2018-01-10 - The Essential Idea of Priesthood
Trust and Obey, for There’s No Other Way ~ Part 2
The Essential Idea of Priesthood
Moses furnishes us with the key to the idea of Old Testament priesthood in Numbers 16:5, which consists of three elements—being chosen or set apart for Jehovah as His own, being holy, and being allowed to come or bring near. The first expresses the fundamental condition, the second the qualification, the third the function of the priesthood.
According to Ex. 19:5-24, it is upon these three elements that the character of the whole covenant people is based. They were chosen to be God’s peculiar people (Deut. 7:6), a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (see Ex. 19:4-6). Their sinfulness, however, prevented its realization, and when brought before Jehovah at Sinai, they could not endure the immediate presence of God, and begged Moses to act as their mediator (20:18-21). The Aaronic priesthood was instituted in order to maintain fellowship between the holy God and the sinful nation, to bring the people’s gifts and sacrifices before God, and to convey God’s gifts, mercy, salvation, and blessing to the people. By an act of free favor, God committed the priesthood to one particular family—that of Aaron (28:1), which priesthood they received as a gift (Num. 18:7, see marg.). In like manner, the whole tribe of Levi was assigned to the priests as their servants and assistants (See Levites). This divine preference was confirmed by the miracle of the budding rod (Num. 17) and the priesthood as a heritage to the descendants of Aaron. The qualification, namely, holiness, was represented in outward form by the act of consecration and the robes of office.
The functions were shown by the fellowship with Jehovah into which the priests were allowed to enter in the course of the various acts of worship. Holiness is essential to fellowship with God, and Aaron and his sons, no less than the people whom they were to represent before God, were stained by sin. As the sanctity imparted to them by their consecration, their official robes, and other legal requirements, which fitted them to serve at the altar, was only of an outward character, it follows that these could only have had a symbolic meaning. It was doubtless intended that they should symbolize the sinless character of the human priesthood, at the same time they served as a type of the perfect priesthood of the true and eternal High Priest. 1
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All verses are from the English Standard Version (ESV) unless otherwise noted.