Not Aaron but Adam was God’s first priest here upon this earth. His temple had no thick veil between Holy of Holies and Holy Place. His temple had no walls nor even an altar of burnt offering or of incense. No blood was shed in that temple; and no sin was confessed. Because as yet no sin was committed, there was no sin confessed. And there was no need or call for an altar for bloody sacrifices. Or let us speak more accurately, there was no sacrifice.
As we pointed out last time, the word sacrifice means a slaughter, and that indeed always then is a bloody sacrifice. And therefore it is incorrect even to speak that way of a bloody sacrifice. All sacrifices were bloody. When God clothed Adam and Eve with skins to cover their nakedness and to teach them that only through the shed blood of Christ was there covering for their guilt, He certainly shed the blood of that beast. How can you possibly take the skin off an animal without shedding its blood? Not only do you kill it, but you kill it in a bloody way. And so we say that before man fell in Paradise, God’s priest did not sacrifice to Him. He did bring offerings unto God, but sacrifices were a foreign idea in that day.
And not only did God’s priest bring offerings to God in that righteous world before the fall, he spent his whole day in that temple; and he spent his whole day in offering up gifts unto God. It was not a spasmodic offering up nor an offering at specifically set times but a day-long activity every day; even as so it shall again be when God’s royal priesthood stands in the new Paradise. Already that thick veil in Jerusalem’s temple has been rent in two. Already separation between Holy of Holies and the Holy Place has been erased. Already bloody offerings have been abolished, and it has become sin to offer them up for forgiveness unto God. And the High Priest who shed His blood on Calvary’s altar is also the King exalted over all Gods creation. But then also Adam as God’s royal priest spent his whole day in his priestly work of offering up gifts unto God.
We might call your attention for a moment to the fact that the name priest means minister, agent, one who stands by to serve another. And Adam surely was God’s minister and agent. He was king over that whole earthly creation, but he was also priest over that whole earthly creation. Over it all he was God’s minister. He ruled it all in God’s name. And then he served as God’s king. But when he served God over that same creation as God’s priest he offered it up to God as one who has dedicated and consecrated it all to God’s service. In fact the priest was one who was himself dedicated and consecrated unto God’s service.
We remind you once again of what we wrote last time that the little boy in Israel whose lineage was of the tribe of Levi had his work all cut out for him. He was by an act of God set aside or, if you will, dedicated and consecrated to God. Webster tells us, to dedicate is “to devote to the service or worship of a divine being, or to sacred uses; to set apart to a definite use or service.” And of consecrate he says, “To make or declare sacred or holy; to set apart or devote to the service or worship of God.” The whole tribe of Levi was set aside in that sense and had a special and separate work to perform. From infancy the male children were set aside for that work. We may say from birth this was the work to which they were assigned. Now all this was by God’s appointment and decree. But the significance behind it all is that so we are to live, and so our calling in life is that we with all our possessions must Se dedicated and consecrated unto God. The practical significance of this truth we will explore somewhat later, but now we simply wish to state the fact and point out that Adam already in Paradise was such a priest. He himself was devoted, consecrated and dedicated consciously and willingly unto God with all the earthly creation over which he was also king. He was God’s first royal priest. He saw nothing but he saw it for God’s sake. He touched nothing but to use it in service of God. He listened to the sweet music produced by God’s creation in order himself to sing God’s praises.
We may put it this way: All of that earthly creation was brought by Adam daily unto God as an offering of praise and thanksgiving. Or, if you will, God had close contact with that whole earthly creation through the hand, the mind, and the heart of Adam. The little bird in the tree, that cannot know God and cannot consciously and willingly sing His praises, did have its trilling song brought before the face of God through the mind, heart and tongue of Adam when Adam in his soul, upon hearing this creature’s song, said, O God, how great Thou art! God caused all the animals to pass before Adam while he still served in that original priestly office; and Adam saw God in every creature; and in the names which he gave to these animals he once again said in his soul, O God, who is a God like unto Thee! How great Thou art! He saw the beauty of color, of shape and texture. He tasted the sweetness and deliciousness of the fruit of the garden. He saw the creatures large and small, the animate and inanimate creatures of God’s world; and he kept on saying in his soul, This is God’s world. How may I best serve Him therewith? How shall all these through me return to Him in the glorification of His name? He was God’s minister over that creation. He was His agent, one who stood on this earth in order to serve the God in heaven. He was, as it were, the human, rational-moral funnel through which that whole creation returned back to the God Who had made it, in conscious, willing praise and service.
And even this has its reflection still after the Fall and in the Old Testament temple. For all Israel came to God through the priest. Today since our High Priest, our ONLY His Priest, Christ Jesus, has offered His bloody sacrifice on Calvary for our sins and blotted them all out, has been seated at God’s right hand evermore to plead our cause, we need no priest through whom we can approach God. And the Roman Catholic Church certainly ignores and sets aside this glorious truth that “Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many,” Hebrews 9328. Through Him it is that we do approach God. Only in Him as our only High Priest do we have the right even to utter one prayer to God. But today we need no earthly priest, even as we need no lamb to sacrifice. And it is as much an act of unbelief to maintain an earthly priesthood for the forgiveness of our sins as it is to continue the ritual of offering up a lamb to God for this forgiveness. It is as much a sin of ignoring the atonement of Calvary to maintain a priesthood that must still sacrifice Christ anew as it is to say that the blood of bulls and goats today is necessary for the forgiveness of our sins. But in the days of types and shadows, before this merciful high priest came, Jesus Christ the Righteous, man could approach God only through the priest in the temple.
Remember the time when Samuel commanded King Saul—and he was the king, if you please, the ruler of the people with power invested in him by God Himself to wait until he, Samuel, should come to sacrifice before they went to battle with the Philistines? Now Samuel was of the tribe of Levi, the tribe that God had set aside for this work of sacrificing and presenting the offerings of the people. All Israel was dependent upon that priesthood. Still more, this is so evident in the fact also that this priesthood remained until the very cross of Christ. A prophet there was not always in Israel. From the days of Malachi to John the Baptist there was no prophet in Israel. It was a period of silence, and God spoke through no one to His Church. From the captivity of the Kingdom of Judah—a much longer period of time—Israel likewise had no king upon the throne. Heathen nations ruled over Israel instead of the house of David. Yet through all this time there was a priest in Israel.
In a sense—because as we pointed out before, it is one office with three phases, and each one of us is all three: prophet, priest and king—the priest in this period when there was neither king nor prophet still represented the other offices—God does not withdraw His grace, though He may withdraw some of the material evidence of it—and the priest taught Israel and ruled over her spiritual life.
There is a difference, of course. The prophet taught by word of mouth and by means of the written and spoken Word of God. The priest taught by example. The prophet taught of the coming of Christ and forgiveness of sins in Him. The priest held Him up before the eyes of the people in his daily sacrificing, in the lambs and bullocks, in his washings and even in his prayers and benedictions. By his own life of dedication and consecration to service in God’s house he also taught by example our calling to be ministers of God, agents through whom His whole creation returns in service and praise to His glory. O, indeed, the priest also taught God’s people.
But we may also point out that he needed that instruction of the prophet. The prophet must come to this priest with his sacrifice. He can come to God only through that priest, but the priest depends upon the truth and instruction that God gave through the prophet. What could Aaron have done as high priest without that knowledge of his service that God gave through Moses? And the priests were mere men, sinful men, given to all kinds of weaknesses. Did not God through Samuel even rebuke Eli and his wicked sons? And in the days after Israel returned from the captivity of Babylon, did we not find priests who committed all manner of evil and set a wicked example before the Church? Truly the heart cannot be dedicated to God unless the mind is filled with the truth concerning Him. And we likewise can be God’s royal priesthood only in the way and in the measure that we know Him, as His prophets.
It works the other way also. The man who is dedicated to God, loves Him with all his heart, that man surely will seek Him and resort repeatedly to His truth to know more and more of Him. One cannot be priest without being prophet. And one cannot be prophet without being priest. This also in part is the reason why Peter speaks of the royal priesthood. And though it seems as though he has overlooked the prophetic office, the fact in the case is that it is implied and expressed in the calling to show forth God’s praises. But even as the greatest of the three—faith, hope and love—is love, so the priesthood, with its dedication; in love to God, is the chiefest of the three phases of the one office. For though our heads may be full of knowledge of God and we can prophesy as wicked Baalim did, but we do not love that God, we are still prophets, priests and kings of the devil.