Summary: Priests serve as intermediaries between God and Israel. Jesus is our High Priest for all time. Yet, we are still the priesthood of believers.
Leviticus 8:1-3, 6-10
OPENING AND INTRODUCTION
Last week, we started a journey in Leviticus by looking at offerings and how they were presented to God. Blood is a big part of sacrifices which cleaned Israel from their sins, their guilt, and even offered thanksgiving.
Tonight, we’re going to continue that journey,
by taking a look at priests, and the role that they played.
A moment ago, we heard a lesson about the gathering of the tribes of Israel, to witness the public institution and ordination, of a dedicated priest class. We’ll dive into that topic and take a look at:
• The Old Testament Priesthood
• Jesus as our High Priest
• The Priesthood of Believers
OLD TESTAMENT PRIESTHOOD
In the beginning, there weren’t dedicated priests. Instead, the head of each family built altars and offered sacrifices to God in their own ways.
As early as Genesis 4, we can see sacrifices made to offer thanksgiving to God. Cain offered his fruit of the ground. Abel offered the firstborn of his flock. Later, Noah, Abram, and Isaac all built altars to honor God.
Then there’s an early mention of a priest named Melchizedek. An invading army took Abram’s nephew Lot, and Uncle Abram led a counter attack to rescue his famiy. He was victorious and not only defeated the armies, but brought back his nephew and other people, as well as the goods that had been taken previously.
After Abram’s victory, several leaders come out to greet him including the priest Melchizedek. The spoils of war are described as quite great, suggesting that there was plenty of food left behind by the enemy. Yet, Melchizedek brings out an offering of bread and wine in thanksgiving to God, and blesses Abram saying:
“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
Possessor of heaven and earth;
and blessed be God Most High,
who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” (Genesis 14:19-20, ESV)
Abram responded to the blessing, by giving the priest a tenth of the spoils of war. He showed a high amount of respect for Melchizedek, as a priest of God.
There’s no mention when Melchizedek was born, or when he died. He lived before Levi, so he couldn’t be a priest in the order of Aaron and his sons. But he was more than a priest. He was a king as well. Not just any king, but a ruler of a city known as Salem… or peace. To put it another way, He was a royal Priest of God Most High, and the King of Peace.
Step forward about 400-hundred-years, and the tabernacle is created as a center of worship, and publicly recognizes a formal, system of holiness, or purity, of worship.
Aaron was anointed as High Priest, and his four sons as priests. The ceremony was focused on purifying them, preparing them to take over their duties, and dressing them for their new role in service to the people and to God.
As part of the ordination ceremony, Moses presented blood on their right ear lobes, right thumbs and right great toes. It seems to be a ceremonial dedication for them to listen, work, and walk for God.
The clothing that they wore were constant reminders that they were separated as God’s REPRESENTATIVES, which demonstrated the majesty and splendor of God, and bore witness to their authority, to represent the people before God.
They offered the many sacrifices, and repeated these daily. Making the unclean, clean, and the impure, pure. But the effects didn’t last. These sacrifices were to be constantly recurring with no end. The author of Hebrews wrote about it this way:
Since the law has only a shadow of the good things to come, and not the reality itself of those things,
it can never perfect the worshipers by the same sacrifices they continually offer year after year. Otherwise, wouldn’t they have stopped being offered, since the worshipers, purified once and for all, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? (Hebrews 10:1-2, CSB)
Sin is a messy thing. The sacrifices of blood, and the burning of flesh, continually reminded Israel just how messy that sin was. It also reminded the nation of Israel that there was a price to be paid for disobedience to God’s law… and that price required spilled blood.
The offerings were only a temporary measure.
A different sacrifice would be needed to stop the continual cycle, and pay the ultimate price, once and for all time.
That price was paid by Jesus Christ.
JESUS THE HIGH PRIEST
Jesus was our High Priest. But he wasn’t a priest from the Levitical order. In fact, it was predicted that He would be a different kind of priest. David wrote in the Psalms:
The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” (Psalm 110:4, ESV)