Summary: Scripture says all Christians are priests. How does understanding the Old Testament priesthood help us be better servants of God?
OPEN: An old lady had always wanted to travel abroad. Now that she was getting on in years, she thought she would really like to do so before she died. But until now, she’d never even been out of the country. So she began by going in person to the Passport Office and asking how long it would take to have one issued.
"You must take the loyalty oath 1st," responded the clerk. "Raise your right hand, please."
The old gal raised her right hand.
The first question: "Do you swear to defend the Constitution of the United States against all its enemies, domestic or foreign?"
The little old lady’s face paled and her voice trembled as she asked in a small voice,
"Do I have to do that... all by myself?"
APPLY: Let me introduce you to Aaron the high priest (Show picture of High Priest). Whenever people think of the priesthood they think of the High Priest. That’s because the High Priest was central to everything that took place at the Tabernacle. Thus God made it so that everything about how he dressed was distinctive.
All priests wore the white linen robe and turban, but in addition to that the High Priest wore a blue robe over their white one. At the bottom of that robe were bells and pomegranates. Over the blue robe the High Priest wore an ephod. It was like an apron that was made from red, blue and purple cloth with a gold strand running throughout.
On his shoulder were two gold plate engraved with 6 names of the tribes of Israel on each, and on his chest was a breastplate with twelve precious stones – each stone engraved with the name of one of the twelve tribes.
Thus, the High Priest bore the nation of Israel on his shoulders and wore them over his heart.
And attached to turban (on his forehead) was a gold plate engraved with the words: “HOLY TO THE LORD”
The High Priest… was THE priest
Everything that happened at the Tabernacle revolved around him and his ministry before God.
But there were a lot of things that had to be done around the tabernacle.
1. There the daily sacrifices that had to be offered to God (9 am til 3 pm)
2. There were knives to be sharpened
3. Utensils to be cleansed
4. Wood to be cut and stacked for the fires
5. Ashes to be collected
6. Animal waste to be removed
And that doesn’t even begin to mention the labor of packing & unpacking the tabernacle every time the Israelites had to move.
Yes, the High Priest was THE priest before God, but he couldn’t begin to do all the labor required in managing and maintaining the tabernacle. And so, here in Numbers 3 God tells Moses:
"Bring the tribe of Levi and present them to Aaron the priest to assist him.” Numbers 3:6
Now what that meant was this:
Aaron and his sons did the work of the priesthood:
1. They offered up the sacrifices
2. Took care of items inside the tabernacle
They lit the lamps, burned the incense, changed the bread on the table of showbread.
But there other things that needed done and so God gave the entire tribe of Levi to Aaron to do those tasks.
For example, one family of the tribe Levi was called the Kohathites.
Their job was to take care of the ark, and the table, and the candlestick, and the altars.
When the people of Israel moved… their job was to carry those items.
Another Levitical family was known as the Gershonites.
Their job was to care for the curtains, hangings, and ropes, of the sanctuary.
The third family in the tribe of Levi were called the Merarites.
Their job was to pack and maintain the boards, bars, sockets, pillars that held the tabernacle together.
I read one commentator that noted that the Kohathites essentially carried the “important” items of the tabernacle (the ark, the altars, etc.) and thus the Gershonites and Merarites were given “less important responsibilities.”
Now, that disturbed me.
The entire tabernacle was holy unto the Lord. The entire tabernacle was to be built according to the pattern God gave Moses on the Mountain. Every board, curtain and rope was exactly according to the dimensions that God had decreed, because the ENTIRE tabernacle stood for heavenly truths – it represented in total the true tabernacle that was in Heaven.
Thus, there were NO insignificant roles in the care of the earthly tabernacle.
The entire tabernacle was holy unto God, every responsibility associated with it was valued by God.
Now, I’m sure these 3 families did other things around the tabernacle but these were their primary duties.
And the reason I’m telling you all of this is because– you need to understand that in order for things to run smoothly in the tabernacle, lots of people had to take responsibility for various activities associated with worship. Lots of people had to work behind the scenes, and each of those individuals had a job that made it possible for others to worship.