The following commentary covers Chapters 17 through 18.
From chapter 17 to 20 this
subject is set forth with the circumstances relative to
it. First, the authority of Aaron is established by signs
shewn by the power of God, in his rod, put with the
others near Godthe source of all authority. The
power of life and blessing displays itself with a
rapidity which makes manifest the presence of God. The
buds, the flowers, and the fruit grow on dry wood.
Priesthood, living and victorious over death, through
divine efficacy, 
must lead the people; God's authority is entrusted to it.
The carnal people, always
astray, bold just before in the presence of the majesty
of God, are afraid of His presence now that His grace
manifests itself, and say that they cannot draw near Him.
This opens the way for still deeper views on the place
that priesthood holds in general.
The place of the
priests and Levites clearly defined
In chapter 18 the place of
priesthood is clearly defined, as well as that of the
Levites. The priests alone draw near to the holy place;
they alone are allowed this intimacy with God. But, in
consequence of their position, there are sins, iniquities
which they are called to bear, as an effect of this
proximity, which would not be remarked among those who
are outside. That which is unbecoming the presence and
the sanctuary of God does not become His priests. They
bear the iniquity of the holy place. If the people
disobeyed the law, doubtless they were punished; but that
which defiled the sanctuary fell upon Aaron and his sons.
What, then, is the measure of holiness given to the
children of Godalone true priests? It is the
purification of the sanctuary itself, not what is fit for
man, but what is fit for God. The service of the Levites,
and the Levites themselves were given as a gift to the
priests. Priesthood also was a pure gift to Aaron and his
sons. Because of the anointing, the most holy things were
given them to eat, which was a special privilege of the
priests. The same thing is true with regard to us.
The food of the
Whatever is precious in
the offering of Christ, in every point of viewin
His life and in His death; in that bread come down from
heaven, contemplated in His life of devotedness and grace
here below; and in His death for usall is the food
and nourishment of our souls, in that communion with God
in which we ourselves are kept in our priesthood. The
priests alone ate the holy things, and they ate them in a
holy place. It is only in the sense of the presence of
God, and under the efficacy of that oil which is not
poured on flesh, that we can truly realise what is
precious in the work of Christ.
The holy things
eaten in the most holy place; the priests accounted as
being there in spirit
Verse 10 presents
something very remarkable; for what is here said, and
nowhere else, is that they were to eat them in the most
holy place, the holy of holies. There is no difficulty in
the terms. I have sometimes thought that it might mean,
from among the most holy things; but if it be not that,
the meaning is then in the holy of holies, and only
relates to the antitype. That is, it is only in the
presence and before the throne of the sovereign God
Himself that we can really feed on that precious food.
Historically the priests were not there; being in the
sanctuary of God, they were accounted as being there.
Distinction in the
joys of the household of God
There were things which,
though truly belonging to the priestly family, were not
properly eaten in the priestly character, such as the
heave-offerings, the wave-offerings; the daughters ate of
them as well as the sons: all that were clean in the
house could partake of them. Thus, in the joys of the
children of God, there are some that belong to them as a
family. We enjoy our blessings and all that is offered by
man to God. It is a joy for the soul.
All that the Spirit of
Christ works to the glory of God, even in His members,
and still more what He has done in Christ Himself, is the
food of the soul of the household of God, and strengthens
them. Do not our souls enjoy those firstfruits, the best
of the new wine and the wheatthe firstfruits of
that noble harvest of God, the produce of His seed on the
soil of His election? Yes, we enjoy them in thinking of
them. But the sin-offering, the trespass-offerings, the
meat-offerings, all that in which we share in spirit in
the deep work of Christ, is only eaten in the character
and the spirit of a priest.
We must, according to the
efficacy of this work of Christ, enter into the spirit in
which He presents Himself after His sacrifice, moved by
His perfect love, in the presence of the Most
Highenter into the sentiments of love, of
devotedness in the consciousness of the holiness of God;
in a word, into the feelings with which He presents
Himself as a priest before Him, in order to connect, by
love and the efficacy of His offering, the holiness of
God, with the blessing of him who has sinnedto
realise that which is precious in Christ in that work, to
share in it (for so it is) in grace. And, effectively,
that only takes place in the most holy place, in the
presence of God, where He appears for us.
In fine, whether the joys
of the family of God's house, or this holy participation
in spirit in the work of Christ, all we have just been
speaking about belongs to the priesthood. Even the
Levites were to recognise in all that God gave them as
strangers in the land of promise, the rights and the
authority of the priests.
Priestly joy and
Now, if we make the
distinction between the two, all believers are priests;
ministers, in their capacity of ministers, are only
Levites. Their service (besides that which is towards the
world, a character which the dispensation did not bear,
and which, therefore, is not the subject here) is to
minister to the priestly joy and service of the saints
with God. Our service will meet with reward in heaven,
our priestly place will be nearness to God and joy in
It is evident that
partaking in spirit (to partake in it in reality is of
course impossible) in the sacrifice of Christ for sin, in
eating of it as a priest, is a very holy thing, a
privilege enjoyed in a very holy place; everything is
specially holiness here.
 That is grace;
righteous judgment could destroy, but not bring through;
grace alone can.