“And Moses said to the congregation, “This is the thing that the LORD has commanded to be done.” And Moses brought Aaron and his sons and washed them with water” (Leviticus 8:5–6).
Leviticus is filled with God’s commands for his people. In the book of Leviticus you will find countless restrictions and requirements for sacrifices and offerings. However, as author Chad Bird writes,“The tabernacle of the Old Testament was not a slaughterhouse to satisfy the bloodthirst of an angry deity. It was the Father’s house, where his children came to be redeemed by the death of a substitute.”
In Leviticus chapter eight, the Lord commands that the priests be washed with water as part of their consecration or being set apart. “And Moses said to the congregation, “This is the thing that the LORD has commanded to be done.” And Moses brought Aaron and his sons and washed them with water” (Leviticus 8:5–6).
What is that all about? All of Scripture points to Christ (Luke 24:27). Therefore, this too points to what God in Christ has done for us.
The priests, just as the rest of Israel, were sinners. What set them apart for service and to approach God with intercession, prayers, offerings, and sacrifices was not their own doing, but the Lord’s. Their sin needed to be atoned for. They needed to be cleansed, washed of their transgressions. Therefore, the Lord commanded the consecration, the setting apart of the priests for service to Himself.
The writer to the Hebrews speaks of a washing with water as well. In fact, some settings of the divine service make reference to these words during confession and absolution! “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:22).”
The water which the writer to the Hebrews speaks of is the waters of our baptism. The Lord Himself has commanded it. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:18–19).
Just as the priests were set apart through a sacrifice and washing with water, we too are set apart through Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself for our sins. His washing of water and the Word, which comes to us in Holy Baptism, consecrates us.
Our sin is paid in full by Jesus’ death on calvary. Our transgressions are washed away as baptismal water covers us. We are baptized in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We are set apart as God’s children to intercede for one another, offer prayers and approach our Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ.
The divine service continues the work God first began in us through baptism. Norman Nagel writes, “When the Lord puts his name on something, he marks it as his own…Where God locates his name, there he is bound to be. He cannot evacuate his name. What and whom he puts his name on are his.”
We enter into the divine service in the Name of the Triune God whom we worship. He is the God who has made and claimed us as His own in the waters of baptism. He washed away our sin, setting us apart by placing His Name upon us. As we enter into worship, we remember what the Lord has done for us.