Hebrews Lesson 42 February 9, 2006
NKJ Isaiah 40:8 The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever."
The thrust of these next several chapters (chapter 5, chapter 6 and chapter 8 into the dealing with the heavenly sanctuary and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and chapters 9 and 10) all start growing out of this discussion related to the high priesthood of Jesus Christ. This is at the core of what the writer of Hebrews is saying - that there is a superior priesthood in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is understanding that priesthood and how it functions and the significance of it while He is sitting in session at the right hand of God the Father that is crucial to understanding the dynamics of the spiritual life today and what it is for and how it fits into God's plan for us and for history down through the future ages. So we begin in chapter 5 continuing our study of the high priesthood of Christ.
NKJ Hebrews 5:1 For every high priest taken from among men is appointed for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins.
Verse 1 begins with an explanation. The explanation is indicated by that first word, for which translates the Greek word gar which explains something that has been said already. What has been said already focuses on the fact that we have a high priest.
NKJ Hebrews 4:14 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.
We are to hold fast to our confession. Why? Because we don't have a High Priest who is unsympathetic but one who is tested as we are yet without sins so that we can come boldly before the throne of grace.
Now he is going to back track a little bit to explain what goes on in terms of the appointment of a high priest going back into the Old Testament in order to remind them of certain foundational realities about the Old Testament priesthood which then becomes a backdrop for understanding what he will say in verses 5-10. This leads up to a discussion of the high priesthood of Christ as a Melchizedekean priest. To summarize these 11 verses we would say that the message of these verses is that the high priest of Israel, Aaron as a man on behalf of other men, holds his office from God. So also Christ has been appointed a priest by God the Father after a higher order, the Melchizedekean priesthood. Though He is eternally the Son of God He becomes through suffering and prayers in the days of His flesh the author of eternal salvation to us. That is the thrust. It is talking about the fact that just as Aaron was a priest in relationship to his race in relationship to Israel on behalf of Israelites and held his office from God, so also Christ holds His office from God. And the appointment for Jesus Christ was to be a priest after the order of Melchizedek. Though He is the eternal Son of God and eternal deity He still has to go through suffering and prayer in His humanity as preparation for His work on the cross and His present priesthood. That summarizes what is going on here. In terms of the major ideas that we see in these verses, there are just a couple.
First of all, the first three verses all revolve around the main verb that is given in verse 1 that every high priest is appointed by God. That is what the first three verses are all about. The focus of the first three verses is on the Levitical priesthood and that every high priest is appointed by God.
Then in verses 5 and 6 we have two Old Testament quotes that aren't really expositions of those two verses at all. The two verses are simply quoted which is typical of rabbinic type of quotation to prove a very simple point. That is that God appointed Jesus.
NKJ Psalm 2:7 "I will declare the decree: The LORD has said to Me, 'You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.
NKJ Psalm 110:4 The LORD has sworn And will not relent, "You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek."
He is not really expounding on what those verses say, he is just focusing on that one narrow point that in those two verses we see that God appointed Jesus Christ just as Old Testament priests were appointed by God.
Then there is a development of the significance of that in verses 7 and 8. The main idea is in verse 8 – though He was a Son - He still had to learn obedience through the things He suffered and as He learned obedience He was brought to maturity. That is what those 10 verses summarized and brought down to a basic level. That is what this section is all about. It sets the stage. The whole thing is driving to one point – that Jesus Christ is appointed a priest according to the order of Melchizedek.
Then he stops and as it were he turns around and verbally slaps them and says, "But you can't handle this." Then he gives them a hard rebuke for the next chapter and a half before he comes back and talks about the Melchizedekean priesthood. Why does he do that? Because they are believers; but before they were believers this group came out of the Levitical priesthood. What they are doing is wanting to go back to Judaism and back into the function of their Levitical priesthood because of persecution, because of adversity, because of whatever the external circumstances are. They want to give up their Christianity and go back to the Levitical priesthood thinking that somehow this is superior. So what he is doing in chastising them is telling them that they don't understand the Old Testament scriptures and the significance of this priesthood over the priesthood of Aaron and the priesthood of the Levites and how temporal and limited that priesthood is.
If you can't understand the superior priesthood of Melchizedek you can't understand the significance of what is happening in the Church Age right now and what Jesus Christ is doing on your behalf in session at the right hand of God the Father. So quit trying to go back to the things that were under the Mosaic Law because they are simply the shadow of the reality that is in heaven. So verses 1-4 focus on the human priesthood. That is what we are going to focus on in our study this evening to make sure that we have the background to understand what is going on under the Mosaic Law.
So we will begin in verse 1.
NKJ Hebrews 5:1 For every high priest taken from among men is appointed for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins.
This is presented as a normative standard principle. Of course he is not talking about pagan priesthoods. He is not talking about priesthoods in Greek religions or Egyptian religion. He is talking about the Levitical priesthood as set forth in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.
The main verb here, our finite verb that gives us the main action and the emphasis on the main subject, is kathistemi. Kathistemi means to assign someone a position of authority, to appoint them to a position, to put them in charge, to authorize, to appoint, to sit down. It is the idea of putting someone in a place of authority. It is a present passive indicative indicating that it has an ongoing timeless result from the present tense. It is passive in the sense that the priest receives the action of being appointed. The indicative mood indicates that it is reality.
So God is the one who appoints them. The purpose is then expressed in the last part of the verse that He might offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins. You will note that in your Bible, in most of your Bibles especially if you are using the King James or the New King James, there is a period at the end of that verse. But, this isn't the end of the sentence. So verses 1-3 are the whole sentence in the Greek. The reason that is important is as I teach guys grammar is that the basic unit of thought in language is a sentence. A sentence expresses one idea and if it is a compound sentence it may express two ideas that are linked together. You have a couple of ideas here that are linked together in the object clause. But what happened with the King James especially is there was a fundamental belief among the translators to try to make every verse a complete sentence. The one I love to quote is Ephesians 1: 3-14 which is one sentence in the Greek. That means that there is one idea there. Some of these modern translations will break that one idea into as many as 13 sentences. Thirteen sentences mean that there are 13 ideas. Did the Holy Spirit want to communicate one idea with secondary and tertiary supporting clauses or did He want to express 13 ideas? So you see when you go to English translations where the translators has broken a sentence into 4, 8, 10 or 15 sentences; then in the English we lose something about the structure of the author's thought. So things get lost in translation. But the focal point here in these three verses comes off of this main verb to appoint. Everything else relates to this main idea that a high priest is appointed by God.
That High Priest is appointed for men. Here we have the Greek preposition huper plus the genitive which indicates substitution. We normally see this in relation to the substitutionary atonement – that Christ died for man. But you see it relates to a priestly sacrifice and that is what the priests did. They were appointed for a substitute for other men in the nation so that those (we are not talking about the males per say but all the people in the nation) who went to God through the priest who was their substitute, their representative. So a priest is appointed from among men. He has to be the same kind of creature as that which he is representing.
So he is appointed on behalf of or as a substitute for men in the things pertaining to God. This is the Greek preposition pros which means orientation toward someone. This is his role. It is restricted to the things that are oriented to God. He has a spiritual function.
Then his purpose is that he may offer both gifts. This has to do with sacrificial gifts and offerings – free will offerings in the Old Testament as well as sacrifices. You have a vast array of different offerings and sacrifices in the Old Testament. You have burnt offerings. You have whole grain offerings. All of these are brought under the category of these two words, gifts and offerings. So it focuses on the fact that the high priest is appointed for a purpose. He is the substitutionary representative of the people. His primary role is in presenting gifts and offerings to God.
Now this sets us up for understanding and going back to the Old Testament teaching on priesthood. So we are going to break this down into a number of categories. One last grammatical point, He offers gifts and sacrifices for sin. That is huper plus the genitive. The sacrifices are a substitution for sins.
Principles related to priesthood
- There were three types of priesthoods in the Old Testament. The first was patriarchal. The second is the royal high priest which is represented by Melchizedek. The third is the Aaronical or the Levitical high priest. The Aaronical or Levitical high priest is set forth in the Mosaic Law. The patriarchal high priesthood was indicated by Adam, Abel in Genesis 4:3 bringing sacrifices to God for himself, Noah in Genesis 8:29 bringing sacrifices to God for the family, and Job in Job 1:5 is giving sacrifices for his sons and daughters. He is very concerned about their spiritual welfare. Abraham in Genesis 12:8 is offering sacrifices for the family. Then Jethro, Moses' father-in-law is offering sacrifices as a patriarchal priest in Exodus 18:12. So you have lots of examples prior to the Mosaic Law of heads of households or individuals who are authorized to bring sacrifices before God.
The royal high priest was a distinct priesthood that is indicated by Melchizedek. We don't have anything else on it in the Old Testament other than Melchizedek. He is royalty. He is the King priest over Salem which is later called Jerusalem. His name Melchizedek is probably a title - King of Righteousness - and not a personal name. He is a Gentile. So it is a priesthood that is superior to that which is restricted to only the Jews under the Mosaic Law.
That is the Aaronic or Levitical priesthood. So that gives us a framework for understanding these three priesthoods. The Aaronic-Levitical priesthoods are based only on their genetic relationship to Aaron and the tribe of Levi. There is no indication anywhere in the Scripture that they just have to be saved, that they have to be in right spiritual condition. None of that is there. They just have to be connected genetically to Levi and Aaron. Melchizedek, we don't understand what the dynamics were there. Patriarchal relates to any individual. Royal high priests seem to be related to someone who is regenerate and someone who is saved.
- We talked about the development of this idea of priesthood in the Old Testament. After you talk about individual priesthood when God calls out Israel as a nation and He is bringing them out of Egypt at the Exodus, He says that they are to be a kingdom of priests to Him. So the whole nation is supposed to be a kingdom of priests. So God calls out Israel to be a priest nation. Their role as a nation in relationship to all of the other nations is to be that intermediary, that mediator-nation between the other nations and God. Now when did that happen? I don't think it is truly fulfilled until you get into the Millennial Kingdom. You get into the Millennial Kingdom and all nations according to Isaiah 2 are going to come to the mountain of God to worship. All nations will come to Israel to worship. It will be the priesthood at that time, the sons of Zadok. He is a descendent of Levi and a descendent of Aaron. It will be the Zadokite priesthood that takes care of the worship in the Millennial Temple. It is at that time that Israel finally fulfills her role as a priest nation.
NKJ Exodus 19:6 'And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel."
The word "holy" there means a nation set apart to the service of God. So the whole nation was viewed as this corporate group that is set apart to the service of God. Hosea 4:6 comes toward the end of the Old Testament period where there is the announcement of divine judgment because of their failure.
NKJ Hosea 4:6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.
You see that the same principle is true today. The reason you have such problems in Christianity is because people are ignorant of the Word. They become more and more ignorant of the Word. They are biblically illiterate. They are doctrinally impoverished. They are theologically challenged and they don't care about it. And pastors don't care about it. They are more concerned about getting more people in and being a comfortable place where people won't feel too uncomfortable. So they don't talk about sin. They don't talk about the things that displease God. They talk about how wonderful everybody is and let's all have a big group hug every Sunday morning. Everybody can go home and be warm and be filled. So everybody is ignorant.
He will reject them from what? "From being a priest before Me." So God rejects Israel from this position of priesthood because of their failure to fulfill the conditions of the Mosaic Covenant in the Old Testament. So they don't fulfill that until the future Millennial Kingdom when they are restored to the land.
- The Levitical priesthood and the Aaronic high priesthood are then established by God within this priest nation. So you have a nation that is going to function as a priest. Then within that nation you have one tribe that is selected and chosen that is going to function as the priest tribe for the entire nation. This is set forth in Exodus 28.
So let's spend a little time flipping through some chapters in the Old Testament. I thought as I was putting this lesson together I could go really fast through this, but that would assume that a lot of people understand their Old Testaments. Most people just don't know the Old Testament. They wander around and wonder who these people are and what is going on. So let's take a little time and work our way through this to understand what the dynamics are.
Exodus 28 is the first reference that we have to a high priest in the Old Testament but it doesn't use the word high priest until we get over into Numbers. All we have here is a reference to Aaron as the priest. There is no mention of a high priest. In fact that word "high" isn't even used in the Old Testament. You have the word for great priest. It is literally great priest. So the word for priest is the word kohen in the Hebrew. So anytime you have a Jew who has a name that sounds like kohen, it is a form of the Hebrew word for priest. And they probably have Levitical ancestry. They have been able to isolate a gene, a genetic marker, today to indicate who is from the tribe of Levi. That will be important to be able to reestablish the priesthood when they have the apostate temple during the tribulation but ultimately they will need it in the Millennial Kingdom. Of course then you don't need it because you have an omniscient Messiah sitting on the throne. He will know who is who.
NKJ Exodus 28:1 "Now take Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister to Me as priest, Aaron and Aaron's sons: Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar.
This is where God appoints a priest. This is what we read in Hebrews 5:1. Every priest is appointed by God. This is where it takes place in Exodus 28.
Now that word minister as priest is the Hebrew verb kahan. You see a priest is a kohen and he ministers as a kahan. That is the word. It means function as a priest so it is almost a redundant statement – the priest is going to act as a priest, function as a priest, and serve as a priest.
This is the same terminology that we have in Hebrews 5:1 that a priest is chosen from among men, specifically from the children of Israel.
Here we have four sons identified- Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. Of course we are going to see a little rebellion that takes place in the family. It is just great to watch this because Aaron is getting ready to really mess up. While Moses is up getting the law Aaron is going to lead the people into rebellion. They fashion a golden calf and he leads them in a big orgy. Moses is going to have to come down and discipline everybody. Is Aaron kicked out of the priesthood? No. He still stays in the priesthood.
Then you have family problems. Everybody has family problems. He's got two kids that are rebellious. They will lead a rebellion and get killed. It's real messy when you get over into Numbers. We will look at that in a minute.
So you have the establishment of the priesthood here. They have specific garments that they wear.
NKJ Exodus 28:2 "And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty.
NKJ Exodus 28:3 "So you shall speak to all who are gifted artisans, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, that they may make Aaron's garments, to consecrate him, that he may minister to Me as priest.
Note that phrase. This is not a filling of the Spirit that is related to their spiritual life. Remember in the book of Judges you get people like Gideon who is filled with the Spirit. What happens? "God, are you sure that you want me to do this? Let me put this fleece out here and see if I can figure out a way to come up with some conditions that are too hard for you to fulfill so that I don't have to go to war against the Midianites." Then after he defeated the Midianites he led the nation back into idolatry. He doesn't come across as real spiritual.
Then you have Jeptha. Right after he is filled with the Spirit he says, "Lord, I will sacrifice as a burnt offering whatever comes out of the front door of my house to meet me when I come home after the war." His daughter came out to greet him when he came home from the war. He did unto her as he said. That is what the Scripture says. Now there are a lot of squeamish Christians who say that he didn't want to kill her so he dedicated her as a perpetual virgin. But they didn't do that in Israel at that time. He took her like any pagan and sacrificed her as a human sacrifice. Really spiritual there! He really understands what is going on.
Then you have Samson and Samson is filled with the Spirit. He is a womanizer and a glutton and he can't keep his vow. The filling of the Spirit in the Old Testament doesn't have anything to do with what we think of as spirituality in the New Testament – spiritual maturity or spiritual growth. It had to do with the ministry of God the Holy Spirit to some sort of theocratic leader.
Now what do I mean by theocracy? I mean the kingdom of Israel - its function, its priesthood, the role of revelation to the prophets, leadership through Moses, leadership through the judges, and leadership through the kings. It had to do with empowering certain people who had a critical function within the bureaucracy of Israel in order to enable them to carry out their God given task.
Aholiab and Bezalel are filled with the Spirit so they can make the furniture and the gold craftsmanship doing all the metal work and woodwork and everything inside the tabernacle - the same thing with the artisans here.
These are all of the tailors and those who will make all of the garments.
They are filled with what? The spirit of wisdom. This is another aspect here. Not only do they have the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit is giving them wisdom.
You ought to be thinking, "Wisdom? Huh. How does wisdom apply to being a tailor? How does wisdom apply to woodworking? How does wisdom apply to metalwork? How does wisdom apply to being a goldsmith or a silversmith or a jeweler?" That is because we need a little retranslation here. The word translated wisdom is the Hebrew word hokmah. (The "h" is a guttural) It is the word that is primarily translated wisdom. It gives us and understanding of what the Jewish concept of wisdom was. It is skill at doing something. Here we have skill at producing physical objects. It is an artistry so that they produce works of art in wood and garments and gold and silver have beauty and value. It brings out the whole aesthetic aspect here that is part of the Christian life. Wisdom is the application of your basic principles of any kind of work whether it is woodwork, carpentry, being a goldsmith or jeweler or whatever it might be. It is being able to take those basic principles that you learn in whatever the discipline is and being able to create something of beauty, something that glorifies God, something that has tremendous artistic value to it.
There is something about aesthetics that Christians just don't understand. You hear folks talk about a church. "Let's just go put up a metal building." That is great but you see when God created things He didn't create things that were just functional. He created a world of beauty. Aesthetics is part of our creativity as being in the image of God. So when God is having the Jews build the tabernacle, it's not enough to go out and build it from its basic structure. He wants everything to be artistic and to be beautiful to reflect the aspect of man being in the image of God and a reflection of His being a creator.
So they make Aaron's garments.
NKJ Exodus 28:3 "So you shall speak to all who are gifted artisans, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, that they may make Aaron's garments, to consecrate him, that he may minister to Me as priest.
Then it goes on to describe the garments. It is a breastplate which had 12 stones in it, one for each of the 12 tribes. It had an ephod that was a robe that he wore over that that hung down to the mid-calf, sort of like a mini-skirt. Then another tunic that went over that. Then there was a turban that he wore on his head that had a gold plate that said, "Set apart to the Lord." This was the uniform of the high priest. On his epaulettes he had these two stones and on each side were inscribed 6 tribes of Israel - 6 on one side, 6 on the other side so that he is covered by the names of the tribes of Israel so that he goes into the tabernacle to represent them before God. So it is all about his role as a substitute priest and a representative for the entire nation. Then in the rest of the chapter it describes the ephod that he wears and how that should be made and the memorial stones that are on the ephod down in verse 12. Then there is a description of the breastplate and how it was to be made - the colors and everything down in 15 and following.
Flip over to chapter 29. We see how they are set apart and consecrated. Once they made the uniforms, then they had to initially consecrate them. This meant they had to be washed from head to toe. It was a baptism of sorts. It was a picture of complete cleansing that took place at the initial part of the priesthood. It initiated them into the priesthood and set them apart unto God. That was what a complete washing was a picture of. Jesus uses that imagery in John 13 when He is washing their feet.
You remember that Peter said, "You aren't going to get down there and wash my feet."
And the Lord said, "If you don't let me wash your feet, then you won't have any part with Me in My ministry." He goes on to say, "All of you were cleansed."
And Peter said, "Give me a whole bath."
Jesus said, "No. You don't need a whole bath. That has already happened. You have already been cleansed from head to toe."
He uses the Greek word luo translated the washing here meaning a complete bath.
"You don't need that. You have already had that indicating you are already saved. You got a complete cleansing at salvation."
Every believer is completely cleansed from all sin at the instant of salvation. Sin is no longer a factor in terms of that eternal relationship with God. There is a complete cleansing; but afterward there needs to be periodic ongoing cleansing based on the imagery of the priest. Every time the priest would function as a priest he would go into the tabernacle or temple and he would have to go to the laver and wash his hands and he would have to wash his feet. That was a picture of the fact that we do things and go places that we shouldn't. We violate the law so there has to be cleansing before we can come into the presence of God and serve God.
So Jesus picks up on that imagery in John 13 saying that this issue of ongoing cleansing, partial cleansing, (He used the Greek word nipto there meaning a partial washing.) is important for ongoing service in the Christian life. If we don't have that then he warns Peter that "he wouldn't have a part in My ministry." The word for part there isn't the word for a role like you get a role in a play. He isn't talking about that. He is talking about "you won't have an inheritance." It is the word meros indicating that portion of a will that designates the inheritance share going to the survivor. It is the same word used when the prodigal son comes to the father and says, "I want my meros. I want my inheritance now."
So what Jesus is saying to Peter is, "If you don't go through this ongoing cleansing then you won't have an inheritance share in the kingdom because everything that you are going to do is going to come out of the sin nature." It will all be human good and it will all get burned up at the Judgment Seat of Christ. So there has to be ongoing cleansing. That imagery comes right out of Exodus 29. All of this goes back to an understanding of the appointment of the priest in the Old Testament and the setting apart of the priest in the Old Testament. So we see from Exodus 28 that it is God who chose and appointed Aaron as a priest.
- The priesthood is restricted by God. It is only for Aaron. It is only for the descendents of Aaron. God says that it is not for everyone. There is a restriction there.
NKJ Numbers 18:7 "Therefore you and your sons with you shall attend to your priesthood for everything at the altar and behind the veil; and you shall serve. I give your priesthood to you as a gift for service, but the outsider who comes near shall be put to death."
Oops! Any other priest who comes in anyone who tries to function as a priest who is not a descendent of Aaron is going to be put to death. This happened on several occasions as we will see in the Old Testament. God had to make it very clear that His rules were not to be violated. Only those who were designated as priests could make atonement for sin. Someone couldn't go in and offer a sacrifice for just anyone.
NKJ Psalm 65:3 Iniquities prevail against me; As for our transgressions, You will provide atonement for them.
The context is talking to the Levitical priests.
NKJ Exodus 29:36 "And you shall offer a bull every day as a sin offering for atonement. You shall cleanse the altar when you make atonement for it, and you shall anoint it to sanctify it.
The instructions are directed to Aaron. The word there for atonement is kaphar and has the idea of cleansing from sin. Only the priests could make atonement for sin. So what we have seen is that God appointed the priesthood. God says that it is only going to be through Aaron and his sons. The ultimate purpose is for atonement. There are other purposes that we will look at in just a minute.
- As the representative of the 12 tribes Aaron wore the names of the 12 tribes inscribed on his shoulders and breastplate. The names were on his epaulettes. The stones were on his shoulders and his breastplate. This indicates that he is bringing all of them before the Lord. Exodus 28:12 we have already looked at.
NKJ Exodus 28:21 "And the stones shall have the names of the sons of Israel, twelve according to their names, like the engravings of a signet, each one with its own name; they shall be according to the twelve tribes.
NKJ Exodus 28:29 "So Aaron shall bear the names of the sons of Israel on the breastplate of judgment over his heart, when he goes into the holy place, as a memorial before the LORD continually.
All of this had tremendous symbolic value indicating that he was their representative.
- What were his responsibilities? What is the role of a priest? What did a priest do? First of all the priest was to oversee the sacrifices and the offerings at the tabernacle. His role was to oversee all of the tabernacle and temple services.
NKJ Deuteronomy 18:5 "For the LORD your God has chosen him out of all your tribes to stand to minister in the name of the LORD, him and his sons forever.
So this was a designation to Aaron and his descendents. A priest was also to pray for the nation - not to just bring sacrifices and offerings but to pray for the nation.
NKJ Joel 2:17 Let the priests, who minister to the LORD, Weep between the porch and the altar; Let them say, "Spare Your people, O LORD, And do not give Your heritage to reproach, That the nations should rule over them. Why should they say among the peoples, 'Where is their God?' "
This was a prayer. They were to intercede for the people. This is what the Lord is doing as part of His high priestly duties at the right hand of God the Father. He is interceding for us. So the Old Testament priest was to intercede for the nation in praying for the nation.
Further more they were to teach the Law. They were to teach the Law to the people. This is indicated in two verses.
NKJ Leviticus 10:11 "and that you may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the LORD has spoken to them by the hand of Moses."
So they were the Bible teachers throughout Israel. So they would travel. They didn't have their own land. They didn't have their own inheritance portion in the land of Israel because they were to minister to the whole nation. They were to travel and teach the Word.
NKJ Malachi 2:7 "For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge, And people should seek the law from his mouth; For he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.
There is an indictment of the priesthood in that chapter. The reason for the indictment is because they weren't teaching. So we get the principle in Malachi 2:7.
So he taught the Word. He is a messenger from the Lord, but in a different way from a prophet. A prophet basically functioned like a prosecutor who was charging the people, indicting them for failure to follow the Mosaic Law. So the prophet's role was directly related to making statements either positive or negative in relationship to the fulfillment of the Law.
One of the things that has really hit home to me in the last year as I have been teaching this Old Testament survey course is that in the Old Testament you look at books like Joshua, Judges, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, and 2 Kings. Now in the English Bible we talk about those books as being part of history. They are part of the historical section of the Old Testament. And that makes sense to us. But in the Hebrew Bible there are 3 sections – the Torah (the first 5 books.), the Nebiim (the prophets) and the Kethubim (the writings). Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings are part of the former prophets. We think of prophecy too much in terms of foretelling the future or bringing an indictment from God against the nation because that is what happens under the latter prophets including Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Malachi, and Zechariah. All of the 12 minor prophets are bringing indictments against Israel because they have failed to fulfill the Mosaic Law. What do you see in Joshua? How is Joshua a prophet? Joshua shows how the people obeyed the law and God gave them victory over the Canaanites and blessed them. Then what happens in Judges? Judges is a picture of their failure to obey God and to apply the law. The nation falls apart in complete anarchy because everyone is doing what is right in their own eyes and there is no central government. Because there is no central government there is anarchy and everything falls apart. So you can't have a society where you can trust people to be their own authority because it is going to fall apart. There has to be government. God instituted government. Even though there are failures in government, government is a divine institution. Even when you have flawed government such as in the Roman Empire, in Greece or in various human kingdoms; it is still the institution that God has established for the order and preservation of mankind. Man is going to fail even under government. Every institution is going to ultimately fail because of sin. But the institutions when they are applied correctly do give stability to the nation. So the priests are to pray for the nation. They are to teach the law. They are to be an example of personal sanctification. They are to be an example to the others of spiritual growth and advance to spiritual maturity.
NKJ Deuteronomy 33:9 Who says of his father and mother, 'I have not seen them'; Nor did he acknowledge his brothers, Or know his own children; For they have observed Your word And kept Your covenant.
Deuteronomy 33:9 is addressed to Levi starting in verse 8.
The focus of this verse is to say that the priest who is obedient to his calling is going to put spiritual priorities above even his family. They will be an example of obedience to the Word and keeping the covenant.
- The anointing of the priest is described in Exodus 29 which we looked at already and Leviticus 8 and 9. In fact if you want to you can turn to Leviticus with me. Leviticus 8 and 9 give us the regulation for the priesthood. This is another account of the consecration, the setting apart of Aaron and his sons, at the initiation of their ministry. Chapter 8 describes the consecration. Chapter 9 describes the beginning of their ministry. At the consecration there is not only this full bath, but there are also burnt offerings which are consecration offerings that are given in order to indicate on the atonement on their behalf. Then their priestly ministry begins and other offerings at that time. On the 8th day there are sin offerings, burnt offerings, peace offerings, and grain offerings. All of the Levitical offerings are given at that time to indicate that they, Aaron and his family, are set apart as priests. That begins the institution of the Aaronic priesthood.
- The duties of the Levites are then described in Numbers 18:1-9. I want to look at a couple of background things that happened after the initiation of Aaron. Before we leave Leviticus 9, let's look at chapter 10. After all of this has taken place, after the consecration of Aaron and his family as priests, after all of this has been done and you have all of this ceremony, all of this ritual and all of these sacrifices in the burnt offerings and the grain offerings and all the other offerings and all of this goes on for over a week. Then after all of that a rebellion takes place in his family with two of his sons, Nadab and Abihu. We read about that in Leviticus 10.
NKJ Leviticus 10:1 Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them.
What that means by "profane fire: is that this isn't the incense that has been authorized by God to be presented by Aaron and his family in the right way. They are thinking that they can define a relationship with God on their own terms. Why is it so exclusive? Why it is that Jesus is the only way. "We have a good way. We have good fire. Our matches work just as well as anybody else's. So why can't we do it?"
NKJ Leviticus 10:2 So fire went out from the LORD and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.
So God has to put an end to this at the very beginning. They died before the Lord. I would love to see some good special effects on this. This must have been incredible. Some of the things that took place at the judgments of God on the rebelliousness of the Jews, you would think that you would get the lesson that got to get authority oriented pretty quickly. But all through this period they are rebelling against the priesthood of Aaron. They don't like Aaron. They don't like Moses. Everybody wants to do what is right in their own eyes basically.
NKJ Leviticus 10:3 And Moses said to Aaron, "This is what the LORD spoke, saying: 'By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people I must be glorified.' " So Aaron held his peace.
They were coming before God in an inappropriate way without the proper cleansing and consecration. The same thing happens with believers who are out of fellowship. It is treating God as if you can come to Him and have a relationship with Him on your terms rather than His terms. So that gives a little background. This happens early on right after the consecration of Aaron and his sons.
Then we have another rebellion a little later on as they are going through the wilderness. This occurs before Kadesh Barnea in Numbers 16. So turn from Leviticus to the next book, Numbers. Excuse me, this comes after Kadesh Barnea. That was in chapter 15. So now there is a further rebellion. You would think that after God prohibited them from going into the land that they would get the point, but they don't. That is a picture of all of us. We are all a lot more like this than we like to think.
NKJ Numbers 16:1 Now Korah the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, with Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men;
They are Levitical, but they are not Aaronic. Only Aaron can go into the Holy of Holies and his descendents.
NKJ Numbers 16:2 and they rose up before Moses with some of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty leaders of the congregation, representatives of the congregation, men of renown.
They lead a revolt of 250 leaders thinking that they have just as a legitimate way to get to God as anyone else's. "Our way is a good way. All roads lead to God. All paths lead to God so God is going to honor us for our sincerity."
NKJ Numbers 16:3 They gathered together against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, "You take too much upon yourselves, for all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?"
I just love it. Moses heard it and he fell on his face. We are going to see some more fireworks from God. He warns them that God will show tomorrow morning that He is holy and who is authorized to come before Him and who is not. So he says, "Okay. You guys want to go before God. So take your censers and put fire in them. (Put incense in them like the earlier revolt that we read about in Leviticus 10) Come in and come before God." So they did that and again God judges them and wipes them all out. As a result of that he brings judgment upon the people. But that is not enough for God to wipe out Korah, Dathan and Abiram. He wipes out their families. He wipes out their tents. He basically blots out anything that they touched. That is described later in the chapter. But the next day we get down to verse 41.
NKJ Numbers 16:41 On the next day all the congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron, saying, "You have killed the people of the LORD."
What part of divine judgment don't you understand? People are stubborn in their sin. That is what I like about the Scripture. We get a "high" view of who we are and how "obedient" we are. This is a picture of the fact that we really aren't.
NKJ Numbers 16:42 Now it happened, when the congregation had gathered against Moses and Aaron, that they turned toward the tabernacle of meeting; and suddenly the cloud covered it, and the glory of the LORD appeared.
The wrath goes out and Moses calls upon Aaron to put a censer of fire before the altar in order to stop this plague that goes out. Before that gets done 14,700 get killed in this particular rebellion. But that's not the end of it. So you would think that they would get the point. But it just keeps going.
So they have questioned the authority of Aaron. It is at this point that he tells Aaron to take his staff and put it into the tent of meaning along with these other leaders who were vying for this authority. God is going to create a miracle the next day. Overnight the dead stick is going to produce life. That is the picture. God is going to bring life where there is death. And God is going to bring life in this dead stick to indicate that Aaron in His choice. So once again Aaron is chosen and appointed. It is clear that this is God's choice. But Aaron will revolt against Moses again. That is the reason that he is not allowed to go into the Promised Land. But God doesn't remove the priesthood from Aaron or from his family.
Now the last point I am going to make is that the term that is used to describe Aaron as the high priest is really the term "great priest". The first place that is used is in Numbers 35:25, 28. But when we come to Jesus He is the Great High Priest. We have an added term there to indicate His superiority to all of the Old Testament great priests.
So Hebrews 5:1 talks about reminding us of the basic principle which was clear to the original recipients of this letter because they are all former Levitical priests. Every high priest is appointed by God for men in things related to God that he may offer gifts and sacrifices for sin. So the point that is being made is that God appoints the high priest. And he has to have the same nature, the same makeup as those whom he represents.
The reason for that is then developed in the next couple of verses. We will get there next time.