And the LORD said to Moses, Speak to the priests the sons of Aaron, and say to them…
The priests, when officiating, and eminently so the high priest, were types of Christ. It was, therefore, needful that they should be holy and without blemish. They were also types of Christians, in which capacity also they must be holy, for true Christians are so, though not always without blemish. In any case, then -
I. THE PRIESTS MUST BE HOLY.
1. They must be holy, as types of Christ.
(1) They "offered the bread of their God." So the "offerings made by fire" are called (verse 6). The fire of the altar of Calvary is the Godhead in which the body of Christ became a sacrifice upon which the justice and mercy of God can feast. Christ, as our Priest, thus offers himself unto God.
(2) They are "crowned" with the "anointing oil of their God' (verses 10, 12). The anointing represented the luster of the Holy Spirit's grace. When Jesus was "anointed with the oil of gladness" on the holy mount, he was "crowned with glory and honour," and that too "for the suffering of death" (comp. Hebrews 2:9; 2 Peter 1:17). Thus was he "consecrated to put on the garments" of his resurrection, to enter the holy places for us (verse 10).
2. They must not defile themselves by mourning for the dead.
(1) If not officiating, they might defile themselves for kindred of the first degree. For a mother, father, son, daughter, brother, and for a sister that is a virgin. But not for a sister that is married. She is "one flesh" with her husband, incorporated in another family.
(2) For his wife he shall not mourn (see verse 4, margin; also Ezekiel 24:16-18). The wife of the true Priest is his Church; and she can never die; the gates of Hades cannot prevail against her (Matthew 16:18). Even her members do not suffer through death; it is but the gate of their promotion (John 11:25, 26).
(3) He must not make marks of distraction - baldness, quarters in the beard, cuttings in the flesh (verse 5). What has the type of Christ to do with the abominations of the heathen? In profaning themselves they profaned their God (see verse 6; and comp. John 1:14).
(4) The priest officiating must not mourn; nor shall he leave the sanctuary to defile it. Jehovah dwells in the sanctuary of Christ's Body. The priesthood can never leave that sanctuary (verse 12; Hebrews 7:23-28).
3. They must be holy in their marriage.
(1) No priest must marry a whore, or one deflowered or divorced (verse 7). The Babylonish harlot, then, however impudent and specious her pretensions, cannot be the Bride of Christ. Those who would be joined to Christ must not seek membership with her (Revelation 17:1-5; Revelation 18:4).
(2) The bride of the high priest must be a virgin of his own people (verses 13, 14). The descriptions of the true Church of Christ are widely different from those of the woman of the seven-hilled city (see 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:27; Revelation 12 and 21).
(3) His children must be holy (verse 14). They are the children of the truth; the seed of Abraham's faith. If his daughter play the whore, she defiles him; and to purify himself he must give her up to be burnt with fire (verse 9; Genesis 38:24). Such, accordingly, is to be the fate of the scarlet lady (Revelation 17:16, 17; Revelation 18:9, 10; Revelation 19:2, 3).
II. THE PRIESTS MUST BE WITHOUT BLEMISH.
1. Those who typified Christ must be so.
(1) We have an enumeration of blemishes, any of which would disqualify for that sacred office (verses 18-20). No doubt Jesus was physically, as well as mentally and spiritually, a perfect human being. Those expressions in Isaiah (Isaiah 52:14; Isaiah 53:2) obviously had reference to his sufferings and humiliations.
(2) He that had a blemish among the sons of Aaron "must not come nigh to offer the bread of his God." Had not Christ been perfectly free from sin, he could not have atoned for us (verse 17; 1 Peter 1:19).
(3) "He shall not go in unto the vail" (verse 23). He shall not represent him that is the Way to heaven, who is qualified to sanctify the people with his own blood (Hebrews 7:26-28; Hebrews 13:10).
2. Blemished priests might represent Christians.
(1) "The bread of their God they may eat" (verse 22). Men that have infirmities may live on Christ; but he that represents that Bread must be without blemish.
(2) Blemished ones might eat of the holy things, but unclean ones must not. Between infirmities and sins there is a wide difference. Infirmities do not exclude men from fellowship with God, but sins do (Isaiah 59:1, 2; Romans 8:35-39). Those who eat the bread of the Eucharist should be holy in life, else they profane the Name they profess to revere.
(3) Too frequently have blemished priests represented gospel ministers. The New Testament gives laws to ministers and their wives; and those who instruct others should do so by example as well as precept (1 Timothy 3:11; 1 Timothy 4:12). They should not be "blind," viz. to the meaning of God's Word. They should not be "lame" in hand or foot, but able to show an example in working and walking. They must have nothing superfluous nor deficient. "They must not be wise above," or wise without, "that which is written." The priest who was "holy to his God" was, therefore, to be holy to his people (verses 6-8); and so must the gospel minister be esteemed for his work's sake (1 Thessalonians 5:13). - J.A.M.
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: