TEST CASE # 1 :: Exodus 29: Consecration of the Priests
Following the five-fold model (Law, Prophets 1 &2, Christ, Gospel, Christian Application) presented in the last few days, I will today try to give a “test case” for getting from the consecration of the high priest in Exodus 29 to Christ to Christians today.
1. Exodus 29 gives explicit laws for consecrating the priest.
Exodus 29 is an exposition of Exodus 28:41, “And your shall put them”—that is the priestly garments— “on Aaron your brother, and on his sons with him, and shall anoint them and ordain them and consecrate them, that they may serve me as priests.” The point of the chapter is to explain how the high priest might be received into the presence of the Lord. And it is an incredible process. To begin with, verses 4-9 give a point by point process for cleansing the priest.
Verses 4-9: Five Steps for Consecration
Verse 4. The priests are washed. In a hot, dusty desert, these men needed a bath. This would not be sufficient, but it was a necessary beginning.
Verse 5. The priest is clothed. All the garments made for “dignity and honor,” or “beauty and glory” were put on the priest.
Verse 6. The priest is crowned. The most significant element of the apparel was the turban. It was put on last, and it essentially crowned the priest (Zech 6).
Verse 7. The priest is anointed. With the anointing oil, the priest is ordained, as God’s chosen vessel to represent the people before him. This anointing is defined with greater detail in Hebrews 5, where it says that the priest did not appoint and anoint himself. As one commentator has said, this anointing basically stamped the priest with heavenly approval.
Verse 8-9. The priest is supported. Each of the priests are dressed and ready to serve him, in the service of the temple.
Verses 10-28: Six Atoning Sacrifices
Now everything was ready for the offerings. In verses 10-28, Moses lists six different kinds of offerings that were involved in the priests ordination. Most of these would be further explained in Leviticus 1-7, but let’s take a short survey here to simply mention the complexity of all the sacrifices involved.
Sin offering. Unclean sections of the animal are taken outside the camp and burned.
Burnt Offering. First ram is completely consumed, symbolizing the priest’s total devotion
Ram of Ordination. Only for the priests, this lamb was slaughtered and the blood applied to their ear lobes, thumbs, and big toes. All the exposed parts of the priest are cleansed by the blood.
Wave Offering. Taking the cooked meat and bread, the offering was waved before the Lord. Walter Kaiser describe them like this: “The waving was not from side to side but toward the altar and back, showing that the sacrifice was given to God and then received back by the priest for his use” (Exodus, 470). This food is then burned up on the altar as a Food Offering.
Peace Offerings. Included in the consecration was the eating of the food before the Lord. This ‘portion’ to eat represented the kind of peace the priests (and Israel) had with God through the atoning sacrifices.
Verses 29-42: Further Priestly Instructions
After the offerings came another round of detailed instructions. Everything from how to boil the food that the priest would eat with God to directions on the daily offerings.
Verse 29-30. God gives instructions concerning the garments, and how they are to be passed down from one generation to the next.
Verse 31-35. The priests have instructions for boiling the meat and eating it.
Verse 35-37. This ordination takes 7 days, again showing how weak the sacrifices were and how great was the need for cleansing.
Verse 38-42. On top of the ordination service, there is the morning and evening sacrifice, which twice a day provided atonement for the holy place.
This elaborate system, along with everything else in Exodus 25-40, was put in place to teach Israel about the holiness of God, the sinfulness of man, and what it takes to get into God’s presence. In one sentence, the message was this: You need a priest who will represent you before God, and that priest needs the highest degree of cleansing. Now the question becomes, “How did Israel do with this?” Let’s see.
2. Malachi 2:1-9 shows how the priests failed to keep covenant with God. Reciting the covenant God had with Levi, Malachi indicts the sons of Levi for their corrupted service.
And now, O priests, this command is for you. If you will not listen, if you will not take it to heart to give honor to my name, says the LORD of hosts, then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you do not lay it to heart. Behold, I will rebuke your offspring, and spread dung on your faces, the dung of your offerings, and you shall be taken away with it. So shall you know that I have sent this command to you, that my covenant with Levi may stand, says the LORD of hosts. My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him. It was a covenant of fear, and he feared me. He stood in awe of my name. True instruction was in his mouth, and no wrong was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many from iniquity. For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts. But you have turned aside from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the LORD of hosts, and so I make you despised and abased before all the people, inasmuch as you do not keep my ways but show partiality in your instruction.
3. Zechariah 3 promises a new priest who will be pure and devoted to God. In a book full of Messianic promises, the hope of a royal priest who will cleanse the people is especially prominent, because God’s dwelling with his people depended on the people’s purity. Verses 6-10 read,
Thus says the LORD of hosts: If you will walk in my ways and keep my charge, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here. Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who sit before you, for they are men who are a sign: behold, I will bring my servant the Branch. For behold, on the stone that I have set before Joshua, on a single stone with seven eyes, I will engrave its inscription, declares the LORD of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of this land in a single day. In that day, declares the LORD of hosts, every one of you will invite his neighbor to come under his vine and under his fig tree.
At this point in redemptive-history, the people of God wait for a pure priest. God’s promise is sure, but the fulfillment is still future. The flow of the narrative builds anticipation for the arrival of the Messiah.
Following the lead of the inter-testamental period, we will pause here too, and come back in our next post.