So far in Leviticus we’ve seen how the Lord gave instructions to Moses about the various sacrifices he wanted the people to offer at the Tabernacle. Firstly, in chapters 1 to 5 there were instructions for the lay people about when to bring an offering to the Lord and what kind of offering they should bring.
And then secondly, in chapters 6 and 7 there were instructions for the priests about what to do with the offerings which the people brought to them. So, chapters 1 to 5 were directly mainly towards the lay people; and chapters 6 and 7 were directly mainly towards the priests. In today’s chapter, we read how the Lord gave instructions to Moses about how to ordain Aaron and his sons as priests. In chapter 9 we’ll read about how they began their ministry and how Moses and Aaron were able to go into the Tent of Meeting and meet with the Lord.
But then, in chapter 10, what do we find? Instead of obeying the Lord’s instructions about what kind of offerings to bring to the Lord, Aaron’s sons brought unauthorised fire before the Lord. In other words, they brought an offering which he did not command. And fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them so that they died. That’s what happened when they disregarded the Lord’s instructions. But in today’s chapter, chapter 8, we read repeatedly how they did ‘as the Lord commanded Moses’. It’s there in verse 9; and in verse 13 and in verse 17 and in verse 21 and in verse 29 and in verse 36. They did whatever the Lord commanded. So, let’s take a look and see what the Lord commanded them.
And really the first thing to say about this chapter is that it largely repeats what we read in Exodus 28 and 29. Back in Exodus 28 and 29 the Lord gave instructions to Moses about what the priests should wear and how they should be consecrated or ordained to serve the Lord. And the same instructions are repeated here in Leviticus 8. So some of this should be familiar to us.
Verses 1 to 9
We read in verse 1 how the Lord instructed Moses to bring Aaron and his sons, along with everything they needed, to the entrance to the Tent of Meeting in the tabernacle. Since their ordination was an important occasion, the entire assembly also needed to be there to see what was happening. Some of the commentators suggest that the expression ‘entire assembly’ refers, not to all of the people, but to the elders of the people. In that case, the elders — representing the rest of the people — gathered at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting to witness this ordination service.
And when they had gathered, Moses spoke to them in verse 5 and explained that this is what the Lord commanded them to do. Aaron and his sons were brought forward and were washed with water. Then Aaron the High Priest was dressed in a tunic with a sash around his waist; then he was given a robe to wear, followed by the ephod, a kind of waistcoat. Then he was given the breastpiece to wear which contained the Urim and Thummim. We’re not sure of the details of the Urim and Thummim, but they were somehow used to make decisions and to discern the will of the Lord.
Aaron was then given a turban to wear; and on the front of the turban was a gold plate. Back in Exodus 28 we’re told the gold plate was inscribed with the words: ‘Holy to the Lord’. This was a reminder that the priest had been set apart by the Lord for the special work of representing the people before the Lord. In fact, two precious stones — bearing the names of the tribes of Israel — were fastened to the ephod. And there were twelve precious stones on the breastpiece, each one bearing the name of one of the twelve tribes of Israel. You see, the priests clothes were designed to make clear that the priest was called by God to represent the people. Whenever the priest appeared before the Lord to offer sacrifices, he was acting on behalf of the people. So, Aaron was given all these clothes to wear; and, as verse 9 tells us, they did as the Lord commanded Moses.
Verses 10 to 13
After giving Aaron all these clothes to wear, we read how Moses anointed the tabernacle and everything in it with oil. Then he sprinkled some oil on the altar in the courtyard along with the utensils used with the altar. He did this seven times. And he sprinkled oil on the basin which was also in the courtyard. So, all the furniture and equipment in the tabernacle was anointed with oil. And lastly he anointed Aaron with the oil in order to consecrate him, according to verse 12. Then Aaron’s sons were given special clothes to wear. And as verse 13 tells us, they did as the Lord commanded Moses.
Verse 14 to 17
What happened next? Three offerings were brought to the Lord. In verses 14 to 17 we read how Moses brought a bull for a sin offering. You might recall that a better name for the sin offering is purification offering, because this offering was about cleansing God’s house from the stain of their sin. And so, we read in verse 15 how Moses took the blood of the bull and used it to purify the altar.
Verses 18 to 21
Then, in verses 18 to 21, we read how Moses brought a ram for a burnt offering. The burnt offering was about paying a ransom to the Lord in order to free the worshipper from the death penalty which he deserved for his sins. In this case, the burnt offering was offered on behalf of the priest.
Verses 22 to 29
And in verses 22 to 29 we read how Moses brought another ram which was to be for an ordination offering. The ram was slaughtered and some of its blood was put on Aaron’s right ear, and on the thumb of his right hand, and on the big toe of his right foot. It’s not clear why this happened, although it perhaps signified how every part of the priest was now consecrated to the Lord. One commentator suggests that the blood on his ear signifies how he should listen to God’s word; the blood on his hand signifies how he should do what the Lord commands; the blood on his foot signifies how he should always walk in the ways of the Lord.
Some blood was also put on Aaron’s sons. And then the altar was sprinkled with the blood was well. Parts of the slaughtered ram and some bread without yeast was given to Aaron who waved them before the Lord as an offering. Moses then took these things back from Aaron and burned them on the altar. Moses then waved some of the breast before the Lord.
After the description of each of the three offerings — the purification offering; the burnt offering; and the ordination offering — we’re told again that they did ‘as the Lord commanded Moses’. They were being careful to follow the Lord’s instructions exactly.
Verses 30 to 36
And then we read in verse 30 how Moses again sprinkled Aaron and his sons and their garments with some of the oil and with some of the blood in order to consecrate them. In other words, in order to set them apart for this special work.
And having offered the sacrifices to God in order to secure their forgiveness and in order to consecrate the priests to the Lord, the ceremony ended with a fellowship meal in the presence of the Lord. And so we read in verse 31 how they were to cook the meat and eat it along with some bread.
Notice, of course, that they weren’t to leave the tabernacle for seven days. You see, in Exodus 29 we’re told that as well as offering the bull and two rams, they were to offer a bull each day for seven days in order to purify the altar. So, the whole ordination ceremony lasted seven days. But, according to verse 36, they did everything the Lord commanded through Moses.
Just as all the Old Testament sacrifices point to the work of Christ, so the Old Testament priesthood points to the person and work of Christ, who was anointed not with oil, as Aaron and his sons were anointed, but with the Holy Spirit. And the connection between the Old Testament priesthood and the person and work of Christ becomes very clear in the book of Hebrews which teaches us to believe that Jesus Christ is our Great High Priest.
So, Aaron and his sons were appointed by God to represent the people before him. This was signified by the precious stones they wore on their garments and by the golden plate on their turban. Well, in order to be our Great High Priest, the Lord Jesus needed to be able to represent us. And he was able to represent us because he became one of us. Though he is the Eternal Son of God, equal to his Father in glory and power, nevertheless, he entered this world as a man so that he could serve as our Great High Priest. And the author to the Hebrews refers to this when he tells us in Hebrews 2 that since God’s children have flesh and blood, the Lord Jesus shared in our humanity. So, he took to himself our flesh and blood in order to represent us.
But, of course, the Lord Jesus is so much greater and better than Aaron and all his sons. In the Old Testament, there were many priests, because when one died, another would replace him; and the ability of each one to help the people would be brought to an end. But the Lord Jesus Christ has a permanent priesthood, because he lives for ever; and for ever, he intercedes for us before his Father in heaven and is always able to help us.
Furthermore, Aaron and his sons needed to offer sacrifices for themselves, because they were sinners. That’s the point of these sacrifices which we read about here in chapter 8: they needed to offer a purification offering to purify the tabernacle from the stain of their sin; they needed to offer a burnt offering as a ransom to deliver them from death; they needed to offer an ordination offering too. They were sinners and they needed forgiveness for their own sins. But — the writer to the Hebrews says in Hebrews 7 — the Lord Jesus Christ, our Great High Priest, is holy, blameless, pure and set apart from sinners. Unlike Aaron and his sons, Jesus Christ did not need to offer sacrifices for himself, because he had been made perfect.
And then Aaron and his sons served in the tabernacle, which was only a shadow and copy of the heavenly-temple where God dwells. They served in an earthly temple only which was made by men. But Jesus Christ, our Great High Priest, serves in the true tabernacle, set up by the Lord and not by men. Aaron and his sons entered the earthly tabernacle, but Jesus Christ our Great High Priest has entered heaven itself, where he appears before his Father in heaven on our behalf.
And Aaron entered the Most Holy Place by the blood of goats and calves. And we know, of course, that it’s impossible for the blood of bulls and goats and other animals to take away our sins. But the Lord Jesus Christ, our Great High Priest, has entered the Most Holy Place in heaven by means of his own blood, by which he has obtained for us an eternal redemption. And by the sacrifice of his body, all who trust in him are pardoned and made holy for ever.
In every way, the Lord Jesus Christ is a better and greater High Priest than Aaron and his sons could ever be. And so, the writer to the Hebrews tells us:
Therefore, brothers, since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
We’re able to come before God in worship, because Christ’s blood cleanses us from our sins.
And then the writer to the Hebrews says:
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.
Our hope is the hope of the resurrection and everlasting life with God. And since Christ our Great High Priest has gone before us, let nothing cause you to let go of that great hope; and let nothing distract you from following Christ who has opened the way for us into God’s presence.
And then, finally, the writer to the Hebrews said:
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Christ our Great High Priest has provided purification for our sins. We’ve been cleansed and forgiven. Now then, instead of going back to a life of sin and shame, let’s encourage one another to live a life of holiness and obedience and a life of good deeds, while we wait for that great Day when our Great High Priest will appear again in order to lead us into the presence of the Lord where we will be with him for ever and for ever.