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Posts Tagged ‘high priest’

calf

Picture this: You were born a slave.  You had been told that a deliverer was coming.  Hundreds of years had gone by with no deliverance.  But, in your lifetime, he comes.  He does the signs and wonders of God and rescues you out of bondage and slavery.  He leads you, by the hand of your God’s leading, into the desert wilderness where further instructions are being given.  You’ve already been given many miraculous signs, bread from heaven, water from a rock, a leading cloud and a leading fire to guide you each and every day, and you are awaiting the man who delivered you from slavery.  He’s up on a mountain speaking with God.  You can see the huge cloud that he has been drawn into.  Before he went up, you saw thunder, lightning, and audibly heard the voice of God from heaven.  This is where the Israelites are when Exodus chapter 32 happens.  Take some time and consider their history before reading this chapter.

In Exodus 32, these people of God gather themselves together because they are getting impatient.  They still see the cloud.  They know Moses has left his brother, Aaron, in charge and told them to wait for further instructions.  But they are tired of waiting.  Too many days have passed and they’re restless.  So they get together and go to Aaron and demand that he make them some new gods to lead them.

When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” ~Exodus 32:1

They’re like, “Hey boss.  Make some new gods.  The one we got isn’t doing what we want.”

How familiar is that?  Hey, God.  Be a different god.  Be a god that does whatever I want.

There are a lot of “Christians” who treat their religion just like these people did.  It’s not God they want to serve, it’s themselves.  So they twist him and the scriptures into whatever it is they prefer.  Worse still, there are leaders who comply and compromise to their every demand in order to “keep peace” or stay comfortable. Unfortunately, this is what Moses’s brother Aaron did.

Aaron, their surrogate leader in Moses’s absence, did not even blink before acquiescing to their demand.  They say, “Do this!” Aaron says, “No problem.”

Aaron instructs the people who are demanding new gods to remove their gold jewelry and bring it to him.  Where did they get all this gold, though?  Weren’t they slaves?  Oh, that’s right, God had their oppressors give them all the gold in Egypt when he delivered them.  Now, they’re giving it away to make new gods in his place.  How many blessings do we forfeit out of our unfaithful demands and sinful actions?

So Aaron “fashions” a golden calf with a special tool.  He later lies (Exodus 32:24) and says the calf just somehow appeared out of the fire when they put the gold in.  But consider first what the people said after Aaron makes the calf:

And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.” ~Exodus 32:5

What?!  These are your gods?!  No, this was melted down gold chiseled out by a man to look like a cow.  This inanimate object never did anything, yet they credit it with leading them out of Egypt – the very thing their REAL God did.  All the while, their surrogate leader is pretending it was for the Lord – in his honor!  What?!

This is complete insanity.  Let me say that again.  THIS IS COMPLETE INSANITY.  This is complete insanity especially considering that God was up there at this very same time with Moses calling Aaron to the very highest honor among his people – the high priest.  It really makes you wonder why on earth God chose Aaron at all.  As God is choosing Aaron to be the very first high priest, Aaron is obeying evil commands from his subordinates, building an idol for them with his own hands, worshiping the idol with them, and pretending the whole charade is in honor of the Lord.  Then, he’s eating, drinking – partying! – and “playing” as if it’s a wonderful, celebratory time.  And, if we look ahead just a few verses, we find him lying about the whole thing.

This is a man who has just forsaken the true God for idols, forsaken his brother, forsaken his charge over the people of God, forsaken the spiritual welfare of the people God had given him responsibility over – his own people to boot – and all for what?

Perhaps he saw how they’d grumbled against Moses when he didn’t go along with their demands.  Maybe he wanted to be popular and well-liked.  Maybe he was afraid of the people.  Whatever his reasons, this man whom God is rising up for even greater honor in leadership is a man of complete compromise at this point in his life.

And maybe God would have it that way to show Aaron the depth of his own sin prior to exalting him to the position of high priest so that he might be sufficiently humbled as preparation beforehand.  I don’t know for sure but what I do know is that God’s ways are not our ways.  I wouldn’t have picked this guy to be the trash collector in the temple, let alone the high priest.  He cowardly gave in to his subordinates’ idolatrous demands.  He participated in their sin to the point of enabling and providing for it.  He pretended to be using the sin he was committing as worship to the Lord.  He celebrated when he should have been mourning.  He forsook God, his own brother, and his people.  He was greatly unfaithful to the position he had already been given by God.  He lied to protect himself from accountability and responsibility when he was caught in the act.  This is not a man I would trust!!! Or choose!  Or submit to as my leader!  No stinking way!!!

But God chose him.  Moses forgave and interceded for him despite his righteous anger over his brother’s sin and failure.  And God had mercy.  He allowed Aaron and his sons to repent and still made them priests.

In my flesh and in my disgust over Aaron’s unfaithfulness I want the moral of the story to be, “Don’t trust crappy leaders,” or “Tie cowards and compromisers up by their underpants and place them in the public square for a few days.”  But that’s not the lesson for me in this passage.  The moral of this story is, “God had mercy.”  God has mercy.  And it’s not just for me and those who haven’t hurt me or other people when we fail.  It’s for everyone who repents – even cowardly, compromising, idolatrous, unfaithful, betraying, deceitful leaders over God’s people.

This is a hard lesson for me because so many of exactly those kind of men have deeply hurt me personally.  But God has mercy.  I forgive them.  Let us love like God when men fail us in every way imaginable.  Amen.

 

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priestly garb

The last portion of the priestly garments to be elaborated upon by God were the robe of ephod, the turban with engraved golden plate, a coat, a sash, and undergarments.

The robe of ephod went overtop of the ephod and underneath the breastpiece.  It had pomegranates stitched into it for beauty and bells attached for safety.  Doubtless the fruit was a reminder of life and fruitful ministry and the bells were to remind everyone of the necessity to revere God as holy.  The bells were worn to identify and protect the priest when he went into God’s holy and sacred presence.  The text says the priest had to wear bells so he did not die!  The reason is that sacred places require authorization.  God is to be respected.

The next item described was the turban.  It was to be made of fine linen and worn on the priest’s head.  It was to have a gold plate fastened to the front which read, “Holy to the Lord.”  This identified the high priest and he was to bear any guilt from the offering of the people.  Matthew Henry says this:

“Through him what is good is accepted; our persons, our performances, are pleasing to God upon the account of Christ’s intercession, and not otherwise.”

And not otherwise.  We could never, ever be accepted by God on our own merit or well-doing.  Without an intercessor to cover our sin and failure, we will not be accepted at all.

Finally, Moses was instructed that the priests should wear coats, sashes, and caps.  All of this was for the glory and beauty of God to be seen in them: Imago Dei. Moses was to dress, anoint, ordain, and consecrate his brother, Aaron, and Aaron’s sons to the priesthood.

This is quite the ensemble.  Let us remember their dress and know that all of God’s ministers are called to be set apart, prepared, and dressed in the full armor of God.

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remember

After God instructs Moses on who will be the priests and the high priest, he describes in detail what they were to wear.  Let us consider these things and their significance.

First, the ephod is elaborated upon.  the ephod was a sleeveless linen garment which had fine thread, and, in the case of the high priest, had even gold woven into it.  It covered the chest to the hips and had two shoulder straps with an onyx stone on each side.  The stones were to have the names of all the sons of Israel engraved upon them.  Six tribes were to be written on one stone; six on the other.  These were called the “stones of remembrance.”  The settings were to be made of gold attached by corded golden chains.

Over the top of the ephod, a breastpiece was to be worn.  It was a folded piece of fabric which contained twelve precious stones – one for each tribe’s name.  Also, the urim and thummim – which were some type of spiritual help for decision making – were to be placed inside.  The high priest was to fasten this garment overtop of his ephod by way of golden cords, golden rings, and golden settings that he might have always the names of God’s people upon his heart.  Exodus 28:30 says this:

“And in the breastpiece of judgment you shall put the Urim and the Thummim, and they shall be on Aaron’s heart, when he goes in before the Lord. Thus Aaron shall bear the judgment of the people of Israel on his heart before the Lord regularly.”

In all of these instructions, one beautiful theme shines through: God remembering his people; God taking great pains to insure that his people know and understand their worth and importance to him; God writing their names on the heart of their intercessor – the high priest; God preparing his people to be the honored guests in his house.

This is such a beautiful illustration and example of God’s love and mercy for his people.  When we study this passage, and recognize the magnitude of God’s love and mercy toward us, it makes what we know about those he was choosing all the more tragic.  When the reality of this passage hit me, it literally broke my heart for God.  Here’s why:

Here, while God is instructing his prophet about the honor and beauty and glory he is about to bestow on his chosen ones, writing their names on his very heart and taking special and great pains to remember them and make sure they know how loved and remembered they are, they themselves are forgetting him.  It was during this very time that Aaron – the high priest God chose – was leading the people in the worship of an idol: the golden calf.  While Moses is receiving this instruction about how much God longs to remember his people, Aaron is forgetting Him.  Aaron is assuming and presuming that God has forgotten them.

Consider that.  Consider that God was fitting to give Aaron not only the priesthood and make him the high priest – a place of great honor, God was also preparing to give him much gold to wear in honor of Him.  Aaron chose to worship a gift (gold) that God was planning to give him particularly in abundance in place of worshiping the God who was giving it.  In other words, God is up there giving these instructions to bless and honor these men with Aaron as the most honored and they are building an idol out of the very material that God wishes to use to honor them.  Aaron – the would-be high priest is leading the charge.

God had planned to write their names on the most precious stones known to man – to have the intercessor hold them on his very heart and they thought he had forgotten them.  They were in direct rebellion to God as he planned to honor and extend mercy to them.  This is the kind of God we serve.  This is the kind of people we are.  It is heartbreaking when we recognize how good and loving Our Father is as opposed to how foolish and disobedient we are.

Herein we realize how important it is to have an intercessor.  God said that Aaron would bear the judgement of Israel on his heart before the Lord regularly.  This is the job of every minister who would intercede for God’s people.  Judgement is bore on our hearts because when the judgement of another is placed upon your heart, you are not vindictive and smug about the discipline needed, rather, you are broken and sorrowful -just as the Father is – when discipline for others is necessary.  By bearing judgement on our hearts, we feel the pain of their disobedience and mourn for their repentance rather than happily, vengefully attesting to the fact that they will get what they deserve.

Aaron was our first high priest; Christ is our last.  Never, ever think he has forgotten you.  Your name is written on his hands and his heart.

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