22 “You shall also take the fat from the ram and the fat tail and the fat that covers the entrails, and the long lobe of the liver and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them, and the right thigh (for it is a ram of ordination), 23 and one loaf of bread and one cake of bread made with oil, and one wafer out of the basket of unleavened bread that is before the Lord. 24 You shall put all these on the palms of Aaron and on the palms of his sons, and wave them for a wave offering before the Lord. 25 Then you shall take them from their hands and burn them on the altar on top of the burnt offering, as a pleasing aroma before the Lord. It is a food offering to the Lord.
26 “You shall take the breast of the ram of Aaron’s ordination and wave it for a wave offering before the Lord, and it shall be your portion. 27 And you shall consecrate the breast of the wave offering that is waved and the thigh of the priests’ portion that is contributed from the ram of ordination, from what was Aaron’s and his sons’. 28 It shall be for Aaron and his sons as a perpetual due from the people of Israel, for it is a contribution. It shall be a contribution from the people of Israel from their peace offerings, their contribution to the Lord.
29 “The holy garments of Aaron shall be for his sons after him; they shall be anointed in them and ordained in them. 30 The son who succeeds him as priest, who comes into the tent of meeting to minister in the Holy Place, shall wear them seven days.
31 “You shall take the ram of ordination and boil its flesh in a holy place. 32 And Aaron and his sons shall eat the flesh of the ram and the bread that is in the basket in the entrance of the tent of meeting. 33 They shall eat those things with which atonement was made at their ordination and consecration, but an outsider shall not eat of them, because they are holy. 34 And if any of the flesh for the ordination or of the bread remain until the morning, then you shall burn the remainder with fire. It shall not be eaten, because it is holy.
35 “Thus you shall do to Aaron and to his sons, according to all that I have commanded you. Through seven days shall you ordain them, 36 and every day you shall offer a bull as a sin offering for atonement. Also you shall purify the altar, when you make atonement for it, and shall anoint it to consecrate it. 37 Seven days you shall make atonement for the altar and consecrate it, and the altar shall be most holy. Whatever touches the altar shall become holy.
38 “Now this is what you shall offer on the altar: two lambs a year old day by day regularly. 39 One lamb you shall offer in the morning, and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight. 40 And with the first lamb a tenth measure of fine flour mingled with a fourth of a hin of beaten oil, and a fourth of a hin of wine for a drink offering. 41 The other lamb you shall offer at twilight, and shall offer with it a grain offering and its drink offering, as in the morning, for a pleasing aroma, a food offering to the Lord. 42 It shall be a regular burnt offering throughout your generations at the entrance of the tent of meeting before the Lord, where I will meet with you, to speak to you there. 43 There I will meet with the people of Israel, and it shall be sanctified by my glory. 44 I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar. Aaron also and his sons I will consecrate to serve me as priests. 45 I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God. 46 And they shall know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them. I am the Lord their God.” – Exodus 29:22-46 ESV
God has revealed how Aaron and his sons were to be prepared for their roles as priests. They were to be washed, dressed, anointed, and atoned for, all before they could even enter the front gate of the Tabernacle complex. But even then, God mandated three separate sacrifices offered over a period of seven days to fully consecrate these men. By the time this elaborate ceremony was complete, Aaron and his sons would be drenched in oil and covered in blood, a sight that would have left an impression on all those who saw them.
“They were washed with water. They were robed in righteousness. They were anointed with oil. They were sprinkled with blood. They were purified, sanctified, anointed, and justified, and in this way there were consecrated for the holy service of God. In a word, they were ordained.” – Philip Graham Ryken, Exodus: Saved For God’s Glory
With this elaborate procedure completed, Aaron and his sons would be considered holy and officially ordained for service.
“He and his garments shall be holy, and his sons and his sons’ garments with him.” – Exodus 29:21 ESV
What happened next is significant and should not be overlooked. God commanded that His newly consecrated priests make yet another offering that would complete their ordination.
“…take the fat of the ram, including the fat of the broad tail, the fat around the internal organs, the long lobe of the liver, and the two kidneys and the fat around them, along with the right thigh. Then take one round loaf of bread, one thin cake mixed with olive oil, and one wafer from the basket of bread without yeast that was placed in the Lord’s presence. Put all these in the hands of Aaron and his sons to be lifted up as a special offering to the Lord.” – Exodus 29:22-24 NLT
After the final lamb was sacrificed and dismembered, the fat, liver, kidneys, and right thigh were to be placed in the hands of Aaron and his sons, along with bread from the Table of Presence. This rather grotesque-sounding ceremony had a purpose. Placing these elements in the hands of the consecrated priests was a sign of ownership. The best parts of the animal were given to Aaron and his sons but they were to offer them back to God as “a special gift for him” (Exodus 29:25 NLT). These elements were placed on the Bronze Altar and burned with fire, creating a pleasing aroma to God. This gift was given by Aaron and his sons, a sign of their commitment to give their best to God.
But God would reward them for their service. Aaron was allowed to keep the breast of the ordination ram, but only after lifting it up to God as a wave offering. In doing so, he acknowledged God’s ownership of all things, including himself and his sons. The breast of the ram was to be seen as a gracious gift from God. And Aaron’s sons would also receive a gift, in the form of the thigh of the ordination ram. These gifts, originally given by the people, were to become a form of divine compensation for Aaron and his sons. God would take care of His servants by meeting their physical needs.
“This was God’s permanent provision for the priesthood. The people brought their offerings to God, and God in turn gave the priests their share.” – Philip Graham Ryken, Exodus: Saved For God’s Glory
These gifts from God were reserved solely for the priests. No one else was allowed to consume any part of the ordination ram or the bread of the presence.
“Then Aaron and his sons will eat this meat, along with the bread in the basket, at the Tabernacle entrance. They alone may eat the meat and bread used for their purification in the ordination ceremony. No one else may eat them, for these things are set apart and holy.” – Exodus 29:32-33 NLT
These men were to be considered completely holy. From their outer robes to the literal inner recesses of their bodies, they were fully consecrated to God. They were covered in robes of righteousness, anointed with the oil that represented the Spirit of God, sprinkled with blood that atoned for their sins, and filled with food from the table of God. There is tremendous symbolism in this ritual. It pictured the future consecration that would be experienced by all those who placed their faith in Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29 ESV).
Jesus would later describe the process by which someone could experience the transformation from a sinner to a priest of the Most High God.
“I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you cannot have eternal life within you. But anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise that person at the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. I live because of the living Father who sent me; in the same way, anyone who feeds on me will live because of me. I am the true bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will not die as your ancestors did (even though they ate the manna) but will live forever.” – John 6:53-58 NLT
And the apostle Peter provided further insight into this remarkable transformation.
…you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.
“Once you had no identity as a people;
now you are God’s people.
Once you received no mercy;
now you have received God’s mercy.” – 1 Peter 2:9-10 NLT
For a Christian, this process is immediate and permanent. It is a one-time event that never needs to be repeated. But for Aaron and his sons, the sanctifying process was to last seven days and required repeated sacrifices to atone for the sins of the people and to purify the altar of God. Sin would be a constant problem for the people of Israel and, therefore, the sacrifices would be an ongoing necessity.
“These burnt offerings are to be made each day from generation to generation.” – Exodus 29:42 NLT
And the author of Hebrews explains the reason for this perpetual and never-ending cycle of sacrifice for sanctification.
The sacrifices under that system were repeated again and again, year after year, but they were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who came to worship. If they could have provided perfect cleansing, the sacrifices would have stopped, for the worshipers would have been purified once for all time, and their feelings of guilt would have disappeared.
But instead, those sacrifices actually reminded them of their sins year after year. For it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. – Hebews 10:1-4 NLT
Then he adds the fantastic news regarding Jesus’ once-for-all-time sacrifice for the sins of mankind.
For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.
Under the old covenant, the priest stands and ministers before the altar day after day, offering the same sacrifices again and again, which can never take away sins. But our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then he sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand… – Hebrews 10:10-12 NLT
Centuries ago, God made a provision for dealing with the sinfulness of His chosen people. In order that He might dwell in their midst, He provided an elaborate process for cleansing them from their sin and preparing them to enjoy the pleasure of His presence. His presence was predicated on their purification, and their purification was dependent upon the shedding of blood.
“Yes, I will consecrate the Tabernacle and the altar, and I will consecrate Aaron and his sons to serve me as priests. Then I will live among the people of Israel and be their God, and they will know that I am the Lord their God.” – Exodus 29:44-46 NLT
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.