1) Who was Aaron?
To properly understand the significance of Aaron, we must go back a bit in the storyline. The twelve tribes of Israel were derived from the descendants of Abraham who is considered the patriarch of the Hebrew nation. Abraham was called by God to leave his homeland and follow Him to a new land, where God promised Abraham he would become a great nation. (Genesis 12:1-2)
This promise, however, was a long time coming. When Abraham was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to renew this covenant promise and Sarah, Abraham’s wife, finally gave birth to a son, Isaac. (Genesis 21:3) Isaac then fathered twin sons, Jacob and Esau. (Genesis 25:19-24) There was much tension between Jacob and Esau (Genesis 27), but eventually Jacob fathered twelve sons who would represent the twelve tribes of Israel (Jacob’s name was changed by God to “Israel” in Genesis 32:28).
Levi, one of Jacob/Israel’s sons (Genesis 29:34) became the tribe charged with responsibilities of the temple and sacrifices. (Leviticus 8:1-10:20) Aaron was a descendent of Levi (1 Chronicles 6:1-3). In verse 2, the Lord told Moses that Aaron may NOT enter the holy place whenever he desired. This was as a result of the sins of his sons, Nadab and Abihu. (Leviticus 10:1-2)
1) Who was Aaron?
In understanding the history of the twelve tribes of Israel and the importance of Aaron and his tribe of Levites, we can examine God’s plan for humanity. God created us to be in communion with him and He longs for us to call on Him; Scripture says He even answers before we call! (Isaiah 65:24)
God could have entirely destroyed mankind for their sinful ways when He sent the flood, but He graciously spared Noah and his family who were faithful to Him. (Genesis 6:13) Similarly, when the children of Israel grumbled as they left Egypt’s slavery and built for themselves a golden calf, the Lord again showed great mercy by not giving them the just death they deserved for worshipping an idol. (Exodus 32:9)
Because we are God’s creation, He loves us, desires fellowship with us, and has a plan for our lives. (Ephesians 2:10) God chose Levi, and all Levites, to serve in His temple. As part of this lineage, God chose Aaron. In the same way, you and I are also called to be part of Abraham’s lineage of faith.
When we surrender our lives to Christ, we are grafted into the priesthood, originally established in the lineage of Levi, because of the death of God’s son, Jesus, who was the perfect priest for us as mediator between God and mankind. (1 Peter 2:9) We are God’s people! We are God’s special possession! (Deuteronomy 7:6)
Do you feel worthless, unworthy, and unloved? Not only does God love you, not only does He hear you, not only are you chosen by God, but He is faithful to complete His work in you! (Philippians 1:6)
Do you know who you are? Do you know Whose you are? You are God’s treasured possession no matter your faults, no matter your flaws. (Exodus 19:5) Come to Him in full surrender, leaving behind the ways of sin and false worship.
2) What did the holy place signify?
The tabernacle was designed as a place of sacrifice where atonement for sin and guilt could be given by God’s mercy during the forty years Israel wandered in the desert. It was a temporary dwelling place for God’s Spirit until a permanent one could be established in the temple many years later by King Solomon.
Strict guidelines and regulations were set up by God to help the people understand the separate distinction between His perfect holiness and their sinfulness. (Exodus 25:1-31:17) The holy place, or Holy of Holies, was set apart by a large curtain, and only ceremonially clean priests could enter here annually to atone for the sins of Israel.
When Adam and Eve, the first man and woman created by God, (Genesis 1:27) sinned in the Garden of Eden it forever separated man from God. (Genesis 3:22-23) The only way to be absolved from sin was by a blood sacrifice; an innocent giving their life for the guilty.
The Old Testament book of Leviticus describes five major offerings God established for His people (Leviticus 1:1-6:7) and the handlings of these offerings. (Leviticus 6:8-7:38) Still, only those in the tribe of Levi could offer sacrifices on behalf of everyone else, and they were the only ones permitted entrance to the Holy Place for it housed the presence of God.
2) What did the holy place signify?
Before Jesus died on the cross, giving up His spirit, He uttered the words, “It is finished.” (John 19:30) The original Holy Place of the Tabernacle signifies two critical points for the current day believer.
First, just as Israel had no access to God without the Levite’s mediation on their behalf, neither can we come into God’s presence without Christ’s mediation because we are sinful. Through Jesus, God made a way for us to be reconciled to Him as He paid the sacrifice for all sin. (1 John 2:2) He took our sinfulness, paying for it in full because of His holiness and became our peace destroying the barrier that once separated us like the curtain in the temple. (Matthew 27:50-51)
Secondly, the Holy of Holies reminds us of our need to seek forgiveness. We are sinful. God is holy. To come to him, we must seek forgiveness of our sin. (Matthew 6:12) Because of Jesus, we no longer need a physical tabernacle or a separate holy place to meet with Him for God has made Himself near to us through His Spirit. (Acts 17:27) God will hear when we call and confess our sins. (Zechariah 13:9) When we confess our sins he will forgive us, never remember our offenses, and removing them from the written record against us. (1 John 1:9, Psalm 103:12, Colossians 2:2)
Have you accepted your invitation to enter the holy place of forgiveness? You are welcome! The invitation has been engraved by the hand of God, signed by the blood of Jesus, and is sent to you by the call of God’s Spirit Himself. (Ephesians 1:4-5) Open it and accept the invitation, He is waiting for your reply.
3) What is the mercy seat?
Although sin separates us from God, He still longs to be with His children in a restored relationship where He can delight in us and us in Him. He designed the instructions for the Tabernacle, Holy Place, and the contents of the Tabernacle so He could dwell in the midst of His people. (Exodus 25:8)
The Tabernacle contained the Ark of the Covenant, which represented God’s throne, and it contained the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments, a golden jar holding manna, and Aaron’s staff that budded. (Hebrews 9:4) Picture if you will, the ark being a large rectangular box overlaid with gold. The lid to the box was called the mercy seat, and overarching this “seat” were two angels facing each other and their wings touching.
Very specific instructions were given for every aspect of the Tabernacle because they were to “serve as a copy and shadow of the heavenly things”. (Hebrews 8:5-6, Exodus 25:10-21)
3) What is the mercy seat?
The Ark of the Covenant contained the Ten Commandments, a jar of manna, and the staff of Aaron that budded as reminders of God’s covenant, His provision, and His calling on His people to be His own possession. If you have accepted Christ as your Savior, the reminder of His covenantal love for you, His provision, and His down payment of His promise for eternal security is found in the Holy Spirit indwelling your heart.
In the Spirit of God, “He has given us everything required for life and godliness.” (2 Peter 1:3) The Holy Spirit grows His fruitfulness in us of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control as we surrender ourselves to His rule and reign in our lives. (Galatians 5:22-23) Christ-followers have God’s spirit of power at work in them (2 Timothy 2:7) to accomplish the impossible through faith (Mark 11:23), overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21), and love those who hate us (Matthew 5:44).
Often-overlooked is the symbolism of Aaron’s rod in the Ark of the Covenant. Israel had been grumbling about the special authority God had given to Moses and Aaron, jealously wanting equal power for themselves. The Lord responded by instructing all leaders of the tribes to place their staffs in the tabernacle. The next day, Aaron’s staff was the only one that not only sprouted, but had budded, blossomed, and produced almonds! (Numbers 17:8)
You can read the entire story Numbers 17:1-11. Aaron’s staff remained in the Ark to remind the Israelites that God chose Aaron to lead the people; who He chooses is His choice, no questions asked. You do remember that this was a staff, a piece of wood separated from a living tree, right?
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