Here we read of the continuation of the very interesting ceremony that was begun in the previous chapter – namely, the consecration of Aaron to be the high priest, with all the accompaniments of that sublime and impressive function. We will realize the vast importance of reading this account from the fact that if we open the Epistle to the Hebrews, we will be utterly unable to understand the most precious and distinctive truths of Christianity unless we have studied and read about the sacrifices and the priesthood of the Levitical system. Here we have the dim foreshadows of the great Redeemer Who was to come in the fullness of time. The statements about Christ in the New Testament are made on the supposition that we are acquainted with the Old. We will never fully see the beauty and perfection and glory of Jesus, our Great High Priest, until we have read of the consecration and dedication and offices of Aaron.
When Aaron offered his first sacrifices to the Lord, he had to begin by first making atonement for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. Now, in contrast, we read in the Book of Hebrews that Jesus did not need to make an offering first for His own sins. As the truly perfect High Priest, He had no sins to offer for; and therefore, His offering was exclusively and entirely for the benefit and blessing of His people.
After Aaron had offered the sacrifices for himself, the people brought several different kinds of offerings. Foremost was the sin offering, whereon the people’s guilt was laid. Then he sacrificed a double burnt offering of a calf and a lamb, show the people’s trust in the Great Sacrifice that was yet to come. Next, there was a grain offering, mixed with oil – showing that the people were consecrated to God and His service. Lastly, a ram and a bullock were sacrificed for a peace offering, for the people could now enjoy peace because they were reconciled with the Lord. These multiple sacrifices – which were all done away by the death of Christ – teach us that even our best services to the Lord need washing in His blood, and that the guilt of our best sacrifices needs to be done away by one Who is more pure and more noble than they. Let us be thankful that we have such a High Priest in Jesus!
The people were called to these things upon the grounds that the Lord would appear to them that day (verse 4). It was as if Moses had said, “Thus shall you meet the Lord: His way to the sinner is through the shedding of blood; and the sinner’s way to Him is through the same.” What a glorious truth for the chief of sinners! “He has been to you a God Who hides Himself,” Moses seems to be saying; “but approach with the blood that has been shed for you! Approach today, and the Lord shall appear unto you!”
After these offerings were presented, Moses and Aaron retired into the Tabernacle (verse 23). When they came out again, Aaron stood still and looked upon all the people as they crowded together; and as he thus stood, the eyes of all the multitude turned toward him. Then, amidst the awful solemnity and deep silence, he lifted up his hands – the very same hands that had been wet with blood – and blessed the people. It was as if he was pouring over them all the grace and peace that flow from the blood of Jesus! In the same way, Jesus Himself blessed His people who were gathered upon the Mount of Olives, lifting up the very hands that had so recently been nailed to the cross. And having done so, he left the place of sacrifice and went into the heavenly Holy of Holies – there to receive more communications from His Father, and then to come forth again one day to give an everlasting blessing!
After Aaron had blessed the people, “the glory of the Lord” – that is, the Shekinah – “appeared unto all the people”; and fire also came down from the Lord and “consumed upon the altar the burnt offering.” The consuming of the victim by fire was the evidence to the people that God was well-pleased, and that their offering was accepted. This fire was carefully fed and kept alive by the priests from that day forward, until the destruction of Solomon’s Temple over 900 years later!
Now all of this is like a sign-post – preaching and pointing to One Who is so much higher and holier and greater than Aaron. Here we have the Gospel as the people learned it in the days of Moses. In the Epistle to the Hebrews, we have all this explained; and by the brilliancy and sharpness of the contrast between Aaron and the Great High Priest, moral and spiritual truths are made more clear, more impressive, and more instructive to Christians!
Dearest Jesus! We thank and praise Your name; for in the fullness of time, You offered Yourself unto God as a willing Sacrifice, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing! May we never, never lose sight of You in all our approaches to the mercy seat; for You are our Sacrifice, our Altar, our High Priest, and our All. O Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world! Praises be to Your name! You are not like Aaron, Who had to daily offer up a sacrifice for his own sins before he could make atonement for the people; for by Your one offering, offered once and for all, You have forever perfected us. Amen.
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