We pick up from our last installment of Why Christ Had to Die by looking at a particular responsibility of the Aaronic Priesthood, and how it applies to us today. Previously, Moses and Aaron stood in as mediators for the people of Israel in order to stay the plague from reaching complete destruction among the Israelite people. Moses and Aaron’s actions–as we saw–pointed to a greater reality of Christ’s actions on the cross. However, in today’s post we’ll see how Aaron’s (and his progeny) role was more than just to be an offerer of sacrifice and mediator, but was also to be a defender of the place where God’s holy presence would dwell.
“But you [Aaron] and your sons with you shall attend to your priesthood for everything concerning the altar and inside the veil, and you are to perform service. I am giving you the priesthood as a bestowed service, but the outsider who comes near shall be put to death.”
While it seems harsh to consider what appears to be an exclusivity of the Jewish faith at that time, there was nevertheless particular meaning behind such a command. God’s presence was among men, and He would use men to guard where His presence dwelt, to keep the environment of His presence unsullied, and to offer sacrifices within its walls for the sole purpose of making men right with God. But He wouldn’t just use any man to fulfill this role. No, His chosen vessel was Aaron and his progeny. Not just any man could offer sacrifices, and not just any person could waltz into God’s presence without retribution. If they did, they would be destroyed, but not before they were dealt with by God’s protector’s–the stopgap’s–the Aaronic priesthood.
The reason? Sin.
Sin–because of the fall of mankind–riddles every human heart, and as a result prevents mankind from entering into a relationship with God–apart from God acting on mankind’s behalf. And it was into this predicament of man that God temporarily acted by instituting the Law, as well as raising up a tribe (Levi) to attend to the services of the Law by carrying out particular responsibilities. Man’s sin prevented man from coming into God’s presence, and the priesthood of Aaron prevented man from even trying. The outsider was removed, and the place where God’s presence was protected–or at least so it seemed.
There was a problem, however, with the priesthood of Aaron that points to a greater reality that must be considered. Did Aaron and his progeny fulfill their mission of protecting the place where God’s presence dwelt? Did they maintain complete purity of the tabernacle, and later the temple? Did they succeed in their mission? How could they…if they weren’t perfect? Therefore, their role as defender of the place where God would dwell had to be temporary–and useful–but not permanent, as well as more symbolic of the true Defender of God’s presence. And so, as one might expect, time only revealed that Aaron and his progeny were just as tainted and riddled with sin as the people were for whom they were offering sacrifices. This is why they had to offer sacrifices for themselves before they could offer sacrifices for others in order to deal with their sin and the sin of the faith-community. This presents a dilemma of epic proportions…
How is it resolved?
A Priest must be born of the same substance as man, but He must be perfect, sinless (according to God’s Law), and therefore not required to offer a sacrifice for Himself, but to become Himself as a substitutionary sin-sacrifice for all of mankind.
Man, otherwise, would have no hope of ever entering into God’s presence. Why? The Aaronic priesthood’s status was comprised, because it was itself tainted with sin. It served to defend the place where God’s presence dwelt, it served to offer sacrifices for the sins of the people, it served to mediate between God and man, but it did not do it perfectly. Therefore, its role was temporary, and thus God made a way for the defenders of where His presence dwelt to be replaced by a greater Priesthood. A Priesthood that would no doubt defend the presence of God’s dwelling place.
God’s chosen people who were to carry out His plan of redemption for all nations was the Israelite nation. Their roles within their nation were particular, and they were to be a kingdom of priests to all the nations in order for all the nations to be reconciled to God. However, Aaron and his progeny held a unique role within the nation as the high priests and protectors of God’s dwelling place, but they did not do it perfectly. Their function, therefore, was temporary and replaced by a Defender and High Priest who will one day defend the place where God’s presence will once again dwell–that is to say the New Heavens and the New Earth.
How Does This Apply To Us Today?
The defense of God’s dwelling place is not new, and in the New Jerusalem there will be no need for defense after it has been rightly defended. However, in the meantime, God’s plan of redemption is free and open to all who would look to His Son, Jesus Christ, in faith.
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
I’ve posted the video below for a more detailed examination of the place where God dwells…
— October 20, 2017