EXODUS 28:1 – 30:38 and MATTHEW 21:28–46
This chapter concentrates on the priesthood. We have noted earlier that one of the definitions given to a priest is one that is a representative of God before the people. Moses has established himself already along these lines. This is not a ministry that can be presumed. It requires a close intimate relationship with God. We will later see Moses having an inner cry to know God and His ways. He will know come to know God in His mercy, long-suffering and goodness and then be able to be an example of those attributes to the people (Exo 34:6). This is part of our high priest calling as well. The children of Israel could come within the outer court of Moses Tabernacle where the priests would be able to minister to them. It would be here where a washing would take place as seen in the laver (Exo 30:18). There was also the altar where prayer and consecration would be made. This was the altar at the entrance to the holy place. It was constructed of Shittim wood and covered with brass (Exo27:1-2). (Brass speaks of judgement) The people could go no further. We see at the beginning of chapter 28 that there were special holy garments for the priests that had to be worn to have access to the holy place. Only the priests could go from the outer court into the holy place.
Exo 35:19 The cloths of service, to do service in the holy place, the holy garments for Aaron the priest, and the garments of his sons, to minister in the priest’s office.
This again makes clear the role of the priesthood in pressing forward in God. The priests would wear these holy garments while performing their functions in the holy place. They would offer prayers on behalf of the people before the altar of incense (Exo 30:1). This altar was also made of Shittim wood but was overlaid with gold. Gold speaks of the Divine. Here the priests are fulfilling the role of representing the sins of the people before a holy God.
Let’s do a quick review. The priests are called to represent the attributes of God to the people. When the priests come out of the holy place they had to take off their holy garments and put on different ones while ministering to the people. The people would offer prayers at the altar which was situated before the entrance into the holy place. The priests would always remove the garments they used when ministering to the people and put on holy garments when entering into the holy place. As part of their function they would represent the sins of the people before a holy God. Prayer and intercession would be made at the altar of incense which was situated before the entering into the holy of holies. There is considerable symbolism in this chapter which cannot be looked into here but these are the primary points. Aaron, as the high priest, would enter into the Holy of Holies once a year on behalf of the people (Exo 28:29). It was here where the Ark of the Covenant would be situated, consisting of the Mercy Seat and the Law of testimony within, as well as the golden pot of manna and Aaron’s rod that budded.
What does it all mean for us today? Simply put, there are degrees of reigning in the kingdom of God. We are called to be both kings and priests (Rev 1:6, 5:10, Exo 19:6). Based on our understanding of what constitutes being chosen (Isa 48:10) while looking at the qualification for being priests we can reasonably conclude that the majority of Christians today are (spiritually) in the outer court. We can sing songs about coming into the Holy Place and Holy of Holies but that does not put us there. Our God is a Holy God and there is a way of approach. The meticulous instruction that has been given for the construction of the tabernacle coupled with the qualification involved to be priests makes clear that we cannot be casual in our approach to God. There is a way of approach for all believers that God has established; are we heeding? The qualifications are high but God, through the accomplished work of the Cross has made a way for us. It is exclusive because there is a cost, but it is available to all. Does the Cross offend us? How do we respond when the Spirit of God begins to probe deep into our hearts and uncover its unpleasantness? Do we hide behind the man-made garment of fig leaves where we blame others (Gen 3:12) or make excuses? Do we hide behind the man-made garment of “comfort zone” Christianity? These garments will not cut it; they will not allow us to come into the holy place where we experience a deeper level of walk with the Lord.
There is a difference between the Lot’s and Abraham’s in the church. There must be an appropriating and putting on of the garments that God has instituted (Gen 3:21, Col 3:12-14). The rich symbolism seen in these chapters is meant for our benefit so that we see and understand these distinctions. People automatically assume that we can immediate have access into the Holy of Holies because the veil was torn away at the time of the Lord’s death. WE DON’T. Yes, a way has been made whereby one can have access but it is to be on God’s terms. It cannot be presumed and casually appropriated.
These chapters should help to make clear that God is Holy. They should also instruct us as to the sanctity of the priesthood. It should help us to understand our role as priests where we are called to represent a holy God before the people as well as representing the sins and needs of the people before a loving and holy God. What we see in these chapters is a shadow of the office of a true priest. Personally, this is what I feel is lacking in today’s church. We are all for the promotion of kingdom living but it cannot be at the expense of the true priestly role of believers. As we progress through the next few chapters we will begin to note a clear distinction taking shape between the priests and the people. We need to take note because it is indicative of what is playing out today.
This chapter continues the theme of priestly functions to be performed by Aaron and his sons. Let’s introduce the sons of Aaron here. He had 4 sons who assisted in the priestly functions. They are Nadab, Abihu, Ithamar and Eleazar (Exo 28:1). We will see these priests and their lines play out through the succeeding generations. Here is a quick quiz. Which of the 4 sons ended up seeing the promise of the everlasting priesthood fulfilled through their lineage? What will be interesting to note through our study is seeing that there is even a distinction amongst the priests. We will also see how the priesthood intervened at key moments of Israel’s history to preserve and help see through God’s plan of redemption. We have mentioned previously about the importance of a covering.
Exo 29:21 And thou shalt take of the blood that is upon the altar, and of the anointing oil, and sprinkle it upon Aaron, and upon his garments, and upon his sons, and upon the garments of his sons with him: and he shall be hallowed, and his garments, and his sons, and his sons’ garments with him.
In our day today we need to be covered. Perhaps we can best understand the difference between the priests and the people in the context of a covering by going back to Genesis. We always want to draw out relevant and applicable truths for our day. Let’s quickly revisit the two different garments that are seen in Genesis 3.
Gen 3:7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.
Gen 3:8 And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.
Adam and Eve, because of sin could not stand in the presence of a holy God so they first made their own garment of fig leaves and then hid from God as he approached them in the garden. This garment was unacceptable to God. He had his own prescription as seen in the following verse.
Gen 3:21 Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.
God covered Adam with coats of skins which were a figure of the true covering to come in the form of the Son of God. This covering was acceptable to God because the skins came from animals that had died and shed blood, which was a picture of what Christ would do. The garments that God has ordained for His priests to minister before Him in the Holy Place are all figurative of Christ. They are costly and they are required in order to come into the Holy place as a priest. Remember Joshua the high priest? His life was pleasing to God. He was chosen, seeing that he had been plucked out of the fire.
Zec 3:2 And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?
Many are called, few are chosen and who are the ones chosen?
Isa 48:10 Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.
I seem to remember three friends of Daniel who were spared death while cast into a certain furnace. The cost they paid was a deliberate, purposeful seeking of God in their heart, coupled with prayer and fasting. Going back to Joshua the priest, his life was pleasing to God. What happened after the Lord cited Joshua before Satan as one plucked out of the fire?
Zec 3:3 Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel.
Zec 3:4 And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment.
Joshua was clothed with filthy garments but it is the Lord that commanded the change. He placed new garments upon him and brought him into a new position of authority. Joshua here is a picture of what we are seeing in these chapters of Exodus. He also is a picture of the type of priest that will emerge in these last days. We may feel unworthy, going through battles etc nonetheless we can take heart from Joshua’s example. We cannot presume the putting on of these holy priestly garment seeing that it is God who determines. May the Lord Birth fresh revelation and a greater appreciation of what the priesthood of God represents. May He also grant that we be found worthy to minister in this capacity.
Let’s zero in on a few verses. God makes clear that there is to be no strange fire in the offering of the priest in the holy place (vs 9). We will see a tragedy take place later concerning the offering of strange fire involving two of Aaron’s sons (Lev 10). There will be mixture seen at times in the outer court due to the wide range of people that come into its tent. The offerings however in the holy place are to be sacred and the priests should know what it acceptable and what is not.
In verse 10 we see the Feast of Atonement once again being presented. This was not a joyful feast but rather a solemn occasion when God would deal with the sins of the nation. The high priest would bear the responsibility on behalf of the people by going into the Holy of Holies once a year. It is most holy! We must have that sense of awe and reverence before God. There is a distinction beginning to be seen today just like what we see here in Exodus. We can link verses 22-25 with Psalm 133. David, in the psalms makes mention in how blessed it is when the body of Christ dwell together in true unity. He likens this unity to the anointing oil that flowed down the head of Aaron’s beard, down to his garments. The ingredients for this anointing oil are mentioned in verses 22-25. Here we have the ingredients mentioned that constituted this precious anointing oil. What we come to understand is that it is costly. The message of true unity and the precious holy anointing oil is one of great cost. Let’s quickly examine some of the ingredients:
(Myrrh- Meekness) We mentioned in a previous commentary that meekness is a fruit of the spirit and that it is a garment. “Seek meekness seek righteousness…” (Zeph 2:3). The ability to turn the other cheek and not insisting on our rights are qualities of meekness.
(Cinnamon-Goodness) It is a quality seen in God when he passed by Moses upon Mt. Sinai (Exo 34:6). It has the connotation of being incapable of doing evil. What a beautiful ingredient for this anointing oil.
(Calamus-Gentleness) David, as he was nearing the end of his life, made this statement. “Thy gentleness hath made me great” (2 Sam 22:36, Psa 18:35).
(Cassia-Humility) The Apostle Paul refers to the garment of “humbleness of mind” or humility that can be put on. This is knowing who we really are in Christ. It counters pride and serves as a safeguard against it.
(Olive Oil-Peace) This constituent is essential, the ability to have peace with God and peace with one another. It represents a significant weapon against the enemy (Psa 37:37, Rom 16:20).
This oil was to be used for the anointing of the tabernacle including the Ark, the altar, vessels, furniture as well as Aaron and the priests. We need to meditate on these things and seek the Lord for an appropriation to be realized in our lives. It helps us to understand the sanctity and privilege of the priestly office. May God help us to see our need and seek to be designated, like a Joshua to find favour, stripped of old filthy garments while being adorned with the priestly attire so that we can serve God and serve humanity as true priests of God.
Matthew 21 – Read day 30 commentary