© 08.01.09 By D. Eric Williams
This article is based on the sermon notes for the August 2nd service at Cottonwood Community Church
The book of Leviticus draws together all of the various sacrifices found in the Mosaic ritual and presents them in a systematic fashion. Chapters 1 through 6 detail the various offerings that were commanded by God with chapters 6 and 7 offering additional detail concerning the proper procedures surrounding each type of offering. The early sections of Leviticus also provide information concerning the proper use of the offerings; the portion for Aaron and his sons and the proper way to make use of the peace offering
Chapter 8 is a presentation of the ritual surrounding the consecration of Aaron and his sons for the priesthood. And then in Chapter 9 we see the ritual of the inaugural activity of the priesthood.
In a study of Leviticus we must take into account the meaning of the sacrifice and ritual to the original audience. When we understand what it meant to the Israelites to present the sin offering, the burnt offering or the peace offering and so on we can then better understand what it is that Jesus Christ has accomplished for his people in his death and resurrection and the presentation of his blood in the holy of holies that is found in the heavenly place.
In Chapter 9 of Leviticus we read the account of the beginning of the priestly ministry. This chapter will tell us about the circumstance of that beginning several thousand years ago. It will also tell us about what Jesus Christ has done for us and it will inform us concerning our relationship to Almighty God in Jesus the Messiah.
It came to pass on the eighth day that Moses called Aaron and his sons and the elders of Israel (Leviticus 9:1).
The title of this sermon and the first point of the same because this first point provides for us the most important idea of the entire chapter. Indeed, it is this very first verse of Chapter 9 that draws our attention to the critical issue involved in this inauguration of the Aaronic priesthood. This first verse very simply tells us that it came to pass on the eighth day that Moses called Aaron and his sons and the elders of Israel.
I have previously discussed the fact that the eighth day has important symbolic meaning in the Scripture. In this particular case it signifies the beginning of a new era. After seven days of consecration, Aaron and his sons are presented before the congregation and before the Lord on the eighth day to begin this new priestly service. Indeed if we examine the old covenant Scripture we find that the eighth day is consistently a day of renewal and new life. The eighth day signifies a restoration of fellowship and a celebration of redemption.
The old covenant was built upon a seven day reality. God created heaven and earth and all that it contained in six days and on the seventh day he rested. This example of rest in the seventh day was given to Adam and Eve in order to remind them that it was on the seventh day that "reality" began. All of creation was brought into being in order to draw the attention of mankind to the Creator. But it was the seventh day that was set aside in order to cultivate the relationship between God and man. That seventh day signified man in communion with God. That seventh day signified man as vice regent in audience with the ruler of the universe. That seventh day was supposed to be a day of looking over the books – if you will – of the past week of man's involvement in the care and cultivation of creation.
The seventh day is the day in which mankind was to come before God and to present his work of the previous six days. Just as God worked over that six day week and then rested, likewise mankind was called to work throughout a six-day week and then bring his interpretation of reality to God that the Almighty might place his stamp of approval upon the activity of man.
Nevertheless, when Adam fell into sin he was profaned and expelled from the sanctuary of God that was the Garden of Eden. From that day forward the character of the seventh day was changed. No longer did man approached God on that seventh day as the vice regent prepared to discuss the events of the previous week with his Lord. Instead, from that time forward man came to God through intermediaries. After the fall of Adam mankind was no longer the vice regent of the Creator called to open the account of his work week on that seventh day but was required to approach the throne of the Almighty through the mediation of animal sacrifice and angelic oversight. Thus the seventh day became a day better suited to a slave desiring rest then to a governor of the King's land in audience with his Lord. Thereby, in a sense the seventh day was a reminder of man's bondage rather than his freedom. Because of the mediation of the animals and Angels mankind was allowed a certain measure of freedom but it was never the freedom and liberty allowed the vice regent of creation. Mankind still had the responsibilities of dominion and oversight but this under the governance of the angelic and animal realms.
That's what the book of Leviticus is all about. It reminds us that mankind could not approach God apart from the mediation of animals. It had to be the blood of an animal that was spilled in order to allow him to approach the throne of God. Moreover, it was the mediation of angels in giving the law and in leading the people that allowed mankind to come before the throne of God. The priesthood was likewise an administrative barrier between man and God. A very carefully organized ritual was required in order for the Aaronic priesthood to approach the copy of the heavenly sanctuary. Therefore when we read the book of Leviticus we need to remember that it is a presentation of the reality that mankind labored under before the coming of the Christ. And yet, even in the midst of this burden of the old covenant administration there were reminders that a day was coming when mankind would be restored to his proper place.
Throughout the book of Leviticus and elsewhere in the Old Testament we find that the eighth day is a day of restoration and renewal. On this day that the priestly ministry began we find that it was the eighth day that signaled the beginning of a new relationship between God and his people. Yes, there would remain the mediation of animals – these creatures that would die in the place of mankind with their blood temporarily covering the sin of the worshiper - but by virtue of the Aaronic priesthood mankind was a step closer to the presence of God.
Previous to this day of inauguration it was Moses who acted as priest and prophet to the people. It was Moses who would commune with God and the presence of God would be gloriously manifest because of Moses and the relationship that he had with Yahweh. With the beginning of the priestly ministry that would change. No longer would it be only Moses who would merit the presence of God in close fellowship. Instead, the entire assembly would be found worthy through the actions of the priest to be favored with the manifest presence of God.
And so on this eighth day, the day after a seven day period of consecration, a new era began. It was an era in which a representative of mankind would approach God. Moses was in effect the representative of God approaching man. Aaron was the representative of man approaching God. Man was one step closer to his proper place in the created order.
And so the eighth day is a day of renewal and restoration.
This is why we see the command in Leviticus 12:3 that a male child is to be circumcised on the eighth day. This was a "letting of blood" to cleanse the fountain of life. Circumcision was symbolic in that it was a shedding of blood and a cleansing which pertained to the one receiving circumcision and his household. But this took place on the eighth day because it was symbolic of a renewal and a restoration of fellowship. Previous to circumcision the child was unclean. After the rite of circumcision had been completed a child was reckoned a member of the covenant community.
We see similar symbolism in the cleansing of a leper. A leper who had been declared clean begin a new life on the eighth day (Leviticus 14:10, 23). It was only after the sacrifices and ritual of seven days were complete that the leper was allowed to reestablish fellowship with the community of Israel.
When a man or a woman was declared unclean because of a bodily discharge it was only after a seven-day period of no uncleanliness that he would be able (on the eighth day) to make the appropriate sacrifice at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. Once that had been completed he was declared clean and allowed fellowship in the covenant community once again (Leviticus 15:14).
In the feast of firstfruits the eighth day is significant because it was on that day that the sheaf of new grain was waved before the Lord. Likewise in the feast of weeks, or the feast of Pentecost, it was on the day after the seventh Sabbath when the new grain offering was made to the Lord in celebration of the harvest. In both cases we see a celebration of new life and provision (Leviticus 23:11, 16)
The feast of tabernacles which celebrated the release of Israel from slavery and their creation as a nation of people featured an eighth day Sabbath rest as well (Leviticus 23:33-44). Indeed the feast of tabernacles lasted eight days and there is some indication that it included a special reference to the incarnation (John 1:14).
When a Nazarite found himself unexpectedly in the company of a corpse his vow would be nullified and he would be required to renew his vows and on the eighth day bring the appropriate sacrifice to make atonement that he might began his time of separation of anew (Numbers 6:10).
There is a final significance to the number eight that would like to share with you. Eight is the first cubic number: 2X2X2. This is a symbol of heavenly perfection. It is significant that the holy of holies in both the tabernacle and in the temple were cubes. In the tabernacle it is generally accepted that the holy of holies was a cube of 10 cubits. In the temple the most holy place was a cube of 20 cubits (1 Kings 6:20), moreover, in Revelation 21:16 we see that the new Jerusalem is a cube of 12,000 furlongs - a cube of over 1300 miles in height, width and length. The new Jerusalem of course is the church, the people of God in Christ and not a literal city.
Therefore the eighth day points to restoration and renewal in Jesus the Christ. The eighth day points to the reestablishment of man as the head of creation. The eighty day points to fellowship in the most holy place - a return to the sanctuary of god. This of course only takes place in the son of man Jesus Christ.
This is why we worship on the "eighth day." It was on the eighth day (the seven plus one), that the Jesus Christ rose from the dead and we celebrate the manifestation of the heavenly Man by holding our worship on his day. And because of what Jesus Christ has done the seven-day week has been abolished in a spiritual sense. Clearly, we are to continue with a six day work week and a seventh day rest but that day of rest should take place on the "eighth day" in honor of the renewal of all things in Jesus Christ. Moreover, we are once again given the privilege of bringing to the most holy place and to our Lord God the results of our six days of labor. We are to present to him our accomplishments as a praise offering in the sanctuary. We are to bring to him our difficulties as petitions for his intervention in his heavenly throne room. We are to give back to him a small portion of what we have accumulated by his grace throughout the week. Indeed our worship time must have the character of fellowship with our Lord as his vice regents on this earth. We are no longer servants and slaves but are brothers and friends with the ruler of the universe. If we do what Jesus Christ commands us (John 15:14), then we come before him as members of his family, heirs of the covenant promises and participants in the "family business."
Thus, our worship should have the character of a family reunion. All too often our Lord's Day worship has the atmosphere of the mortgage. This is a denial of our relationship with the Lord God in Jesus Christ.
Those Christians who insist that we must worship on the seventh day of the week are denying the work of Jesus Christ in a most practical fashion. To suggest that we are required to meet and worship on the seventh day reveals a lack of understanding concerning the types and symbols of the old covenant administration and a lack of discernment concerning what Jesus Christ has accomplished. We live in the age of the Son of Man. We live in the age of the eighth day. We have entered the Sabbath rest and therefore the seventh day is complete. Having completed the seventh day we now joyfully serve as heirs of the kingdom in light of the dawning of the new age of the Son of Man.
And he said to Aaron, "Take for yourself a young bull as a sin offering and a ram as a burnt offering, without blemish, and offer them before the LORD (Leviticus 9:2).
If we needed a reminder that Aaron was a sinful man we find it here in the command given to Aaron to take a bull calf for a sin offering and a ram for the whole burnt offering and offer them to God. This, I remind you, was after seven days of consecration. This was after seven days of sacrifice and ritual designed to prepare Aaron and his sons of the priestly ministry. Nonetheless, on this eighth day in which the priestly ministry began Aaron was required to sacrifice a bull calf for his sins and a ram for the whole burnt offering (a sacrifice that harkens back to god's provision of a ram to Abraham in place of his son Isaac).
He also made sacrifices on behalf of the people of Israel: a sin offering of a calf and a lamb for the whole burnt offering. In any case it seems that this was commanded in order to bring attention to the fact that Aaron was not really qualified for the priestly work. It was only by God's grace that he was allowed to have this privilege and duty of representation.
It is ironic that the sin offering required for Aaron was a bull calf. As you recall, Aaron was the one who fashioned the golden calf idol and was instrumental in leading the children of Israel astray.
Now, the order of the sacrifice is important. The third sacrifice that Aaron was to offer that day was the sacrifice of the peace offering. This was the fellowship offering which included the meal that the worshiper would partake of in the presence of God. As you recall the sacrifice was symbolic of the relationship that we have with Almighty God in Jesus Christ. As you remember the worshiper would bring this sacrifice voluntarily and would share the meat of the sacrifice with his household, the priest, and fellow Israelites in need.
Yet, this was the third sacrifice that Aaron was commanded to offer. This fellowship sacrifice, this peace offering and the meal involved with it, would not take place until the other sacrifices had been accomplished. Just prior to this peace offering Aaron was supposed to offer up the whole burnt sacrifice.
The whole offering, the burnt offering, signified the complete devotion of the worshiper to God. Therefore, before Aaron could have fellowship with God he had to be completely and wholly devoted to Yahweh. Fellowship could not begin until the person was in complete submission to the Almighty. It was required that a meal offering would accompany the animal sacrifice in the whole burnt offering. Again, this was significant of the totality of devotion. The whole person, the whole being was to be given over to God and all that person had or could do would be offered to Yahweh for his use and his glory. Thus, before there was fellowship there had to be full devotion.
However before there was full devotion there had to be forgiveness of sin. Therefore Aaron was required to take the calf of the absolution offering in order to cover his sins. Once again this offering did not eliminate his sins but acted as a "stopgap" until the completed work of the Messiah. Nevertheless, Aaron – or any other worshiper of Yahweh – was required to make this sacrifice before he could devote himself to Yahweh fully and then have the fellowship of peace. And so we see that Aaron begins his priestly ministry acknowledging his sinfulness. He begins his priestly ministry by making a public declaration that it is only by God's grace he is able to participate in this work.
Aaron did all of these things according to the command of Moses. Moses told Aaron and people of Israel who were gathered at the Tabernacle that if they performed the sacrifices of the inaugural ceremony appropriately, then the glory of God would appear to them. In other words this new beginning by sacrifice would allow them a relationship with Yahweh they had not previously enjoyed. As I mentioned earlier, Moses represented God to the people but now it would be Aaron representing the people to God. In this office of priest God would meet with this representative of the people and that would be verified by the manifest glory of presence of God.
The center section of Leviticus chapter 9 provides a detailed description of Aaron's very first actions as the high priest of the people. We see that he begins with the offerings on his own behalf. The chapter details the smearing of the blood on the horns of the altar and pouring the blood at the base the altar in the case of the sin offering. We see that he burns the fat and the fat of the kidneys and so forth as was required according to the law. We also find that he burned the flesh and skin outside the camp. We are not told when he did this: that might have taken place in the midst of the process or perhaps it was "saved" to the very end. Regardless, it was simply part of the ritual of the sin offering.
Then he slaughtered the whole burnt offering and the blood was splashed against the side of the altar. The victim was cut into pieces and then placed upon the altar fire. Aaron washed the entrails and the legs and continues in the process of sacrifice as he then offers the victims on behalf of the people, the sin offering and the whole burnt offering. Of course the appropriate grain offering is given with the burnt offering.
The peace offering is likewise presented as is appropriate with a portion burned and a remainder waved before God as a wave offering and given to the priest.
All of this took place upon the altar. Indeed, Aaron himself was on the altar performing the ritual. We haven't spent much time discussing the size of each piece of furniture in the Tabernacle and in the courtyard of the Tabernacle, but this verse 22 of chapter 9 reminds us that the altar was quite large. It had to be large enough to provide room for a carcass of an entire bullock and allow for the priest to move around and perform the duties connected to the sacrificial ritual. Thus Aaron pronounces the blessing upon the children of Israel before he descends from the altar. Likely this was the blessing that is provided for us in Numbers 6:24–26.
We need to realize that the emphasis of the sacrificial ritual is grace. It reminded the people of Israel that they were sinful and in need of God's grace. It reminded them that as members of the Adamic house the mediation of animals was necessitated. This was true even for the anointed priest. This is true even for the one who reflected the glory of God and the people. This is true for the one who represented the people to Almighty God.
We have discussed in some detail the fact that all of the sacrificial system was symbolic of the work of Jesus Christ. Clearly the sin offering was a type of what Jesus Christ would do for his people in shedding his blood that they might be washed clean of their sins. The critical difference, of course, is the fact that this was a once and for all sacrifice which Jesus Christ made. Jesus died and shed his blood that the mediation of animals would come to an end. The blood of Jesus Christ was so much more than the blood of animals. It was required only one time that he would shed his blood and present that blood in the heavenly most holy place.
Christ is also the whole burnt offering. He was wholly consecrated to God. His entire being and all that he did was given over to the service of God. Now, I speak of course of Christ in its humanity. As the eternal son he is a member of the Trinity and is of course wholly given over to the will of the Godhead. But when we look at his humanity we need to realize that Jesus Christ is just like us. His devotion to God was not that of puppet compelled to perform at the whim of the master. Instead, Jesus Christ in his humanity, made a willful decision to devote himself to the Father in heaven.
Jesus also accomplished the intent of the peace offering. Jesus Christ by his own sacrifice restored mankind to a position of intimacy with the Father. Jesus Christ renewed the relationship that had been broken between God and man and as our representative, resides for ever in the presence of the heavenly Father.
Christ our sin offering washes us cleaned from the guilt of lawlessness. This is the very first step in the process of salvation. Through the illumination of the Holy Spirit we are made able to accept Christ's sacrifice on our behalf. By the illumination of the Holy Spirit we are made able to understand the need for that sacrifice. Mankind requires a payment for his sin and the sin offering fulfilled in Jesus Christ provides our absolution. This is part of what we celebrate when we participate in the communion meal. The blood of Jesus Christ has washed us clean from sin and made us able to have a relationship with the Father in heaven. There is nothing that we can do to cleanse ourselves. The animal sacrifice of the old covenant administration was a reminder of this fact. After Adam fell into sin, mankind required additoinal mediation. The animal substitutes were merely a stopgap. Jesus Christ is the ultimate and final sacrifice and we enjoy the benefit of his shed blood when we embrace him as our savior.
Once we have been brought into fellowship with the Father in heaven Christ our whole burnt offering enables us to offer ourselves as a willing sacrifice to the Lord. We are to be a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God. This is nothing extraordinary but is merely are reasonable service. Again, this can only be accomplished in Jesus Christ. It is only because their sins have been forgiven that we are brought into relationship and given a heart which desires lay our entire life and work at the feet of the Lord. Ours is a sacrifice of obedience. Ours is a sacrifice of cultivating a new creation. Ours is a sacrifice of manifesting the role of Jesus Christ in our life and arena of activity.
In Jesus Christ we also enjoy the fellowship of the peace offering. In Jesus Christ we are restored to a position of constant intimacy with God. Because of Christ's sacrifice we can enjoy moment by moment communication with the Holy Spirit. We are illuminated and directed via a spirit of God and in fellowship with him. No longer are we slaves are service but we are friends and members of the household of the Almighty.
All of this is true only in Jesus Christ. All of the things that we see in this chapter 9 of Leviticus find their fulfillment in Jesus Christ and are manifest in our lives because of the grace of God in Jesus Christ. We must never forget that the whole of our fellowship depends on Christ the blessing of Jesus is bestowed upon us as he descended the altar of sacrifice, the cross whereupon he died.
We may wonder why a we do not enjoy the benefit of Christ's peace offering. We may wonder why we do not have the intimate relationship that is afforded by the fulfillment of the fellowship offering in Jesus Christ. If this is our state of Maine then we need to look to the whole burnt offering as a filled in Jesus. Are we presented ourselves a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God? Do we realize that in Jesus Christ this complete devotion to the will of the Father is merely are reasonable service? If we find that our fellowship with the Lord is not as sweet as the Scripture says they should be then we need to look to this whole burnt offering. We need to look to the meal offering. It is our life and works devoted to God? Once again, this is accomplished in their power and in the grace of Jesus Christ. If we are attempting to devote ourselves to God fully based upon our own strength and understanding we will fail. Instead we need to approach this in the recognition that it is God who gives us both the desire and the ability to do his goodwill. Thus, if we find our fellowship to be lacking looks to the whole burnt offering.
This of course assumes that your sins have been washed away by the offering and blood of Jesus Christ. If you find that you're unable to even make a start then perhaps you need to look to the sin offering which Jesus Christ fulfilled upon the cross. If you have not receive Jesus Christ as Savior and have not been washed clean by his blood and of course you will not be able to offer yourself as a living sacrifice to the Lord God. Thus, look first to the sin offering.
Acceptable To God
And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of meeting, and came out and blessed the people. Then the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people, and fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. When all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces (Leviticus 9:23-24)
After Aaron blessed the people he and Moses retired to the tabernacle. Apparently Aaron was acquainted with his duties associated with the service of the holy place and the holy of holies at that time. We are not told how long Aaron and Moses remained in the tabernacle. The account simply says that they went into the tabernacle of meeting and came out again to bless the people. This is a second blessing. This is a blessing coming from the presence of God himself. Aaron has just emerged from the copy of the holy place and he brings with him the blessing of God. Moreover, the presence of God is manifest at this time as well. Once the blessing is pronounced by Moses and Aaron the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people.
This is what Moses said would happen if the inauguration of the priestly duties was accomplished according to God's command. In other words if the priest did what God had told him to do and performed the sacrifices according to the command of God then the presence of God would be manifest among the people. We are not told in this section of Leviticus that this manifestation of God's presence was dependent upon continued obedience but the subsequent history of Israel reminds us that God's blessing was conditional. It was based upon the condition of continued participation in the law and sacrificial ritual. To turn away from this priestly mediation would be to forfeit the favor and presence of God. So the people are given an incentive to be sure that they do not fall away from the ways of God - the glory of God shining this in the tabernacle.
Then, suddenly, fire blazes out from the presence of God and consumes the burnt offering and the fat pieces that continued to smolder on the altar. At the sight of this powerful expression of God's glory the people shouted and then fell face down and worship.
In these manifestations of God's presence – his glory and the fire consuming the sacrifice – he showed his approval of the inaugural work of the priests in a very graphic fashion.
God showed his approval of the priestly ministry as it is fulfilled in Jesus by manifesting his power in the raising of Christ from the dead. This is what the apostle Paul has in mind when he says that Jesus Christ was declared to be the son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness by the resurrection from the dead (Romans 1:4). When God raised Jesus Christ from the dead (in his humanity), he was manifesting his power in order to show his approval of what Jesus accomplished. His glory was displayed in the living person of Jesus Christ and in the "fire" that one forth from his Christ in the form of the word of the Gospel. That word of the Gospel would consume the lives of those who were brought into relationship with God through Christ. That fire was visibly manifest on the day of Pentecost. That fire - the presence of the Holy spirit - went forth as the word of the Lord was broadcast far and wide.
God continues to show his approval of the work of Jesus Christ as his power is manifest in our lives. Jesus remains forever in the presence of God's glory. And we do so in him. The glory of God is seen in our bearing of much fruit. Jesus said "by this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be my disciples" (John 15:8). Therefore the glory of God is manifest as we walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ and the consuming fire of God is displayed as we embrace the Gospel fully and give ourselves completely to the work of the kingdom. In other words, the glory of God is manifest and his burning presence is displayed as we live our lives under the authority of Jesus Christ, bringing our arena of activity into the kingdom of God.
Once again we are reminded that Christ is all and in all. There is no portion of the older covenant that overlooks the work and person of Jesus Christ. All of the law, the ritual, the sacrifice, the principles and practice - all find their fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Truly, Christ has not abolished the Law and the Prophets he has fulfilled them. We continue to observe the priestly ministry of Aaron and the sacrifice in our relationship with Jesus Christ. All of this is fulfilled in Christ and no longer finds expression apart from his completed work but it does continue to hold significance for us even in this new age of the Son of Man.
Without the Old Testament we would not understand what it is that Jesus Christ has accomplished. Without the sacrifice and ritual of the older covenant we would be at a loss to explain what Christ has done for us. Without the history of the Adamic house and the Adamic line we would be unable to appreciate the tremendous work of our Lord and Savior Jesus is the Christ.
In conclusion I would like to emphasize the need to reverence the eighth day - the seventh day plus one - in our worship of Jesus. Our Lord's Day worship should remind us of all of the tremendous blessings that Jesus has bestowed upon us. Our worship on the eighth day, the Lord's Day, the first day of the week, should serve to remind us to be careful to never diminish the majesty of our Lord Jesus.
I challenge you to live in the reality of the day. I challenge you to live in the reality of this new beginning in Jesus Christ. I challenge you to live in the reality of all of the sacrifice and ritual summed up and fulfilled in the work and person of Jesus.