Today's Reading: Exodus 28-29
I've had an interesting morning trying to discover the meaning of the blood anointing of the priests' right earlobe, right thumb and right big toe. [Some might think I should have better things to do, but my office is cold from a broken furnace, so I am at home doing research!] It has been a fascinating morning, believe it or not.
First of all, the anointing was with blood, not oil. Blood represents a sacrifice of purification. Oil represents a second act after purification, that of sanctification. Purification cleanses; sanctification sets one apart.
The right side is the preferred side in Middle Eastern countries. The right hand is used for "clean" work and the left for "unclean" work. One eats with the right hand; one cleanses after defecation with the left hand. One would never offer a guest food or a gift with the left hand as this would be a horrible insult.
This "right privilege" is exercised in our culture also. To sit at the right of the host is the favored position. Proper etiquette is to serve plates from the right and remove from the left.
We've learned from previous readings in Exodus that the earlobe was pierced when a person willingly submitted himself or herself as a slave to a master because of a love relationship. (Ex 21:1-6)
In the book of Judges (chapter 1), we read that the Israelites cut off the thumbs and the big toes of their captured enemies.
The opposable thumb is very important as it allows humans to grasp. Without a thumb, an enemy could no longer use a weapon or use tools easily.
Big toes allow for balance. They are especially needed for walking, stooping, climbing and even standing.
So I started thinking about all this information to try to figure out what is going on in verse 20 of Exodus 29.
Could it be that a priest's right earlobe is purified by blood to stake the claim of God upon the priest's life? It might also be a purification from all the priest has heard in the past. Now, the priest is only to hear for God, take direction from God, follow the commands of God, his new master.
And the right thumb. The priest's former work is removed. He is now to do only work that is the master's work. He is now only to fight the master's battles.
And the right big toe. The priest's former wanderings are over and cleansed. He is now to live a balanced life in the community of faith. He is now only to go where the master sends him.
Ordination, the setting aside of a person to do the work of God, is closely related to baptism in the Christian faith. In baptism, we are cleansed (purified) and set apart (sanctified) as a child of God and a member of the priesthood of all believers. Those denominations that pour or sprinkle water, usually do this ritual cleansing over the head. The same is true with ordination. We lay hands on the head.
I'm wondering if we also need to touch the right earlobe, right thumb and right big toe to purify the work of this born again child of God?
To only listen to God and with the ear of God.
To only do the labors of God, and to only join in God's battles.
To hold fast to God's balance and only go where God directs.
This is a good trinity of directives for the priesthood of believers.
And one more little aside. As I was researching ordination and baptism, I found an ancient ritual--effecta--used by Christian priests as they anointed the newly baptized. They would put oil on the tongue, the nostrils and the ears, and say, "Be opened!" The tongue is loosed to speak for God; the nostrils are opened to recieve the breath of God; and the ear is opened to be able to listen to God.
Since I am one who loves symbolism, this is all very cool to me.
Very cool, indeed!