The Levitical Priesthood and our Offering to the Lord

Christians, having lost most of our Jewish heritage through neglect of teaching of the Pentatuch, miss so much of the meaning of the New Testament.  Watching Zacharia in the Christmas play this week, the Lord pointed out a connection that would probably be obvious to people that study God’s law in the Pentatuch, but since I am seldom in the Pentatuch I had not seen it before.

First of all, notice in Leviticus how important was the priest’s preparation, appearance, conduct, and adherence to God’s instructions when they ministered as priests.  It meant life or death to them:

Lev 10:1  Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them.
Lev 10:2  And fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD.
Lev 10:3  Then Moses said to Aaron, “It is what the LORD spoke, saying, ‘By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, And before all the people I will be honored.’” So Aaron, therefore, kept silent.

Lev 10:6  Then Moses said to Aaron and to his sons Eleazar and Ithamar, “Do not uncover your heads nor tear your clothes, so that you will not die and that He will not become wrathful against all the congregation. But your kinsmen, the whole house of Israel, shall bewail the burning which the LORD has brought about.
Lev 10:7  “You shall not even go out from the doorway of the tent of meeting, or you will die; for the LORD’S anointing oil is upon you.” So they did according to the word of Moses.
Lev 10:8  The LORD then spoke to Aaron, saying,
Lev 10:9  “Do not drink wine or strong drink, neither you nor your sons with you, when you come into the tent of meeting, so that you will not die–it is a perpetual statute throughout your generations–
Lev 10:10  and so as to make a distinction between the holy and the profane, and between the unclean and the clean,
Lev 10:11  and so as to teach the sons of Israel all the statutes which the LORD has spoken to them through Moses.”

Exo 28:1  “Then bring near to yourself Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the sons of Israel, to minister as priest to Me–Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron’s sons.
Exo 28:2  “You shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty.
Exo 28:3  “You shall speak to all the skillful persons whom I have endowed with the spirit of wisdom, that they make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him, that he may minister as priest to Me.
Exo 28:4  “These are the garments which they shall make: a breastpiece and an ephod and a robe and a tunic of checkered work, a turban and a sash, and they shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother and his sons, that he may minister as priest to Me.
[Here follows a detailed description of the garment, ending with the hem:]

Exo 28:33  “You shall make on its hem pomegranates of blue and purple and scarlet material, all around on its hem, and bells of gold between them all around:
Exo 28:34  a golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, all around on the hem of the robe.
Exo 28:35  “It shall be on Aaron when he ministers; and its tinkling shall be heard when he enters and leaves the holy place before the LORD, so that he will not die.

Exo 28:36  “You shall also make a plate of pure gold and shall engrave on it, like the engravings of a seal, ‘Holy to the LORD.’
Exo 28:37  “You shall fasten it on a blue cord, and it shall be on the turban; it shall be at the front of the turban.
Exo 28:38  “It shall be on Aaron’s forehead, and Aaron shall take away the iniquity of the holy things which the sons of Israel consecrate, with regard to all their holy gifts; and it shall always be on his forehead, that they may be accepted before the LORD.
Exo 28:39  “You shall weave the tunic of checkered work of fine linen, and shall make a turban of fine linen, and you shall make a sash, the work of a weaver.
Exo 28:40  “For Aaron’s sons you shall make tunics; you shall also make sashes for them, and you shall make caps for them, for glory and for beauty.
Exo 28:41  “You shall put them on Aaron your brother and on his sons with him; and you shall anoint them and ordain them and consecrate them, that they may serve Me as priests.
Exo 28:42  “You shall make for them linen breeches to cover their bare flesh; they shall reach from the loins even to the thighs.
Exo 28:43  “They shall be on Aaron and on his sons when they enter the tent of meeting, or when they approach the altar to minister in the holy place, so that they do not incur guilt and die. It shall be a statute forever to him and to his descendants after him.

1Ch 13:6  David and all Israel went up to Baalah, that is, to Kiriath-jearim, which belongs to Judah, to bring up from there the ark of God, the LORD who is enthroned above the cherubim, where His name is called.
1Ch 13:7  They carried the ark of God on a new cart from the house of Abinadab, and Uzza and Ahio drove the cart. [This is not the correct way to transport the Ark, per Exodus 25:14]
1Ch 13:8  David and all Israel were celebrating before God with all their might, even with songs and with lyres, harps, tambourines, cymbals and with trumpets.
1Ch 13:9  When they came to the threshing floor of Chidon, Uzza put out his hand to hold the ark, because the oxen nearly upset it.
1Ch 13:10  The anger of the LORD burned against Uzza, so He struck him down because he put out his hand to the ark; and he died there before God.

So accountable did the Lord hold the priesthood that they would die if the did not perform their duties purely, uprightly.  Such a high standard God held them to that when Moses disobeyed God’s instruction to “speak to the rock” and Moses struck the rock instead for water to come out, that God banned Moses from entering the promised land.

Come with me now to Acts and the early church.  The newly spirit filled church was ministering boldly in Jerusalem with signs and wonders.  Many sold their property and brought the money to the Apostles as an offering.

Act 5:1  But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property,
Act 5:2  and kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife’s full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles’ feet.
Act 5:3  But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land?
Act 5:4  “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”
Act 5:5  And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came over all who heard of it.
Act 5:6  The young men got up and covered him up, and after carrying him out, they buried him.
Act 5:7  Now there elapsed an interval of about three hours, and his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.
Act 5:8  And Peter responded to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for such and such a price?” And she said, “Yes, that was the price.”
Act 5:9  Then Peter said to her, “Why is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out as well.”
Act 5:10  And immediately she fell at his feet and breathed her last, and the young men came in and found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband.
Act 5:11  And great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard of these things.

Great fear came over the whole church, which was nearly all Jewish, and familiar with the requirements of the priesthood, and very familiar with the Pentatuch.  They suddenly saw right in front of them the same  judgement on believers that God had brought on the sons of Aaron when they ignored God’s command.  This was not the putting to death a transgressor of the law by the people, but God Himself putting someone to death just as He had done in the Old Testament to the priests.  Why such harsh judgement on Ananias and Sapphira? I believe it was for the same reason that God judged Nadab and Abihu:  This was a foundational point.  God was revealing His purpose and direction to the church, just as God in Leviticus was revealing His glory to Israel.  The church needed to know that God took holiness seriously.  But just like in these two critical points in history, God made his point and few people died on the spot after that.  However, God still held Israel accountable for their disregard of Him and eventually sent them into exile.

Do we  take God lightly? Yes, we do.  I think probably that we don’t have any idea how lightly we take him because we are not living close enough to him to sense the level of holiness that he desires from us.  We will do well to pray as Paul prayed for the early church:

Col 1:9  For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,
Col 1:10  so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God

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