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Our Great High Priest: The Pathway to Christ in Leviticus/Numbers

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Introduction: Who here remembers their first job? I don’t mean your chores or what you did to earn an allowance, I’m talking about the first thing you did to earn wages for yourself. I remember mine: I was 12 years old & worked as a busboy, dishwasher, and fish cutter for the Yocona River Inn (Yocona, MS; we have some awesome Native Am. names). My dad was the weekend manager and that’s how I got my job as a busboy & dishwasher, before they gave me a knife and let me cut frozen fish fillets in half too.
Do you remember that feeling of earning your own money for the first time? Of crossing that invisible threshold from feeling like a child to becoming a wage earner?
There are other invisible thresholds that mark big moments for us: graduation & marriage. We may have celebrations to commemorate the event, but crossing the threshold is mostly invisible & internal. Others might be at the event or see you take the step, but it is you, personally & individually, that has to work it out. Take marriage for instance- a wedding does not a marriage make. Others might see you take the step, but you must live with it, you have to work it out, day in & day out, you have to make the marriage that the wedding commemorated.
Did you know that salvation is like this? When we get saved, it is mostly invisible and internal. Don’t get me wrong, others should see the difference it makes, they might be there when you make a profession of faith, they might celebrate when you get baptized, but you must work out your salvation, day in & day out. Hear me good, I didn’t say work foryour salvation, I said work out your salvation. Salvation is something that God works in your soul, but that salvation from Him is something you must work out in your life.
Phil 1:6, “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ… 2:12-13, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” God works something in us that we must then work out in our daily lives.
Our study will help us with this idea- God has started a good work in us, & now we need to work out our salvation in faith & obedience.
We’re in this series called Pathway to Christ, seeing Jesus in every book of the Bible.In Genesis, the Seed of the Woman, & in Exodus, the Passover Lamb. Passover commemorated God’s deliverance of Israel from their slavery in Egypt, but Israel still had to follow, move forward in faith, put one foot in front of another, as they headed to the Promised Land. Their deliverance foreshadows our rescue from sin through Jesus Christ. God is the one that saves us, but that is not the end. What He works in us by grace we must work out in faith and obedience. That’s what we’re going to see today- The Pathway to Christ in Leviticus & Numbers.
There’s no way for me to do justice to both books, or all that is contained within them, so I need to do a brief overview. Leviticus picks up where Exodus leaves off. After Israel left Egypt, they traveled to Mt. Sinai where God, through Moses, gave Israel His Law, and Israel ratified their covenant with God. Leviticus is set during the period when Israel camped at Mt. Sinai and received the Law. The word “Leviticus”means that it has to do with the Levites. Levites were descendants of Jacob’s son Levi. Moses & his brother Aaron were Levites, and Aaron & his sons were chosen to be the priests of God for Israel. The NT teaches us that Jesus is our Great High Priest, so I want you to see that the Pathway to Christ in Leviticus & Numbers is through Christ’s Priesthood. As a summary, I want us to read Leviticus 9.
Leviticus 9, It came to pass on the eighth day that Moses called Aaron and his sons and the elders of Israel. 2 And he said to Aaron, “Take for yourself a young bull as a sin offering and a ram as a burnt offering, without blemish, and offer them before the Lord. 3 And to the children of Israel you shall speak, saying, ‘Take a kid of the goats as a sin offering, and a calf and a lamb, both of the first year, without blemish, as a burnt offering, 4 also a bull and a ram as peace offerings, to sacrifice before the Lord, and a grain offeringmixed with oil; for today the Lordwill appear to you.’ ”
5 So they brought what Moses commanded before the tabernacle of meeting. And all the congregation drew near and stood before the Lord. 6 Then Moses said, “This is the thing which the Lordcommanded you to do, and the glory of the Lordwill appear to you.” 7 And Moses said to Aaron, “Go to the altar, offer your sin offering and your burnt offering, and make atonementfor yourself and for the people. Offer the offering of the people, and make atonement for them, as the Lordcommanded.”
8 Aaron therefore went to the altar and killed the calf of the sin offering, which was for himself. 9 Then the sons of Aaron brought the blood to him. And he dipped his finger in the blood, put it on the horns of the altar, and poured the blood at the base of the altar.
10 But the fat, the kidneys, and the fatty lobe from the liver of the sin offering he burned on the altar, as the Lord had commanded Moses. 11 The flesh and the hide he burned with fire outside the camp.
12 And he killed the burnt offering; and Aaron’s sons presented to him the blood, which he sprinkled all around on the altar. 13 Then they presented the burnt offering to him, with its pieces and head, and he burned them on the altar. 14 And he washed the entrails and the legs, and burned them with the burnt offering on the altar.
15 Then he brought the people’s offering, and took the goat, which was the sin offeringfor the people, and killed it and offered it for sin, like the first one. 16 And he brought the burnt offering and offered it according to the prescribed manner. 17 Then he brought the grain offering, took a handful of it, and burned it on the altar, besides the burnt sacrifice of the morning.
18 He also killed the bull and the ram as sacrifices of peace offerings, which were for the people. And Aaron’s sons presented to him the blood, which he sprinkled all around on the altar, 19 and the fat from the bull and the ram—the fatty tail, what covers the entrails and the kidneys, and the fatty lobe attached to the liver; 20 and they put the fat on the breasts. Then he burned the fat on the altar; 21 but the breasts and the right thigh Aaron waved as a wave offering before the Lord, as Moses had commanded.
22 Then Aaron lifted his hand toward the people, blessed them, and came down from offering the sin offering, the burnt offering, and peace offerings. 23 And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of meeting, and came out and blessed the people. Then the glory of the Lordappeared to all the people, 24 and fire came out from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. When all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces. Wow, aren’t you glad that we do not have to do all of that.
From Leviticus & Numbers, I want us to see that The Pathway to Christ is:
1. Through His STANDARD- Holiness
A major emphasis of the book of Leviticus is how Israel was supposed to live in the presence of God in view of who He is and what He had done for them. We know what he had done- rescuing them from Egypt, raining down the ten plagues, parting the Red Sea, & providing for their needs. But when they got to Mt. Sinai, they really saw God & it scared the daylights out of them.
So, imagine here, in vs. 23, when God’s glory appeared to them & fire came out from His presence, no wonder they shouted & fell on their faces. Over & over again, God told Israel “…you shall be holy; for I am holy” (Lev 11:44).
God’s holiness refers to His absolute moral purity and the absolute moral distance between Him & us, & it is a frightening thing!
Heb 10:31, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
Heb 12:29, “For our God is a consuming fire.”
How does it feel when someone tells you to be or do something that you know you cannot live up to?It’s so defeating, isn’t it? Except in the case of Israel, God gave them everything they needed to be pure so they could be in His presence. He made a way for them to be made morally & ritually pure, & He has done the same for us.
2 Peter 1:3 “His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue.” It’s not about moral perfection, or self-righteousness, or purity for purity’s sake- we’re talking about the holy presence of God & how sinners can stand before Him, which God makes possible for us on His own terms. What God gave them & us is a way into His holiness.
2. By His SACRIFICE & Substitution- Atonement.
In our text, the word “atonement” (v. 7)- to appease, or to make amends. Those of you with siblings will remember what it was like to be fighting with your siblings when they get hurt, & you will do almost anything to appease them, to make amends with them, just so long as they didn’t tell your parents.
In the sense of atonement, the great hurt that we have done is not first to another human, but to God-our Creator, Sustainer, & Provider. It’s one thing to hurt your brother or sister, it’s quite another thing when the one you hurt is your father or mother. We have sinned against our Father, and by rights, He is the one who decides how to make amends. Heb 9:22 “without shedding of blood there is no remission.” The only thing that atones for sin is a pure blood sacrifice. This was not a brand-new idea; it had been around a while.
• When Adam & Eve sinned, God killed an animal to clothe them.
• When Cain & Abel brought their offerings to God, Abel brought the firstborn of his flock.
• After the flood, Noah built an altar and brought sacrifices to God.
• When Abraham worshiped, it was by sacrificing a ram that God had provided in place of Isaac.
• When Israel was delivered from Egypt & kept from death, it was by the blood of the Passover Lamb.
Leviticus outlines the various offerings & sacrifices God required: burnt offering, meal offering, peace offering, sin offering, & trespass offering. The most important offering was the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16). Once a year, the high priest entered the Most Holy Place, where the Ark of the Covenant was, where God dwelled, to make amends for the sins of the nation. The high priest began by atoning for his own sins first, then the nation, by selecting two goats given by the people; one goat was sacrificed to pay for their sins, the other goat (scapegoat) was prayed over, confessing the sins of the people over it, so that it bore their sin, & then it was released into the wilderness.
I know that to our modern sensibilities it’s weird to think that people would sacrifice animals to appease God’s wrath against sin. But let’s think about it a different way- what if you were in prison awaiting a death sentence, all your stays had played out, & it was 11:59 pm on your last day when the phone rang in the death chamber, a judge is on the other end of the line, and tells the executioner to wait. Then someone you never expected came walking in the door & volunteered to take your place. It’s your brother, & you know that he is innocent, you’re guilty, you deserve the punishment because you did the crime, but here he is willingly taking your place. That’s what Christ did!
As our High Priest He entered God’s presence, presented Himself as the sacrifice, & took the place of sinners as our Substitute, Substitutionary Atonement. Heb 9:11-14 “Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. 12Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. 13For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, 14how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”
That idea of serving the Living God is what brings us to the third major overview in these two books.The Pathway to Christ in Leviticus & Numbers is by His standard of holiness, through His sacrifice of atonement, and it is for our fully devoted service to Him as priests.
3. For our Fully Devoted SERVICE to Him- Priesthood
There is a lot more in Leviticus (rituals, feasts, purity laws, etc.), but we need to move forward to Numbers. It is called Numbers because God told Moses to take a census of the people; there are 2 censuses (ch. 1 & 26).
Numbers can be divided into three main sections: 1-10, preparations to move into the Promised Land & 26-36 when they actually cross the Jordan River into the Promised Land. Chapters 11-25 cover a 40-year period between these two moves. From the time Israel left Egypt, traveled to Mt. Sinai, and camped there while they received God’s Law; Exodus 19-Numbers 9, only 14 months had passed. If there was a straight path from Egypt to Canaan, the trip could have taken as little as 2 weeks. A trip that could have been made in 2 weeks took them 40 years to complete. Why?
Because they were not fully devoted to God’s service. God called them out of Egypt to make a covenant with them. He expressed his expectations to them in Exod 19:5-6, “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. 6And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” Fulfilling God’s covenant with them, being who He wanted them to be- a kingdom of priests & a holy nation- this was dependent upon them doing what He said to do. Spoiler alert- they did not.
When they got there, they sent 12 spies to look over the land. They came back with some good news/bad news. The good news was- the land was everything God promised it to be. The bad news was- the people there were huge & there is just no way we can beat them. 10 people convinced the whole nation they could not win. Only 2 spies, Joshua & Caleb, said they should listen to God. Israel refused to go into the land & God condemned that generation to wander in the wilderness for 40 years until they died off. Their children picked up the baton, obeyed God, and inherited the Promised Land.
Most of Numbers is about this wandering stage with a group of people who disobeyed God in opposition, rebellion, & complaint. Even Moses, because of his anger toward them, lost his chance to enter the Promised Land.
The NT says (1 Cor 10:6-11) that these stories were written down as examples so that we would not do the kinds of evil things they did: lust after what they lusted after, become idolators like some of them, commit sexual immorality as some of them did, tempt Christ as some of them tempted, or complain as some of them complained. 1 Cor 10:11 “Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.”
If by God’s grace, you have crossed the threshold of faith then God has called you to serve Him. 1 Peter 2:9, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.
The Pathway to Christ in Leviticus/Numbers is through His standard of holiness, by His sacrifice of atonement, & for our service to Him as a priesthood of believers. Apart from Him, we can do nothing.
4. To Live in the SHELTER of His Refuge- Intercession
There are at least two huge symbols of Christ in the book of Numbers. One of them is a crazy story in Num 21. The people were speaking against God & Moses- Num 21:5-6, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.” 6So the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died.”
This might be funny if I didn’t hate snakes so much. Of course, the people came to Moses & said “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you; pray to the LORD that He take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.” What God told Moses to do was crazy- make a bronze serpent and lift it up on a pole, & everyone who looked at it would live. How simple, right? It’s just so easy, almost too easy. You can imagine that some may have refused to look at the pole & be saved. Some people are doing the same thing with Jesus. John 3:14-15, And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.
Another story illustrates Christ’s intercession- revolves around the cities of refuge (Num 35).Murder had been prohibited since God told Noah that Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man (Gen 9:6).The cities of refuge were set up to protect someone who is guilty of manslaughter, i.e., an unintentional death. In the case of an accidental killing, an accused person could flee to the city of refuge for protection from the dead person’s relatives seeking vengeance.
They could safely live in the city of refuge until the death of the high priest. As long as the high priest was alive, the person could remain in the city of refuge in safety, & after the high priest died, they could return home to live.
Guess what- Jesus is our great high priest, who died, rose from the dead, He is alive today, and will never die.So those who come to Him are always safe.
Heb 7:24-25, But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. 25Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. To intercede means to intervene on behalf of another person.
I can remember a time when my sister intervened on my behalf. I can’t remember what I did, but I can remember I was about to get it from my dad. So, I left out the front door of the house & went running one way. My dad right behind me & my sister, who was sitting on the front porch, told him I went the other way. I don’t how it happened, but I got to back to the front door and in the house before he did, and by the time he got back there, and figured out what my sister had done, he started laughing and that was it…
Aren’t you glad for Jesus, our Great High Priest who intercedes for us? God has a standard, & it is Holiness. The way to be made holy (right with God) is through Christ’s Substitutionary Atonement. Jesus took our place and gave Himself to pay for our sins, and because He is the Lord, He rose from the dead. He paid that price to make you right with God, and to bring you into His service, as a priesthood of believers. Our lives as believers are sustained by Christ’s Intercession.
I would ask you, through the Priesthood of Jesus Christ, have you crossed that threshold of grace, by faith, into the pathway of Christ? And if you have, where are you on that Pathway?
Let’s Pray.
Hebrews 4:14–16, Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
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