The first 10 verses of Exo 29 dealt with the consecration and preparation of God’s priests. God had revealed to Moses the garments that Aaron and his sons will wear.
God also goes on to tell them how they are to be prepared for His service. The priests played an important role in the spiritual welfare of the nation. In fact, the entire nation depended on them to enter God’s presence with prayer and sacrifice. Lev 10:2 tells us that Aaron’s own sons Nadab and Abihu died when they offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which God had not commanded. Worship, they are to learn, requires the people to be prepared. Here we will see what must be done to sinful priests to enter God’s holy presence.
There’s a lot more in the instructions, which can be read in last week’s study. But for this week, in the rest of the chapter, we learn more about what these priests had to do.
(A) One Bull, 2 Rams: Atonement, Total Dedication, and Ordination (Exo 29:10-37)
God instructs them to bring 1 bull and 2 rams.
As the table shows, the different offerings for the consecration of the priests carry great meaning.
The bull was to make the altar holy (c.f. Lev 8:15) and highlights the importance of blood in this system (c.f Heb 9:22). The priests identified with the bull as their sacrifice, imputing their sin to it and what happened to the bull was meant to happen to the priests.
The burnt offering of the ram signified total dedication to God as the entire offering was burnt. In this way, the priests offered their own being for God’s service.
This ram of ordination was unique to the priesthood, where the sprinkling of blood and oil was to sanctify the priests for their sacred duties. Note that this is the only time when they touched the blood. It symbolised how the priests belonged to God from head to toe.
We see in Exo 29:26 that the breast of the ram shall be waved before the Lord. It shall be a contribution of the people of Israel from their peace a peace offering, and a portion of that offering is reserved for Aaron and his sons, as will be later reflected in Lev 7:34-36. Here, God is looking forward to the peace offering that will be regularly offered. He shows Moses that the priest will have their food them from the second ram sacrificed, who will then eat it in a holy place, with leftovers burnt.
What is the significance of this instruction? We see here that God provides for his priests, for the very ones who serves Him. He makes sure of their well-being, and cares for them. We read previously at Exo 24:11 that the people ate and drank and could fellowship with God. Now the priests will do the same: they will eat with God, from what He has provided. God provides for those who commit to serving Him. God doesn’t forget his servants. How great is it that those who serve are provided for in God’s law. He makes sure of their well-being even in the law. God loves his servants and cares for them wonderfully.
Today, God provides for those committed to serving him full-time through the giving of his people. When we give to the church, we are not just giving away our money for no reason. God owns all things and does not need us to give, but through our giving, God’s servants are served. We give what He has first given to us. As we give, we acknowledge our own dependence on God as our provider, and through this, provide for those in full time ministry. Our giving allows these ministers to pour their efforts into advancing God’s purposes in the gospel: to save a people for Himself. The next time you give, think of the larger picture of what you are giving into. Pray for the ministry of those in God’s service.
And even if you are not in full-time ministry, but in some sort of ministry in your local church, being in ministry will call you to sacrifice your resources and love others. Remember that God is your provider and He cares for your needs as His servant. He has written these things in His law. Can you see the character of God?
The ordination of Aaron and his sons was a rather lengthy affair and Exo 29:35-37 tells us that it took them seven days. The garments made were not just for Aaron but also for his sons after him (Exo 29:29-30). A bull as a sin offering is to be offered daily for atonement. The altar is also to be purified and holy.
Imagine how that would look like: that every day. Blood is spilled every day as a bull must be killed as a sin offering for atonement. Each day, they were to lay their hands on the bull to be reminded that this bull is like me; my sins are imputed upon it, and now it is about to be burnt. They are reminded that God is so gracious, to take away their sins. They would know that the burning animal could have been them.
This is not merely a ritual, but tells us something important — the priesthood was utterly sinful. Why else would they need to be atoned for daily? On their own, they cannot approach God as he is holy. Even though they dressed rightly, and been washed with water (spiritual purification), they needed a sacrifice daily. They had to acknowledge their sin daily as they lay their hands on the bull every day.
In the same way, these verses call us to remember our great sinfulness before God. We are sometimes content to think that we are doing fine and all is well. But there is not one day that you and I don’t need to repent of our sins. We repent not just so that we that we change our behaviour, not to justify ourselves.
How do we do so today?
We do it by offering our hearts to God, by turning away from our lust, our covetousness, our lust, and our want to be our own God. When we try to be our own God, we rip God out of his throne in our hearts: wanting him to serve us, instead of us serving Him.
When we see our sinfulness, we should also turn our minds to what God has done for us. instead of the blood of blood of bulls and goats, Christ’s death on the cross is what we depend on to make us right before God. Everyday, when we remember our sinfulness, we must wonder at God’s grace: how much He has forgiven us through His death at the Cross. We must wonder at God’s grace toward us daily and we see that on the cross.
(B) Regular Burnt Offering: Continuous Worship of the LORD (Exo 29:38-42)
The priests have a daily job: to offer 2 lambs, one in the morning and one at twilight. This shall be a regular burnt offering. Lev 6:8-13 tells us repeatedly that the fire on the altar shall be kept burning, if not with the burnt offerings, then some other offerings on the altar. At no point is the fire to stop burning on the altar.
The significance of a burnt offering is found in how it reminds us of total dedication to God. The sacrifice therefore shows us that Israel, as the people of God, are called to live lives pleasing to God in all things. They began their day with a sacrifice of worship and they ended their day in the same way. The regular burnt offering shows us continuous worship of the LORD, not just on Sundays or at Bible studies, but with our whole lives. As the fire never burns out, neither should our worship stop.
How do we begin and end each day with God? What is the first thing you do when you wake? What is the last thing you think of before you sleep? Is it looking at your phone? How can we learn from the Israelites to worship God continually? How can we live lives that are pleasing to God not just when we are going to church or going to a bible study? How do we live for God in our workplaces or schools?
(C) Tabernacle: A Holy God dwelling with His Consecrated People (Exo 29:43-46, Heb 10:1-10)
As we reach the end of the passage, we may then start to wonder: what is the point of all this? Why would there be a need to ordain priests? Why the numerous sacrifices detailed for us? We can understand why in Exo 29: 44. We see there that the end-result of these sacrifices is that the altar, and Aaron and his sons are consecrated before God. He is making holy the priests of God.
And what for? We learn about God’s purposes for consecration in Exo 29:45: “I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God.” God, the Holy God, the Glorious One who made all things, desires to have a relationship with His people, in spite of their grievous and sinful rebellion against Him. Consider the weight of this: that God, the holy God, desires to reveal Himself and make Himself known to His people, showing to them that “I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them. I am the Lord their God.”
The grand purpose of the tabernacle was for God to reveal himself and have a relationship with them. We should be amazed that God will do such a thing. ! Do you see how much God desires his people? It seems like God is speaking to a lover! He loves them! Why else would He want to meet them, speak with them, dwell with them?
The NT gives us some insight into how this entire set up of the tabernacle and priesthood is perfected. Heb 10:1-4 shows us the failings of this system. The sacrifices are unable to make perfect those who draw near to God by them. If it was able, they would have stopped the sacrifices. Instead these sacrifices is a reminder of sin, sin that the blood of bulls and goats cannot wash away. This sacrifice must be continually offered and does not cease (Heb 10:2). This system of sacrifice is unable to cleanse us before God. Instead, as the rest of the verse proceeds, this system reminds us that we are sinful; we cannot approach God.
What hope do we then have? In Heb 10:5-14, we learn of the greater sacrifice that has come. Jesus Christ the righteous, the One who has come in perfect obedience to God’s will. And by that perfect obedience, Christ perfects the tabernacle. He perfects the sacrifice. And as the verse concludes: through His once-for-all sacrifice, His complete work, we are sanctified. Through Christ, we are cleansed from our sins, made able to enter into the presence of our almighty and holy God!
What does this therefore mean for us? Firstly, this passage reminds us that we must depend wholly on Christ, that His sacrifice is sufficient to save us. More than a series of irrelevant laws, the laws testify to the God who made them. We see from these laws that we are made to have a relationship with God, a God who loves us and desires to dwell with us. Do we know Him? Will we press on to know Him today?
And if we have placed our faith in Christ, we are made to serve Him with our whole being, as a people made holy before Him. From this, we can therefore see that ministry is for every single person. We must serve God and His Gospel in various ways. We have to advance His Gospel where God has placed us: proclaiming this Good News with boldness to others. May we do so, walking as consecrated people who know their God, with whom God dwells.