Leviticus 8, Doomed to Fail


In my previous post on Leviticus 8, I drew attention to the problematic choice of Aaron as Israel’s inaugural high priest. Aaron was doomed to fail.

But God is sovereign. He possesses all possible information, and He does not make mistakes. God takes no bribes. He knows the past, present, and future perfectly. 

God knew what Aaron did, and He knew what Aaron would do.

So we could say that in His sovereignty, God chose a human to be the first high priest of Israel who was doomed to fail. God also knew that every high priest after Aaron would have the same problem. All of them would need forgiveness. They would all have on their resumé “sinner” and the same set of instructions for installation. Strip him. Wash him. Sacrifice for him. Forgive him. Anoint him. 

Be careful with him.

Realize what you have in him. He’s a sinner, graciously clothed in glory. 

Leviticus 8 highlights the fact that the high priest needs a sacrifice before he can offer sacrifices. Thus, every human high priest after Aaron starts out already having lost the game. He’s only there by God’s grace.

Leviticus 8 in Salvation History

In this light, the ordination of Aaron is not just a story in Leviticus; it is a significant step in salvation history.

The Old Testament establishes three critical figures in redemption’s story. These three offices are purposed to serve as mediators between God and man.

  • The prophet, who brings to man the words of God.
  • The king, who administrates the rule of God over man.
  • The priest, who intercedes for sinful man with sacrifices before a holy God.

And I’ll go ahead and provide the spoiler alert. There are a lot of prophets, priests, and kings in the Old Testament. But, unfortunately, their stories are all the same. They are all doomed to fail.

So why put people in these critical offices that are doomed to fail? God chose dirty and dumb humans to show us our need for another one, a holy one. Aaron is just the first in priestly line to teach us that there must be someone better.

The Prophet

We see the prophet powerfully in Moses. He is the walking Word of God. He’s a miracle worker. He bends creation by the power of God. He calls the people to repentance. He is constantly trying to turn people’s hearts back to God.

But the prophets will fail. Moses will strike the rock in frustration rather than speak to it in obedience (Num. 20:1-13). He failed to uphold God as Holy before the eyes of the people. He faltered and made the moment about himself, and so he fell short of the promised land.

And so go the prophets. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Jonah . . . each mesmerizing but flawed. They show us the saving power of God’s Word, but there’s a problem with all of them. They sin. They are like Aaron’s bath in Leviticus 8. Without the graces of God clothing them, they are as dirty and dumb as the rest of us.

The King

In 1 Samuel and we get a King. The king shows the governance of God. Under his sovereignty, he is to help the people be obedient to the Word of God to possess the land in righteousness. He is to show how the law of the Lord brings peace and justice to all who obey it.

But the Bible has very little positive to say about Israel’s kings. Saul was the first one and perhaps the worst one. David was royal but awful. The Bible’s Kings and Chronicles are littered with the moral failures of unrighteous men. The Bible’s kings are indeed emperors with no clothes. 

The Biblical record of failed kings shows us that we need a righteous one, but we cannot find one. So again, they have the same problem as Aaron and the same problem as you and me. If God must save the king, then the king can do very little to save us. 

The Priest

Aaron’s now let’s take up Aaron, high priest #1. He is the intercessor, the mediator, our go-between. He stands in the gap and offers sacrifices. He is the man before the altar who carries out the transaction of salvation. 

And so let’s wash him down and dress him up as we see taking place in Leviticus 8. But at the end of the day, Aaron is what Aaron is. So like the rest of us, Aaron does what sinners do.

And so, Aaron is in the same place as the rest of us. The one who will offer the sacrifices needs sacrifices of his own. We have to smear him with blood and cover him in glory – God has to do this for him in Leviticus 8 because he cannot do it for himself. 

And so the high priests end up like the rest of us. They sin. They fail. They die.

Who will offer the sacrifices for us?

God started the priesthood with Aaron so that we would never be satisfied and we would look for another. It is the same with the role of the prophet and the king. We need them, but we cannot find salvation in them.

The prophets preached but could not change hearts.

The kings ruled but could not righteously possess the land.

The priests made sacrifices, but there was never enough animal blood to atone for human sin.

Jesus as Prophet, Priest, and King

And so it is Jesus who is the prophet greater than Moses. Jesus is a son of David. But unlike his flawed forefather, the incarnate Son of God is an everlasting King. And the book of Hebrews chapters 4 and 5 complete the picture in putting forth Jesus as the perfect High Priest.

Since then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. 

For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness. Because of this he is obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins just as he does for those of the people. And no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was. 

So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, 

“You are my Son, today I have begotten you”; as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.” 

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.

Hebrews 4:14–5:10 (ESV)

That line, “Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him,” is profound. Think of this.

Aaron was washed down so he could be dressed up. Before the congregation, he was exposed as a sinner and made righteous only in what God could put on him.

Jesus was dressed down and then lifted up. In humility, he obeyed the father and suffered for our sin. He was stripped not only of his power but he was stripped on the cross before mocking men. And what did we find of him?

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin; neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

I Peter 2:21-25 (ESV)

Our great high priest. The shepherd and overseer of our souls was not made righteous but found righteous. When he was unclothed in this world, it only proved His eternal weight of glory. 

The first high priest was a forgiven sinner. In the final high priest, sinners are forgiven.

In Jesus, we found the great high priest God knew we needed in the beginning. 

Your Pastor is Doomed to Fail

So let’s revisit the topic of my previous post in Leviticus 8. What about your dumb, dirty pastor? He is doomed to fail. How will you respond?

I am not giving pastors an excuse. I do not wish to presume upon grace. The New Testament is clear that some are wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15). Unfortunately, the pastor fraternity has its fair share of heretics and imposters. The New Testament gives you full authority to recognize and reject them (2 Cor. 11, 2 Peter 2).

Every pastor will make mistakes, but some will fall into grievous sin. You can forgive them, but they have forfeited their leadership (1 Cor. 9:27, 1 Tim. 3, Titus 1:7). 

When those things happen, they do damage to the church. It hurts people. It may shake your faith. BUT IT GIVES YOU NO GROUNDS TO REJECT YOUR GREAT HIGH PRIEST OR TO WALK AWAY FROM HIS CHURCH.

Recognizing that a pastor is a failure is one thing. Rejecting Jesus is quite another.

If the failure of a pastor becomes a failure of your faith, then what you had was idolatry. And it needed to be crucified anyway. 

If that’s you, then you need to respond rightly to God’s design for the “doomed to fail” “dumb and dirty” high priesthood. Turn to the great high priest, the great prophet, the eternal, righteous king. Come back to Jesus.


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