Tag Archives: Priest

Adam’s Rest

 

In a recent post we looked in depth at God’s rest, which occurs at the conclusion of His creation on the seventh day (see Genesis 2:1-3).  Among several of the observations and summary conclusions that we reached was that God’s rest may be viewed in terms of an enthronement, rather than a physical rest and that the arrangement and relationship of Creation-Eden-Garden appears to resemble the tabernacle/temple arrangement of Outer Court-Holy Place -Holy of Holies.

With this passage on God’s rest firmly established in our minds, Genesis 2 shifts the focus back to creation, more specifically to man.

“These are the generations
of the heavens and the earth when they were created,
in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.” 

When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground— then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed.  And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Genesis 2:4-9

In verses 5 and 6 we are brought, back in time as it were, to the period between Day 5 & 6, just prior to the creation of man.  Here we find more details concerning God’s creation of Adam.  On this day we read of God creating him from the dust of the ground, God planting of a garden in Eden (perhaps East of Eden), God placing Adam in that garden, then God causing trees to spring up, including the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Additionally, it is in this narrative that we find our description of a pattern similar to the tabernacle layout: earth (vs. 5), Eden (vs. 8), and garden (vs. 8).  This geographic distinction is obvious and noteworthy.

Also it should be pointed out that the earth (vs. 5 – ground) had no one yet to “work” the land, which will be a significant point developed below.

As the passage moves to a description of the land and surrounding area, verse 15 brings us back to God and his purpose for Adam

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. 

On the surface, verse 15 sounds like a simple restatement of verse 8 from above where God “put” Adam in the garden.  This verse is often used as a proof text for Adam’s purpose, namely to work.  Following this interpretation is usually a discussion on the doctrine of vocation, concluding that man was created for the purpose of work, God’s design for him prior to the fall, therefore we should embrace our toil and labors in our individual vocations.  That sounds good and I don’t disagree with the destination, but I do disagree with the starting point.

First, verses 5 and 15 are not referring to the same piece of ground.  Verse 5 clearly speaks of the earth in general while verse 15 specifically refers to Eden, more specifically the garden that the Lord created East of Eden.

From the vocation view highlighted earlier, it is commonly taught that Adam was placed in the garden in order to til the land and reap produce or vegetation of some kind, concluding that he was the first gardener or farmer.  Perhaps he set the pattern for a farming lifestyle, right?

Not so fast.

In this passage, we are informed that God is the One who brought forth the vegetation in the garden, “And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”   This statement is prior to Adam’s placement in the garden.  Adam was placed into a garden that was already lush with vegetation, which God had provided for food (see also Genesis 1:29).  It seems clear from this passage that food was not dependent upon Adam’s labor, but instead was a blessing from the hand of God.

Which brings us to the meaning of the following, “Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden”.  Prior to the declaration of man’s purpose in the garden, to work it and keep it, we have the straightforward statement that God took him and put him in the garden of Eden.  The word translated as “put” actually has the following outline of biblical usage:

  1. to rest
  2. (Qal)
    1. to rest, settle down and remain
      to repose, have rest, be quiet
  3. (Hiphil)
    1. to cause to rest, give rest to, make quiet
    2. to cause to rest, cause to alight, set down
    3. to lay or set down, deposit, let lie, place
    4. to let remain, leave
    5. to leave, depart from
    6. to abandon
    7. to permit
  4. (Hophal)
    1. to obtain rest, be granted rest
    2. to be left, be placed
    3. open space (subst)

With this in mind, perhaps a better translation would be that the Lord God “rested” Adam in the garden of Eden.  This translation would seem to be at odds with the remaining portion of the verse, “to work it and keep it” that has so often been used as the basis for man’s purpose of work.  It simply wouldn’t make sense to say that God rested Adam in the garden to work it and keep it

Unless of course work it and keep it mean something else.

The idea behind the Hebrew word translated as “work” conveys the idea of serving or tending while the Hebrew for the translated word “keep” conveys the idea of guarding or obeying commands.  Collectively when these two verbs are used together they are often found in the context of a priestly service in the tabernacle.  Note their usage in the passage below

They shall keep guard over him and over the whole congregation before the tent of meeting, as they minister at the tabernacle. They shall guard all the furnishings of the tent of meeting, and keep guard over the people of Israel as they minister at the tabernacle. ” Numbers 3:7-8

Let’s summarize what we’ve seen so far.  Adam was “rested” in the garden to be in the service of God functioning as a priest for God to both minister in and guard the garden, His earthly tabernacle.  Adam’s purpose was not to be a gardener or landscape architect in the garden of God.  His purpose was to worship and commune with God as he fulfilled the duties of a priest that God had assigned.   This included obeying several commands as well: the command to be fruitful and multiply, to have dominion over creation, to eat of every tree, avoiding the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

As we know, Adam failed his probationary test.  He failed to guard the garden and he failed to guard his wife.  He failed to guard the garden and he failed to obey the word of God. Ultimately his disobedience led to his being placed outside the garden, where the curse of labor was given.

Humans have the responsibility now, post-fall, to work.  However, our original design was to worship and commune with our Creator.  The connection between God’s rest and God resting Adam in the Garden cannot be overlooked.  This perfect communion with our Creator, resting in Him, is what we were made for.  Sin disrupted this union and broke this rest, yet through our Lord Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, this is the end towards which believers will one day return.  At the moment of repentance and faith this communion is restored and we experience the rest from our efforts of trying to earn salvation, but communion and rest will not reach its fullness until the return of Christ, the establishment of His kingdom on earth, and the inauguration of eternity.  We have already been restored to this communion with the Creator, but it is not yet what it will be.

May He come quickly!

Assuming the Role of Priest

 

In the 5th chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews, the author enters into the great theme of Jesus as High Priest. Having alluded to it in several verses prior (most notably 1:3, 2:17, 3:1, 4:16), his attention is now focused near-exclusively on this and it begins with an overview of the Levitical-Aaronic priesthood. The first four verses of the chapter set the tone for what will follow:

“For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2 He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness. 3 Because of this he is obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins just as he does for those of the people. 4 And no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was.” Heb. 5:1-4

The author’s intention here is not a full-scale review of the Old Covenant priesthood, but instead to serve as a baseline for a priesthood ordained by God for the purpose of comparison and contrast with the Priesthood of Christ. Here we may observe several qualifications and duties of the Aaronic priests. First we see that every high priest is chosen and appointed by God. We’ll pick up on this again later, but for now let’s note the background for this concept of familial priesthood in Exodus 28 & 29, “Then bring near to you Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the people of Israel, to serve me as priests…” Ex. 28:1.

Next, we see that their appointment was from among men. No angelic being would suffice in the representation of men to God. The reason, as we see in verse 3, is that, “he can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness.” These statements will serve as a point of comparison and contrast along with providing further basis for the incarnation of Christ, namely that He had to be made a man in order to represent them to God; likewise He had to remain God in order to represent Him to man. The two divergent streams of God and man are brought together in the person of Jesus Christ. Therefore the perfect Mediator, our Great High Priest, can only be the God-Man Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 2:5).

Returning our focus to the Aaronic priesthood we see that in their role on behalf of men and in relation to God that they offered gifts and sacrifices to Him, first for their own sins, then for their family, and then for the sins of the people (Israel). This statement finds its basis in Leviticus 16 which is largely in mind as Hebrews reviews the Old Covenant priesthood. This verse (5:3) informs us that the fundamental weakness and chief insufficiency of the Aaronic priesthood was that the priests themselves were sinners. How can a sinner effectively represent other sinners before an all-holy God? Simply put, they can’t. Therefore a greater Mediator is needed, one who is not beset with sin and does not half to make atonement for His own sins first. The office of priest under the Old Covenant was always pointing forward to a better priesthood, with better sacrifices, and a better Mediator.

Summarizing thus far we see that the Aaronic priesthood was by way of an appointment from God, chosen from among men, sacrificed not only for the people, but for themselves because of their own sin.

In verse 4, we return our attention to the appointment of the priesthood by God Himself, “no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was.” Note how this verse forms the frame with verse 1 to highlight the significance of the author’s point, namely that the priesthood must be by way of appointment or calling from God. This is an extremely important point given the understanding of the priesthood in our modern vernacular. Today we have priests in Catholicism, some forms of Orthodox Christianity (Eastern, Greek, Russian, etc.), Anglican, Episcopalian, and even Mormons all holding to some office of priesthood, though among these the most visible is the papacy of Catholicism. Each of these, and most notably the Catholic office of priest, has assumed their role. The priesthood which Christ is being compared and contrasted with above, namely that of Aaron, was clearly established by God. He called and appointed each man to the role of high priest, yet today we have men in modern time claiming their role as priest. What are we to make of that?

Thankfully, the Bible is not silent concerning man’s self-elevation into the office of priest apart from the Divine appointment by God. In Numbers 16 we get our first example. Here God’s Word informs us that Korah, along with several other men, stood up against the leadership of Moses with the following bold statement, “You have gone too far! For all in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?” Num. 16:3 Korah had a fundamental problem with God’s establishment of leaders and roles within the nation of Israel, specifically the Aaronic priesthood. He, and the men with him, were expressing dissatisfaction with their own role and lot that God in His divine providence had allowed them. If God had so chosen, they would have been worthy only to collect the cattle dung from the Israelite animals, but in His grace even they were given a more noble position. Note Moses’ response,

Hear now, you sons of Levi: 9is it too small a thing for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to himself, to do service in the tabernacle of the Lord and to stand before the congregation to minister to them, 10and that he has brought you near him, and all your brothers the sons of Levi with you? And would you seek the priesthood also?” Num. 16:8-10

As we read in verse 1, Korah was from the tribe of Levi, those chosen to minister to God and serve Him in the tabernacle. However, from within the tribe of Levi was the family of Aaron, those who were specifically chosen to serve as high priest. It’s not difficult to see then that source of Korah’s discontentment and the basis for Moses’ response. As the chapter continues to detail the unfolding rebellion of Korah and the other men we find them burning incense (a priestly function) before the Lord at His command. In essence, God granted them the desire of their hearts or we might say He allowed their discontentment to go unchecked. Ultimately God judges Korah and those participating in the rebellion in a most public and terrifying way,

“And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the people who belonged to Korah and all their goods. 33 So they and all that belonged to them went down alive into Sheol, and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly. 34 And all Israel who were around them fled at their cry, for they said, “Lest the earth swallow us up!” 35 And fire came out from the Lord and consumed the 250 men offering the incense.” Num. 16:32-35

And later in the chapter we are given the reason for this public display of God’s judgment as the men’s censors that contained the incense were hammered into a covering for the altar,

“to be a reminder to the people of Israel, so that no outsider, who is not of the descendants of Aaron, should draw near to burn incense before the Lord, lest he become like Korah and his company.” Num. 16:40

A second example of assuming the role of priesthood without the divine appointment from God comes by way of King Saul 1 Samuel 13:8-10

“He waited seven days, the time appointed by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and the people were scattering from him. So Saul said, ‘Bring the burnt offering here to me, and the peace offerings.’ And he offered the burnt offering. As soon as he had finished offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came. And Saul went out to meet him and greet him.”

Here we find King Saul’s intrusion into the office of priest as he fails to wait for the arrival of Samuel and assumes for himself the role of priest in making burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord. Upon Samuel’s arrival, he rebukes Saul for his disobedience of the Lord’s commandments (1 Samuel 13:13) and alerts him of God’s forthcoming punishment to strip the kingdom from him.

“But now your kingdom shall not continue…because you have not kept what the Lord has commanded you.” 1 Samuel 13:14

Finally, our third example of man assuming the role of priest apart from the divine appointment from God is found in the actions of King Uzziah again providing for us a witness of God’s attitude towards those who would attempt to undermine the authority of God’s commandments in establishing a particular lineage of priests.

“But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction. For he was unfaithful to the Lord his God and entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense. But Azariah the priest went in after him, with eighty priests of the Lord who were men of valor, and they withstood King Uzziah and said to him, ‘It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn inces to the Lord, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense. Go out of the sanctuary, for you have done wrong, and it will bring you no honor from the Lord God.’ Then Uzziah was angry. Now he had a censer in his hand to burn incense, and when he became angry with the priests, leprosy broke out on his forehead in the presence of the priests in the house of the Lord, by the altar of incense.” 2 Chronicles 26:16-19

Swallowed by the ground, deposed as king, and succumbing to leprosy are all realized consequences of assuming the role of priest, of the Aaronic order, when one has not been called and appointed by God. Following the author of Hebrews argument from the lesser to the greater, we may ask given our examples of those who assumed the priesthood under the Old Covenant, how much worse of an offense is it to those who assume the priesthood under the New Covenant now that Christ has fulfilled the priesthood in a far superior way.

How much greater of an offense is it to the person and finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ for a man to assume the role of Christ in acting on behalf of men in relation to God? Simply stated, it’s blasphemous! The office of priest in Catholicism, which includes the papacy, let alone those others mentioned previously, is nothing less than a blasphemous impersonation of the great High Priesthood in which Christ alone now resides. He alone is qualified to hold this position because of His incarnation, sinless life, sacrificial death, glorious resurrection, and exaltation at the right hand of the Father. How dare anyone attempt to usurp His authority and assume the role for themselves!

Every religion or so called denomination that puts a man into the office of priest for the purpose of acting as mediator between God and man undermines the authority, dignity, and majesty of Christ’s Priesthood, for which He has suffered, bled, and died for. Granting validity to this office by participating with, being accomplice to, or residing under the ministry of their intrusion is equivalent to blaspheming the name of Christ, for His name is synonymous with Great High Priest.

As we will see in the next section of verses, not just any old priest will do. We must have one of divine appointment, Christ Jesus alone.

Solus Christus!

Post script: 2 additional points must at least be mentioned in regards to this post. 1) Christ’s priesthood is of the order of Melchizedek, a superior priesthood to that of the Old Covenant; bearing in mind that the Old Covenant has reached its fulfillment in Christ.  This includes the sacrificial system and Aaronic priesthood  2) 1 Peter 2:5 establishes the preisthood of every believer in the true Israel sense, not intending to usurp Christ’s role as High Priest much the same way that Exodus 19:5 intended the statement for the nation of Israel, but certainly held the office of Aaron in higher regard.  This is no way means that those priests mentioned above are attempting to fulfill the role mentioned by Peter, instead in every way they are attempting to fulfill the role established by Christ.