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Friday, May 23, 2014

Part 2 - The Passover Lamb that was truly born in a Manger

Historically, it can be inferred from the biblical records that Mary the mother of Jesus was once a Levite prior to her marriage to Joseph because all her known relatives were from the tribe of Levi. For instance, Elizabeth was her closest known relative that was mentioned in the scriptures, who was a Levite in all ramifications.

“And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God, nothing shall be impossible.” (Luke 1: 36-37)

Elizabeth is confirmed in the context above as the cousin of Mary and she was revealed again in the scriptures as a Levite because she was one of the descendants of Aaron, the first Levirate high priest under the dispensation of the Law and prophets. Aaron the brother of Moses was the first high priest to emerge from the tribe of Levi, and his descendants were assigned to do the works pertaining to the most holy things of the temple. Zechariah the husband of Elizabeth was also from the tribe of Levi because he was revealed as a priest that offered prayers under the old dispensation, which was a role that was performed only by Levites.

“…Zecharias the priest of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth…And it came to pass, that, while he executed the priest’s office in the order of his course, According to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.’” (Luke 1: 5, 8-10)

Under the Old Testament, the services of the temple could only be performed by the Levites among the Israelites. However, only the descendants of Aaron among the Levites can handle the most holy duties of the temple such as burning incense on the altar. For example, the sons of Korah that once attempted to burn incense in the tabernacle suffered a devastating plague despite being Levites. This punishment was a lesson and reminder to the Israelites that only the descendants of Aaron can burn incense in the temple.

“…To be a memorial unto the children of Israel, that no stranger, which is not of the seed of Aaron, come near to offer incense before the Lord; that he be not as Korah, and as his company.” (Numbers 16: 40)

Generally, the Levites were divided into different courses with respect to their family units for the work of the temple, which included the Levite descendants of the families of Moses and Aaron.  For example, it was customary for some Levites according to their course to work as porters while another course of Levites were assigned to sing praises with instruments to the Lord in the temple etc. Only the descendants of the families of Aaron alone were separated among the Levites for the purpose of the most holy things of the temple such as burning of incense and to minister in Lord’s presence ( 1Chronicles 23: 13). By earlier revealing that the duty of Zechariah the husband of Elizabeth was to burn incense in the temple of the Lord during prayer time implied that he was also a priest from the Aaronic order.  

According to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.” (Luke 1: 9-10)

As shown above, the relatives of Mary that became the parents of John the Baptist were from the most sacred course of Levites, whom the scriptures confirmed as Levites that lived in the hill country of Judah. This implied that John the Baptist was also a Levite, as the forerunner of the Christ and he was mentioned as the greatest person born of a woman under the Old Testament.
As the priesthood lineage under the old dispensation of the Law and Prophets, the Levites were found in all parts of Israel because they have no particular geographical inheritance among the Israelites. This was due to the fact that the Levites were assigned to take charge of temple duties and to teach the Israelites the oracles of God concerning the future plans of salvation that would be fulfilled through the Messiah. By virtue of this assignment, which includes taking charge of the temple duties, the tribe of Levi was entitled to a tenth of everything in Israel.

“… behold, I have taken your brethren the Levites from among the children of Israel: to you they are given as a gift of the LORD to do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation…And behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service of the tabernacle of the congregation…But the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer as a heave offering unto the LORD, I have given to the Levites to inherit: therefore I have said unto them, Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.” (Numbers 18: 6, 21, 24)

Under the Old Testament, the Jews were saddled with the task of teaching the nations of the world the oracles of God concerning redemption by virtue of God’s covenant with Abraham and his descendants. Among the tribes of the Israelites, the Levites were assigned to take charge of the temple duties as a priesthood lineage, and to guide the people concerning the ordinances and shadows relating to atonement and forgiveness of sin.

“WHAT advantage then has the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way; chiefly because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.’ (Romans 3: 1-2)

So far, it is evident from the scriptural references above that all the known relatives of Mary before her marriage to Joseph were not just Levites but they belong to the most sacred order of the priesthood from the tribe of Levi, which was also known as the Aaronic order. However, the subsequent shift of the priesthood from Levi to the tribe of Judah after Mary’s marriage to Joseph also signified a type of the transition of the Levirate priesthood under the dispensation of the law to the royal priesthood of the new dispensation of grace.

In anticipation of this switch from Levirate to the royal priesthood from the tribe of Judah, it is confirmed in the scriptures that Joseph the husband of Mary was from the house and royal lineage of King David of the tribe of Judah (Luke 2: 4)Biblical records reveal how King David also portrayed different shadows of the royal priesthood that later fully re- emerged from the tribe of Judah through the birth of the Messiah. For instance, he once ate from the hallowed bread that was only lawful for priests while he fled from the envy of King Saul after he was anointed to become the next King (Matthew 12: 3-5; 1 Samuel 21: 1-6). When David became the King, he composed many songs and psalms under inspiration more than Asaph and other Levite priests that were notable for such acts. King David was not a Levite yet he made musical instruments for the priests. David was the King that first decided to build a magnificent temple in Jerusalem to replace the old tabernacle, a task that was successfully completed by his son and successor, King Solomon.

This physical temple of the Old Testament was later replaced by the body of Christ through his death and resurrection, as the High Priest and mediator of the New Testament that was established by the shedding of his own blood, as the true Lamb of God that atoned for the sins of the world.

“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? But he spake of the temple of his body. When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said” (John 2:19-22). 

The New Testament temple that was raised in form of the body of Christ is called the Church, which is a mystical body with many members, Christ being the head of the body.

“...and gave Him to be the head over the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that fills all in all.” (Ephesians 1: 22, 23)

 ‘Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ…What! Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?’ (1Corinthians 6: 15, 19)

“But  Christ being come a high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us…. For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:” (Hebrews 9: 11-12, 24)



The Change of Priesthood from Levi to Judah

One thing that never ceases to amaze me is the power of foreknowledge that is revealed through biblical prophecies, as discussed in the series of my blog posts concerning the birth of Jesus Christ. For instance, the prophecies concerning the birth of the Christ already predicted that he would come from the tribe of Judah but no one knew how this would be accomplished. In the divine counsel to fulfill this prediction, it was important that Mary was first espoused to Joseph so that her status as a Levite would have changed to the tribe of Judah before the birth of the Christ. Consequently, the child that was born after Mary was espoused to Joseph automatically adopted the status of a member of the tribe of Judah. In other words, the transition of Mary’s tribe from Levi to the tribe of Judah through her marriage to Joseph was divinely orchestrated, as a type of the switch from the Levirate priest hood of the Aaronic order to the tribe of the messianic royal priesthood after the order of Melchisedec.

Moreover, the new priesthood patterned after the order of Melchisedec would emerge out of the tribe of Judah through the Christ that would come from the royal lineage of King David. By an act of foreknowledge, this new priesthood from the tribe of Judah was already in existence before the birth of Christ but it was hidden through the order of Melchisedec, whose priesthood was already in existence many generations before the Levirate priesthood. However, it was concealed till the Christ emerged from the tribe of Judah.

“…For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood. And it yet far more evident: for after that similitude of Melchisedec there arises another priest, Who is made not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life.’ (Hebrew 7: 14-17)

Despite the fact that the royal priesthood after the order of Melchisedec was concealed for many years yet the superiority of this royal priesthood from the tribe of Judah supersedes and predates the order of Aaronic priesthood of the Levites under the law. This was foreshadowed in the past when Melchisedec received tithes from Abraham in the dual capacity of the priest of the Most High God and the King of Salem, whose dominion in Salem later became a territory of Judah after the birth of the Jewish nation. As a type of the Son of God, the name of the high priest “Melchisedec” means “King of righteousness” while his title as “King of Salem” means “King of Peace”.  As a type of the Son of God without beginning or ending, the genealogy of Melchisedec was purposely not provided to portray the priesthood that has no beginning or ending. The full historically account can be found in the book of Genesis whereby Melchisedec the high priest of the most high God blessed Abraham after he came back victorious from the battle field (Genesis 14: 18-20).

“FOR this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him; To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all, first by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace; Without father , without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life: but made like unto the Son of God, abides a priest continually. Now consider how great this man was, unto which even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoil.” (Hebrews 7: 1-4)

By divine arrangement, Abraham paid tithes to the high priest Melchisedec on behalf of his entire generations including Levi, in acknowledgment of the superiority of his royal priesthood, which was the same priesthood order  that  later re-emerged through the Christ that came from the tribe of Judah. 

“And as I may say, Levi also, who receives tithes, paid tithes in Abraham. For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him. If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it, the people received the law) what further need was there that another priest should arise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron? For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law
…The LORD sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchisedec: By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament…Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7: 9-12, 21-22, 25)

The most delicate work of the Levirate priests under the Old Testament was only performed by the descendants of Aaron, which was to intercede for the people especially on the Day of Atonement. As the price to pay for the penalty of sin, many animals were often sacrificed by the Levite priests to portray the ordinance of how the Lamb of God would come and redeem the world from the bondage of sin and death by paying the penalty for our sins through his own death.

“For the law having a shadow of good things to come , and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices, which they offered year by year continually, make the comers thereunto perfect…For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins…By which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all…And every priests stands daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever; sat down on the right hand of God…For by one offering he has perfected forever them that are sanctified.” (Hebrews 10: 1,4, 10-12, 14)

The scriptural context above confirm how the religious ceremonies of the Levite priests under the law were shadows that all portrayed how the Lamb of God would come and redeem the world from the spiritual bondage of sin and death by paying the penalty for our sins through his own death. The proof of his innocence and justification was revealed through the power of his resurrection over the bondage of sin and death, which led to the redemption of the world from the bondage of sin and death. This new hope through the resurrection was what was foreshadowed through the typology of the first fruits and the ordinance of tithing, as discussed in the next section below.

“Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.”  (Romans 4: 25)

“So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” (Hebrews 9: 28)


The Resurrection that was foreshadowed by Tithing and the First fruits Ordinances

The acts of tithing the first fruits under the Old Testament dispensation all foreshadowed Christ’s resurrection from the dead, as the sinners’ representative and the first fruit of the new creation. Before the dispensation of the law was given through Moses to the Israelites, it was customary since the beginning of times to honor the Lord with a portion of your first fruits or increase, as a type of eternal life insurance policy and a demonstration of faith in the resurrection of the expected Messiah. Ever since mankind lost his place in God’s paradise, this principle that invokes divine protection and blessings had been in existence since the days of the first generations of Adam and Eve, as evident in the story of their sons Abel and Cain (Genesis 4).  

“Honor the Lord with thy substance and with the firstfruits of all thine increase. So shall thy barns be filled with plenty and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.” (Proverbs 3: 9, 10)

On the basis of the above principle and in demonstration of faith in the resurrection, the author of Hebrews explained how Abraham on behalf of his descendants gave witness to the resurrection by giving a tithe of his increase to the priest of the Most High God, who was a type of the Lord Jesus Christ.  In other words, Abraham on behalf of his entire generations gave a portion of the firstfruits of his increase to Melchisedec the priest of the Most High God in demonstration of faith in the coming resurrection.

“And here, men that die receive tithes; but there HE receives them, of whom it is witnessed that HE lives.” (Hebrews 7: 8)

The portion of the increase in form of the tithes that Abraham cheerfully gave to Melchisedec in demonstration of his faith in the resurrection refers to one tenth. This one tenth was the yardstick that the Lord commanded the descendants of Abraham to give the priests under the dispensation of the law.  In other words, “tithe” simply means a tenth portion of a person’s increase or first fruits that was given to the priest in demonstration of faith in the resurrection, as portrayed below in the typology of the first fruits. When a grain in form of a seed is sown into the ground, it dies and is buried alone but the stalk it brings out as a type of its resurrection does not bear one grain but many, which is similar to the resurrection of Christ that was foreshadowed in the Old Testament by the firstfruits ordinances.

“Verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground, it abides alone: but if it dies, it brings forth much fruits.” (John 12: 24)

Furthermore, the Old Testament ceremony of the first fruits that typifies Christ’s resurrection from the dead was done on the day after the Sabbath, which is Sunday. The Old Testament Sabbath was Saturday and the next day is Sunday, which coincides with the same day Christ arose from the dead as the first fruits of the resurrection. On the day of celebration, the priest was expected to wave the sheaf of the first fruits on behalf of the people before the Lord. This signifies how Christ resurrected from the dead on behalf of the people as the high priest and first fruits.

 “ And the Lord spoke unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye come into the land which I give unto you; and shall reap the harvest thereof, then shall ye bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest: And he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.’ (Leviticus 23: 9-11).

This firstfruits ordinance described above was normally accompanied by a celebration of triumph and consecration, as a type of the celebration of the resurrection victory of Christ as the firstfruits. Moreover, the appearance of the firstfruits is an assurance that the rest of the harvest would be safely gathered at the appointed season. Similarly, the resurrection of Christ as the firstfruits is an assurance that all the dead will be resurrected at the appointed season (Matthew 27: 50-53, 1 Corinthians 15: 14-58).

“But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But everyman in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. Then comes the end…” (1Corinthians 15: 20-23)

“He that goes forth and weeps, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.” (Psalm 126: 6)

As mortals, the Levirate priests under the law could not continue their duties of intercession forever because of death but the royal priesthood from the tribe of Judah is after the power of an endless life through the victory of resurrection over the power of death. Hence, the superiority of the priesthood of Christ that is patterned after the order of Melchisedec is through the power of his resurrection. In other words, the new hope brought by the royal priesthood of the Lord Jesus Christ was his resurrection victory over the power of death that is portrayed through the typology of firstfruits and tithing under the dispensation of the Law, as the new hope for the whole of humanity.

“And they truly were many priests, because they were not allowed to continue by reason of death: But this man, because he continues ever has an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7: 23-24)



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