Session 18: Priests and Feast Days
Aaron's sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord , contrary to his command. So fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord . Moses then said to Aaron, "This is what the Lord spoke of when he said: "'Among those who approach me I will be proved holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored.'" Aaron remained silent. Leviticus 10:1-3
Key verses: Lev. 10:1-10 (also the theme of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy).
Timeline, about 1250 BC . During the time of the early Israelites, the areas were ruled by Egypt and the Pharaohs, the Iron Age is at its beginning,the Trojan war was on and ancient Babylon falls to the Assyrians.
Key personalities: Moses, Aaron, two million Israelites
This stories and symbolism we will see in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy are based on fact--real stories and real people that give us hope and a sense of the reality and presence of God in our lives and His working in our church. This is meant to inspire us for the development and deployment of our faith and trust so we can be confident in the reliability and steadfastness of our Christian life. The main theme is that God is empowering us, He is the Deliverer and continues to deliver His Children. It is more than just old stories or previews of what is to come; this is real. His presence is a genuine, effectual presence, a hope, and abundance for us now and a fulfillment for a time from now (Rev. 22:1-6)!
Numbers. The name for this book comes to us from the lists and numberings of the people interrelated to the narratives. It tells us the story of the forty years of journey and wonderings in the desert of Sinai and Moab right after the Exodus up to the conquest of the Promise Land and the walls of Jericho. In ancient Hebrew, it was also called Bemidhbar meaning "In the Wilderness." The main theme is the loving, sustaining, delivering and guiding Hand of God, and the presentation of the Covenant and the peoples struggle to keep it. Also, it tells how God prepares His people for entrance into the land.
Deuteronomy. T he name of the fifth and last book of the "Pentateuch" comes from the Greek Septuagint LXX deuteronomion . The word means the "law is repeated." This is basically Moses' final instructions and reminders to a new generation who are about to receive God's promise. What is happening are contract negotiations, as in Covenant renewal, the incredible opportunity God gives them and us to hear the Law of God, His instructions and the application His principles. God demands to be honored and reverenced as HOLY and for his people to be holy, set apart to Him. That His followers must be faithful to observe the conditions to receive His blessings to partake in the Promised Land.
Key Happenings, We are to Honor our LORD God!
The Priesthood role was to instruct the people how we can know God through their mediation and instructions and perform the atoning rituals by sacrifice that point to how we can be redeemed.
In the ancient world, the purpose of any ancient temple and the priesthood was the message of a god(s) to its people, the regulations, and the role of its representatives--the priests. The One True God made it plain that knowing Him and His customs and that He is Holy are necessary to make atonement for one's sins. These regulations had to be performed for a Holy God in order to receive forgiveness and to point to the sufficient work and power of Christ to fulfill them all once and for all. Christ did not have to keep going to the altar to die; He is sufficient.
God makes us justified and consecrated, as in holy, and set aside from sin so we can come before Him. This is a foreshadow to what Christ will do for them and what He did for Christians, giving us redemption and the forgiveness of sin to which we responded to justification by faith alone, results in our inner transformation and qualifies us to know and worship God. Before, the pollution of sin kept us separated from God.
The book of Hebrews, explains what all this meant, the priests, the sacrifices, the Tabernacle and then Tempe, all points to our need or redemption, God Holiness and how sacrifices must cover our sin to be accepted--all pointing to Christ who presides as our High Priest. He is our Advocate, mediating on our behalf by being the Temple, the Priest, and the Sacrifice; He shed His own blood for our salvation and eternal hope and rest. He became the perfect temple of God and the atoning cover offering as the prime sacrifice for our sins, securing our eternal deliverance (Heb. 9:11-28).
Propitiation or "propitiatory sacrifice" simply means that God takes our place, that He lived the perfect life in our behalf to fulfill the Law (Ex. 12:3; Isa. 53:7; John 1:29; 1 Cor. 5:7; Col. 1:19-23; Heb. 7:11-28; 9:12-14,26; 10:2, 10).
Now, Faith is the instrument and not the cause; Christ is the cause. Justification is by grace alone! It is grounded in the obedience of Christ who fulfilled the requirements for us. Now, our Righteousness comes by faith in Christ!
The priestly role only dealt with one's appearances and presentations. The people are instructed on how to address and come before God, as well as how to deal with sin and human relationships. These new ways of worship were not so much new as they were expansions of what was already being done, cementing its urgency and importance. The new ways included a specific day, a unified way and place of doing a worship service, a Day of Atonement; and three feast days and rituals that formed the worship services and festivals.
Why were Aaron's sons Nadab and Abihu judged so harshly? This is about the call by God to Aaron and his sons to be priests and mediators for Him; they were to represent, be holy and responsible, and they knew better. Nadab and Abihu showed extreme disrespect and disobedience in the Face of God. They had challenged God. We have no right to challenge God (Ex. 28:1; Lev. 10:3; 11:45; Num 16:1-17:10; Heb. 5:1-10; 7:11-28).
Worship God's Holiness . The Mosaic Law, during and after the Exodus, is the primary model of worshiping God and is due to a response to His provision and Grace. God laid out specific formulas on how He was to be worshiped; this is what the books, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, are all about.
Worship was and is a means to honor God, glorify Him, and His good works, gifts, greatness, graciousness, mercy, judgment, power, instruction, and knowledge. The worship pointed to the coming of the Messiah Christand what He would do. The main difference is the Christian worship today lifts up Christ, and what He has done, whereas the Jewish services of worship looked toward the coming of the Messiah--Christ. Thus, praise and thanksgiving were primary aspects indoingChurch.
The major, striking similarities we have today with the Mosaic traditions are that the priests led the service as a large unified assembly. EvenSunday Schoolfinds its roots back then, as further instructions and teachings were carried out by the Levites (then, the Rabbis, during the captivity, in Jesus' time, and continued today) to the various tribes, clans, and families. Levites were assigned as teachers to family units who were to care and provide for them, while the Levite taught the Law.
The book of Psalms was and is the collected hymnal of the Jewish church service. Some of the Psalms date back to the Patriarchs, while others arenew,written during the time of David and Solomon. They even included music notes for the worship leader. That is what the term,Selah, is!
The Sabbath is the seventh day of rest and worship.The Sabbath was instituted at creation.This started on Friday evening and went all day Saturday. This was done at the Tabernacle (tent of the Ark) before the Temple of Solomon was built, and then in the temple of Solomon centuries later.As the people settled in the land there were also synagogues in every town, after the conquest, where the Levites led the services (Gen. 1:1-2:3; Ex. 16:21-30; 20:8-11; 31:12-17; 34:21; 35:1-3; Lev. 19:3; 30; 23:3f; 58:13-14; Num. 15:32-36; Duet. 5:12-15; Isa. 58; 13-14; Luke 2:41-50).
The Christian church today as a whole recognizes Sunday as the Sabbath and the day todo church because it is the day Jesus rose from the dead (the exception is the Seventh Day Adventists, the Seventh Day Baptists and some Christian Messianic groups such as Jews for Jesus). But, Scripture is clear that day now is irrelevant, pointing out that every day is a day to honor God and worship Him (Matt. 12:1-12; Rom. 12:1; Col. 2:16-23; Heb. 4:8-11).
Annual Feasts . Three were held each year to honor God and His provisions, including the Passover. These were also known as the pilgrimage festivals, because people would travel by family and clan units, sometimes very far, by foot. The people gathered to offer sacrifices and praise God for the bounty they received from Him. It was a time of great joy, as well as humbleness in the knowledge that God, as the great provider, made them the recipients of His grace and mercy. It was also a time when they celebrated their deliverance. It pointed to how God reconciles Himself to humanity, ultimately, in the final recompense and reconciler to come, Christ (Ex. 23:14-17; 34:23; Duet. 16:16.).
The Passover, otherwise calledThe Feast of Unleavened Bread,is celebrated because of God's mercy in sparing them when the Angel of death took out the entire first born of Egypt, humans as well as animals, while hepassed overthe obedient Hebrews. This was and is the biggest 'holiday' and festival, as it celebrated God's saving mercy shown through the exodus from oppression into the promise land. This was and still is celebrated the fourteenth day of the first month of the Jewish calendar,the month ofNisan(March/April) (Ex. 12; Lev. 23:5-8; Num. 28:16-25; Duet. 16:1-8).
The Feast of Weeks , also calledFirst Fruits, Harvests,andPentecost, this was celebrated on the sixth day of the month ofSivan(May/June). The priest would offer up to the Lord by waving two loaves of leavened bread (made with yeast, versus unleavened made without yeast, for Passover), made from ripe grain that had just been harvested. The characteristic ritual of this feast wascelebrated at the end of the grain harvest as thanks for the food, and was held (not celebrated much since, and perhaps before the time of Christ, but some orthodox groups still celebrate today) fifty days after the Passover.The termPentecost, meansfiftieth, because there was an interval of fifty days between Pentecost and Passover. And it was on this feast day God chose to send His Spirit in permanence as recorded in Acts (Acts 2) (Ex. 23:16; 34:22; Lev. 23:15-22; Num. 28:26-31; Duet. 16:9-12).
The Feast of Tabernacles, orBooths, or Ingathering,was celebrating how God led them through the desert for forty years, providing for them as He continues to do today.This was held in the seventh month ofTishri(Sept./Oct.), which celebrated the end of the agricultural yearthat began five days after the Day of Atonementand lasted seven days. It marked the end of the harvest, and also commemorated the Jews' forty-year wanderings in the desert.
During this festival, the Jews built and lived in booths or tents near the Temple/Tent Meeting in Jerusalem as a reminder of their ancestors, who wandered and lived in booths (The word, Hebrewsmeantwanderer). The sacrifices of this feast were usually more numerous than at any other festive day, since they had more with which to celebrate. It corresponds to New Year's Day, and was celebrated from morning to evening while various types of horns and trumpets were blown.(Lev. 23:34-43; Num. 29:12-38; Duet. 16:13-15).
The day of Atonement was the acknowledgement of sin,today calledYom Kippur.It was not a feast, but rather a fast, as the distinctive purpose of the this day was to bring the collective sins of the people for the whole preceding year to remembrance and confession before the people, so that it might earnestly be dealt with and then atoned for. Once a year, the high priest would have the tribes gather on the tenth of the seventh month ofTishri, the tenth day (Sept.), where the high priest sacrificed an animal-- usually a red bull--and then spread the blood over the innermost part of the Tabernacle/Temple. The highpriest then made the confession of all the sins of the Twelve Tribes, and entered, on their behalf, into the Most Holy Place with the blood of reconciliation.
The scapegoat,as it was called,was let loose to atone for the sins of the people. This was the only time the priest would venture into the inner part of the sanctuary where the Ark was kept.Then he placed his hands on a live goat to absorb all of the sins of the people (Lev. 16; 23: 26-32).
Why all this? To know and worship God. God is a holy and jealous God, thus we are to honor and worship only Him. God demands that we remove all of the false and corrupt manners of worship.He has forbidden us to worship anyone or anything besides Him! Therefore, nothing should get in the way of our heartfelt devotion to Him, and His Lordship in our lives. We are to know and live that He is Lord and ruler of our hearts and mind--not things, careers, friends, pride, agendas.
Now we are under the New Covenant.
The Old Covenant was ritual and compulsion; its regulations were meant to point to God's holiness. However, it had one major fallacy: it did not call to the heart of humanity. Hearts could not be changed; there was no gratitude, only obligation and duty. The priests and system only dealt with the external-the surface that constantly needed purification, coming from unwilling people bringing their unwilling animals.
The contrast is Jesus, the willing sacrifice, became our redemption. He laid His own life down on our behalf. The Great Purifier dealt with our inward consciences, minds, and hearts. Christ compels us to be grateful and wondrous to His Person and work, so we will have love and a genuine response of the heart that builds. We are drawn in our hearts to His because He is the Better Sacrifice! Trust Him! Allow Jesus to draw you deeper into His recesses of Fruit and Love so it flows in you and from you (John 10:14-18; Gal. 5).
For the Christian, Jesus' shed blood purifies us forever by washing our sins away from God's view and presence that makes it possible for us to be forgiven and saved from God's wrath for our sins. (Animal sacrifice only made temporary covering.) Prior to this, the only way to remove our sins from God's sight was an animal sacrifice, where our furry friends once stood in for our Lord as a sacrifice; now, the true Sacrifice of our true Friend has come. He is real and here for us now, and we are cleansed by His deed and love. Even though this is prime salvation-message material, the image of this in secular society is more prevalent than ever.
Key Takeaway: The sum total of the Levitical system instituted by God for redemption and prepared for the Christ, our Ultimate Redeemer. This is what the priests did as mediators for atonement; now Christ is our Mediator. The basic point of the last few chapters was that the old system did not work well as it could not permanently remove sin; it only pointed to our need for the once-and-for-all sacrifice that Jesus Christ gives us (Psalm 110:1-4; Heb. 2:2; 8:8; 12:18-25).
The foreshadow of Jesus Christ? Jesus became "The Sacrificial Lamb," the only effective and ultimate sacrifice; He takes away the sins of the world. The blood of Jesus was spilt as a sacrifice in our place so that we could have the necessary redemption to be saved! Jesus therefore, through the blood, we receive grace-salvation and eternal life. Thus, we are covered by His atonement that makes it possible for our redemption, only through Christ's blood and suffering, which was the sacrifice for our reconciliation, to bind us in good relationship back to our Creator and Lord!
The Blood of Jesus rescues us from God's wrath and saves us, because His blood is spilt from His sacrificial death, and following resurrection, appeased the wrath of God for us. Because He did this, we can receive salvation, because we have eternal life, as well as the joy and honor of receiving forgiveness for our sins. God was more merciful with us than we could ever be with anyone else, or could ever deserve. No matter what we go through from persecution or loss, we could never even catch a glimpse of what Christ has given to us through grace (Lev. 17:11; Isa. 1:18; 53:6; Matt. 5: 3-12; Luke 22:20; Rom. 3:23-25; 8:1; 5:9; I Cor. 5:7; Eph. 1:7; Col.1:20; 1 Thess. 1:10; Heb. 7:27; 9:14, 22; 10:19-25; I John 1:7; 2:2; Rev. 1:5-6; 13:8; 22:14).
Questions to Ponder
1. How do the first five Books of the Bible help you to know and worship God?
2. What have you learned from Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy thus far? Any surprises?
3. Why do you think the drama of Redemption was so harsh for all, for God and for humanity? What could have it make it easier (not to sin)?
4. How would you explain humanities obscenity of rebellion to a non believer? How can you contrast that to our loving Hand of God is drawing and leading us?
5. What do you think of the Priesthood? What are the similarities today in churches of worship?
6. What do you think of the Feast Days? What are the similarities today in churches of worship?
7. How can the call to honor God in these ceremonies help motivate you to celebrate your life in Christ in community?
8. When you read Scripture, how does it make you feel and empowered that this is all based on fact, real stories and real people?
9. How has the Bible, so far, given you hope and a sense of the reality and presence of God in your life?
10. God is a holy and jealous God, so how can we be better as a Church to honor and worship only Him? How can we better remove all of the false and corrupt manners of worship?
11. What do you need to be more inspired us for the development and then the deployment of our faith?
12. What gets in the way of your trust confidence of God? Why is this important in the reliability and steadfastness of our Christian life?
© 2013 R. J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Into Thy Word Ministries www.intothyword.org