So the Lord said to Aaron, “You and your sons and your father’s house with you shall bear iniquity connected with the sanctuary, and you and your sons with you shall bear iniquity connected with your priesthood. And with you bring your brothers also, the tribe of Levi, the tribe of your father, that they may join you and minister to you while you and your sons with you are before the tent of the testimony. They shall keep guard over you and over the whole tent, but shall not come near to the vessels of the sanctuary or to the altar lest they, and you, die. They shall join you and keep guard over the tent of meeting for all the service of the tent, and no outsider shall come near you. And you shall keep guard over the sanctuary and over the altar, that there may never again be wrath on the people of Israel. Numbers 18:1-5, ESV.
God speaks directly to Aaron and lays the responsibility for the ministry and maintenance of the sanctuary on the shoulders of the priests. Two things stand out in this passage.
First, we see that God’s grace is followed by His call to obedience. He has not struck down the people of Israel for their lack of gratitude and constant complaining though their behavior deserved such destruction. This is pure grace. The Bible makes it clear that the sacrifices offered were never enough to deal with their sin, for “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). God was merciful to them because He is a merciful God. But His mercy is not an opportunity for license. Instead, it is a call to obedience. The right response to grace is to trust and obey grace’s Giver.
Second, we are taught about the priesthood. The priest is responsible for the people’s relationship with God. He stands in the gap. Aaron and his sons had good days and bad days in their priestly work—but we need a perfect Priest. We have such a priest in Jesus, for “it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever” (Hebrews 7:26-28).
Debby and I were blessed this last week to enjoy time with family at the 1000 Islands in New York. We had access to beautiful scenery, toured and amazing castle and an old lighthouse site, and enjoyed some good seafood. Even with the restrictions in place to stop the spread of the coronavirus, we had access to many wonderful things. What is even more amazing is the access we had, day-in-and-day-out to the throne of grace. Because Jesus bore God’s wrath against us on the cross and defeated death, we were able, whenever we desired, to come before God with our praises and our prayers.
My prayer for you today is that you enjoy the privilege of coming before the throne of God often and, as you do, that you show your gratitude to your Great High Priest by obeying His commands.