Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
A while back while I was cleaning, I found some old Bible notes that I wrote more than a year ago. What follows is one of them. As it turns out, I’ve already referenced this one in “Sprinkled”. Anyway, on with today’s post.
Have you ever read Leviticus? There’s some weird stuff in there. When I first started reading the Bible, I really had a difficult time with it. So, after being horribly off-put by the end of Exodus and all of Leviticus with all of their building specifications, rules, and ritual that I didn’t understand, I prayed to the Lord that the Holy Spirit might open up The Law (as that section of the Bible is referred to) to me. Sure enough, on my very next read through, the Holy Spirit repeatedly blew my mind in the Law. I recommend that when you don’t understand something in the Bible, pray about it, the Holy Spirit will blow your mind over and over.
Before we start, let’s be honest, there are some weird and strange things in the Law, most of which makes little sense on the first pass. Our job is to figure out why God tells the Israelites to do what he tells them to do. In Leviticus, God tells us about the first priestly ordination. It is an odd and bloody ritual, but I want to focus on just one step of it. We read in Leviticus 8:23-24,
Moses slaughtered the ram and took some of its blood and put it on the lobe of Aaron’s right ear, on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of this right foot. Moses also brought Aaron’s sons forward and put some of the blood on the lobes of their right ears, on the thumbs of their right hands and on the big toes of their right feet. Then he sprinkled blood against the altar on all sides.
Why is it important to put blood on the ears, thumbs, and toes of the priests? This is what we’ll look at today.
First, when I prayed about this, the Holy Spirit brought me to the obvious connection to our Lord Jesus and his crucifixion. When Jesus was crucified his hands and feet were bloody as they had nails driven through them. Also, the priestly ordination requires the blood of the sacrifice; Jesus brought this to the crucifixion as well. Paul reminds us of the atoning blood of Christ when he says in Ephesians 1:7, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” Therefore, we can see that this ritual is at least in part prophesying the coming of our Lord and Savior.
With the most obvious comparison drawn, I then turned my prayers back to the ordination. “Ok God,” I asked, “What about the blood on the ears?” After I had asked him, the Holy Spirit took me back into the ever-confusing Law. In a section on servant-hood there is an odd clause regarding a slave that does not wish to be freed. We read in Exodus 21:5-6,
But if the servant declares, “I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,” then his master must take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life.
With this, we can see that the role of priesthood is the role of a servant (in fact it is likely that the priest is the first “public servant” position created). This is backed up by Paul of Tarsus, one of the most famous Christian preachers of them all. He writes of himself, “Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible” (1 Corinthians 9:19). So to win as many people to Christ as he could, he as a preacher lowered himself to the level of a servant. Likewise, Jesus says of himself, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Even in the prophecies about Jesus, he is repeatedly referred to as a servant. In Isaiah 52:13-15, God speaks of Jesus saying,
See, my servant will act wisely;
He will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.
Just as there were many who were appalled at him-
His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man
And his form marred beyond human likeness-
And kings will shut their mouths because of him.
For what they were not told, they will see,
And what they have not heard, they will understand.
So we can be sure that once again, the odd Jewish ritual we read at the beginning points to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Next, let’s look at who receives this ritual, the priest. Since Jesus actually fulfilled this ritual by his death, should we consider him as a member of the cloth? Indeed we should! Hebrews 5:1-4 explains a bit about the role of High Priest,
Every high priest is selected from among men and is appointed to represent them in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness. This is why he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people.
No one takes this honor upon himself; he must be called by God, just as Aaron was.
How then does the worldly High Priest selection compare to that of Jesus? The writer of Hebrews continues,
So Christ also did not take upon himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him,
“You are my Son;
Today I have become your father.”
And he says in another place,
“You are a priest forever,
In the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 5:5-6).
Much like God calls pastors today, Jesus was called by God into his role of High Priest. Since his calling and fulfilling his ordination through his crucifixion, Jesus has been continuing on in his office of High Priest, fulfilling that role in our lives. We read about this in Hebrews 7:23-25,
Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.
Not only that, but our High Priest takes it a step further than the average human High Priest,
Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself (Hebrews 7:27).
Thus again, we find that not only does Jesus meet the requirements of the Law given way back in Leviticus, but he actually goes above and beyond, placing himself above the Law.
Now, this ritual actually is not only reserved for priests, it is also a cleansing ritual from infectious skin diseases. We can read about it in Leviticus 14:14,
The priest is to take some of the blood of the guilt offering and put it on the lobe of the right ear of the one to be cleansed, on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot.
Since our atoning sacrifice is the Lord Jesus, when we are cleansed, it is by his blood. Jesus’ blood not only cleanses us from skin diseases (or any other ailment, as the Lord can heal the sick) but also from our sins as well. As already noted, Ephesians 1:7 clearly states that the blood of Jesus brings forgiveness. After we have been forgiven and saved from eternal damnation, we are given the Holy Spirit to guide us. When that happens, we take on our new role. What is that role? Jesus tells his disciples about it in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” That’s right! We’re called to spread the message of the Gospel. That is to say, Jesus ordains us as preachers. So in this, Jesus fulfills the ordination law not only for himself but for us as well.
Not only has our Lord fulfilled the ritual to become a priest, but he has taken it to the next level, both spiritually and physically (as both hands and both feet of our Lord were pierced). So have faith, know that indeed there is a Savior and he has indeed fulfilled both the Law and the prophecies about himself. And remember that he is constantly interceding on our behalf. Therefore, “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).