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or representation of Jesus Christ, who is called, “the Great High Priest of onr profession, and who ever lives to plead for sinners.”
Besides the high priest, were many priests of less distinction, and they were all of the tribe of Levi, and of the family of Aaron.
Many of these prepared and offered the sacrifices, they kept a fire constantly burning on the altar for burnt-offerings, and they kept the lamps alive in the golden candlestick. They examined the people as to diseases and practices which made them impure ; and, in time of war, they carried the holy ark with the people, and sounded the trumpets to encourage them in the battle. They also blessed the people, as did the high priest.
Others of the Levites waited on the priests, and assisted them in their duties; they cleansed the sacred vessels, took care of the sacred place, sung psalms, played musical instruments, and did other services. These all were appointed cities to live in; and the priests, besides what they got from the sacrifices in the temple, had tithes, or a tenth of all the corn and fruit which grew every year, and of all the cattle that was added to the people's stock. Their duties were very laborious and important, and it was right that, while they performed them faithfully, the people should take care of them, and for this God provided.
A chief part of the priests' labours consisted in presenting the offerings of the people to God. He did not want what they offered, for the cattle on a thousand hills are his; but every beast and bird that was slain, taught them that they had sinned against God, and deserved to die as those creatures did ; and while they must be sure that God could not forgive their sins, because they killed a bullock, a calf, a goat, a kid, a sheep, or a bird ; those among them that truly served God, saw that all these things were signs, or “shadows of good things to come,” and that they all pointed to the Messiah,—that is, Jesus Christ,—who was to be the great offering once for all, and then all these sacrifices were to be, as they now are, done away. So that, instead of going with sacrifices to an altar as the Jews did, we now go and pray to God to pardon our sins every day, for the sake of his dear Son Jesus Christ, who has loved us, and given himself for us, and whose precious blood “cleanseth from all sin.”
The offerings had different names, as they were offered on different occasions.
There were burnt-offerings, which were all consumed by fire, to show us that nothing less could save us than the entire sacrifice of Christ for our sins. There were peace-offerings, part of which were offered, and the rest went to the priest; these were sigts of peace between God and the offerer. There were sin-offerings, for sins done without knowing they were sins at the time; and these teach us that all sin is destructive, and must be pardoned through Christ. There were trespass-offerings, of which we particularly read in Leviticus; these were offered if the person even doubted and supposed that he might, perhaps, have offended God Almighty. There were also meat-offerings, drink-offerings, and wave-offerings, so called from the priest waving or moving them backwards and forwards,--and a number of other offerings; all which were to remind the people of Israel that they were sinners, and to make them humble before God, and grateful for his mercies.
The Golden Calf,
EXODUS XXXII. Moses having been with God in the Mount to receive instructions for the good of Israel, during forty days and forty nights, at length descended, bringing with him two tables or pages of stone, “written with the finger of God," and having the ten commandments upon them.
I have before told you, that God has not bodily parts like us, for he is a Spirit; but as we write with our fingers, so, to make us understand that this writing was God's own doing, it is said to be written by his finger, as we should do it.
With what delight did Moses bear this honourable and precious treasure, such as no nation beside could boast. But how greatly was he disappointed on his return !
The people, tired with waiting for Moses, and perhaps supposing that he had died somewhere in the Mount, wanted another leader, and forced Aaron to do as they pleased. And what do you think they fixed upon to lead them through the wilderness? You can hardly fancy they could be so foolish, when I tell you. Why, a lump of gold, made into the shape of a calf !
With the same readiness with which they had given their gold and silver to make the materials for the Tabernacle, they now gave their ornaments to make their fancied god.
This inclination to idols they had got in Egypt, where the people made and worshipped such things.
And how low, too, is poor Aaron fallen ; for after he had made the molten calf, cast in a mould, as children cast playthings of lead, “ When
Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, To-morrow is a feast to the Lord.
" And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt-offerings, and brought peace-offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play."
This was the manner of the heathen; and it means that they ate and drank more than they ought, and that they did both foolishly and wickedly afterwards, as drunken people do.
And now Moses descended from the Mount, and he heard the people rejoicing, and he saw the calf and the dancing; and in his anger he threw down the tables of stone, of which they were so undeserving, and the laws which they had so shamefully broken, after they had promised faithfully to attend to them; and so the tables were broken in pieces.
" And he took the calf which they had made, and burnt it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and strawed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it.”
Gold powder will sink, but gold can be made into leaf, which is very light and very thin; and if it were so made, and then broken, it would easily swim. And so Moses made these foolish people swallow their god. Nothing could better teach them how foolish it was to worship idols.
Poor Aaron was quite ashamed, and he made a very weak excuse for the part he had taken in this affair. He said, that when he took their gold he cast it into the fire, and there came out the calf; as if the calf would have come out if he had not made the mould.
And now Moses saw that the people were naked before their enemies—an expression which means wretched, as a person is that can get no clothes to Fear; and that the anger of the Lord might be wholly turned away, he tried if there were any that disapproved of what had been done. And he stood in the gate of the camp, and cried, “Who is on the Lord's side ? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him. And he said unto them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel,”—for God commanded this,-"Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and Every man his companion, and every man his neighbour.
" And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men.” These were, probably, the chief transgressors, and so God spared the rest of the people and destroyed them.
The Ten Commandments renewed.
EXODUS XXXIV. 4. When Moses came down from the Mount, he threw down the tables of stone, and brake them to pieces. God, therefore, in token of his still keeping Israel as his people, renewed his laws with them, and Moses was ordered to prepare some new tables, and to go again up into Mount Sinai.
And there the Lord proclaimed or made known to him his name, and that he was, “ the Lord God, merciful and gracious.” What a lovely name! Oh, let us love him who bears such a name !
And Moses “ bowed his head forward to the earth and worshipped.” And he pleaded again for Israel ; and God promised to drive their enemies out of the promised land of Canaan ; but he required as a proof of their obedience to him, that they should destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves, where they worshipped, as the Druids used to do, long after, in our own country.
And Moses wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments. In the first verse, you have probably observed that the Lord said unto Moses, “Hew these two tables of stone like unto the first, and I will write upon these tables the words that were in the first tables, which thou brakest;" but here it is said, “Moses wrote upon the tables."
This is easily explaiued : God wrote the original commandments on the tables deposited or placed in the ark, and Moses probably wrote a copy for the use of the people.
And now Moses descended from the Mount, and having been favoured so greatly by God, “the skin of his face shone before all the people, and they were afraid to come nigh him.” “And till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a veil on his face:" and he “spake unto the children of Israel that which he was commanded.”