John Carter – April 23, 2017 – Leviticus 8:31-36
Are You Waiting Well?
It is my hope this morning to encourage each of you who are waiting to wait well.
Context Outline [Leviticus 8-10]
Our text will come from Leviticus 8:31-36. This passage sits in a larger context of the ordination of Aaron—the High Priest—and his sons.
- Leviticus 8:1-30 – Ordination Ceremony
- Leviticus 8:31-36 – The 7 Days of Filling | Ordination
- Leviticus 9:1-24 – YHWH accepts the High Priest’s First Sacrifice
- Leviticus 10:1-20 – YHWH rejects the Offering of the High Priest’s sons (Nadab and Abihu)
For the ordination of the High Priest and his sons there, was an eight-day ordination process. Day 1 involved a ceremony that included sacrifices, blood, oil and sacred bread. Days 1-7 involved a time of waiting and obedience. Day 8 was the first day the priests took up all their roles of administering sacrifices and offerings, and other priestly duties. It is the 7-day period of waiting that we will be focusing on.
31 And Moses said to Aaron and his sons,
“Boil the flesh at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and there eat it and the bread that is in the basket of ordination offerings, as I commanded, saying, ‘Aaron and his sons shall eat it.’ 32 And what remains of the flesh and the bread you shall burn up with fire. 33 And you shall not go outside the entrance of the tent of meeting for seven days, until the days of your ordination are completed, for it will take seven days to ordain you. 34 As has been done today, the LORD has commanded to be done to make atonement for you. 35 At the entrance of the tent of meeting you shall remain day and night for seven days, performing what the LORD has charged, so that you do not die, for so I have been commanded.”
36 And Aaron and his sons did all the things that the LORD commanded by Moses.
Like most people who live in the global west you are probably asking, “what is going on?” And rightly so. This is such a foreign event to us who have never seen animal sacrifice or a temple-like structure where these sacrifices would take place. The first thing Aaron and his sons were to do was to eat the meat and the bread. The eating of the meat and the bread is an understandable command. Especially when you read in Leviticus 6-7 about the portions of the sacrifices that belong to the priests who offered them. In short, the sacrificial system along with the tithing system of the Old Testament was designed in large part to provide for the physical needs of the priests and the Levites. So, it was after the ceremony on the first day that Aaron and his Sons were to eat the appropriate parts of the sacrifices and remain in the courtyard of the tabernacle. They were to remain here for seven days. The seemingly odd command is that the High Priest and his sons were commanded to live in the courtyard after the ceremony of ordination. This means that for 7 days these three men would need to live within the courtyard of the tabernacle without leaving.
One might ask, “what are they supposed to do while living in the courtyard?” During these seven days Aaron and his sons were to go about the performing the commands of YHWH. Even though they could not leave it appears there was still work to do. At the very least the fire on the altar could never go out (Leviticus 6:13). Someone had to tend to that fire. These commands may tell us what was going on, but we are still left asking, “why?”
This whole event was an act of ordination and the setting apart of Aaron and his sons to become ritually qualified to present offerings before YHWH for the people of Israel. Without a qualified High Priest the people of Israel would not be able to have their sins forgiven. While the ceremony on the first day effected the atonement of the Aaron and his sons, it was the following seven days that effected the ordination of Aaron and his sons. The Hebrew word used here for ordain, or ordination, is quite a fascinating word. Some translations translate this word as consecrate, or consecration. But the word used for ordain is also translated in other passages of the Bible with the idea of filling something. In verse 33 where Moses says, “for it will take seven days to ordain you”, this verse could also be translated as, “for it will take seven days to fill your hands.” Read this way it might remind us of when we speak of God filling his people with His Holy Spirit.
Therefore, the ordination (the filing of the hands) of Aaron and his sons came with a command to stay within the courtyard of the Tabernacle. Here the command to stay and serve was reinforced with the promise of life or death. A similar life or death promise was made to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2-3). A theme that was again affirmed for ‘all who sin’ in the letter to the Romans when Paul the Apostle writes, “the wages of sin is death.” In other words, the theme of obedience brings life and disobedience brings death is not uncommon in the scriptures. In only a few more verses we see YHWH make certain on his promise when he kills Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, for disobeying YHWH.
These promises of death might seem intimidating. Or even repulsive to the modern hearer. But consider this, YHWH promised death for disobedience, and he also promised life to obedience. The certainty of God’s promises works both ways. If you disobey you die, but if you faithfully serve and persevere you will live. This same idea shows up in the writings of Paul when he says,
“If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
12 if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself.
The idea is not just to avoid disobedience, but it is also to pursue faithfulness. Imagine if you will for a moment Aaron and his sons waiting for these seven days to pass. They are very limited in what they can do. On one hand, I am sure they certainly appreciated the privilege of being appointed to these important roles. But on the other hand, they never asked for this. It was given to them to endure. They had two choices to make. (1) Bemoan the fact that they had to stay in the courtyard for 7 days, or (2) faithfully serve according to the commands they had received. As we saw earlier, Aaron and his sons still had work to do. This time of waiting was not a vacuum of real-life and responsibilities. Instead this time of waiting still came with work to be done. This leads us to ask, “who gave these commands?”
v.36 Who (Said)?
In verse 36 we are provided with the sequence of events. YHWH gave commands, Moses communicated those commands and Aaron and his sons obeyed those commands. YHWH could give these commands because it was he who had just released Israel from the captivity of Egypt. Moses was speaking for YHWH. While Aaron, and his sons were simply obeying the commands of the living and saving God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This flow of authority was completely derived from YHWH. If Moses had not been selected by YHWH, then he would have no right to speak. If YHWH had not saved Israel from the Egyptians, then he was no more worthy of worship and obedience then any of the many Egyptian gods. Moses’ teaching was completely rooted in the authority of the word and person who had given that word. Aaron and his sons were the obedient priesthood who were careful to observe all that they were commanded.
To better understand the importance of this portion of the text we must come to understand that someone greater than Moses has come. That is what the writer of the letter to the Hebrews is saying when he says,
“1…consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, 2who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. 3For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses. 5Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant…, 6but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.” (Hebrews 3:1-3,5-6).
But not only is the believer his house, we are so much more! According to the Apostle Peter, the Christian community—the house of God— is “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). This means that not only are believers recipients of the mercies of God but they are also his messengers. Just like Moses was the messengers to Aaron and His Son, and then Aaron and his sons to the Nation of Israel, the believers now stand as messengers of the Gospel of God’s Grace.
It is on this note that I give you some points of application to consider. Whether you are a teacher, or you are assessing the qualities of a teacher, these two truths need to be understood.
- Teachers of the word of God MUST Rightly handle the word of God. [v.35] There is no excuse for lazy teaching. Why? Because people’s lives depend on the proper teaching of the word of God. [v.35] If Moses had failed to properly communicate the commands of YHWH, Aaron and his sons could have left the courtyard and died. Although Moses would be held accountable those who acted in ignorance would still suffer the consequences of their actions.
- What is taught, people will do. [v.36] This is the razors edge of pastoral or any other teaching ministry. One error and great danger awaits. This is because the word of God is not a trivial issue but a significant factor in the lives of others. Especially when it comes to the spreading of the Gospel. “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?” (Romans 10:14)
However, my greater point of focus is not for those teaching but for those waiting. How often do we find ourselves in a time of waiting? Sometimes that waiting is a result of a decision we made. Other times we are waiting because of a decision made for us. So, I ask simply, when you are in periods of waiting, do you wait well? I ask if you are waiting well because even in times of waiting there is still work to do. Waiting is not a time of death. Even in times of waiting there is the promise of life. For those members of that royal Priesthood that are not teachers we have the responsibility to do the following things.
- Hear the word of God that is taught with eagerness and seriousness (soberness).
We should never approach our time in the Bible, in a Bible Study, or even in a pew with a haphazard or lazy attitude. Be prepared to learn how to wait well. Listen for the promises of life and death.
- Obey the word with a realization of your very life and death.
We may be a chosen race, but we do not get to choose what is required of us. After learning what we need to do, do it!
- Obey your leaders.
If even Jesus obeyed the Father, and Aaron obeyed Moses, then we too have an obligation to obey those whom God has appointed over us within the Church. They do not serve as agents of deaths but communicators of life.
- Persevere to the end.
Too often we give up too soon. You have come this far in the faith, why quit now?
- Let God fill your hands.
As you wait for God to move, do it with open hands. He is a good Father who knows how to provide for your every need. Trust him for your every provision, whether physical or spiritual.
- Embrace Sanctification.
Change is never easy. Never. But instead of fighting the work of God embrace his work of sanctification. Paul remind the Philippians to 12 “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. [and to] 14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing… 18 you also should be glad and rejoice with me” (Philippians 2:12-14,18). Rather than reject what God is doing in your life embrace his work. And do so joyfully (happily). Bitterness is not a fruit of the spirit, but joy is.
Each of these points are to reinforce my driving question. That is, when you wait, do you wait well?
 Leviticus 1-8; Numbers 18; 1 Corinthians 9:11
 Endurance denotes the power to complete while Perseverance denotes the completion to the end
 Leviticus 4:2-3
 כִּ֚י שִׁבְעַ֣ת יָמִ֔ים יְמַלֵּ֖א אֶת־יֶדְכֶֽם׃
 Ephesians 5:18; Acts 2:42
 Romans 6:23 – ESV
 Leviticus 10
 2 Timothy 2:11-13 – ESV
 Leviticus 22:32-33
 Hebrews 3:1-3,5-6 – ESV
 1 Peter 2:9 – ESV
 Acts 20:24
 “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” James 3:1 – ESV
 Hebrew 13:7; 1 Timothy 5:17
 Matthew 7:11