God continues giving his law to Moses on Mount Sinai. He’s given the Ten Commandments, social laws, and plans for how to build the tabernacle in which his presence will dwell. But a question remains. How can sinful people enter into God’s presence in that tent?
That’s where the priests come in. A priest is an individual who represents others before God. Here those representatives are Moses’ brother Aaron and his sons. And this next set of laws explain how these few people will be allowed into God’s presence.
The laws detail what the priests are supposed to wear. Each piece of clothing servers a point and communicates a truth. For example, the 12 precious stones that are set in the priest's chest piece represent the 12 tribes of Israel. This was a symbol to all the people that the priest was entering into God’s presence on their behalf.
God wants his people to take these pieces of clothing very seriously, because God said that these special clothes would bear the punishment the priests deserved. So, if a priest went into God’s presence without these garments on, they would to bear their own punishment and die.
The same is true of the sacrifices described in chapter 29. The sin and food offerings pay for the sins of the priests so that they may enter into God’s presence. That is why the priests were commanded to lay their hands on these sacrifices before they were offered. It was a visible sign of their sin being transferred.
But the sacrifices were not only there to pay for the priest’s sins. They were also part of the priest’s ordination, their swearing in. These special sacrifices set them apart to do the work God laid out for them to do.
I realize this seems like a lot to go through to enter a tent. But there is an extremely important point to all of this. It’s found in Exodus 29:45-46:
“I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God. And they shall know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them.”
This is all worth it because of God’s presence. He will dwell with his people.
Where is Jesus?
This is remarkably great news. But in order for it to be truly good, we need a better priest, a better representative. And that’s just what we see in our new eternal high priest, Jesus.
He is God’s one, ultimate, representative on behalf of all people. Anyone can come to God through this new priest, Jesus.
Jesus did not need any special garments to enter God’s presence because he was already perfect. On the contrary, he gives us his garments of perfection so that, like the priests here in Exodus, we can enter into God’s presence when we are clothed in Christ.
This is what the New Testament means when it talks about being clothed with Christ. The priest’s clothes bore the punishment their sins deserved, letting them walk into God’s presence unharmed. In the same way, when we wear the clothes of Christ through faith, he takes our punishment and brings us into the presence of God unharmed.
Furthermore, Jesus did not need to offer a sacrifice for his own sins because he was sinless. So he gave himself as the perfect sacrifice to be our sin offering before the Lord so that we might enter in. What the priests had to do for themselves Jesus did for us. The right to enter God’s presence earned by the priests sacrifice, is earned for us in Jesus.
The priests had to constantly offer sacrifices for their own sins. And anytime a new priest was installed this process began all over again. Jesus is better because he does not have to intercede for himself or offer sacrifices again and again. Instead, he offered one sacrifice for all so that we could have one priest forever interceding for us.
And as the priests here were appointed to their role through specific sacrifices, Jesus was appointed to his eternal role by the merit of a better offering - his own flesh and blood.
Through Jesus we are made acceptable and holy before God. Now we can dwell with God and be his people. Furthermore, through this one high priest, Jesus, all believers are made into priests as well. Because we are now filled with the presence of God - the Holy Spirit. We are now called to represent God to the world, shining the light of his holiness by sharing the good news that made us clean.
See For Yourself
May the Holy Spirit give you eyes to see the God who longs to dwell with you, and Jesus as your great high priest.