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The Greatness of Our Great High Priest
“And he that is the high priest among his brethren, upon whose head the anointing oil was poured, and that is consecrated to put on the garments, shall not uncover his head, nor rend his clothes; Neither shall he go in to any dead body, nor defile himself for his father, or for his mother; Neither shall he go out of the sanctuary, nor profane the sanctuary of his God; for the crown of the anointing oil of his God is upon him: I am the LORD. And he shall take a wife in her virginity. A widow, or a divorced woman, or profane, or an harlot, these shall he not take: but he shall take a virgin of his own people to wife. Neither shall he profane his seed among his people: for I the LORD do sanctify him. And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto Aaron, saying, Whosoever he be of thy seed in their generations that hath any blemish, let him not approach to offer the bread of his God. For whatsoever man he be that hath a blemish, he shall not approach: a blind man, or a lame, or he that hath a flat nose, or anything superfluous, or a man that is brokenfooted, or brokenhanded, or crookbackt, or a dwarf, or that hath a blemish in his eye, or be scurvy, or scabbed, or hath his stones broken; No man that hath a blemish of the seed of Aaron the priest shall come nigh to offer the offerings of the LORD made by fire: he hath a blemish; he shall not come nigh to offer the bread of his God. He shall eat the bread of his God, both of the most holy, and of the holy. Only he shall not go in unto the vail, nor come nigh unto the altar, because he hath a blemish; that he profane not my sanctuaries: for I the LORD do sanctify them. And Moses told it unto Aaron, and to his sons, and unto all the children of Israel.” (Leviticus 21:10-24)
The Lord Jesus Christ is our Great High Priest, the only mediator and priest by whom sinners can and must come to God. Sinners can come to God by this priest. We must come to God by this priest alone. And all who come to God by this priest have eternal life by him, because this priest, the Lord Jesus Christ, our Great High Priest, has made reconciliation to God for sin by his own blood and has obtained eternal redemption for all who come to God by him. Let me show you four things about the Lord Jesus Christ, our Great High Priest in Leviticus 21:10-24.
First, we see something of the greatness of our Great High Priest in his consecration to God as our Priest (vv. 10-12). As our Great High Priest, the Son of God, our Lord Jesus, the Christ, the God-man, our Mediator sanctified himself. He consecrated himself entirely to the will and glory of God for the saving of our souls (John 17:17-19). We see this portrayed in Leviticus 21:10-12.
“And he that is the high priest among his brethren, upon whose head the anointing oil was poured, and that is consecrated to put on the garments, shall not uncover his head, nor rend his clothes; Neither shall he go in to any dead body, nor defile himself for his father, or for his mother; Neither shall he go out of the sanctuary, nor profane the sanctuary of his God; for the crown of the anointing oil of his God is upon him: I am the LORD.”
The first time the words “high priest” are used in the Bible is here in Leviticus 21:10. Actually, a better translation would be “great priest,” or “great high priest.” Our Great High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the one of whom the passage speaks. In all things, he is our example. In the typology of this chapter, it is the High Priest, the Lord Jesus, who is the eminent example of devotion to God.
The holy anointing oil is upon him. The words “anointing oil” might be translated, as some suggest, “the crown of the anointing oil.” Christ Jesus, our Great High Priest, is the King, the King of Glory, a Priest upon his Throne. He is called the Great High Priest, because he is infinitely better than all others, because there was never a priest like him (Exodus 28:36; 29:6; 39:30). Our all-glorious Christ was consecrated to put on the garments, the garments of salvation. He made them. He wore them. And he puts them on us. Fulfilling the type here given, our great Savior, Jehovah’s Righteous Servant, never rent his clothes or uncovered his head as one in mourning (Isaiah 42:1-4).
Never Defiled Himself
He never touched the dead, except to give life. Even when his mother was before him as a bereaved widow, as she beheld his anguish upon the cursed tree, he was her Great High Priest and Mediator, and showed tenderness, concern, and care, not for himself but for her. In the midst of his woes as the smitten Shepherd, he took time to recommend her to John, and then, so to speak, resumed his work of suffering. And what he did for her, he did for all his chosen family.
“They that hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of mine head: they that would destroy me, being mine enemies wrongfully, are mighty: then I restored that which I took not away. O God, thou knowest my foolishness; and my sins are not hid from thee. Let not them that wait on thee, O Lord GOD of hosts, be ashamed for my sake: let not those that seek thee be confounded for my sake, O God of Israel. Because for thy sake I have borne reproach; shame hath covered my face. I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother’s children. For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up; and the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me.” (Psalms 69:4-9)
Never Went Out
When he came here to redeem and save his people, our Savior said, “Lo, I come to do thy will, O my God!” — And he never turned aside from his work. He never went back. Jehovah’s Servant, our Savior, never went out free, but voluntarily stood to his pledge as Jehovah’s voluntary bond servant (Exodus 21:1-6).
And as our Great High Priest, the Lord Jesus truly was the Priest who never went “out of the sanctuary,” and who never “profaned it” by the introduction of personal concerns. He ever felt the streams of the anointing oil on his head. He came to save others. Himself he could not and did not save. He “saved” not, but “hated and lost” his own life for us. He stood entirely as our Substitute and Surety. Oh, “thanks be unto God” for such a Great High Priest (Psalms 116:7, 12-13; Psalms 118:1-3)
Second, we see something of the greatness of our Great High Priest in the bride he chose (vv. 13-14).
“And he shall take a wife in her virginity. A widow, or a divorced woman, or profane, or an harlot, these shall he not take: but he shall take a virgin of his own people to wife.”
God’s elect, the church of Christ, is espoused to him “as a chaste virgin” (2 Corinthians 11:2), and he calls her, “my undefiled” (Song of Solomon 6:9). When we stand with him before the throne of God, he declares that we are chaste, undefiled virgins (Revelation 14:1-5).
The Lord Jesus Christ is our Great High Priest. He is our Melchizedek, our ever-living High Priest, touched with the feeling of our infirmities, “who also maketh intercession for us,” and is able to save to the uttermost all who come to God by him. The priest in Israel was typical of our Lord Jesus Christ in his person, in his family, and in all his public acts. He points us to our Great High Priest. Even in his choice of a bride, the Lord God took care that the priest set forth another Priest. Our Savor’s bride is “without spot or wrinkle,” “undefiled,” “the choice one of her that bare her. The daughters saw her and blessed her” (Song of Solomon 6:9). Obviously, there is no greatness in a man choosing to marry a virgin. Every man wants to do that.
Here is the greatness of our Great High Priest, our Lord Jesus Christ. — He loved a harlot. He married “an imperious whorish woman” (Ezekiel 16:30) with “a whorish heart” (Ezekiel 6:9) and made her a chaste virgin! By nature, we are all, like Hosea’s wife Gomer, people of ill repute, both profane and whores (Hosea 1-3). But, by his blood atonement, perfect righteousness, and saving grace, the Lord Jesus has made all his holy bride chaste virgins (Revelation 14:4).
Because God “hateth putting away” (Malachi 2:16), the priest must not marry a divorced woman. Our blessed Savior is God who “hateth putting away.” He chose us for eternity. There must be nothing even to hint to his bride that she may again be separated from him.
“He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love. Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples: for I am sick of love. His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me.” (Song of Songs 2:4-6)
The Son of God calls us his undefiled, because he has made us undefiled, chaste virgins. We look upon the Son of God and say, Thou art “my first husband” (Hosea 2:7). These things are not so by nature, but (Blessed be God!) they are so! He has performed his promise.
“I will betroth thee unto me forever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the LORD.” (Hosea 2:19-20)
Christ is married to his church in perfect holiness. — “She cometh to the king in robes of needle-work” all glorious. She was not thus fair when he found her; but she is “all fair,” “undefiled,” “the choice one” when he marries her. The marriage of the Lamb is on the day of his coming out of theŠholy place to bless his redeemed. We are his holy people in whom he rejoices, over whom he rejoices with singing! No spot or wrinkle, no blemish, or any such thing appears on his redeemed when he is their Bridegroom (Ephesians 5:27).
The blood of our all-glorious Christ, our Great High Priest’s sacrifice, and his righteousness demand and absolutely secure our everlasting glory and perfection as his chosen bride
Third, it is written of God’s Great High Priest, “Neither shall he profane his seed among the people” (v. 15). Aaron was not to mix his seed with the wicked. Neither shall Christ! He shall never profane one of his own by charging them with sin, as he shall the damned forever (Romans 4:8; 8:33-34).
Fourth, we know that all the work of our Great High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ, shall effectually secure this blessed end, because our priest is exactly the priest God requires. Look at the perfection of our Lord Jesus Christ, our Great High Priest, as it is set before us in verses 16-24. Here the Lord God speaks not to Aaron personally, but to Moses, the lawgiver, telling him the kind of man the high priest must be.
“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto Aaron, saying, Whosoever he be of thy seed in their generations that hath any blemish, let him not approach to offer the bread of his God. For whatsoever man he be that hath a blemish, he shall not approach: a blind man, or a lame, or he that hath a flat nose, or anything superfluous, or a man that is brokenfooted, or brokenhanded, or crookbacked, or a dwarf, or that hath a blemish in his eye, or be scurvy, or scabbed, or hath his stones broken; No man that hath a blemish of the seed of Aaron the priest shall come nigh to offer the offerings of the LORD made by fire: he hath a blemish; he shall not come nigh to offer the bread of his God.” (Leviticus 21:16-21)
The man God requires, the man we need, the man God accepts as our Great High Priest is the God-man, Christ Jesus. He is exactly the priest we need — perfect. He is the perfect man, the perfect God, the God-man, our Savior. None other could save us.
“Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself. For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore.” (Hebrews 7:25-28)
The Bread of God
Who can read the words “the bread of God” in this chapter (vv. 6, 8, 17, 21, 22) and not think of our Lord Jesus Christ? Those specific words are used only seven times in Holy Scripture (Leviticus 21:6, 8, 17, 21, 22; 22:25, John 6:33). It seems obvious to me that our Lord Jesus referred to this 21st chapter of Leviticus when he said, “The bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:51). — “The Bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven” (John 6:33).
The showbread the priests offered continually upon the Table of Showbread pointed to him, our Lord Jesus Christ, who is “The Bread of God.” He is the Bread that satisfies God. He is the Bread God gives by which our souls are satisfied. He is the Bread God’s servants constantly spread on the table in his house by the preaching of the gospel. And Christ is our daily Bread, the Bread we must have, the Bread we must eat. He is the Bread we want.
The Perfect Priest
All of these precepts concerning the men who were allowed to serve as God’s high priest were necessary, because the high priest in Israel was a type of Christ throughout the Old Testament. As such, he must always appear as one who was altogether without blemish or fault.
The Song of Solomon gives us some light on this passage. In setting forth Christ’s purity, beauty, and perfection in figurative terms. It uses almost all the references to the body that are found here in Leviticus 21. Here the defects are spoken of, there the excellences.
If the priest had been “blind,” the people would be led to misapprehend the type. He could not represent him whose “eyes are as a flame of fire.” If the priest had been “lame,” he could not represent him whose “legs are as pillars of marble.” If the priest had been “flat nosed,” he could not be the type of him whose bride’s “nose is as the tower of Lebanon.” If the priest had been “superfluous in any limb,” if one limb had been longer than the other, he could not be a type of him who “cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills.” If the priest had been “broken-footed,” he could not have typified him whose feet are “sockets of fine gold.” If the priest had been “broken-handed,” he could not have typified our Lord Jesus, whose hands we are told are “as gold rings, set with beryl.”
Our Redeemer, our Great High Priest, was to stretch out his whole body on the cross. The nails were to pierce his hands and feet. Yet, not a bone of his body would be broken. If the priest had been “crookbackt,” he would have represented the High Priest of the church as inferior to the church herself, “whose stature is like the palm-tree.” If the priest had been “a dwarf,” he could not have reached up to the altar’s height. He could not have been a type of him whose “countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars.” If the priest had had “a blemish in his eye,” he could never have typified our Lord whose “eyes are as doves by rivers of waters, washed in milk, and fitly set.” If the priest had been diseased, having the “scurvy” or “scabbed,” he could not have typified him “who is all fair,” who has “no spot or wrinkle.” If in the most secret, hidden spot of his frame, the priest had had the slightest blemish or defect, if one of his “stones” were broken (bruised, swollen, or missing), he could not have been a type of our great Savior who is “all glorious within.”
Our Great High Priest is just such a High Priest as we need! — Altogether perfect! — Altogether lovely! — Exactly the priest God’s law required! Virtue flows out of him when he is but touched by a sinner’s hand. And this all-glorious Christ was the Sacrifice as well as the Priest required by the holy Lord God and his holy, unbending law. — “He offered up himself” (Hebrews 7:27).
“He shall eat the bread of his God, both of the most holy, and of the holy. Only he shall not go in unto the veil, nor come nigh unto the altar, because he hath a blemish; that he profane not my sanctuaries: for I the LORD do sanctify them.” (Leviticus 21:22-23)
The common, deformed, defiled men among Aaron’s sons were provided for. They were allowed to feed upon the holy things. But only the unblemished, faultless man could go into the holy place, only God’s appointed high priest could go into the holy of holies and make atonement for the people.
The high priest had to be a man who had no fault or blemish, because he typified that Man who is our Great High Priest of infinite worth, beauty, and glory, the God-man, who gives all his beauty to us and yet retains it all in himself. Oh, how fair he is! — “Thou art all fair, my Beloved. Thou art all fair!” He who offered the bread of perfect righteousness in the holy place (the outer sanctuary) must be himself perfect. And he who offered the blood of complete satisfaction in the most holy place, behind the veil, must himself be perfect.
“And Moses told it unto Aaron, and to his sons, and unto all the children of Israel” (v. 24) — By these things all Israel knew what sort of priest to expect. Their eyes were fixed on One who was to be “altogether lovely,” by whose merit, virtue, and sacrifice God would accept his people, by whose merit, virtue, and sacrifice God could not but accept and bless his people (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).
In Numbers 6:22-27 we see how God gives his blessings to us by our Aaron, our all-glorious Christ, our Great High Priest.
“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying, On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them, The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them.”
Come now to God by Christ, our Great High Priest, and you will obtain mercy and grace from God by him (Hebrews 10:9-14; Isaiah 25:9).