The robing. The various articles of the priestly dress had been appointed and described before ( Exodus 28:1-43 , Exodus 29:1-46 ). In these verses we see the order in which they were put on . After the priests had, no doubt, changed their linen drawers, there came, first, the coat , that is, a close-fitting tunic of white linen, made with sleeves and covering the whole body; next the girdle of the tunic, that is, a linen sash for tying the tunic round the body, with variegated ends hanging on each side to the ankles; thirdly, the robe , that is, a blue vesture, woven of one piece, with holes for the head and arms to pass through, reaching from the neck to below the knee, the bottom being ornamented with blue, purple, and scarlet pomegranates, alternating with golden bells; fourthly, the ephod , which consisted of two shoulder-pieces, or epaulettes, made of variegated linen and gold thread, fastened together in front and at the back by a narrow strap or band, from which hung, before and behind the wearer, two pieces of cloth confined below by the curious girdle of the ephod , that is, by a sash made of the same material as the ephod itself. Into the ephod were sewn two onyxes, one on each shoulder, in gold filigree settings, one of them engraven with the names of half of the tribes, and the other with the remaining half; and from two rosettes or buttons by the side of these stones depended twisted gold chains for the support of the breastplate. Fifth came the breastplate , which was a square pocket, made of embroidered linen, a span long and a span broad, worn upon the breast and hanging from the gold chains above mentioned, the lower ends of the gold chain being tied to two rings at the upper and outer corner of the breastplate, while the upper and inner corner of the same was attached to the ephod by blue thread running through two sets of rings in the breastplate and ephod respectively. The outer side of the breastplate was stiffened and adorned by twelve precious stones, set in four rows of three, each stone having on it the name of one of the tribes of Israel. The breastplate being double and the two sides and the bottom being sewn up, the pocket formed by it had its opening at the top. Into this pocket were placed the Urim and the Thummim , which were probably two balls of different colours, one of which on being drawn out indicated the approval of God, and the other his disapproval, as to any point on which the high priest consulted him. (The Jewish tradition, that the Divine answer by the Urim and the Thummim came by a supernatural light thrown on certain letters in the names of the tribes, has no foundation.) The last part of the dress to be put on was the mitre , or head-dress of linen, probably of the nature of a turban; to which, by a blue string, was attached the golden plate , in such a way that it rested lengthwise on the forehead, and on this plate or holy crown were inscribed the words," Holiness to the Lord." The investiture took place as the Lord commanded Moses , that is, in accordance with the instructions given in Exodus 28:1-43 . Its purpose and its meaning in the eyes of the people would have been twofold: first, after the manner of the king's crown and the judge's robe, it served to manifest the fact that the function of priest was committed to the wearer; and next, it symbolized the necessity of being clothed upon with the righteousness of God, in order to be able to act as interpreter and mediator between God and man, thus foreshadowing the Divine Nature of him who should be the Mediator in antitype.
which had existed from the beginning of the world, is now for the first time made the exclusive and hereditary function of one family so far as the Israelitish nation is concerned.
I. AARON AND HIS SONS ARE APPOINTED , NOT BY THE NATION , BUT BY GOD . In Exodus 28:1 , we read, "And take thou unto thee Aaron thy. brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister unto me in the priest's office." In Le Exodus 8:2-5 , "Take Aaron and his sons with him And Moses said unto the congregation, This is the thing which the Lord commanded to be done." In Numbers 18:7 , "I have given your priest's office unto you as a service of gift." In 1 Samuel 2:28 , "Did I choose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to offer upon mine altar, to burn incense, to wear an ephod before me? and did I give unto the house of thy father all the offerings made by fire of the children of Israel?" These texts and the whole tenor of Holy Scripture clearly declare that the appointment of Aaron and his sons to the priesthood was the act of God. On the other side, there is no statement whatever to prove or to indicate that they were, as has been affirmed, merely the delegates of the people, so far as the priestly capacity of the latter is concerned. The only passage alleged to have a gearing in that direction is the following:—"Take the Levites from among the children of Israel, and cleanse them And thou shalt bring the Levites before the Lord: and the children of Israel shall put their hands upon the Levites" ( Numbers 8:6-10 ). It is argued that the laying on of hands upon the Levites by the congregation was a delegation of power already existing in the congregation to them. If this were so, still the Levites were not the priests; the act would have been a delegation of the right and function only which the Levites possessed—and these were not priestly functions, but the office of waiting upon the service of the tabernacle. But the laying on of hands, in itself, means no more than setting apart, and, in the case of the Levite, we are told that its special meaning was setting apart as an offering or sacrifice. "And Aaron shall offer the Levites before the Lord for an offering of the children of Israel, that they may execute the service of the Lord.… And Aaron offered them as an offering before the Lord; and Aaron made an atonement for them to cleanse them. And after that went the Levites in to do their service in the tabernacle of the congregation before Aaron, and before his sons: as the Lord had commanded Moses concerning the Levites, so did they unto them" ( Numbers 8:11-22 ). The consecration of the priests was entirely distinct from the dedication of the Levites, and had taken place previously to it. The priest was the minister of God; the Levite was the minister of the priest. None can make a priest of God but God himself.
II. QUALIFICATIONS FOR THE PRIESTHOOD .
1 . Aaronic descent (see Exodus 28:1-43 ; Exodus 8:1-32 ; 2 Chronicles 31:17-19 ; Ezra 2:62 ; Nehemiah 7:64 ).
2 . Physical integrity and freedom from blemish. "No man that hath a blemish of the seed of Aaron the priest shall come nigh to offer the offerings of the Lord made by fire: he hath a blemish; he shall not come nigh to offer the bread of his God. He shall eat the bread of his God, both of the most holy, and of the holy. Only he shall not go in unto the vail, nor come nigh unto the altar, because he hath a blemish; that he profane not my sanctuaries" ( Leviticus 21:21-23 ).
3 . Respectable marriage ( Leviticus 21:7 ); in the case of the high priest, marriage with one previously unmarried, "in her virginity" ( Leviticus 21:13 ). The two last qualifications symbolize the integrity of heart and purity of life and surroundings which are requisite in the minister of God, Further, at the time of his ministrations, the priest must be free from any ceremonial uncleanness ( Leviticus 22:3 , Leviticus 22:4 ), and must abstain from wine ( Leviticus 10:8 , Leviticus 10:10 ), the purity and collectedness demanded of God's minister at all times being specially required while he is officiating.
III. WHEREIN THE PRIEST 'S OFFICE CONSISTED .
1 . It consisted in "offering gifts and sacrifices for sins" ( Hebrews 5:1 ), this expression including all kinds of offerings and sacrifices by which men drew near to God, together with the burning of incense symbolical of prayer. The priest's action was necessary for the offering of the sacrificial blood and burning the flesh upon the altar, and in some cases for consuming a portion of the victims themselves.
2 . It consisted in bestowing benedictions (see Numbers 6:23-27 , "Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying, On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel.… And they shall put my Name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them").
3 . It consisted in mediating between God and man, as in the rebellion of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, when "Moses said unto Aaron, Take a censer, and put fire therein from off the altar, and put on incense, and go quickly unto the congregation, and make an atonement for them: for there is wrath gone out from the Lord; the plague is begun. And Aaron took as Moses commanded, and ran into the midst of the congregation; and, behold, the plague was begun among the people: and he put on incense, and made an atonement for the people. And he stood between the dead and the living; and the plague was stayed" ( Numbers 16:46-48 ).
4 . It consisted in their being the teachers of the people, "That ye may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the Lord hath spoken unto them by the hand of Moses" ( Leviticus 10:11 ). "They shall teach Jacob thy judgments, and Israel thy Law" ( Deuteronomy 33:10 ). "For the priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the Law at his mouth" ( Malachi 2:7 ). Besides being teachers, they Were judges of differences, "By their word shall every controversy and every stroke be tried" ( Deuteronomy 21:5 ; see Deuteronomy 17:8-12 ; 2 Chronicles 19:8-10 ). They were also leaders of the people's devotions: "Let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O Lord, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God?" ( Joel 2:17 ).
5 . In addition, "to the priests belonged the care of the sanctuary and sacred utensils, the preservation of the fire on the brazen altar, the burning of incense on the golden altar, the dressing and lighting of the lamps of the golden candlestick, the charge of the shew-bread and other like duties. They were necessarily concerned in all those multitudinous acts of the Israelites which were connected with sacrifices, such as the accomplishment of the Nazarite vow, the ordeal of jealousy, the expiation of an unknown murder, the determination of the unclean and of the cleansed leprous persons, garments, and houses; the regulation of the calendar, the valuation of devoted property which was to be redeemed;—these and a multitude of other duties followed naturally from their priestly office. They were also to blow the silver trumpets on various occasions of their use, and, in connection with this, to exhort the soldiers about to engage in battle to boldness, because they went to fight under the Lord" (Gardiner).
IV. THE EXERCISE OF THE PRIEST 'S ESSENTIAL FUNCTIONS WAS CONFINED EXCLUSIVELY TO THEIR ORDER . It has been argued that the office of performing sacrifice was shared by
1 . The first hypothesis has been supported by an appeal to the following passages:—Solomon "came to Jerusalem, and stood before the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and offered up burnt offerings, and offered peace offerings, and made a feast to all his servants" ( 1 Kings 3:15 ); "And the king, and all Israel with him, offered sacrifice before the Lord. And Solomon offered a sacrifice of peace offerings, which he offered unto the Lord" ( 1 Kings 8:62 , 1 Kings 8:63 ). They do not, however, mean more than that Solomon presented the offerings for sacrifice, the essential part of which ceremony was no doubt performed, as always, by priests. Saul, indeed, sacrificed at Gilgal, on plea of necessity, but, in spite of even that plea, was reproved by Samuel as having "done foolishly" ( 1 Samuel 13:13 ); and Uzziah "went into the temple of the Lord to burn incense upon the altar of incense;" but Azariah the priest "withstood Uzziah the king, and said unto him, It appertaineth not unto thee, Uzziah, to burn incense unto the Lord, but to the priests the sons of Aaron, that are consecrated to burn incense: go out of the sanctuary; for thou hast trespassed; neither shall it be for thine honour from the Lord God And the leprosy even rose up in his forehead before the priests in the house of the Lord" ( 2 Chronicles 26:16-20 ). These cases disprove the priestly power of the monarch.
2 . The supposition that the nobles could perform priestly acts rests upon the fact that the name cohen is sometimes applied to them ( 2 Samuel 8:18 ; 1 Kings 4:2 , 1 Kings 4:5 ); but the word (the derivation of which is doubtful) appears to have a wider usage than that of "priest," and to mean also "officers" (cf. 1 Chronicles 18:17 ).
3 . The destruction of the company of Korah, because, being Levites, they "sought the priesthood also" ( Numbers 16:10 ), disposes of the priestly rights of the tribe of Levi.
4 . And the swallowing up of Dathan and Abiram, whose sin was that of desiring to equalize themselves with the family of Aaron, on the plea that the latter "took too much upon them, seeing that all the congregation were holy, every one of them" ( Numbers 16:3 ), disproves the right of all the congregation to exercise priestly function, however much they might be, in a sense, a nation of priests. According to the Mosaic legislation, the spirituality and temporality were kept apart, nor were they united, except when royal powers came, in the later days of the nation's history, to be attached to the office of high priest—a course which a considerable section of the Christian Church attempted, with less excuse, to follow in mediaeval and subsequent times, when the principle, "My kingdom is not of this world" ( John 19:36 ) became obscured or forgotten.
V. THE CEREMONIES OF THE CONSECRATION .
1 . Bathing, robing, anointing, signifying cleansing, justifying, sanctifying.
2 . Sacrifices in their behalf—sin offerings, burnt offerings, peace offerings, symbolizing their reconciliation with God, the surrender of themselves to him, and their peace with him.
3 . Watching for seven days in the tabernacle court, each day renewing the sacrifices; giving opportunity for self-recollection, and for devoting themselves heart and soul to him whose special servants they were to be.
VI. THE AARONIC PRIESTHOOD WAS A TYPE OF THE PRIESTHOOD OF CHRIST . The type was accomplished in the Antitype, and the Levitical priesthood is now wholly abolished (see Hebrews 7:1-28 and Hebrews 8:1-13 ).
VII. LIKENESS YET CONTRAST OF THE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY . We learn from Ephesians 4:8 , Ephesians 4:11 , Ephesians 4:12 , that on Christ's ascension into heaven, he received of his Father the gifts of the holy Ghost, which he then bestowed upon his Church, to be administered and dispensed by apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers; the grace of government being ministered by apostles, and, after they had died out, by bishops; the grace of exposition by prophets; the grace of conversion by evangelists; the grace of edification by pastors and teachers, or presbyters. We should note here the superiority of the Christian to the Jewish ministry, the functions of offering sacrifice and of mediating between God and man being far inferior to that of being the dispensers to man of the gifts of the Holy Ghost himself; and the error of any who think to dignify and elevate the character of the Christian ministry by assimilating it to the Jewish.
VIII. THE NEED OF AN OUTWARD CALL IN BOTH CASES . " NO man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron" ( Hebrews 5:4 ); so that even Christ waited to be "called of God" before commencing his ministry. The outward sign of Aaron's having been called of God was his anointing, and the other ceremonies of initiation; and every subsequent high priest had to be anointed and initiated in the same manner as Aaron, and by the same forms, before he was regarded, and before he could become, high priest. The outward sign of the call in the Christian ministry is the laying on of hands. So it was in the case of the seven deacons ( Acts 6:6 ), and in St. Paul's case ( Acts 13:3 ), and in that of Timothy ( 1 Timothy 4:14 ). And all subsequent ministers of Christ have to be appointed in like manner by those "who have publick authority given unto them in the Congregation, to call and send Ministers into the Lord's vineyard" (Art. 33).
IX. ALL CHRISTIANS ARE A ROYAL PRIESTHOOD ( 1 Peter 2:9 ). As the Israelites were a kingdom of priests ( Exodus 19:5 ), so too are Christians consecrated to God in baptism, channels of grace to each other, and therefore each in a special manner his brother's keeper. Practical duties thence flowing—brotherly affection, loving-kindness, care for the souls of others, tenderness to the weak.
cf. Luke 3:21 , Luke 3:22 ; Hebrews 4:14-16 ; Hebrews 5:1-14 ; Hebrews 7:1-28 ; Hebrews 8:1-13 ; Hebrews 9:1-28 ; 1 Peter 2:4 , 1 Peter 2:5 , 1 Peter 2:9 . In this chapter we have the history of the consecration of the Aaronic priesthood. The stages were briefly these:—Lustration, or, as we would now say, baptism; investiture; anointing; atonement; dedication; consecration; and, finally, communion. The mediation and ministry of this priesthood were essentially dramatic in character, hence it took a long time to present, in the dramatic form, the various ideas which have been just set down as the stages of consecration. Not only so, but they were emphasized by a sevenfold repetition; for seven days the process was to be repeated, at the end of which time Aaron and his sons were regarded as duly set apart for their work. Let us, then, compare the consecration of the high priests with the consecration of the immortal High Priest, Jesus Christ; and, secondly, the consecration of the minor priests with the consecration of believers, who are, as the passage cited from 1 Peter shows, "priests unto God."
I. THE CONSECRATION OF AARON COMPARED WITH THE CONSECRATION OF CHRIST ,
Now we have in this comparison, first a contrast, and then a parallel. It will be useful to take these up in this order—
1. The elements of contrast in the consecrations. And here we notice:
2. The parallel in the consecrations. And here we have to notice:
(a) The gift of REVELATION , to enable them to understand their office, and faithfully to fulfill it, This is presented in the investiture of Aaron, especially in the arrangement about the Urim and Thummim. The beautiful garments and this mysterious portion which lay upon the high priest's bosom were to convey certain ideas about the office, and to secure in him the oracular man, Now, in the baptism of Christ, as he was praying with uplifted eye, he saw "heaven opened;" that is, the source of light, the fountain of all knowledge, was opened to him, In other words, he obtained and had continued to him a full revelation of all which he needed for his work.
(b) The gift of UNCTION OR INSPIRATION , to enable them to interpret the revelation already guaranteed. This was indicated by the anointing of Aaron, not only on the head, but on the ear, hand, and foot. In this way the needful inspiration was symbolized, and the ritual of the ram of consecration coincided therewith. In Christ's case the perfect inspiration was symbolized by the descent of the dove. The dove being an organic whole, a totality, indicates that to Jesus there was communicated the entirety of the Holy Spirit, for the purposes of his priesthood. "The Holy Spirit was not given by measure unto him," and "out of his fullness do all we receive, and grace for grace" ( John 3:34 ; John 1:16 ).
(c) The gift of COMMUNION AND ABIDING . Aaron, after the ritual of the sin offering, burnt offering, and consecration offering was over, and the best portions had been laid upon God's altar, was called to communion in the feast at the door of the tabernacle. There he was to abide in the enjoyment of fellowship with God, and in this spirit was to do all his work. And the assurance of sonship which Christ received in baptism corresponded to this. The words of the Father, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased;" and "Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased" ( Matthew 3:17 ; Luke 3:22 ), spoken respectively to John and to Jesus, convey the state of sweet assurance of sonship in which our Lord lived all his life. It was this supported him when he foresaw the dispersion of the disciples, "Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me" ( John 16:32 ). The Great, High Priest performed his mediatorial work in an assurance of sonship and in the enjoyment of fellowship. It was only in the climax of his sufferings on the cross, when the desolation came upon him, that for a season he seemed to lose sight of his sonship, and was constrained to cry, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
II. THE CONSECRATION OF THE MINOR PRIESTS COMPARED WITH THE CONSECRATION or RELIEVERS . NOW here we have to notice—
1. That the sons of Aaron were consecrated along with Aaron. It was one consecration. Although the high priest received special anointing, and was chief of the group, the others shared his consecration. The one oil and the one consecrating blood went upon all. The one burnt offering was presented on behalf of all, and they all partook of the one feast and fellowship at last. And is this not to indicate that all believers share in the consecration of Jesus, their Great High Priest? It is the Spirit of Christ and the mind of Christ which is made over to them. He is the reservoir, and out of his fullness all the minor receptacles receive.
2. This fellowship in consecration was with a view to fellowship in service. The priestly service was so arranged that all had a share in it. There were, of course, services in connection with atonement which only the high priest could perform, but there was ample work about the tabernacle for all the minor priests. In the same way the life of believers is to be a consecrated fellowship with Christ in work. "Fellow-workers with God" is the great honour of the religious life. A Divine partnership is what we are asked to enter upon, And this is the greatest honour within the reach of man.—R.M.E.
The High Priesthood of Christ.
To direct the thoughts of a congregation to Jesus Christ is never unseasonable. The Epistle to the Hebrews warrants the assumption that in the rites here described are symbolized the characteristics of our Great High Priest. The consecration consists of two parts—the anointing and clothing of the person of Aaron, and his offering of sacrifices; and it is on the former we are now to dwell, reminding us of that Person in whom "all beauties shine, all wonders meet, all glories dwell."
I. See typified THE PURITY OF CHRIST in the washing of the priest from head to foot. As an Eastern climate demands thorough ablution for cleanliness, so was this a lesson man needed to learn, that only purity is tit to come into contact with God. Priesthood bridged the gulf between sinful man and a Being unsullied by admixture of evil. Like all God's dealings, it humbled and exalted man. Taught plainly that he was too polluted to approach his Maker, with equal distinctness he was shown a way in which he might draw near with clean hands and a pure heart. The material and ceremonial purity of Aaron was eclipsed by the total freedom from taint of Christ. He bathed, indeed, in the crystal waters of Jordan at his entrance upon his public ministry, but those waters were stained compared with the purity of his soul.
II. Observe THE SPLENDOUR OF HIS ENDOWMENTS . For every post a certain character is requisite. The putting on of garments represented the bestowment upon Aaron of the qualities essential to the proper discharge of his duties. This was the apparel respecting which the Lord said unto Moses, "Thou shalt make holy garments for Aaron thy brother, for glory and for beauty." Looking at the high priest thus arrayed, we see symbols of the ornaments and graces of Jesus Christ. Note the choice quality of the attire. Everything of the best, fine linen, gold unalloyed, stones precious and rare. The oil is "costly ointment." Search out all that is best in human nature, all that challenges admiration and excites esteem, and an example of all is found in Jesus Christ. Possessed of every gift, power, and skill, loveliness and majesty, perfect in intellect, emotion, and will, he was victorious over every temptation, and unscathed by every trial. This dress of Aaron emblematized positive virtue; so Christ was upright, not only like Adam as he left the hands of God, but as acquiring and exhibiting every grace that can adorn humanity. There was virtue in exercise, virtue visible and potent. The tree put forth its leaves, its blossoms, and its fruit.
III. The high priest maintained A CONSTANT REMEMBRANCE OF THE PEOPLE . Hence the breast-plate bearing the names of the twelve tribes, which were also inscribed upon the onyx stones of the shoulder. The people were borne in the positions that indicated power and sympathy. What the bosom desires the arms accomplish. Let others write their names upon lofty pillars or granite rocks; let statesmen, warriors, nobles, inscribe themselves upon the roll of fame; "Give me," says the Christian, "a place upon the Saviour's breast; for there on the heart of Christ, under the glance of infinite mercy, where the love of God delights to rest, are the names of all his followers graven for ever."
IV. In the breast-plate were put the Urim and Thummim, by means of which was ascertained and made known the will of God. REVELATION OF GOD was thus part of the high priest's functions. The priestly and prophetic offices were intertwined. Though we may single out an office of Christ for distinct consideration, as we may distinguish one of the hues of the rainbow, yet let us not forget that it is the combination which is of such surpassing excellence and glory. It has been well said that Christ is called the Wisdom of God in the Old Testament, and the Word in the New. Full vocal expression was reserved for the time when he could joy to say, "I have declared unto them thy Name, and will declare it." It is by the priesthood of Christ that we learn in particular the grace of God. It is written on all creation, but to our blurred vision the letters are oft obscure. On the cross of Christ, where he becomes at once the Offerer and Victim; these words glisten with heavenly radiance, luminous not only in noontide prosperity, but in the dark midnight of affliction, "God is love."
V. The high priesthood is AN OFFICE OF AUTHORITY , and this authority is THE SUPREMACY OF HOLINESS . Upon the head is placed the mitre, a cap or turban, and upon the mitre is fastened a golden plate or diadem, inscribed "Holiness unto the Lord." Christ's is a royal priesthood, and his sway is the result of his consecration to God. He rules by right of character, by right of rank, by right of work. The "holy crown" is the guarantee for the acknowledgment of his claims to hearty, unreserved obedience. If today men demand authority as priests, at least let the holiness of their lives support their pretensions.
VI. By the pouring of the oil upon Aaron's head we see intimated ENTIRE DEDICATION TO GOD 'S SERVICE . This holy unction set apart the high priest for hallowed toil, and became an emblem of the fortifying, sustaining, vitalizing presence of the Spirit of God. "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because he hath anointed me." It is the oil of gladness, the dew of the blessing of the Lord. It is a token of perpetuity. The brightest pageant fades, the show of today is forgotten ere the morrow dawns, but the priesthood of Christ knows neither ebb nor flow.—S.R.A.
The holy garments of Aaron.
The high priest of the Levitical dispensation is allowed to be an eminent type of the "Great High Priest of our profession." His attire was intended to foreshow the qualities by which the Redeemer is distinguished. Else it would be difficult to account for the minute care with which they were designed, and the manner in which the workmen were inspired to make them (see Exodus 28:2-4 ; Exodus 31:3-6 ). Let us attend to—
I. THE COAT WITH ITS GIRDLE .
1 . The coat.
2 . There were also breeches.
II. THE EPHOD WITH ITS ROBE .
1 . The ephod.
2 . The robe of the ephod.
III. THE BREASTPLATE WITH THE URIM AND THUMMIM .
1 . The Urim and Thummim were the stones set in the breastplate.
2 . They represented the saints as cherished in the heart of Christ.
IV. THE MITRE WITH ITS GOLDEN PLATE .
1 . The mitre.
2 . The golden plate.
The human and Divine priesthood-contrast.
The setting apart of Aaron for his life-work, the high priesthood of Israel, naturally suggests to us the entrance of our Great High Priest on the work which his Father gave him to do. Between Aaron and Christ there are many points of resemblance (see below); there are also significant contrasts. Respecting "the High Priest of our profession" ( Hebrews 3:2 ), it is not the case that there was—
I. APPOINTMENT TO OFFICE IN VIRTUE OF HUMAN BIRTH . Aaron was chosen to the office of high priest, partly in virtue of his descent from Levi (perhaps partly in virtue of his brotherhood to Moses). His personal qualities were not such as to make him the most suitable man for the office, independently of considerations of lineal descent and human relationship. Jesus Christ did not owe his position as our High Priest to his human birth. He was not, indeed, of the tribe of Levi, but of Judah, "after the flesh." And though, through his mother, he was a son of David, in the matter of human descent, this was not in any way material to his ascent to royal power. His right of office came not thence.
II. IMPOSING INAUGURAL CEREMONY . The scene described in this chapter was striking, imposing, memorable; it would long be borne in mind, never, indeed, forgotten by those who witnessed it. It formed part of the national history. Imagination on our part readily places before us the solemn and suggestive ceremonies which riveted the eyes of the congregation of Israel. Through no such solemnities did One greater than Aaron think well to pass as he entered on his work. It is said that his contemporaries expected the Messiah to descend amongst them from the heavens while they were worshipping in the temple. This he distinctly refused to do ( Matthew 4:5-7 ). The ceremony of the baptism by John was simple in the extreme. Long chapters of Old Testament Scripture (Exodus and Leviticus) are occupied in narrating the inaugural ceremonies of the human priesthood; five verses suffice to chronicle those of the Divine ( Matthew 3:13-17 ). The profounder work of the Lord from heaven was more fittingly commenced by that quiet scene on the banks of Jordan.
III. OUTWARD AND VISIBLE DISTINCTION . (Verses 7-9.) The appearance of Aaron and of his successors in their pontifical attire, as described in this chapter, with rich and coloured garments about them, and the mitre on their head glittering with golden diadem, must have been impressive and imposing enough in the eyes of the people. How striking the contrast with him who was the carpenter's Son of Nazareth, who shunned all ostentation and parade ( Matthew 12:19 ), who had "no beauty" (of outward appearance) "that we should desire him" ( Isaiah 53:2 ), who attracted disciples to his feet, and sinners to his side, only by the wisdom of his words, and the grace of his spirit and the beauty of his life!
IV. NEED OF PURIFICATION . "Moses brought Aaron and his sons, and washed them with water" (verse 6). It was needful that they should go through a ceremony which signified the putting away of "all filthiness of the flesh and spirit" ( 2 Corinthians 7:1 ). [No need of this in the case of the holy Saviour. Whatever his baptism signified, it did not mean this. He was "a High Priest, holy, harmless, undefiled," requiring no cleansing streams whatever ( Hebrews 7:26 ; see John 14:30 ).
V. NEED OF PARDON . "And he brought the bullock for the sin offering: and Aaron," etc. (verse 14). Before the human high priest could be admitted to the altar, his own sin must be forgiven. Christ entered on his work, not needing to present any oblation. With him, as he was, the Divine Father was "well pleased" ( Matthew 3:17 ).
In entering on any work to which we may be called of God, we must remember that
The human and Divine priesthood-comparison.
Between the priesthood of Aaron and that of the Lord Jesus Christ there are not only points of contrast (see above) but also of resemblance. The "holy garments" in which the human priest was attired supplied marked and intentional suggestions of the attributes and the work of the Divine. Thus we are reminded by Aaron's appearance of—
I. HIS PERSONAL HOLINESS . "The stuff of all of them was linen, and … must be understood to have been white." This was associated with the idea of bodily cleanness, and hence with righteousness of soul (see Revelation 19:8 ). The High Priest of our profession was he "that loved righteousness," of whom it was true that "the scepter of righteousness was the scepter of his kingdom" ( Hebrews 1:8 , Hebrews 1:9 ).
II. HIS ALL - SUFFICIENT STRENGTH . The girdle with which Aaron was girded ( Leviticus 8:7 ) was suggestive of strength, activity, readiness for the appointed work. To "gird up the loins" was to be prepared for immediate and effective action. Christ is he who always stands ready and mighty to save; prepared at the moment of our readiness to put forth his arm of power, and to redeem us with the "saving strength of his right hand."
III. HIS REPRESENTATIVE CHARACTER . On the breastplate of the ephod ( Leviticus 8:8 ) were the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. With these on his person he appeared before God in the holy place; evidently representing them and appearing on their behalf. Our Divine Redeemer, assuming our human nature, suffered and died in our stead, and now "appears in the presence of God for us" ( Hebrews 9:24 ).
IV. HIS SPIRITUAL FITNESS FOR HIS GREAT WORK . The "Urim and Thummim" ( Leviticus 8:8 ) signified "lights" and "perfections;" they were the means by which Aaron received inspiration from Jehovah. Our Lord was one "in whom dwelleth all the fullness of the godhead bodily" ( Colossians 1:9 ), particularly (see context) Divine wisdom. He is—not merely has, but is— "the truth" ( John 14:6 ), and He is "the wisdom of God" ( 1 Corinthians 1:24 , 1 Corinthians 1:30 ; Colossians 2:8 ). He who, in the exercise of absolute wisdom, knows the mind of the Father, and "knows what is in man" also, is that omniscient One who is perfectly equipped for the wondrous problem he has undertaken to work out.
V. THE FINAL TRIUMPH OF HIS CAUSE . "He put the mitre upon his head" ( Leviticus 8:9 ). The high priest of Israel had a touch of royalty—he wore a crown upon his head. The High Priest of man is royal also. "Upon his head are many crowns." He is "exalted to be a prince" as well as a Saviour. And he is "able even to subdue all things unto himself" ( Philippians 3:21 ; see Philippians 2:9 , Philippians 2:10 ).
VI. HIS ULTIMATE DESIGN . "Upon the mitre, even upon his forefront, did he put the golden plate" ( Leviticus 8:9 ), and on this golden diadem were inscribed the sacred, significant words, "Holiness to the Lord" ( Exodus 28:36 ). Did not this sentence, placed in the forefront of the high priest's mitre, signify that the great end of his ministrations was the establishment among all the tribes of Israel of" Holiness to the Lord"? The purpose for which he was appointed would not be attained until that great and noble aim was reached. For that he lived and wrought. That, too, is the end of the Divine priesthood. Christ came to "put away sin by the sacrifice of himself" ( Hebrews 9:26 ), to establish on the earth that kingdom of God which is "righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost."
Let us learn—
1 . The exceeding greatness of our privilege. In Jesus Christ himself (and in his salvation) are these great excellencies; they were only upon and outside the Hebrew priest.
2 . The corresponding guilt of
Equipment for special work.
There was a sense in which the whole congregation of Israel constituted a priesthood. It was an early promise that they should be a "kingdom of priests and a holy nation" ( Exodus 19:6 ). And such, indeed, they were, so far as they entered into and fulfilled the purposes of God. They were:
1 . Separate from surrounding people (holy unto the Lord).
2 . Permitted to draw near to God.
3 . Allowed to bring the sacrificial victim to the holy place and slay it; indeed, in the case of the paschal lamb, they acted as priests without aid from any other hand.
But there were those who were:
1 . Separated from them, and were thus holier than they.
2 . Allowed to draw nearer to the Divine presence.
3 . Designated to be continually offering up sacrifices to Jehovah. These were the priests and the high priests of the Lord in an especial sense, and they needed special equipment for their special work.
From this chapter we select four principal points—
I. SPECIAL CLEANSING OF SOUL . ( Leviticus 8:6 .)
II. SPECIAL CONSECRATION OF SPIRIT . ( Leviticus 8:23 , Leviticus 8:24 .) One of the most significant rites in the entire ceremony of consecration was the taking by Moses of the blood of the "ram of consecration" ( Leviticus 8:22 ), and putting it "upon the tip of Aaron's right car, and upon the thumb of his right hand, and upon the great toe of his right foot." The interpretation of this symbolism hardly admits of error. What other truth could it import but that Aaron was thus set apart, not only generally for the service of the Lord, but specially in every member of his frame, in every faculty of his mind? He was to have:
1 . An open ear, to welcome every word of the Lord.
2 . A ready hand, to discharge diligently and conscientiously his daily duties.
3 . A quick foot, to run in the way of God's commandments.
III. SPECIAL SYMPATHY WITH MEN . ( Leviticus 8:8 .) The plate on which were inscribed the names of the twelve tribes was, as the word indicates, a breast-plate: so that the high priest symbolically bore the children of Israel on his heart. He carried their burden into the presence of God.
IV. SPECIAL ENDOWMENT . ( Leviticus 8:30 .) The precious ointment, the anointing oil, upon the head that ran down upon Aaron's beard, that went down to the skirts of his garments ( Psalms 133:2 ), probably symbolized the grace of the Spirit of God outpoured upon the heart, affecting the whole nature, diffusing the delightful fragrance of piety and virtue.
We learn from these particulars—
1 . That we must not covet posts of special difficulty except we are equipped with peculiar qualifications. Not every good or every earnest Christian man is fitted to take high office in the kingdom of God.
2 . That if we feel ourselves summoned to special work, we must seek all possible spiritual equipment. The conditions of successful service are those indicated above:
Coat, girdle, robe, ephod, breastplate, Urim and Thummim, mitre, golden plate, and crown,—all significant, and fulfilled in Christ. The two main ideas are mediation and government.
I. The high priest is clothed as MEDIATOR .
1 . To offer sacrifice for sins.
2 . To enter into the presence of Jehovah as intercessor.
3 . To obtain and pronounce, as representative, the Divine benediction.
II. The high priest is clothed as KING .
1 . With power to guide, counsel, command as an oracle.
2 . With exalted personality to receive homage as the king of righteousness, the glory of God revealed.
3 . As crowned, to establish and maintain his kingdom among men—ruling their hearts and lives, not by the power of this world, but by the priestly power of fellowship with God, for man is himself made kingly as he is admitted into the innermost chamber of God's presence.—R.