Saturday, October 28, 2017


When Abiathar the son of Ahimelech had fled to David to Keilah, he had come down with an ephod in his hand. (1 Samuel 23:6)

Abiathar is the only surviving member of Ahimelech's family, who were all wiped out by Saul for assisting the renegade David in his flight. Abiathar flees to David and David promises to protect him, and it seems here in this isolated verse that Abiathar has brought an ephod with him. An ephod is the garment of a priest, and it is highly symbolic in this context, because David, the rightful king of Israel, is on the run, and he has now been given this symbol. Jesus, too, is rightful king and priest of a world that rejects him and persecutes him. Tuesday marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, of Martin Luther posting his grievances on the door in Whittenburg. One of the aspects of the Reformation was connecting the common man directly with Jesus through the scriptures translated in the vernacular language. Jesus is the great high priest, and until we had the scriptures in our own language, we had to trust in the priests to connect us to Christ through a confusing Latin Mass. Martin Luther and the printing press started the process of getting the ephod to the son of David, where it rightly belonged.

As we see in Leviticus 10, the priesthood is a flawed institution when in the hands of men. Nadab and Abihu offer strange fire to the Lord and are destroyed. Aaron, their father, is so grieved by this tragedy, and full of resentment and sin, that he is unable to eat the sin offering for the atonement of the congregation. Likewise, a man cannot atone for the sins of others, because his own sin is in the way and must be atoned for first.

In Leviticus 16, God gives Moses a complicated choreography of offerings and motions for a sinful priest to be able to atone for the sins of the congregation, but these complex instructions only show how inadequate humans are and how important it is to have a perfect sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. All of this prefigures Christ.

Once again the book of Hebrews is our enlightening star. Jesus had to become a man in every respect so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people (2:17). Because he was faithful to the commandments and did not sin, he does not have to atone for his own. Because he is God, his blood is sufficient for all. Jesus is a priest, not because he is descended through the levitical order, but because he has the power of an indestructible life (7:15).

And Christ is not just a priest, he is the great high priest. Aaron was a priest in weakness, but Christ is perfect and therefore the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him (5:9). Because Christ is in heaven, at the right hand of the Father, no complex instructions for tabernacle patterns is necessary. Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises (8:6).

Without Luther and the Reformation bringing this knowledge to the common people by way of the scriptures in the vulgar tongue, we would still be lost in a dead language, an imperfect earthly system that confuses the once-for-all sacrifice on the cross with a continual re-sacrifice at the hands of a sinful priest, and a lack of assurance of salvation due to a lack of Christ as liaison between heaven and earth.