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Do you remember when God invited all of His Children to come up on Mt. Sinai to talk with Him? He told them that if they would obey His covenant, that He would make them His Royal Priesthood, a Holy Nation, a Kingdom of Priests.
But they were so guilty and scared, they wouldn’t even go up the mountain to talk to Him.
God decided to create a temporary solution to the problem, until His better way would come. So, God chose a few of the people to be His priests, instead of all.
God said, “I will make the Tabernacle, the Altar, and Aaron and his sons holy and set apart for Me. Aaron and his sons will be the ones to serve Me as priests. Wash them, anoint them, and give them clothes made from fine, clean linen. Then I will come live among the people.”
And if God was going to live among the people and keep calling them “His,” He needed a way to handle their sin. The people needed a way to start seeing that their sin separated them from God. And then they needed a way to deal with it!
So God explained to them how every single time a person sinned, even by accident, a perfect animal would have to die. The person who sinned would have to take a goat or a lamb or a ram, or whatever animal God said, and bring it to the priests to kill it and offer it as a sacrifice.
What if every single time you were disrespectful, or got angry, or disobeyed — even by accident — what if an animal had to die! Would that help you take it more seriously? Well, that really is how seriously God takes sin! God was giving His Children a way to see and remember their sin.
As you can imagine, in addition to all the things they knew they had done wrong, there were also bad things that they didn’t even recognize or had neglected to care about as rebellious. God made a way to handle it all.
God made Aaron the high priest. As the high priest, he had the most responsibilities over all the other priests. He wore a white cloth hat with a gold seal that said “Holy to the Lord” on it. He also wore a special vest over his heart called an ephod that had 12 precious stones on it representing all the 12 tribes in the family. And he had the biggest responsibility of all.
Once a year, every year, the high priest, could go behind the thick, thick, thick curtain into the Most Holy Place, where God was. He could not go in at any other time, and no one but him could go in. He would take with him all the guilt of all the sin that he and the people had committed. Everything they could think of and everything they couldn’t think of.
This was a very bloody job. Aaron could not even go into the Most Holy Place until he had killed a cow and a ram for his own sin. Then, he had to kill a goat and another ram for all of the people’s sins.
(But the sacrificing of animals did not erase the people’s sins. It was just a way of temporarily covering over sins for a time, kicking them down the road of time until sin and its penalty could be dealt with fully. You’ll learn more about this later.)
But everyone wasn’t invited into God’s Presence anymore. Now, only a few selected priests would go between God and the people.
The rest of the people wouldn’t be able to go into God’s Presence themselves. They couldn’t go into His Holy Place, or His Most Holy Place, His Home. Only the selected priests could go in for them.
When someone wanted to thank God, or tell Him sorry, or tell Him they loved Him, they would bring a sacrifice to the priest, and the priest would offer it to God for that person.
Can you imagine a Daddy and children who can’t talk directly to each other? They always need someone else to “go between” them? “Can you give this gift to Daddy for me? Can you go tell Daddy I’m sorry? Can you go tell Daddy I love him?”
Ohhh, the people didn’t really know what they were missing out on when they chose not to go up that mountain. (But, don’t worry. God’s going to work all this out later — at another mountain. A mountain He’ll invite YOU to climb.)
For the next many years, Aaron and his sons and their children would be priests standing in for all the rest of the people of Israel.
But this plan would just be temporary. Later, God would send a high priest from a totally different priesthood, one that would make everything right, and that would last forever.