Those of us who grew up in a high church, that is, a church that practices formalities, rituals and liturgies, along with the priests or pastors who wear long robes with big crosses, have a basic understanding of the duties of a priestly position. But do the priests of today, whether in the church or out, serve God as He intended? Do we as believers answer to them? Can a priest truly forgive sins in lieu of Jesus? Who are the priests of today and what is their role?
These thoughts began as I was reading in Revelation, and came across this verse:
“…Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father,… Amen.”
Did I read that right? To Him, Jesus, who made us a kingdom, PRIESTS to His God…”
When I read that, those words gave me such pause that I nearly teared up. So does this mean that believers and followers of Jesus are priests to God, or was it just the apostles, in this case John, who had walked with Jesus? Let’s try to answer these many questions.
In the Old Testament, the first priest mentioned was Melchizedek. It states “he was priest to God Most High”, and a king of Salem, which is likely Jerusalem. Melchizedek blessed both Abram and God after Abram rescued Lot and all of the other people, along with their provisions, from being taken captive by the area kings. He also fed Abram bread and wine upon his return. Melchizedek’s priestly actions were of meeting Abram’s needs both physically and spiritually.
The priests that the Lord set in place after the Israelites’ release from Egyptian captivity were the family line of Aaron, Moses’ brother. Both Moses and Aaron were of the lineage of the Levites; Levi being one of the sons of Jacob. God chose the Levites to be priests of the tabernacle in the wilderness. Their job was to serve God by singing during services, taking care of the Temple and guarding it. The priestly duties expanded to offering the sacrifices which was interceding on the people’s behalf, to teach God’s laws for the people, and to mediate as judge or arbiter. To become a priest, one had to be born into the Levitical family line.
“For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts.”
The number one role of a priest was to be the mediator between God and his people. This meant that he stood between man and his sinful state, and God and his Holiness. He prayed for the people, he sacrificed for them, and he took on a key position of a humble contrite heart before God Almighty, in order to obtain His forgiveness and favor for God’s people.
“And you will be my kingdom of priests, my holy nation.’…”
Let us compare these duties of a priest to what they mean for today, and for whom, keeping in mind their symbolic and literal attributes:
– mediate: to stand in God’s stead for man, and man’s stead for God, be a middle-man, functioning as a go-between in order to initiate a relationship, promote understanding or activity, or effect reconciliation leading to favor.
– worship: leads in worship, or worships and praises God on people’s behalf.
– intercede: to pray to God for others on their behalf for their needs and thanks.
– care for the temple and all that is in it: to keep clean God’s temple, which includes own self, and not allow anything to defile where the Lord resides.
– guard the temple: protect the temple from evil, thieves, misuse, and to keep the fires burning.
– offer sacrifices: bringing pure, from-the-heart gifts and costly sacrifices to God on own behalf and others.
– offer incense: the smoke simulates prayers and thoughts going up to heaven.
– judge or arbitrate: to use legal/biblical laws for disputes and differences between people.
– empathy/sympathy: to understand what someone is going through out of experience and encourage them through it.
– teach God’s laws and ways: to explain and share what God’s Word and heart says.
– bless God’s people and God himself: to joyfully show thanks, gratitude and give praise.
– be holy: God alone makes anyone righteous, by forgiving and cleansing from sins. Live purely for God.
“So set yourselves apart to be holy, for I am the Lord your God. Keep all my decrees by putting them into practice, for I am the Lord who makes you holy.“
“You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
1 Peter 2:5
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
1 Peter 2:9
In light of this brief study and the many supportive verses I have included, I conclude that we as Jesus’ followers are to be as God’s priests in this world. Our holy lifestyle and Godly actions are to bless the Lord by serving others and taking care of his temple, which in turn is directly serving Him.
Here is why:
“And Moses said, “This is the thing that the LORD commanded you to do, that the glory of the LORD may appear to you.”
Food for thought: Remember that Jesus Christ is our High Priest! We answer to him alone, and look to him as our perfect example.
“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
Fun facts: Exodus says. “Then bring near to you Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, … to serve me as priests…And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty.”
Photo by: CottonBro (Pexels) – Man in Black Robe