Sunday, January 27, 2013

Set apart: Ex 29-31

In our day, we have very little that shows us the difference between the sacred and everything else.  Part of that is good, because for those who are set apart in Christ, all things are sacred and each of us is their own priest before the Father and is called to minister.  Before we can minister effectively to each other, God has work to do in and through us.  We often forget the components of a set-apart, Holy unto God, lifestyle--the lifestyle He desires for all of His children. 

The ordination of the priests shows much of what God does for us and with us when He calls and prepares us to serve Himself and His people:
  • Garments and sacrifices are prepared for the priest.  These are not his things.  They are gifts to him and for him to set him apart for God's purposes.  
  • Aaron and his sons are washed and dressed in priestly robes.  Each action is passive.  Repentence (the washing--remember John's baptism for repentence?) is something God works in our hearts.  Even dressing is done for them--again, a preparation God gives us.  Check out how closely the pieces of the priestly robes match the armor of God:
    • The helmet of salvation:  The turban with it's crown declaring "Holy to the Lord"
    • The breastplate of righteousness: the ephod and robe
    • The belt of truth:  A sash around their waist
    • Shoes: These are not mentioned, but clean feet and hard work imply them
    • The shield of faith:  The chestpiece with the twelve stones and the urim and thummim
    • The Sword of the Spirit:  A priest was not in the physical battles (for the most part) so he is covered with the sacred anointing oil, which symbolizes the Holy Spirit and the spiritual nature of the battles he will fight.
  • The first sacrifice made for the priest is the sin offering.  Aaron lays his hands on the head of the bull--symbolizing his willingness for the sacrifice--and a young bull is slaughtered and burned outside of camp.  When we come to Christ, we start with the repentence provided by God (the washing) but before we can be of service to God, we must also willingly offer that "bull-headed" sin up to God so that He can kill it, take it out of our lives and burn it to ash. 
  • The first ram is a gift offering.  The priest laid hands on it (like the bull) and then it was slaughtered, washed and burned on the altar.  Again, the ram is a gift provided to Aaron as he is being set apart, but the priest must be willing to have his gift killed, washed and destroyed.  God provides each of us with spiritual gifts, but before they are useful to God we must first be willing to see them lose their usefulness, be purified, and destroyed as an offering for God.  For those of us who have been prepared for ministry, this process seems shocking.  God gives us a great gift and the first thing He does is kill it, clean it, and then burn it to ash--as if it could never reappear.  Until we are willing to submit our gifts and talents to God's will--even to death, if necessary--those gifts are unusable to God. 
  • The second ram seems to be going the same direction as the first.  It also must be willingly slaughtered, but this time the blood, the life of the gift, goes on the priest's dominant earlobe, dominant thumb and dominant toe.  As we again give up what has been given to us, God uses it to give life to our hearing, our doing and our going.  The fat and the bread of God's presence again willingly goes on the altar--the first and best always goes back to Him.  The breast and thigh are also willingly lifted up to the Lord, but (surprise!) these come back to him as his portion.  It is boiled and must be eaten in God's presence.  The blessings God provides for us to keep still require work and can only be enjoyed in continual communion with God.  From then on, this portion of the people's peace offering is given to the priest.  Those who minister are blessed by those they nurture as those people walk into the peace God has for them.
  • For the first seven days of his ministry, the same sin sacrifice is offered each day and the altar, the altar must be cleaned out and anointed with oil each day.  This provides training and sets good habits in place within the one who ministers.  Each day, those who serve God must bring their sin before God, repent and receive the anointing of the Holy Spirit.  This is especially important in the beginning, but it will continue throughout his ministry.
  • Through the rest of his ministry, he will wash himself and offer morning and evening sacrifices that include meat, bread, oil and wine--the stuff of their lives.  During these times of sacrifice, God will meet with them and speak with them.  We also repent each day, setting time and resources aside, each morning and evening, so that we can hear from God. 
  • The priest will also offer incense each morning and evening.  Incense is symbolic of the prayers offered on behalf of the people. 
  • All of the stuff used within the temple are divinely prepared through God's inspiration to gifted craftsmen, who are divinely set apart to prepare those things, just as our Bible was provided through the use of gifted men, divinely set apart and inspired to prepare for us the tools we use to worship God. 
The final instructions regarding the sabbath applied to all of Israel, except to the priesthood, for their ministry continued every day, and actually increased on the Sabbath.  Worship is not considered work, and for those of us called to it, it is a blessing not a chore.  Priests did have rotations and did rest, but remained in a continual state of worship.  In Hebrews, we are taught that Jesus is our sabbath rest.  He works in and through us every day, just like the priests worked every day before God. 

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