The Priest: Consecrated for Service
A hush fell over the congregation of Israel as they gathered before the Tabernacle. One could sense the unspoken excitement which pounded deep in the heart of each Israelite as he anticipated the events which were about to unfold. Patiently they waited for the emergence of the man whom God had called to represent them as high priest. Muffled sounds of excitement were heard as Aaron appeared for the first time clothed in the beautiful garments of the high priest. Unlike the hidden rites of the pagan religions surrounding Israel, Moses would consecrate Aaron and his sons to the priesthood in full view of all to witness (Lev. 8:3-5).
Cleansed for Service
The consecration began with Moses thoroughly washing Aaron and his sons at the door of the Tabernacle (Ex. 29:4; Lev. 8:6). This would be the only time that the priest was washed by another, henceforth he washed himself in preparation for daily service (Ex. 30:19-20).
Washing has a twofold meaning. First, it typifies the priest’s regeneration. As believer-priest, the Christian has been “saved by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Ti. 3:5). Secondly, like the high priest, the Christian must be cleansed from daily sins (1 Jn. 1:9). The need for daily cleansing is beautifully illustrated in the final hours of our Lord’s ministry when He washed His disciples’ feet (Jn. 13:1-10). Jesus said to Peter, “He that is washed needeth not except to wash his feet. . .” (v. 10). The two words for wash in this verse have different meanings. The word “washed” (Gr. louo) means to bathe one’s body completely. It speaks of our complete ablution which took place at the moment of regeneration. The word “wash” (Gr. nipto) is used for those who wash their hands and feet symbolizing daily cleansing. The believer, having been thoroughly cleansed through the blood of Jesus Christ, must still be cleansed in his daily walk with the Lord.
Clothed for Service
Aaron and his sons were stripped of their old clothing and separately dressed by Moses after being bathed (Ex. 29:4). Aaron’s clothing consisted of a linen tunic, under girdle, robe of the ephod, ephod, outer girdle, breastplate, Urim and Thummim, and the miter with its gold plate inscribed ‘Holiness to Jehovah’ (Ex. 29:5-9; 40:13-14; Lev. 8:7-9). Aaron’s sons were clothed in a separate service consisting of the linen coat, miter, girdle and breeches (Ex. 28:39-42). It is important to remember that Aaron and his sons were initially clothed by one another rather than by themselves.
The Christian does not outfit himself for service. It is God who calls, directs and gives enablement to the believer for service (Jn. 15:16). He has been equipped by God for the task he is called to perform by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. God has clothed the believer-priest with armor to stand against the onslaughts of Satan (Eph. 6:13-17).
Consecrated for Service
The service of consecration was initiated by Moses pouring the anointing oil over Aaron’s head and sprinkling his sons. The oil was called a “crown” (Lev. 21:12) upon the head of the high priest, running down his beard even to the hem of his garment (Ps. 133:2).
Anointing oil was made from a specific formula consisting of five hundred shekels of pure myrrh (a gum resin extracted from the Arabian Balsamodendron Myrrha plant used in embalming), two hundred and fifty shekels of sweet cinnamon, two hundred and fifty shekels of sweet calamus (the aromatic bark of a shrub growing in Arabia), five hundred shekels of cassia (a plant having the flavor and aroma of cinnamon), with a hin (gallon) of olive oil (Ex. 30:22-25).
Rabbinical sources state that Moses, having reduced the solid ingredients to powder, steeped them in water until all the aromatic qualities were drawn out. The olive oil was then poured into the ingredients and the water boiled out. The residuum thus obtained was preserved in a vessel for use (Unger’s Bible Dictionary, p. 806).
The anointing oil symbolized the high priest being endowed with the Holy Spirit, empowering him for the duties of his office (Lev. 8:12; 1 Sam. 10:1-6; 16:13-14).
In quoting Isaiah 61:1-2, Christ acknowledged that He had received the “anointing power” of the Holy Spirit in order to perform His ministry. He said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised” (Lk. 4:18). Scripture clearly shows that Christ’s total ministry was performed through the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:27; 10:38; Heb. 1:9).
Oil is a fitting symbol of the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian. He has been regenerated (Ti. 3:5), baptized into the Church (1 Cor. 12:13), indwelt (1 Cor. 6:19), and sealed unto the day of redemption (Eph. 1:13-14) through the Spirit’s ministry. But it is the filling by the Holy Spirit which empowers the individual for service (Eph. 5:18). If the believer-priest is not controlled by the Holy Spirit, his ministry will be insipid and non-effective.
The anointing oil had a sweet fragrance which permeated the one over whom it was poured. This is a beautiful picture of Christ in all His perfection and grace before God and mankind. His life emitted a fragrant perfection of purity and holiness, unmarred by sin or fleshly motives.
The Christian who is anointed with the Holy Spirit emits a sweet fragrance to both God and his world. As he moves through society he emits the fragrant knowledge of Christ to the glory of God. The world responds in various ways to the fragrance of Christ. To those who are lost and indifferent to the Gospel, the fragrance of Christ is a “savor of death unto death.” But to those who respond to our witness, Christ is a “savor of life unto life” (2 Cor. 2:14-17).
There were three prohibitions concerning the use of the anointing oil. First, it was only poured upon the head, but not “Upon man’s flesh” (Ex. 30:32). The Christian can never hope to produce the results of the Holy Spirit’s anointing. Works done in the flesh are a stench in the nostrils of God. This is clearly seen when Simon the sorcerer tried to purchase the anointing power of the Holy Spirit. He was severely condemned by Peter (Acts 8:9-21).
Secondly, the anointing oil was not to be produced for the priest’s own use or secular purposes. Moses said, “. . . neither shall ye make any other like it, after the composition of it: it is holy, and it shall be holy unto you” (Ex. 30:32). Neither are we to use the gifts from the Spirit for our own use or secular advantage. We should not try to imitate the ministry of the Holy Spirit with secular means.
Thirdly, the anointing oil was not to be put “upon a stranger” (i.e. one not of the priesthood) [Ex. 30:33]. Paul tells us, “Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Rom. 8:9b). The anointing of the Spirit cannot work through an unbeliever; this person is a stranger to the things of God.
Consecrated By Sacrifice
The sacrifice of consecration followed the anointing service with Moses officiating as the priest (Ex. 29:10-34). Three animals were sacrificed: a young bullock for the sin offering, a ram for the burnt offering and a ram of consecration.
The Sin Offering of Consecration (Ex. 29:10-14)
The bullock was to be readied for sacrifice before the consecration ceremony began (v. 10). This is the first time in Scripture that the “sin offering” has been mentioned; all preceding offerings have either been a burnt offering or peace offering. Aaron and his sons identified with the bull as their substitute by placing their hands upon its head, thus transferring personal sins to it (v. 10). Moses killed the bull, smeared its blood upon the horns of the brazen altar, and poured the remaining blood at the base of the altar (vv. 11-12). The fat of the viscera and liver and the two kidneys with their fat were burnt upon the altar, but the flesh, skin and dung were burnt outside the camp of Israel as a sin offering (v. 14).
The pieces of the bullock burned upon the altar speak of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross being acceptable in God’s sight (Isa. 53:10). The pieces burned outside the camp typify Christ who took our judgment upon Himself being crucified outside the camp (Heb. 13:11-12).
The priest clearly understood that the animal vicariously died, its blood atoning for his sin, to bear the penalty and judgment which he deserved. The priest, covered by the sin offering, was free to enter into the presence of God to minister on behalf of the people.
The offering emphasized that apart from the shedding of blood there is no remission (Heb. 9:22). Christ vicariously shed His blood, becoming the believer-priest’s sin-bearer (2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 2:24) and opening the way for him to be prepared for service.
The Burnt Offering of Consecration (Ex. 29:15-18)
The ram for the “burnt offering” was brought before Aaron and his sons. Again their hands were placed upon the ram to identify with the animal as their representative (v. 15). The ram was slain and its blood sprinkled on and around the altar (v. 16). The word “sprinkle” literally means “to cast”. Rabbinical tradition holds that the blood was thrown from the basin sprinkling the four corners rather than being sprinkled by hand or with hyssop. The ram was cut into pieces, washed, and the whole animal burned on the altar as a burnt offering for a sweet savor unto God (vv. 17-18).
The burnt offering symbolized an individual’s complete surrender, voluntarily offered to God. Here we have a beautiful picture of Christ, who without spot or blemish (1 Pet. 1:19), freely offered Himself as a sacrifice unto death fulfilling the will of God (Heb. 9:11-14; 10:5-7). His sacrifice was a “sweet savor” unto God in two ways. First, He was completely devoted to doing the Father’s will (Mt. 26:39). Secondly, His sacrifice was completely accepted by God the Father as an atonement for sin.
The sacrifice was to be offered by the “voluntary will” of the individual (Lev. 1:3). The believer-priest is to voluntarily offer himself as a living sacrifice unto God (Rom. 12:1). When he does this, it is as “unto God a sweet savor of Christ” (2 Cor. 2:15).
The Ram of Consecration (Ex. 29:19-21)
The final sacrifice offered by Moses was the ram of consecration. Again, Aaron and his sons would identify with the ram substitute by placing their hands upon its head (v. 19). The ram was killed and its blood applied to the right ear, thumb and toe of Aaron and his sons (v. 20).
Why was the blood applied only to certain parts of the priest’s body? It was applied to the right ear symbolizing that the priest’s ears were consecrated to God’s service. He was to be attentive to the voice of God which instructed him on how he was to function as well as speak to the people.
The same is true of the believer-priest whose ears are to be yielded unto the Lord. He is to turn a deaf ear to the alluring voice of Satan and the world who try to persuade him to compromise his faith. To each of the seven churches which our Lord addressed in the book of Revelation He closed with the admonishment, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 29, 3:6, 13, 22). In order to be ready for service, only anointed ears will be quick to respond to God’s voice as He gives direction through His Word.
The right thumb was anointed with blood. Whenever the right hand or arm is mentioned in Scripture, it refers to the power and skill of the individual (Ex. 15:6,12). The hands of the priest were to be sanctified unto the work of the Lord. The believer-priest is to enter the work with clean hands (Jas. 4:8).
The large toe of the priest’s right foot was then anointed with blood. This symbolized that he was to have a sanctified walk before the Lord. The Word of God has much to say about the sanctified walk of the believer. He is to sidestep the broad way of life which leads only to destruction and walk down the narrow way which leads to life (Mt. 7:13-14).
In Ephesians, Paul gives the believer-priest a number of guidelines to direct him in his holy walk. First, he is not to walk as the world nor as other Gentiles in the vanity (futility) of their minds, but as children of light, having put on the new man (regenerated man) which is patterned after God in righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:17-32).
Secondly, the believer-priest is to walk worthy. He is called to walk in all humility, gentleness, patience and forbearance to others which can only be manifested in love. He is to be eager in guarding the unity of the Spirit in his walk (Eph. 4:1-2, 30; cp. Heb. 5:2).
Thirdly, the believer-priest is to walk as a witness. He is to be an imitator of God in two ways. One way to imitate Him is in a walk of love (Eph. 5:2). It is the love of Christ manifested through the believer’s life which will draw men to Him. Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (Jn. 13:35). Another way to imitate God is to walk as “children of light” (Eph. 5:8). The fruit of this light will be manifested in goodness, righteousness and truth through the believer’s life as a witness to a lost world.
Fourthly, the believer-priest is to walk in wisdom. He is to walk “circumspectly” (i.e. carefully) and not carelessly (Eph. 5:15). The key to walking in wisdom is by knowing the “will of the Lord” (Eph. 5:17) which is only acquired through proper appropriation and application of God’s Word. Only then will he wisely “redeem the time” in his walk before God, buying up the precious opportunities opened to him (Eph. 5:16). To maintain a holy walk with God, the believer must be “filled (controlled) with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18).
The blood that remained was mixed with the anointing oil and sprinkled upon Aaron and his sons as well as their garments (v. 21). The mixture symbolized the combined work of the blood which justifies and the oil of the Holy Spirit which sanctifies.
The Wave Offering of Consecration (Ex. 29:22-46)
Moses took the rump, fat of the viscera and liver, the two kidneys with their fat, and the right shoulder of the ram of consecration (v. 22), along with an unleavened cake, a cake of oiled bread, and a thin cake sprinkled with oil (v. 23) to be offered up as a wave offering by Aaron and his sons (v. 24). Afterwards, Moses received the offering from Aaron and his sons to be burnt upon the brazen altar as a sweet savor unto the Lord (v. 25). He then took the breast of the ram which was Aaron’s consecration, waved it before the Lord as a wave offering, and the breast became Moses’ (v. 26). Aaron and his sons took the remaining flesh of the ram, boiled it at the Tabernacle door, then ate it along with the unleavened bread which remained (vv. 31-32; Lev. 8:31-32).
Completion of the Service
Aaron and his sons repeated the ceremony of consecration each day for seven days (Ex. 29:35). Since seven is the number of completion, the keeping of the ceremony for seven days spoke of a complete consecration of the priests who were to represent their fellowmen before God.
God desires that each believer-priest give himself in complete consecration to His service. Paul writes, “. . . present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Rom. 12:1).
We are to “present our bodies” once and for all as the Levitical sacrifice was offered up to God. The sacrifice of the Christian differs from that of the Levitical sacrifice in that it is “living” – ready to be used in God’s will and for His glory. The Christian’s body becomes the temple of God (1 Cor. 6:19-20), indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9) and to be used for God’s glory (Phil. 1:20-21). This sacrifice is “holy”, because it is set apart for God’s service to be used in a righteous manner. It is “acceptable”, because when he presents his body God is well pleased. It is his “reasonable service”, or “spiritual worship”. Paul has in mind a believer-priest’s service, not as the Levitical priest who only offered sacrifice apart from himself, but one in which the believer puts his body on the altar in worship and service to God.
You might be thinking, how do I offer my body to God? Each morning as you rise, before putting your feet on the floor, commit your mind, eyes, ears, hands and feet unto the Lord, asking that the members of your body be guarded from sin and used for God’s glory (Rom. 6:19).
Avis B. Christiansen has summed up what our commitment should be in the third stanza of her hymn, “Only One Life”:
Only one life to offer, Take it, dear Lord, I pray;
Nothing from Thee withholding, Thy will I now obey;
Thou who hast freely given Thine all in all for me,
Claim this life for Thine own, to be used, my Savior,
Every moment for Thee.