You Were Made for This: An Introduction to the Priesthood (and Yourself)

priestcolor“You were made for this!”

This phrase seems to be thrown around quite a bit these days: Sports commentators talk this way about athletes; teachers about pupils; mentors about those they coach. In short, it is a way of speaking that comes from a recognized “authority” on someone who is ascending in their field. It is language meant to boost esteem and put everyone on alert, that the next star is rising.

In our celebrity-crazed culture, everyone wants to be special. Indeed “special” is the carrot that has motivated so many to aspire to greatness. I’ve felt this pull and have thanked God that my dreams of athletic glory were mercifully cut short. Still, the hunger for this kind of glory remains.

And it remains with such a strong pull because we were made for glory! Not just some of us, but all of us were made to enjoy and exhibit the glory of God. And thus, until we discover the true source of glory, we will chase glory in vain. Therefore, we must see what Scripture says about the glory of God.   Continue reading

My ETS Presentation: “You Can Make Me Clean,” The Matthean Jesus as Priest and the Biblical-Theological Results

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Update: This paper has been accepted for publication in a future edition of the Criswell Theological Review.

Tomorrow, my good friend Nicholas Piotrowski and I will present our paper (“You Can Make Me Clean”: The Jesus as Priest and the Biblical-Theological Results). Our argument in brief is the Gospel writers, and Matthew in particular, presented Jesus in priestly actions, even as they  withhold the title “priest” from him. Our test case is the healing of the leper in Matthew 8:1–4, where Jesus proves to be a greater priest than the sons of Levi who were supposed to adjudicated cases of leprosy (Leviticus 13–14).

We’ve been working on this paper, a mashup from our two dissertations, for the last two years—yes, that’s how academic writing goes. We’re convinced that this minority view shines light on the way the Gospels are written and even more on the work that Christ did in his earthly life and sacrificial death.

Here’s the introduction. Let us know what you think.

The munus triplex [Jesus’ triple office of prophet, priest, and king] is an important biblical-theological and systematic category. While it is common to observe in the Gospels Jesus’ role as “the prophet who is to come into the world” (John 6:14; cf. also Matt 17:5 and parallels with Deut 18:15) and the royal “Son of David” (cf. esp. Matt 1:1; 21:9), theologians often turn to Hebrews for Christ’ priestly office.  Lately, however, scholars are increasingly appreciating the historical Jesus’ self-consciousness as a priest.[1] The result is to bring more attention to the Gospels for understanding Jesus’ munus sacerdotal. This paper singles out Matthew specifically where Jesus is put forward as Israel’s eschatological priest.­[2] From this flow several biblical-theological considerations.[3]

The reason scholars dismiss Christ’s earthly priesthood is manifold.  Linguistically, in all four Gospels, Jesus is not once called a priest.[4] Covenantally, Christ does not qualify as a priest. Born under the old covenant, Jesus’ Judean lineage would disallow him from serving in the temple.­[5] Theologically, there is strong reason for denying Christ’s earthly priesthood: his priestly service would come to depend upon his resurrection and his appointment as a better priest.[6] This is the argument in Hebrews, and many scholars reason that it is anachronistic to read Christ’s priesthood back into the Gospels. Philosophically, since the Enlightenment an academic aversion has existed towards any notion of “priest-craft.”[7] Proportionately, due to the extensive attention given to other aspects of his person and work, it is understandable how Christ’s priesthood can be overlooked. For these reasons and more, the idea that Christ is a priest in the Gospels is underrepresented.[8]

It is our contention, however, joining the growing chorus, that the Gospels are filled with evidence for Christ’s earthly priesthood. . . .

Looking forward to make our case tomorrow. If you’re at ETS, we’d love for you to come join us in Room 402 at 8:30AM. If you’re not, I will (probably) post a PDF tomorrow for the seven people in the room and anyone else interested in considering this argument.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

_________________

[1] Citing a handful of exceptions, Brant Pitre rightly observes, “If there is any single subject which modern historical scholarship on Jesus has almost completely neglected, it is the subject of Jesus and the Jewish priesthood” (“Jesus, the New Temple, and the New Priesthood,” in Letter and Spirit, vol 4., Temple and Contemplation: God’s Presence in the Cosmos, Church, and Human Heart, ed. Scott Hahn and David Scott [Steubenville, OH: Emmaus Road Publishing, 2008], 71). Crispin H. T. Fletcher-Louis has outlined several reasons for the prior neglect of this subject, and contributed greatly to redressing it (“Jesus as the High Priestly Messiah: Part 1,” JSHJ 4 [2006]: 155–75; idem, “Jesus as the High Priestly Messiah: Part 2,” JSHJ 5 [2007]: 57–79).

[2] Jesus is not “presented” exclusively as a priest in Matthew, but as prophet, priest, and king. The onus of this paper is to show the ways he functions as a priest.

[3] To be sure, however, this is not a “redaction-critical” study.  The final form of Matthew, nonetheless, is the result of redacting forces; either of Mark, Q, the oral tradition, or some inexorable web of all of them.  We do not attempt to ferret out how the redaction occurred, but to explore to rhetorical results once it was done.

[4]A word study of the Gospels and Acts finds 122 occurrences of “priestly terminology” (priest, high priest, priesthood, etc.). However, the number of times that such language refers to Christ or Christians is zero, which would understandably lead anyone dependent on that method of research to abandon the effort (Vanhoye, Old Testament Priests and the New Priest, 63–66).

[5]Technically, if Karl Deenick (“Priest and King or Priest-King in 1 Samuel 2:35,” WTJ 73 [2011]: 325-39) is correct that 1 Samuel 2:35 points to a Davidic priest, Jesus’ Davidic lineage would not disqualify him from priesthood. It would do the opposite. But it is still necessary to show, as Hebrews 5 does, how a son of David could supersede the Levitical priesthood.

[6]See David Schrock, “Resurrection and Priesthood: Christological Soundings from the Book of Hebrews,” SBJT 18.4 (2014): 89–114.

[7]Peter J. Leithart, “Attendants of Yahweh’s House: Priesthood in the Old Testament,” JSOT 85 (1999): 3–4.

[8]For a survey of how scholars understand Christ’s priesthood in the gospels, see Crispin H. T. Fletcher-Louis, “Jesus as the High Priestly Messiah: Part 1,” Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 4 (2006): 155–75; idem, “Jesus as the High Priestly Messiah: Part 2,” JSHJ 5 (2007): 57–79.

The Biblical Story of Priestly Glory

priesthoodOn Monday, I made the case that we should understand the imago dei in priestly terms. To develop that idea a bit, let me show how the biblical story line can be understood through the lens of the priesthood, as well.

Creation

In creation Adam was made to be a royal priest. Genesis 2:15 says, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” Or it could be translated “to serve it and guard it.” In other words, the man in the Garden was more than a prehistoric gardener. He was a royal priest. And we know he was a priest because the language used in Genesis 2:15 is used repeatedly of priests in Numbers 3. Moses, the author of both books, is making the point that Adam was stationed in the Garden as a priest—to serve the Lord by cultivating the Garden (even expanding its borders) and to guard the Garden from unclean intruders (a key work of the priest and one he failed to do in Genesis 3). In short, redemptive history begins with a priest in the Garden, one whose righteous appearance and holy vocation was breathtaking, as Ezekiel 28:12–14 describes,

You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering, sardius, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, emerald, and carbuncle; and crafted in gold were your settings and your engravings. On the day that you were created they were prepared. You were an anointed guardian cherub [A better translation is the NET: “I placed you there with an anointed guardian cherub]; I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked.

Sadly, this glorious beginning did not last long. Continue reading

‘I Will Give You as a Covenant’ (Isaiah 42:6; 49:8): The Suffering Servant as Covenant Mediator

As I worked on my dissertation, one of the things that struck me was the importance of the covenant mediator for any covenant. Structurally, every covenant needs a mediator; and with regard to effectiveness, every covenant depends on the personal integrity of the covenant mediator (alternately called a federal head). Continue reading

The Ongoing Priesthood of Jesus Christ

The kingdom of Christ and the kingship of Christ have received most scholarly attention in recent years.  (In truth, the kingdom of Christ has rightly received great emphasis since the Christ declared that the kingdom of God was drawing near).  Comparatively, the priesthood of Jesus Christ has often been slighted, misrepresented, or put in second (or third) place behind Christ’s status as king or prophet.  However, this ought not be so.

The New Testament frequently displays Christ doing priestly activities (atonement, intercession, teaching, etc.), and in places like Hebrews, the author displays him as the high priest par excellence.  On this important role, John Murray provided an insightful reflection on the “inter-permeation” between Christ’s priesthood and kingship.  While Christ’s kingship is often affirmed, it is often disfigured because of its separation from Christ’s kingdom.  Murray nicely unites the two.

In context, he points to 1 John 2:1-2; Rom 8:34; and Heb 7:24-25 as places where Christ’s ongoing priesthood is explicitly mentioned.  He argues that Christ’s priesthood should be recaptured if we are to fully appreciate the exalted work of Christ. Here is his main argument.

Truly Christ executes his kingly office as head over all things to his body the church. But Christ is a priest upon his throne, and we must not allow the consideration of his kingly office to eclipse that aspect of Christ’s heavenly activity with which we are now concerned. There is here an inter-permeation of the various offices. What we are concerned with now is to recognize that his specifically high priestly ministrations are more operative and pervasive in the church upon earth than we are frequently disposed to to appreciate. And when his specifically priestly function is duly appreciated, new perspectives are opened up in the interpretation of the activity of our exalted Lord. . . . This adds new richness to our conception of the relation he sustains to his people and enhances our understanding of the significance for us, as individual believers and as members of the body which is the church, of the activity which Christ in heaven continues to exercise in reference to God on behalf of those whom he has purchased with his blood (John Murray, “The Heavenly, Priestly Activity of Christ,” in Collected Works of John Murray, vol. 1 [Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1976], 47).

In light of the attention given to the papal election of Pope Francis and the Catholic Church’s confused understanding of priesthood (and kingdom), it is vital that Protestants recapture a biblical understanding of priesthood.  It begins with understanding what Murray has argued.  We must understand how the ongoing priesthood of Christ, the priesthood of believers continue to this day and how those two realities are related.  Murray’s article is a helpful starting place.  Hopefully, in the days ahead, Protestants will be better equipped to affirm the finished work of Christ’s atonement and the ongoing work of his intercession and royal-priestly session.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

Moses’ Gospel Logic

Yesterday, we saw how Abraham wrestled with God’s word in order to believe his promise (Gen 15:6) and to sacrifice his son (Gen 22:1ff).  We called such thinking that gave precedence to God’s revelation over our reasonable (or unreasonable) feelings “Gospel Logic.”  Today, we turn to Exodus 32 to see how Moses engaged in the same kind of thinking.

A Sinful People in Need of Something…

1 Corinthians 10 points to Exodus 32 as a universal example of what not to do. Poised to receive God’s order of service for true worship, Israel gets impatient (Exod 32). They hire Aaron to make new gods, and on one of the forty days that Moses in on the Mount of Sinai, the people of Israel sin against God and break the covenant that had just been ratified in Exodus 24.

On the mountain, Moses receives word from the Lord, “And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!'” (Exod 32:7-8).

What is Moses to do?

On the way down the mountainside, he hears the drunken sound of pagan worship in the camp (32:18-20).  He gets to the base camp, and he smashes the tablets.  The covenant is broken.  In the scenes that follow, Moses inquires of Aaron (32:22-24) and commissions the sons of Levi to slaughter their own family members in order to avert the wrath of God (32:25-29).  The day is done.  The people are undone.  Night falls.

Exodus 32:30 records a new day.  The day of judgment has passed, but the threat of the plague remains (v. 35).  What will Moses do?  Surely he was thinking the same thing.  The covenant people of Israel have broken their wedding vows, and something must be done.  Not a passive man, Moses sets off to inquire of God telling the people, “You have sinned a great sin.  And I will go up to the Lord, . . . ” (32:30).

What would he do?  What would he say?  The rest of verse tells us, “perhaps I can make atonement for your sins.”

Atonement.  This is what the people needed.  But how would he accomplish this.  The plans for the tabernacle were destroyed.  The sin was so great, and God’s holiness was so much greater what would he do?  How would he plead his case?  Such questions lead us to see how Moses reckoned the matter, and in his offer, we will see how gospel logic at work.

Moses Gospel Logic: From Sinai to Eden and Back Again

To understand fully how Moses might have arrived at his self-sacrificing offer, we need to consider the antecedent theology that Moses would have had, and that he would have drawn upon to plead his case and make his offer.

Atonement, and the need for blood sacrifice, was common throughout the ancient near east.  Accordingly, Israel as they worshiped around the golden altar made sacrifices.  While they needed divine instruction for true sacrifices, they did not need information on how to sacrifice.  While they did not have the book of Exodus, they had ample knowledge of the sacrifices offered In Egypt.

But where did these come from?  From God, where else?  Pagan sacrifices are echoes of the first sacrifice, the one God made in the Garden.  Indeed, sacrifice in general terms was imprinted on human civilization from the Garden of Eden forward. Remember: When Adam and Eve sinned they needed a covering, and so God killed an animal an clothed them.  The seed of substitution was sown in this act, and it was passed from God to Adam to Abel.

(For a biblical exposition of these patriarchal and pagan sacrifices, see William Symington, On the Atonement and Intercession of Jesus Christ [1834], pp. 66-92; likewise, for a helpful explanation of the way pagan worship corresponds to the original pattern passed down from Adam and Noah, see Jeffrey Niehaus, Ancient Near Eastern Themes in Biblical Theology)

As the biblical testimony goes, not all offerings were of equal value.  In Genesis 4, Abel’s offering was based on his faith (Heb 11), but what was his faith in?  Surely, it based on the revelation conveyed to Cain and Abel’s parents, modeled in Genesis 3, that said bloodshed was needed. By contrast, Cain’s offering was faithless, because he refused to believe the need for shed blood.  Instead of substitutionary offering, he brought fruit from the field.  His offering was not according to God’s word, it did not substitute life for life, and thus it was not acceptable to the Lord.

If Moses was indeed retracing the history of God’s atonement and means of provision, he would have next thought of Abraham and Isaac.  In what would become Genesis 22, YHWH commands Abraham to offer his son. This is far more than an animal sacrifice, something Abraham (and Moses) had done plenty of times.  Now, God was upping the ante.  He was testing Abraham (22:1), and he was setting in redemptive history a portrait of a substitution—a divinely provided lamb in place of Abraham’s seed (people of faith).

Like Abel, Abraham had to make this offering in faith–faith in God’s word.  As we saw yesterday, this is exactly what God’s friend did.  Thus, he believed that God could raise his son from the dead.  If indeed Moses was pondering all that God had revealed to him in the law on Sinai, and all that God had done in Israel’s history, it is little wonder that Moses concluded that perhaps his own substitution might become the means by which Israel would be saved.

Putting this gospel logic in dramatic prose, James M. Boyce imagines what the night might have been like,

The night passed, and the morning came when Moses was to reascend the mountain.  He had been thinking.  Sometime during the night a way that might possibly divert the wrath of God against the people had come to him.  He remembered the sacrifices of the Hebrew patriarchs and the newly instituted sacrifice of the Passover.  Certainly God had shown by such sacrifices that he was prepared to accept an innocent substitute in place of the just death of the sinner.  His wrath could sometimes fall on the substitute.  Perhaps God would accept… When morning came, Moses ascended the mountain with great determination. Reaching the top, he began to speak to God (Quoted in Philip Graham Ryken, Exodus, 1013).

Concluding Thoughts

Like Abraham, Moses practiced Gospel Logic.  He reflected on the character of God, God’s revealed word, the sin of the people, and like Abraham who reckoned that God could raise the dead, Moses conjectured, maybe, just maybe God might take me in place of my people.  So Moses, with boldness and selfless love for God’s sinful people laid himself on the altar: “No if you would on forgive their sin.  But if not”–and here is where the offer comes–“please me from the book You have written” (Exod 32:32).

In the end, his offer is not accepted (32:33-34), but not because the idea is wrong, but because the substitute is blemished.  Even though Moses was not complicit in the crime, he was a son of Adam and by nature incapable of atoning for the sins of the people.  Relatively speaking, he was innocent, but time would reveal that in his own heart lay a dark distrust for God and a willingness to strike the rock when God said speak (Num 20:10-13).

Moses was not the perfect substitute.  Yet, his intercession foreshadows the one whose self-sacrifice would be accepted.  Moses receives God’s word to continue to lead the people which implies that the story will continue, the hope of the true Messiah remains. This is good news for Moses, Israel, and us.  And Moses example of wrestling with the Lord like Abraham and Jacob should remind us to press into the truths of God’s word and to find solace in the darkest nights.

When God’s wrath was ready to consume Israel, Moses Gospel Logic reckoned that “perhaps” he could intercede.  We must reckon in the same fashion, not that we can intercede for others (although see Paul in Romans 9).  No, we must reckon with greater  confidence that because in Jesus Christ there is no “perhaps,” all that we ask in his name will be accomplished.  This is God’s promise to us in John 14:13-14, and it is based on the inexhaustible merits of Christ.  In his priestly service, Jesus was gladly received by the Father, and as the Father’s beloved Son, all that he does and asks, is answered.  This is our good news.

May such knowledge of our great high priest comfort us today, and beckon us not to lose heart for tomorrow.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

Sermon Notes: The Sweet-Smelling Aroma of Prayer (NT)

Not only does the New Testament develop general themes of Christ’s fulfillment of the tabernacle.  It also picks up more specific details, like that of the golden altar of incense.  Yesterday, we considered the law and the prophets on this theme.  Today, we venture into the New Testament.

4. Christ’s offering is fragrant and acceptable to God.  We see this in at least two places in the New Testament.

Ephesians 5:2.  Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.  In Exodus, “fragrant” always described the incense.  Here, we have evidence of Christ’s offering on the golden altar and the sacrifice on the bronze altar.

Hebrews 5:7.  In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.

5. The Gospel: We have a God who hears us.  In Christ, our prayers get behind the veil. In the nostrils of God our prayers are a fragrant offering because they have the scent of his son.  This is seen most convincingly in Revelation.

Rev 5:8. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

 Rev 8:3-4. Another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, w the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.

In both of these texts, the prayers of the saints, are received in the presence of God, because they emit the fragrance of Christ’s sacrifice, as they are always lifted in the name and power and intercession of Jesus Christ.  This then leads to our application.

6. Christian Application: Pray. Pray confidently (Heb 4:16). Pray often (1 Thess 5:17). Pray in Christ’s name.  More specifically, let me list three points of application.

We do not come before God in our own name.  On our own, our works are an aroma of death and dung before God.  But in Christ, our prayers are a pleasing scent to God.  He delights for you and I to come and speak with him, because he “smells” his Son on us.  Thus in Christ, Proverbs 15:8 applies to us.

Proverbs 15:8. The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him.

Now, you and I are not upright.  The law condemns our sin and unrighteousness.  But with Christ as our altar of incense, his righteousness covers us, and our unrighteous prayers are covered by his blood.  So that, they are pleasing to the Father!

The prayers that the enter heaven are prayers that are effective.  The good news of prayers by New Covenant believers is that they are not only empowered and directed by the Spirit, but they are guaranteed to have effect as we pray according to God’s will.

By extension, this means that God does not listen to the prayers of unbelievers. Psalm 66:18 says, “If I cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.”  That is the perpetual state for those who don’t know Christ.

Because Christ is our fragrant offering to God, when we come in his name before the Father, we will never be turned away.  This is a great word that calls us to pray with greater intensity.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

Sermon Notes: Christ’s Consecration is Our Confidence (NT)

Picking up where we left off, the New Testament comes in looking backward, looking at God’s covenantal promises, and then it begins to show how Christ fulfills them all.  So we move from prophetic anticipation, to Christotelic (Christ in the end) fulfillment.

4. Christ fulfills Zechariah 3.  Not simply by being a perfect Levitical priest, Jesus far exceeds the old system.  Hebrews records that he is a priest not because of genealogy, but because of living a perfect life.  He is called a priest after the order of Melchizedek.

Hebrews 7:1-9. Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron? For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. For the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life. For it is witnessed of him, “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek” [Psalm 110].  For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.

But even more to the point, in connection with the consecration of the high priest, is Hebrews 10. There, the priest it says is not acceptable to God on the basis of a sacrifice or sacrifices made for him.  He doesn’t need a sacrifice.  Christ is accepted because of his perfect obedience.

Hebrews 10:1-10. For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins?  But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year.  For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,

 “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.'”

When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

The beauty of Hebrews 10, in relation to Exodus 29, is that Christ does not need to be cleansed of sin.  He is clean.  Thus, his consecration does not depend on the blood of animals; his purity emits from a life that has displayed perfect obedience to the father.  God accepts Christ’s priestly sacrifice and representation, because he is His Son, in whom he is well-pleased.  This is far better than the Levitical system.

 5. The Gospel: We have a priest that is acceptable to God and sympathetic to us.  The promises and invitations to approach the Lord in Hebrews about this are astounding.  Hebrews 7:25, “He lives to intercede for us.”  What does that mean?  Consider how he prays in John 17.

(1) He prays for our protection from the world (17:15)
(2) He prays for our sanctification (17:17)
(3) He prays for the effectiveness of our evangelism (17:20)… which means
(4) He prays for the salvation of those given to him
(5) He prays for the unity of the church (17:23)
(6) He prays for his saints to know his love (17:26)

6. The Application: Draw Near With Confidence.  The New Testament calls us to draw near to God (James 4:8), but such a command would have been absolutely terrifying to the Old Testament people (and maybe even the priests).  Entering God’s presence in any unclean manner resulted in death (cf. Lev 10:1-3).  However, Christ takes away that threat.  Through his perfect consecration, he stands at God’s right hand and bids us come.  He clothes us, who trust in him, with his righteousness and makes us acceptable in God’s sight. Thus, Christian have full access and assurance that our prayers, petitions, and confessions will be heard and received.  This is great news, and one that comes at the end of the line that begins in Exodus 29 passes through the OT and finds fulfillment in Christ in the NT.

May we draw near to God in Christ today, because of his perfect consecration.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

Sermon Notes: Christ’s Consecration is Our Confidence (OT)

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.

dss

Sermon Notes: The Priest’s Particular Work (NT)

Moving from Old Testament to New, the particularity of the priestly office continues.  In fact, just as the high priest represents the 12 tribes whose names are engraved on his heart; Christ lays down his life for his church, the New Israel, those who are made new in Christ (cf. Gal 6:16; 1 Pet 2:5, 9).

Jesus Priesthood in John’s Gospel

For instance, in John, Jesus describes his atoning work as accomplishing salvation for those who believe (3:16), for all his sheep (10:14), for all his friends (15:13), and for all those God the Father has “given to him” —Jew or Gentile.  Consider Jesus high priestly prayer,

Since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him… I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours (John 17:2, 6-9).

As John records it, Jesus does not reveal himself or pray uniformly to all people.  He prays for those whom the father has given him.  In priestly vernacular, he mediates only for those whose names are written on his ephod and breastpiece.

Maybe you are thinking, can we really connect Exodus 28-29 with John 17? That is a legitimate question, so it is important to see that there do seem to be some linguistic and conceptual links between the two passages.  This is most evident in verses 16-19.

They [i. e. those whom God has given to Jesus] are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world… For their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth

In this brief prayer, there are at least two words/ideas that were used in Exodus 28–sanctify/sanctified and consecrate.  Apparently, as Jesus anticipates his atoning death, he prays to the Father for his own.  He stakes the fact that he will consecrate himself for them, which has explicit reference to his priestly work of sacrifice, so that they might be sanctified for access into God’s holy dwelling (cf. Heb 10:19ff).  This was obviously the purpose of Exodus 25-40; and so it is with Jesus, who makes atonement not in an earthly tabernacle, but in God’s heavenly temple.  And who does he make atonement for?  According to John 17, it is those people whom the father has given.  This is not a universal group; it is God’s particular covenant people.

Jesus’s Priestly Work in John’s Apocalypse

Finally, the list of names for whom Jesus represents as priest is also given in Revelation.  For instance, in Revelation 13:8, John declares that judgment is coming upon “Everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.”  In other words, God in eternity past purposed whose names would be written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.  Here, John is warning earth-dwellers of their impending demise, but by contrast, those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life will be saved.  Clearly, it would be inappropriate to say that this passage refers to the ephod or the breastpiece.  However, the principle is analogous.  In both the Lamb’s Book of Life and on his priestly garments are the names of those for whom Christ died.  Again, the names indicate a particular representation for a particular people.

Likewise, in Revelation 17:8, John records, “And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come.” Like the earlier verse in chapter 13, John is describing those whose names are left out of the book; but that has to imply that their are others–a countless multitude in Revelation 7–whose names are recorded in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

Thus in both positive (the ephod and breastpiece) and negative (the book of life) terms, God distinguishes those whom the Lamb dies for, and those whom he does not.  As God’s appointed priest and sacrifice, God sends him to earth to be slain, so that by his blood he would ransom people for God “from every tribe and language and people and nation” (5:9-10).  In this way, God’s particular means of salvation are made known to all the earth; and the promise that the gospel will be universally effective is found in the fact that in every tribe, language, people, and nation, God has his chosen ones.  In this way, God’s offer of salvation can be offered to all people indiscriminately; and it has the promise of absolute efficacy, because of Christ’s perfect, priestly atonement and intercession (see Hebrews 9-10).

The Good News of Christ’s Priestly Work

This is the Good News!  Christ’s salvation cannot be revoked.  It cannot be overturned.  It will not fail.  While the Levitical priests were weak, and unable to cleanse human guilt, they did preserve the flesh.  Yet, they could never save the soul.

Not so with Jesus.  His priestly ministry is infinitely better.  For all whom he died, he effectively saved.  He is a glorious and beautiful priest!  He perfectly intercedes for all those whose name are on his vestments; he does not forget us.  We are close to his heart.  As John records, He has lost not one!  And all those who have trusted in him and repented of sin, can have glad-hearted confidence that their name is written across his heart.

May we proclaim that word all over the earth, until the priestly-king returns to reign on the earth!

Soli Deo Gloria, dss