The Priesthood // Part 2
Last Sunday, we began a study of the priesthood. We began by asking the question, “Why is there a need for a priesthood?” One answer is because of the fall of humanity. Before the fall, Adam and Eve walked with God with no need for an intermediary or sacrifice for sin. After the fall, sin and the sin nature marred humanity’s relationship with God but didn’t change humanity’s calling or God’s desire. What is humanity’s calling and God’s desire?
Humanity’s calling is to know God and walk with Him. God’s desire is for man to fulfill His calling therefore provision had to be made to see the fulfillment of humanity’s call and God’s desire. After the fall, humanity increased and spread out creating the need for outreach to the masses – someone to provide atonement for humanity and to teach people fellowship with God. Out of this need, Abraham was called and the nation of Israel was born. To make the calling of Abraham a covenantal reality, God appeared to Abraham. He met him after the slaughter of the kings who had taken Abraham’s nephew Lot captive. God’s appearance to Abraham was both revelatory and prophetic. It was revelatory in that it revealed God’s ministry to broken humanity. It revealed God as humanity’s king and priest. It was prophetic in that God’s appearance to Abraham was a precursor of the One who would appear later to Abraham’s descendants to provide for the fulfillment of God’s promise.
The One who appeared to Abraham was named Melchizedek. His name means “king of righteousness”. He was king of Salem, the city we would know later as Jerusalem. Salem being translated as “king of peace”. He was priest of God Most High and brought out elements of His intercession for humanity – bread and wine. Abraham recognized Him and honored Him. God passed the calling of fellowship with God and teacher to the world on to Abraham and His descendants:
And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, 'Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.' /// Acts 3:25 (NIV)
No more priests of God are seen until the appearance of a man named Moses. An Israelite of the tribe of Levi, God used Moses to bring Israel out of the bondage of Egypt. It was time for the descendants of Abraham to fulfill their calling and ministry. On the way to their homeland at Mount Sinai, God reiterated Israel’s calling to Moses:
Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagle’s wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.” /// Exodus 19:3-6 (NIV)
The calling of humanity and the desire of God is reiterated. Through Israel, God will provide fellowship with the Almighty and atonement for sin! The nation of Israel will be the priestly mediators for all nations:
And many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the Lord Almighty and to entreat him. This is what the Lord Almighty says: “In those days ten men from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the edge of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.’” /// Zechariah 8:22-23 (NIV)
And, the nation of Israel will have direct access to God through His presence in the tabernacle to which they would come and worship. A kingdom of priests! Although the entire nation constituted “a kingdom of priests,” the Lord established Aaron’s descendants as the perpetual priestly clan in Israel. To fellowship with a holy God required that strict attention was paid to the place of the Lord’s Presence. To keep the Israelites from dying in their uncleanness for defiling God’s dwelling place among them – the Aaronic priesthood focused on:
- The administration and ministry of the sanctuary.
- The custody and administration of the law of Moses.
You could boil this down to three basic activities:
- Responsibility for determining holy versus profane (Leviticus 10:10)
- Determining clean versus unclean (Leviticus 10:10)
- Oversight of the atonement (Leviticus 10:17)
The whole tribe of Levi was responsible for assisting in the ministry of the sanctuary. While they originally focused on guarding the doorway to the tabernacle and carrying it from place to place, David assigned them responsibility to praise the Lord through song. Outside of the responsibility to maintain the worship and sanctity of the sanctuary, the priests also served many other roles:
- Handled the offerings brought by the people
- Regulated the redemption of vows and things consecrated to the Lord by the people
- Blew the trumpets in Israel summoning and directing the congregation and its leaders in travel, battle, and worship
- Presided over irregular cleansing procedures
- Taught the people the decrees of God
- Pronounced blessings over the people
- Served as the final court of appeal in legal disputes
A special nation, called to lead the world into fellowship with God. As special as this ministry was, it could not totally accomplish all God desired for humanity. There was a prophecy yet to be fulfilled – One recognized by Abraham as God’s High Priest yet to come. Abraham recognized Him – would His descendants?
- Acts 3:25 (NIV)
- Exodus 19:3-6 (NIV)
- Zechariah 8:22-23 (NIV)
- Leviticus 10:10-17
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