Preparing God's Priest (Hebrews 8:1-36)
Topic: One Lord: No One Like You Passage: Leviticus 8:1–8:36
Preparing God's Priest
(One Lord: No One Like You)
November 19th, 2017
I. One to Offer, One to Officiate
Before we return once again to our study in the book of Leviticus, listen to these words from the previous book, from the book of Exodus, chapter 29. Listen to what God tells Moses about the purpose of the Tent of Meeting, that mobile temple that was literally central among the people of Israel, and figuratively central to the book of Leviticus. Exodus 29:43-46...
“There [at the entrance of the tent of meeting] I will meet with the people of Israel, and it shall be sanctified by my glory.  I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar. Aaron also and his sons I will consecrate to serve me as priests.  I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God.  And they shall know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them. I am the LORD their God.” (Exodus 29:43–46)
Did you hear that? The amazing reality of God dwelling among His people is the very thing we've touched on, week after week, in this study of Leviticus. That fact is precisely why the first seven chapters of Leviticus emphasize the people's need for sacrifice. If a holy God is to dwell in the midst of a sinful people, their sins will need to be covered.
But did you also notice in that passage God's emphasis on the priesthood. Sure, we've talked about the responsibilities of the priests in regard to the different sacrifices. But clearly, the first seven chapters of Leviticus are focused on what is being offered, not the officiating. But in Leviticus 8, that all changes. The next three chapters of Leviticus will focus on Aaron and his sons, and God's consecration of them, that they would be his priests. Turn there if you would...Leviticus 8.
II. The Passage: "So He Consecrated Aaron" (8:1-36)
If we were to look back at all of Exodus 28 and 29, we would see that those chapters contain God's instructions for creating the priestly garments and tools, as well as specific instructions for how ordain these new priests. In Exodus 29:1 we read, “Now this is what you shall do to them to consecrate them, that they may serve me as priests...”
And this is precisely what Leviticus 8 describes: Moses being faithful to ordain Aaron and his sons, just as God commanded. And we find that exact statement throughout the chapter. Let's actually begin with the first five verses of chapter 8, and I will point out that statement. 8:1...
The LORD spoke to Moses, saying,  “Take Aaron and his sons with him, and the garments and the anointing oil and the bull of the sin offering and the two rams and the basket of unleavened bread.>>>
 And assemble all the congregation at the entrance [that is, in the enclosure] of the tent of meeting.”  And Moses did as the LORD commanded him, and the congregation was assembled at the entrance of the tent of meeting.  And Moses said to the congregation, “This is the thing that the LORD has commanded to be done.”
So there's the phrase we see repeated throughout this chapter: (v. 4) “And Moses did as the LORD commanded him”. Moses states it before the people in verse 5, and then, it is listed again in verses 9, 13, 17, 21, 29, and 36.
Clearly the writer is emphasizing the faithfulness of Moses to obey God, to follow God's instructions 'to the tee'.
Let's briefly scan over the remaining verses, and try to understand the specifics of the consecration, of this ordination ceremony. How did Moses prepare God's priest for God's work?
Well, in verses 6-9, we read about the special garments worn by the high priest. These garments were an indication of both his special, set-apart status, but also the fact he represented the nation before God. They visualize the essence of the priest's work: he stands between God and men, representing each to the other.
In verses 10-13, we read how Moses anointed with oil everything in the Tent of Meeting, including Aaron and his sons. This again was a way to dedicate them and all their tools to God's service.
In verses 14-17, we read again about the “sin offering”. You may recall that we talked about the “sin” or “purification offering” last time, when it was detailed in chapter 5. Remember, because of the taint of the people's sins, this offering was meant to purify the Tent of Meeting and the priestly tools.
In verses 18-21, we read that Moses offered a burnt offering on behalf of Aaron and his sons. This points us back to the very first chapter of the book. This offering was offered to make atonement for the sins of the priests themselves. Even though they were being ordained as priests, they were still sinners.
If we continue down the chapter, we read in verses 22-30 about what is called the ordination offering. From what we are told here, it sounds very much like the “peace offering” of chapter 3. But this was a special offering to dedicate the priests. Look at what verse 25 highlights:
Then he presented Aaron's sons, and Moses put some of the blood on the lobes of their right ears and on the thumbs of their right hands and on the big toes of their right feet. And Moses threw the blood against the sides of the altar. (Leviticus 8:24)
I believe this ritual was meant to show how every part of the priest was dedicated to God; that where they walked, what they handled, and what they heard were all to be for God's glory.
In verses 31 and 32, we read that Aaron and his sons were to eat some of the meat and bread from the offering, just as we saw with the peace offering. This is how the chapter ends. Finally, look with me at verses 33-36. This is what Moses tells Aaron...
And you shall not go outside the entrance of the tent of meeting for seven days, until the days of your ordination are completed, for it will take seven days to ordain you.  As has been done today, the LORD has commanded to be done to make atonement for you.  At the entrance of the tent of meeting you shall remain day and night for seven days, performing what the LORD has charged, so that you do not die, for so I have been commanded.”  And Aaron and his sons did all the things that the LORD commanded by Moses.
Now notice who is doing the priestly work here. It was Moses. Moses had a unique role in God's plan. Like Jesus, he was a leader, a prophet, and as we see here, a kind of priest.
But the focus is only on Moses here inasmuch as he faithfully followed God's commands. And all of these commands were intended to accomplish one thing: the preparation of God's priest. A life with God in the midst, where a holy God dwells among sinful people, is a life that requires a priest, an intercessor, a mediator, an advocate.
III. The Preparation of Our Priest (Hebrews 2:10, 17-18; 4:14-5:10)
And it is that fact that helps us connect the covenants; that helps us understand how this strange ceremony from long ago is relevant for us today. You may remember that last time, as we talked about sacrifice, our discussions about the priesthood were discussions about who WE are now as God's people. God, though Peter's words in I Peter 2, confirmed that Christians are a spiritual priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices.
And while Christians are described as anointed by God (II Corinthains 1:21), the focus of Leviticus 8 is the high priest. Therefore, this chapter about their high priest should point us to our High Priest. Let's do that very thing by turning to Leviticus 7. Look with me at verses 26 through 28. This is what we read about Jesus, our High Priest...
For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.  He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.  For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever. (Hebrews 7:26–28)
Now, I want you to notice that this passage reiterates the priestly ideal: that God's priest is to be holy and separate. In the same way, this passage reminds us of what Leviticus 8 described: that the sons of Aaron were sinners who needed atonement and purification. But, as is the case with the entire book of Hebrews, the author makes it clear that Jesus is the ultimate priest. His priesthood and his priestly work are far superior to what came before.
Brothers and sisters, that is your Lord! That is your Redeemer! Jesus Christ is our high priest! What confidence we can have before God, for Jesus is our Advocate, our mediator, our intercessor. Shouldn't that encourage and embolden you? I pray it does.
But there's more here. Did you notice the final phrase of Hebrews 7:28. We read that God's “word of the oath” (explanation coming), that God appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever. Now I want you to see, that like Leviticus 8, that is a statement about preparation.
But what does the writer mean? Wasn't Jesus always perfect? Why does it say he was “made perfect”? To what kind of priestly preparation is the author referring?
Well, to answer that, we need to trace this idea back into previous chapters of Hebrews. Let me read through three different passages, all of which touch on this very idea. So let's look together at Hebrews 2:10, Hebrews 2:17 and 18, and finally Hebrews 4:14-5:10. Beginning with chapter 2, verse 10, let's consider how God prepared our High Priest.
For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. (Hebrews 2:10)
Drop down to verses 17 and 18:
Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.  For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (Hebrews 2:17–18)
Finally turn to the end of chapter 4. Let's start in verse 14.
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.  He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness.  Because of this he is obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins just as he does for those of the people.  And no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was.  So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you” [Psalm 2:7];  as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.” [Psalm 110:4]  In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.  Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.  And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him,  being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek. (4:14–5:10)
Now obviously there is a ton of information here; way too much for us to look at this morning. But I want you to see that “the word of the oath” we talked about earlier is what we heard about in 5:6, in the quote from Psalm 110:4, where God appointed the Messiah to be a priest forever, not in the order of Aaron, but in the order of Melchizedek, the priest-king of Salem, who is mentioned in the book of Genesis, chapter 14.
But back to our main question: what kind of priestly preparation is the author of Hebrews describing in these passages? We know Jesus was not prepared with ceremonial washings, garments, and sacrifices. So how was He prepared? Well, as we heard over and over again in these passages, He was prepared though suffering.
Christian, your High Priest was prepared for his priestly work by means of his sufferings. Did you know that? Have you considered or meditated on that fact?
How did he suffer? Listen again to Hebrews 2:17, 18: ...to be made like his brothers in every respect...he himself has suffered when tempted...
You see, His suffering was connected to his temptations. This sets up another distinction in terms of Aaron and Jesus. As we see from the ceremony in Leviticus 8, Aaron was symbolically pulled out of the muck of sin. But Jesus was put into it. And being put into it, His righteousness was proven through every temptation. As we read in 4:14, Jesus is one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
Every day He lived in this world, Jesus fought against the pressures and enticements of sin. And He suffered as he fought his way through the darkness. We at times can suffer. But we know very little of what he endured, simply because we do not endure. Rather than fighting, we often give in to the pressures and enticements. But not Jesus. And as the writer tells us in these passages, this is important for two reasons:
First, this preparation matters in terms of the work Jesus did as our Substitute. When Hebrews 5:8 says that Jesus learned obedience through what he suffered, it simply means his righteous submission to the Father was proven through actual obedience. His righteousness was demonstrated through a righteous life in the everyday of human beings. This is why Hebrews 5:9 goes on to say, being made perfect [complete], he became the source of eternal salvation...Only one truly proven righteous as a man could take man's place on the cross.
Second, this preparation matters in terms of the work Jesus does as our Advocate. Having offered himself up as a spotless and perfect sacrifice for humanity, Jesus continues his work as our advocate in heaven. He stands by the Father's side in order to plead his blood for all who have trusted Him. But as He does this, we can take great comfort from the way in which God prepared Him as our priest. Remember 4:15...For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
We do not have an indifferent mediator who begrudgingly represents us. No, when you fail, when you stumble, when you compromise, you have a high priest who understands and is sympathetic to your struggle. That means God's preparation of our priest has resulted in two glorious realities: He is both perfectly sufficient as our Substitute and perfectly sympathetic as our Advocate. Isn't that wonderful! So, what will it mean for your everyday?
Practically, I think we can say this: understanding how God prepared our priest helps prepare us as priests. It should humble us, it should sober us, it should deepen our gratitude, it should stir our affections, and it should inspire obedience; the same kind of obedience Jesus exemplified: obedience that endures through the sufferings of temptation.
And as that happen within us, our priestly work of praise, and reflection, and intercession will be all the more effective. It's not wonder the author of Hebrews several chapters later called his readers to fix their eyes on Jesus (12:2). Let's do that now as we go to pray, asking the Father to prepare us as we continue to meditate on Christ's priestly preparation.