Whenever I read these chapters, I am utterly gripped by the intricacy and the ‘in your face’ way in which Israel were being taught through all these ordinances. The artistry and precision over the worship of Israel must have been fascinating to witness and highly instructive.
So lets stand on the outside of the tabernacle screening and look in. What do I observe as a faithful Israelite? What do I see? What is required? Who is present in this?
First we must remember the purpose of it all. The goal of all of this ceremony and religion is fellowship with the Lord – verse 43 to 45 and this fellowship with the Lord brings personal knowledge verse 46 of the One they serve. They are brought into relationship by what occurred.
As Dr Robert Reymond says, the goal of redemption is our adoption as sons. The goal of all the visual theology here in these chapters is fellowship with the Lord and adoption into his family.
So as I contemplate fellowship with the Lord and look in to the tabernacle courtyard, the most obvious thing I observe is that I can do nothing to gain this fellowship. It is a task which falls only to one man, the High Priest. He will meet with the Living God on my behalf. He represents Israel. He represents me, but he must first be prepared for worship.
This is a chapter about the preparation this High Priest needs. Firstly then, purity is required (v1). The blood sacrifice required must be spotless and without defect and this High Priest is to be washed in water (v4).
He then has the anointing oil poured over him (v7). The oil is poured over his head and over that wonderful golden plate inscribed with the words HOLY TO THE LORD, it runs down his face and over his beard (Ps 133) and runs down onto the ground. The High Priest is given the anointing that the King would later receive. The High Priest is the anointed one, covered with the anointing such that it overflows from him.
The glorious robes, the glint of the precious stones and the golden sheen of pure olive oil must have been a sight to behold! However, all these wonderful garments and adornments are nothing with blood.
The bull is now presented and killed (vs10-11). The horns of the altar are wiped with blood and the rest (the majority – a decent bull will contain about 40 pints of blood) is poured out onto the ground around the base of the altar (v12). This is the sin offering. A vast sea of blood is needed for sin, it is a great price.
The rams are now presented and killed (vs15++).
Again, the blood is sprayed everywhere – all over the altar (v16). The first ram is then cut up and burned up, all to satisfy the Lord’s pleasure (V18). The second ram is for the ordination of the High Priest. It’s blood is poured onto the right ear, the right thumb and the right big toe (v20) of the high priest. He is covered, head to food in blood.
The High Priest having shone with glorious splendour has now descended and become a terrifying blood soaked monstrosity. He looks awful. He is then sprayed with blood and oil again (v21) – all over those fabulous robes. His hair greasy and his beard straggled as the oil on his face mingles with blood.
Here oh Israel, is your High Priest, now he is ready for his work.
The pieces of this ram are waved and I know that a portion of this sacrifice is kept by the high priest. This ram was not just for ordination but the people of Israel. By his keeping a share, I am joined to the anointed one, the blood soaked High Priest because this sacrifice, breast and thigh, represent me and guarantee that I will gain fellowship as I look on (verse 28).
I watch as Aaron eats the ram for ordination along with the bread and wine and I rejoice! A man of Israel, an Adam is eating and drinking with the Lord!
I look closer and I see that the high priest is not alone (vs27-28 & vs 31-34). His fellowship with the Lord is enjoyed with his offspring. His own sons are present with him enjoying the fellowship with the Lord. Oh to be a son of the High Priest!
The promise is made here too (vs29-20), that these glorious garments now consecrated, made holy by blood and by the anointing oil – these robes are to be given to all the descendants of the High Priest. Anyone born of the one anointed and bloody man who alone makes sacrifice will be given the holy robes of righteousness, justices and purity, so that they too can fellowship with God Most High.
So I am left to contemplate once more.
This is not adequate. Can a ram or a bull really atone? Can they really satisfy the Lord? The obvious answer is no. This is repeated, again and again and again. Is an animal sufficient to cover a man? Again, obviously no – Adam and Eve received animal covering but were still removed from that direct fellowship with the Lord which they previously enjoyed.
We need a true sacrifice. We need a man to provide a covering for man, a pure man, without defect or blemish, one which will satisfy, one which will be enough so that there is no need to repeat it year after year. We need a High Priest who doesn’t have to atone for his own sins, who enters in his own right, with his own blood, once for all.
I need to be born of the High Priest, I need to be his son to share those robes of fellowship, to wear the blood and the oil of consecration.
All this visual hope! All this graphic theology! Am I to divorce this from all that has gone before?
Surely the Seed, the promised One is such a Man.
What a day of teaching the watching Israelite has had! What amazing instruction which leads him to faith in the Promised Messiah, to a knowledge of the way Messiah would die for sin.
I have been told that my reading is anachronistic on a number of occasions.
I point to Hebrews 9 verse 8 which states that the Holy Spirit was teaching those watching people of Israel that the way into the real Most Holy Place, not the earthly copy, required something more. Here is the way, but it is not yet open. A greater and more perfect sacrifice was needed.
Here scripture affirms that the people were being taught – this is so important. This was the Holy Spirit teaching and leading the ancient church to faith in Christ – which is what He always does. They looked forward with Spirit lead visual words. I look back with Spirit lead written words.