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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

October 3, 2018

Leviticus 8

  1. In this chapter, we see the transition from Moses as sole mediator, to Aaron and his sons serving as priest. The ordination/solemn setting aside of the priest lasted for seven days. Although it is unclear what parts of the prescribed ritual were performed each day, the fact they occurred at all is telling. The ordination consisted of eleven sub rituals dividable into four main groups: washing, robing, anointing, and sacrificing. In addition to initiating Aaron and his sons into the priesthood, the injunction “to make them holy” pervades each individual ritual of the ceremony (Exod. 29:1). Aaron and his sons were first washed to ensure ritual purity. After their purification, they were clothed with the vestments that would forever mark their office; Aaron received the elaborate high priestly robes, whereas his sons received the plain white linen of the priests. Next Aaron, but not his sons, was anointed “to make him holy” (Lev 8:12). Then a series of sacrifices were performed on behalf of all the initiates, including a sin offering for punishment. Another of the sacrifices was a ram of consecration. During the ritual of this sacrifice, some of its blood was mingled with anointing oil and sprinkled upon Aaron and his sons, effectively anointing them, with the result that “he shall be made holy, and his vestments, and his sons, and his sons’ vestments with him” (Exod 29:21). A casual reading of the texts of Exodus and Leviticus, as the brief summary above provides, may leave a reader with the idea that Aaron and his sons were equally purified and set apart. However, that is not the case. A closer examination of these texts demonstrates that Aaron received different garments and was anointed twice (his sons only once). While the robes of the high priest are distinctive, sacred, and symbolic, they did not determine the high priest; the anointing did that. To this effect, both the prescription and fulfillment depict Aaron as being anointed, and sprinkled, with oil that bore the scent and holiness of the Lord, whereas his sons were only sprinkled Additionally, Aaron (not his sons) was anointed at a time that equated his holiness with that of the Tabernacle and its objects--most holy. Finally, the manner in which Aaron was anointed was the capstone to his being elevated above his sons in holiness. Whereas other texts, including some of the prescriptions, depict Aaron’s sons as also being anointed (see Exod. 28:41; 30:30; 40:15; Lev. 7:3 5-36; Num 3:3), the anointing unique to Aaron further set him apart--both spiritually and authoritatively--from his sons as demonstrated by the special properties of the anointing oil itself, the location and time of his anointment, as well as the method with which he was anointed.

  2. Aaron and his sons are anointed as if they are fixtures of the tabernacle (1 Corinthians 3:16, 6:19, 2 Cor. 6:14-19, Eph 2:19-22, 1 Peter 2:5).

  3. The ordination of these men to serve as mediators between men and God required the sacrifice of a bull and two rams. As we will see, the bull in this sacrifice serves as a type/prefigure of Jesus, while the rams are a types/prefigure of the two thieves who were killed along with Jesus on Golgotha, outside Jerusalem.

  4. First, there is the bull. The bull, which was given as a sin offering (Leviticus 8:14), was sacrificed so that Aaron could make atonement for the sins of the people. The bull was burned outside the camp (Leviticus 8:17), as Jesus, the antitype was also sacrificed as a sin offering outside of Jerusalem, at Golgotha. As with Aaron, this sacrifice made Jesus High Priest of Israel, but in his case he is High Priest forever of spiritual Israel: the church (Hebrews 7:11-28).

  5. Then, interestingly, there are the two rams which were also sacrificed with the bull. Perhaps this is a coincidence, but the parallels with the thieves “sacrificed” along with Jesus is uncanny. In fact, given the many other examples of specific types and antitypes in the Levitical sacrifices, the coincidence explanation seems far-fetched. The first ram for the burnt offering (Leviticus 8:18-21) was slaughtered and burned, but the entrails and shanks were washed with water before being burnt because they were unclean. This is representing the thief who rejected Jesus. This parallels the symbolism of the normal burnt offering (Leviticus 1). In this case, the head of the bull, which represents Jesus, did not have to be washed, but the body of the bull, which represents “us” (i.e. those who are saved by the sacrifice of Jesus), was washed before being burned. In the case of the first ram, the entire body was burned up in the sacrifice.

  6. The differences between the first and second rams in this sacrifice is interesting as a type. The second ram was also sacrificed and burned, but the differences are striking. First, it was not washed with water. Second, only part of this ram was burned. Some of the blood was used to purify Aaron and his sons, while the breast of the ram was saved from the fire. It was “waved” before the Lord and not burned up. The symbolic prefigure of the other thief is hard to miss here. The second thief acknowledged Jesus and put his faith in him. Because of his faith, Jesus told him “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43) The implication is that he was forgiven of his sins and saved. Like the second ram, he did not need to be cleaned with water, as he was forgiven of his sins by Jesus. Like the second ram, he was saved from the fire/judgment. He instead is with Jesus in Paradise.

  7. It is truly striking that this historical detail was so wonderfully prefigured in the ordination ceremony of the High Priest Aaron who was a prefigure of our High Priest Jesus Christ. It is inconceivable that human minds could have produced this dramatic symbolism. This is not a coincidence. It is further evidence, both that the Old Testament is inspired by God and that Jesus Christ is the prophetic fulfillment of the Old Covenant given to the Jews by God well over one thousand years before Jesus was born.

  8. There is more encouragement here. Through the ceremony in Leviticus 8, the sons of Aaron were also vicariously purified and prepared for service as priests of the Most High God. Only those born by direct descent from Aaron could serve in this capacity. By prophetic analogy, we, like the sons of Aaron are direct descendants and inheritors of Jesus by faith (Ephesians 2:12-19) and we, too, are privileged to serve as priests (l Peter 2:9) in the true, heavenly sanctuary with God (Hebrews 10:19-20). Jesus did not have physical descendants, but those of us who join with him in burial and resurrection in baptism (Romans 6:2-4) are born again as spiritual, priestly descendent of Jesus.

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