“Take Aaron and Eleazar his son, and bring them up to Mount Hor; and strip Aaron of his garments and put them on Eleazar his son; for Aaron shall be gathered to his people and die there.” Numbers 20:26
Several years ago I discovered the writings of Art Katz, which have been transformational for me. I had never been a great fan of Leviticus, dreading only the genealogies more. But Art Katz brought out some wonderful nuances of this book. In particular, the consecration of Aaron and his sons for the priesthood was a striking passage. (Leviticus 8). As part of the ceremony, Moses took them to the door of the tabernacle of meeting, gathered all the congregation around, and then stripped and washed them before putting the priestly garments on them. Although the priesthood was the highest calling, it involved the most humiliating initiation.
I have seen artists’ renditions of the high priestly garments and they are beautifully ornate. Of a certainty, they drew attention. It must have been quite an experience to wear those robes, that breastplate, the holy crown.
However, as the time drew near for Aaron’s death, Moses took Aaron up the mountain and he left the priesthood the same way he entered it – stripped before the watching world.
Just like Aaron, none of us enter into this priesthood of believers without being stripped of our own righteousness and broken over our sin. It is a humiliating experience to have your utter sinfulness revealed and all pretense of our own goodness stripped away. Oh, the tears and groanings and soul wrenching pain of repentance. But after the humiliation, we are washed with His Word and clothed with His righteousness. And although we entered this world through birth, it is only through this second birth that we truly begin to live.
But there will come a day, the day appointed for our departing from this world, when death will have its moment. Taken by strangers, we will be prepared for death as our lifeless bodies will be stripped and washed and put into the ground.
Humiliation and nakedness – in the beginning and the end. But what about the stuff between? That time between entrance into the priesthood and exiting this world….
For somewhere around 40 years Aaron was high priest. And while it wasn’t always pleasant, his position did give him a unique position in relation to God and the people. 40 years to be faithful or unfaithful. 40 years to be a blessing or a hindrance. 40 years to more fully learn the ways and nature of this God or to become insulated from him by religion.
What are we doing with these few years between life and death? This is the question we must ask ourselves. When that second stripping comes, will we be able to face it with joy, knowing that we have run this race well?
It is my prayer that we will. May God help us to be faithful to do all and be all to the glory of His name.