Bible Study with Jairus – Leviticus 9
The Threefold Office of Christ in Leviticus 9
My heart was stirred and inspired by Leviticus 9, which begins in verse 1 with the powerful statement that, “On the eighth day Moses called Aaron and his sons and the Elders of Israel” (English Standard Version). The subsequent parts of Chapter 9 detail Moses’ induction of Aaron into the Priesthood and his instructions about the offerings and sacrifices to God, and it ends with the appearance of the Glory of God, which consumes the burnt offering. What stands out in this chapter is how the three offices of Prophet, Priest, and King, – which, up until this point, had all been held by Moses, – are divided and appointed to separate people. In Leviticus 9 we see those assignments broken down by Moses in the office of Prophet, Aaron as Priest, and the Elders of Israel as King, all of which work together to demonstrate God’s authority and usher His people into His Glory.
Each part of the Threefold Office serves a distinct function in the Old Testament, long before the birth of Christ, just as it did during Jesus’ earthly ministry, when He ultimately fulfilled these roles. The separation of these offices and their duties is similar to the United States Government’s separation of powers into the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. Moses represents the Prophets that receive God’s Law, which can be likened to Congress’ legislative responsibilities in establishing laws and the Constitution. Aaron represents the Priests, whose mandate is to interpret, explain, and apply God’s Law in the country, comparable to the judicial role the Supreme Court plays. Finally, the Elders of Israel represent the Kings that execute the Law, similar to the executive function undertaken by the President and the Cabinet.
The Threefold Office Exemplified in Moses
Every Christian should recognize the threefold responsibilities they possess. Like Moses, we ought to draw close to God daily to know His Law and Statutes. Even though we may not experience God’s Law in the same way, we should remember Moses’ role as a Prophet, who was in direct contact with and received messages from God – with the charge to relay them to others. Although God appointed Aaron as Priest, whose role was to minister to the Lord, especially in the Holy of Holies, Moses also performed these roles, as seen in Numbers 7:89: “And when Moses went into the tent of meeting to speak with the Lord, he heard the voice speaking to him from above the mercy seat that was on the ark of the testimony, from between the two cherubim; and it spoke to him.” Moses performed the functions of a Priest before Aaron did, and was the one who taught his brother how to be a Priest. The way Moses represented the office of a King can be seen in a couple of ways that are worth noting: first, in how he administered judgement on cases before eventually following his father-in-law’s suggestion to appoint officials who were God-fearing and trustworthy men to serve as judges for the people; and second in his role as an Elder, such as when he led the Israelites out of Egypt. The office of King was later transferred to the Elders of Israel when Moses cried out to God that the burden upon him was too heavy and, “the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders” (Numbers 11:25a).
Moses possessed within him the three offices of Prophet, Priest, and King. He was like a single fruitful seed that grew into a large tree with multiple widespread branches. The roots, branches, and leaves, though they developed from the same seed, performed different functions, just as Moses’ roles as Prophet, Priest, and King, while stemming from the same individual, served different purposes for God’s plans to yield His Fruit. And just as the responsibility to bear fruit is not put solely on one branch, but is divided between all the branches of the tree, so God allowed Moses to share these responsibilities with others, such as sharing the Priesthood role with Aaron, the Prophet role with the rest of Israel (Numbers 11:29), and the Kingship role with the Elders.
The Threefold Office Since the Time of Moses
After Moses’ death, the threefold offices became increasingly subdivided and specialized, hence only a select few could undertake such responsibilities. For example, only Aaron’s descendants could perform the role of the Priesthood. However, a radical shift took place in the New Testament, when everyone could now participate in the roles of Prophets (1 Corinthians 14:31), Priests (1 Peter 2:9) and Kings (our identity as children of the King of Kings), just as Moses did. As Christians charged with these duties, how do we effectively employ the three offices to glorify God in His fullness?
Christians are called to prophesy, to recognize and speak God’s words into whatever situations people are in. In the role of a Priest, Christians are to draw close to God, pray for others, and offer sacrifices to Him. While bringing the reality of God to others, it is also important to bring others into His presence and help them draw closer to Him as well. Christians are called to Kingship, to display God’s authority and power, wherever they go.
Returning to our earlier analogy of the small seed that grew into the fruitful tree, in its initial stages, all branches stemmed from the main trunk. However, as the tree grew, these branches continued to split and spread out, and grow further and further away from the trunk. Similarly, the Prophet, Priest, and King roles first branched out from Moses to the people nearest him, such as Aaron (who was both Priest and Prophet according to Exodus 4:16) and Miriam (a Prophetess according to Exodus 15:20). God spoke to them both through dreams and visions, though He only spoke to Moses directly (Exodus 33:11).
By the time of the Prophet Elijah, the roles of Priests, Prophets, and Kings had become more distinctive and clearly defined, like branches growing increasingly distant from the main trunk, and each other, as a tree grows. As seen again and again throughout the Bible, the Prophets advised Kings against sin, and evil Kings often attempted to get rid of Prophets. Kings who went against the authority of the Priests were also severely punished by God, clearly seen in the case of King Uzziah, who was a good king who grew prideful and entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense, despite knowing this could only done by Priests, and was then struck with leprosy (2 Chronicles 26:19). However, in the case of King David, he also served in the roles of Prophet and Priest.
Distinctions and Similarities in the Roles of Priests and Prophets
Leviticus 8 informs us that Moses followed God’s instructions to prepare Aaron and His sons to be consecrated and ordained for their duties as Priests. This was immediately followed at the beginning of Chapter 9 by Aaron presenting the sin offering, burnt offering and peace offering to the Lord on the eighth day, affirming the close relations between Priesthood, Prophecy, and Kingship.
Priesthood leads over the office of the Prophet. Why do we say that? Priests serve and draw close to God, while presenting offerings and sacrifices on behalf of man to Him, allowing God to pardon the sin of man and allowing man to draw close to God. This is the essence of the Law of the Old Testament, which was given through Moses (John 1:17). God first told Moses the Law, but when the Israelites sinned against God by worshipping the golden calf, it was Moses who pleaded with God to not destroy the Israelites by reminding God that He brought them out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand. Moses also asked God, “why should the Egyptians say, ‘with evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth?’” (Exodus 32:12). The Lord then relented from the disaster he had spoken of bringing on the Israelites. This is the role of the Priest, to plead on behalf of the people. Indeed, Prophets also play similar roles, as in the example of Prophet Abraham pleading on behalf of Lot. However, the role of Priests is still higher than that of Prophets, as seen by Prophet Abraham offering sacrifices to Priest Melchizedek. In Leviticus 9, Moses, serving as both a Prophet and Priest, is clearly in a position of leadership over Aaron as both a Priest and a Prophet.
There are many overlapping functions of Priests and Prophets, such as knowing God, drawing close to God and man, and using knowledge of God and the Law to serve people by helping them get to know Him more intimately. Jesus serves as another example of a Priest being more important than a Prophet. Jesus is both the high priest (1 Timothy 2:5) and a prophet. Without prophecy, we would not know God and His Law, but without a Priest, the Great High Priest of Jesus mediating between God and man, we would never be able to bridge the gulf created by sin, making Priesthood responsibilities of top priority for believers.
Our charge as Priests is to serve as a “copy and shadow of the heavenly things” (Hebrews 8:5). As such, the job of a Priest is to draw man close to God through offering and sacrifice and to serve as a mediator between God and man. In the Old Testament, the daily blood sacrifice only temporarily covered sins, but did not take them away completely. However, Jesus provided the sacrifice required “once for all” when He died on the Cross for our sins (Hebrew 7:27). While Christians are neither Christ nor the Old Testament Priests, we are still duty-bound to intercede on behalf of others who have sinned, praying for them to receive salvation bought through the Blood of Christ.
Priests Atone for their Own Sin First
Leviticus 9 records the details of the instructions Moses gave Aaron to follow in offering sacrifices when he inducted him into the Priesthood, which sheds light on how we can better serve as Priests to God and our fellow man, and cross-apply these learnings into our roles as Prophets and Kings as well.
The first thing that Moses told Aaron to do was to take for himself “a bull calf for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering, both without blemish, and offer them before the Lord” (Leviticus 9:2), which is the first responsibility of a Priest: to use a blemish-free animal to atone for his own sin. In the New Testament, Jesus Christ is the perfect, blemish-less Sacrificial Lamb that atones for the sins of Christians.
Next, Moses instructs Aaron to say to the people of Israel, “take a male goat for a sin offering, and a calf and a lamb, both a year old without blemish, for a burnt offering, and an ox and a ram for peace offerings, to sacrifice before the Lord, and a grain offering mixed with oil, for today the Lord is going to appear to you” (Leviticus 9:3-4).
The Lord’s Glory was to appear to the Israelites. In the New Testament, Jesus Christ is called “the radiance of the Glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Hebrews 1:3). For the Glory of God to emanate from man, man needs to be free of sin, as there is no room for sin in a perfect God. In the Old Testament, sin was atoned for through sacrifices, and in the New Testament, Jesus’ blood atones for believers’ sins. On the one hand, God offered a single sacrifice for all sins for all time through the death of Christ, but on the other hand, our flesh and soul continue to be sinful, which requires daily confession, repentance, and cleansing of sin. This necessitates that we delve deeper to better understand the different aspects of sin atonement through the different sacrifices.
Leviticus 9:8-14 details how Aaron presents sacrifice for himself, including: 1) killing the calf of the sin offering, 2) pouring the blood at the base of the altar, 3) burning the fat, kidneys and the long lobe of the liver from the sin offering on the altar, 4) burning the flesh and skin outside the camp, 5) killing the male lamb for the burnt offering for the Priests, 6) spilling blood against the sides of the altar, 7) piece by piece burning the burnt offering on the altar, and finally, 8) washing the entrails and legs and placing these parts on top of the burnt offering at the altar. These are the details of the sacrifices made by Aaron himself, which are important, as they reflect the many different parts within man’s fleshly body and soul that need to be cleansed of sins. While believers have received Christ in our hearts, our hearts are not entirely Holy because there are many parts that have not yet been yielded to Christ. For example, our thoughts, emotions, and self-will are three significant parts of our lives that need to be surrendered to Christ to experience His Grace and forgiveness. Emotional aspects such as unforgiveness, not loving our neighbors as ourselves, hatred, and envy also need to be transformed by the grace of God.
Dissecting Ourselves First in Order to Minister to Others
The issues of the body, soul, and spirit are often intertwined, which further highlights our need for Christ to be our Great High Priest. In Hebrews 4:12 it says, “for the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” The author of the book of Hebrews is using the analogy of the knife the Priest utilizes to dissect the sacrificial animal to describe the Word of God that pierces and examines our innermost being. This dissecting is meant to help us better understand ourselves and better appreciate the saving grace of God. For example, when we first believed in Christ, there were some things that we repented of, but as time goes on, we may be suddenly reminded of an old offence we committed against someone. This could be the prompting of the Holy Spirit that reminds us to deepen our repentance in a particular area.
To offer a sacrifice, a Priest needs to understand how to use the knife to dissect the sacrificial animal for the offerings. Before they can treat patients, a doctor must first dissect a cadaver in order to understand the interconnected parts and functions of the body. Similarly, to fulfill the role of a Priest according to the New Testament, we need to be able to dissect ourselves thoroughly, experience the full grace of God, and be transformed from the inside out, in order to be in a healthy position to help others do the same.
This is also why Aaron had to first offer sacrifices for himself before he could do so on behalf of the Israelites. Now, we look at how Aaron presented these sacrifices. Once Aaron experienced the dissecting of the sacrifices that he had offered, he was then in a better position to dissect the sacrifices for the other Israelites. In the New Testament, the Priest’s role is likened to that of a doctor’s, recognizing our own sinful nature and need for a savior, and then helping others to see the same within themselves and turn to God. A person who has not undergone the process of dissecting oneself spiritually would not be able to help other Christians on the same journey. Remember, grace is from God, but different people experience the same grace to different degrees.
Leviticus 9:15-21 details the offering of sacrifices done by Aaron on behalf of the Israelites. The details include: 1) killing and offering the calf and lamb for the sin offering, 2) scattering the blood on the altar, 3) cutting the parts to be burnt at the altar, 4) killing and presenting the goat as a sin offering, 5) presenting the grain offering, 6) killing and presenting the ox and ram as a peace offering, 7) throwing the blood against the side of the altar, 8) removing the fatty tail, the fat which covers the entrails, the kidneys, and the long lobe of liver, and then putting them on the breast and burning the fat pieces on the altar, and lastly, 9) using the breast and right thigh as a wave offering.
When reading God’s word, we need to avoid getting lost in the details of scripture, but instead identify the key learning points from these details. The different parts of the animals presented as sacrifices represent the different problems that people bring to God. If anyone seeks help from us (in our roles as Priests), they may not feel able to fully share their issues. Therefore, we should be able to see beyond their words and understand the situation at a deeper level through the power of the Holy Spirit, which requires the development of yet another area that Christians have access to – the gift of prophecy.
Understanding the Gift of Prophecy
If God’s desire is to cut to the heart of our innermost thoughts and being, this spiritual dissection is achieved not merely through the dismembering and offering of sacrifices, but also through the work of prophecy. God uses His Words, spoken through His Prophets, to divide the issues of men like a knife divides the parts of the sacrifice; not only through His written (Logos) Word, but also through Living (Rhema) Words that release the knife or sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17).
God’s Law and Word were first shared through Moses, and many more of the Old Testament books were written by the Prophets. Even Prophets who did not pen any Books of the Bible still received Rhema Words. If someone claims to be a Prophet but does not possess Rhema, nor have a deep or even supernatural understanding of their own self and others, it is unlikely that they are truly a Prophet. They need to understand the internal workings and even hidden thoughts of people, to allow them to be vulnerable and wholeheartedly entrust their worries to God. Prophets need to know the Logos Word of God, but also possess the Living Word of God.
I had the opportunity to participate in Global Awakening’s Prophetic Certification Course. Randy Clark, the founder, shared his testimony during one session. At first, Randy did not believe nor accept that the modern Church could still have Prophets. However, things changed when he was praying for a sister in Christ at a Toronto Blessing gathering. His prayer had little impact. One of his fellow travelling companions, a Prophet named Larry Randolph, then offered to pray for the woman. While praying, he prophesied something that the sister had kept secret, causing her to finally open up emotionally and receive the prayer, which went on to have a profound effect on her life. This incident impacted Randy tremendously, and it became the driving force behind his ministry to promote prophecy.
In Deuteronomy 18:15, Moses told the Israelites that the Lord would raise up for them a Prophet like himself from amongst them. Most of the time, it is interpreted that Moses here refers to Jesus Christ, and that He is also a Prophet. However, Moses also said that all the Lord’s people can be Prophets (Numbers 11:29). In Acts, Peter quoted the words of Joel’s prophecy that, “‘in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams” (Acts 2:17). While this shows the presence of Prophets in the New Testament, many traditional Churches are still unable to accept this. Of course, not everyone is called to be a Prophet (1 Corinthians 12:29), but all Christians have the ability to prophesy by the power of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 14:31).
Even though Aaron was a Priest, he was also a Prophet, likened to the Prophet of Moses. In the words of God, Moses was like Aaron’s God, and Aaron was like Moses’ Prophet. The role of the Prophet links closely to the role of Kingship. For example, King Saul and King David were both appointed by the Prophet Samuel. The functions of Prophets and Priests overlap in many areas and are often interlinked. When both offices are fully developed, a Christian is better able to lead a spirit-filled life and glorify God in all aspects. He or she can be a co-king with Christ and subdue the earth.
Leviticus 9:22-24 writes that after Aaron completed the offering ritual, he lifted his hands towards the people and blessed them. The glory of God then appeared to all the people, and fire came out from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and pieces of fat on the altar. When the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces. This image is glorious. As the Church and Christians use their Prophetic, Priesthood, and Kingship giftings, one day the Glory of God will descend and be seen throughout the Church.