Exodus Day Twelve
July 16, 2020, 5:00 AM

A Priesthood

“Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak well.
Behold, he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart.
You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth,
and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth and will teach you both what to do.
He shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth,
and you shall be as God to him.” (4:14-16)

Moses said, “I don’t speak pretty.” “I’m slow of speech and tongue.” “Not up to the job.” Even as God reminds him who created the mouth, and the tongue, and the ability to use those two organs, Moses still balks. Despite the obstinacy, God condescends to the weakness of Moses. Actually, this is what God does on a larger scale— deigns to the weakness of humanity. He provides a way to provide for his people. We needn’t be too hard on Moses. Looking back to the encounter at the burning bush, having someone else to speak between the holiness of God and weak, fallen, hard-hearted human flesh, is quite needful.

When Moses realized his sandals were treading sacred turf, he immediately “hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.” (3:6). In the Old Testament, coming into the presence God, the response is usually a combination of dread and resistance. Later at Sinai, when the people finally come close to God’s Sinai Presence, they “saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking[!] The people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, ‘You speak to us [emphasis mine], and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.’” (20:18-19). Sample the prophet’s encounters— Isaiah, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isa. 6:5). Jeremiah, “Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” (Jer. 1:6). Ezekiel says this, “Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell on my face.” (Ezek. 1:28).

Pretty awesome, yes? Perhaps Moses was onto something that was necessary for the peace and well-being of humanity when he made his request! Appearing before God in his holiness would overload the circuits. So, Aaron is chosen and equipped to be the spokesman for God (and Moses), and we witness the origins of the priesthood. The priests will stand before God, for the people. They will bring the offerings. They will seek God’s face. They will intercede. They will show the people how to live before holy God. They will be his mouthpiece.

The Aaronic priesthood, the priestly line reserved for Aaron and his sons in perpetuity, will minister daily before the Glory of God. Representing the people. The High Priest, and the High Priest only, will come directly before God in the Holy of Holies, one day a year, on the Day of Atonement, to make sacrifice for himself, and the people. A very dangerous calling, as they would tie a rope to his ankle and put bells in the hem of the priest’s robe so that they could hear that he was still alive within the holy place. If the bells stopped jingling, they could pull the dead body out of the Holy of Holies without profaning the place with their rescue.

We have already spoken in earlier blog entries of Moses as a foretaste of Jesus— so too, Aaron and his priesthood, the same. The book of Hebrews waxes eloquently on the way Jesus is a fulfillment of (and surpasses) the Aaronic priesthood in every way, bringing a priesthood like the mysterious Melchizedek.

A lengthy passage from Hebrews, but elucidating this fulfillment so well: “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’; as he says also in another place, ‘You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.’” (Heb. 4:14-5:6).

Jesus is the go between for sinful, fallen, fearful humanity and a holy God. Jesus speaks eloquently for us. Jesus takes our place as the loyal, obedient Son that Adam was not. Looking back on the reluctance of Moses to speak, and God’s appointing of Aaron to priest for us, we can see God digging the ground floor for a greater High Priest.

As Paul might say here, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Rom. 11:33). Amen.

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