Priests – Consecration (Leviticus 8)
We who follow Jesus Christ have also been made priests (Revelation 1:6).
12 JANUARY 2020 · 11:00 CET
Have you ever tried to read the Bible from cover to cover? By the time you get to the third book, Leviticus, you are quite probably finding it heavy going, with its host of detailed rules for sacrifices and daily life that seem to have little relevance to us today.
At this point, the temptation is strong to give up and go back to more familiar, easier passages.
Yet there is much to be gained from reading Leviticus. Chapter 8 sees Aaron, Moses’ brother, and his sons being consecrated as priests.
We who follow Jesus Christ have also been made priests (Revelation 1:6), all of us – this is not the priesthood which is accorded to particular individuals in many Christian traditions, giving them special privileges in religious service – but the priesthood which is given to every Christian.
The Bible explains that every priest has the privileges of drawing near to God, of representing people to God and of offering gifts and sacrifices (Hebrews 5:1, 8:3, 10:11).
As followers of Christ, these three privileges are ours: we have direct access to the Father through the Spirit (Ephesians 2:18); we are given a ministry of reconciling people to God (2 Corinthians 5:18-19); and we are able to make sacrifices which are pleasing to God (see later on).
Every priest needs to be consecrated, set apart; and Leviticus 8 shows how that consecration functions. The consecration of Aaron and his sons involved six key elements. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).
So, although Aaron’s context was radically different from ours, these six elements show us how, as followers of Jesus, we too can be consecrated for our priesthood.
Firstly, Aaron and his sons were washed with water (verse 6). For us, this has reference to baptism, then subsequently to regular confession of our sins and repentance, through which we are washed by the Holy Spirit.
Secondly, Aaron and his sons were given special new clothes (verses 7-13). In order to function as priests, we too need to put on a new set of clothes.
We are told what these are: Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues, put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity (Colossians 3:12-14).
To claim to be clothed with the righteousness of Christ – which is a wonderful privilege – but to pay no attention to putting on these new clothes which God has provided for us is utterly inconsistent. It will seriously hinder us from performing our priestly duties.
Thirdly, Aaron had anointing oil poured over his head (verse 12). We too have an anointing from the Holy One, and through it all of us know the truth (1 John 2:20). We know that this anointing is the Holy Spirit, for Jesus calls him the Spirit of truth and tells his disciples that he will guide them into all the truth (John 16:13).
We are exhorted to be filled with the Spirit, constantly (Ephesians 5:18). Without that infilling we will be unable to fulfil the responsibilities of our priestly role, and will tend to constantly feel unworthy or dissatisfied.
Fourthly, Aaron and his sons were obliged to make sacrifices to seal their consecration (verses 14-29). Their sacrifices were the slaughtering of bulls and rams, along with unleavened bread.
Thankfully, we are no longer required to kill animals as sacrifices, for the one perfect sacrifice of Christ’s body has been made once and for all, so it does not need to be repeated (Hebrews 9&10).
However, there are sacrifices which are appointed for us: Through Jesus let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that confess his name.And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased (Hebrews 13:15-16). These sacrifices are an essential part of our priestly duties.
The fifth element of the consecration of Aaron and his sons sees them smeared with blood (verses 23-24), on the lobes of their right ears (to hear God clearly), on the thumbs of their right hands (covering their actions) and on the big toes of their right feet (covering their movements).
We too are sprinkled with blood, the blood of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:2). This sprinkling cleanses our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God (Hebrews 9:14).
He has freed us from our sins by His blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests (Revelation 1:5-6). Christ’s blood and our priesthood are inextricably linked.
Finally, Aaron and his sons were required to stay close to the Tent of Meeting day and night for seven days (verse 33). When we set aside time to devote ourselves specifically to God, this consecrates us, sets us apart.
Such time may take the form of a retreat – a day, a week, or even longer. Or it could involve, for example, setting aside time to serve the poor, perhaps in our own country, perhaps in the developing world.
It should be something which takes us away from our normal routine and which draws us closer to God in some way.
At the end of Leviticus 9, after all the consecration had been carried out, Moses and Aaron came out and blessed the people; and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. Fire came out and consumed the sacrifices.
If we pay attention to these six elements, we too will find that we are able to bless others through the glory of the Lord and the fire of the Holy Spirit becoming more accessible to us.