ARE WE AWARE OF PRIOR TO AARON?
The first mention of a priest is found in Genesis 14:18. This verse introduces us to Melchizedek, who is called a "priest of God Most High." At least two other priests are mentioned in the writings of Moses prior to that of Aaron. Genesis 41:45 tells us that Joseph married Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera, who was the priest of On. ON is not a god, but a place - a city on the Nile delta near the land of Goshen. It later became known as HELIOPOLIS by the Greeks, and goes by that name today.
ot only did Joseph marry a daughter of a priest, but Moses did as well. In Exodus 18:1, we learn of Jethro, the father of Moses' wife Zipporah. We read in that same verse that Jethro was a priest of the Midianites.
I should point out that in each of these cases, the Hebrew word for priest - kohen - is used. In an earlier lesson, we defined the word "Kohen" as meaning "to present an offering." If we accept that definition, and I have no reason not to, then we also have more priests before Aaron. The first person we know who sacrifices an animal and offered it to God was ABEL (Genesis 4:4).
WHY DID NOAH TAKE 7 PAIRS OF ALL CLEAN ANIMALS AND ALL CLEAN BIRDS INTO THE ARK?
When God gave Noah instruction about taking 7 pairs of clean animals, it is not recorded that God told Noah why he was to do this. But, by the end of their 371 day journey in the ark, Noah knew what to do. Immediately upon disembarking from the ark, Noah built an altar and sacrificed one of every clean animal and bird as an offering to God (Genesis 8:20).
As time went on, it appears that the head of each family became the priest for the family. We see this in the sacrifices made by Abraham (Gen. 12:7; 13:4), Isaac (26:25), Jacob (31:54), as well as Job (Job 1:5). When God established the priesthood for the Israelites at Mount Sinai, He did not originally limit the priesthood to one tribe. In the beginning, Israel was meant to be a nation of priests.
Exodus 19:5-6 NKJV
5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine.
6 And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel."
The whole nation was to be a steward of the oracles of God. They were to be the channels through whom God's knowledge and blessing were to be communicated to the world. Through them all nations of the earth were to be blessed. They failed at this task almost immediately. And God selects one tribe from among the children of Israel, to be exclusively devoted to the work of being the priests before God and the people.
Over the last several weeks we have looked at the Aaronic priesthood and the Tabernacle in which they carried out their duties. We took note of how each part of the tabernacle pointed to and were fulfilled in Jesus Christ. We looked at the Book of Hebrews, which compares the High Priestly office of Christ with the Old Testament priesthood.
We have also seen that under the New Covenant, once again all the people of God are called to be priests unto their God. God's desire and design has always been to have a kingdom of priests. Because the veil in the temple was rent from top to the bottom, all God's people now have access to the Holy of Holies - the very sanctuary of God. The New Covenant details for us how each of us are priests unto God and man.
Because Jesus came, died, and was resurrected, the priesthood changed. Believers no longer need to have a priest - they are priests themselves. This hierarchy no longer exists. All are equal.
Calvary was Christ's appointed hour.
John 12:27 NIV
27 "Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. "
On several occasions previous to Gethsemane, men tried to kill our Lord, but they could not. Men tried to arrest Him, but it came to nothing. Until that hour for which He had come, He was miraculously protected. But when His appointed hour came, nothing could prevent His death. The death of Christ is the crisis of all history and of all the universe. For this purpose Christ came.
Christ's priesthood, as shown in the Book of Hebrews is seen in the following:
1. It is royal in character.
2. It is heavenly in sphere
3. Spiritual in nature,
4. It is continuously effective,
5. Everlasting in duration,
6. Universal in extent,
7. Efficient in result.
Several of you have been very gracious in your remarks to me after our last lesson. Several have said that the comments I made in the last five to ten minutes of our lesson really made it plain to see how the Aaronic priesthood and the Tabernacle are a foreshadowing of Christ and His body, the Church. I want to reiterate what I said at the end of last week's lesson, with a few additional comments. We will use that as a springboard for further learning.
The Tabernacle - A Type of Christ (Summary)
The Tabernacle in the Wilderness was a figure and a shadow of He who was to come - Jesus Christ.
The Entrance points to Christ the Door - the Way.
The Altar speaks of Him on the Cross.
The Laver speaks of Him as the eternal Word.
The Table of Shewbread points to Christ, the Bread of Life.
The Lamp Stand speaks of Christ, the Light of the world.
The Altar of Incense shows us our interceding High Priest.
At the brazen altar, Christ was here on earth dying for you and me. At the golden altar, He is in heaven interceding for those who have accepted His sacrificial death. The Ark of the Covenant shadows His supreme authority and kingly position and finished work.
The Ark in the tabernacle wore a crown. Exodus 25:11 reads: "You…will make a gold crown all around it."
As we all know, crowns are for kings to wear. They are the symbols of sovereignty and power. Therefore, the ark in the tabernacle was a type of the Lord Jesus Christ in His office as King.
The Acacia Wood speaks of Christ's humanity.
The gold speaks of his divinity.
The Veil pointed to the body of Jesus (see Hebrews 10:20), which must be rent in order for us to have access.
Every single part in every detail of this tabernacle in some way pre-figured and foreshadowed some aspect of the work of our Lord.
The Tabernacle - The Plan of Salvation
Every detail of the tabernacle is also a complete depiction of the plan of salvation. It consists of 7 steps. All the sinner outside the courtyard could see was the 7½ foot high white linen curtain around the courtyard and some of the unappealing rectangular hut covered with a drab leather. This is all the unregenerate man or woman can see in Christ. They behold him as the white linen - as a good, moral, and possible perfect man - but no more. They see Him as a despised and rejected zealot, born before His time, dying for a noble cause as a helpless martyr. They may even admire Christ, but they do not know Him.
But then, by faith, we accept Him as "the way" or "the door" and entered the court by way of the door and we came face to face with the altar. On it is a bleeding slain lamb of sacrifice. It pictures the Cross, and there salvation became ours because of the Lamb of God.
After meeting the Christ of Calvary at the altar of burnt offering, we came next to the laver of cleansing and separation. This represents separation from the world and the flesh. But because we are not yet perfect, we will from time to time slip and stumble, and therefore need cleansing. The brazen laver is the only piece of furniture where no dimensions were given as to its size. It spiritually speaks to us that there will always be enough. No matter what you have done in your life, there is enough cleansing for you.
Now, having been saved by the blood of Christ, and having been cleansed by the washing of the water by the Word, and thus separating ourselves from the world, we are now ready for the much needed fellowship of other believers. We enter the "tent of meeting" where we see other priests assembled together for worship. It is at the table of bread, where we feast on Christ the Word. Like the priests of old, who daily ate at this table of fellowship, we too eat and grow with other believers. But, unlike the priests of old, we also eat with our Savior, for He is the Bread of Life.
Part of our growing is to learn to walk in the light of our Lord. Like the lamp stand, we need the oil of the Holy Spirit to empower us, not just to bask in the light of our Lord, but to also reflect that light so that the world will come to know what you now know. The light of our testimony becomes the blessing that is passed on to the next generation of believers. Matthew 5:16 says "Ye are the light of the world."
It is now, more than ever, we see our need for constant communion with our Savior. We cannot live this new life without His help. So we stop at the golden altar of incense which speaks of our prayers and intercession. Within the Holy Place, we are now at the closest to the presence of God.
Psalms 141:2 NKJV
2 Let my prayer be set before You as incense, The lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.
Our prayers are often described as incense rising up to our Lord. Now, we are ready to enter the Holy of Holies. That is why the altar of incense is closest to it, for it is by way of prayer that we now come before the throne of heaven. Unlike the common priests of old, who could only wonder what it was like in the very presence of God behind the veil, we are actually invited there.
Inside the ark was the broken Law of God, which demanded death of the sinner. But over this broken law, above the ark, was the mercy seat, stained with blood. Without the blood, the ark, with the Law in it, stood as a place of judgment and condemnation. But, under the blood, the ark becomes a place of victory and security.
What we have seen is that the tabernacle had three areas or places. There is the outer court - the place of sacrifice. The inner room, called the Holy place - the place of worship, and the innermost room or compartment, the holy of holies - the place of spiritual communion with God and victory with Christ.
There are a number of principles of priesthood to be found in the Book of Leviticus that become an example for us in our priesthood. Before getting to these, there are several New Testament principles which will help us in differentiating between the Aaronic priesthood and the priesthood which is described in the New Testament.