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 29:1-30 is the consecration of the priests. The process is involved and goes in stages.
The first stage is the preparation (vv 1-8) and involves gathering the necessary offerings, washing with water, and being dressed in the priestly garments. The washing with water is echoed in the New Testament (NT) in places such as Ephesians 5:25-26 wherein Paul tells husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the church having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word. Hebrews 10:22 states that our bodies have been washed with pure water by Christ’s sacrifice and work as our High Priest. As the priests were washed, so too has Christ washed those who are in Him with the Word. It is the Word; the gospel; The Bible which first draws us to God.
The second stage is being cleansed from sin by a sin offering (vv 9-14). Romans 8:3 and Hebrews 9:28 speak of Christ being our sin offering. The death that Christ died, He died once and for all and took the sins of the world on Himself. There is no other way to be justified; made right with God.
The third stage is being wholly committed (vv 15-18). The priests were to offer a burnt offering in which the whole animal was consumed. There were no pieces cooked and fed to anyone. There was nothing but ashes when this offering was done. This brings to mind a pair of verses: Romans 12:1 and Isaiah 61:3. The first tells me to offer myself as a living sacrifice and the second speaks of receiving beauty for ashes. What is given completely to God is never lost. The offering was given in its entirety. So, too, does God expect those who trust in Him to give ourselves completely, holding nothing back.
The fourth stage is being sanctified; set apart for special purpose (vv 19-21). The blood of this sacrifice was applied to the right ear lobe, the right thumb, and the right big toe. It is often said that the meaning of this is that the priest might hear God, do God’s work, and go where God commands them to go. Fitting for both the priests of the Old Testament and the believer of the NT.
The last piece was a wave offering (vv 22-28) with a note that the garments are for the priests (v 29) and that the ordination lasts seven days (v 30). More on those last two items in a moment. The wave offering was a shared offering between God and the priests. Part of the offering was lifted up to God in a symbolic manner then burned with fire while the other portion was given to the priests as provision for their needs. In this, I see a picture of tithes and offerings of believers and of God’s provision. God promises to provide for our needs. Over and over, Jesus spoke of how precious we are in God’s sight and how He tends our every need. Jesus also spoke of tithes and offerings in the context of when I give them … never if.
If I skip ahead to the throne room scene in Revelation, I see the saints clothed in white linen which is righteousness. The priest’s garments, particularly the white linen base layer, was symbolic of that same thing. Thing is, those robes were set aside for the priests particularly. Only those who had been washed and justified and sanctified could be clothed in righteousness (cf 1 Corinthians 6:11). Only those who have been washed by the Word and justified by Christ’s atonement and sanctified by the Holy Spirit are considered righteous.
Last thing is the seven day ordination. I see in this a support for the idea of a pre-Tribulation rapture. The washing and justification and sanctification happened before the seven days spent not leaving the tabernacle. For seven days after being washed and justified and sanctified, the priests did not leave the tabernacle which is a picture of the throne room of God and a place of communion with Him. The song sung in Heaven also seems to bear this out, as the saints sing You have made them [to be] a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth (Revelation 5:10). The redeemed have been made priests. They have gone through their ordination by washing and justification and sanctification and being clothed in righteousness then spending their seven in the presence of God without leaving.
All of this leaves me with a sigh of relief and peace. Moses did the work of ordaining Aaron and his sons as priests. So, too, does Christ do the work of ordaining those who are His. It is not my work to do. It is my part to cooperate and to act when I am told to act – mostly in offering things to God.
Father, thank You for this amazing picture of salvation bound up in the ordination of the priests. Thank You that the work is accomplished by another, as we cannot save or ordain ourselves. Please give me ears to hear Your instruction, hands ready to do Your work, and feet swift to go where You lead.