Exodus 28-29; Psalm 26
In the same the way the place where God’s presence was to dwell needed to be perfect, so the people that worked in God’s presence needed to be perfect.
In these two chapters we see God nominate Aaron and his descendants to be priests. He then outlines the process of making the clothes for the priest and then the process of cleaning the priest of the contamination of sin so that they can work in God’s presence.
From the clothing, we can see that there was a distinction between regular priest and the high priest. There were many priests, but only one High Priest. In Christianity we believe in what is called ‘the priesthood of all believers’. In other words, whoever considers themselves a follower of Jesus is also a priest of Jesus. But we only believe in one High Priest, Jesus himself.
The way they are dressed is important, particularly the High Priest. The garments prepared for the High Priest had similarities with what kings used to wear at this time.
The expensive materials, gold, gemstones, blue and purple fabrics. But also the breastplate and the ‘ephod’. Some have said that this ‘ephod’ was basically a tiara of blue encircled with a crown of gold. Interestingly, the very first priest that we met was also a king, king Melchizedek (Genesis 14).
The similarities between the High Priest clothing and that of kings may suggest that the two were always meant to be one role. It was much later that Israel specifically asked for a king, but rather than a Priest King they wanted a Warrior King (1 Samuel 8:19-20). It was at this point that the role was split in two, only to be reunited in Jesus, who is our High Priest and our King.
In the second part, it looks at the process of purifying and preparing the priests. As always, there lots we could talk about, but I want to focus on one little detail. Included in the list of bits of animal to include in the offering, it mentions “the long lobe of the liver” (Exodus 29:22).
In other Ancient Near Eastern religions, the ‘long lobe’ was used in rituals to talk to the gods. If you wanted to know what the gods were saying you would take an animal’s liver open it and allegedly by the shape and size of different parts of the liver, particularly the long lobe, you could predict the future and what the gods were planning.
Yet here God includes this in the burnt offerings. It’s like he is saying, “you don’t need that bit to discover what I want. If you want to know what I think about something, you can just come to speak to me. Throw that bit on the fire it’s useless”. Even here in the Old Testament, God is giving his people access to him that had never been heard of before. We as believers now get to enjoy that access to the fullest.
We briefly mentioned in yesterday’s reading that our sin contaminates us and the world around us. In this passage we get the first glimpses of what is needed to cleanse that contamination. Moses is to take the blood of a sacrifice and sprinkle it over the priests and their garments (Exodus 29:21).
Because blood was believed to contain the essence of life itself, the life of the blood was wiping away the stain of death caused by the contamination of sin. This state of being cleansed by life and free from sin and death is described as holy.
Sometime would describe this psalm as a psalm of lament. The issue is there is the complaint or struggle that is brought to God isn’t the focus of this psalm. Instead, the main focus is the psalmist’s innocence. A similar psalm might be Psalm 5.
It is likely that Psalm 26 was used as a liturgy, where an individual would declare their innocence before entering God’s presence. It is structured in a chiasm where the passage mirrors itself.
a) Psalm 26:1-3 - Test me Lord
b) Psalm 26:4-5 - I have avoided wickedness
c) Psalm 26:6-8 - I love being in your presence
b) Psalm 26:9-10 - Do not count me with the wicked
a) Psalm 26:11-12 - Redeem me Lord
The psalm opens with a request to be tested. The psalmist has walked with integrity and trusted in God, so he asks that God test both his heart and mind to prove his faithfulness.
He points out how he has kept away from those who do wickedness. He does not want anything to do with them. Instead, he pursues innocence and praised God for all he has done. The psalmist enjoys the presence of God and wants to live in a way that makes him acceptable before God.
He then closes, asking God not to remove that access from him. Don’t count him along with the wicked people who do evil things. Instead, he asks God to continue to redeem so that he may remain in God’s presence.
As many of the psalms before it, Psalm 26 is an important reminder of the magnitude of God’s presence. As an individual would recite these words before entering God’s presence, they would be a simple litmus test. If at any point these words felt hollow, then something was wrong.
If I have allowed myself to take part in wickedness, or if I no longer hold God’s greatness with reverence, then I need to repent and change.
Anything you think I've missed? Maybe you've got a question that still needs answering. Send me a message over on my Instagram (@brynjoslin). I'd love to talk it through with you some more.