Law of Moses

Printable .pdf version,

As A Rule of National and Individual Life
By Robert Roberts
Chapter 18 - The Consecration of Aaron And His Sons

IN about twelve months from the night that Israel broke up their settlement at Rameses in Egypt, and marched at the command of Moses to their first encampment at Succoth, the various parts and appurtenances of the Tabernacle had been made and finished, and were brought to Moses by those of the children of Israel who had made them. "According to all that the Lord commanded Moses, so the children of Israel made all the work. And Moses did look upon all the work, and, behold, they had done it as the Lord commanded, even so had they done it; and Moses blessed them" (Exod. 39:42-43).

Moses then received orders to set up the Tabernacle "on the first day of the first month of the second year", Moses did so, fixing the sockets, rearing up the pillars, fastening the cords, and placing the various coverings and hangings in their several specified positions: putting the ark and the mercy-seat and the cherubim inside the veil, and the candlestick and the table, etc., in the holy place, in the various places appointed for them. Having set the bread in order, and lighted the lamps, and offered incense on the golden altar, there remained the consecration of Aaron and his sons for the exercise of the priest's office -- as to which, elaborate directions had been given and were now carried out.

"This", said Moses to the assembled congregation, as he proceeded with the ceremony of consecration, "is the thing which the Lord commanded to be done", and the narrative describes in great detail what was done, including the investiture of Aaron with the holy garments -- in the order of which, as remarked in the last chapter, it may be possible to discover the shadowed history of the development of the antitype: for in his official relations, Aaron was undoubtedly a type of Christ.

First, Moses washed Aaron with water. This is the type of moral cleansing as we saw in connection with the laver, as also shown in David's expression, "Wash me throughly from mine iniquity (Psa. 51:2). "Water", as a figure, is used by Jesus to represent the Holy Spirit (John 7:38-39). Aaron stood to represent the seed of Abraham. The washing of Aaron with water was, therefore, a prefiguration of the moral cleansing to be effected in a son of Abraham by the Spirit in preparation for the priestly office. The application of this in the antitype may be discerned in the operation of the Spirit, which, though resulting in a son of David according to the laws of maternity, produced such a Son of David as the world had never seen before, viz., a sinless man: human nature morally cleansed. "He did always those things that pleased the Father." He could ask, without fear of successful answer, "Which of you convicteth me of sin? .... He did no sin." He was in this sense "without spot", which could not be affirmed of any other son of Abraham.

Some experience a difficulty here. They say that if the begettal of Jesus by the Spirit had such an effect as this, he was not of the same nature as ourselves. The simple answer may suggest itself in the question: Are there not different sorts of the same nature in everything? Contrast a crab-apple with a delicious Blenheim: a worn-out cart-horse with a high-blooded charger: a mumbling savage with a British peer -- different sorts, but the same nature. Jesus was a man, but not as other men in his powerful affinity for God, and his abhorrence for everything in opposition to His will. He was human nature mentally washed in this sense by the Spirit. If it were not so, to what can we attribute his spotless divinity of character? It is there: was it an effect without a cause? Education cannot account for it -- for other Jewish children had as good an education as he. Education had something to do with it, doubtless, but it was only as the culture of good seed in good soil. The parable of the sower touches the subject: the same seed produced different results, according to the nature of the soil. The "soil" differs in different men, and yet they are all men. Christ was a man, yet his mental soil differed from all men's. He had the impulses common to all men, but conjoined with these, a power of control possessed by no man. And this was the result of the antitypical washing to which, in him, the seed of David was subjected in harmony with the Mosaic figure.

Then Moses put upon Aaron the coat of fine linen, in which we may recognize righteousness as the work of instruction superimposed upon the prepared nature (see last chapter: item 1--The Coat). Then, the girdle of the coat -- righteous principle blooming into the activity of a righteous life. Then the robe of blue, with the bells and pomegranates -- healing developed for us by the stripes to which he submitted, in conformity with the revealed necessities of the case: in connection with the (bell) words and (pomegranate) deeds of his obedient life, followed by his healing resurrection -- a healing in which both he and his brethren are joint partakers -- and the proclamation thereof, when he went into the holy place (heaven itself).

Then Moses put on Aaron the ephod, with all its memorial adjuncts of "glory and beauty" -- the shoulder onyx stones and the breastplate, followed by the mitre and the holy crown of gold, engraved, "Holiness to the Lord" (as particularized in last chapter). Christ became the fully equipped High Priest in the particulars symbolized by these, after his resurrection. Entering heaven itself, "to appear in the presence of God for us" (Heb. 9:24), he "bears the iniquity of the holy things" (after the type of Aaron) in that the blemished approaches of his people (who come in his name, and merge their individuality in his), are forgiven and accepted for his sake: in whom sin has been condemned (Rom. 8:3): the curse of the law endured (Gal. 3:13): and the righteousness of God declared (Rom. 3:25-26).

The names of all the saints he bears,
Engraven on his heart;
Nor shall the meanest saint complain
That he hath lost his part.

His priesthood in the age to come is only a continuation and enlargement of this work. He is a priest "after the order of Melchizedek", in the sense of having an unchangeable and humanly underived priesthood, in contrast with the Levitical priesthood which was dependent upon family extraction, and limited to a certain period of mortal life (see Heb. 7:20-28).

Thus is the development of the antitypical priest in harmony with the order of Aaron's investiture with the holy garments.

But Aaron was not fully qualified to enter on the priest's office until he was also anointed with the holy oil, and sanctified by the blood of the sin-offering commanded to be offered (see Lev. 8:10, 14, 30). The meaning of this in the antitype is manifest.

1. The Holy Oil. -- The testimony is that Jesus was anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows (Heb. 1:9). This was the Spirit, as Peter declares: "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit, and with power" (Acts 10:38). It was not enough that he should be the sinless seed of David according to the flesh: it was needful that "the Spirit of the Lord God should be upon him" (Isa. 61:1), by which he should be "anointed to preach good tidings to the meek", as Jesus declared was fulfilled in him (Luke 4:18-21). This was a further extension of the Spirit's work beyond the work symbolized by the washing of Aaron with water. The Spirit not only begat Jesus, but when he was 30 years of age, it decended upon him in a visible shape, and abode upon him (John 1:32-33), and remained with him in measureless fulness (John 3:34), enabling him to say, "The Father dwelleth in me", Without this, he would not have been able to do the works which bore witness of him that the Father had sent him (John 5:36): for as he said "of mine own self, I can do nothing" (John 5:30). The anointing of the Spirit was essential to the completion of his priesthood in other respects: how otherwise could he "through the eternal Spirit have offered himself without spot unto God"? (Heb. 9:14). How otherwise could he have known for whom to intercede? (Rom. 8:26). How otherwise could he have "searched the reins and hearts, to give every man according to his works"? (Rev. 2:23).

The holy oil was also sprinkled upon "the Tabernacle and all that was therein", and upon "the altar and all his vessels", and upon "the laver and his foot" (Lev. 8:10-11). The proximate and Mosaic purpose of this was "to sanctify them", The antitypical significance was the same as the anointing of Aaron; for all the elements of the Tabernacle and its furniture represented some phase or other of the work of God in Christ, as we have seen: and therefore all had to be anointed with the typical oil to fill in the "pattern".

2. The Sacrificial Blood.--But the sacrificial blood was applied to everything as well--Aaron and his sons included (see Lev. 8:14-15; 23-24). An atonement had to be made by the shedding and the sprinkling of blood for and upon them all (Lev. 16:33). As Paul remarks, "almost all things by the law are purged with blood" (Heb. 9:22). Now all these things were declared to be "patterns of things in the heavens", which it is admitted on all hands converge upon and have their substance in Christ. There must, therefore, be a sense in which Christ (the antitypical Aaron, the antitypical altar, the antitypical mercy-seat, the antitypical everything), must not only have been sanctified by the action of the antitypical oil of the Holy Spirit, but purged by the antitypical blood of his own sacrifice. This conclusion is supposed to be weakened by the statement of Lev. 16:16, that the atonement for the holy place, altar, etc., was to be made "because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel and because of their transgressions in all their sins". That is, it is argued from this, that the holy things would have had no uncleanness in themselves apart from the uncleanness of the children of Israel. This must be granted, but it must also be recognized that because the children of Israel were sinful and polluted, the holy things were reckoned as having contracted defilement in having been fabricated by them and through remaining in their midst. This cannot be denied on a full survey of the testimony. They were ceremonially unclean, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and had to be cleansed by the holy oil and the sacrificial blood before they were acceptable in the Mosaic service.

Now, this is part of the Mosaic figure. There must be an antitype to it. What was it? The holy things, we know, in brief, are Christ. He must, therefore, have been the subject of a personal cleansing in the process by which he opened the way of sanctification for his people. If the typical holy things contracted defilement from connection with a sinful congregation, were not the antitypical (Christ) holy things in a similar state, through derivation on his mother's side from a sinful race? If not, how came they to need purging with his own "better sacrifice"? (Heb. 9:23).

Great difficulty is experienced by various classes of thinkers in receiving this view. Needlessly so, it should seem. There is first the express declaration that the matter stands so; "it was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these (Mosaic sacrifices); but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these" (Heb. 9:23). "It was of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer" (8:3). "By reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins" (5:3). "By his own blood, he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption" (for us, is an addition inconsistent with the middle voice of the verb employed, which imports a thing done by one to one's own self) (9:12).

There was next the necessity that it should be so. The word "necessity", it will be perceived, occurs frequently in the course of Paul's argument. The necessity arises from the position in which men stood as regards the law of sin and death, and the position in which the Lord stood as their redeemer from this position. The position of men was that they were under condemnation to die because of sin, and that not their own sin, in the first instance, but ancestral sin at the beginning. The forgiveness of personal offences is the prominent feature of the apostolic proclamation, because personal offences are the greater barrier. Nevertheless, men are mortal because of sin, quite independently of their own transgressions. Their redemption from this position is a work of mercy and forgiveness, yet a work to be effected in harmony with the righteousness of God, that He might be just while justifying those believing in the Redeemer. It is so declared (Rom. 3:26). It was not to be done by setting aside the law of sin and death, but by righteously nullifying it in one who should obtain this redemption in his own right, and who should be authorized to offer to other men a partnership in his right, subject to required conditions (of their conformity to which, he should be appointed sole judge).

How to effect this blending and poising of apparently opposing principles and differing requirements -- mercy and justice; forgiveness and righteousness; goodness and severity -- would have been impossible for human wisdom. It has not been impossible with God, to whom all things are possible. We see the perfect adjustment of all the apparently incompatible elements of the problem in His work in Christ, "who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption" (1 Cor. 1:30).

We have only to receive the simple facts testified in the case to reach the end of all difficulty. With immortal soulism and eternal torments, the solution is impossible. With the doctrine of human mortality, it is otherwise. We see Jesus born of a woman, and therefore a partaker of the identical nature condemned to death in Eden. We see him a member of imperfect human society, subject to toil and weakness, dishonour and sorrow, poverty and hatred, and all the other evils that have resulted from the advent of sin upon the earth. We see him down in the evil which he was sent to cure: not outside of it, not untouched by it, but in it, to put it away. "He was made perfect through suffering" (Heb. 2:10), but he was not perfect till he was through it. He was saved from death (5:7), but not until he died. He obtained redemption (Heb. 9:12), but not until his own blood was shed.

That statement that he did these things "for us" has blinded many to the fact that he did them "for himself" first -- without which, he could not have done them for us, for it was by doing them for himself that He did them for us. He did them for us only as we may become part of him, in merging our individualities in him by taking part in his death, and putting on his name and sharing his life afterwards. He is, as it were, a new centre of healthy life, in which we must become incorporate before we can be saved.

The antitype of the cleansing of the holy things with blood is manifest when we look at Christ as he now is, and contrast him with what he was. He was a mortal man: he is now immortal. He was a sorrowful man; he is now "full of joy with thy (the Father's) countenance" He was an Adamic body of death, corruptible and unclean: he is now a spiritual body, incorruptible, pure, and holy. What lies between the one state and the other? His own death and resurrection. Therefore, by these, he has been purified, and no one else has been so purified as yet. Any one else delivered will be delivered by him, as the result of what he did in himself.

If there was one injunction of the law more strenuous than another, it was that contact with death in any form, however remote or indirect, was defiling. Even to touch a bone made a man unclean: or to be touched by a man unclean from such a cause had the same effect. We have the perfect antitype in the Lord born of a death-bound woman, and therefore made subject to death: it was "that he, by the grace of God, might taste death for every man"; but he was the first to taste, in the process of redemption from it. He was a "body prepared" for the work: prepared as to its power to evolve sinlessness of character, but prepared also as to subjection to that death which it was designed to abolish (2 Tim. 1:10). In him were combined the antitypical "holy things" requiring atonement, "because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel and because of their transgressions in all their sins."

The reverence for Christ commands respect which leads some men to consider him immaculate in all senses and in no need to offer for himself, but it is not "according to knowledge", It is not consistent with the Divine objects in God "sending forth his son in the likeness of sinful flesh", All these objects blend together, but they are separable. One of them was to "condemn sin in the flesh", as Paul says (Rom. 8:3). The stumblings that have taken place over this expression are doubtless due to that other truth, that Christ did no sin, and in this sense was the "Lamb of God without spot". But the stumblings do not get rid of the expression as affirming a truth. Some would explain it as meaning the moral condemnation of sin by Christ during his life. This cannot be the meaning in view of the statement with which it is conjoined that what was done was "what the law could not do". The law condemned sin so thoroughly in the moral sense that it is called "the ministration of condemnation". Then some have suggested that it means the flesh of the sacrificial animals. This is precluded by the intimation that Christ was sent "in the likeness of sinful flesh" for the accomplishment of the work in question -- the condemnation of sin in the flesh. This is, in fact, the reliable clue to the meaning. That he was sent "in the likeness of sinful flesh" for the accomplishment of the work shows that it was a work to be done in him. Some try to get away from this conclusion (and this is the popular habit) by seizing on the word "likeness" and contending that this means not the same, but only like. This contention is precluded by the use of the same term as to his manhood: "he was made in the likeness of men", He was really a man, in being in the likeness of men: and he was really sinful flesh, in being in "the likeness of sinful flesh". Paul, in Heb. 2:14-17, declares the likeness to have been in the sense of sameness: "Forasmuch as the children were partakers of flesh and blood, it became him likewise to take part of the same". The statement remains in its undiminished force that "God sent his own son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for (as an offering for) sin condemned sin in the flesh", It is, in fact, a complete and coherent statement of what was accomplished in the death of Christ, and a perfect explanation of the reason why he first came in the flesh, and of the reason why John the apostle insisted so strenuously on the maintenance of the doctrine that he had so come in the flesh. Possessing sinful flesh was no sin to him, who kept it under perfect control, and "did always those things that pleased the Father". At the same time, being the sinful flesh derived from the condemned transgressors of Eden, it admitted of sin being publicly condemned in him, without any collision with the claims of his personal righteousness, which were to be met by an immediate and glorious resurrection.

There was a purpose in it, which is variously stated. These various statements conjointly admit us to what may be called God's objects in the case -- apart from which, there can be no understanding of the matter. With those objects in view, it is not only intelligible but admirable. But those objects cannot be discerned or appreciated apart from God Himself. The subject begins there. That is why the subject remains dim, so long after other parts of the truth are understood. We cannot understand God, yet we can have some idea of the relation between Creator and created. We may know that the rights are all on the side of the Creator, and that the reasonable attitude of the created is that of absolute submission, and that any departure from this attitude is treason, and that death is just in the case of treason. We may also find it easy to recognize that though He is kind, and ready to forgive, He cannot grant forgiveness apart from such an amende honourable as will preserve intact the mutual relations of Creator and created. This, in simple language, is the explanation of the entrance of death by sin, and the granting of life by forgiveness for Christ's sake, after "setting him forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood" (Rom. 3:25). We are "justified by his blood" if we believe -- (see Rom 5:9; Acts 13:38-39). There is no difference between the shedding of the blood of Christ, and the condemnation of sin in the flesh. For this blood-shedding is what is otherwise expressed as "the pouring out of his soul unto death". And what is death but the condemnation of sin? Christ did not sin, but he inherited the condemnation of sin in deriving his nature from a daughter of Adam, the condemned: and he was considered as having the sins of his people laid upon him, in so far as the sins of his people were to be forgiven for the sake of what should be done in him. "He shall bear the sin of many." "God hath laid upon him the iniquities of us all." "He was wounded for our transgressions." "He was made sin for us, who knew no sin." "Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world."

For this view of blood-shedding we are indebted to the explanation vouchsafed in the law, as to the requirement of blood in sacrifice. This explanation is as follows: "The life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul" (Lev. 17:11). The pouring out of the blood was therefore the pouring out of the life -- therefore the infliction of death: and therefore an illustration of what was due to sin, and an acknowledgment on the part of the offerer that it was so. But being the blood of an animal which had nothing to do with sin, it was only a typical illustration or declaration of God's righteousness in the case. It was not a condemnation of sin in its own flesh, but a mere shadow which God was pleased to establish in Israel's midst, in educational preparation for the actual condemnation which was to be carried out in His own Son, in whom, "sent forth in the likeness of sinful flesh" for (as an offering for) sin, He "condemned sin in the flesh"

This sacrificial condemnation of sin in the eyes of all the world (for by record and report, all the world has seen Jesus on the cross), is otherwise said "to declare the righteousness of God for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God" (Rom. 3:25). These terms are as lucid as profound. They constitute an inspired definition of the object in the case. No view can be right that cannot be brought within the terms of that definition. It is, in fact, the final easement of all difficulty where the mind is able to rise to the Divine point of view involved in the statement. The crucifixion was a Divine declaration and enforcement of what is due to sin, and as it was God's righteous appointment that this should be due to sin, the infliction of it was a declaration of God's righteousness.

If we limit our view to the individual "man Christ Jesus", and look at him in the light of what is due to individual character as between man and man according to the "justice" of common parlance, we may have a difficulty in seeing how the righteousness of God was declared in the scourging and death of a righteous man. But this is not looking at the subject in the light in which it is prophetically and apostolically exhibited. It is not looking at it in the character that belongs to it. Jesus did not come into the world as an individual, but as a representative, though an individual. In this sense, he came "not for himself", but for others, though he was included in the coming. And it was to carry out Divine objects towards all. As he said, "I came not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me". He speaks of the work which the Father had given him to do. This work was to establish salvation by forgiveness, but forgiveness on conditions, and these conditions involved the declaration of the Father's righteousness in the public condemnation of sin in its own flesh in the person of a guiltless possessor of that flesh. Paul declares it was so, and controversy really ends with his words.

It only remains that we realize how completely the fact is in harmony with the statement. We cannot see this unless we recognize that Jesus was a wearer of Adam's condemned nature, and the bearer of the sins of the people -- not that Christ might be punished for others, but that God's righteousness might be declared for others to recognize, that they might be forgiven. The gospel provides an opportunity of close identification with what was done: "Buried with him by baptism into death"; "Crucified with Christ". In this posture, they receive the remission of sins "through the forbearance of God" (Rom. 3:25). This is the other great fact of the case -- God's forbearance, His kindness, His readiness to pardon when His claims are conceded. This excludes the popular view of vicarious suffering. If Christ paid our debts, there would be no forgiveness, but exaction, and thus would be blotted out the crowning glory of the apostolic proclamation. God is kind and will forgive, but God is great and will be exalted: and in the matter of life eternal, He has provided His own method both of exalting Himself and humbling us; and in the presence of it, there is nothing left for us but to bow in reverence -- before the crucified but resurrected son of His love.

We may appear to have wandered far away from the sacrificial blood sprinkled on the sanctuary and the altar, and the laver, and on Aaron "to make an atonement for them". Not really have we done so. The operation was a type of God's work in Christ, and it helps us to understand that work rightly, and especially in that one aspect of it which the doctrine of human immortality has made it so difficult for moderns to receive, viz., that Christ himself was included in the sacrificial work which he did "for us". "For himself that it might be for us", for how otherwise could we have obtained redemption if it had not first come into his possession, for us to become joint heirs of?

The necessity for Christ coming personally into the operation first, comes out very clearly -- perhaps more clearly than anywhere -- in the study of Paul's statement concerning Israel: "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law". The method of this work is before us without any fog. First Paul says he was made under the law to redeem them that were under the law (Gal. 4:4). He was himself born under the law that he might work the work that was to be done for others in that position. Not only so, but in bearing the curse of the law away, it had to act on himself. This will be seen if we ask how he took the law away; he did it by bearing it: "Being made a curse for us", How? Instead of us? No: by himself coming under it. This is Paul's teaching. "As it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree." It might seem in Moses that the clause about the cursedness of hanging on a tree means mere human infamy: but we must suspend our impressions in the presence of the Spirit of God in Paul. Mere human infamy is not the curse that Christ has redeemed us from, but the curse of God, as evident from his statement in the immediate context: "As many as are of the works of the law are under the curse, for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them" (Gal. 3:10).

Christ was cursed by the law in the mode of his death. He could not be cursed in any other way, for he was not a transgressor of the law. But in this way, he was cursed. And it is probable that this clause was inserted in the law for this very purpose -- that Christ might innocently die under the curse of the law, and so take it away: for the law can do nothing more than kill. When he died he was no longer under the law, which was made for mortal men, and had dominion over a man only as long as he lived (Rom. 7:1). When he rose, he was free from the curse of the law -- redeemed by his death. It is by union with him as a resurrected free man that we obtain this redemption wrought in him. This is what Paul says: "Ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ, that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead" He was born under the law and redeemed from the law, that we might be redeemed by sharing his redemption. This view of the matter enables us to understand Paul's allusion to what the death of Christ accomplished in relation to the law: that he "abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of the commandments contained in ordinances" (Eph. 2:15); "blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross" (Col. 2:14). But the result was achieved in himself.

This is the whole principle: redemption achieved in Christ for us to have, on condition of faith and obedience. It is not only that Israel are saved from the law of Moses on this principle, but it is the principle upon which we are saved from the law of sin and death, whose operation we inherit in deriving our nature from Adam. Christ partook of this nature to deliver it from death, as Paul teaches in Heb. 2:14, and other places: "Forasmuch as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil", Understanding by the devil, the hereditary death-power that has reigned among men by Adam through sin, we may understand how Christ, who took part in the death-inheriting nature, destroyed the power of death by dying and rising. We then understand how "He put away sin by the sacrifice of himself". We may also understand how "our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed" (Rom. 6:6), and how he "died unto sin once", but now liveth unto God, to die no more (verses 9-10).

All of which enables us to understand why the typical holy things were purified with sacrificial blood, and why the high priest, in his typical and official capacity had to be touched with blood as well as anointed with the holy oil before entering upon his work. When we say, as some in their reverence for Christ prefer to say, that the death of Christ was not for himself but only for us, they destroy all these typical analogies, and in truth, if their view could prevail, they would make it impossible that it could be for us at all' for it only operates "for us" when we unite ourselves with him in whom, as the firstborn, it had its first effect.


Ch 19