And the LORD said to Moses, Speak to the priests the sons of Aaron, and say to them…
cf. Hebrews 7:26-28; 1 Timothy 3:1-12. From the moralities of the common people we have now to pass to the morality of the priestly class. As special officers, they require special qualifications. Not that there are to be two moralities in the Church of God. This idea is most baneful. Rather do the Divine regulations contemplate the rise of the whole people eventually into an ideal, which both classes are only distantly striving after. The priests, by conforming to certain regulations, were really showing to the people what all should eventually be as the people of God. Keeping this in view, we may profitably notice three requisites of the priesthood.
I. PHYSICAL PERFECTION. God ordained that he should be served only by men physically perfect. A physical blemish disqualified a man from office, though not from support. This was surely to show that it is the perfect whom God purposes to gather around him. It is not descent nor connection, but personal perfection, which qualifies for Divine service. Now, in this present life, the ideal was only once realized, viz. in the person of the Great High Priest, Jesus Christ. He was physically and he was spiritually perfect. He was "holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners." In him, therefore, God secured a perfect servant. And although God's servants do not as yet realize this idea of personal perfection, they are on the way to realize it. This constitutes the kernel of our Christian hope. The will of God is our sanctification; that is, our perfect adaptation in body, soul, and spirit for his service. Through the grace of God we are "going on to perfection," and a time is coming when we shall be presented "without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing" before God. Hence we take this physical perfection required of the priests as a promise of perfection through grace in God's own time, that we may all serve him as priests in the sanctuary on high.
II. DOMESTIC PURITY. The Jewish priesthood were educated in the family for their work in the Church of God. Celibacy and isolation were not deemed conducive to sanctity of service. The priest was to be the head of a household, particular in selecting a pure and suitable wife, and ruling his household well. It may be safely asserted that it is only in such circumstances that a full experience of human nature and society can ordinarily be secured. The family is the Divine unit, the training-school for the larger society, the Church. Unless the priests, therefore, had a proper position at home, and governed properly their own households, they were not likely to rule well in the Church of God. Eli's case is surely one in point. A slack hand at home, he showed similar slackness in his public administration, and the interests of religion suffered. And just as in the former case physical perfection betokened the personal perfection of the future life which the Lord's servants are to secure, so the domestic purity of the priesthood betokens the perfect society into which the Lord's people are to come. We see a similar adumbration of this in the New Testament direction about bishops and deacons being the husbands of proper wives and ruling their households well. The government in families is the preparation for the government in the Church of God. The reason is that the Church is the larger family. And so is the completed Church above to be a perfect family. We are on the way to a family circle and a family life of which the home circle on earth is the shadow. God wilt give his people the opportunity of serving him amid perfect social conditions. It is in following up this thought that the Church collectively is likened to a pure and perfect bride - the Lamb's wife. It is the same thought which likens heaven to an everlasting home. And, indeed, society, as thus constituted and secured, is but the outcome of that Divine nature which, as a Trinity in unity, secured for itself perfect society from everlasting, and creates the same in the glorious purposes of grace.
III. PUBLIC SPIRIT. We mention this as a third characteristic of the priesthood. This was illustrated in perfection by the high priest, who was to allow no private sorrow to interfere with his public service. The other priests were allowed more liberty in this regard, although theirs also had very definite limits; but the one great principle reinforced by these regulations was public spirit. The priest was to feel that, as a public officer, a representative man, it was his duty to sacrifice the personal and private to the common weal. Now, it is instructive to observe that it was this principle which Jesus carried out all through. His life and death were the sacrifice of the private and the personal to the public need. The same spirit is imparted by the grace of God, and is more or less faithfully carried out by the Lord's people. Moreover, we are on the way to its perfect illustration in the felicities of the heavenly world. There none shall be for self or for a party, but all for the common weal. Lord Macaulay represents ancient Rome as the embodiment of public spirit.
"Then none was for a party:
Then all were for the State;
Then the great man helped the poor.
And the poor man loved the great;
Then lands were fairly portioned;
Then spoils were fairly sold:
The Romans were like brothers
In the brave days of old." However faithfully this reflects the condition of things in the golden age of Rome, one thing is certain, that the public spirit it indicates shall have its perfect embodiment in the society above. Public life, divested of all suspicion of selfishness, will characterize God's redeemed ones. All personal and private interests shall then merge themselves in the common weal, and as his servants serve God, they shall see his face and live out his public spirit. - R.M.E.
Parallel VersesKJV: And the LORD said unto Moses, Speak unto the priests the sons of Aaron, and say unto them, There shall none be defiled for the dead among his people: