“Now this is what you shall do to them to consecrate them to minister as priests to Me: take one young bull and two rams without blemish,” (Exodus 29:1)
In the last chapters of Exodus, as the Lord is giving Moses the requirements for the Tabernacle and those who will serve in it, namely the priests or sons of Aaron, it is interesting to note a pattern. God first gives a list of all that will be required and then He gives the specifics on how they will be used. For example, Chapter 25 opens with a list of all the materials that will be necessary for the construction of the Tabernacle and its furniture. Chapter 26 begins with a description of the materials necessary to manufacture the curtains before proceeding to list the specifications of how they are to be cut and measured. In Chapter 28, the materials for the garments consecrating the priests for service in the Tabernacle are given in Verses 4 and 5 before the details are mentioned.
Like a good recipe tells us everything we will need before we begin to prepare the individual ingredients, God’s instructions to Moses first list the required materials before giving the directions for implementing each specific item. The animals and foodstuffs required for the ordination of the priests in Exodus 29 are no exception. Before the details of how the ordination ceremony is to be carried out is given, we first are told what items will be necessary. We are reminded of the Lord Jesus’ words of counsel to any who would follow Him:
“For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?” (Luke 14:28)
When we are called to serve God, we are not called to follow blindly, hoping that we will be able to fulfill the task. Though the Lord does not give us all of the specific details about what awaits us when we set out to follow Him, He does assure us that we will have all that is necessary in order to do so. Just as He told Moses all the required materials needed to construct the Tabernacle and manufacture all of the garments of the priests associated with it before the very first pieces were sewn together, He tells the Christian all that is necessary in order to fulfill His call on our lives. Yet there is a difference. We are never told what we must bring along with us, but rather what we must leave behind. For our sufficiency for all things is already in Christ and we have but to follow Him and He will provide all that is necessary. Our problem is not that we will not have enough, but that we will find we have brought along too much. Too much of the things of the flesh, too much of the things which tempt us to sin and transgression. Too much of the things which God never intended us to keep a hold on and that prevent us from being the disciples He wants us to be.
The Bull And The Rams
“Then you shall bring the bull before the tent of meeting, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on the head of the bull.” (Exodus 29:10)
The first part of the ordination ceremony for the Aaronic priests looks very similar to any other Israelite’s sin-offering. Before a person may serve God, the problem of sin must be dealt with. The person undergoing the ordination ceremony was required to place his hand upon the bull that would be slaughtered as a symbol of the transference of his sin onto another. Though the blood of animals could not really atone for sin (Hebrews 10:4), it did point toward the Atonement that Christ would later provide and it served as a reminder that something must die because of our sins.
Next was the sacrifice of the first ram which was a burnt-offering, not a sin-offering (Ex. 29:18). Sin has already been dealt with in the sacrifice of the bull. Now the burnt-offering can be called a “soothing aroma” or “sweet savor” (KJV) to the Lord (Ex. 29:18). Sin-offerings are never called a “sweet savor” for the Lord never delights in the judgment of sin. But that which is offered to God after sin has been dealt with is pleasing to Him. Again, the hand of the candidate for priesthood sets his hand on the animal, identifying himself with it, and blood is again spilled. But this animal is burned, not outside of the camp as the sin-offering was (v. 14), but on the altar itself. The smoke would rise toward Heaven for the benefit of God alone, signifying the surrender of the individual’s own will to the Lord.
Finally, the second ram was sacrificed as a “wave-offering” to the Lord (v. 24) and signified the preparation for service to God. We are told that all the materials mentioned were placed in the hands of the priests, “Aaron and his sons” (v. 24). The priest would begin the ordination with empty hands and would end it with hands filled with the materials which God instructed. The one who will serve the Lord must come to Him with empty hands and allow Him to fill them with what is needed. God needs nothing which we might bring, nothing of our own flesh, for ministry. We must allow the Lord to fill our empty hands, supplying us with all that is necessary for service.
Blood-Tipped Ears, Thumbs, And Toes
“You shall slaughter the ram, and take some of its blood and put it on the lobe of Aaron’s right ear and on the lobes of his sons’ right ears and on the thumbs of their right hands and on the big toes of their right feet, and sprinkle the rest of the blood around on the altar.” (Exodus 29:20)
Rounding out the symbolism present in this chapter we see that the priests were touched by the blood of sacrifice on their right ears, right thumbs, and right big toes. This, too, speaks of preparation for service and ministry through the covering of the blood upon the ear, for the hearing of the Word of God. The thumb, that the hand might be strengthened to do the work of God. And the foot, that the servant of God might walk in His ways.
The sprinkling of blood and oil on the priests (v. 21) reminds us that the servant of the Lord must be covered by the blood of sacrifice, that is, the Blood of Christ for the Christian, and must be anointed with the Holy Spirit, of Whom the oil speaks, in order to be an effective minister of God.
To God goes all glory. In service to Him,
**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.