Notes on the Tabernacle: The Consecration of Priests and Pictures

Exodus 29:10  •  18 min. read  •  grade level: 8
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Jehovah now instructs Moses concerning the consecration of the priests (Exod. 29:1-351And this is the thing that thou shalt do unto them to hallow them, to minister unto me in the priest's office: Take one young bullock, and two rams without blemish, 2And unleavened bread, and cakes unleavened tempered with oil, and wafers unleavened anointed with oil: of wheaten flour shalt thou make them. 3And thou shalt put them into one basket, and bring them in the basket, with the bullock and the two rams. 4And Aaron and his sons thou shalt bring unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and shalt wash them with water. 5And thou shalt take the garments, and put upon Aaron the coat, and the robe of the ephod, and the ephod, and the breastplate, and gird him with the curious girdle of the ephod: 6And thou shalt put the mitre upon his head, and put the holy crown upon the mitre. 7Then shalt thou take the anointing oil, and pour it upon his head, and anoint him. 8And thou shalt bring his sons, and put coats upon them. 9And thou shalt gird them with girdles, Aaron and his sons, and put the bonnets on them: and the priest's office shall be theirs for a perpetual statute: and thou shalt consecrate Aaron and his sons. 10And thou shalt cause a bullock to be brought before the tabernacle of the congregation: and Aaron and his sons shall put their hands upon the head of the bullock. 11And thou shalt kill the bullock before the Lord, by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. 12And thou shalt take of the blood of the bullock, and put it upon the horns of the altar with thy finger, and pour all the blood beside the bottom of the altar. 13And thou shalt take all the fat that covereth the inwards, and the caul that is above the liver, and the two kidneys, and the fat that is upon them, and burn them upon the altar. 14But the flesh of the bullock, and his skin, and his dung, shalt thou burn with fire without the camp: it is a sin offering. 15Thou shalt also take one ram; and Aaron and his sons shall put their hands upon the head of the ram. 16And thou shalt slay the ram, and thou shalt take his blood, and sprinkle it round about upon the altar. 17And thou shalt cut the ram in pieces, and wash the inwards of him, and his legs, and put them unto his pieces, and unto his head. 18And thou shalt burn the whole ram upon the altar: it is a burnt offering unto the Lord: it is a sweet savor, an offering made by fire unto the Lord. 19And thou shalt take the other ram; and Aaron and his sons shall put their hands upon the head of the ram. 20Then shalt thou kill the ram, and take of his blood, and put it upon the tip of the right ear of Aaron, and upon the tip of the right ear of his sons, and upon the thumb of their right hand, and upon the great toe of their right foot, and sprinkle the blood upon the altar round about. 21And 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. 22Also thou shalt take of the ram the fat and the rump, and the fat that covereth the inwards, and the caul above the liver, and the two kidneys, and the fat that is upon them, and the right shoulder; for it is a ram of consecration: 23And one loaf of bread, and one cake of oiled bread, and one wafer out of the basket of the unleavened bread that is before the Lord: 24And thou shalt put all in the hands of Aaron, and in the hands of his sons; and shalt wave them for a wave offering before the Lord. 25And thou shalt receive them of their hands, and burn them upon the altar for a burnt offering, for a sweet savor before the Lord: it is an offering made by fire unto the Lord. 26And thou shalt take the breast of the ram of Aaron's consecration, and wave it for a wave offering before the Lord: and it shall be thy part. 27And thou shalt sanctify the breast of the wave offering, and the shoulder of the heave offering, which is waved, and which is heaved up, of the ram of the consecration, even of that which is for Aaron, and of that which is for his sons: 28And it shall be Aaron's and his sons' by a statute for ever from the children of Israel: for it is an heave offering: and it shall be an heave offering from the children of Israel of the sacrifice of their peace offerings, even their heave offering unto the Lord. 29And the holy garments of Aaron shall be his sons' after him, to be anointed therein, and to be consecrated in them. 30And that son that is priest in his stead shall put them on seven days, when he cometh into the tabernacle of the congregation to minister in the holy place. 31And thou shalt take the ram of the consecration, and seethe his flesh in the holy place. 32And Aaron and his sons shall eat the flesh of the ram, and the bread that is in the basket, by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. 33And they shall eat those things wherewith the atonement was made, to consecrate and to sanctify them: but a stranger shall not eat thereof, because they are holy. 34And if ought of the flesh of the consecrations, or of the bread, remain unto the morning, then thou shalt burn the remainder with fire: it shall not be eaten, because it is holy. 35And thus shalt thou do unto Aaron, and to his sons, according to all things which I have commanded thee: seven days shalt thou consecrate them. (Exodus 29:1‑35)). The first step was their being washed with water at the door of the tabernacle. Water cleanses from physical defilement; in Scripture it is used as a symbol of God's Word which cleanses from moral defilement. "Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to Thy word." Psalm 119:99BETH. Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. (Psalm 119:9). "Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you." John 15:33Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. (John 15:3). These and other scriptures show the cleansing power of God's Word as applied to the walk of the Christian. In this case, however, the washing would speak rather of the bath of regeneration or the new birth. The washing by blood cleanses from guilt. Washed from our sins in His blood (Rev. 1:55And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, (Revelation 1:5)). The moral cleansing is by the Word, which we have here—"shalt wash them with water." But the washing was entire—the whole body. A different word is used for the washing of the hands and feet at the laver. The same two words are used in John 13:1010Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all. (John 13:10), and are kept distinct. The one who has come to Jesus has had the bath—been morally cleansed—but in his daily path he contracts defilements, and needs his feet washed often; in other words, he needs the constant intercession of Christ.
Aaron is found here in association with his sons (v. 4), which we will remember gives us a type of the Church, or the priestly family. But none can become priests ("hath made us kings and priests") until they are born again. God does not accept service from any until they have had the bath of regeneration. Priests cannot be made so by man, but it is the office of all true believers to offer up spiritual sacrifices to God (1 Pet. 2:55Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:5)). After the bath, Aaron is separated from his sons, and clothed in the garments for "glory and beauty," becoming thus again as high priest, a type of Christ. He was then anointed with oil, which is a type of the Holy Ghost. His sons were not anointed until later. Christ was anointed while on earth—His disciples, after He had gone on high and sent down the Holy Ghost. Christ was anointed on the ground of His absolute holiness; His people are anointed on the ground of the cleansing before God by His precious blood. This comes out clearly in the types before us; The sons are sprinkled with blood before being anointed; Aaron is anointed when clothed. Christ was anointed when ready to enter upon His public ministry. Later, Aaron is sprinkled with blood, but in association with his sons, in which case he is seen, not as the high priest, but as a member of the priestly family and, as such, having need of the blood.
After being washed, the sons are also robed, but in garments differing from those that pertained to the high priest. This robing, as applied typically to all believers, is the putting on of Christ. Christ should be seen in the walk, the ways, and the service of believers.
The next thing is the offerings through which the priests were consecrated, without which they could not go into God's presence to serve Him. The sin offering came first (vv. 10-14.) Christ as the sin-bearer is brought before us in this offering. Aaron and his sons were to lay their hands upon the head of the bullock which had been provided for this purpose. In this act their sins were, in type, transferred to the animal. The victim, thus identified, or laden with their sins, must be slain before the Lord: "The wages of sin is death." The stroke of justice thus fell upon the appointed victim, and the guilty were allowed to go free. "For Christ also bath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God." 1 Pet. 3:1818For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: (1 Peter 3:18). In what was done to the sin offering we get a glimpse of the exceeding hatefulness of sin to God. In its fullness it is told out in what was done to His beloved Son on the cross. Aaron and his sons who stood and watched in that solemn moment when the victim was bound, their sins confessed on its head, and then the victim slain, must have entered in some measure into God's hatred of sin. "The life... is in the blood," and, "Without shedding of blood is no remission." A portion of the blood of the victim was put upon the horns of the altar; the rest was poured out at the bottom of the altar. It is through the yielded life that reconciliation is brought about; the blood was shed. Sinners are "justified by His blood," and "reconciled to God by the death of His Son" (Rom. 5:9, 109Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. 10For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. (Romans 5:9‑10)).
We have already considered, in connection with the brazen altar, the burning of the fat, God's portion, on the altar, and the burning of the body of the victim outside the camp. This is a type of the Lord Jesus bearing the wrath of God on account of sin, consumed like the victim outside the camp; and yet in that death there was that which was a sweet odor to God. As to the laying on of hands, we give an extract containing some beautiful thoughts from a certain writer. He says, "What, then, is the doctrine set forth in the laying on of hands? It is this: Christ was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Cor. 5). He took our position with all its consequences, in order that we might get His position with all its consequences. He was treated as sin upon the cross, that we might be treated as righteousness in the presence of infinite holiness. He had to endure the hiding of God's countenance, that we might bask in the light of that countenance He had to pass through three hours' darkness, that we might walk in everlasting light. He was forsaken of God, for a time, that we might enjoy His presence forever. All that was due to us as ruined sinners was laid upon Him, in order that all that was due to Him, as the Accomplisher of redemption, might be ours. There was everything against Him when He hung upon the accursed tree, in order that there might be nothing against us. He was identified with us, in the reality of death and judgment, in order that we might be identified with Him in the reality of life and righteousness. He drank the cup of wrath, the cup of trembling, that we might drink the cup of salvation, the cup of infinite favor. He was treated according to our deserts, that we might be treated according to His."
In that fearful hour of sorrow, when the fire of God's judgment fell upon the sinless One "made sin" for us, all nature was convulsed. (Fire is a symbol of God's searching righteous judgment, whether in the acceptance of what was good, or the condemnation of evil. On Matthew Sinai, the sight of God's glory. was like devouring fire [Exod. 24:1717And the sight of the glory of the Lord was like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel. (Exodus 24:17)]. "The LORD thy God is a consuming fire." Deut. 4:2424For the Lord thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God. (Deuteronomy 4:24). When Aaron began his service in the tabernacle, fire came out from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering [Lev. 9:2424And there came a fire out from before the Lord, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces. (Leviticus 9:24)], and thus showed His acceptance of it. The fire brought out only a sweet savor; and God's righteous testing of Christ on the cross, brought out a sweet savor to God. Although forsaken of God, He could say, "But Thou art holy, 0 Thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel." Psalm 22:33But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. (Psalm 22:3). God shall judge and punish the wicked with unquenchable fire. The eternal punishment is described as "the lake of fire.") The rending rocks, the quaking earth, the darkness which added its gloom to the awful scene, all served to emphasize His entire abandonment. Of sympathy there was none; human friends had fled; God had forsaken Him. That hour of horror is an hour that stands alone in the annals of eternity. The issue, which will stand for eternity, is—God glorified, and man saved.
Precious truth for the one who can say, The judgment that I deserved has been borne fully by Jesus in those three hours of darkness. 0 to be able to say, All this for me! (Three is a number which indicates full, or complete, testimony. In the three hours of darkness, testimony was borne to the fact that the judgment of God against sin was exhausted by the One who suffered under it. Three days under the power of death gives complete testimony as to His death. The days were not complete, but, according to Jewish reckoning, they were counted as three days. Not waiting until the hours of the third day had expired, would speak of the fullness of grace in the heart of Him who would announce to His sorrowing ones, the bringing in of full blessing to man.)
What follows is the burnt offering (vv. 15-18). Not only would God have the sins of His people atoned for, and thus blotted out from before Him; He will have that people accepted in His presence. The burnt offering brings this thought blessedly before us. As in the sin offering, the people had to lay their hands on the head of the victim; this laying on of hands in the offerings always speaks of identification, but in these two offerings, the order of identification is reversed. In the sin offering, the victim was identified with the sins of the people; in the burnt offering, the people were identified with the perfection of the unblemished animal, and it was accepted for them.
The burnt offering is the highest sacrifice in Scripture. It is characterized by being "a sweet savor... unto the LORD." All of this offering being burnt upon the altar, and all going up as a sweet savor to God, shows the satisfaction and the delight God took in the blessed One of whom the offering spoke. Another Characteristic of this offering was that the one who offered it brought it "of his own voluntary will" (Lev. 1:33If his offering be a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish: he shall offer it of his own voluntary will at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the Lord. (Leviticus 1:3)). All this brings out the devotedness of the One whose devotion was even unto -death, and His obedience in His willingly offering Himself. When the burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin became an empty form on the part of the people, and God could take no pleasure in them, Jesus offered Himself; His words were, "Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God" (Heb. 10:7-97Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God. 8Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; 9Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. (Hebrews 10:7‑9)). The old order must give way to the one perfect offering. His will was ever yielded to the will of God. In the agony of Gethsemane, when facing the unmingled sorrow of the cup He would needs drink, His words were, "Not My will, but Thine, be done." In the unparalleled sufferings of the cross, He vindicated God in the expression, "But Thou art holy." Psalm 22:33But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. (Psalm 22:3). Perfection marked this blessed One in all His earthly path, and the cross was the crowning manifestation of it. Although forsaken of God, because bearing the sins of His people in His own body on the tree (1 Pet. 2:2424Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. (1 Peter 2:24)), yet at no other time was the sweet savor to God so precious as in that bitter hour. And in all that sweet savor—in all the value of that perfect offering—those who come to God by Him, are accepted of God.
In the ram of consecration, we get another aspect of the death of Christ (vv. 19-22). This offering bears in general the character of the peace offering in which the priests had their portion (Lev. 3). Happy communion with God on the part of One who partook, and communion with His people, is what is represented here. All believers, as priests in association with Christ, are figured in this offering. Being priests, they should be consecrated to God, even as Christ who swerved not, nor turned aside in His devotedness. He came to glorify God, and He came to save sinners; and with death before Him, "He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem."
Aaron and his sons laid their hands upon this ram of consecration, identifying themselves thus with it, as with the other victims that had been slain. Its blood was put upon the tip of the right ear, the thumb of the right hand, and the great toe of the right foot of each of them. This ceremony should have a voice for all who have been made priests unto God. Set apart by the blood of the One who has been slain for them, their responsibility is to live in devotedness to Him. Special significance attaches to the blood having been put upon ear, hand, and foot. The ear that is consecrated to God through the death of Christ will listen to His voice. "The perfect Servant of Jehovah was blind and deaf—blind to all fascinations of the world, and deaf to every suggestion of Satan." The theme of some who talk of their consecration is giving up this and giving up that for the Lord, when, unlike the "perfect Servant," they know little of what God says to them in His Word. The truly consecrated ear will seek to hear what God has to say, and to be closed to all else. Then Christ will be the theme, not what has been given up, or what high advancement has been made. The more there is of true consecration, the fuller place Christ will have in the life, and the less of self there will be manifested.
Blood upon the ear is first, then blood upon the hand. Where one has listened to the Word of God and is obedient to it, he is ready for service, and the hand is brought into use. The right hand speaks of power and of skill (Exod. 15:6, 126Thy right hand, O Lord, is become glorious in power: thy right hand, O Lord, hath dashed in pieces the enemy. (Exodus 15:6)
12Thou stretchedst out thy right hand, the earth swallowed them. (Exodus 15:12)
; Psalm 37:55Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. (Psalm 37:5)). The blood on the right hand of the priests fitted them for service in the handling of the sacrifices; the Christian should be found serving God in the strength and with the skill given to him; all he does should be done to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:3131Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)). And his first aim should be to seek "the kingdom of God and His righteousness." What before may have been done for one's own pleasure, should now be done to please the Lord.
Blood put upon the foot speaks of the consecrated and separated walk. The foot that once trod the paths of unrighteousness, and was found in the way of sinners, should now, when set apart to God, be found in the path of the righteous, and should be "beautiful" as the bearer of "glad tidings." Light, not the stumbling of the darkness, should characterize the path. "The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day." Pro. 4:1818But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day. (Proverbs 4:18). The believer, thus set apart to God, is not free to go his own way, or to do his own will. "Ye are not your own, for ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body." 1 Cor. 6:19, 2019What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? 20For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's. (1 Corinthians 6:19‑20).
After the blood had been put thus upon the bodies of the priests, their garments were sprinkled with blood and with oil, the oil being a type of the Holy Ghost. They were in this way "hallowed," or set apart to God. Notice that the oil follows the blood; it is not until one knows that he is "justified by His blood" (Rom. 5:99Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. (Romans 5:9)), and his sins are therefore forgiven (Eph. 1:7), that he is sealed with the Holy Ghost. "In whom also, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise." Eph. 1:1313In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, (Ephesians 1:13).
After this, certain parts of the ram, and "one loaf of bread, and one cake of oiled bread, and one wafer out of the basket of the unleavened bread that is before the LORD" are all put into the hands of Aaron and his sons to wave them before the Lord (vv. 22, 23). All this is exceedingly blessed when seen fulfilled in Christ. The ram speaks of Christ in His death; the loaves, of Christ in His spotless life, lived in the power of God's Spirit. And note carefully, please, that this was what was filling the hands of the priests; now note that consecrate in the 9th verse of our chapter, is in the margin, to fill the hands, which is the true meaning of the word. And, mark it well, true consecration to God is being filled with Christ. Then, and then alone, have we that to give to God, which is acceptable to Him.
When these things (parts of the ram, and the bread) are given back to Moses, they are burnt upon the altar of burnt offering, and go up as a sweet savor to God (v. 25). The natural man sees nothing to desire in Christ—God finds all His joy in Him. In the portions that were left of the ram of consecration, Moses was to have his part, and Aaron and his sons were to have their part. Not only is God's heart satisfied in His blessed Son, but His people also have joy and satisfaction in that perfect One—both in His life and in His death.
After the seething of the flesh in the holy place, and Aaron and his sons feeding upon it (feeding upon Christ must be connected with the altar), we have the "continual burnt offering," so called because of its being offered daily, morning and evening, throughout their generation. The fire that was kindled of God upon the altar was never to go out. The continual ascending of this sweet savor offering speaks blessedly of what Christ is continually to God, and that for His own people. With the lamb offered twice daily, there was the "tenth deal of flour mingled with the fourth part of a hin of beaten oil; and the fourth part of a hin of wine for a drink offering" (v. 40). In this we get the meat (or meal) offering, and the drink offering. The one gives Christ in His perfect life, the oil mingled with the flour shadowing forth the truth that "Christ as to His humanity was begotten of the Holy Ghost"; the other is a symbol of joy (see Judg. 9:1313And the vine said unto them, Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees? (Judges 9:13)), and would tell of the joy the believer has in communion with God in all the perfection of His Son. How wonderful that God should have His creatures, who are saved by His grace, share with Him in His joy, having fellowship with Him in His one object of delight.
The next point is the meeting place. The people were not permitted to go nearer than the gate of the tabernacle, while Moses, through grace, was allowed to go into God's presence before the mercy seat. This is now the believer's place through the finished work of Christ. All God's claims against the sinner having been fully met, and God having rent the veil from top to bottom, the one, made clean, can enter His presence without fear. Thus God could meet His people (v. 43).
The tabernacle and the priesthood were sanctified, or set apart, in the value of the sacrifice, and by the glory of God (vv. 43, 44). In that place alone, of all the earth, was God's glory manifested. Now, God's glory shines in the face of Jesus Christ; and God shines into the hearts of those who believe, to dispel the darkness with which the god of this world blinds, and to give the light of the knowledge of this glory (2 Cor. 4:4-64In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. 5For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake. 6For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:4‑6)). When Jesus comes to reign, the whole earth will be filled with His glory.
In starting out, we noticed God's purpose and desire to dwell with man. Now that everything has been arranged, and people and sanctuary have been set apart to God, we get the word, "I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will be their God." How far all this is from the heart of man by nature! He does not want God. He takes without thankful heart all that God gives him and, like the prodigal son, goes off to enjoy it without the thought of God. "But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us," gently draws man to Himself; and, in the deep love of His heart, not willing to wait until He has His ransomed ones home with Him in the glory, comes down now and makes His abode with those who love Him and who keep His words (John 14:2323Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. (John 14:23)). "His kindness toward us, through Christ Jesus," will manifest "the exceeding riches of His grace" in the ages to come (Eph. 2:77That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:7))