By Edward Dennett
HAVING given the details concerning the priestly robes, the Lord instructs Moses, in the next place, as to the ceremonies to be observed at the consecration of the priests. For the moment the first three verses may be passed over, as the particulars of the general directions upon the subject of the sacrifices to be offered are found further on in the chapter.
"And Aaron and his sons thou shalt bring unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and shalt wash them with water. And thou shalt take the garments, and put upon Aaron the coat, and the robe of the ephod, and the ephod, and the breastplate, and gird him with the curious girdle of the ephod. And thou shalt put the mitre upon his head, and put the holy crown upon the mitre. Then shalt thou take the anointing oil, and pour it upon his head, and anoint him. And thou shalt bring his sons, and put coats upon them. And thou shalt gird them with girdles, Aaron and his sons, and put the bonnets on them: and the priest's office shall be theirs for a perpetual statute: and thou shalt consecrate Aaron and his sons." (vv. 4-9)
The first part of the process was washing them with water, at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. (v. 4.) This action is most significant, as water is a symbol of the word of God, as for example in John 3: 5; Eph. 5: 26, etc. Emblematically therefore this was the new birth, or sanctification by the Word, being thereby set apart for the service of God. Our Lord thus prayed: "For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth." (John 17: 19) Aaron was washed with water — if he be considered by himself — to make him in figure a type of the absolute purity of Christ. Christ was personally without spot; Aaron is rendered so typically by the application of the Word, through the sanctification of the Spirit, as it is termed by Peter. (1 Peter 1: 2.) If Aaron is taken in association with his sons, the washing proclaims in type the truth that only those who are born again, separated unto God by the application of the Word to their souls, can occupy the place of priests, and enjoy the privilege of "ministering" in the holiest. Priests cannot be made by man, and the pretence of doing so is utterly to ignore the plainest and most fundamental teaching of the Scriptures. Priests can only be made by God, and every one who is born again, cleansed by the precious blood of Christ, and indwelt by the Holy Ghost, is a priest. To arrogate the claim therefore of ordaining priests — and to do so apart even from the question of their condition before God — is to intrude into a region which borders upon profanity, as well as to deny the rights and privileges of all the people of God.
Aaron is now separated from his sons for the next action; he is robed and anointed alone. First, the priestly garments, described in the last chapter, are put upon him — the garments for glory and beauty. Thereon he is anointed with oil which is poured upon his head. It has already been explained, and must be here recalled to understand this action, that when Aaron is alone he stands before us as a type of Christ; but that when he is in company with his sons, the Church is shadowed forth as the priestly family. This gives the meaning of his being anointed with oil immediately after being arrayed in the sacerdotal robes. Afterwards it will be seen that be, together with his sons, is sprinkled with blood before the anointing oil. It is as a figure of Christ that he is anointed without blood. For Aaron's great Antitype being absolutely holy needed not the blood, and hence it is recorded that, on His entering upon His mission to Israel, He was anointed by the Holy Ghost at His baptism. (Matt. 3; Acts 10: 38.) He received the Holy Spirit, was anointed, on the ground of His absolute holiness, whereas His people (as will be seen) are sealed and anointed on the ground of their perfect cleansing by His precious blood. Aaron being anointed by himself without blood is a type of Christ — Christ in His full character as Priest, the Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.
Aaron and This sons present the Church as the priestly family, but as associated with Christ. First, as in the case of Aaron alone, they are all robed. These garments are not the same as those described in detail in the last chapter, but those briefly indicated at the close. They are said to be coats, girdles, and bonnets, and were of fine linen, and embroidered, and said also to be "for glory and for beauty." (Ex. 28: 39, 40; Ex. 29: 9.) The fine linen embroidered shows forth the purity of the nature of Christ adorned with every grace. The robin. of Aaron's sons is really the putting on of Christ; and this, in fact, brings them into association with Him; for the Church possesses nothing apart from Christ. If believers, for example, are brought into the position of priests, and the enjoyment of priestly privileges, it is in virtue of their connection with Him. He is the Priest, and He it is who makes them priests. (See Rev. 1: 5, 6.) Everything flows from Him. Thus, when Aaron is put into company with his sons, it is not so much that he becomes merged into the priestly family, but rather to teach that all the blessings and privileges of the priestly family are derived from Christ. But in order to this they must first be invested with robes for glory and for beauty — robes which adorn them with the glory and beauty of Christ.
The next step was the sacrifice of the sin-offering. Aaron and his sons were encompassed with infirmity, were sinful men, and needed to offer for themselves, as well as for the sins of the people. They must be brought, consequently, under the typical value of the blood before they could enter upon their sacred office and minister in the sanctuary. Hence the following direction:
"And thou shalt cause a bullock to be brought before the tabernacle of the congregation: and Aaron and his sons shall put their hands upon the head of the bullock. And thou shalt kill the bullock before the Lord, by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And thou shalt take of the blood of the bullock, and put it upon the horns of the altar with thy finger, and pour all the blood beside the bottom of the altar. And thou shalt take all the fat that covereth the inwards, and the caul that is above the liver, and the two kidneys, and the fat that is upon them, and burn them upon the altar. But the flesh of the bullock, and his skin, and his dung, shalt thou burn with fire without the camp: it is a sin-offering." (vv. 10-14.)
The sin-offering is a type of Christ bearing the sins of His people. Remark then, first, that Aaron and his sons put their hands upon the head of the bullock. This action signified the identification of the offerers with the victim to be offered. (Compare Lev. 4: 4, etc.) After the laying on of their hands, therefore, the bullock which was about to be slain stood before God as the representative of Aaron and his sons in their sins. Their guilt was symbolically transferred, imputed to the victim, which is now looked upon as bearing their sins. Hence by the act they owned their guilt, their desert of death, and their need of a substitute. In the next place the bullock was to be killed before the Lord. As charged with the sins of Aaron and his sons, the stroke of justice fell upon the appointed victim, thereby proclaiming that death was the penalty of sin. If they at all entered into the meaning of what was being enacted, how solemn this transaction must have appeared in their eyes! They must have had a glimpse of the real character of sin before God when the bullock was brought, and when, after silently laying their hands upon its head, it could not be spared, but must die. It is a shadow, if only a shadow, of the cross — of the death of the Lord Jesus, whose soul was made an offering for sin. And it is as we stand there in spirit, and hear His cry, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" that we are made to comprehend the awful nature of sin — its hatefulness to God, inasmuch as it necessitated the death of His only begotten Son. Believers, as they look back upon that solemn scene, can say, "His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree;" and at the same time learn something of the doom from which, by the grace of God, they have been delivered. Surely it was grace, and grace alone, that provided the sacrifice; and it was love, deathless, unquenchable love, on the part of Him who suffered Himself to be led as a lamb to the slaughter that He might redeem us to God.
After the victim was slain the blood was sprinkled. It was put upon the horns of the altar, and the rest was poured out beside the bottom of the altar. (v. 12.) The blood was thus wholly for God. The life is in it (Lev. 17: 11), and this action consequently signified that the life of the victim was offered up to God instead of that of Aaron and his sons. This was done on the principle of substitution — God in grace accepting the death of the sin-offering in the place of that of those for whom it was offered. Further, the fat that covered the inwards, and the caul, etc., were burnt upon the altar. The fat was prohibited to the children of Israel equally with the blood. It is an emblem of inward energy, force of will, etc. It is burnt upon the altar because the sin-offering was a type of Christ, and thus teaches that, while He was charged with the sins of His people, God found in Him, even as in the case of the burnt-offering, that which completely answered to His own mind — truth in the inward parts. His infinite acceptability to God was never more fully proved than when He bowed His head under the sins of His people. In grace He took our place; but in thus accepting the stroke of judgment that was our due, every thought of His heart, every movement of His will, every energy of His soul, were perfect before God. It was indeed in His death on the cross that He proved His obedience to the uttermost, that He showed that the glory of God was so completely the one motive of His giving Himself up to death, that not even the waves and billows of judgment could turn Him aside. Lastly, the flesh of the bullock, and his skin, and his dung, were burnt without the camp. It was a sin-offering, and as such must be cast out and consumed, inasmuch as it was looked upon as under the imputation of the guilt of Aaron and his sons. It was thus altogether a type of Christ — of Christ as suffering without the gate, rejected of men, forsaken by God, because He, in His grace and love, suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God. This process completed, Aaron and his sons were now under all the efficacy and value of the sin-offering.
The burnt-offering follows the sin-offering.
"Thou shalt also take one ram; and Aaron and his sons shall put their hands upon the head of the ram. And thou shalt slay the ram, and thou shalt take his blood, and sprinkle it round about upon the altar. And thou shalt cut the ram in pieces, and wash the inwards of him, and his legs, and put them unto his pieces, and unto his head. And thou shalt burn the whole ram upon the altar: it is a burnt-offering unto the Lord: it is a sweet savour, an offering made by fire unto the Lord." (vv. 15-18.)
As in the case of the sin-offering, Aaron and his sons put their hands upon the head of the burnt-offering; but instead of the transference or the imputation of their guilt, they themselves are transferred, so to speak, so as to become identified with the ram about to be slain. In other words, while the actions are similar the effects are contrasted. The victim in the sin-offering is looked upon, after the laying on of hands, as laden with the guilt of those for whom it was about to be offered as a sacrifice; whereas in the burnt-offering Aaron and his sons are regarded by the same act as invested with all the acceptability of the sacrifice. Their sins were transferred in the first instance, and in the second their standing was changed on to the ground of the value of the offering. The ram was then slain, and the blood sprinkled round about upon the altar; the life was presented to God. This was not all; but the whole ram, having been cut in pieces, and its inwards having been washed, to make it a more fitting type of the spotlessness of Christ, was burnt upon the altar. "It is a burnt-offering unto the Lord: it is a sweet savour, an offering made by fire unto the Lord." In the sin-offering the flesh of the bullock, etc., were burnt with fire without the camp but the whole ram of the burnt-offering was consumed upon the altar because the whole was acceptable to God. The burnt-offering is a type of the perfect devotedness of Christ unto death; and in this aspect it is not looked upon as bearing sins, but as wholly consecrated to the will and glory of God. As such, therefore, Christ on the cross, under the action of the holy fire — tested, that is, by the searching judgment of God's holiness, was entirely a sweet savour to God. As bearing sins, God hid His face from Him; but as obedient unto the death of the cross, when through the Eternal Spirit He offered Himself without spot to God, He furnished a new motive for love to the Father's heart. "Therefore doth My Father love Me, because I lay down My life, that I might take it again." (John 10: 17.) In this aspect "He was in the place of sin, and God glorified as no creation, no sinlessness could. All was a sweet savour in that place, and according to what God was as to it in righteousness and love." The difference between the two offerings is shown by the words used. The word "burn" in the burnt-offering is not the same as that used in connection with the sin-offering, but the one employed for burning incense. This of itself denotes the infinite fragrance and acceptance of Christ as the burnt-offering. But the point in our scripture is, that it was offered for Aaron and his sons; and accordingly as soon as it was consumed upon the altar they were brought also under all its efficacy. Their sins were cleared away by the sin-offering, but now they stand before God in all the positive acceptance and savour of the burnt-offering — both of these results being gained for the believer by the death of Christ, for these offerings do but present the varying aspects of His one sacrifice.
These offerings were in a measure preparatory, relating rather to their personal fitness. The ram of consecration is now added. Speaking generally, this sacrifice has the character of a peace-offering (see Lev. 3), and represents another aspect of the death of Christ — its value for us, the obligations under which we are brought and the communion with God, with the Priest, and with the whole Church into which we are introduced. But here it has special relation to the office of Aaron and his sons, as will be seen from the scripture.
"And thou shalt take the other ram, and Aaron and his sons shall put their hands upon the head of the ram. Then shalt thou kill the ram, and take of his blood, and put it upon the tip of the right ear of Aaron, and upon the tip of the right ear of his sons, and upon the thumb of their right hand, and upon the great too of their right foot, and sprinkle the blood upon the altar round about. And thou shalt take of the blood that is upon the altar, and of the anointing oil, and sprinkle it upon Aaron, and upon his garments, and upon his sons, and upon the garments of his sons with him: and he shall be hallowed, and his garments, and his sons, and his sons' garments with him. Also thou shalt take of the ram the fat and the rump, and the fat that covereth the inwards, and the caul above the liver, and the two kidneys, and the fat that is upon them, and the right shoulder; for it is a ram of consecration. And one loaf of bread, and one cake of oiled bread, and one wafer out of the basket of the unleavened bread that is before the Lord: and thou shalt put all in the hands of Aaron, and in the hands of his sons; and shalt wave them for a wave-offering before the Lord. And thou shalt receive them of their hands, and burn them upon the altar for a burnt-offering, for a sweet savour before the Lord: it is an offering made by fire unto the Lord. And thou shalt take the breast of the ram of Aaron's consecration, and wave it for a wave-offering before the Lord: and it shall be thy part. And thou shalt sanctify the breast of the wave-offering, and the shoulder of the heave-offering, which is waved, and which is heaved up, of the ram of the consecration, even of that which is for Aaron, and of that which is for his sons: and it shall be Aaron's and his sons' by a statute for ever from the children of Israel; for it is an heave-offering: and it shall be an heave-offering from the children of Israel of. the sacrifice of their peace-offerings, even their heave-offering unto the Lord.
"And the holy garments of Aaron shall be his sons' after him, to be anointed therein, and to be consecrated in them. And that son that is priest in his stead shall put them on seven days, when he cometh into the tabernacle of the congregation, to minister in the holy place.
"And thou shalt take the ram of the consecration, and seethe his flesh in the holy place. And Aaron and his sons shall eat the flesh of the ram, and the bread that is in the basket, by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And they shall eat those things wherewith the atonement was made, to consecrate and to sanctify them: but a stranger shall not eat thereof, because they are holy. And if ought of the flesh of the consecrations, or of the bread, remain unto the morning, then thou shalt burn the remainder with fire: it shall not be eaten, because it is holy. And thus shalt thou do unto Aaron, and to his sons, according to all things which I have commanded thee: seven days shalt thou consecrate them." (vv. 19-35.)
As in the two preceding offerings, so here, the hands of Aaron and his sons are laid upon the head of the ram of consecration, and thereby they are identified with its value before God. Thereon two distinct actions in respect of the blood are given. First, after the ram was killed, the blood was put upon the tip of the right ear of Aaron and of his sons, on the thumb of their right hand, and upon the great toe of their right foot; and it was sprinkled at the same time upon the altar round about. They were thus brought under the value of the atoning blood; for the blood that was offered to God on their behalf, brought them also under His claims, so that henceforward they were not their own, but bought with a price. These several parts of their bodies were therefore sprinkled to signify, that from this moment they were to hearken alone, act alone, and walk alone, for the Lord as those who were redeemed by the precious blood. It is so, too, with believers of this dispensation. Inasmuch as they are redeemed. the belong to the Redeemer, and, set at liberty from the bondage and power of Satan, they enjoy the precious privilege of living unto Him who has died for them, and risen again. Their ears, hands, and feet are all to be used for Him, in His service. After this, a second thing was directed. Both they and their garments were to be sprinkled with the blood upon the altar, and with the anointing oil. (v. 21.) They are thus set apart by the blood, and by the unction of the Holy Ghost. "And it is important to remark here that the seal of the Holy Ghost follows on the sprinkling with blood, not on the washing with the water. That was needed. We must be regenerate; but it is not that cleansing which puts us by itself in a state God can seal; the blood of Christ does. We are thereby perfectly cleansed as white as snow, and the Spirit comes as the witness of God's estimate of the value of that blood-shedding. Hence, too, all were sprinkled with Aaron. The blood of Christ, and the Holy Ghost, have set us in association with Christ, where He is according to the acceptableness of that perfect sacrifice (it was the ram of consecration), and the presence, liberty, and power of the Holy Ghost." The cross and Pentecost are in fact connected — the efficacy of the blood, and the gift of the Holy Spirit, and both are here enjoyed — at least in figure.1 These three steps lead to the Christian position. Washing with water comes first, then cleansing with blood, and lastly the unction of the Holy Ghost. "Ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His." (Rom. 8: 9.)
In the next place, parts of the ram of consecration (v. 22), "and one loaf of bread, and one cake of oiled bread, and one wafer," etc., were put in the hands of Aaron and his sons to be waved for a wave-offering before the Lord. The loaf, the "oiled bread" (v. 2 compared with Leviticus 2) was a meat-offering, representing Christ in the perfection of His humanity, or rather the holiness of His life in devotedness to God, the entire consecration of every faculty of His soul to the will and glory of God. Taken then in connection with the parts of the ram, their hands were, in fact, filled with Christ, with Christ in all that He was in life, and all that He was in death to God. Now the meaning of the word, which is translated in this chapter "consecrate," as may be seen from the margin, is "to fill the hand." This gives us the scriptural signification of consecration. The general thought is, that it lies in our yielding something to God, and hence the soul is thrown back upon itself to seek for strength to devote itself and all its energies to God's service; and, indeed, with this view, it is often called upon to attain it by a solemn act of self-surrender. Scripture reveals a better way. It lies, as seen in this chapter, in being filled with Christ. It is Christ possessing, absorbing, and controlling our souls. It requires no effort therefore on our part, though indeed it requires the maintenance of constant self-judgment, the abiding refusal of the flesh in every shape and form. For Christ is willing yea, desires, to possess us wholly, and if the Spirit be ungrieved, He will dwell in our hearts by faith; and as then He becomes the alone object of our lives, so He alone will be expressed in our walk and conversation. This is consecration according to God — as prefigured by filling the hands of Aaron and his sons.
Having waved the contents of their hands before the Lord, Moses received them, and burnt them upon the altar for a burnt-offering, for a sweet savour before the Lord: it is an offering made by fire unto the Lord. This teaches us both what is acceptable to God in worship, and consequently what is true priestly work. It is the presentation of Christ — the Christ who has passed through the holy fire of judgment, as made sin for us on the cross — it is this which ascends up as a sweet savour to God. This, indeed, is having fellowship with God concerning, the death of His Son; our souls entering, by the Spirit, both into what He is, and into the character of His death, and presenting Him and His work, as thus apprehended, before the eye of God. We delight in presenting, and He delights in receiving. And, blessed be His name, He first fills our hands, and He alone can first fill our hands, with that which He delights to accept. This, then, is our work as priests, our privilege as worshippers, ever to present Christ before God. It will therefore be easily understood, that the flesh can have no part in such work, that, in fact, worship can only be by and in the power of, the Holy Spirit.
Finally, there are diverse instructions concerning eating different parts of the ram of consecration. Moses was to have his part — the breast — after it had been waved for a wave-offering before the Lord. (v. 26.) Aaron and his sons had their part. (vv. 27, 28, 31, 32.) Thus God, and Christ as Priest, and the whole Church, as symbolized by Aaron and his sons, feed alike upon the offered sacrifice. It was the fellowship of God, of Christ, and His people — all having their part — in accomplished atonement. We also learn that Christ alone is the food of His people. Brought under the full value of His sacrifice whereby they are consecrated and sanctified, He becomes their sustenance and strength. (v. 33.) Two prohibitions are added. First, no stranger should eat of this priestly food. It must be confined to those who are hallowed for the office of priests. Secondly, the flesh of the consecrations must be eaten the same day. (v. 34.) Priestly food must be eaten in connection with the altar. In like manner you cannot feed upon Christ if you dissociate Him from the cross. It is as offered to God, and glorified by Him because of the work He accomplished, that He is our food, and is fed upon in fellowship with God.
Seven days these ceremonies were to be repeated; and seven days the altar was to be sanctified. (vv. 36, 37.) The priests must have a perfect consecration, and the altar at which they were to serve must be perfectly sanctified. The consecration and the sanctification alike must be according to the perfection of the requirements of a holy God.
1) Compare the law for cleansing of the leper in Lev. 14, remembering that there it is a question of cleansing from sins, and not, as here, of consecration to the priesthood.