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Personal Requirements of the Priests
Chapter 17 Leviticus Chapters 21 & 22
Symbolic of conditions to productivity in the Gospel ministry . . . Why the priest had to be physically perfect . . . Why purely mated . . . Why his children should be pure . . . Why he was required to be holy . . . The moral character of the LORD Jesus . . . Why the priest was not to give way to grief at the death of relatives . . . Christ's greatest sympathies not carnal but spiritual.
In the Chapters last considered, we saw the laws for holy living, as applying to the people in general. We now shall see a list of matching requirements relating specifically to the priests.
God holds ALL public officers to a much higher responsibility. He watches closely on all who are in authority, and in particular those who are called to minister at His altars. When He puts men in office, and entrusts them be in management over their fellow-men, He lays solemn demands on them, and holds them responsible. Office and high station are mighty things. It is by them that the common people are moved and molded. They are the fountains of social influence, springs of public sentiment and hands that move the destiny of society. Because of this, they impose frightening responsibilities upon those who hold them.
The Jewish priest was an exalted officer, and the high-priest held the highest position of any man upon Earth. He was the center of the whole Mosaic system. It was through him that the people came to God, and through him and his work that God sent forth His favors to the people. He was to be the interpreter of the divine will of God to the tribes of Israel, and to bear their offerings of gratitude and penitence to the Most High God. The whole religion of the nation leaned upon him. He was not a king, yet he was more than a king. He was not a prophet, yet he was more than a prophet. He was Priest of the Most High God; and in this respect he occupied an elevation above all others. So noticeable a person he was, and so deeply identified with everything sacred, that he needed to be a man of special excellence, or religion would suffer from the deficiency. Neither could he symbolize Christ without the utmost personal perfection and social purity. God has therefore laid down the most rigid laws upon this person.
The Jewish priest was required to be in all respects a complete man, uniform in all his members, perfect in his humanity, not crooked, not maimed, not diseased. He that had any bodily blemish was not allowed to enter this office, or to touch anything relating to its functions. He also had to be entirely free from any suspicious social associations. Even his wife had to be a specific kind of a woman, and also his daughter. Nothing about him, that could in any way be made a subject of criticism, was allowed. And even then, his office was to rise highest to all social ties and considerations. Under the severest domestic afflictions, he was always to remember that he was a priest, and not permit himself to be unfitted for the priest's duties by giving way to the promptings of grief. God said of all these things: Lev. 21:4 But he shall not defile himself, being a chief man among his people, to profane himself. (KJV)
He had to be blameless, a model man, a consecrated officer, who was to know nothing except his calling.
There is a way, in which these ancient laws suggest what is very important to a proper and successful ministry of the Gospel. Paul's picture of a bishop takes in many of the requirements that rested upon the old priesthood. 1 Tim. 3:2-7 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; 3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; 4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; 5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) 6 Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. (KJV)
Righteousness of life and consistency in private conduct, is a truth which should always be in the minds of those who minister in holy things, and be deeply engraved upon their hearts. This is the most vital element of a preacher's power! His ordination, talents, attainments, eloquence be what they may, without a life agreeing to his teachings, he is only "as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal" (1 Cor.13:1). Actions ALWAYS speak louder than words. What a man is and does, always has more weight than what he says. A person should NOT preach Christ and act antichrist! Giving people good teaching, united with a bad example, is to show them the way to Heaven, while taking them by the hand and leading them to Hell.
An unholy, dishonest preacher, will always be an object of absolute contempt. He will be hissed and reprobated to his grave. And it is right that he should be. God has made it the first business of him who is a leader in holy things, to see to it that he himself has submitted to the Gospel which he asks others to obey. Not only the eyes of unconverted men are upon him, to search and sift him, to amplify his deficiencies, expose his faults, and break his influence; but the all-seeing Eye of God is upon him, and the Hand of a heavenly Master holds him over to the solemn judgment, to act according to what he preaches. Like the high-priest, the pastor is "chief man among his people," and God demands that he should walk according to the Gospel. And if he is inconsistent, dishonest, immoral and faithless, it is right that the condemnation of Heaven and Earth should be upon him. Titus 1:7-9 For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; 8 But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; 9 Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. (KJV)
An unholy life weakens a minister's influence, honesty, faithfulness and reliability. A truly honest and good man will always do right by his people . . . but, there will be those who scorn and condemn his profession, because they always feel rebuked in his presence. There is strength in virtue. It reveals a man and it strikes into the heart and conscience. Virtue is much more powerful than eloquence. Virtue is the most effective armor that man can wear. And when a minister has a pure and spotless life to sustain his profession, he becomes an army in strength. His silence is a sermon, and his words are sharp in the hearts of his enemies. Our Lord Jesus is an Example!
When elements of His character and His wisdom agreed, it gave weight to His teachings, there was nothing more effectual than His immaculate goodness and faithfulness to the truth. The men who were sent to seize Him, when they heard Him, fell back in terror, saying, "Never man spake like this man" (Jn.7:46). The highest authorities of Judea stood in awe of this meek and naive Nazarene. A dedicated preacher is truly wonderful. The stoutest hearts bend before him. He carries an impact which none else have. And if all Christ's ministers were examples of the religion they preach, there is nothing in this world that could withstand them. The powers of Hell would melt like snow before the sun. So, above all else, a minister should be a pattern of his teachings, and live according to the Gospel which he preaches. God says of His priests:
Lev. 21:6 They shall be holy unto their God, and not profane the name of their God: for the offerings of the LORD made by fire, and the bread of their God, they do offer: therefore they shall be holy. (KJV)
2 Sam. 23:3 The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God. (KJV) . . . David’s words from God.
The law prescribes for both the domestic relations and social surroundings of the priest, as well as for his personal perfections. The cause of the Blessed Jesus suffered from unfortunate associations of those who have been solemnly ordained to go forth as the preachers of His Gospel! Satan has put up road blocks and crippled the energies and usefulness of good men by difficulties that he has thrown up around them in life! Many eloquent tongues he has put silent.
Many noble ministry gifts he has reduced of no account! Many wonderful achievements for God and for His Christ, Satan has barred!
Aaron was meant to be a type of Christ Himself. What was required of him most of all was intended to bring into view the qualities, character and office of that Great High-Priest that has passed into the Heavens, and through whose beautiful mediation alone any man can come unto God. In this aspect then let us consider it.
<><><>I. The ancient priest was required to be physically perfect, or else he could not be a fit representative of that perfect humanity that is found in our Saviour. If the priest were "blind," then the people would be led to misapprehend the type; he could not represent Him whose "eyes are as a flame of fire" (Rev.19:12). If the priest were "lame," he could not represent Him whose "legs are as pillars of marble"(Song 5:15). If "mutilated (pierced) in the nose," he could not be the type of Him whose "countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars" (Song 5:15). If he were "broken-handed," he could not be a picture of Him whose "hands are as gold rings set with beryl" (Song 5:14) and of whom it is written, "not a bone of him shall be broken" (Jn.19:36). If "a dwarf," he would not be suitable as a type of Him who is "the chiefest among ten thousand" (Song 5:10). If in his eye were any "blemish," no one could have seen in him the picture of the Beloved whose "eyes are as doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk and fitly set" (Song 5:12). If "diseased in his skin," he could not be a type of Him "who is all fair," having "no spot or wrinkle" (Eph.5:27), and if deficient in any particular of masculine perfection, he could not be the representative of Him whose Church, made like to Himself, is "all glorious" (Eph.5:27). He was therefore required to be without bodily blemish, that Israel might know what sort of a Priest and Messiah to expect. Their eyes were to be directed to Jesus as one "altogether lovely."
<><><>2. The ancient priest was required to be properly and purely mated. As a type of Christ in all other respects, so was he also in his espousals. The Lamb is not alone . . . He has His betrothed Bride . . . His Holy Church. He hath chosen her as a chaste virgin . . . as one whom "the daughters saw and blessed" (Song 6:9). Not a divorced woman . . . not a vile offender . . . not an unclean thing . . . is the Church of Jesus. What saith the glorious Bridegroom concerning his Spouse? Eze.16:8 Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness: yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord GOD, and thou becamest mine. 9 Then washed I thee with water; yea, I throughly washed away thy blood from thee, and I anointed thee with oil. 10 I clothed thee also with broidered work, and shod thee with badgers' skin, and I girded thee about with fine linen, and I covered thee with silk. 11 I decked thee also with ornaments, and I put bracelets upon thy hands, and a chain on thy neck. 12 And I put a jewel on thy forehead, and earrings in thine ears, and a beautiful crown upon thine head. 13 Thus wast thou decked with gold and silver; and thy raiment was of fine linen, and silk, and broidered work; thou didst eat fine flour, and honey, and oil: and thou wast exceeding beautiful, and thou didst prosper into a kingdom. 14 And thy renown went forth among the heathen for thy beauty: for it was perfect through my comeliness, which I had put upon thee, saith the Lord GOD. (KJV)
Christ loved the Church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it.Eph. 5:26-27 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.(KJV) . . . So, the priest's wife had to be pure to symbolize these pure espousals of the Lamb, and the excellencies of that Church which He has chosen for His everlasting Bride.
<><><>3. It was required of the ancient priest that his children should be pure. The transgression of his daughter degraded him from his place. It is one of the demands laid upon Christian pastors to have "faithful children that are not accused of riot, nor unruly" (Tit.1:6). The reason is clear. A minister's family, as well as himself, is made visible because of the office he held. Any misdeeds of any of his family are especially noticed by the world, and ready to be laid to his charge. Any unholiness in his family profanes his name and is so much taken from his power. The Holy Ghost therefore calls upon him to "rule well his own house, having his children in subjection" (1 Tim.3:4,12). But the law was distinctive. It relates to Christ and His Church. It points to the fact, that everything proceeding from His union with His people is good and pure. From the Saviour's marriage with the congregation of believers, proceeds the highest virtue, peace on Earth and fitness for Heaven. From this have come the loveliest graces, the sweetest affections, the noblest impulses, the sunniest enjoyments, the most chaste moral attractions, that have ever appeared in our world. There are no sour grapes of Sodom, no bitter clusters growing on this vine. There are no lures to ruin found within its bosom, but everything which originates there is like the priest's daughter, pure, lovely, of good report and full of praise.
There is often so much in the character and conduct of professing Christian people, which is neither lovely nor commendable. There is so much that pretends to come from loyalty to Jesus, which we can neither approve nor admire. But it is NOT the product of TRUE Christianity. It is the fruit of man's own depravity and irreverence. It has NOT come from Christ. No man can convict the Gospel of fostering or tolerating anything wrong, or rebellious of the peace, good and excellence of society. It is a spring of unmingled blessing. All who partake of its life are necessarily chaste virgins to the LORD.
<><><>4. There are other requirements which were made of the ancient priests, both Chapters 21 & 22, which I will total under the over-all name of holiness. They were not to defile themselves with the dead, or eat improper food, or have contact with the unclean, or have disrespect to the holy things. They were to be very specific about all the laws, and devote themselves to their office as men anointed by God. It all boiled down to . . . they were to be holy; meaning, whole, entire, complete, fully separated from all forbidden things, and fully consecrated to what was commanded. This was necessary for personal and official reasons; but especially for the High-priest as a type of Christ. It was a requirement that looked forward to the character of Jesus, and the beautiful wholeness and consecration that were in Him.
It is extraordinary how much there is in this very particular quality of holiness. Next to the fact of atonement, it is perhaps the most prominent subject in the whole system. It is brought forward in nearly every chapter, and reappears in nearly every provision. The reason is obvious. Nothing in the whole mediatorship of Christ enters so largely into it as His personal holiness. He had to be perfectly pure, to be acceptable to God; and the same excellence was necessary to attract the attention and command the confidence of men. Much is therefore said bearing upon this particular quality. And just as the ancient types foreshadowed, and as the nature of the case demanded, Christ was a Man of superior holiness. All the qualities of goodness and honorable righteousness were combined in Him. The moral importance of His life is one of the most impressive themes. Ages of study and eloquence have not brought to light ALL the truth, good and beauty hidden in that Man of Nazareth. If we consider Him in any aspect of the trying scenes of His life, He still comes before us the same miraculous and wondrous Man, "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, made higher than the heavens" (Heb.7:26). It is my humble opinion that none of us are not moved by the character of Christ, as we should be. We are so familiar with its facts that we pass over it without paying attention as we should, and without fully understanding it.
Something that is before us every day is likely to lose its meaning and attraction. Consider the
glorious Creation of the sun . . . with us each and every day . . . faithfully rising each morning, then setting at the end of the day, with some of the sun-sets absolutely beautiful! We are so used to it, we think so little of it, and are moved more by fire-works than by the blaze of the glowing sun moving through the vast Heavens. We need something to wake us up so that we SEE the beauty and splendor of the world that we live in.
And so it is, with the Character of our beloved Saviour. We have a vague idea of His general goodness, but we really do not understand it. Many are blinded to the truth, as to the Character of Jesus for holiness and awe-inspiring sanctification, but it is there and stands alone upon the records of time. It has NO similarity in nature and NO one to come close to it in history. There is absolutely nothing like the Character of Jesus! His character stands alone! NOTHING in Heaven or the Earth can match it! It is the most beautiful of all the miracles of God, the most wonderful of all His displays to man. All other miracles have been hated, but this CANNOT be hated! Men have despised and desecrated the sanctity of everything else connected to religion; but when they come to the Character of Jesus, they are powerless, their hearts fail and they turn aside in reverent awe of the goodness and majesty which could not be opposed. What sweet, purity is in His manner! What moving grace in His words! What beauty in His parables! What profound wisdom in His sermons! What common sense He has, what truth in His answers! How great is the His love! Where is anyone who can even come close to Him? He stands alone!
There is NOTHING in all the records of unbelief, ancient or modern, Jewish or heathen, to attach the least stain upon Jesus’ spotless life. Those who knew Him best, testify with one voice to His unmatched excellence. Peter said: 1 Pet. 2:22-23 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: 23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: (KJV)
The timid judge in the Roman court who gave Christ up to be crucified solemnly washed his hands before the crowd, saying: Luke 23:4 Then said Pilate to the chief priests and to the people, I find no fault in this man. (KJV)
Judas who betrayed Jesus confessed himself guilty of innocent blood. Mat. 27:4 Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that.(KJV)
The heathen centurion who presided at Jesus’ crucifixion, said: Mark 15:39 And when the centurion, which stood over against him, saw that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God. (KJV)
The Word of Life
1 John 1:1-2 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; 2 (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) (KJV)
“For the life was manifested” . . . the ‘Life’ of which John is speaking is the Word of Life, which is none other than our precious Saviour and LORD, Jesus the Christ. John states ‘we’ have seen it (Jesus, the Word of Life), meaning he and others; and he is bearing witness, as we should also do. John is stating that Jesus IS eternal life. Without Him, there will be NO Heavenly home. NOT everyone will go to Heaven as many false teachers say today! Universalism is a "damnable heresy" (2 Pet.2:1).
You either trust Jesus to save you, or you are doomed to the pits of Hell. You cannot access Heaven, where God is, without Jesus (Jn.14:6; Acts 4:10-12). Jesus came from the Father to save us from God’s wrath, and everlasting punishment. Accept the free ‘gift’ of eternal life (Eph.2:8-9; Ro.6:23).
The truth is, the world has never contained any other example of piety so sincere, of compassion so pure, of love so true, of honesty so unfaltering, of sympathy so tender, of teachings so right, true and faithful, of mercy so superior, of endurance so patient, of power so gracious, of prudence so wise, of devotion so self-sacrificing, of truthfulness so perfect, of wronged innocence so meek, of zeal so free from prejudice, of such massive goodness without one single blemish or stain.
Dear one, those little Gospel events which we are so inclined to to pass over as dull, are really beautiful records for us. They tell us more than can be found in all the histories of the greatest or best of other men. Jesus taking little children in His Arms, is a much more pleasing picture than Alexander's conquest of the world. The Son of God stopping the funeral procession at Nain, or halting to answer the cries of Bartimeus at Jericho, and His tears at the grave of Lazarus is more powerful fact than the discovery of ancient ruins. His one prayer on the cross, "Father, forgive them," is worth more than all the words ever recorded from all the kings, from Nimrod until now. The humble records of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, outweigh the value of all other books that were ever written. If we were to eliminate them, it would rip from the Earth His glorious, inspiring and magnificent history, and rob humanity of the most beautiful displays of majesty and goodness that were ever made in mortal flesh.
Earth has NEVER known any other character so precious or so indispensable as that which is present in the humble Man of Nazareth. Mat. 2:23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene. (KJV) . . . He shall be called a Nazarene . . . "a branch shall grow out of his roots" (Isa.11:1), a prophecy agreed by the Jews to belong to the Messiah, and which was now fulfilled in Jesus, for He was descended from Jesse's family, and so by dwelling at Nazareth, He would be "called a Nazarene" . . . being an inhabitant of Nazareth. Jesus, although in truth was born in Bethlehem (a Bethlehemite), bore the name “Nazarene” because it rightly expressed the utter contempt of those who despised and rejected Him (Jn.1:45-46).
Dear ones, what would we be without Christ? Without His Holy Life? In Him, and Him alone, Earth rises into fellowship with Heaven, and light shines in upon our un-enlightened humanity.
John 1:4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men. (KJV) . . . Only life in Him can ever
receive its true expression and its real description. Only in Him has human existence rose up to its true dignity and proper achievements. Everything belonging to a right use and the right meaning of life, is summed up and set forth in JESUS! "In him was life, and the life (His specific Life) was the light of men." We must learn the secret of life, and that is, without Jesus, our life is darkness!
Jesus must be welcomed as the Head of the race . . . the door between light and darkness . . . the Bond that connects us with God. We need Him. We need His Life. We need Him in all His attributes of goodness and offices of love. These are Jesus’ characteristics: Gal. 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. (KJV)
This is a biography of Christ: Phil. 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. (KJV)
We need Him as the Advocate of God, and we need Him also as the Advocate of man. We need Him to instruct us; but even more we need to know that He will NEVER lead us astray. We need Him as the Great Prophet sent from God; but still more we need Him as our Companion, such as this world could NEVER furnish, to rebuke our sins, to encourage our faith, to alleviate our sorrows, and to pilot us to the haven of everlasting rest.
<><><>5. There is yet one more specific in the requirements concerning the ancient priests, to which I will refer. Lev. 21:10-12 And he that is the high priest among his brethren, upon whose head the anointing oil was poured, and that is consecrated to put on the garments, shall not uncover his head, nor rend his clothes; 11 Neither shall he go in to any dead body, nor defile himself for his father, or for his mother; 12 Neither shall he go out of the sanctuary, nor profane the sanctuary of his God; for the crown of the anointing oil of his God is upon him: I am the LORD. (KJV)
The high-priest was not to allow any natural sympathies to interfere with the pure and proper discharge of the duties of his high office. Some think this is a cold and harsh law thrown around the old priesthood, which has nothing to correspond to it in the Christian system. I don’t see it that way. I think the opposite is true. The high-priest was a great religious officer for the entire Jewish nation. He belonged MORE to the nation, than to his family or himself, so it would have been a heartless thing to allow a little natural domestic sympathy and affection to set aside all the interests of the Hebrew people.
So it was not a coldness on the high-priesthood, for it gave to it a warmth and zeal of devotion, showing a loving outreach of heart upon the spiritual needs of the congregation, greater than the love of father or mother. And it was meant to shadow a precious truth; meaning that Christ, as our High-Priest, concentrated all His highest, warmest and fullest sympathies in His office. He loved father and mother, and was obedient to them; but when it came to the great duties of His ministry, the interests of a perishing world rested on what He did, and He could not stop to satisfy domestic sympathies. He rose above carnal relationships, "he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!" (Mat.12:49). His sympathies are those of the spirit, not of the flesh. His parents may be in great anxiety about Him; but His inspiring response is, "I must be about my Father's business" (Lk.2:49). His mother may try to control His movements; but He declines to obey, saying, "Woman, mine hour is not yet come" (Jn.2:4).
He lessened natural affections, everywhere, to the higher sympathies for a world perishing in sin, for which He gave Himself, dying on the cross for us, and now intercedes in Heaven for us. Much dearer to Him are the souls of men, than the bodies of earthly relatives. He is not without sympathy and the fondest tenderness, but it follows the leadings of a higher, wider, awe-inspiring relationship than that of mere flesh and blood. He has a warm and tender heart; but it is most of all for them that seek to imitate Him, and obey God.
Mat. 12:49-50 And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! 50 For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother. (KJV)
On those who do the will of my Father, was Jesus’ Heart set. To these His affections flow deep and mighty, as the limitlessness of His nature.
Heb. 4:15-16 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. (KJV)
Have you been to His Throne of grace today? What did you tell Him? Or did you just demand something? Demanding will NOT get it done! May I say to you, tell Him that you love Him. Tell Him that you appreciate all the wonderful things He has done for you! Thank Him! Confess your sins to Him! You might as well confess them because He already knows what you have done! Go to Him with humility and sincerity. Go to Him with confidence and freedom, talk to Him as if He were sitting next to you. There is mercy and grace to help in time of need.
Moses clearly brings the GOSPEL in the Book of Leviticus!
He brings us a crystal-clear picture of Jesus!
The Gospel most certainly is in Leviticus.
Is the Gospel in the Book of Leviticus? YES, it is!!!
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