And the LORD said to Moses, Speak to the priests the sons of Aaron, and say to them…
If there is one fact more notably emphasised than another in this address to priests, it is this: their —
I. ABSOLUTE AND INDESTRUCTIBLE RELATIONSHIP. Every son of Aaron was a "priest." Of this union with Aaron it is observable that —
1. It results from a living relationship. By birth he was connected with Aaron, a lineal descendant of God's high priest. And no truth is more a truism than that every Christian is by birth-relationship connected with Christ — the moment he is quickened and becomes a believing and a living soul, he is a "priest unto God." By no process of spiritual development or self-culture or studied effort does the convert to Christ become a "priest"; he is that by virtue of his living relationship to the High Priest: for as all the sons of Aaron were priests, so are all the sons of God through their connection with Christ.
2. The relationship is inalienable and indestructible. Conduct is not the basis of relationship with Christ, but life. A son of Aaron may be defiled "for the dead" (ver. 2), yet he did not thereby cease to be related to Aaron. If we were only priests to God as our conduct was faultless, who could stand? We are all unclean; defile ourselves continuously with "the dead," the guilty and contaminating things of earth. But "our life is hid with Christ in God"; and by virtue of that life-union we remain priests.
3. Imperfections of nature and character do not sever relationship. A "blemish," deformity of body, prove a disqualification for ministry, but did not destroy association with Aaron. Yes; there is exclusion from high and honoured services in consequence of irremediable defect and fault; and Christians with incurable weakness of disposition, worldliness of sympathy, infirmities of character, vacillation of purpose, are thereby set aside from honour in the Church and highest ministries for their Lord; yet still the relationship to Christ continues, for it is a birth-relationship, based upon a life-union with Jesus. But though relationship is absolute and indestructible —
II. PRIVILEGE IS DEPENDENT AND CONDITIONAL.
1. Defilement is a disqualification for near fellowship and highest enjoyment of the priestly relationship.. Contact with "the dead" was forbidden; it excluded the priest from the service of God until cleansed anew and so reinstated. All contamination works disqualification, therefore "touch not, taste not, handle not." A priestly life should be pure.
2. Defect is a disqualification for highest service for our Lord.
(1) Physical deformities even now form a natural barrier to the loftiest offices in the Church of Christ. Not unfitting the sufferer for many lowlier and less public ministries; for sacred grace is not dependent upon physical "form and comeliness."(2) Defects of character, of mental and moral constitution, also exclude from loftiest stations and services in the Christian kingdom. They are a barrier to such positions in the Church as require noblest qualities of character: for eminence gives influence; and he who moves in the public gaze must be free from such weaknesses of will, or principle, or conduct as would lay him open to inconstancy.
(W. H. Jellie.)
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: