The Anointed Feet of the Priesthood

The Anointed Feet of the Priesthood

The Anointed Feet of the Priesthood.

“Take the other ram, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on its head. Slaughter it, and take some of its blood and put it on the lobes of the right ears of Aaron and his sons, on the thumbs of their right hands, and on the big toes of their right feet. Then sprinkle blood against the altar on all its sides. And take some of the blood on the altar and some of the anointing oil and sprinkle it on Aaron and his garments, and on his sons and their garments. Then he and his sons and their garments will be consecrated.” (Exodus 29:19-21; also refer to Leviticus 8:23-24).

We see here the Lord’s instructions to Moses on how to conduct the consecration ceremony for all priests who were to serve Him in the Tabernacle in the wilderness. The consecration ritual seems to be a combination of purifying the new priest, anointing him in blood, dedicating him to serving Yahweh, and ordaining him for the sacred work. The Lord Yahweh would consider Aaron and his sons fit for service as priests in His Dwelling Place once this ceremony was completed.

The Ram.  The very bloody sacrifice of the ram has a unique history as well as a profound future. First, we see a three-year-old ram as one of the animals hand-picked by God to establish His covenant in a ceremony with Abram (Gen.15:9). This first ram sacrifice ratified the Covenant, which is of course supremely important and changed the course of human history. The next time we see a ram being sacrificed was in the momentous and perplexing scene on Mt. Moriah, with Abraham ready to obey God’s call to sacrifice on the altar his only son, Isaac, the last heir in his immediate family. (Gen.22). The Angel of the Lord stopped Abraham from following through on this strange request from the Lord, and directed Abraham to a nearby bush in which a ram was trapped. The ram was sacrificed in the place of Isaac, thank goodness. This profound and nearly tragic scene in Jewish history has of course many parallels to the Son Jesus being sacrificed much later on a hill near Moriah.  But still, this is one of those biblical events when we simply have to trust God’s superior wisdom while wondering if God could have somehow picked a less drastic way to make His point. For one thing, the relationship between father Abraham and son Isaac never seemed to recover from this terrifying incident, and was never the same after that petrifying and illogical scene. Of course, God’s point was made later on Calvary, when the Lamb of God was sacrificed, spilling His blood on the altar of the Cross for our deliverance from sin. So the ram of the Old Covenant became in due time the lamb of the New Covenant. “Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” (John 1:29).

Donnie McClurkin – Lamb Of God (AZUSA Coast to Coast Music) ’93 – YouTube

Blood on the Ear. The blood on the right earlobe symbolized the need for the priest to listen carefully to what the Lord has to say, to be totally receptive to God’s message. The priest is not to make the mistake of closing his ear to God, or need for the Lord to “dig out his ear” to remove whatever is blocking the way. (Ps. 40:6). The priest has to be vitally aware of an obstacle to hearing God’s words, whether through indifference or ignorance or a weak moment. The ear is holy, because in the Hebrew mind, the word for “listen” is the famous Hebrew word “shema”. It means to both hear and do, listen and obey. One hasn’t truly listened if it is not followed by obedience. To the practicing Jew, one listens in order to obey. In this consecration ceremony, the Lord is warning against any priest who would let God’s word in one ear and then out the other.

Blood on the Thumb. The drops of blood on the right thumb symbolizes the work the priest’s hands. The Priest is to execute the duties of the priesthood carefully and responsibly, exactly as the Lord has instructed. The priest is to obey instructions with the knowledge that his holy actions are a part of a privileged ministry before the almighty God. The hands join the ears and the feet as, what Paul calls later “instruments of righteousness.” (Romans 6:13). The priest must be alert to literally handle the sacred objects, the animals, the furniture, everything in the Tabernacle, knowing this is serious business. So the hands of the priests were considered holy because of how the Lord needed them for their sacred duties and their eternal importance, which the priests were not even aware of The hands were also holy because they were used in holy worship before the Lord, raising holy hands in adoration and praise. Physical worship can indeed be considered spiritual worship in the eyes of the Lord, who took on flesh and used His body to praise the Father.

Blood on the Big Toe.  Blood on the big toe symbolized the importance of walking in holiness before the Lord God. The priest is to humbly walk in obedience to the Lord’s commands, to conduct himself with integrity and sincerity before God. While serving Yahweh in the Tabernacle, the priest was to walk carefully, aware of God’s presence and power. The big toe was also called the “Destiny Toe” because it determined where you were headed. It was instrumental in being able to walk a straight line, to effectively go in the direction desired. Without a big toe, a person could not properly keep his balance. The big toe is something to be grateful for, and its importance is highlighted in this consecration ceremony. After battle, the victorious king would often cut off the big toes of the defeated warriors, because it meant they would not be able to fight effectively. So with his big toe helping the priest to keep his balance and walk straight, the priest was expected to walk righteously and responsibly, with a sense of holiness. The priest was to keep in mind constantly that the floor of the Tabernacle was holy ground. The fact that the priests were not allowed to wear any type of shoes in the Tabernacle only confirmed the presence of holy ground beneath their feet.

Why so much blood? Under the old system, the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer could cleanse people’s bodies from ceremonial impurity. Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered Himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins.” (Hebrews 9:13-14). Aaron must have been covered in blood for most of the day. Blood is sacred, says the Lord. Blood is holy, set apart from other aspects of creation. In the eyes of God, blood represents life. Life itself depends on blood. In fact, “the life of the flesh is in the blood.” (Lev. 17:11). Blood is a life principle flowing into the very structure of created life. Since the Fall in the Garden, the world has had a disastrous problem: sin. The result of sin is death. And the result of blood is life. So it naturally follows that blood is somehow the remedy for sin. Blood has to be involved if forgiveness is to happen, if life proves victorious over death. In God’s plan of redemption, His universal solvent is blood, it dissolves the presence and authority of sin.

God designed a blood sacrifice system in the Old Covenant that atoned for the sins of the Chosen People. As a God of justice and righteousness, He demanded a punishment for sin, and the blood of an animal sacrifice was put in place to satisfy that demand. Pure blood from unblemished and utterly innocent animals. Innocent blood was the only answer to the guilt of sin. But this sacrificial system was not meant to be permanently in place. It was ultimately an incomplete system in many ways. It required ongoing sacrifices; it was only a temporary atonement until the person sinned again; it was merely for external purposes, making the person ceremonially clean; it didn’t necessarily change the heart of the person making the offering. So the Mosaic system was adequate and God-ordained for a time. But it was only a shadow, a hint of a better system coming along in God’s perfect timing. It was a necessary beginning to what turned out to be a perfect end. In the Old Covenant, the Mosaic sacrifice was necessary but insufficient. The best was yet to come in the fullness of time.

Jesus was the perfect sacrifice hinted at in the animal sacrifice. He fulfilled all the requirements of the Old Covenant system… an unblemished, pure, innocent victim offering blood for atonement. Jesus completed the sacrificial system, so only one sacrifice, His, was needed. His blood brought forgiveness of all sins, by all people, for all time. At a superficial glance, it looks like God is out for blood. But God “doesn’t want blood, He wants life.” Only Jesus Christ, the Son of God, can offer his blood for eternal life. Yes, yes, yes, there is power in the blood!

Lari White / There Is Power In The Blood – YouTube

The Sons of Aaron. Now Adab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective fire pans and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. And fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. Then Moses said to Aaron, ‘It is what the Lord spoke, saying, ‘By those who come near me I must be treated as holy, and before all the people I must be glorified.” (Leviticus 10:1-3).

Tragically, the holy intentions of the consecration ceremony did not have any effect on the sons of Aaron. Apparently, they did not take the blood ceremony to heart. The ritual that was set up to set them apart for holy service before the Lord did not transform their hearts. What happened? They had everything going for them, and they stubbornly refused to internalize God’s purpose for them, or participate in this vital ministry of the holy priesthood.

“STRANGE” = Zuwr – The Hebrew root used here for “strange” means profane, unholy, wayward, astray, unauthorized, foreign to God and His instructions, disobedient; this word is also used in Proverbs 23:30-33 when referring to drunkenness and the poor judgement that comes from intoxication; it also is used several times in Proverbs to describe sexual immorality or adultery. The fire offered by the sons of Aaron was somehow “strange” in this biblical sense.

Capital Punishment? Why did God judge those two men so harshly? Why did God choose to be a “consuming fire” (Deut. 4:24) in this instance? Why was their punishment so severe? The Scripture is unclear as to why exactly these two sons of Aaron, newly ordained as priests, had to die. Some possible reasons for their death penalty include:

  1. They were intoxicated. The Hebrew word above for “strange” implies this directly. And this could be the very reason God instituted a new law very quickly after this incident, in verses 9-10“Do not drink wine or strong drink, neither you nor your sons with you, when you come into the Tent of Meeting, so that you may not die – So as to make a distinction between the holy and profane, between the unclean and the clean.” It could be their intoxication clouded their thinking, gave them poor judgement, and they were unaware of how important the Lord’s instructions were. Thus they were careless about those instructions. Being drunk, they couldn’t distinguish between the holy and the profane, and made poor decisions.
  2. They simply ignored instructions. According to Numbers 16:46, they were instructed not to take the hot coals from the altar of burnt offering. Also in Exodus 30:9, they were told to  refrain from offering any strange incense on the altar. Is the Lord being too picky here? No, for in God’s eyes, He has a good reason for everything to do with the sacred duties of the Holy Place. And everything is connected to a holy God. Chief among the priest’s duties was to preserve God’s holiness. They failed to do so in a way that mattered.
  3. They approached the Holy of Holies. There’s a good possibility that the two sons arrogantly attempted to enter the Holy of Holies behind the veil. God would surely strike down anyone walking into the sacred place of the Lord’s presence without His permission. This possibility was directly implied later in Leviticus 16:1-2“Now the Lord spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they had approached the presence of the Lord and died. The Lord said to Moses, ‘Tell your brother Aaron that he shall not enter at any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat which is on the ark, lest he die; for I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat.” 
  4. They didn’t follow God’s timing. The incense offering was mandated by God to occur during the morning and the evening sacrifices. This is when the priest was to trim the lamps, so there was “a perpetual incense before the Lord throughout your generations.” (Exodus 30:7-9). It could be the two sons ignored God’s instructions, and offered the incense at the wrong time, thus thwarting God’s purposes for that particular instruction. Once again, it could be the two men were careless about obeying the Lord’s directions. They seemingly were indifferent to His desires. And it cost them. God is not being picky. He is being holy.
  5. This was a pivotal moment. Sometimes extreme measures need to be taken when an important new spiritual development is taking place, to make sure that it doesn’t pivot in the wrong direction. In this case with the two sons of Aaron, a new line of priesthood was being established, and the Lord needed to show everyone that He wasn’t playing games, that His holy Presence and His new system of sacred worship are not to be taken lightly. God imposed this lesson through the two sons and on the Israelites: Obedience to God is a serious business, and there is something profound taking place with this worship that they do not understand. The Lord wanted to teach the same lesson of divine accountability to the new Christian community being formed after Pentecost in Acts 5:1-11. Ananias and Sapphira lied to God, and they paid the price with their lives. It was a pivotal moment in the burgeoning life of the early church. As one could easily imagine, “And great fear came upon the whole church, and upon all who heard of these things.” With the early Christians and with the Israelites, the lesson was undoubtedly learned. Disobedience has consequences, especially with new formative moments in the Faith. Both the Jews and the Christians were suitably impressed.

Holy Fear. Whether they were drunk, careless, ignorant or foolhardy, the two sons of Aaron certainly lacked a quality needed by priests and believers in God’s service: a healthy fear of the Lord. They didn’t honor the awesome holiness of God, they didn’t even have the respect needed to obey His instructions. In our case, we all know about our worst fears: heights, public speaking, snakes, darkness, failure. But what is our best fear? The best fear of believers down through history is not a thing but a Person… God. Biblical fear certainly includes the knocking of knees and shortage of breath of honest fearfulness, but there’s more to the story.

Godly fear in Scripture also includes the raised hands of adoration; the bare feet of awe; a shiver of hopeful joy; a peaceful sigh of contentment; a humbled spirit overcome with devotion; a focused mind poised to listen and obey; a heart filled with a mixture of reverence, relief and wonder. This is what the ancients called “holy dread,” and it serves to keep us honest and careful as we acknowledge our place before an almighty, inscrutable God. In this state of healthy fear, our tendency to domesticate the holy and righteous Lord would be unthinkable. Our relationship to the Omnipotent would not be foolishly limited to a casual, sentimental Buddy System with Jesus. The sons of Aaron somewhere along the way lost that fear factor before the Lord. They didn’t realize that things of God may be unsafe to handle if taken lightly.

“If there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than me or else just silly.” “Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy. “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.” “I’m longing to see him,” said Peter, “even if I do feel frightened when it comes to the point.” “That’s right, Son of Adam,” said Mrs. Beaver…”  (C. S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe).

Do We Make the Same Mistakes? Do we demonstrate any contemporary versions of the strange fire? Are we in danger of offending an almighty and holy God? The two sons of Aaron got into big trouble with God by their indifferent, disrespectful treatment of God and His Holy Place, which was the precursor to the Temple in Jerusalem. Do we have any temples in our midst that can be defiled or dishonored by us?

  1. Each of us has a temple that we manage every day… our bodies. Our bodies contain the Holy Spirit, and is a place for worship. There was one chief act of desecration St. Paul had in mind in 1 Corinthians 6:18-20“Run from sexual sins! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” So it appears that one way we might offer the sacrilege of a strange fire would be to dishonor our body through sexual immorality. Sex outside a marriage between a man and a woman could be considered a profane way of being careless with our temple, of taking God’s instructions lightly, of dishonoring the temple that is our body.
  2. The church is also a temple of the almighty God. Are there ways we can defile the temple and dishonor God? “Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you?(1 Cor. 3:16). And Paul underlines that truth when he said in 2 Cor. 6:16: “What union can there be between God’s temple and idols? For we are the temple of the living God.” Does our church have any idols to own up to? Is there collective acceptance of anything sacreligious or contrary to God’s desire for the church? Is public acceptance more important than Biblical standards? Is there any materialism in the way we approach the church building or in our programs and ministries? Is there crass materialism in the lifestyle of the church believers that affects the church’s public perception or personality? Is there casual acceptance of obvious sins such as abortion, sexual assault, or pornography? Is the church addicted to technology or entertainment?  Whatever might be pernicious in its influence which is contrary to God’s mind on these matters, then they could be idols, they could run the risk of sacrilege and God’s judgement.
  3. Does our church underestimate God’s power? Are we careless or casual with God in our temples that contain the holiness and presence of God? “Why do we people in churches seem like cheerful, brainless tourists on a package tour of the Absolute? On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews.”  (Annie Dillard, An Expedition to the Pole).

A Whole Body Experience.  The priest’s right earlobe, right thumb, and right big toe represented the whole body of the priest. The priest was told here that he was to offer his whole body to the Lord’s service. The sacrificial blood, remember, was spread all over Aaron and his sons during the ceremony so their garments were covered in blood. They were to surrender to the Lord, not just three simple body parts, but their whole selves. Their entire body was set apart, sacred, in their role in the Tabernacle. There is a good chance, isn’t there, that St. Paul was thinking of this part of the Law of Moses as he wrote his inspired words in Romans 12:1? Is it not so that the consecrated priest was to offer his whole body as a living sacrifice?

“I urge you therefore, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable and sensible service.” (NKJ);” Give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice – the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him.”(NLT); “…Surrender yourselves to God to be His sacred, living sacrifices. And live in holiness, experiencing all that delights His heart. For this becomes your genuine expression of worship.”(TPT); ”Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and  walking-around life, and place it before God as an offering.” (MSG); “In view of God’s mercies, offer yourselves as a sacrifice, living and set apart for God. This will please Him; it is the logical ‘Temple worship’ for you.”(Stern); “Make a decisive dedication of your bodies- presenting all your members and faculties- as a living sacrifice, consecrated and well pleasing to God, which is your intelligent service and spiritual worship.” (AMP).

Our Priesthood. “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God.” (1 Peter 2:9-10).  By virtue of following Christ, believers are grafted onto the Tree of Faith and have become a part of God’s chosen people. Christians didn’t replace the Jews, we simply, out of God’s mercy, were able to join the party and become children of Abraham. In the Hebrew tradition, then, found in Exodus 19:6 and Isaiah 61:6, Christians have become priests in the eyes of God. We have become priests, because Jesus has become our High Priest. Astoundingly, Jesus was first the sacrificed Lamb of God, covering us in His spiritual blood, just as Aaron and his sons were literally covered in the ram’s sacrificed blood. The Old Covenant’s consecration ceremony has been fulfilled through the New Covenant’s blood of Christ. We have been purified, dedicated, and anointed, not through the blood of the ram, but instead the blood of the Lamb.

The Blood (feat. Chandler Moore, Nicole Binion & Ryan Ofei) | Maverick City Music | TRIBL – YouTube