Have you noticed how important that first point-of-contact person is at your doctor’s office? We used to call them receptionists, but they have different titles nowadays. “Patient Care Specialist” (PCS) is the most appropriate title I’ve seen for those mediators who are really good at their jobs.
Concerns arise when my favorite and fabulous PCS leaves the practice, and I must trust a new person to relay my questions and concerns to the doctor or his nurse. Will the information be relayed correctly to the medical professional—and then back to me? Can I trust the new mediator? Let’s face it. The more steps between the beginning and end of a process, the more opportunity for error. It’s reality.
So why did God add Aaron and his sons as priests when Moses was doing a bang-up job as mediator between God and Israel? Why another layer between God and men?
Moses, the Mortal
Moses had a relationship with God like no other human before or since.
“Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, who did all those signs and wonders the LORD sent him to do in Egypt—to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.” Deuteronomy 34:10-12
Does God play favorites? Yes. And, frankly, I’m content to let Moses be God’s favorite! Can you imagine the stress and strain Moses endured? The pressure of growing up in Egyptian court (as a Hebrew), exile in Midian, returning to deliver a slave nation from the most powerful kingdom on earth, and then leading those stiff-necked Israelites through the wilderness for forty years? Yikes! God’s favorites endure difficulties beyond human strength in order to experience His unimaginable glory.
But Moses was entirely human—and the Israelites needed a process or system of relating with their REAL GOD that would outlive Moses. They needed a lineage of mediators…
Priests, the Model
As we read through the Book of Leviticus (a task not for the faint of heart), we notice a rhythm to the structure:
- Laws and Instructions for Offerings (Ch’s 1-7)
- Aaron and His Sons as God’s Priests (Ch’s 8-10)
- Rules for Holy Living (Ch’s 11-15)
- The Day of Atonement (Ch 16)
- Practical Holiness (Ch’s 17-22)
- The Sabbath, Feasts, and Seasons (Ch’s 23-25)
- Conditions for God’s Blessing (Ch’s 26-27)
The Israelites would have been familiar with the pagan gods and customs of the ancient world, but what about THEIR God? What did Yahweh—who was so different than the gods of Egypt and Canaan—expect from them?
Moses received, recorded, and relayed the initial laws and commands, but it must be Aaron and his descendants that maintain those laws and commands for generations to come. When God works in the NOW, He’s also waiting with an answer for tomorrow.
Aaron, the Mediator
Leviticus begins just after the building of the Tabernacle, as the glory of the Lord fills it, and both Moses and Aaron bless the people. During the ordination ceremony, as various tribes bring their offerings, two of Aaron’s sons let enthusiasm replace obedience—and it costs them their lives.
“Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, contrary to his command.[Ex.30:7-9] So fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD…so that [Aaron] can distinguish between the holy and the common, between the unclean and the clean, and so [he] can teach the Israelites all the decrees the LORD has given them through Moses.’” Leviticus 10:1-5, 8-11
After God strikes down two of Aaron’s four sons, some people begin to question Aaron’s right to be high priest. Short-sighted humans sometimes see discipline as disfavor, ignoring the burden of high standards for leadership. (How many would have fought for the high priest’s position if they’d lost two of their sons?) So God made His choice of the priestly family clear…
“The LORD said to Moses, ‘Speak to the Israelites and get twelve staffs from them, one from the leader of each of their ancestral tribes. Write the name of each man on his staff. On the staff of Levi write Aaron’s name…Place [the staffs] in the tent of meeting in front of the ark of the covenant law, where I meet with you. The staff belonging to the man I choose will sprout…” The next day Moses entered the tent and saw that Aaron’s staff, which represented the tribe of Levi, had not only sprouted but had budded, blossomed and produced almonds.” Numbers 17:1-5, 8
Why All the Rules?
Perhaps, like me, you find it difficult—in this modern western culture—to grasp all these rules of sacrifice, offering, and “holiness.” Or perhaps the oft-quoted Scripture, “Be holy because He is holy,” is sufficient reason for you to accept these Old Testament strictures.
I’m a little harder to convince.
I want to know WHY our REAL GOD asked these things of His people. What was He trying to convey? What underlying purpose did these laws and commands fulfill? I believe Yahweh always has a reason for His commands, and we can only fully benefit from obedience if we discover the purpose behind the directive.
So…why the Priesthood and Tabernacle with their strict parameters of holiness? Why the Law of Moses that gives guidance on everything from marriage to mildew?
Relationships. I think it’s all about relationships. God’s with us and ours with each other. The Bible is a book about relationships from cover-to-cover. The Old Testament could have been titled, “How to Live in Harmony With God and Others,” but no one ever followed the rules completely.
That’s when the perfect Mediator came, the incarnate Tabernacle (John 1:14), the One who would restore our relationship with Yahweh for eternity. The rules pointed to Him and were completely fulfilled by Him. Jesus. Our Great High Priest.
- God’s favorites endure difficulties beyond human strength to experience His unsurpassing glory.
- When God works in the NOW, He’s also waiting with an answer for tomorrow.
- We fully benefit from obedience if we discover the purpose behind the directive.
- What part of the Exodus/Moses/Tabernacle story most fascinates you? What do you wish you could have experienced personally?