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The Priestly Covenant Numbers 25: 1 -13
Has the Mosaic Covenant been completely abolished? • Many would argue “yes” on the basis of Hebrews 8. • Hebrews 7 and 8 are arguing for a change in the priesthood, but not a complete annulment of the Mosaic Covenant. • Consider the Mosaic Covenant and the character of the Kingdom as described in the Latter Prophets.
Character of the Kingdom & the Mosaic Covenant • Israel permanently possesses the land of promise. – I will also plant them on their land, and they will not again be rooted out from their land which I have given them, ’ says the LORD your God (Amos 9: 15).
Character of the Kingdom & the Mosaic Covenant • Israel dwells in the land in peace and with agricultural prosperity. – "And they will no longer be a prey to the nations, and the beasts of the earth will not devour them; but they will live securely, and no one will make them afraid” (Ezek 34: 28). – “…And I will cause showers to come down in their season; they will be showers of blessing. Also the tree of the field will yield its fruit, and the earth will yield its increase, and they will be secure on their land…” (Ezek 34: 26 -27)
Character of the Kingdom & the Mosaic Covenant • Jerusalem will be the center of worship for the world, with all the nations streaming to the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem to be taught the Word of God. – Now it will come about that in the last days, The mountain of the house of the LORD will be established as the chief of the mountains, And will be raised above the hills; And all the nations will stream to it. And many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; That He may teach us concerning His ways, And that we may walk in His paths. ” For the law will go forth from Zion, And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem (Isa 2: 2 -3).
Character of the Kingdom & the Mosaic Covenant • Worship will include sacrifices and offerings made by the descendants of Levi, as well as observance of the feasts commanded in the Law. – Also the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, To minister to Him, and to love the name of the LORD, To be His servants, every one who keeps from profaning the sabbath, And holds fast My covenant; Even those I will bring to My holy mountain, And make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar (Isa 56: 6, 7 a). – Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths. And it will be that whichever of the families of the earth does not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, there will be no rain on them. And if the family of Egypt does not go up or enter, then no rain will fall on them; it will be the plague with which the LORD smites the nations who do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Booths (Zech 14: 16 -18).
Character of the Kingdom & the Mosaic Covenant • The glory of God will dwell upon the earth and among His people as it did in the Tabernacle and Solomon’s Temple. – And the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court; and behold, the glory of the LORD filled the house. Then I heard one speaking to me from the house, while a man was standing beside me. And He said to me, "Son of man, this is the place of My throne and the place of the soles of My feet, where I will dwell among the sons of Israel forever. And the house of Israel will not again defile My holy name, neither they nor their kings, by their harlotry and by the corpses of their kings when they die (Ezek 43: 5 -7).
Victories over Sihon & Og Fiery serpents (Num 21: 1 -9) 37. 5 years of wilderness wandering; revolt of Korah & company; Miriam dies; Moses strikes the rock. 3 months Aaron dies (Num 20: 22 -29) 4. Rebellion by Miriam & Aaron (Num 12: 1 -15) 3. Provision of Quail (Num 11: 31 -34) 2. Appointment of 70 elders (Num 11: 4 -30) 11 months, 5 days at Sinai 1. Complaint after 3 days travel (Num 11: 1 -3)
Setting of the Priestly Covenant • Israel was fresh off of victories over the Amorites. • Balak, king of Moab, heard of this great conquering hoard, and sought for Balaam, a seer, to bring a curse on them (Num 22 -24). • Balaam instead blessed Israel 3 different times. • So Balak, sought a different strategy: he invited Israel to the sacrifices of their gods (Num 25: 2).
Key Passages of the Priestly Covenant • Num 25: 10 -13 – establishes the covenant between the Lord and Phineas. The essence of the covenant is the guarantee of a perpetual priesthood for the descendants of Phineas. • Is this covenant still in effect today?
Levi Gershon Kohath Amram Moses Aaron Nadab Abihu Izhar Miriam Eleazar Hebron Merari Uzziel Ithamar Phineas Abishua Bukki Uzzi Zerahiah Meraioth Amariah Ahitub Zadok Family Tree of Phineas 1 Chr 6: 1 -4; 50 -53
Key Passages of the Priestly Covenant • Ezek 44: 9 -16 – These verses distinguish the descendants of Zadok (himself a descendant of Phineas) as being able to minister directly to the Lord, because of their past faithfulness. The Levites will still do work in the temple complex, but are prohibited from coming near to the Lord and touching the most holy things.
Relationship of the Priestly Covenant to Other Covenants • • • Earlier we examined the impact of the Mosaic Covenant on the character of the kingdom as predicted in the Prophets (Israel in the land, observance of feasts and sabbaths, etc. ) It was within the Mosaic Covenant that the priesthood of Aaron’s sons and their service in the tabernacle (and later in the temple) were first established (Exod 28: 1). The future kingdom will include the descendants of Zadok, who is himself a descendant of Phineas, ministering to the Lord in the temple, in fulfillment of the perpetual covenant promised to Phineas, grandson of Aaron.
Later Commentary on the Priestly Covenant in Scripture Jer 33: 20 -21 “Thus says the LORD, 'If you can break My covenant for the day, and My covenant for the night, so that day and night will not be at their appointed time, then My covenant may also be broken with David My servant that he shall not have a son to reign on his throne, and with the Levitical priests, My ministers. ”
Purpose of Animal Sacrifices in the Millennial Kingdom • Controversial theological issue. • Majority view within dispensationalism is that these sacrifices point back to the sacrifice of Christ. • In order to understand what these sacrifices are accomplishing, it is first necessary to understand what they accomplished in the Old Testament.
Purpose of Animal Sacrifices in the Old Testament • While the purpose of OT sacrifices did include an aspect of pointing forward to the work of Christ, that was not their exclusive purpose. – They did indeed provide for a type of cleansing and forgiveness for the OT saint. – This cleansing was temporal in nature, and dealt with the flesh rather than the conscience (Heb 9: 13 -14). – But when the OT saint obeyed the revelation that God had given for dealing with his sin, the sacrifice accomplished its intended purpose of making atonement and restoring him to God.
Purpose of Animal Sacrifices in the Old Testament • The law could not perfect the conscience (Heb 9: 9), and the blood of bulls and goats could not take away sins (Heb 10: 4). Only the sacrifice of Christ was sufficient for that, for both OT and NT saints. • Just as OT sacrifices cleansed objects in the temple and purified human uncleanness in the flesh, so the sacrifices in the millennial kingdom will accomplish the same purpose (Ezek 43: 1920, 25 -27; 45: 15 -20). Such cleansing will be necessary because God’s presence will once again be on the earth, in the midst of sinful humanity.
Quote from Hullinger This atonement cleansing was necessary in Leviticus because of the descent of the Shekinah in Exodus 40. A holy God had taken up residence in the midst of a sinful and unclean people. Similarly Ezekiel foresaw the return of God’s glory to the millennial temple. This will again create a tension between a holy God an unclean people. The important point to be kept in mind is that uncleanness was treated as a contagion that had to be washed away lest it cause defilement. Quite often things such as animals (Lev 11), childbirth (Lev 12), swellings and eruptions (Lev 13– 14), sexual misdeeds (Lev 18), and corpses (Lev 21) could cause one to be unclean. Because many of the causes of uncleanness are not associated with ethics, every person at one time or another in his life would be in a state of uncleanness (p. 285).
Conclusion • A restoration of animal sacrifices will not demean the sacrifice of Christ. The two sacrifices are of two different types, with each being efficacious for its intended purpose. Animal sacrifices are required to purify uncleanness in the presence of Yahweh’s holiness. Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice is superior and dealt with the internal cleansing of the conscience.
Next Week: The Deuteronomic Covenant