Church of God, Carmichael, CA

Shadows of Good Things

Or the Gospel in Type

Russell R. Byrum, 1922

[Original Page Numbers]


CHAPTER IV

THE AARONIC PRIESTHOOD

The Levitical Priesthood
(Exodus 28, 29)

  The priesthood in Israel is called the Levitical priesthood because the priests were from the tribe of Levi. The priesthood was the ministry of worship as the tabernacle was the place of worship for the Israelites. The priests had a very close connection with the tabernacle in its constitution and as a complement of it in that ancient religion of types and shadows. The tabernacle would have been useless and meaningless without a priesthood. So close was this relation that the inspired writer stops his description of the furniture of the tabernacle at the end of the twenty-seventh chapter of Exodus, before giving the description of the golden altar found in Exodus thirty, to devote the twenty eighth and twenty ninth chapters to the calling and consecrating of Aaron and his sons.

  The command to Moses was. "Take thou unto thee Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister unto me in the priest's office." (Exod. 28:1). Aaron was to be the high priest, and the sons common priests. Viewing the Israelitish priesthood in its broadest phase, it contained three classes:

  1. The whole tribe of Levi was a priestly tribe, and the Levites were divinely appointed helpers of the priests proper, to assist them in caring for and transporting the tabernacle from place to place, and in teaching the law to the people. Because of these important duties the Levites were given no regular inheritance in the land of Canaan, but were scattered among the other tribes and made dependent [65] upon the tithes from the other twelve tribes for their living. Þ 2. The common priests were of the sons of Aaron, who was of the priestly tribe of Levi. These were conse. crated with Aaron to the sacred service of Jehovah, but it is worthy of notice that in the calling of them with Aaron it is said that "he" may minister in the priest's office. Aaron was the priest. They were priests only because of their relationship to their father the priest. They were merely his helpers in serving at the altar and in instructing the people in divine things. Þ

  3. The high priest, whose office was the basis for those of the other class, was the real mediator of the Mosaic religion. He stood between the sinful people and their holy God. He it was only who entered once each year into the holy of holies to make atonement and to intercede before Jehovah for them. He bore their names ever upon his breast. As far as that ancient service is concerned, there would have been no other priests if he could have performed this service alone. Þ

Aaron and MelchisedecÞ

  In the Old Testament we read of two great priests, Aaron and Melchisedec. Much is said of Aaron, of his ancestry, call, anointing, duties, descendants, and death. But to Melchisedec a very small niche is given in the annals of Old Testament history. Turning, however, to the New Testament, we find him given a place of more prominence than is given to Aaron, and he is shown to be superior to Aaron, and typical of Christ in a special way as Aaron was not. Þ

  For but one brief instant Melchisedec appears on the scene of Old Testament history. He was a priest of Jehovah in the ancient city of Salem; and Abraham, the father of the priesthood of Aaron, therefore greater than Aaron, acknowledged that this extraordinary character was still greater than himself, as the writer of the Hebrew epistle reasons, by paying tithes to him. We do not know [66] how this devout priest of the true God happened to be dwelling there among those idolatrous people; neither do we know anything of his birth, death, parentage, nor descendants. For the Aaronic priests it was necessary that they be able to trace their ancestry back to Aaron. But Jesus, the great High Priest, is not of the family of Aaron. Consequently he is described in the epistle to the Hebrews, quoting from the prophecy in the Psalms, as being "a priest forever after the order of Melchisedec." Aaron died and so could not continue to mediate for his people, but we have no record of Melchisedec's death. In that his priesthood is apparently without beginning and without end, but perpetual, so it is reasoned that his priesthood is like that of Jesus. Christ is a priest of the order of Melchisedec, but he e exercises the office after the manner of Aaron. Melchisedec well typifies the fact of Christ's continuous priesthood, but Aaron is a more exact type of him as the true mediator between God and men.

The Antitype of the Priesthood

  That our blessed Lord is the antitypical high priest is abundantly shown in the New Testament. "Consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, C h ri s t Jesus." (Heb. 3 :1 ). "We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens." (Heb. 8 :1). As Aaron entered into God's presence with the blood of vicarious atonement, so Jesus intercedes for us by his own atoning blood. As Israel's high priest bore into God's presence the names of his people inscribed in the precious stones upon his breast and shoulders, so Jesus our "advocate with the Father" represents us every one before God's throne in heaven now. That ancient high priest resembled Christ in several  particulars and yet was much inferior to him. He was divinely appointed, and so was Jesus (Heb. 5:5). He was ceremonially pure in that he was consecrated; must not defile himself by touching any dead thing; and must marry a wife in her virginity, not a divorced woman, a harlot, or a widow (Lev. 21:14): so Christ was intrinsically [67] holy (Heb. 7:26). The ancient high priest was to be physically perfect (Lev. 21:16 24); but Christ is morally perfect.

  The common priests as assistants of Aaron in offering sacrifices were also typical of Christ, who offers the true sacrifice for sin. But in another sense they are represented as being typical of God's people. "Ye are . . . a royal priesthood, a holy nation" (1 Pet. 2:9). "And hast made us unto our God kings and priests" (Rev. 5 :10). Believers are represented as priests by various New Testament writers, and it is not unreasonable to regard them as antitypical of those ancient common priests. Believers are holy as those priests were regarded by God as being more holy than others. Also as those priests entered that ancient house of God, so we have been admitted into the "house of God which is the church." Again we are analogous to them in that as they offered the sweet incense in worship to God, so we "offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name." (Heb. 13:15). These offerings to God are acceptable to him because we are chosen of God as priests; we do not become priests by means of such offerings. As those Levitical priests had to wash at the laver before entering the sacred precincts of God's house, so we have become truly holy by the regenerating power of the Holy Ghost. Every Christian is a priest of God, and needs no priestly order such as exists in the Greek and Roman Churches to stand between him and God today; for he is made holy by the offering of our great High Priest. [68]

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Justification, Sanctification, Unity
Carmichael, California USA

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