So the LORD said to Aaron, “You and your sons and your father’s house with you shall bear iniquity connected with the sanctuary, and you and your sons with you shall bear iniquity connected with your priesthood. And with you bring your brothers also, the tribe of Levi, the tribe of your father, that they may join you and minister to you while you and your sons with you are before the tent of the testimony. They shall keep guard over you and over the whole tent, but shall not come near to the vessels of the sanctuary or to the altar lest they, and you, die. They shall join you and keep guard over the tent of meeting for all the service of the tent, and no outsider shall come near you. And you shall keep guard over the sanctuary and over the altar, that there may never again be wrath on the people of Israel. And behold, I have taken your brothers the Levites from among the people of Israel. They are a gift to you, given to the LORD, to do the service of the tent of meeting. And you and your sons with you shall guard your priesthood for all that concerns the altar and that is within the veil; and you shall serve. I give your priesthood as a gift, and any outsider who comes near shall be put to death.” (Numbers 18:1-7 ESV)
There is danger associated with the presence of God. For sinful people to have no mediator between them and God leads to God’s wrath being poured out on sinners. There is danger for the priests and Levites, if they do not adequately guard the tabernacle where God’s presence dwells. If they allow a breach of the holy place they too will die.
God is teaching Israel and us that there must be someone who can make atonement for us in order for us to escape His wrath. He will not turn a blind eye to sin, no matter how much He loves us. But that same love has provided Jesus as our priest and mediator, satisfying the just demands of a holy God by taking our guilt on himself and dying in our place.
Jesus’ priesthood, however, is not the gift of Aaron’s priesthood but the gift of the priesthood of Melchizedek (Hebrews 7). Yahweh promised that David’s descendant, the Messiah, would be a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. The author of Hebrews argues persuasively that this demonstrates Jesus’ superior priesthood. God has made a way through Jesus that means we will never face the death penalty. A way into the holy of holies has been achieved through Jesus’ sacrifice.