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THE INAUGURATION OF THE TABERNACLE SERVICE.
Aaron and his sons having now been solemnly consecrated to the priestly office by the ceremonies of seven days, their formal assumption of their daily duties in the tabernacle was marked by a special service suited to the august occasion, signalised at its close by the appearance of the glory of Jehovah to assembled Israel, in token of His sanction and approval of all that had been done. It would appear that the daily burnt-offering and meal-offering had been indeed offered before this, from the time that the tabernacle had been set up; in which service, however, Moses had thus far officiated. But now that Aaron and his sons were consecrated, it was most fitting that a service should thus be ordered which should be a complete exhibition of the order of sacrifice as it had now been given by the Lord, and serve, for Aaron and his sons in all after time, as a practical model of the manner in which the divinely-given law of sacrifice should be carried out.
The order of the day began with a very impressive lesson of the inadequacy of the blood of beasts to take away sin. For seven consecutive days a bullock had been offered for Aaron and his sons, and so far as served the typical purpose, their consecration was complete. But still Aaron and his sons needed expiating blood; for before they could offer the sacrifices of the day for the people, they are ordered yet again first of all to offer a sin-offering for themselves. We read (vv. 1, 2): "And it came to pass on the eighth day, that Moses called Aaron and his sons, and the elders of Israel; and he said unto Aaron, Take thee a bull calf for a sin offering, and a ram for a burnt offering, without blemish, and offer them before the Lord."
And then Aaron was commanded (vv. 3-5): "Unto the children of Israel thou shalt speak, saying, Take ye a he-goat for a sin offering; and a calf and a lamb, both of the first year, without blemish, for a burnt offering; and an ox and a ram for peace offerings, to sacrifice before the Lord; and a meal offering mingled with oil: for to-day the Lord appeareth unto you. And they brought that which Moses commanded before the tent of meeting: and all the congregation drew near and stood before the Lord."
There is little in these directions requiring explanation. Because of the exceptional importance of the occasion, therefore, as in the feasts of the Lord, a special sin-offering was ordered, and a burnt-offering, besides the regular daily burnt-offering, meal-offering, and drink-offering; and, in addition, peculiar to this occasion, a peace-offering for the nation; which last was evidently intended to signify that now on the basis of the sacrificial worship and the mediation of a consecrated priesthood, Israel was privileged to enter into fellowship with Jehovah, the Lord of the tabernacle. No peace-offering was ordered for Aaron and his sons, as, according to the law of the peace-offering, they would themselves take part in that of the people. The sin-offering prescribed for the people was, not a kid, as in King James's version, but a he-goat, which, with the exception of the case of a sin of commission as described in chap. iv. 13, 14, appears to have been the usual victim. For the selection of such a victim, no reason appears more probable than that assigned by rabbinical tradition, namely, that it was intended to counteract the tendency of the people to the worship of shaggy he-goats, referred to in chap. xvii. 7, "They shall no more sacrifice their sacrifices unto the he-goats (R.V.), after whom they go a whoring."
The Order of the Offerings.
"And Moses said unto Aaron, Draw near unto the altar, and offer thy sin offering, and thy burnt offering, and make atonement for thyself, and for the people: and offer the oblation of the people, and make atonement for them; as the Lord commanded. So Aaron drew near unto the altar, and slew the calf of the sin offering, which was for himself. And the sons of Aaron presented the blood unto him: and he dipped his finger in the blood, and put it upon the horns of the altar, and poured out the blood at the base of the altar: but the fat, and the kidneys, and the caul from the liver of the sin offering, he burnt upon the altar; as the Lord commanded Moses. And the flesh and the skin he burnt with fire without the camp. And he slew the burnt offering; and Aaron's sons delivered unto him the blood, and he sprinkled it upon the altar round about. And they delivered the burnt offering unto him, piece by piece, and the head: and he burnt them upon the altar. And he washed the inwards and the legs, and burnt them upon the burnt offering on the altar. And he presented the people's oblation, and took the goat of the sin offering which was for the people, and slew it, and offered it for sin, as the first. And he presented the burnt offering, and offered it according to the ordinance. And he presented the meal offering, and filled his hand therefrom, and burnt it upon the altar, besides the burnt offering of the morning. He slew also the ox and the ram, the sacrifice of peace offerings, which was for the people: and Aaron's sons delivered unto him the blood, and he sprinkled it upon the altar round about, and the fat of the ox; and of the ram, the fat tail, and that which covered the inwards, and the kidneys, and the caul of the liver: and they put the fat upon the breasts, and he burnt the fat upon the altar: and the breast and the right thigh Aaron waved for a wave offering before the Lord; as Moses commanded."
Verses 7-21 detail the way in which this commandment of Moses was carried out in the offerings, first, for Aaron and his sons, and then for all the people; but, as the peculiarities of these several offerings have been already explained, they need not here detain us. That which is new, and of profound spiritual and typical meaning, is the order of the sacrifices as here enjoined; an order, which as we learn from many Scriptures, represented what was intended to be the permanent and invariable law. The appointed order of the offerings was as follows: first, whenever presented, came the sin-offering, as here; then, the burnt-offering, with its meal-offering; and last, always, the peace-offering, with its characteristic sacrificial feast.
The significance of this order will readily appear if we consider the distinctive meaning of each of these offerings. The sin-offering had for its central thought, expiation of sin by the shedding of blood; the burnt-offering, the full surrender of the person symbolised by the victim, to God; the meal-offering, in like manner, the consecration of the fruit of his labours; the peace-offering, sustenance of life from God's table, and fellowship in peace and joy with God and with one another. And the great lesson for us now from this model tabernacle service is this: that this order is determined by a law of the spiritual life.
So much as this, even without clear prevision of the Antitype of all these sacrifices, the thoughtful Israelite might have discerned; and even though the truth thus symbolised is placed before us no more in rite and symbol, yet it abides, and ever will abide, a truth. Man everywhere needs fellowship with God, and cannot rest without it; to attain such fellowship is the object of all religions which recognise the being of a God at all. Even among the heathen, we are truly told, there are many who are feeling after God "if haply they may find Him;" and, among ourselves in Christian lands, and even in the external fellowship of Christian churches, there are many who with aching hearts are seeking after an unrealised experience of peace and fellowship with God. And yet God is "not far from any one of us;" and the whole Scripture represents Him as longing on His part with an incomprehensible condescension and love after fellowship with us, desiring to communicate to us His fulness; and still so many seek and find not!
We need not go further than this order of the offerings, and the spiritual truth it signifies regarding the order of grace, to discover the secret of these spiritual failures.
The peace-offering, the sacrificial feast of fellowship with God, the joyful banqueting on the food of His table, was always, as on this day, in order. Before this must ever come the burnt-offering. The ritual prescribed that the peace-offering should be burnt "upon the burnt-offering;" the presence of the burnt-offering is thus presupposed in every acceptable peace-offering. But what if one had ventured to ignore this divinely-appointed order, and had offered his peace-offering to be burnt alone; can we imagine that it would have been accepted?
These things are a parable, and not a hard one. For the burnt-offering with its meal-offering symbolised full consecration of the person and the works to the Lord. Remembering this, we see that the order is not arbitrary. For, in the nature of the case, full consecration to God must precede fellowship with God; he who would know what it is to have God give Himself to him, must first be ready to give himself to God. And that God should enter into loving fellowship with any one who is holding back from loving self-surrender is not to be expected. This is not merely an Old Testament law, still less merely a fanciful deduction from the Mosaic symbolism; everywhere in the New Testament is the thought pressed upon us, no longer indeed in symbol, but in plainest language. It is taught by precept in some of the most familiar words of the great Teacher. There is promise, for example, of constant supply of sufficient food and raiment, fellowship with God in temporal things; but only on condition that "we seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness," shall "all these things be added unto us" (Matt. vi. 33). There is a promise of "a hundred-fold in this life, and in the world to come, eternal life;" but it is prefaced by the condition of surrender of father, mother, brethren, sisters, of houses and lands, for the Lord's sake (Matt. xix. 29). Not, indeed, that the actual parting with these is enjoined in every case; but, certainly, it is intended that we shall hold all at the Lord's disposal, possessing, but "as though we possessed not;"—this is the least that we can take out of these words.
Full consecration of the person and the works, this then is the condition of fellowship with God; and if so many lament the lack of the latter, it is no doubt because of the lack of the former. We often act strangely in this matter; half unconsciously, searching, perhaps, every corner of our life but the right one, from looking into which by the clear light of God's Word we instinctively shrink, conscience softly whispering that just there is something about which we have a lurking doubt, and which therefore, if we will be fully consecrated, we must at once give up, till we are sure that it is right, and right for us; and for that self-denial, that renunciation unto God, we are not ready. Is it a wonder that, if such be our experience, we lack that blessed, joyful fellowship with the Lord, of which some tell us? Is it not rather the chief wonder that we should wonder at the lack, when yet we are not ready to consecrate all, body, soul, and spirit, with all our works, unto the Lord? Let us then remember the law of the offerings upon this point. No Israelite could have the blessed feast of the peace-offering, except, first, the burnt-offering and the meal-offering, symbolising full consecration, were smoking on the altar.
But this full consecration seems to many so exceeding hard,—nay, we may say more, to many it is utterly impossible. A consecration of some things, especially those for which they care little, this they can hear of; but a consecration of all, that the whole may be consumed upon the altar before and unto God, this they cannot think of. Which means—can we escape the conclusion?—that the love of God does not yet rule supreme. How sad! and how strange! But the law of the offerings will again declare the secret of the strange holding back from full consecration. For it was ordained, that wherever there was sin in the offerer, unconfessed and unforgiven, before even the burnt-offering must go the sin-offering, expiating sin by blood presented on the altar before God. And here we come upon another law of the spiritual life in all ages. If fellowship with God in peace and joy is conditioned by the full consecration of person and service to Him, this consecration, even as a possibility for us, is in turn conditioned by the expiation of sin through the great Sin-offering. So long as conscience is not satisfied that the question of sin has been settled in grace and righteousness with God, so long it is a spiritual impossibility that the soul should come into that experience of the love of God, manifested through atonement, which alone can lead to full consecration.
This truth is always of vital importance; but it is, if possible, more important than ever to insist upon it in our day, when, more and more, the doctrine of the expiation of sin through the blood of the Lamb of God is denied, and that, forsooth, under the claim of superior enlightenment. Men are well pleased to hear of a burnt-offering, so long especially as it is made to signify no more than the self-devotement of the offerer; but for a sin-offering, much modern theology has no place. So soon as we begin to speak of the sacrifice of our Lord for sin in the dialect of the ancient altar—which, it must never be forgotten, is that of Christ and His apostles—we are told that "it would be better for the world if the Christian doctrine of sacrifice could be presented to men apart from the old Jewish ideas and terms, which only serve to obscure the simplicity that is in Christ(!)" And so men, under the pretext of magnifying the love of God, and laying a truer basis for spiritual life, in effect deny the supreme and incomparable manifestation of that love, that God made "Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf" (2 Cor. v. 21).
Very different is the teaching, not merely of the law of Moses, but of the whole New Testament; which, in all it has to say of the Christian life as proceeding from full self-surrender, ever represents this full consecration as inspired by the believing recognition and penitent acceptance of Christ, not merely as the great Example of perfect consecration, but as a sin-offering, reconciling us first of all by His death, before He saves us by His life (Rom. v. 10). The expiation of sin by the sin-offering, before the consecration which burnt-offering and meal-offering typify,—this is the invariable order in both Testaments. The Apostle Paul, in his account of his own full consecration, is in full accord with the spiritual teaching of the Mosaic ritual when he gives this as the order. He describes himself, and that in terms of no undue exaggeration, as so under the constraint of the love of Christ as to seem to some beside himself; and then he goes on to explain the secret of this consecration, in which he had placed himself and all he had upon God's altar, as a whole burnt-sacrifice, as consisting just in this, that he had first apprehended the mystery of Christ's death, as a substitution so true and real of the sinless Victim in the place of sinful men, that it might be said that "one died for all, therefore all died;" whence he thus judged, "that they which live should no longer live unto themselves, but unto Him who for their sakes died and rose again" (2 Cor. v. 13-15). To the same effect is the teaching of the Apostle John. For all true consecration springs from the thankful recognition of the love of God; and, according to this Apostle also, the Divine love which inspires the consecration is manifest in this, that "He sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 John iv. 10). The apprehension, then, of the reality of the expiation made by the great Sin-offering, and the believing appropriation of its virtue to the cancelling of our guilt, this is the inseparable previous condition of full consecration of person and work unto the Lord. It is so, because only the apprehension of the need of expiation by the blood of the Son of God, as the necessary condition of forgiveness, can give us any adequate measure of the depth of our guilt and ruin, as God sees it; and, on the other hand, only when we remember that God spared not His only-begotten Son, but sent Him to become, through death upon the cross, a propitiation for our sins, can we begin to have such an estimate of the love of God and of Christ His Son as shall make full consecration easy, or even possible.
Let us then, on no account, miss this lesson from the order of this ritual; before the peace-offering, the burnt-offering; before the burnt-offering, the sin-offering. Or, translating the symbolism, perfect fellowship with God in peace and joy and life, only after consecration; and the consecration only possible in fulness, and only accepted of God, in any case, when the great Sin-offering has been first believingly appropriated, according to God's ordination, as the propitiation for our sins, for the cancelling of our guilt.
But there is yet more in this order of the offerings. For, as the New Testament in every way teaches us, the Antitype of every offering was Christ. As we have already seen, in the Sin-offering we have the type of Christ as our propitiation, or expiation; in the burnt-offering, of Christ as consecrating Himself unto God in our behalf; in the meal-offering, as, in like manner, consecrating all His works in our behalf; in the peace-offering, as imparting Himself to us as our life, and thus bringing us into fellowship of peace and love and joy with the Father.
Now this last is, in fact, the ultimate aim of salvation; rather, indeed, we may say, it is salvation. For life in its fulness means the cancelling of death; death spiritual, and bodily death also, in resurrection from the dead; it means also perfect fellowship with the living God, and this, attained, is heaven. Hence it must needs be that the peace-offering which represents Christ as giving Himself to us as our life, and introducing us into this blessed state, comes last.
But before this, in order, not of time, but of grace, as also of logic, must be Christ as Sin-offering, and Christ as Burnt-offering. And, first of all, Christ as Sin-offering. For God's way of peace puts the cancelling of guilt, the satisfaction of His holy law and justice, and therewith the restoration of our right relation to Him, first, and in order to a holy life and fellowship; while man will ever put these last, and regard the latter as the means to obtaining a right standing with God. Hence, inasmuch as Christ, coming to save us, finds us under a curse, the first thing in order is, and must be, the removal of that curse of the holy wrath of God, against every one that "continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law, to do them." And so, first in order in the typical ritual is the sin-offering which represents Christ as made "a curse for us," that He might thus redeem us from the curse of the law (Gal. iii. 13).
But this is not a complete account of the work of our Lord for us in the days of His flesh. His work indeed was one, but the Scriptures set it forth in a twofold aspect. On the one hand, He is the Sinless One bearing the curse for us; but also, in all His suffering for our sins, He is also manifested as the Righteous One, making many righteous by His obedience, even an obedience unto the death of the cross (Rom. v. 19; Phil. ii. 8). And if we ask what was the essence of this obedience of our Lord for us, what was it, indeed, but that which is the essence of all obedience to God, namely, full, unreserved, uninterrupted consecration and self-surrender to the will of the Father? And as, by His suffering, Christ endured the curse for us, so by all His obedience and suffering in full submission to the will of God, He became also "the Lord our righteousness." And this, as repeatedly remarked, is the central thought of the burnt-offering and the meal-offering,—full consecration of the person and the work to God.
In the sin-offering, then, we see Christ as our propitiation; in the burnt-offering, we see Him rather as our righteousness; but the former is presupposed in the latter; and apart from this, that in His death He became the expiation of our sins, His obedience could have availed us nothing. But given now Christ as our propitiation and also our righteousness, the whole question of the relation of Christ's people to God in law and righteousness is settled, and the way is now clear for the communication of life which the peace-offering symbolised. Thus, as by faith in Christ as the Sin-offering, our propitiation and righteousness, we are "justified freely by grace," "apart from the works of the law," so now the way is open, by the appropriation of Christ as our life in the peace-offering, for our sanctification and complete redemption. In a word, the law of the order of the offerings teaches, symbolically and typically, exactly what, in Rom. vi. and vii., the Apostle Paul teaches dogmatically, namely, that the order of grace is first justification, then sanctification; but both by the same crucified Christ, our propitiation, our righteousness, and our life: in whom we come to have fellowship in all good and blessing with the Father.
It is interesting to observe that after the analogy of this order of the offerings, is the most usual order of the development of Christian experience. For the awakened soul is usually first of all concerned about the question of forgiveness of sin and acceptance; and hence, most commonly, faith first apprehends Christ in this aspect, as the One who "bare our sins in His body," by whose stripes we are healed; and then, at a later period of experience, as the One who also, in lowly consecration to the Father's will, obeyed for us, that we might be made righteous through His obedience. But no one who is truly justified by faith in Christ as our propitiation and righteousness, can long rest with this. He very quickly finds what he had little thought of before, that the evil nature abides even in the justified and accepted believer; nay, more, that it has still a terrible strength to overcome him and lead him into sin, even often when he would not. And this prepares the believer, still in accord with the law of the order of grace here set forth, to lay hold also on Christ by faith as His Peace-offering, by feeding on whom we receive spiritual strength, so that He thus, in a word, becomes our sanctification and, at last, full redemption.
The Double Benediction.
"And Aaron lifted up his hands toward the people, and blessed them; and he came down from offering the sin offering, and the burnt offering, and the peace offerings. And Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting, and came out, and blessed the people: and the glory of the Lord appeared unto all the people. And there came forth fire from before the Lord, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: and when all the people saw it, they shouted, and fell on their faces."
The sacrifices having now been made, and the offerings presented in this divinely-appointed order, by the ordained and consecrated priesthood, two things followed: a double benediction was pronounced upon the people, and Jehovah manifested to them His glory. We read (ver. 22), "And Aaron lifted up his hands toward the people, and blessed them; and he came down from offering the sin offering, and the burnt offering, and the peace offerings."
Presumably, the form of benediction which Aaron used was that which, according to Numb. vi. 24-27, the priests were commanded by the Lord to use: "The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: the Lord make His face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: the Lord lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace." It was not an empty form; for the Lord at that time also promised Himself to make this blessing efficient, saying thereafter, "So shall they put My Name"—Jehovah, the name of God in covenant,—"upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them."
So also the Lord Jesus, just before withdrawing from the bodily sight of His disciples after the completion of His great sacrifice, "lifted up His hands, and blessed them;" and thereupon disappeared from their sight, ascending into heaven. Even so was it in the typical service of this day; for when Aaron had thus lifted up his hands and blessed the people (ver. 23), "Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting."
The work of Aaron in the outer court had been finished, and now he disappears from Israel's sight; for he must, in like manner, be inducted into the priestly work within the Holy Place. He must there be shown all those things to which, in his priestly ministrations, the blood must be applied; and, especially, must also offer the sweet incense at the golden altar which was before the veil which enshrined the immediate presence of Jehovah. But this offering of incense, as all have agreed, typifies the precious and most effective intercession of the great Antitype; so that thus it was shown in a figure, how the Christ of God, having finished His sacrificial work in the sight of men, and having ascended into heaven, should there for a season abide, hidden from human sight, making intercession for His waiting people.
After an interval—we are not told how long—Moses and Aaron again (vv. 23, 24), "came out, and blessed the people: and the glory of the Lord appeared unto all the people. And there came forth fire from before the Lord, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: and when all the people saw it, they shouted, and fell on their faces."
This second blessing by Moses and Aaron conjointly, followed Aaron's reappearance to Israel, and marked the completion of these inauguration services, the intercession within the veil, as well as the sacrifices. And the revelation in a visible way of the glory of the Lord added what now was alone required, the manifest attestation by the Lord of the tabernacle of His approval of all that had been done in these memorable eight days. This appearance of the Shekinah glory was followed by a flash of fire which, in token of the Divine appropriation of the sacrifices, consumed in an instant the burnt-offering on the altar with the fat of the sin-offering and the peace-offering, which had been laid upon it. We cannot follow here the Jewish tradition, which has it that with this act the sacrificial fire which was never to go out upon the altar, was originated. On the contrary, as we have seen, the offerings had before this been made by Moses, and even on this day the fire had been kindled before (ver. 10, et seq.). Nor is there any necessary inconsistency here; for we have but to suppose that the burning of the sacrifices which had been kindled by Aaron was not yet complete, when the flash from the cloud of glory in an instant consummated the burning, teaching in a most august and impressive manner the symbolic meaning of the burning of the sacrifices on the altar, as signifying the acceptance and appropriation of that which was offered, by the Lord who had commanded all, and thereby endorsing all that had been done, as according to His mind and will.
And even so, according to the sure Word of prophecy, our heavenly High Priest has yet in reserve for His people a second benediction. His first blessing upon leaving the world was followed by Pentecost; the second, on His reappearing, shall bring in resurrection and full salvation. And in that day, when He "shall appear a second time, apart from sin, to them that wait for Him unto salvation" (Heb. ix. 28), therewith shall appear the glory which on that day, long ago, appeared to Israel; for He "shall come in the glory of His Father," and thus shall God, the Most High and the Most Holy, testify before the universe His gracious acceptance of the service of the true Aaron and His "many sons," the priestly people of God, through all the Christian ages. Thus, the services and events of that day of induction, in their order from beginning to end, were not only a parable of the order of grace, but also, as it were, a typical epitome of the whole work of redemption. They are thus a prophecy that the work which began when Christ made His soul an offering for sin, and to perfect which He is now withdrawn from our sight for a season, shall be consummated at last by His reappearing in glory for the final blessing of His waiting people.
And if we look at other and subordinate aspects of this inauguration service, we shall still find this sequel of all, no less richly suggestive. Expiation, righteousness, fellowship in peace with God, shall bring with it the blessing of the Lord, and finally issue in the revelation of His glory in the sight of all who accept this great redemption through sacrifice. And so also in the personal life. As the trustful acceptance and use of the appointed Sin-offering leads to the consecration of the person and the life, and as by this consecration we come into conscious fellowship with God in joy and peace, as we feed on the flesh of the slain Lamb, so, as the blessed result, unto every true believer, according to the measure of his faith, this is followed by the double benediction of the Lord; one for this life, and a larger, for the life which is to come. The Lord blesses him, and keeps him: the Lord makes His face to shine upon him, and is gracious unto him: the Lord lifts up His countenance upon him, and gives him peace, according to that word of the great High Priest: "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give unto you" (John xiv. 27). And then, after the present peace, is yet to follow, as the final issue of the expiated sin, and the consecrated life, and fellowship in peace with the God of life and love, the beholding of the glory of the Lord; according to that high-priestly prayer of our Redeemer, "That which Thou hast given Me, I will that, where I am, they also may be with Me: that they may behold My glory" (John xvii. 24). Even here some know a little of this, and find that expiated sin and full consecration are followed here and now by bright glimpses of the glory of the Lord. But what is now seen thus in part shall then be seen fully and face to face. Who would not make sure of that beatific vision of the glory of the Lord?
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