Popularity and Priesthood
Robert Wurtz II
Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:5)
I wish to focus in this entry on a seldom discussed aspect our our Christian lives and it is that of acceptability with God. Peter understands, just as Paul understood, that offerings of any kind must be acceptable with God (Romans 12:1ff, 15:16, etc.). Peter is concerned that as a holy priesthood, we would offer up spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable with God by Jesus Christ. This points our attention again to the relationship between the Old Testament priesthood and New Testament church life. Understand that the Old Testament is an account of God’s dealings with man and His systematic movement closer and closer to man through the nation of Israel. Once Adam was put out of the Garden of Eden and from the presence of the Lord, God was working on moving His way into man.
If God is going to eventually live in man then man will need to understand that God is holy and He is to be utterly reverenced and obeyed. This meant that God would have to teach man His ways through revelation, both by precept and by demonstration. Man had to learn about the God that was approaching. He is not like other gods that accept any ole thing, He is a holy God that is to be served with absolute obedience. When God was upon the holy mount the people witnessed an awesome and fearful sight, but this was necessary in order for them to comprehend the God that was near. They witnessed the God that judges sin. The wisdom of this theophanic demonstration is understood in our times, as the masses speak of God as if He were their elderly grandfather that lets the grandkids do as they will. Many have no comprehension of what they are saying when they speak of God being their judge. It is reflected in their flippant attitude towards sin. God revealed Himself to Israel in a way that sobered the peoples mind about sin and judgment.
God met Moses at the burning bush and set Israel on a path of having God be their God. This was an awesome privilege and responsibility. This means He would rule as King in their midst as He rules in Heaven. This is the subject of our Lord’s prayer; thy Kingdom come, thy will be done in earth as is it is in Heaven (Matthew 6:10). Kingdom implies the King and His ruling authority. In God’s Kingdom there is a willful submission and desire to fulfill the will of the King. The elect angels obey His voice willingly; the others are rebellious and obey by constraint. In time there will be a separation and the rebellious angels will be cast into Hell that has been prepared for them. As God’s Kingdom came near to Israel they had to obey the voice of God in a way characteristic of the Kingdom of God.
The relationship was governed by a covenant. There were terms of an agreement for fellowship. This covenant had to be serviced to deal with the people’s disobedience. This is what the offering of sacrifices for sins was about. The blood of bulls and goats was a picture of the blood of Christ. The priests, and especially the high priest were the closest people to God as they performed their service in the Tabernacle. The high priest alone was allowed to go into the most Holy Place once per year to do service to God. He was supposed to be the supreme picture of obedience to the will of God. Aaron failed grossly in this area while Moses was on the mount. Many high priest’s tried their hand at attaining God’s ideal for this role, but only Jesus Christ came to do God’s will in a way that rightly represents members in the Kingdom of God. He loved righteousness and hated iniquity and as a consequence was anointed above all other priests (Hebrews 1:9).
Of all places on the face of the earth, the Wilderness Tabernacle had to function virtually like Heaven itself. The Tabernacle was God’s mobile palace with the most holy place being (as it were) the Throne Room of God. The Ark of the Covenant represented His seat of authority. When that authority was challenged in disobedience blood had to be sprinkled on it as a propitiation for the offense. This removed the offense, or as some have said ‘pushed it back’ until Christ offered His own blood in the True Tabernacle (Hebrews 8:1ff). Inside this building, that was modeled after the pattern of Heaven shown to Moses on the holy mount, God was to be King in the absolute sense. This was not the place for the funny-business that accompanied the service of God in Israel’s later years. In fact, things had gotten so flippant by the time we get to Isaiah that God had to give the prophet, as He did Moses, a first-hand look at what the true Throne Room in Heaven was like just so he could recognize the God he was dealing with. We read this in Isaiah 6. This was a revelation to Isaiah that utterly transformed his life and prepared him to be the great Prophet that he became.
The priests were to be a Kingdom example to the people to sanctify the Lord in their eyes. This sounds like an odd concept perhaps, but God wanted the people He created to reverence Him as their Creator and to view Him in the way the elect angels view Him. Understand that the elect angels obey God’s every word. Even the demons believe and tremble, we are told. So how ought man to view his Creator that is lesser than the angels in power and might? God wanted Moses and Aaron and their associates (the Levites) to put on a life demonstration. They were called to be a revelation of the Kingdom of God. This is why when Moses was dying God said to him, For ye rebelled against my commandment in the desert of Zin, in the strife of the congregation, to sanctify me at the water before their eyes: that [is] the water of Meribah in Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin. (Numbers 27:14) Moses was a great man of God like few others, but he was expected to obey the voice of God to the letter. This is perfection and God expects it. By Moses’ disobedience he left the people with the notion that they could disobey God under certain conditions. At a critical moment he had been a bad example and God cannot tolerate it. The time would fail to tell of Nadab and Abihu or Eli and his wicked sons derelict example. They were terrible examples of obeying the voice of God and how they ought to conduct themselves when dealing with God. What happened? Nadab and Abihu were burned to death with the Fire of God when they offered common fire to God and Aaron was not allowed to mourn their death (even though they were his sons). Many years later God Judged Eli and his sons and terminated the priestly designation in Eli’s family. This is what happens when men are called to sanctify the Lord in the eyes of the people and they refuse to do it.
The psalmist makes an interesting plea to God in Psalm 19:13, Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous [sins]; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression. Our word for ‘presumptuous’ is typically translated as ‘proud’. Pride is the condemnation of the Devil. It is what brought him down and is the cause of God resisting any man. The psalmist apparently did not want to behave towards God in a proud and presumptuous way. He was not an innovator, he wanted to know the counsel of God so that he could perform it. The proud presumptuous man is moving in his own self-will and innovating as he sees fit. How could this ever sanctify the Lord in the eyes of this evil rebellious world? The Old Testament is loaded with story after story of the benefits of seeking God’s will and obeying it. This could be summed up in the life of a king in Israel that had a terrible fall; And he (Uzziah) sought God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in the visions of God: and as long as he sought the LORD, God made him to prosper (2 Chronicles 26:5 emphasis added). However, when he got proud he attempted as a king to enter into the Temple and offer up to God as if he were a priest. This presumptive act resulted in him being immediately smitten with leprosy (an O.T. symbol of sin) and he died a leper. This set the stage for the events I mentioned earlier when Isaiah saw a revelation of God’s Throne Room. Note the beginning of the text, In the year king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord…” (Isaiah 6:1ff) God had to correct the presumption and restore reverence for Himself through Isaiah that was enabled through this revelation to rightly sanctify the Lord before the eyes of the people.