Two Obvious and Two Less Obvious Qualifications

Two Obvious Qualifications

The first requirement for the priest is that of birth, but the priesthood, in addition to this, has very stringent restrictions. The priest must not only be without blemish but must be seen to be without blemish, for his calling makes him “a chief man among his people”, Lev. 21. 4.

In the light of our modern refined thinking (which is linked entirely to this mundane three score and ten years), it seems strange that a just God who is also love should discriminate between those who are physically afflicted and the physically whole. God’s viewpoint seems vastly different from that of man. The greatest possession that is within the conception of the natural man is life and health. Man can understand logically that it is senseless to gain the whole world and then not to have the health and strength to enjoy it. But he fails to see that, even if he has health and strength for his allotted life span of seventy years and at the end his soul is lost, then any profit he has made is immediately negatived and turned to loss.

The biblical concept of man in his present natural state is not that of a fine upright, Godlike creature. This is what he should have been, but because of Adam’s fall he has become very imperfect, “shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me”, Psa. 51. 5, bearing the stamp of sin and death in his being and on his brow. It is doubtful whether there is a physically perfect man or woman alive; all have defects, whether they be comparatively insignificant like one foot larger than the other or one eye higher in the face — all to some degree are imperfect as the result of the fall. In God’s eyes all are dead in trespasses and sins. How this viewpoint changes things. When we look upon the badly deformed child or one born blind or dumb, should we raise our voices against a God of love for allowing such things, or should we not rather wonder at His grace in that so many of us have such minor defects that life (even though we are under such a shadow of sin, the ultimate goal being death) is at least tolerable and perhaps oftentimes enjoyable? What a God of grace who has not rewarded us according to our iniquities! Perhaps this is a slight deviation from the subject of the priesthood, but unless we can learn the practical lessons of daily living we lose much of what the Word of God contains.

God uses the condition of the physically fit and those who are disabled to teach us spiritual lessons, some of which are fairly obvious, others require a little thought.

In Leviticus 21. 18-23, God specifies some of the blemishes that made a Levite unacceptable as a priest. The first two, although very important, are obvious. A blind man is one who cannot see where he is going, one who cannot see how or where to lead the people in the worship of Jehovah. There was only one certain cure for the men born blind in Matthew 20. 30-34; they had to cry to the Lord and then they received their sight and followed Him. When we cannot see the way ahead (and there are times when even as a priest the day seems obscure), our remedy is the same as theirs and we cry as they did.

“Open my eyes that I may see,
Glimpses of truth Thou hast for me.

But let us remember that the result of having our eyes opened should be that we follow Him.

The reason for the disqualification of the lame man is also fairly obvious. The man who is unsteady in his gait, or who is unable to walk at all, cannot officiate in the service of Jehovah. As priests our walk must be steady and decisive; if it is not, our remedy is the same as for the blind man: we cry to the Lord,

“Help me to walk aright,
More by faith, less by sight.”

How wonderful that, in spite of all the blemishes that may afflict a man, God still provides him with his physical and spiritual food, “He shall eat the bread of his God, both of the holy, and the most holy. Only he shall not go in unto the vail, nor come nigh unto the altar, because he hath a blemish”, Lev. 21. 22-23. What a wonderful picture this is of the New Testament truths of 1 Corinthians 11. 28. Here we have the antitype of the priest approaching the altar, showing forth the wonders and glories of that unique sacrifice before the Father. Thus a believer enters through the rent vail with the incense of worship and adoration into the very presence of God. What a priestly function! Let us make sure that we are without blemish in order to operate acceptably as priests: “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat”. If we are to act as priests, (and this is open to all who have been born of the Spirit), we must not be conscious of any unconfessed sin. But remember this, having been born into the priesthood, even though we may have a blemish and our priestly service is marred thereby and we cannot lead the Lord’s people in praise, worship, and adoration, yet the priest’s food is still available to us. Let us eat then, and seek that our blemish may be removed, so that we may function in the full glory and blessing of priesthood.

Two Less Obvious Qualifications

At every stage of our consideration of the priesthood, we must emphasize that the initial requirement is that of birth. If we have not been born again in the Biblical sense of the term, we cannot in any wise function as priests. Let us now consider two of the more obscure blemishes that may afflict a priest; Firstly “he that hath a fiat nose”, Lev. 21. 18. What a strange restriction! Just because a man’s nose is flat, he cannot serve God as a priest! There must be some spiritual significance, and there is; it is twofold. Firstly, the chief apparent characteristic that distinguishes the Jew from other men, even to this day, is his nose. A priest must have this nose, whether it be a reproach or not. He must look like a Jew. So also with us; if we are to be priests, everyone must be able to see that we belong to God’s chosen people. Maybe it will bring reproach and ridicule, but it is a requirement of priesthood.

Again, it is with the nose that we exercise the sense of smell. A simple personal experience will illustrate this point very clearly. A young man came to me saying that there were to be some special evangelical meetings connected with his college Christian Union. He wanted to have fellowship with his brethren but he was worried because certain aspects of the activities were foreign to him, and also, as he saw it, to the Word of God — it did not smell right. That young man was developing a priest’s nose. Even in the world, concerning secular events, men will say that such and such a thing does not smell right, or even that it stinks. Develop your priestly nose, my brother, my sister. Sometimes we cannot clearly discern what is wrong with a certain activity, with a brother’s ministry or course of action, but with spiritual intuition we know that something is not quite right. A priestly nose is a great asset; indeed it is essential if we are to be faithful priests to our God, but a word of caution; sight and walk come first. If we are on a wrong pathway we may smell many strange odours, odours that may mislead the priest and the people who follow him.

A second blemish that we do well to consider is, “a man that is crook-backt”, Lev. 21. 20, a man that does not walk uprightly. The prophet Micah asks the question “what doth the Lord require of thee?”, and gives the answer, “to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God”, Mic. 6. 8. The man with the crooked back cannot look upwards; his gaze is consistently towards the earth and towards his own body. Compare this with Philippians 3. 18-19, “for many walk … they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: … whose God is their belly … who mind earthly things”. Like the recipient of the seed sown among thorns, he “heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful”, Matt. 13. 22. The message is clear and simple to the priest, “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth”, Col. 3. 2. Let us straighten our backs, look upwards, look steadfastly towards heaven, for “this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner”, Acts 1. 11.

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