It is time to anoint Aaron and his sons and officially begin the service of the Tabernacle. We have heard about it often but now it actually happens.
God had spoken to Moses about how this event was to take place. He prescribed the exact sequence of events and told him everything he was to do. I don’t know if Moses shared this information with Aaron and his sons or not prior to this day. We don’t get to see Aaron and his sons’ attitudes until a bit later. Let’s jump into the story today and see how things might have looked.
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“Speak Lord, Your servant is listening.”
“You know, I never tire of hearing that you are ready to listen. It’s time to put Aaron and his sons to work listening too.”
“What do You want me to do Lord?”
“I want you to gather Aaron and his sons, the garments, the anointing oil, the bull for a sin offering, two rams, and the basket of unleavened bread. Have the people assemble before My Tabernacle and anoint him like we talked about earlier; EXACTLY like we talked about.”
“Yes Lord. I will follow Your instructions to the letter! I was wondering when You would be ready for this day.”
Moses called Joshua to him and told him that this was the day for consecrating Aaron and the Tabernacle. “Send word out to all the people to gather before the entrance of the tent of meeting. Have Aaron and his sons come directly to me first.”
“I will do exactly as you command. I was wondering when this day would get here.” Joshua hurries from the tent with a smile and a bounce in his step.
After Joshua leaves Moses tells Miriam that it is time to prepare the basket of unleavened bread for the ordination ceremony. She too has been waiting to be called upon for her part in this day. A few minutes later Aaron and his sons approach Moses as he stands outside his tent.
“Joshua said you wanted to see us. How can we be of service?”
“The Lord has said that this is the day of your ordination. We will go to the herds together and choose the animals for the sacrifice the Lord has commanded. Once that is done, you and I will return here and gather the garments of service created for you and your sons. Eleazar, you are to gather the basket of bread for the offering from Miriam. She will have it prepared when you return with us. Ithamar, Nadab and Abihu you will each take your animals to Joshua who will be waiting at the entrance of the Tabernacle. Leave them in his care. He will tend to them until it is their time.”
The six men set out to look over the herds and flocks. They first survey all the bulls in the herd. “We want the best one to offer to the Lord. It has to be a year old and have NO blemish of any kind.”
“What about this one Moses? He looks very strong and beautiful too.”
“Yes. I think this one will do fine. Nadab, put a rope on him and bring him along. We need to find our rams now.”
It took a little longer to find the perfect rams for the sacrifice. There were so many to choose from and Moses wanted to be certain they chose the best ones available. After the selection was finished Moses sent Aaron’s sons onto their respective tasks as he and Aaron walked back to his tent.
“This is a big day for you brother. Are you ready for it? This is a HUGE responsibility. One not to be taken lightly.”
“I have thought of nothing else since you came back down the mountain with the Lord’s instructions. I honestly don’t know why He still wants me to serve Him after I failed you both so fully. But if He is willing to still use me, I’m honored to serve.”
“The Lord loves you Aaron. He recognized your faults and will address your full forgiveness through the offerings He has called us to present. After that, your hardest task will be to forgive yourself.”
“I will try to be worthy of the trust you and the Lord have bestowed on me.”
Once they reach Moses’ tent they quickly gather the garments for transport to the Tabernacle entrance. NOTHING must drag the ground as they transport it so Moses uses one of the carts for carrying water. He places a blanket on the floor of the cart to ensure that the robes don’t touch any dirt in its bed.
Finally all have assembled in front of the entrance to the Tabernacle. All is nearly ready. All that remains is for water to be brought. Moses wanted fresh water for the washing of Aaron and his sons so this was the last task to be done.
“Joshua, please send Caleb and four of his trusted friends to draw water and bring it here to me.”
Joshua turns to Caleb and points out the cart with the waiting water jugs in it. “Please fill these and bring them back carefully.”
“Happy to be of service. Come on fellas, there’s work to be done.”
The group waits the ten minutes it takes for the water to be brought to Moses. “Please take them out of the cart and set them here” Moses says as he points to a spot just outside the entrance. Once everything is in place Moses looks out at the congregation. “The Lord has said that it is time to consecrate His Tabernacle and those who will serve in it. Aaron, please step forward.”
Aaron takes a step forward. He stood silent and straight as he waited for Moses words.
“Nadab, Ithamar, Eleazar, Abihu, step forward beside your father.”
All four men stepped forward and stood beside Aaron. All eyes were on Moses and silence reined throughout the congregation. Moses called two of the elders forward to assist him. One he asked to hold a basin as he filled it with water from the first pitcher. The other he asked to stand behind Aaron and his sons.
Moses stood in front of Aaron and began to unwind his head covering. Once it was free of his head he handed it to the elder. Then he removed Aaron’s coat and sash and handed those too to the waiting elder. Finally Moses removed Aaron’s outer robe, leaving him is his tunic only. Moses then took a rag that was in the basin and began to wash Aaron starting with his head. He squeezed water over his head and let it run down through his hair. He then washed Aaron’s face, arms, hands, legs and feet. Moses had the basin refilled each time he moved to a new area of Aaron’s body so the water was fresh with each washing.
Once Aaron was fully washed Moses began to dress him in the garments the Lord had designed. Aaron’s heart was both broken in humbleness to the Lord and soaring with joy at the honor being bestowed upon him as Moses proceeded with each step of this process. Tears streamed down his face unashamed with no end.
First Moses put the robe and coat on Aaron and tied it with the sash around his waist. He had Aaron step into the undergarments and discretely pull them up to cover his loins. Then he put the ephod on him and tied it with the skillfully woven band. Next the breastplate with the stones representing the twelve tribe was put on him with the Urim and Thummim hidden inside. Finally he placed the turban and golden plate on Aaron’s head. Aaron’s posture became even straighter, if that were even possible, once Moses had placed the last piece upon him.
Moses then moved to Nadab. The basin of water was refreshed from the second jug and a new rag was placed in it. Moses removed Nadab’s head covering and his outer coat. He then began washing Nadab just as he had done with Aaron. The undergarments first, then the coat and sash and finally the cap were placed on Nadab. The same process was carried out with the remaining sons of Aaron until all stood clothed in the garments the Lord had commissioned for their service.
Moses had the elders, who had assisted him with the water and the clothes, bring the water jars and place what remained in them into the bronze basin in preparation. Once they had finished the returned to the entrance again.
Moses spoke to Aaron and his sons as well as the congregation. “Please wait here for me. It is time to anoint the Tabernacle.”
Moses turned and picked up the anointing oil that was waiting in the cart next to where the priests’ garments had lain. He walked into the temple and anointed first the ark of the covenant and the mercy seat. Next he anointed the veil that separated the two chambers in the tent of meeting. Next was the altar of incense and all its implements, the lampstand, and the table of showbread with its implements. He then exited the tent of meeting and anointed the altar and all its implements and the basin and its stand. Each item had been sprinkled seven times in accordance with the Lord’s command. Moses also laid the wood for the fire in the altar and lit it in preparation of the first sacrifice about to be offered to the Lord.
After all this Moses returned to the entrance where Aaron and his sons stood. “Now it is time to anoint the priest that the Lord has chosen to do His work.” Moses then anointed Aaron and each of his sons with the oil he had carried into the Lord’s Tabernacle.
A chorus of praise rose from the congregation when Moses had anointed the last of Aaron’s sons. Once quiet returned, Moses spoke again. “It is time to offer the first sin offering and it will be for Aaron and his sons so that they will be clean as they offer sacrifices for the people.”
Joshua handed the rope holding the bull to Moses. Moses brought the bull to stand in front of Aaron and his sons. “Each of you place your hand upon his head as this bull is offering his life in exchange for yours. His blood will cleanse your sins.” Aaron and each of his sons placed their hands upon the bulls head and each offered a quiet prayer of thanks for his surrendered life for them.
Moses brought the group of priests and the bull to stand before the altar. He retrieved the basin to collect the blood in and placed in on the ground beneath the bull’s head. He quickly drew the knife across the bull’s throat and collected the blood and it fell from him. As the bull collapsed on the ground Moses moved the basin to follow the flowing blood so none of it would be spilled in vain. Once the last of the blood pumped from the bull’s open throat Moses picked up the basin and walked to each horn on the altar and put a small amount on each with his finger. He poured out the rest of the blood at the base of the altar. This purified and consecrated the altar to the Lord.
Moses then began the work of disemboweling the bull. He ran his knife the length of the bull’s undercarriage and laid him open. He removed “the fat that was on the entrails and the long lobe of the liver and the two kidneys and their fat and burned them on the altar” (verse 16). “You wait here. I will return shortly” Moses says to Aaron and his sons. Moses then lifted what remained of the bull and carried it outside of the courtyard and placed it into the cart he had brought. He then retrieved the rope of one of the rams from Joshua.
Initially when Moses brought the bull to the cart a few heads fixated on that scene but all eyes quickly returned as Moses led the ram back to the waiting group of newly appointed priests. “Place your hands again upon the head of this ram as he is offering himself in your place. He is to be a burnt offering for the Lord.”
Each man placed his hand upon the head of the ram and offered a prayer of thanks. Moses then proceeded exactly as he had with the bull; collecting its blood as it flowed from the open neck where Moses knife had done its work. This time Moses did not stop with removing the entrails and fat pieces. He cut the ram into pieces and placed each piece on the altar. He started with the head and the pieces of fat being placed for burning. He washed the entrails and the legs with the water from the basin and then placed them with the rest of the pieces on the altar. The whole ram was to be burned as an offering to the Lord.
Once the pieces for the first ram were well underway and the fat from the bull had been fully consumed, Moses returned to Joshua for the final ram. He brought it to where Aaron and his sons waited. This ram was to be their offering for ordination. He again had them lay their hands on its head and allowed time for each man to give thanks again for the sacrifice being made in their place. Then, as before, he killed the ram and collected its blood. This time though the blood was to be placed on Aaron and his sons instead of the horns of the altar.
“This is to consecrate you to the Lord. This blood is to be a symbol of your purification just as it was to purify the altar before you.” Moses dipped his finger in the ram’s blood and placed it on Aaron’s love of his right ear, right thumb and right big toe. He did the same with each of Aaron’s sons. After this, the remaining blood he threw at the base of the altar.
Moses then skinned, disemboweled and cut into pieces this ram. He gathered together the right thigh, all the fat including that on the entrails and tail, the long lobe of the liver and the two kidneys with their fat and placed them all in Aaron and his sons’ hands. He also placed a loaf of unleavened bread and one loaf of bread made with oil and one wafer and put them on the fat that the men were holding in their hands. “You are to wave this before the Lord as a wave offering. This is your ordination offering.” As soon as this was done Moses took them from their hands and placed them on the altar with the rest of the offerings that were burning. Moses took the breast and waved it before the Lord. This was his portion for the work he had performed.
Moses then took some of the blood that was on the altar and some of the anointing oil and sprinkled them together on Aaron’s and his sons’ garments to consecrate them and their garments.
“What remains of this ram you are to boil it at the entrance of the tent of meeting and eat it there along with the bread that remains in the basket of your ordination offering. Whatever remains of the bread and the meat you have to burn it completely with fire. Also you are not to ‘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. As has been done today, the Lord has commanded to be done to make atonement for you. At the entrance of the tent of meeting you shall remain day and night for seven days, performing what the Lord had charged, so that you do not die, for so I have been commanded’ (verses 33-35).”
As soon as Moses left Aaron and his sons in the care of the Lord he retrieved the bull in the cart from earlier. He took this to a clean place outside the camp and burned it completely. This was from the sin offering and none were to eat of it. As the blood of the bull had touched the cart Moses also burned it with the same fire. Evening was falling as he finished this last task and he returned to his tent.
Each morning for seven days, Moses would retrieve the needed animals from the herd and flock and he and the congregation would assemble at the entrance of the Tabernacle. Moses would again offer the sacrifices the Lord had commanded for the ordination of Aaron and his sons. Each day as Moses went through the processes Aaron wept; part for joy and part for his brokenness that was being healed by the Lord. But Nadab and Abihu began to puff up with pride with each successive offering.
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I have a few of strange and possibly irreverent questions too. Where did they go to the bathroom and where did they sleep? Surely not in Your tent. They couldn’t leave but they also couldn’t defile Your Tabernacle.
How did they keep their clothes clean if they slept on the ground? Did Moses provide sleeping mats for them and maybe chamber pots? Who was the one who emptied the basin each day and refilled it if these men couldn’t leave? And who carried in the wood for the fire to stay lit continually? Just some questions that popped into my mind when reading this story.
Father God, I can’t imagine the immense honor and burden these men were to carry. Standing before Your people and standing in the gap for them on a continual basis was both terrifying and awe inspiring. I know I didn’t do Your story justice or theirs. I wonder what they talked about those seven nights. Did they talk about You? Did they talk about Your plans? Did they talk about themselves and their plans? Did they pray? I hope they did. I know I would have been praying a prayer like Solomon did; for wisdom to lead Your people. I’m MORE than happy to be used in small ways instead of the big ones! Help me be faithful though no matter where You place me. And ALWAYS remind me Who the Giver of the gifts are and Who deserves the glory.