Thursday, November 17, 2016

An Unexpected Gift

Have you ever received a gift that caused you to stop and think about the giver.  These vary in shape, size, and worth.  A familiar form comes at the naming of a child, wherein parents consider several options that are important to them as a way of bequeathing something special to the child.  For, instance, my first and middle names came through my parents’ maternal great-grandfathers’ middle names.  I consider that a cherished heirloom and blessing.  There are other gifts that come as a mixed blessing or even a burden.  At the time, we may question the purpose of the gift or the motive of the giver, but we accept it grudgingly and discover later that the gift was far more precious and appropriate than first expected.

The people of God had been rocked with multiple instances of rebellion against God’s order:
  • Aaron and Miriam sought share in the prophetic office with Moses. (Num 12)
  • Ten spies gave a bad report of the Land of Promise, so the people chose not to enter. (Num 13)
  • When God told the people that generation would not see the Land, they attempted to enter anyway. (Num 14)
  • Korah, Dathan, and On sought to share in the leadership of Israel. (Num 16:1–40)
  • Each of these ended with God’s righteous discipline against the instigators, after which the people grumbled again resulting in more discipline. (Num 16:41–49)
Finally, the Lord set up a sign whereby all would know which house would serve Him in the priestly ministry: Aaron’s rod budded.  By this time everybody had learned their lessons—so much so that the people were afraid of YHWH’s presence among them:
So the children of Israel spoke to Moses, saying, “Surely we die, we perish, we all perish!  Whoever even comes near the tabernacle of the Lᴏʀᴅ must die.  Shall we all utterly die?” (Num 17:12–13)
To quell the people’s fear, Aaron and his sons were given a divine gift of greatest import:
Then the Lᴏʀᴅ said to Aaron: “You and your sons and your father’s house with you shall bear the iniquity related to the sanctuary, and you and your sons with you shall bear the iniquity associated with your priesthood.… Therefore you and your sons with you shall attend to your priesthood for everything at the altar and behind the veil; and you shall serve.  I give your priesthood to you as a gift for service, but the outsider who comes near shall be put to death.” (Num 18:1, 7)
Stop and soak that in.  Aaron’s tribe alone carried the burden of iniquity for the sanctuary and the priesthood.  No other person need fear for their safety because they will not come into the Lord’s presence.  However, this does place on the shoulders of Aaron’s tribe the sole ability to come before the Lord, so that they were the sole mediators representing men to God.  They alone could touch the holy things, offer the appointed sacrifices, and pronounce a declaration of cleanness or absolution of guilt.  You can see, then, that both great responsibility and authority come together in this gift.

When Jesus came into this world and completed the work given Him by the Father to do, He fulfilled all that was limited in the Aaronic priesthood and sacrifices—their scope and nature—by virtue of His all-sufficient atoning death.  What Aaron and his sons could never complete in their service of bearing iniquity, our Lord Jesus took upon Himself as the ultimate High Priest.  This work was the Father’s gift of service delivered to and gladly received by the Son in the eternal counsels of the Godhead.  Jesus continues His High Priestly work ever interceding before the Father on our behalf (Rom 8:34; Heb 7:25).

Believers now are a royal priesthood (1 Pet 2:4–5, 9–10), having been adopted as sons and coheirs, and are in right standing to come before God presenting spiritual sacrifices.  In the same way as the old priesthood, we now are called to intercede on behalf of our brethren.  Within the framework of the Aaronic priesthood, most of the offerings allowed a portion for the priest to eat.  Whether someone came because of guilt from a sin or trespass, or from gratitude for what the Lord had done for him, the priest received nourishment through the work of intercession.  In like manner, Christians now are nourished within their worship, whether through confession and absolution of sin or feeding on the body and blood of Jesus as true food and true drink (John 6:53–58).

Besides the corporate aspect, we also find it individually as believers share in one another’s burdens (Gal 6:1–2).  We pray for each one before the Lord for His loving-kindness and righteous dealings.  If there is sin, seek repentance and confession that forgiveness and reconciliation might be given.  If there is a burden to bear, bear it as well.  If a burden is released, enter into their joy.  Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep (Rom 12:15).

We can see, then, that the work of believers to intercede on behalf of one another is not grievous but a great endowment from a most generous Benefactor.  As a priesthood, we are privileged to have access before the throne of grace, both corporately and individually, to “obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb 4:16) for our mutual nourishment that the whole body might be built up in Him.

No comments: