By George H. Warnock
Take Aaron and his sons with him, and the garments, and the anointing oil, and a bullock for the sin offering, and two rams, and a basket of unleavened bread" (Lev. 8:2).
Aaron does not just walk boldly into the sanctuary boasting: "I was born a priest--I have a right to be here". He was born to be a priest--that is true. And likewise we are born into the family of God to be a "royal priesthood", and to offer up "spiritual sacrifices" unto God.
But if we are born to be priests, we are also born to be consecrated unto the Lord, born to know sacrifice, born to know cleansing, born to be separated wholly unto God, born to be His holy Temple in the earth. Let us consider some of the things that had to be done for the consecration of Aaron and his sons unto priestly ministry.
They were Washed with Water
They were totally stripped of their clothes, and washed with pure water at the laver (Lev. 8:6). We are cleansed by the blood of Christ, that is true. But His blood was shed almost 2,000 years ago; and it is the living Word of God that now contains the ingredients of that precious blood. Jesus said, "Now ye are clean through the word that I have spoken unto you" (Jn. 15:3). Just as for the cleansing of the leper there was a vessel that contained living water that was mingled with the blood of an atoning bird--so the living word that is brought to us by the Spirit contains and ministers to us the efficacy of the blood of Christ (See Lev. 14:5-7).
"This is He that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth" (1 Jn. 5:6). What kind of water? The word, but the living word--the word that He was, the word that He gave them. The word about the blood of the New Covenant. The word about following Him, about taking up their Cross, about hating their lives and losing themselves for His sake, about walking in total self-denial, about abiding in union with the Vine.
They were Clothed with New Garments
"And he put upon him the coat, and girded him with the girdle, and clothed him with the robe, and put the ephod upon him, and he girded him with the curious girdle of the ephod, and bound it unto him therewith" (Lev. 8:7).
Stripped of the old garments, washed at the laver, and then clothed upon with garments that were tailor-made "for glory and for beauty" (Ex. 28:2). They were not just washed up and clothed again with their old garments. Not even with the old garments fresh from the dry-cleaners. It must be a new garment, a priestly garment. They are garments of His own making, "for glory and for beauty"--garments that will show forth the glory of the Lord, and the beauty of His holiness. These garments were intricately made and fashioned according to the craftsmanship of men who had the wisdom of God. Our new clothing is by God's workings and God's dealings. There was "a breastplate, and an ephod, and a robe, and a broidered coat, a mitre, and a girdle" (Ex. 28:4). Then on the two shoulders of the vest-like garment called the "ephod" there were placed "two stones" in which were engraved the names of the children of Israel (Ex. 28:11). So when Aaron stood before the Lord, he was actually bearing the names of the children of Israel "before the LORD upon his two shoulders" (vs. 12).
The Breastplate of Judgment
Now to the ephod there was fastened what was called "the breastplate of judgment"--also made of "cunning work", and it was fastened to the ephod with chains of gold, as a sort of apron. On this breastplate were set four rows of precious stones, three in each row, making twelve stones, each stone representing one of the twelve tribes of Israel. It was called the breastplate of judgment because as Aaron stood before the LORD he was bearing "the judgment of the children of Israel upon his heart before the LORD" (Ex. 28:30). On his shoulders he bore their names in the place of power and strength. But on his heart he would also bear their names in the place of love and mercy. It was called the breastplate of judgment, because all that our High Priest does in the heavens in the administration of His priesthood, He does it in righteousness and in justice, as well as in love and mercy. We know that if and when God condemns, He does so because He is a just and holy God. But do we realize that when He justifies us, He also does it because He is just and holy? Christ died for us because He loved us. But justification is a legal term; God justifies us as a righteous Judge. Aaron stood before the mercy seat with the breastplate of judgment tied to the ephod. Let us consider the mercy seat in its New Testament setting.
"Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation (or 'mercy seat') through faith in his blood" (Rom. 3:24, 25). The word "propitiation" is translated "mercy seat" in Heb. 9:5; and this refers to the lid of the ark of the covenant, before which the high priest would stand on the day of atonement when he went into the holy of holies. Here he would sprinkle the atoning blood on behalf of the children of Israel.
Now Christ our Mercy Seat declares God to be just in remitting our sins: "To declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God" (Rom. 3:25). God forgave and remitted the sins of His people in a past day, because of the sacrifices which they brought. But how could God be seen as a just God, by accepting the blood of an animal for man's sin against his Creator? Paul reminds us that it was because of God's forbearance that He was able to remit sins, for He anticipated the day of the Cross, when He would be fully vindicated and declared to be righteous in accepting the sacrifices of bulls and goats which could never take away sins.
But the apostle goes still further: "To declare, I say, at this time His righteousness; that He might be just, and the justifier, of him which believeth in Jesus" (Rom. 3:26). Can we grasp the significance of this? We are saved because of the love and mercy of God, this is true. But God wants us to know that by virtue of the Cross we are justified, or declared to be righteous, by a righteous decree of the Judge of Heaven. No earthly judge could do such a thing. He might pardon a criminal, if that were within his jurisdiction to do so. But if he did so, how could he show himself to be righteous in doing it? But so marvelous, so unsearchable are the judgments of God, so great and effectual was the work of the Cross, that when God the Judge declares the believing sinner to be righteous, by this very declaration He is revealing Himself to be totally just and righteous. And so the Psalmist says, "Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other" (Ps. 85:10).
Where did this happen? At the mercy seat! And that is why on either end of the mercy seat in the Old Testament there were figures of the cherubim, made of solid gold--facing each other, but looking down upon the sprinkled blood of the sacrifice. Mercy and truth had come together. The cherubim which once were placed at the gate of Eden to bar man from the presence of the holy God against whom he had sinned--are now at the mercy seat to welcome sinful man back into God's presence.
This was the truth that set the world aflame during the Reformation, when God by His Spirit began to bring to light the truth of 'justification" that had become almost completely obscured from the eyes of men, and encumbered with religious ritual and bondage. "The just shall live by faith" was the word that God made alive to Martin Luther. Only God by His Holy Spirit can make this to be a living revelation in the hearts and minds of men. And we need this revelation if we are going to walk in the righteousness of Christ. We need to know that those garments of His righteousness are freely ours, if we are going to have faith to put them on and wear them.
The Accuser of the Brethren
Now Christ is our great High Priest who bears our names before the throne of judgment in the heavens, commending us to God, and to His holy presence. But there is one who would persist in accusing us before God, if and when he has the opportunity.
"And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. And the LORD said unto Satan, the LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire? Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel" (Zech. 3:1-3).
We can be sure that when the people of God set about the task of restoring the priesthood they would have engaged the best tailors in Israel to make those priestly garments. We can be sure they would have been pure and clean. But Zechariah was a prophet, and God was showing him the high priest, as He saw him. God saw "filthy garments"--and this gave opportunity for Satan to accuse him before God.
But one word from God was sufficient to silence the Accuser: "The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan, is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?" One word of rebuke from our Intercessor in the heavens is all that is required to "purge our conscience from dead works to serve the living God". "Who is he that condemneth: It is Christ that died, yea, rather that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us" (Rom. 8:34).
We glory in the fact that God has justified us freely by His grace. But God does not hand us holy garments to look upon and admire.
"And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee and I will clothe thee with change of raiment" (Zech. 3:4).
Put Off--and Put On
It is a change of raiment, beloved! Not the old ones laundered and put on again. It is not a refinement of your old nature. It is not your eloquence refined and given to God. Not your musical talents refined and given to God. Not your executive abilities, your business and professional talents, refined and given to God. It is not the old garments at all, but new ones, for glory and for beauty.
"But now ye also put off all these...put off the old man with his deeds; ...And put on the new man which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him" (Col. 3:8-10).
Yes, we have our own distinct personalities from birth. And God makes us the way we are, according to the intricate workings of His grace and wisdom. But let us not just make excuses: "Well, that's just the way I am". This might be true. But is it the way God wants us to be?
God makes us the way we are that we might be recreated into what He wants us to be.
He makes the flower, that it might become the fruit.
He makes the worm, that it might become the butterfly.
He wants to change us. He does not remove from us our distinct personality. But He wants to bring about something brand new. He wants to bring about a revolution in our personalities so that what God sees, and what we see, and what the world about us sees--is a New Creation. As the "elect of God" He wants to clothe us with "mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering, forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, ...even as Christ forgave you" (Col. 3:12, 13).
O how absolutely essential it is that we who profess to function in priestly ministry come to that place of total commitment to the Lordship of the Spirit of God in our lives. Because only the Spirit of God can enable us to minister righteousness to His people We can't remove the "filthy garments" just by saying, "Take them off". Only the "ministration of the Spirit" can do that (2 Cor. 3:6). No wonder there is so much death in our midst. The form may be there: the praise, the worship, the preaching, the teaching--but if the Spirit of God is not reaching into the heart of God and taking the things of Christ and "showing" them to us--with all of our rightness of truth and doctrine there is no vital ministration of the Spirit of Christ in our midst.
A Holy Mitre and a Crown of Gold
"And he put the mitre upon his head; also upon the mitre, even upon his forefront, did he put the golden plate, the holy crown" (Lev. 8:9).
Crowned with a golden plate, and on the plate were engraved the words, "Holiness to the LORD".
"And it shall be upon Aaron's forehead, that Aaron may bear the iniquity of the holy things" (Ex. 28:38).
Now Aaron was not boasting about how holy a man of God he was. Rather he was saying, "I am wholly consecrated unto the service of God--my mind, my thoughts, my whole way of life is devoted to the holy ways of God. And it is not for my sake that I do it, but for His sake, and for the sake of God's people Israel. It is their iniquity that I bear, that they might know God's salvation". It was a confession that because of his high calling he was totally devoted to God, to His purposes, and to the ministry of the sanctuary.
Jesus said, "For their sakes I sanctify Myself (I devote Myself totally unto God) that they also might be sanctified through the truth" (Jn. 17:19).
Anointed with Holy Oil
"And he poured of the anointing oil upon Aaron's head, and anointed him" (Lev. 8:12).
When David beheld the people of God assembled together in worship he was inspired to say, "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" But let us never forget the one and only basis of unity in the body of Christ--it is because of the anointing. "It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments" (Ps. 133:1, 2).
O that God's priests might know that we are partakers of "the same anointing" with which our High Priest is anointed! And that we only partake of the same anointing when we are clothed upon with His holy garments! That God does not anoint our fleshly natures, nor our fleshly words, but only the garments of Christ Himself! And that we only partake of this anointing as the drippings of the oil flow down upon us from the beard of the Ancient of Days in the heavens!
"Thou hast anointed Him with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows" (Heb. 1:9).
The Ram of Consecration
There were two rams that were offered, the one as a burnt offering, and the other as "the ram of consecration" (Lev. 8:18, 22).
The burnt offering is primarily one of the will; for every service to God must proceed from a commitment to do His will and not our own. "He shall offer it of his own voluntary will..." (Lev. 1:3).
It is the offering of Christ that supersedes and replaces all other offerings:
"Sacrifice and offering Thou didst not desire;
Mine ears hast Thou opened:
Burnt offering and sin offering
Hast Thou not required.
Then said I, Lo, I come:
In the volume of the book it is written of Me,
I delight to do Thy will, O my God"
The offering of "the ram of consecration" was of a higher order than the general burnt offerings. In this offering Aaron and his sons were consecrated by blood and then by oil:
"Upon the tip of Aaron's right ear, and upon the thumb of his right hand, and upon the great toe of his right foot" (Lev. 8:23, 30).
Blood on the ear, that they might hear with ears that had been cleansed and purged, and quickened to know His voice. Blood on the thumb, that the works of their hands might be the workings of Christ, and not their own. Blood on the toe, that they might walk in a way that is pure and holy.
And then the garments themselves were sprinkled with blood and oil, that they might be wholly sanctified unto the ministry of the priesthood.
So once again we have the three witnesses: Washed in pure water, that they might be clothed upon with garments of glory and of beauty. Consecrated by blood and anointed with holy oil. There was no cleansing in the laver itself--it is not by the letter of the word--but by the living word, by water mingled with blood. And "it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth" (1 Jn. 5:6).
We can do a lot of talking, a lot of preaching, a lot of teaching from the word. And we can have all the facts about redemption and about the blood. But may God shut our mouths and may our witness perish from the earth if the Spirit of God is not bearing witness to what we are saying and what we are doing. For He alone is Truth. He alone is the faithful and true Witness in the earth, as Christ is in the heavens.