|Topical Bible Study||April 1962|
The People in God’s Plan—Lesson VIII
Aaron, the High Priest of Israel
AARON was the son of Amram and Jochebed, three years older than his brother Moses, and younger than his sister Miriam. (Num. 26:59; 33:39; Heb. 5:1,4) He was of the tribe of Levi, and in the first mention that is made of him in the Bible he is described as one who was able to “speak well.” (Exod. 4:14) Aaron was appointed by Jehovah to be a “mouth” for Moses, who was slow of speech. (Exod. 4:16) Aaron was also the instrument used by the Lord in working most of the miracles of the Exodus.—Exod. 7:9,10,19
Our chief interest in Aaron for the purposes of this study is his service as Israel’s high priest. The whole tribe of Levi was set apart to be the religious servants of the nation, being substituted for the firstborn of all the tribes, whom the Lord spared from death under the protection of the blood of the passover lamb on the night before the Exodus.—Num. 3:5-13
Aaron, as a Levite, was chosen by the Lord to serve as high priest, and his sons as under priests. (Exod. 28:1) God outlined all the arrangements for the consecration of the priesthood. (Exod. 29) We are also furnished with the record of the installation of the priesthood, over which Aaron was the first head, or high priest.*—Lev. 8
* “Tabernacle Shadows of the Better Sacrifices,” pages 41-48.
God’s dealings with the priesthood of Israel are important to us because, as shown in the New Testament, they were illustrative, or typical of a higher priesthood consisting of Jesus and his body members, the true church. (Heb. 5:5; I Pet. 2:9; Rev. 1:6) One of the principal duties of the typical priesthood was to offer sacrifices to the Lord to secure his blessing upon the people of Israel: This is true also of the antitypical priesthood.—I Pet. 2:5
In the case of the Aaronic priesthood, animals were offered in sacrifice, but this is not true of the antitypical priesthood, consisting of Jesus and his footstep followers. Instead, Jesus presented himself in sacrifice to God, thus introducing the work of the antitypical priesthood. (Ps. 40:6-8; Heb. 10:7-10) Jesus’ sacrifice constituted a “ransom” for the human race, a corresponding price, which provided for Adam and his progeny an opportunity to be restored to God’s favor and to life. (I Tim. 2:3-6) Jesus himself testified that he would give his flesh, his humanity, for the life of the world.—John 6:51
The footstep followers likewise offer their humanity in sacrifice, suffering and dying with Jesus. (Rom. 12:1; II Tim. 2:11,12) While the sacrifices of Jesus’ body members are not in the nature of a ransom—Jesus alone providing the ransom price—they do, nevertheless, accrue to the benefit of the condemned and dying world of mankind. One of the symbolisms of the sacrificial work of the Gospel Age is baptism, meaning, basically, to bury. The real baptism is into death, and is said to be a baptism into Jesus’ death. (Rom. 6:3-6) The Apostle Paul refers to this baptism into Jesus’ sacrificial death as a baptism for the dead; that is, for the benefit of the dead world of mankind.—I Cor. 15:29
This death baptism into Christ is also described by Paul as dying unto, or for sin—as a sin-offering. In bringing this to our attention Paul uses two very important words with respect to the sacrificial work of the church in its relationship to Jesus’ sacrifice. One is “likewise,” and the other is “reckon.” After stating that Jesus died unto sin, Paul says, “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin.”—Rom. 6:10,11
Jesus had never been a sinner, so dying “unto sin” did not in his case refer to dying because of sin in his own body, but as an offering for sin. And the word “likewise” reveals that this is also true with his body members. But these are by nature themselves sinners, and could not offer an acceptable sacrifice to God “unto” or for sin. However, the imputed merit of the blood of Christ covers their imperfections, and they are authorized by Paul to “reckon” that they do die unto sin, even as Jesus did. To doubt that this is true is to doubt the efficacy of the atoning blood of Christ which makes the Christian’s sacrifice of himself acceptable to God.
Paul does not say that the sacrifices of the body members of Christ constitute a ransom. The “likewise” applies only to the nature of the death—that it is sacrificial rather than death by condemnation; and that it has to do with the destruction of the evil results of sin, hence a sin-offering, or offering on account of sin. By virtue of their faithfulness, these are proving worthy to be associated with Jesus in restoring the whole dead world to life.
One of the sacrificial services conducted by Aaron was the one on Israel’s day of atonement, which occurred on the tenth day of the seventh month.* There were many details to that service; but basically it consisted of the sacrifice, first of a bullock, and then of a goat. These two animals were treated exactly alike. The blood was taken into the most holy of the tabernacle and sprinkled on the mercy seat as a typical atonement for sin. The fat and life-producing organs were burned on the brazen altar in the court surrounding the tabernacle; and the carcasses and offal of the animals were taken outside of the camp of Israel and burned. The Apostle Paul refers to this latter part of the service in particular, and indicates that it pictured the suffering and ignominy which came to Jesus from the world, and which is shared by his followers. Thus it is clear that in Paul’s mind the bullock in that service represented Jesus, and the goat his church. (Heb. 13:11-13) Thus we have a confirmation of our partnership in the suffering and death of Jesus, and of their relationship to the divine plan.
* “Tabernacle Shadows of the Better Sacrifices,” pages 49-78.
Who was Aaron, and what was his first assignment in the service of God?
What office in God’s service did Aaron fill after the Exodus, and to what tribe of Israel did he belong? What was the special position of this tribe among the other tribes of Israel?
Why were God’s dealings with the priesthood of Israel of importance to us? What is one of the principal duties of a priest in God’s arrangements?
Contrast the sacrifices offered by the Aaronic priesthood with the “better sacrifices” of the Gospel Age.
What was accomplished in the divine plan by the sacrifice of Jesus?; and what is accomplished by the sacrifice of his faithful followers?
Explain the significance of the words “likewise” and “reckon,” as used by Paul in his statement concerning the Christian’s share in the sacrificial work of the divine plan.
How is it possible for the followers of Jesus, who by nature are imperfect and sinful, to offer an acceptable sacrifice to God?
In what sense is it proper to speak of the Christian’s sacrifice as a “sin-offering”?
Describe the sacrificial service conducted by Aaron on Israel’s typical day of atonement. Explain the antitypical significance of this service, as set forth by the Apostle Paul.
SUMMARY OF IMPORTANT THOUGHTS
Aaron and his sons, constituting Israel’s priesthood, were typical of Christ and his true church, the antitypical priesthood in God’s plan of reconciliation. The typical priesthood offered animals in sacrifice; while those who comprise the antitypical priesthood offer themselves, and this leads to the ultimate reconciliation of the world of mankind to God.