LEVITICUS 8, 9, and 10
Before you can be forgiven, the priest needs to be acceptable to God. Why? Because the priest stands between mankind and God and mediates between them – he connects the two parties and re-joins what has been divided. In similar fashion, Jesus (see Hebrews 7:26-28) was appointed the perfect High Priest by God to mediate for our sins. Unlike Aaron and his sons, Jesus did not need to offer a sacrifice for his own sins, since there were none. For Aaron and sons, a sin offering, a burnt offering and an ordination offering were sacrificed, with Moses standing to represent God in these ceremonies. After seven days the earthly priests were declared ‘clean’ – acceptable to God and ready to do their work.
The next logical step was to atone for Israel’s sins, which the priests did with a sin offering, followed by a burnt offering and a fellowship offering. The effectiveness of this was evidenced by the fact that the glory of God appeared to all the people, and fire from heaven came down and consumed all the offerings of the altar. Let’s not miss the point of sacrifice and atonement – particularly in the New Covenant – it is a means to achieving a complete unity between man and God, resulting in our seeing his glory and enjoying his presence. Anything short of this is less than the price that was paid for us by the Messiah’s death and resurrection.
Foolishly, and perhaps lulled into false security by seeing the Lord’s glory, the eldest two sons of Aaron decided, literally, to play with fire. They offered forbidden incense to God, perhaps hoping for a repeat of the previous display of the Shekinah glory; but the fire consumed them instead and they died. Aaron could say nothing. Neither – as a full High Priest – was he permitted to mourn for his sons, nor to leave the Tabernacle perimeter, upon pain of death. This was because he was already anointed with the oil (and therefore the power and holiness) of the Lord. Often our service of God must take precedence over our family demands: “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37-38). It is significant that, at key times of change, the standards of behaviour that the Lord expects are heightened; in the New Testament, Ananias and Sapphira distorted the truth and were judicially killed by the Lord as a result. Here, at the birth of the nation of Israel, that same sense of overt holiness was expected by the Lord, and he dealt harshly with any falling in standards of obedience.
Priests, in their actual service of God, were not permitted to drink alcohol – or else they would die. They needed a clear head and a sharp conscience to serve him safely and effectively. “Do not get drunk on wine… instead be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18-19.) When the Lord moves in miraculous power, he expects us to display increased holiness if we are not to find ourselves in direct conflict with him. Let’s practise that daily, ready for the Day of his Power.