A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, November 15, 1874, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. *2/20/2012
This is the thing that you shall do to them to hallow them, to minister to me in the priest’s office. [Ex 29:1]
1. Under the law, only one family could serve God in the priest’s office, but under the gospel all the saints are “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood.” [1Pe 2:9] In the Christian church no people whatever are set apart for the priesthood above the rest of their brethren, for in us is fulfilled the promise which Israel by reason of her sin failed to obtain — “You shall be a kingdom of priests to me.” Paul, in addressing all the saints, asks them to present their bodies a living sacrifice, holy acceptable to God, which is their reasonable service. It is the grand design of all the works of divine grace, both for us and in us, to prepare us for the office of the spiritual priesthood, and it will be the crown of our perfection when with all our brethren we shall sing to the Lord Jesus the new song, “To him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and has made us kings and priests to God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever.” All the saints have this honour: according to Peter, in the second chapter of his First Epistle, it belongs even to newborn babes in grace, for even such are spoken of as forming part of a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices. Nor is this confined to men as was the Aaronic priesthood, for in Christ Jesus there is neither male nor female. My subject today is the consecration of priests, but it does not refer exclusively or even specifically to people called clergymen, or ministers, but to all of you who believe in Jesus, for you are God’s clergy, his cleros, that is, his inheritance, and you should be all ministers, ministering according to the grace given to you.
2. The family of Aaron was chosen to the priesthood, “for no man takes this honour upon himself, but he who was called to it as was Aaron,” and even so all the Lord’s people are chosen from before the foundation of the world. Being chosen, Aaron and his sons were at God’s command brought near to the door of the tabernacle. No one ever comes to God unless they are brought to him; even the spouse sings, “he brought me into the banqueting house.” Jesus said, “No man can come to me except the Father who has sent me draws him.” We are made near by the blood of Jesus and brought near by the drawings of the Holy Spirit.
3. Assuming that you and I have made our calling and election sure, let us further see what is needed to qualify us to serve as priests at the altar of the living God. Follow me carefully as I mention the ceremonies prescribed in the chapter before us, for they teach us necessary things: the outward ceremonies are abolished, but their inner meaning remains.
4. I. First, THE PRIESTS WERE WASHED. We read in the fourth verse, “You shall bring Aaron and his sons to the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and shall wash them with water.” The pure and holy God cannot be served by men with unclean hands and impure hearts; he would not endure it under the law, nor will he tolerate it under the gospel. “Be clean who bear the vessels of the Lord,” and, “Be holy for I am holy,” are standing precepts of our priesthood. It was well said by the psalmist, “I will wash my hands in innocency, so I will go around your altar, oh Lord.”
5. This washing is afforded us in two ways, answering to our double need. First, it is given to us in regeneration, in which we are born of water and of the Spirit. By the power of the Holy Spirit we are made new creatures in Christ Jesus, and in us is fulfilled the type illustrated in Naaman, who washed in Jordan, and his flesh was restored to him, even as a little child. Not in the waters of baptism, but in the living water of the Holy Spirit, we are cleansed from nature’s original defilement; it is he who causes old things to pass away, and makes all things new. Through his sanctifying operations we are cleansed from all filthiness of the flesh and of the spirit, and made vessels fit for the Master’s use. This washing is essential in every case. You may say, “I desire to serve God,” but you cannot do it until first you are born again. Your whole nature must be cleansed, or you will never be qualified to stand as a priest before the thrice holy God. I marvel how some who know nothing about regeneration can dare to call themselves priests. They are strangers to the renewing influences of the Spirit, and yet they call themselves God’s ministers. Has God set blind men to be guides, and dead men to quicken souls? To such as these God says, “What have you to do to declare my statutes?”
6. The need of another form of washing was indicated by the double stream which flowed from the pierced breast of Christ, for “immediately there came out blood and water.” We must be washed by remission of sin, of which David sang, “Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean; wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.” In the first moment of our faith in Jesus there is given to us a washing which makes us completely clean in the sight of God, once and for all. It is that washing to which the Lord Jesus referred when he said, “He who is washed only needs to wash his feet, for he is clean.” The priests were washed once from head to foot, to make them ceremonially clean, and after that they only needed to wash their feet when they came into the holy place; even so our Lord told his disciples when he washed their feet that they had no need of another complete bathing, for they were completely clean. Believers should not pray to their heavenly Father as if their sins still rested upon them and had never been forgiven, for the Lord has put away their sin, and as far as the east is from the west so far has he removed their transgressions from them: yet as they continually accumulate some evil and stain by being in this body, and in this world, they have need to come each day with, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Our first washing has removed all sin as before God the Judge; our daily washing cleanses us from offences towards God as our Father. Even when we walk in the light as God is in the light, and have fellowship one with another, we still need daily cleansing from all sin by the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, and blessed be God we have it.
7. Now, my dear hearers, have you thus been cleansed from all sin? Do you know today the power of that word, “Being made free from sin, you became the servants of righteousness?” Have you the blessedness of that man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile? Do not try to stand as a priest before God until you have received this double washing. Remember the great purpose of the gospel is to make us priests to God, but the consecrating process must begin by our being cleansed as sinners from the guilt of sin and the defilement of our nature. He who would serve the Lord must first confess his iniquities and obtain remission, or he can no more approach the living God than a leper could enter into the holy place.
II. After being washed THE PRIESTS WERE CLOTHED. They might not
wear one of the garments which belonged to themselves or to their
former calling. Under garments were provided for them, and outer
garments too, within and without their clothing was new and
appropriate. They put on what was given to them, nothing more and
nothing less. No man can serve God acceptably in his own
righteousness, it is only filthy rags. We must have the fine linen
of an inward sanctification, and the outer garment, for glory and for
beauty, of the imputed righteousness of our Lord and Saviour Jesus
Christ. We must, in a word, sing with the hymn,
Jesus, thy blood and righteousness,
My beauty are, my glorious dress.
We cannot stand to worship God unless it is so; he will drive us from his presence.
9. Notice, that these garments were provided for them. They incurred no expense in buying them, nor labour in weaving them, nor skill in making them; they simply had to put them on. And you, dear child of God, are to put on the garments which Jesus Christ has provided for you, at his own expense, and freely bestows upon you out of boundless love.
10. These garments formed a complete apparel. They had no shoes upon their feet, it is true, but they would have been superfluous, for the place where they stood was holy ground. They were sandalled with reverence. The child of God when he is clothed in the righteousness of Christ still feels a solemn awe for the Lord, and comes into the presence of the Most High with lowliest adoration, for he remembers that he is only a creature at his best.
11. These garments were very comely to look upon. Though the common priests did not wear the breastplate of jewels, nor the bells and pomegranates, nor the sash of blue and fine twined linen, yet, in their ordinary dress of pure white, they must have been very comely to look upon. Fine white linen is the emblem of the righteousness of the saints, and truly in God’s eye, with the exception of his dear Son, there are no lovelier objects in the world than his own people when they are dressed in the garments of salvation.
12. The dress provided was absolutely necessary to be worn. No priest might offer sacrifices without the appointed garments, for we read: “They shall be upon Aaron, and upon his sons, when they come into the tabernacle of the congregation, or when they come near to the altar to minister in the holy place; so that they do not bear iniquity, and die.” [Ex 28:43] They would have died had they attempted to sacrifice without being clothed according to the law. A man pretending to serve God without the divine righteousness upon him, puts himself in a most perilous position; he is in the place where the flaming wrath of God burns most terribly. Better for him to keep his own place in the distance, than to draw near to the service of God, unless he is adorned with the glorious array which Christ has woven in the loom of his life and dyed in his own blood. Dear brethren, if you desire to worship God properly in holy labour, or prayer, or praise, you must go to your engagements dressed in the righteousness of Jesus, for you can only be “accepted in the Beloved.”
13. III. Then, thirdly, THESE PRIESTS WERE ANOINTED.
14. It does not appear that they were each one personally anointed so early in the ceremony, but they saw the fragrant oil poured upon Aaron on their behalf. So you find it written in the seventh verse, “Then you shall take the anointing oil, and pour it upon his head, and anoint him.” So that in order to serve God properly, it is necessary for us to see the anointing which has been given to our covenant Head, without measure. But you say to me, “Of what benefit can that be to us? We require the unction of the Holy Spirit upon ourselves.” True, but the oil which was poured upon Aaron’s head went down his beard, and its copious flow descended even to the skirts of his garments; and what you need to know if you are to be a true priest to God is, that the Holy Spirit comes to you through Christ and from Christ, and that it is because your covenant Head is anointed, that you have an unction from the Holy One. You could not have been Christians if he had not first been the Christ. Be of good cheer concerning this, for though you may be one of the lowliest members of the mystical body of Jesus Christ, you have an anointing from the Holy One, because Jesus has that anointing, and in the power of that anointing you may minister before the Lord. Further on in the discourse we shall have to show you the personal anointing which you must individually receive, but it is highly important for every worker to see where his fragrance before God must lie, — never in himself, but always in his covenant Head. Be filled with the Spirit, but do not dream that the Spirit of God comes to you apart from your Lord. You are the branch, and the sap can only come to you through the stem. You are the member, and your life dwells in your covenant Head; separated from Jesus you are dead. Never forget this, for any attempt at independence will be fatal. A man in Christ is fragrant with a holy perfume before the Lord, but outside of Christ he is an unclean thing, and cannot approach the altar.
15. IV. Fourthly, having been washed, clothed, and representatively anointed, they next had TO SHARE IN THE SIN OFFERING.
16. They were sinful men, how could they approach a thrice holy God? You and I are sinful, as we know by bitter experience; how can we hope to stand before the mercy seat, and present acceptable sacrifices to such a one as God is? There is no way of approaching him while our sin is seen, it must be covered, covered by a sin offering. We are told that the sin offering selected was a young bull without blemish, of the first year, strong, and vigorous, a perfect being as far as it could be. Lift your eyes to Jesus, in whom is no spot of sin, being undefiled in nature and immaculate in life. It is he who stands for you, even he who knew no sin, and yet was made sin for you so that you might be made the righteousness of God in him. He, in the fulness of his strength, and in the perfection of his manhood, gave himself a ransom and a substitute for you. View him with wondering gratitude.
17. The young bull of the sin offering being brought to the altar, Aaron and his sons were to lay their hands upon it. Read the tenth verse: — They “shall put their hands upon the head of the young bull.” The Hebrew word means more than lightly placing the hand, it gives the idea of pressing hard upon the young bull’s head. Each one of them came and leaned upon the victim, loading him with their burden, signifying their acceptance of its substitution, their joy that the Lord would accept that victim in their place. When they put their hands on the young bull, they made a confession of sin, and the Rabbis have preserved for us the form in which that confession was made, but time forbids our reading it to you. The act was evidently understood by all concerned as a typical transfer of guilt, and the placing of the young bull of the sin offering in the place of the sinner. Come, brothers and sisters, though washed, though clothed, though anointed, come as penitents, and rejoice in the vicarious sacrifice of Jesus. Draw near to the Lord with sincere hearts and acknowledge your transgressions, and again accept your Saviour as your sin bearer; for a sin bearer who is not accepted by you can be of no service to you. The hands of faith must be laid upon the sacrifice: for my part, I like to lay them there every day, indeed, I desire to keep them there always, believing without ceasing that my sin is imputed no more to me, but by a sacred act of God was laid upon Jesus, according to that sentence, “He has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
18. The young bull was killed as a sign that just as the poor beast was slain so they deserved to die for their sins, and that done, the blood was caught in bowls and taken to the altar, and there it was poured out, at the bottom of the altar, all around. Read the seventeenth verse. There must have been a pool of blood all around the altar, or at any rate a crimsoned line. What did it mean? Did it not show that our only access to God is by the blood? They were washed and robed and anointed, and yet they could not reach the altar until the way to it had been paved with atoning blood. Oh, my brother, there is no way for you to God as his priest except through the precious blood. We cannot draw near to God, or serve him properly, if we forget the blood of atonement. Our standing is upon and within the blood of sprinkling; we must bring our prayers, praises, preachings, almsgivings, and all other offerings, to the altar, around which the blood is poured. In vain are all good works which are not so presented. See well to this, my brethren. It is essential beyond all else.
19. This done, the more choice and vital parts of the young bull were taken, and burned upon the altar, to show that even when our Lord Jesus is viewed as a sin offering, he is still a sweet savour to God, and however he might hide his face from his Son because of our sin, yet he was always in himself well pleasing to the Father. Hence the inwards of the young bull were burned on the altar, where nothing could be presented except what was a sweet savour to God. Oh you Lamb of God, under whatever aspect we see you, you are still precious to your Father! You were beloved by him even when you had to cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!”
But because the young bull was a sin offering, and therefore
obnoxious to God, its flesh, and its skin, and all that remained were
carried outside the camp, and burned with a quick, consuming fire, as
a thing worthy to be destroyed, for sin was upon it, and it must be
burned up. Believer, have you seen Jesus as the great offering for
sin, made a curse for us? You will never serve God in the priestly
office properly unless you see that sin is a hateful thing to God, so
hateful that, even when it only lay upon his dear Son by imputation,
he could not look upon him, but bruised and struck him until he cried
in anguish, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani.” “Jesus also, so that he
might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the
camp,” to show that not without his being treated as a transgressor
could we be treated as righteous, and also that sin is in itself a
deadly pest, which must not be endured in the camp of the chosen.
Never let your joy concerning the atonement lessen your horror of
With your joy for pardoned guilt,
Mourn that you pierced the Lord.
21. I am persuaded that no one will ever serve the Lord humbly and devotedly unless he obtains a clear view of the Lord Jesus as his sin offering, and substitute. Some preachers either do not know that truth, or else they think too little of it to make it prominent in their sermons, hence their ministry does not save souls. The great saving truth is the doctrine of atonement by substitution. Without it ministers will keep souls in bondage year after year, because they do not proclaim the finished redemption, nor let men know that sin was laid on Jesus so that it might be removed for ever from the believer. “He was made sin for us so that we might be made the righteousness of God in him”; brethren, get that truth clearly into your heads, and intensely into your hearts, and you will become devoted to the Lord. Do not only believe that grand truth, but to the spirit of it serve you the Lord without weariness, seeing you have been redeemed with a price far more precious than silver and gold.
22. V. After the sin offering the consecrated ones went on to TAKE THEIR SHARE IN THE BURNT OFFERING.
23. The burnt offering differed widely from the sin offering. The sin offering indicated Christ as bearing our sin, but the burnt offering illustrates his presenting an acceptable offering to the Lord. God required of us perfect obedience, he demanded from us a pure and holy life, and the requirement was a just one: but among us all there is none righteous, no, not one; how then could we stand before the thrice Holy Lord? Beloved, Jesus stands in the gap. Before God his righteousness was perfect, acceptable, and delightful, and for us it is presented. He is made by God righteousness to us. The burnt offering does not bring to light the remembrance of sin except so far as it reminds us that we were in need of a perfect righteousness; it brings before us only the thought of Jesus offering himself as a sweet savour to God, and making us accepted in the Beloved. The priests were to bring a ram without blemish, and when killed, before it was laid on the altar, its inwards were to be washed, for otherwise the natural foulness of its body would prevent its being a fit type of that Saviour who is pure within, in whom there is no taint of original sin. When this ram was brought the priests were to lay their hands upon it, as much as to say, “We accept this ram, that it may represent us as acceptable before God.” Oh, beloved, lay your hands on Jesus now by faith, and say, “Jesus, I accept you as my righteousness before the Lord, and believe that as God sees in you all that is delightful, and smells a sweet savour of rest, so he will be well pleased with me for your sake.”
24. This offering when placed upon the altar was wholly burnt; not a fragment of it was put outside the camp, not a morsel of it was eaten by man, but the whole ram was utterly consumed with fire, for it was a burnt offering to the Lord. And so, dear friends, it is very delightful to us to see that God received Jesus, the whole of Jesus; there was nothing in him to reject, and nothing that could be done without. He satisfied the Lord; he asked for no more, he would have no less. Jesus has rendered to the Father all that he could desire from men, and the Lord is well pleased for his righteousness’ sake. A sense of acceptance is a very necessary thing for those who would worship God properly, for if you do not enjoy it the legal spirit will begin to work to win acceptance by merit, and that will spoil everything. If men dream that they are to pray or preach their way to heaven, or to do this, and to do that, to be acceptable with God, they will offer strange fire on the Lord’s altar and bring sacrifices with which he can never be pleased. He will call them vain oblations and frown on the offerers. How delightful it is to serve God with a sense that we are pleasant in the sight of God; for this fills us with gratitude, inspires us with zeal, creates boldness, and fosters every grace. With what joy will you stand to minister daily whatever your calling may be, whether it is as a mother in the family, a servant in the house, a minister in the pulpit, or a teacher in the class. You will not need driving like a slave to his toil, but like a dearly beloved child you will rejoice to please your Father in all things. Work in the prison house of the law under the lash of conscience is a very different thing from holy work in the sunlight of the Lord’s countenance and the liberty of full acceptance. He knows that he is not now to be judged and condemned by the law, but stands for ever justified because of what Christ has done for him, serves his God with a holy alacrity unknown to others.
25. VI. After the priests had seen for themselves the sin offering and the burnt offering, it was necessary that they should partake of a third sacrifice, which was A PEACE OFFERING.
26. Another ram was brought as unblemished and vigorous as the former, for Jesus is never to be typified by anything except the best of its kind. We are told in the nineteenth verse that Aaron and his sons were to put their hands upon it, for, whatever view of the great sacrifice they might gaze upon, it was imperatively necessary that they should have a personal interest in it, mere theory will never do, we must have personal acquaintance with the Lord, and we must have him to be our own. As long as we have no part or lot in Jesus we are as much excluded from the service of the Lord as were the uncircumcised and the unclean. No man can run the heavenly race unless he is looking to Jesus, he cannot be a soldier of the Lord unless he has Christ for his Captain, he cannot feed others until he has himself fed on Jesus, nor bring others to Jesus until he has come himself. “The farmer who labours must first be partaker of the harvest”; this is one of the laws of spiritual husbandry, and cannot be set aside. Lay your hand upon the head of the substitute, before you venture to lay it upon the work of the Lord.
27. When this was done, the peace offering was slain. A sin offering was an obnoxious thing to God; and represented expiation made for sin, a burnt offering was a sweet savour offering to God, and it was all burned on the altar, all being for the Lord alone, — thus representing the Lord Jesus as rendering to the Lord a complete obedience, which magnified the law and made it honourable; but the peace offering was shared between the Lord and the priest or offerer. The Lord’s part was consumed with fire upon the altar, and another portion was eaten by man in the holy place. The peace offering was thus an open declaration of the communion which had been established between God and man, so that they ate together, rejoicing in the same offering. Beloved brethren, when you have felt the sweets of seeing the Lord as a sin offering, and then have tasted the high joys of acceptance as you have gazed upon him as the burnt offering, satisfying Jehovah’s heart, it is surpassingly delightful to behold the Lamb of God as our peace offering, making glad the heart of God and man, and bringing both in bonds of friendship to a common meeting place. The eternal Father says, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” and we cry, “This is our beloved Lord, in which our innermost soul rejoices.”
28. In the peace offering the communion between the priests and the Lord began outwardly by their being consecrated by the blood of the peace offering. Moses dipped his finger in the blood, and smeared first the priest’s right ear, then his thumb, and then his toe; as Matthew Henry says, as if they marked the boundaries and extremities of man’s being, to show that all that was enclosed within the crimson lines was consecrated to the Lord. We do not go too far when we add that it indicated the dedication of each faculty. The ear was henceforth to hear God’s commands, to listen to divine teaching, and to drink in divine promises, no more to regard falsehood, vanity, and vice. The hand was now henceforth to be engaged in the divine service with diligence and intelligence, for the right hand was thus marked, and the thumb, the most useful part of it: the hand must be reserved for holy work. The feet were to be equally holy, the priest, wherever he stood, or walked, or ran, was to be “holiness to the Lord.” He had no right to go anywhere if that blood marked foot would be out of place. The whole man was thus consecrated by the blood of the everlasting covenant: a solemn seal indeed! Our personal share of the blood of Jesus has already done this for us, it has constrained us to yield to God our whole manhood, spirit, soul, and body. My brother, you can never serve God as his priest unless you are wholly given up to God through the blood of Jesus. You must have this verse in your very soul, and must chew it, digest it, and assimilate it into your nature — “You are not your own, you are bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your bodies and your spirits, which are his.” This surrender of yourself to the Lord begins your communion with the Lord; the peace offering has begun.
29. The next thing was to sprinkle the priests all over with a mixture of oil and blood, and this is that anointing which I said we should see by and by. “You shall take from the blood that is upon the altar, and from the anointing oil, and sprinkle it upon Aaron, and upon his garments, and upon his sons, and upon the garments of his sons with him: and he shall be hallowed, and his garments, and his sons, and his sons’ garments with him.” Yes, brethren, we need to know that double anointing, the blood of Jesus which cleanses, and the oil of the Holy Spirit which perfumes us. It is well to see how these two blend in one, Jesus and his atonement, the Spirit and his sanctification; the work for us and the work in us. Read the third of John, and there you find, “You must be born again”; but side by side with it you get, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned.” It is not so easy for the preacher always to give these two doctrines with equal clarity and distinction; he is very apt, when he is preaching simple faith, and saying, “Only believe,” to forget that equally important statement, “You must be born again.” It is a terrible blunder to set the blood and the oil in opposition, they must always go together. Yet there are some who have even spoken depreciatingly of repentance, which is an essential part of the work of the Spirit of God; their zeal for holding up the righteousness of Christ by faith has driven them beyond the bounds of truth. Brethren, do not err in this matter, but remain in equal loyalty to these equally sure and important verities. If you would serve the Lord properly, you must have the blood and the oil sprinkled upon you, that is to say, you must personally know the influence of them both. What a strange sight these men in white garments must have presented, stained all over with blood and oil. Did that mar their garments? No, it adorned and perfumed them. Remember that saying, “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” No purity is comparable to what comes by the Spirit and by the atoning blood: in God’s sight these stained priests were more beautiful by far than they had been before. Oh, my soul, prize Jesus and his blood, and never forget that you need the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit. Bless God for justification, but seek after sanctification. Praise him for perfection in Christ Jesus, and go on to obtain the perfect work of the Holy Spirit. We have a cleansing and we also have an unction from the Holy One: as our experience is, so let our teaching be, for the priests’ garments taught the people. We are to go out as priests, and declare the virtue of the atoning sacrifice, but we must also reveal the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives.
30. The next part of the ceremony was very unique. The priests had their hands filled. Certain parts of the ram were taken, and “one loaf of bread, and one cake of oiled bread, and one wafer out of the basket of unleavened bread, which is before the Lord,” and all these were put into the hands of Aaron and his sons, so that they stood with their hands full before the Lord. See the beauty of this, and pray to completely experience this yourself. The Lord intends to make you a priest, but your hands are full of sin. What do you have to do? You must lay those guilty hands on the sin offering, and make confession, and exercise faith: then the sin is gone, being transferred to another, and your hands are empty. What next? Will the Lord leave you empty handed? No, he gives you something to offer. He allows you a part of the peace offering to fill your hands, and you present this before him as a wave offering. It is a blessed thing to stand before God with your hands full of Christ. The service which consists in holding forth Jesus is most blessed. I love preaching when I have to preach Jesus only. Then I come before you, not empty handed, but loaded with meat and bread for you. How idle it is for us to stand before God with nothing to offer, and if we do not have Jesus we have nothing, or worse than nothing. We may also interpret the full hands of the priests as representing our being enriched with the truth. I believe it used to be a ceremony in the English church that, when the bishop ordained a minister, he always placed the Bible in his hands, to show what he was expected to deal out to the people. When the Lord ordains his people to be priests to him he puts the Bible into their hands, and fills their heads and hearts with its truth. When you have the inspired word in your hands, you have both meat for strong men and bread for children; you have all kinds of spiritual food for all kinds of people, and you do not need fear that they will turn away dissatisfied, they cannot need more to feed upon than the bread of God’s altar and the flesh of God’s peace offering.
31. When their hands were full, and they stood at the altar, it indicated the way in which they brought to the Lord all that they had. We cannot act as priests before God with empty hands. “None of you shall appear before me empty,” is his command. Has he given us wealth? Let us give generously, devising liberal things. Never neglect weekly storing and weekly offering, these are appropriate parts of Sunday worship. Have we time, talent, influence, let us consecrate them all, and come with those possessions which Jesus has lent to us, and present them with the flesh of the peace offering, and the sacred oil.
32. Holding this in their hands, the priests had to wave their pleasant burden to and fro. I scarcely know why, except that you who are God’s priests have not had your hands filled so that you may stand still; but that you may move them to and fro in the earth, that east, west, north, and south may know its benefit, and that your brethren on either hand may commune with you in your ministering. Every now and then the priests stopped the horizontal motion, and heaved or lifted up their offering, as if to say, “It is all for you, oh Jehovah. We lift it up into the presence of your august Majesty, for it is yours, and we are about to lay it on your altar.” Believers, if you have had your hands filled by God, you must not be idle. Your fulness is meant for distribution to God’s glory. If the clouds are full of rain they empty themselves upon the earth; if the rivers are full of water they run into the sea, and if God gives you a fulness, it is so that you may share it with others and devote it to himself. Jesus Christ breaks the bread and multiplies it, and gives it to the disciples to divide among the multitude. Many a man becomes empty handed because he does not know the art of distribution. He has his hands full and cries out, “Where shall I bestow my goods? my hands are full and I wish to keep it for myself and my family.” My brother, wave it among your neighbours, lift it up to God in solemn consecration, and then let it be laid upon God’s altar, since for this purpose you were called to be a priest to the Most High.
33. Last of all there followed a very pleasant part of the matter — they sat down and feasted. God had received his part in the burning of the victim on the altar, and now Aaron and his sons were to “eat those things from which the atonement was made.” You cannot serve God without strength; you cannot have strength unless you eat, and you must be careful what you take into your soul, for according to what your food is your strength will be. The Lord would have his people fed daily upon Christ, and fed in the holy place where they serve. Christ is delightful to God and is delightful to you, and you must feed on him in communion with God, in the place of holy fellowship. There is no sustenance for our inner nature anywhere except in Jesus, but, blessed be his name, no other sustenance can be desired, for he fills us to the full, and gives us a strength which is equal to our day.
34. I know some good people who are very busy indeed in the services of God, and I am very delighted that they should be, but I would caution them against working and never eating. They give up attending the means of grace as hearers, because they have so much to do as workers. That is very well, and some strong men may be able to do it safely, but I do not think many of us can afford to do without the regular hearing of the word. Whatever may be our zeal to work like Martha, we must also sit at Jesus’ feet like Mary, or we shall become “encumbered with much serving.” The priest is to offer sacrifice, but he must have time, also, to feed on the portion allotted to him. How sweet it is to enjoy the food of God, the flesh of Jesus, the bread of heaven. Aaron and his sons had the breast and the shoulder for their part — the love of Christ’s heart and the power of Christ’s arm. I am thankful, as one of God’s priests, to have the shoulder and breast, for power and love are necessary for my comfort and support. Eli’s vile sons were accustomed to drive a three-pronged hook into the cauldron, and bring up what they thought were the choicer portions, but my soul is more than content with what the rule of the house allots to me, in fact, these are the best parts of the sacrifice.
35. In closing, I would call the attention of believers for a moment to the fact, that Aaron and his sons received this consecration for life. You will find in the ninth verse the words, “The priests’ office shall be theirs for a perpetual statute.” “Once a priest, always a priest,” is the rule in the priesthood to which we belong. We abide in Christ, and we also have an anointing which abides in us, for we have been sealed with “that Holy Spirit of promise.” Do not act at any time as if you were not priests. If you profess to be the Lord’s do not lie about it, let it be truly so, and that every day, and all the day, and in all things, for he has made us kings and priests to God for ever. Do not, I beseech you, dishonour your sacred character.
36. I shall ask two questions in closing. Do you and I offer sacrifices continually? To this we are called, according to the apostle, that we should offer the sacrifice of prayer and praise continually. To him the cherubim continually cry “Holy, holy, holy.” Do we every day feel that our whole being is “Holiness to the Lord?” In the workshop, in the home, at the fireside, in the field, as well as in the prayer meeting, the vows of God are upon us; we are a separated people, and belong to God alone! Oh see to this!
What do you have to offer now? Have you brought an offering now? What
will you render to God for all his benefits towards you? Is there
nothing to be done for Christ this afternoon? no sick one to be
visited, no poor child to be instructed, no backslider to be
reclaimed? Shall a single hour go by without a sacrifice? I charge
you, brethren, continually bring from your substance, continually
bring from your talent, continually bring from your influence. If God
is God, and if you are his priests, serve him. If you are not his
ordained ones, then you live for yourselves, and it will be well to
know it: anything is better than to be hypocrites: but if you are
true men I beseech you by the mercies of God that you present your
bodies, your souls, your spirits to God, which is only a reasonable
service. When you have once and for all made the consecration, may
God grant you grace continually to stand to it, and he shall have the
glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
[Portion Of Scripture Read Before Sermon — Ex 29:1-37]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Jesus Christ, His Praise — Praise To The Redeemer” 411]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Christian, Dedication To God — Jesus, I Am Thine!” 663]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Christian, Heaven — Jesus Adored In Heaven” 878]
Jesus Christ, His Praise
411 — Praise To The Redeemer
1 To him that loved the souls of men,
And wash’d us in his blood,
To royal honours raised our head,
And made us priests to God;
2 To him let every tongue be praise,
And every heart be love!
All grateful honours paid on earth,
And nobler songs above!
3 Behold, on flying clouds he comes!
His saints shall bless the day;
While they that pierced him sadly mourn
In anguish and dismay.
4 Thou art the First, and thou the Last;
Time centres all in thee,
The Almighty God, who was, and is,
And evermore shall be.
Isaac Watts, 1709:
Scripture Songs, 1751.
The Christian, Dedication To God
663 — Jesus, I Am Thine! <7s.>
1 Jesus, spotless Lamb of God,
Thou hast bought me with thy blood,
I would value nought beside
Jesus — Jesus crucified.
2 I am thine, and thine alone,
This I gladly, fully own;
And, in all my works and ways,
Only now would seek thy praise.
3 Help me to confess thy name,
Bear with joy thy cross and shame,
Only seek to follow thee,
Though reproach my portion be.
4 When thou shalt in glory come,
And I reach my heavenly home,
Louder still my lips shall own
I am thine, and thine alone.
James George Deck, 1837.
The Christian, Heaven
878 — Jesus Adored In Heaven <7s.>
1 Palms of glory, raiment bright,
Crowns that never fade away,
Gird and deck the saints in light,
Priests, and kings, and conquerors they.
2 Yet the conquerors bring their palms
To the Lamb amidst the throne,
And proclaim in joyful psalms
Victory through his cross alone.
3 Kings for harps their crowns resign,
Crying, as they strike the chords,
“Take the kingdom, it is thine,
King of kings, and Lord of lords!”
4 Round the altar priests confess,
If their robes are white as snow,
‘Twas the Saviour’s righteousness,
And his blood that made them so.
5 Who were these? on earth they dwelt;
Sinners once of Adam’s race;
Guilt, and fear, and suffering felt;
But were saved by sovereign grace.
6 They were mortal, too, like us:
Ah! when we, like them, must die,
May our souls, translated thus,
Triumph, reign, and shine on high!
James Montgomery, 1829.