Vs. 1, “When you go to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours, do not be afraid of them, because the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, will be with you.” We are at war, spiritual warfare. For the Israelites, they were literally about to encounter a holy war mandated by God Himself. The enemy was evil, the enemy was bigger, the enemy was stronger; however, the enemy did not have the one and true God on their side. Notice how the priests sort of served as chaplains in the Israelite army (vs. 1-4). They shared God’s words to give the soldiers the spiritual strength. But notice the officers in the army (vs. 5-9), were to ensure the soldiers were ready for battle. It’s interesting to see these exemptions (house, land, marriage), but note that these exemptions that were given were not for an indefinite time; house and land exemption for up to five years and marriage for one year. It was important that God’s army of men have high morale! In the latter half of our chapter (vs. 10-18), we see an explanation on how foreign policy of war was to be followed. The nations outside of Canaan were to be offered peace. However, the Israelites were still to stamp out the nations that practiced evil within the Promised Land (vs. 17). On a practical note, it was important that the army not waste the trees that bore fruit (vs. 19-20). There was a general practice to lay siege on everything, but since they were to live in the land they were to not destroy trees that could benefit them.
Regarding application…Don’t Panic! Vs. 3, “He shall say: “Hear, O Israel, today you are going into battle against your enemies. Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not be terrified or give way to panic before them.” Most of us have never had to be tested on a literal battlefield for courage. I’ve often wondered how I would respond if I stood on a battlefield knowing that I may die that day. Question: Would we panic and flee? Question: Would we fight with courage? I have deep respect for those who past and present who have battled and shown their courage in the real battlefields. However, I also have deep respect for those who battle on the spiritual lines of warfare. The obedient Christian (Pastor, Missionary, and regular church member) who daily chooses to not panic in life, but live their life as a soldier for the Lord (Ephesians 6). There are all sorts of reasons for us to panic when life gives us curve balls. Put your trust in the Lord this week; don’t panic and be willing to “speak up” for your faith!
Vs. 25, “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” The author of Hebrew now expounds upon the order of Melchizedek (Genesis 14 & Psalm 110:4). The significance of this lies in the fact that Jesus, like Melchizedek was a priest, though not one by birth. Additionally, the priesthood and kingship were separate, but like Melchizedek, Jesus was both priest and king. There are certainly different interpretations of who Melchizedek was. Melchizedek means “king of righteousness”, melek in Hebrew is king and zedek is righteousness while Salem means peace. There was no ambiguity on who which Jesus was being compared to. This reminds me of the amazing significance the Old Testament plays in our understanding of the Lord. Ulitmately, Jesus is superior to the order of Melchizedek and the Levitical priesthood.
Regarding application…Met Needs. Vs. 26, “Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.” Question: What can you do for me? We live in a “what have you done for me lately” society. Our relationships are often based on what contribution can this person give to me. Divorce rates are too high, friendships are lost and we live workplaces and even churches when we feel our needs are not being met. But are reminded today that Jesus truly meets our needs. Think about the things in our lives that are needs, not wants. Thank the Lord as we begin our week with the many needs He meets!
Vs. 2, “Tell Aaron and his sons to treat with respect the sacred offerings the Israelites consecrate to me, so they will not profane my holy name. I am the Lord.” Yesterday, we were reminded how the priests were to keep a standard of holy living. Our chapter today continues this with an emphasis now on respecting God’s sacred offerings. The priests were held to the same standard of the other Israelites when it came to being ceremonially unclean (vs. 1-8). The priests are also given information on how is allowed to eat the food within the priestly families (vs. 10-16). We are reminded of how they were to not sacrifice any animals with defects (vs. 17-25). To the chagrin of some readers, the reality is, God held the priests to a higher standard (vs. 26-33).
Regarding application…Taking Things for Granted. Vs. 31, “Keep my commands and follow them. I am the Lord.” You might wonder why the LORD is stating the obvious. However, when you do something repetitively day in and day out, it’s easy to begin to take things for granted. While we don’t have physical sacred offerings, we still must look into our hearts. Whether we do our quiet times, worship at church, fellowship, etc., we must endeavor to do it with reverence and joy! Too often in many churches today, we just don’t take the time to give him the proper attitude of worship. Let be people who appreciate the daily provision of our Lord and live as a holy kingdom of priests (Revelation 1:6).
Vs. 8, “Regard them as holy, because they offer up the food of your God. Consider them holy, because I the Lord am holy—I who make you holy.” The standard for holy living has put the onus upon all of God’s people. In our chapter today, we now see the focus zero in on the priests. You did not become a priest by choice, you born in the family and God had preordained it. The priesthood was to be an example for all of God’s people. The important factor that begins our chapter is this idea of remaining clean. In death and in marriage (vs. 1-8), the priests were to conduct themselves in a way that did not mimic pagan grief and show a lack of hope and trust. While there were concessions for grief and being unclean for priests, there was none for the high priest. Regarding the rules for physical appearance (vs. 10-24), it’s important to remember that the standard for sacrifices was so high, that it would make sense that the priest also be without blemish. The priests with blemishes were not banished from their duties, they just didn’t become the face of the sacrifices.
Regarding application…Responsibility. Perhaps you are thinking that this has no application for you today since you are not a priest or a family member. However, we are reminded in Revelation, “and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.” Jesus our perfect high priest has made us spiritual priests. We have a responsibility to live a holy life. Over the years, I have met many Pastors and Pastor’s kids. It’s obvious to see the burden for some of them to constantly live a life above reproach. Some family members share it is unfair to have such a responsibility. Brothers and sisters, it’s all about perspective. Sure, it’s responsibility, but it is also simply our privilege to serve and be called sons and daughters of the Lord. I think this boils down to the condition of our hearts.
Vs. 1, “Have Aaron your brother brought to you from among the Israelites, along with his sons Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, so they may serve me as priests.” In this chapter, we see the specific instructions of the holy priesthood. Question: What was the purpose of the priests? They were the ones responsible to bringing sacrifices and offerings in the tabernacle/temple. Additionally, they served to bless God and help teach His word to others. Bear in mind, earlier we read that God promised Israel that they all would become a “kingdom of priests” (Exodus 19:6). And in the New Testament, this thought affirms this priesthood for the church in Hebrews and Revelation. When we look at the descriptions of the garments the High Priest and the priests were to wear, notice the garments were made of the same material of the actual tabernacle (vs. 5). They were not made to draw attention to the priests, but really bring attention to their purpose. Out of the seven pieces of apparel, the ephod and breastpiece stand out among them. Both of these pieces would bear the names of the sons of Israel.
Regarding application…Sacred Garments. Vs. 2, “Make sacred garments for your brother Aaron to give him dignity and honor.” God called His people to be set apart from the ways of this world. The ornate garments for the priests were to bring honor to them (vs. 2), but not just for themselves, but to honor the Lord! If the President Barak Obama came out to give his state of the union address in his pajama’s, that would not only bring shame to him, but it would bring ridicule from many others. When God gives us a responsibility, we are to ensure that honor is brought to His name. While God does look at the heart, that doesn’t excuse us from what we do on the outside.
Vs. 4, “For twelve years they had been subject to Kedorlaomer, but in the thirteenth year they rebelled.” Question: What is going on here? Politics and war were the name of the game. Smaller regions and cities were overtaken by larger ones (not much has changed centuries). But there was a rebellion! The rebels happened to be one of the cities that Abram’s nephew Lot was residing in: Sodom (vs. 12). This first recorded battle in the Bible posed an interesting dilemma for Abram. Should Abram be involved in the political affairs of neighboring nations? In this case, he had personal reasons to help rescue Lot! Though Abram’s army and allies were small, they defeated Lot’s captors (vs. 15-16), another proof of God blessing Abram. While Abram turned down the King of Sodom’s offer, he did turn to another king with honor in Melchizedek (vs. 17-24). Question: Who is Melchizedek? He was a priest and king of Salem. The writer of Hebrews (5-7) refers to Jesus as being a priest in the order of Melchizedek. Some believe Melchizedek might have been the pre-incarnate Christ (Jesus appearing). But in the least, he serves at least as an example of Jesus.
Regarding application…Depending on God. Vs. 24, “But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “With raised hand I have sworn an oath to the Lord, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth.” The King of Sodom seemed to give an offer that could not be refused! Have all the spoils of this war since you helped me. Question: Why would Abram not take this offer? Because if he did, the credit for the blessing would have gone to the King of Sodom and not the LORD God! Abraham once again was walking by faith, not by sight! What an incredible example for us today. Think about the choices we make that can be credited to others instead of God. When we see someone receive an award, they will go through a list of people they want to thank for getting them there. Abram wanted to give God all the credit. As you go about your day today, depend on Him!
Vs. 13, “Then he said to me, “The north and south rooms facing the temple courtyard are the priests’ rooms, where the priests who approach the Lord will eat the most holy offerings. There they will put the most holy offerings—the grain offerings, the sin offerings and the guilt offerings—for the place is holy.” The Angel continues his grand tour as they look at more and more measurements. This time we zero in on the rooms for the Priests. There were two identical sides that housed the rooms for purposes of eating and changing of clothes. Sounds boring, but there was definite purposes behind them. This is where they would eat the certain foods of the sacrifice and it was to be a holy (set apart) function. The changing rooms were used for the priests to change from their priestly garments back to regular clothing.
Regarding application…Being Humble. Vs. 14, “Once the priests enter the holy precincts, they are not to go into the outer court until they leave behind the garments in which they minister, for these are holy. They are to put on other clothes before they go near the places that are for the people.” Perhaps you’ve heard the saying, “Be humble, or you’ll stumble.” In this situation, we can look none other to the example of Jesus. As the Christmas season nears, we are reminded Jesus came as a humble baby. Jesus could have come in his glorious transfigured self already a man, but instead, he humbled himself. The taking off of the priestly garments and going amongst the people is a application that we too must be ready to mingle among others. What can you do this week to be humble and share the love of Christ? Perhaps invite a friend to church, call a loved one, give to the needy…pray that God would humble us to love others!