From Ears to Feet

Stephen Terry


Commentary for the January 10, 2015 Sabbath School Lesson


“The priest is to take some of the blood of the guilt offering and put it on the lobe of the right ear of the one to be cleansed, on the thumb of their right hand and on the big toe of their right foot. The priest shall then take some of the log of oil, pour it in the palm of his own left hand, dip his right forefinger into the oil in his palm, and with his finger sprinkle some of it before the Lord seven times. The priest is to put some of the oil remaining in his palm on the lobe of the right ear of the one to be cleansed, on the thumb of their right hand and on the big toe of their right foot, on top of the blood of the guilt offering. The rest of the oil in his palm the priest shall put on the head of the one to be cleansed and make atonement for them before the Lord.” Leviticus 14:14-18, NIV

The lesson this week focuses on Proverbs, chapters four through six. In these chapters, the reader is repeatedly advised to listen to wisdom that his actions might be guided by that hearing. While this is good advice, perhaps more is going on here than simply the recitation of moral values. Perhaps hearing with the ears is simply a rhetorical device that indicates the importance of the senses in seeking to light our pathway and guide our actions. Maybe this is why people are said to have or to lack common sense as they either consider or ignore what their senses tell them.

If this is of import in making our pathway secure, then it may follow that what we choose to gather data from with our senses can dramatically affect the perspective we develop over what is right or wrong. In other words, what we allow our minds to be exposed to can either enhance or distort our understanding and worldview.[i]

If we consider the Eden account of The Fall, we can see how entertaining the Serpent’s presentation instead of turning from it resulted in profound and disastrous consequences.[ii] This failure occurred in spite of instruction to the contrary. We may be exposed to the wisest possible counsel and even be advised step-by-step what we must do, but if we choose to direct our senses toward the path of perversity, it may all count for naught. How many have seen their children turn from wise counsel to follow a path that leads to destruction, in spite of training to walk uprightly and reverence their Creator. Adam and Eve knew this experience when one of their sons murdered the other.[iii] What sadness and heartache this must have created for the first couple. Perhaps in this experience, they understood the heartache God must have felt when they had earlier turned from His teaching.

Although some attribute the portion of the Book of Proverbs this week’s lesson focuses on to the Persian era, popular understanding attributes much of the book to King Solomon. Folk mythology often refers to him as the “wisest man who ever lived.” Yet, whether or not this is true, his son certainly illustrated the problem of passing on wisdom from one generation to the next. When confronted with an immediate challenge to his right to rule after the death of his father, King Rehoboam chose to follow counsel that simply supported the desires of his heart rather than listen to counsel that would have required him to humble that heart and seek reconciliation with those who had been aggrieved by Solomon’s policies.[iv] As a result, most of the kingdom was torn from his hands and another king chosen to rule over most of Israel. So many followed this path that they assumed the name Israel for their kingdom with Rehoboam’s remaining portion known only by the name of one tribe, Judah. Sadly, the very thing he sought to avoid, the humbling of his desires, was accomplished anyway through the rebellion he failed to placate.

The ordination of Aaron and his sons symbolically illustrated this relationship to wise counsel with both blood and oil. The blood can be seen as a representation of cleansing in response to repentance and confession of our sinful state.[v] The oil can be seen as the imparting of the Holy Spirit.[vi] If we apply these two principles perhaps we can apply the interpretation to this ordination that the first thing to be cleansed was the perception of the senses, represented by the application of the blood to the earlobe. Then once this was cleansed the actions, represented by the thumb, and the direction, represented by the big toe, could be cleansed as well. Then it may follow that the oil, representing the Holy Spirit, indicates first a willingness to listen to the Spirit's direction as discerned by our senses, to let the Spirit direct our actions, and through that to finally steer our course, keeping us on the path that leads to salvation. Of course, since we have our free will in all of this,[vii] we may choose to subvert this process at any time, and this is the point of Proverbs. It counsels us that doing so is not wisdom but folly through its many aphorisms.

Peter carried on this symbolism when he spoke at Pentecost. He pointed out the need for the repentance and cleansing through Jesus as represented with baptism as a prerequisite to receiving the guiding influence of the Holy Spirit.[viii] Just as the ordination was not complete with only the blood, but required the oil, also, the process of salvation was not complete with simply repentance and baptism. In fact, he assured his listeners that as part of salvation they would receive the Holy Spirit. He did not use words like “might,” “maybe,” or “possibly.” He declared to his audience that they will receive the Holy Spirit. Perhaps this was because he did not see coming to Jesus as any different from the Levitical ordination ceremony. This may be why he later referred to Christians as a priesthood.[ix] Such an understanding is a transition from the Aaronic priesthood of exclusiveness and restriction to a universal priesthood of all believers, for if the gateway to belief is the process presented by Peter at Pentecost, and his understanding of that process is equivalent to ordination, then all believers are automatically priests. But are they Aaronic priests?

The Aaronic priesthood ended with the rending of the temple curtain between the Holy and Most Holy compartments.[x] However, this was not readily understood by either Jews or Christians as both continued to sacrifice in the temple[xi] until it was finally destroyed by the Romans. It apparently took time for the understanding in Peter’s Epistle to develop completely. John, also, came to this understanding as he referred to the saints of God as priests of Christ.[xii] This thought is developed further in the Book of Hebrews, which may have been written as an apologetic for understanding the temple’s destruction. This book refers to Christ as high priest of this priestly order.[xiii] Naming Him as High Priest implies that there is a priesthood, which serves under His direction, else He would be simply Priest and not High Priest.

Hebrews further identifies this priestly order as the Melchizedekian.[xiv] One of the attributes of that order is that it is eternal.[xv] The priests do not end their priesthood at death as happened with Aaron and his sons. This is part of the beautiful message of salvation. Just as Christ, our High Priest in the Order of Melchizedek, is High priest forever, we are promised everlasting life which enables us to also be priests in this eternal order.

When we consider all of this, it may become apparent that Proverbs is not primarily about hanging out with bad companions or sexual immorality, although those are certainly choices we all must face. It may be about our ordination and whether or not we choose to keep that ordination or cast it aside. Once cleansed, will we follow the counsel of the Holy Spirit and seek right paths based on that counsel, or will we consult only the desires of our hearts and stop our ears from hearing the Spirit's call? It is not that hard to silence the voice of the Spirit, for He is given only to those who are repentant and desire to receive Him. Perhaps this is why we are told that a point may come when there is no more sacrifice for our sins.[xvi] However, this does not occur because God has turned from us, but rather because we have chosen not to listen to the Holy Spirit for so long that we can no longer hear Him. And this may be the lesson of Proverbs, that we refuse to listen to the wise counsel of the Spirit at our loss, and that loss may not only be fatal, but eternally so.

[i] 2 Corinthians 3:18

[ii] Genesis 3

[iii] Genesis 4:1-16

[iv] 1 Kings 12:1-24

[v] Matthew 26:28

[vi] 1 Samuel 16:13

[vii] Joshua 24:15

[viii] Acts 2:38

[ix] 1 Peter 2:9

[x] Mark 15:38

[xi] Acts 21:20-24

[xii] Revelation 20:6

[xiii] Hebrews 9:11

[xiv] Hebrews 5:8-10

[xv] Hebrews 6:20

[xvi] Hebrews 10:26



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