Chapter 22 The Priest

Take thou unto thee Aaron… that he may minister unto Me in the priest’s office (Exodus 28:1).

The Lord has many offices in which He serves His people. All are needed to display the majesty and glory of His Person, and the riches and values of His work on our behalf. Some of these offices are set forth in types of inanimate things, but here He is typified in a living man—Aaron, the high priest of Israel.

This office is demanded because of man’s moral and spiritual collapse and his separation from God. Man’s dire need is for someone to go into God’s presence on his behalf, since he himself dare not go in because of his sinful condition. Aaron, brother to Moses, was chosen of God to be the first high priest of God’s chosen and redeemed people. As such he sets forth a picture of our Lord in His priestly office: “We have a great High Priest, Jesus the Son of God” (Hebrews 4:14).

The first point to note is that Aaron was called of God to this office. No man could grasp at this. It was an office ordained of God and its incumbent was selected by God. “No man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron” (Hebrews 5:4). Thus we read: “So also Christ glorified not Himself to be made an high priest; but He that said unto Him, Thou art My Son, to day have I begotten Thee” (Hebrews 5:5). The Father chose the Son to be the High Priest of His people.

Nor could any take up this office in Israel with any physical defect. It was said to Aaron, “Whosoever he be of thy seed in their generations that hath any blemish, let him not approach to offer the bread of his God” (Leviticus 21:17). This was to set forth the moral impeccability of God’s beloved Son—His utter worthiness to take up such a high and holy office. He is fully worthy.

The function of the high priest was diversified. “Every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins” (Hebrews 5:1). There is a cluster of divine truths wrapped up in that sentence. The high priest was to be taken from “among men.” Thus it was necessary for the Son of God to assume our human nature and thereby to have sympathy and understanding of our position, and to deal gently with those who are ignorant about divine things.

Again, there had to be a suitable and acceptable offering for sin. So the Lord came forth to die that He might save; to bleed that He might make atonement for sin; to lay down His life that sin might be destroyed and guilt taken away. The Lord is thus the Altar with omnipotent strength to bear the mighty load of man’s transgressions. He also is the Lamb of sacrifice to offer His own precious and efficacious blood. He also is the High Priest to carry that blood into God’s presence, and to appear before God’s face as our effectual High Priest.

The most solemn day in Israel’s history was the day of atonement, when the high priest passed within the vail and stood before the mercy seat. The blood he brought in with which to sprinkle the mercy seat was proof of sacrifice enacted and completed. So we see Jesus: “By His own blood He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us” (Hebrews 9:12). His soul-redeeming blood has an eloquence which prevails. It represents a full price paid out for all the ransomed race. Each demand of law is answered by that blood. Each due punishment has been absorbed by it.

The high priest also carried a censer into the holy place from which a cloud of incense covered the mercy seat (Leviticus 16:12-13) Thus the Lord fills the heavens with the fragrance of His life and sacrifice. It is a sweet-smelling savor, which satisfies every attribute of the divine character, and therefore none can “lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect” (Romans 8:33).

Yet another function of the high priest was to dispense blessing. “On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel” (Numbers 6:23). His hands are laden with blessings. We see our Lord pouring out spiritual blessings of peace and pardon, reconciliation and adoption, justification, and sanctification, nearness and access, fellowship and communion, and hope of glory.

But there was also much contrast between our Lord and Aaron. The priests of old belonged to our corrupt race. Even Aaron must first enter into the holy place to make atonement for his own sins. In Christ we have a sinless Priest “who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins” (Hebrews 7:27).

The sacrifice offered by Aaron and his sons was part of a fallen creation. The blood was only the blood of beasts, which could never take away sins. It had no saving power. But Jesus entered into the presence of God with His own blood— the blood of God, and therefore fully efficacious to purge sin (Hebrews 9:12).

The priests of old offered often and that through centuries of time. Our Lord presents Himself but once. Sin was dealt with once. He saves, and saves once and forever. Oh, “consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus” (Hebrews 3:1).

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong, a perfect plea;
A great High Priest, whose name is Love,
Who ever lives and pleads for me.

My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart;
I know that while in Heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart.

One with Himself, I cannot die;
My soul is purchased by His blood;
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ, my Saviour and my God.

Charitie Lees Bancroft