Father, what we know not, teach us; what we have not, give us; what we are not, make us. For the sake of Your Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.
Ancient Israel had three offices that were essential to its leadership and its well-being as a people and a nation. You probably know them. The offices of prophet, priest, and king.
This morning in Leviticus 8, a rather boring chapter on the face of it, which truth be told is our first reaction to most of the chapters in Leviticus, but this is one of the most important days in Israel’s history, because in Leviticus 8 we see the ordination of the priesthood. These priests, which we’ve already been told about and already given instructions and in Exodus we read of their clothing and the work, but here the ordination itself is relayed to us. These people who would place a key role in Israel.
Before we get to Leviticus 8, we need to understand where the priesthood came from and what the priests did. So you can think of it, the origin and the duties of the priesthood.
So where did the priesthood come from? I just want you to think of two stories from the Old Testament. One is from Genesis 34. It’s one of the hardest chapters in the Bible to read. Genesis 34 is where Dinah, the daughter of Jacob, is raped by Shechem. And after this violation, then Shechem wants to marry her, but Dinah’s brothers say, “Well, we’ll let you marry her if your people become like us, and to be like us means all of your people need to be circumcised.” So Shechem thinks and his father thinks, “Well, this is a reasonable way for our people to get along and to marry this woman.” But it’s a trick. On the third day when they were sore, you can imagine, perhaps you don’t want to, but just how sore grown men might be being circumcised, on the third day two of Jacob’s sons. Do you remember who they were? Simeon and Levi go into the city and slaughter the men, when they are in great pain, too weak to fight, or to flight.
Jacob said to his sons, “You have brought trouble on me by making me stink to the inhabitants of the land.” So though their zeal for the Lord and there is desire to avenge their sister in some way was commendable and Jacob’s passivity was not, yet Jacob is going to give them a rather backwards blessing at the end of his life because of this act of violence.
So at the end of Genesis, Jacob blesses his 12 sons and here’s what he has to say about Simeon and Levi, in Genesis 49: “Simeon and Levi are brothers; weapons of violence are their swords… Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce, and their wrath, for it is cruel! I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel.”
So part of their punishment for their violence is the blessing, so-called, that Jacob gives to them. He says, “Simeon and Levi, you’re going to be scattered throughout the tribes of Israel.” In fact, this is what happens, that over time Simeon eventually gets absorbed into Judah and we hardly hear about Simeon as the Old Testament goes on. And Levi, which will become one of the most important tribes as we see, and yet that curse becomes a kind of blessing because Israel, Levi will be scattered in Israel. They will be the priestly clan and they will not get territory like the rest of the sons. They will get certain cities and certain parcels throughout Israel, but they will be scattered.
So what Jacob says to Simeon and Levi is true, but for Levi the curse will become a kind of blessing.
So that’s one passage. Already there we see hints about Levi playing some kind of special role, perhaps, though there it just sounds like bad news.
The other story is Exodus 32. You may remember the story where Moses is receiving the law and he comes down and he hears the singing and he sees the dancing and their worshiping the golden calf. We read in Exodus 32, “When Moses saw the people had broken loose for Aaron had let them break loose.” Now remember that, it’s going to be important when we come to Leviticus in a moment. Aaron was the one who let them loose. In fact, you have that very pathetic statement where Aaron tries to defend himself when he says, “They gave me this gold and ba da boom, ba da bing, I don’t know what happened. A golden calf just came out. I don’t even know, just next thing I know, boom, calf, worship. I don’t know what happened.”
The Lord is angry with the people. Moses stood in the gate of the camp and said, “Who is on the Lord’s side? Come to me.” And who came to Moses? We read, “And all the sons of Levi gathered around him.” And he said to them, now they may anticipate but they don’t know yet, what are they going to have to do? “Thus says the Lord God of Israel, put your sword on your side each of you and go to and fro from gate to gate throughout the camp and each of you kill his brother and his companion and his neighbor. And the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses and that day about 3000 men of the people fell and Moses said, ‘Today you have been ordained.’”
Now here in Leviticus we’re going to have the official ordination, here’s a kind of looking forward, you’ve been set aside with blood, as it were.
“You’ve been ordained for the service of the Lord, each one of you, at the cost of his son and of his brother so that he might bestow a blessing upon you this day.”
In Malachi 2 we read last week, this covenant that’s established with Levi was called the covenant of life and peace. How ironic that in the moment when the Levites were the instrument of death, executing their wayward brothers, God would establish with them a covenant of life and peace. It’s as if God was looking for a group of people who would be zealous for His name, a group of people who would do the right thing no matter the cost, a group of people or a tribe or a clan who knew what it was to defend the holy things of the Lord.
Now we’ll see in just a few weeks in Leviticus 10 that it didn’t take very long for the priests to mess this up, but those were the sort of persons he was looking for. So when the tribe of Levi steps forward and does this unimaginably hard thing, to execute justice upon 3000 of their brothers, the Lord says, “Those are the people who are going to serve My sanctuary.”
Not all the Levites were priests per se, but the priests were normally a subset of the Levites. If you were here last Sunday evening, the parable of the Good Samaritan, you have priests and Levites. So the priests were Levites, but the Levites were also a class of people, a tribe, that would attend to various other elements related to the worship of the sanctuary. So not all the Levites were priests, but as a tribe they were set aside for the tabernacle or for the temple worship. That’s where the Levites and their priesthood came from.
What did they do? Well, we’ve been going through Leviticus and so you should know already one of the chief things they did is they offered sacrifices. They had more than that to do, however. They were mediators, the sacrifices to atone for the sins of the people, but they were also teachers. This is often missed, but it’s very plain. Deuteronomy 33 says about the tribe of Levi, “For they observed Your Word and kept Your covenant, they shall teach Jacob Your rules and Israel Your law. They shall put incense before You and whole burnt offerings on Your altar.”
So we read there in Deuteronomy 33 their two most obvious roles, as mediators and as teachers.
2 Corinthians 15:3, at a low moment in Israel’s history, says Israel was without a teaching priest to teach them the law. So they weren’t only butchers, they were supposed to be teaching the people the law.
Mediators, teachers. There’s really a third duty that the priests had. They were also guardians. They protected the Lord’s sanctuary. They guarded the ark of the covenant. They protected the people from breaking in and getting too close to the Lord’s holiness. They were chosen for this task, quite understandably, because they were the ones on that moment at Sinai who feared the Lord more than they feared the people. They considered the holiness of the Lord more precious than their own family.
There’s a saying that blood is thicker than theology. It shouldn’t be so, but it often is. We all can think of people who make theological compromise, moral compromise, in order to bend their theological understanding and commitments to their family. Often it happens to their kids and the choices their kids are making, and if they are going to do this then I guess I need to change my theology accordingly.
The Levites were chosen for the priesthood because they showed on that day that the holiness of the Lord was more precious to them than their own people.
If you think of these three priestly functions, offer sacrifices, instruct the people, protect the sanctuary, we can see how all three carry over into the pastoral office in the New Testament but in different ways. So we don’t have priests because the one sacrifice has already been made.
Ephesians 4 says that Christ gives gifts to His church, apostles, prophets, evangelists, and people argue about, well, we’re all three of those offices just temporary in the church, but certainly the one that continues is then the pastor/teacher. So the pastor/teacher given to the Church.
And you can see how these three priestly functions, though I am not a priest, you should not call me a priest, offer sacrifices. Well, the pastors don’t do that, but what they do is declare to you the High Priest, the One who has made a sacrifice for your sins, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Instructing the people, that one’s plain, and then also protecting the sanctuary, that is the elders of the church are to guard the doctrine of the church. The elders of the church guard the membership of the church. In that way they fulfill these kind of priestly responsibilities. Not a holy temple or tabernacle, but you are the temple. Isn’t that what the New Testament says? You are the temple of God, the holy people of God, in whom the Holy Spirit dwells.
So it’s given to the elders, akin to the priesthood, that they might protect the doctrine and the people of the church.
So this brings us to Leviticus chapter 8. We’ve been looking in the first seven chapters at the sacrifices, and now we have a mini section, 8, 9, 10, with the priesthood.
Chapter 8 you might call holy ordination. Chapter 9, glorious installation, because there God accepts the sacrifice of the priests, and finally as Moses was unable to enter in at the end of Exodus, now the priests encounter the glory and the holiness of God. 8 – holy ordination. 9 – glorious installation. 10 – wicked innovation, where the priests do what they should not do, thinking that they can worship God any old way they please. We’re priests, right? God should be pleased that we’re just paying attention. We can worship Him how we want.
This morning in chapter 8, the recurring theme in this chapter is that everything happened as the Lord commanded. That phrase, or something like it, appears 11 times. In particular you’ll note at the end of most paragraphs, the phrase “as the Lord commanded Moses.” That marks off the seven elements of this consecration ceremony, that they were doing everything, we might say “by the book,” but it wasn’t a book yet, by the Word of the Lord, “as the Lord commanded Moses.”
Hopefully you’re open to Leviticus chapter 8. There’s seven stages. There’s eight paragraphs, but seven stages in this ordination ceremony. Let’s just work through, make some comments, and then we will have some points of application.
Here’s step one, we can call “the assembling of the saints.”
“The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Take Aaron and his sons with him, and the garments and the anointing oil and the bull of the sin offering and the two rams and the basket of unleavened bread. And assemble all the congregation at the entrance of the tent of meeting.” And Moses did as the Lord commanded him, and the congregation was assembled at the entrance of the tent of meeting.”
This is the opening step, makes sense, get Aaron, that’s the brother of Moses, the priesthood will be through Aaron, his sons, the garments, the oil, a bull, two rams, a basket of bread. Bring them to the tent of meeting, to the tabernacle, before the whole congregation, or it may mean here, since you couldn’t have two million people there, it may be simply the family heads and the fathers of clans and tribes, the whole congregation or their representatives gathered.
One of the things we see in this opening paragraph is that this priesthood is not a secret society. There’s not a secret hazing ritual. The priests aren’t somehow, you don’t know who they are, you’ve never met them, you have their names written down somewhere and they have all sorts of secret rites that they can’t be known and nobody knows who they are. No, the whole nation was to see them, to recognize them. They are going to be our intermediaries, so the people are witnesses.
They will go inside the curtain to meet God, because He’s holy, but there is no curtain when they stand before the people. This is important, too, to say even though they’re in office set apart, just as have officers in the church, the curtain, as it were, is not between the priests and the people, or between the elders or the pastors and the people, the priest is, the curtain is where God’s holiness is, so when the high priest will go in there to the holy of holies once a year, there he enters the curtain. But here visible all the people can bear witness that these are the men who will be their intermediaries. The assembling.
Step two. Holy clothes. Verse 4, or verse 5: “And Moses said to the congregation, “This is the thing that the Lord has commanded to be done.” And Moses brought Aaron and his sons and washed them with water. Then he put the coat on him and tied the sash around his waist and clothed him with the robe and put the ephod on him and tied the skillfully woven band of the ephod around him, binding it to him with the band. And he placed the breastpiece on him, and in the breastpiece he put the Urim and the Thummim. And he set the turban on his head, and on the turban, in front, he set the golden plate, the holy crown, as the Lord commanded Moses.”
So the first thing that knees to be done, we see in verse 6, is they need to be washed with water. The priests need to be purified. We’ll see more of that in a moment.
Then Aaron, in particular the high priest, receives these special clothes. Now we don’t have time to look at this in detail, but the fuller passage is in Exodus 28. Sometime later look at home, get a good study Bible or if you don’t have one maybe we have some on the book nook, and you can see in a good study Bible they’ll show some pictures of what this probably looked like, the clothing for the high priest. There was a white linen undergarment so that the holy outer clothes would not touch the skin and the sweat. There was a blue robe, blue and purple were rare, they were hard to make, they were expensive, so blue and purple were considered royal colors. Then at the hem, we read in Exodus 28, at the hem of the robe were pomegranates and golden bells. Pomegranates perhaps reminding them of the fruitfulness of the garden of Eden, pomegranates also would figure prominently in the design of the temple as a kind of Edenic memory.
In fact, the blue robe was very similar to the fabric and color inside the tabernacle, that the coloring for the tabernacle and the priests were the same, so that the priests and the tabernacle are set apart unto the Lord. It was a visual reminder these are holy people in a holy place. The similarity between the priests and the tabernacle may have suggested that the priests would blend in. They were almost a part of the tabernacle itself.
We read, though not here but in the parallel passage in Exodus 28, that the bells, you think “Why do you have bells?” They are to announce the coming of the high priest. Sometimes you read that there was a rope tied to the priest so that if he fell dead in the holy of holies they could pull him out; that’s a later tradition. It doesn’t mention that here. We don’t know if that was the case.
But you can imagine that the bells would announce, “The high priest is here, the high priest is here,” and the bells might also indicate that if he goes into the holy of holies and encounters the glory of God and the bells fall silent, that something has gone wrong. So dreadful and wonderful a thing it is to come face-to-face with the living God. Bells around the hem of his robe.
An ephod, which is a breastpiece, attached by gold rings and chains. We read in Exodus 28:21 that on the breastpiece four rows of three precious stones. You can multiply 4 x 3, 12. These were the names of the 12 tribes of Israel.
When you think about it, it’s really quite obvious, the symbolism. You have this breastpiece and you have the 12 tribes of Israel, literally upon the heart of the high priest, upon his heart that he might remember them, that he might never forget that he is doing this priestly service on their behalf.
We read in Leviticus 8 he has this strange thing called the Urim and the Thummim. When you see untranslated Hebrew words like that, it means no one’s entirely positive what these are so we’re just safer to go with the Hebrew words. But as best as we can figure, these were maybe some kind of stones or dice that were used to divine God’s will, a yes or a no. You don’t hear a lot about them moving on, which is probably a good thing because their purpose is superseded by the coming of the prophets, who will give a much clearer word from the Lord.
Then two onyx stones on each shoulder, each with the six names of Israel. Then a turban upon his head with a golden plate. It doesn’t read here, but in Exodus 28 we know the golden plate reads “Holy to the Lord.” In other words, it was to be obvious that this man, the high priest, had a linen garment, he had the tribe of Israel, all tribes, on his heart. He had a golden turban literally designated that he was holy to the Lord.
The whole point of the clothing, though it can seem strange when we just read it in a paragraph, would have been obvious to the people. Namely, this man is set apart.
Notice one of the articles of clothing that’s missing. Nothing about shoes, or sandals, or footwear. Why? Because the places on which they will be standing will be holy ground, just as Moses was told to remove his sandals with encountering God at the burning bush.
So the priest was to symbolize the nation of Israel and they pointed to the priest’s role as mediator, that this is a holy man coming into a holy place to do holy work on behalf of God’s holy people before a holy God.
Step three. Now step two was the longest. Step three, verse 10: “Then Moses took the anointing oil and anointed the tabernacle and all that was in it, and consecrated them. And he sprinkled some of it on the altar seven times, and anointed the altar and all its utensils and the basin and its stand, to consecrate them. And he poured some of the anointing oil on Aaron’s head and anointed him to consecrate him. And Moses brought Aaron’s sons and clothed them with coats and tied sashes around their waists and bound caps on them, as the Lord commanded Moses.”
So they get special clothes, not quite as ornate as the high priest, but also set apart. If step two was holy clothes, you could call this “the holy anointing.” It would have been olive oil, the anointing. It was to consecrate them for this role.
The parallel, of course, in the New Testament is the anointing of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit might anoint and christen this one to be set apart for service. Stage 3, holy anointing.
Step 4, holy offering. Verse 14: “Then he brought the bull of the sin offering, and Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the bull of the sin offering. And he killed it, and Moses took the blood, and with his finger put it on the horns of the altar around it and purified the altar and poured out the blood at the base of the altar and consecrated it to make atonement for it. And he took all the fat that was on the entrails and the long lobe of the liver and the two kidneys with their fat, and Moses burned them on the altar. But the bull and its skin and its flesh and its dung he burned up with fire outside the camp, as the Lord commanded Moses.”
This is a sin offering. The priest lays hands on it. Moses, notice, purifies the altar because Moses is acting as a kind of priest here until the priesthood can be ordained, and they burn up everything, just as you do with a burnt offering. This is the holy offering.
A bull, the next paragraph, is another holy offering of the ram, and then you go to the next paragraph, step 6, step 5 was a ram, step 4 the bull, here verse 22 we can call “holy consecration.”
Verse 22: “Then he presented the other ram, the ram of ordination, and Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the ram. And he killed it, and Moses took some of its blood and put it on the lobe of Aaron’s right ear and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot.”
You didn’t know there were big toes in Leviticus. It’s right here. You’ll see why in a moment.
“Then he presented Aaron’s sons, and Moses put some of the blood on the lobes of their right ears and on the thumbs of their right hands and on the big toes of their right feet. And Moses threw the blood against the sides of the altar. Then he took the fat and the fat tail and all the fat that was on the entrails and the long lobe of the liver and the two kidneys with their fat and the right thigh, and out of the basket of unleavened bread that was before the Lord he took one unleavened loaf and one loaf of bread with oil and one wafer and placed them on the pieces of fat and on the right thigh. And he put all these in the hands of Aaron and in the hands of his sons and waved them as a wave offering before the Lord. Then Moses took them from their hands and burned them on the altar with the burnt offering. This was an ordination offering with a pleasing aroma, a food offering to the Lord. And Moses took the breast and waved it for a wave offering before the Lord. It was Moses’ portion of the ram of ordination, as the Lord commanded Moses.”
So their hands are full, getting this bread, and here they wave it, there it is. Then they’re able to present it. Blood on the lobe of the right ear, on the right thumb, and the right big toe, why? Well, symbolic for washing the whole body with blood. They didn’t have enough blood to immerse them in blood, but symbolically, “You are to be purified, priests, what you hear, what you handle, where you go.” That’s why they put blood on the ear, the thumb, and the big toe. Be mindful, priests.
Be careful little ears what you hear, careful what you hear. Careful what you do. With your big toe, be careful where you walk. You are holy unto the Lord and you are caring for holy things.
Then a final stage. Verse 31: “And Moses said to Aaron,” rather let’s start at verse 30, “Then Moses took some of the anointing oil and of the blood that was on the altar and sprinkled it on Aaron and his garments, and also on his sons and his sons’ garments. So he consecrated Aaron and his garments, and his sons and his sons’ garments with him.”
“And Moses said to Aaron and his sons, “Boil the flesh at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and there eat it and the bread that is in the basket of ordination offerings, as I commanded, saying, ‘Aaron and his sons shall eat it.’ And what remains of the flesh and the bread you shall burn up with fire. And you shall not go outside the entrance of the tent of meeting for seven days, until the days of your ordination are completed, for it will take seven days to ordain you. As has been done today, the Lord has commanded to be done to make atonement for you. At the entrance of the tent of meeting you shall remain day and night for seven days, performing what the Lord has charged, so that you do not die, for so I have been commanded.” And Aaron and his sons did all the things that the Lord commanded by Moses.”
So final instructions, perhaps surprising. These seven steps themselves were not the seven days, this was all in one service. But then we read at this last stage the surprising instructions that you were to do this for seven straight days. Exodus 29 makes clear that each day they did another sin offering, another burnt offering, more sprinkling with blood, more anointing, more consecrating, more purifying, for a whole week, for a whole week they did this, so holy was their obligation and so in need of a atonement were the priests themselves.
Which brings us to three points of application. What does this seven stage, repeated seven days, what does this complicated ordination ceremony teach us? I want to give you three things.
One, that perhaps is most applicable for pastors; one, the second one, for all of us as a royal priesthood; and then third, to look at Jesus, our high priest.
So number one, the consecration of Aaron and his sons shows us the universality of sin. The universality of sin, even for God’s anointed priests. Think about how elaborate this was. Washing, a sin offering, a burnt offering, a special ordination offering, sprinkling with blood, purified by blood. Your clothes need to be made clean. The altar needs to be purified. Notice the incense altar inside the tabernacle, so there’s an altar outside where the sacrifices are burnt up and then there’s another altar inside where the incense is offered, that altar inside does not need to be sprinkled with blood. Why? Because the priests haven’t entered there yet and therefore their unholiness has not yet made that altar unclean by their presence.
The whole point of the ceremony, look in your Bibles, is given I think in verse 34. Verse 34: “As has been done today, the Lord has commanded to be done to make atonement for you.”
They had to do it for six more days.
It’s striking. The focus in this special day, week, for the priests, is upon their sin that needs to be forgiven. Now you’ve, many of you have seen ordination services before, maybe for a pastor, maybe for elders, for deacons, and it’s a very solemn occasion and there are vows to be made and there are hands to be laid.
I remember, I can’t remember the exact day, but it was August something or other in 2002, over 20 years ago, when I was ordained as a pastor. There were probably 45 people there at my home church in Jenison, Michigan, at an evening service. Some men came up and laid hands on me. I don’t remember exactly what they said, most men being ordained don’t, but what they’ll tell you is they remember many heavy hands upon them, which I think is an appropriate memory for the weightiness of this office.
I do remember at least one of the prayers was to forgive me of my sins and then prayed for the Lord’s blessing and many other things, and giving thanks. But whenever I study Leviticus 8, I think what would it have been like if the men came up and laid hands on me and all they did, “Oh, Lord, this is a great sinner before us. He needs forgiveness. In fact, after this service, folks, I think for him we’re going to need to do this another time. In fact, we’re going to need to do this for a whole week, to forgive this man’s sins before he dares to stand in the pulpit.”
Don’t you think this meant something in particular to Aaron? I said at the beginning, note Aaron’s involvement and failure in leadership with the golden calf. He let the people break loose to the derision of their enemies. Do you think maybe Aaron, as the high priest, was leading the way? “Thank you, brother Moses, thank you, God. I could use day two. The sins I’ve committed, I could use day three, day four, five, six, seven.”
See, part of what this is reinforcing, first of all, these men are going to be your priests, but they’re more like you than they’re like God.
There’s this passage that always sticks with me as a pastor from Luke 10 where Jesus sends out the 72 disciples on their short-term mission trip and they see healing and they’re preaching and casting out demons, and they say, “We saw Satan fall like lightning. We’re kicking it. We’re punching the devil right in the face. It’s awesome, Jesus.” Remember what Jesus said to them? “Good, but don’t rejoice in that. Rejoice that your names are written in the Book of Life. Rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
The takeaway is you should always find it more precious that you’re a sheep than even that you’re a shepherd.
These priests needed forgiveness. They were to be the mediators and they needed mediation.
I often think of the famous line from the Scottish pastor Robert Murray M’Cheyne who said, “What my people need from me most is my own personal holiness.”
You need your pastors to be with God more than to be with it. You need to be faithful in prayer, faithful with their wives, faithful with their children. Pray for us.
We see here the universality of sin. Why seven days? Well, because the ordination service was nothing less than a week of recreation for the priests. The seven days of atonement were God’s way of saying, “You need to be made a new creation, a new people, a new class of people, before you can serve Me in My sanctuary. You need a new birth, a new life, a new creation.”
It shows us the universality of sin.
Number two, the consecration ceremony shows us the need we all have for holiness. To be a priest in the Old Testament you had to be a Kohathite from the tribe of Levi and you had to be holy. But holiness was not just a requirement for the priest. Way back in Exodus 19, verse 6, we are told that the whole nation of Israel was to be a royal priesthood. That language is picked up in the New Testament as an image of the Church.
So within the nation there were priests as a particular office mediating to the people, but as a nation writ large, they were also a kind of mediation of God’s presence and His Word to the nations.
We see, in other words, the three categories of priesthood. The nation was a kingdom of priests, number one, and then within that nation they had certain men consecrated to the office of priest, number two, and then within that priesthood there was a high priest, well that was four, three. You can roughly map on in New Testament terms to the Church for that first one, the nation as a kingdom of priests. Pastors map onto, and elders, onto that second one. And as we’ll see in just a moment, Jesus is the only one who maps onto that last one as the high priest.
The Church, you, Christ Covenant, are saints, holy ones. So don’t think this message of holiness is just for the men who will stand behind this large pulpit. Yes, they are to set an example. But you, we, the Church, must be a kingdom of priests to the world. Now we cannot determine how people will respond, people believe all sorts of false things about the Church. They may see our righteous deeds and hate us for it. So we can’t control the response, but we have control over what they do see.
So we must present to the world a different people. They must see that we are different. Now that difference itself is not the Gospel, but it does adorn the Gospel. It makes people say something about those people, there’s something, I hate to admit it, there’s something beautiful about those people.
If nothing else, the holiness of God’s people should be a kind of speed bump, people driving their car, careening on their way to eternal destruction. The kind of obstacle for people who say, “I hate this Bible, I hate hearing about all this stuff,” but there’s something in their head that goes, “but why, I can’t get it out of my head that the kindest people at my office are all Christians. The best neighbors I have on my street are Christians. The people that seem to be walking in a different way in this world are Christians. What do I do with that?” We’re to be a royal priesthood.
Then finally, this consecration ceremony shows us the universality of sin, the need we all have for holiness, and then finally it shows us our need for a better priesthood. Just like the priests, Jesus was washed. He was washed in the Jordan River. Just as the priests were anointed, He was anointed with the Holy Spirit coming upon Him as a dove. Just as the priests were publicly testified, affirmed by the people, so Jesus approved by His Father at His baptism and again by His Father on the Mount of Transfiguration. He was a priest in the service of His heavenly Father, except Christ brought not a lamb to be slaughtered but He brought Himself.
We read in Hebrews 5 that the old priesthood, the priest had to keep bringing sacrifices not only for the people, but for himself. The shear redundancy of the offerings. A lot of you have asked about that. How in the world? I would have run out of sheep a long time ago. This thing was just a constant butcher block. How did this happen?
Well, the constant bleeding of sheep and crying out of bulls and ascending of smoke was to reinforce that is this going to go on forever? We may literally run out of animals, run out of coals, run out of fire. The people knew that.
The priest himself has to make atonement for himself. They understood this can’t be surely. If a priest has to atone for his own sin, these priests as holy as they are, they can’t be the ultimate answer, can they?
So Hebrews 7 goes into great detail to show us that there is a different priest. This priesthood in Leviticus is from Aaron, Moses’ brother. They have a priesthood by birth. But Christ is a priesthood by oath, not, He’s not from the tribe of Levi. He’s after this mysterious person who shows up earlier in Genesis named Melchizedek, a high priest of Salem, who comes out of nowhere and disappears. So Jesus establishes a different line, a different priesthood, which will bring to an end the priesthood of Aaron and the Levites.
Can you picture Jesus, our great high priest, picture him especially at His sacrifice. No priestly ephod, but He’s robed in what? A purple cloak, this time given to Him in mockery. He has no holy turban like the priests do in Leviticus 8. What is He given? A crown of thorns. He has no breastpiece with golden chains upon His chest. Instead He is pierced through at His side. He has no ram, no bread to carry in His arms to present the sacrifice. Instead, He carries His own cross upon His back.
But make no mistake. Golgotha was still holy ground. The tabernacle would be His flesh, the curtain torn would be His body, the blood shed would be His own, and the sacrifice would be His life. For every Israelite that eyes to see, they should have known this man dies as our high priest, with a holy garment we’ve never seen before, and a sacrifice to be the end of all sacrifices, consecrated to holiness, purified from all defilement, that we might be cleansed by the sprinkling of His blood.
Brothers and sisters, hear this good news from Hebrews 9, with everything you now know about this ordination ceremony: “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of bulls and goats and calves but by means of His own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”
Let’s pray. Our heavenly Father, we thank You for this perfect sacrifice. So we come to You as sinners, every one of us, maybe some even in this moment for the very first time praying silently in their hearts. All of us come, man, men, women, children, Bible study leaders, women’s leaders, deacons, elders, pastors. We come as sinners, needing a better high priest, needing a final sacrifice. We thank You that He is not unknown to us but has been revealed to us and we can see Him and His glory and fall at His feet and know His name, the name of Jesus. In Him alone we find forgiveness for all our sins and purification to live unto You. In Jesus we pray. Amen.