The Priesthood – Leviticus 1

We read in 1 Peter 2:5, and Revelation 1:6, that we are to be a kingdom and priests unto God. This sounds great at first glance, but what exactly does that portray? We get our first glance at priestly call in the book of Leviticus chapter 1. There are some guidelines laid out in Exodus concerning the priests, but our first real glance at what they do is here in the first chapter of Leviticus.

They minister before the Lord. Many of us have a romantic notion of what it must be to minister before God. It must be something like all-day worship fests. It must be something like glorious light beaming down upon us, and we constantly feel like we’ve ascended up in rapturous clouds of splendor and majesty. Priesthood is probably something like incredible ecstasy in God’s presence forever. What else could it possibly be?

In Leviticus 1:4, the priest has the person who is offering the sacrifice to place their hand upon the head of the animal being sacrificed. When we turn to the New Testament, how is it that the Holy Spirit is transferred to believers? It is through the laying on of hands… Interesting… So, in the Old Testament, the laying on of hands was about transferring your sin to the animal, but in the New Testament, it is about receiving the Holy Spirit…

In verse 5, we read about the priest slaughtering the animal. Then the priest takes the blood and sprinkles it against the altar on all sides. Does this sound like a clean job? So, the priest is a butcher, but also one who carries the blood to the altar. If you slaughter animals all day, and carry the blood to the altar day in and day out, would you be spotless and clean? No. You would be covered in blood to the point where we can’t quite tell where the sacrifice begins and the priest ends. The two have become one. If that weren’t enough, the priest then skins the animal and cuts it into pieces. If there wasn’t enough blood and gore getting all over my clothes, now I get to see the splatter of blood when I cut off the skin…

In verse 7, we read of the priest putting fire upon the altar, and arranging the wood. Does that sound like fun? All day, you carry wood unto the altar to keep the fire going. You have splinters in our hands, you smell like smoke, you have dirt all over your clothes from constantly carrying the wood, your back is sore because of the constant walking and standing, and if that weren’t enough, to top it all off, you get to then also wash the inward parts of the animal according to verse 9. So you’ve got blood on your shirt, you’ve got dirt and splinters all over, you smell like smoke, and now you’re going to be soaking wet from washing the inward parts of this burnt offering. It does not sound like the romantic picture that I had first envisioned…

But a question needs to be asked. What is the result? If we turn ahead to Leviticus 9, we find the priests actually offering these sacrifices for the first time. It was after the offerings have been made, and after Aaron blesses the people with those bloody, splintered, wet, and dirty hands that the fire of the Lord falls upon the altar and consumes the sacrifice. At this, all of Israel shouted for joy and fell facedown before the Lord.

What is it about the priesthood that causes for God to respond like this? There is a real sense in which the one who is servant is the one who gets the lousiest job. If the one to bless the people is to have that blessing heard, he cannot come to a place where he feels prideful or dignified. He has to know that it is not on the basis of his merit, nor on the basis of being dressed up real nice before God that the Lord shall answer his prayer. Instead, it is from the humility of going day in and day out working at the altar before the presence of the Lord, doing the menial tasks and the monotonous work that the Lord has commanded, without complaint and grumbling, because you know that He has called you to stand before Him night and day as His servant. That is priestliness. That is true service for God. When it is no longer about looking pretty and being dignified, nor about the labor He puts you to, but instead about the glory of God and the souls of men, then you are in a place for being called “priestly”.

May we all remember that this is not about us, but about God’s glory, and in remembering that, may we find His blessing upon us for the work He has given us, amen.

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