KINGDOM BIBLE STUDIES
studies in end-time revelation
THE ROYAL PRIESTHOOD
A KINGDOM OF PRIESTS
In the Bible there are a great number of words, phrases, and expressions that are especially significant in the creative and redemptive plan of God. One of the first such phrases was uttered by God Himself before ever He brought mankind into being when He said, "Let us make man in our image." This was the purpose of God condensed into about as few words as can be used. Then there were the inspired words of Isaiah when he prophesied, "Unto us a child is born; unto us a Son is given." Connected with this were the words of the angels unto the shepherds, "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord," and the proclamation of the Voice from heaven at the Jordan river, "This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." Now God and man were united together in one body, never to be separated, never to be divided. And there were the meaningful words spoken by Jesus on the cross, "It is finished!" and then the wonderful words of the messenger at the tomb, "He is not here, He is risen." I am quite sure that no man as yet has ever plumbed the depths of those words and their meaning to all mankind. Innumerable works have been written, countless sermons have been preached, and many beautiful hymns have been intoned about the unsearchable of Christ and the unspeakable glories of redemption; but truthfully, no one has yet fathomed the depths of such glorious and awe-inspiring realities.
There are many other examples of such words and phrases, but one we want to consider in this message is the proclamation of the Lord to His people in Ex. 19:5-6: "And ye shall be unto Me A KINGDOM OF PRIESTS." The full text reads, "Now, therefore, if ye will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all people: for all the earth is Mine: and ye shall be unto Me A KINGDOM OF PRIESTS, and an holy nation." The subject of the royal Priesthood, like many of the themes of Scripture, is inexhaustible. It sparkles as the twinkling stars of the heavens with glories which many have not yet beheld. Let us put our eye to the telescope of the Holy Spirit, and allow this grand subject to be brought nearer to cur spiritual vision for, in so doing, we shall behold more of the grandeur and ineffableness of the "High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus," and of the purpose and majesty of OUR ONENESS IN HIM. This makes it mandatory upon us to remove the shoes from off our feet and tread carefully upon this holy and mysterious ground. But at the same time it also holds out the promise to us that we shall here gain an insight into some of the most marvelous and glorious things in God's whole mighty work of creation and redemption.
A PEOPLE FOR A PURPOSE
Turning to our text, the first thing that we notice is the injunction to obedience. "If ye will hearken to My voice indeed, and keep My covenant." We could not think of a disobedient people being for God - "a peculiar treasure, a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation." The apostle Peter speaks of the saints as "children of obedience"; they are begotten of that nature, and characterized by it. He speaks of "being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the living and abiding Word of God" (I Pet. 1:14, 23). Man after the flesh is born of corruptible seed, but there is another generation born of incorruptible seed, who desire earnestly the pure milk of the Word, and then the strong meat of the Word, and who grow up into the measure of the stature of the fullness of the Christ by it. They become "a chosen race, a kingly priesthood, a holy nation, a people for a purpose" (I Pet. 2:9). Just what the Lord proposed in Exodus chapter 19.
As one has written: "In the sovereign operation of the Spirit of God upon mankind, there is the apprehending of those whom He chooses to become a part of His specific workings for this day. In every age He has selected those whom He wills, drawing them out and beyond the normal course of this world's living, and placing within them a Divine Call, a sense of destiny which must be fulfilled. This inworking of His grace results in the formation of a 'new creation species' which becomes part of that 'firstfruits' for the demonstration of His love and salvation for all mankind. It is clearly written, 'And it was of His own will that He gave us birth as sons by His Word of Truth, so that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures - A SAMPLE of what He created to be consecrated to Himself' (James 1:18, Amplified). Hence this divine selectivity is a vital part of the outworking of His own purpose, not for the excluding of all men from His salvation, but rather for the consummation of that plan, as they become instruments through whom His grace and mercy are revealed to others."
To these the word of promise is given: "Ye shall be a PECULIAR TREASURE unto Me above all people." Many of us know all too well that this word "peculiar" has often been used to cloak religious conduct both strange and irrational. People have been known to dress in outmoded or unusual styles of clothing, to act in wild and curious ways, and to do rather weird things and then grin a self-conscious grin and justify it all by saying, "Well, we are called to be God's peculiar people!" The English word "peculiar" in the language of A.D. 1611 (when the King James Bible was published) had no connotation of queerness, oddness, ridiculousness nor foolishness. It translates the Hebrew word GULLA meaning "to shut up wealth - to put the jewels, treasures, etc. belonging to a king in a safe, protected place because of their extraordinary value." It was God's way of emphasizing that His special people would be of great importance, value, and purpose to Him - a treasure above all other treasures.
Every loving mother and father has a good idea of what God meant. There are babies in houses up and down every street, as you can tell by the baby clothes hanging on the lines of a summer day. But in the house where you live, there is one little infant in particular, and he is a peculiar treasure unto you above all others. It does not mean necessarily that he is prettier, but it does mean that he is the treasure above all other treasures, full of hope and purpose in your lives, and you would not trade him for any other child in the whole world. He is a peculiar treasure! This gives us some idea, at least, of what we are - God's special jewels marked out for Him!
But it means infinitely MORE than that! The apostle Peter, reiterating the covenant of Ex. 19:5-6 states, and the Diaglott beautifully renders, "But you are a chosen Race, a Royal Priesthood, a holy Nation, a PEOPLE FOR A PURPOSE; that ye may declare the Perfections of Him who called you from darkness into His wonderful light." In the phrase, "a people FOR a purpose," it has been pointed out that the word "for" is the Greek word "eis" meaning INTO, and signifies that forward action of God taking a people and leading them onward, preparing them, purifying them, until they become merged into ONE with His purpose and reality. A people INTO A PURPOSE! So many wander through their whole life time here upon earth with no aim, no vision, no goal, no purpose for living, no understanding as to the why of this schooling experience under the dealing of God's hands, and no preparation for what lies beyond.
The sovereign Lord and King of the universe says that He is choosing a people to be His very own "special treasure" for the outworking of His purpose. it is said that a bar of steel worth five dollars, when made into ordinary horseshoes will be worth only ten dollars. If this same five-dollar bar is manufactured into needles, the value rises to $350, but if it is made into delicate springs for expensive watches, it will be worth $250,000. This original bar of steel is made more valuable by being cut to its proper size, passed through the heat again and again, hammered and manipulated, beaten and pounded and finished and polished, until it is finally ready for its delicate task. This truly is a parable which sets forth a vital truth concerning the elect of God. Let us realize that God expends His effort only on that which gives promise of having value. The farmer does not spend time tilling the sand hill that has no value for crops; he puts most of his time and work into the heavy field which has the greatest promise of an abundant harvest. When God leaves us utterly alone, and does not lay His heavy hand of dealing upon us, we may be sure that our lives are barren, and fit only to be "vessels of dishonor" in the great house of His Kingdom.
Someone has said, "Sunshine all the time only makes a desert." We need the clouds, the dark days, the storms, the rain, the winds, just as much as we need the sunshine, and God who is molding our lives, seeking to make us into the image of our Lord Jesus Christ, is the One who knows what is best for us if we would be a part of HIS PURPOSE in the earth. In this connection, we hear Job saying, "He knoweth the way that I take: when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold" (Job 23:10). Notice that Job does not say, I know the way that He takes," but rather, "He knoweth the way that I take." We would like to know what God is doing. We would like to pull aside the veil and see the end from the beginning. We would like to know the way that He is taking us, but if we did, and if we could see, we would not need faith to believe and accept GOD'S WAY. So Job, in the midst of all his deep afflictions, found comfort, not in the fact that he knew the reason and the answer for all of God's dealing with him, but he took encouragement in the truth that GOD KNEW WHAT HE WAS DOING. "He knoweth the way that I take," he said confidently, and then his faith leaped over every barrier, and as he looked into the distant future, he cried, "When He hath tried (processed) me, I shall come forth as gold."
As His special treasure He has a great and wonderful plan for us. There is no need to comment at length on the instruments He employs in preparing us to be what He desires, for we have them on every hand, pressure upon pressure, difficulties, testings, trials, labors and cares, along with the precious blessings, victories, and triumphs of His grace. But it is essential to realize that the Father has great PURPOSE in it all that we might be trained, developed, processed and formed with a view to our being part of His greater purpose which encompasses the ages yet to come. Treasures are not locked in the treasure-house merely because they have great value - they are there RESERVED UNTO A PURPOSE. In due time they shall be brought forth to serve as vessels of honor at the royal banquet, as adornment for ruling dignitaries, as materials for some splendid building or magnificent temple, or yet to support a fighting army, to conquer other kingdoms, to secure the peace, and to make provision for the needs of the people.
A treasure for a purpose! What a calling! There is a company, gathered out of all generations, and joined unto the Christ, which in due time shall be led forth out of the Father's TREASURE HOUSE OF SONS to be the manifest expression of His image, character, and nature, the revelation of the fullness of His power and glory, who shall carry to fulfillment all of His counsel and will. For these the whole creation groans, and they are in the process of preparation, reserved unto a day of manifestation. God knows every detail of His redemptive plan for His creation, and precisely the work to be wrought by each of His kings and priests, and He chooses by His election of grace those previously marked out (predestinated) according to His foreknowledge, and who shall come INTO PURPOSE at the appointed time as Sons of God to deliver groaning creation from the bondage of corruption, restoring all back into God again, praise His wonderful name!
A KINGDOM OF PRIESTS
And just what is God's purpose? He declares, "Ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all people: for all the earth is Mine: and ye shall be unto Me A KINGDOM OF PRIESTS." Since kingship was virtually the only type of government or state known in the ancient world, "kingdom" could well be translated today as a "government" or "state." A GOVERNMENT OF PRIESTS! A PRIESTLY STATE! A HOLY NATION OF PRIESTS! God offered to Israel this glory of being a "kingdom of priests." ALL the tribes were to be priests. Because of their failure to enter the land at Kadesh-barnea and because they made and worshipped a golden calf while Moses was on the mountain receiving God's law, only one tribe was chosen to be a priestly tribe and that not on behalf of the world, but on behalf of the unbelieving, rebellious people of Israel! God's purpose remains, however, to have an entire nation of priests in the fullness of what priesthood means. Israel collectively was to be a royal and priestly race, a dynasty of kings and priests, each member uniting in himself the attributes of king and priest. Every man a king! Every man a priest! A kingdom of priests!
The Greek Old Testament (Septuagint) states that they were to be "a priesthood of kings." It was intended to be the way of life, the office, the nature, the ministry of all Israel, not just a selected few. Israel's would be a priestly way of life, with priestly dignity, priestly power and authority, priestly holiness and priestly character. God's kingdom people were to be a priesthood set at the crossroads of the world to minister to all tribes and nations the things of God. They would become the holy people, the mediating nation for all the other nations. Ah, beloved, there is a realm of living and ministry that goes beyond just being a Christian, or attending Church meetings, or going through the motions of so many religious activities. God has always wanted a Kingdom of Priests. Priests and Kings ... just like Jesus! One of the chief reasons for the weakness and immaturity of the popular Church is the mistaken idea that the saint's happiness and blessing is the main object of God's grace. A fatal error! God's aim is far holier and far higher. He chooses out of the nations a people, inworks into them all the triumph of HIS REDEMPTION, all the victory of HIS LIFE, that they in turn shall carry out His redemptive purposes on behalf of the whole creation. A Royal Priesthood! Ah, that is God's aim, His purpose.
When God first created man... when he had come fresh from the fingers of his Maker ... when he had inhabited that primeval garden and knew all the delights of that heavenly realm ... when he saw the glories of the spangled heavens above and the beauties of the world and nature about him... there is no doubt that the greatest bliss and the highest joy which mankind knew in this world was that communion he had with his Creator who walked in the garden with him in the cool of the day. Man was created to have fellowship with God. No doubt, the greatest ecstasy, the sublimest joy, that man can ever know is to experience fellowship and union with God. When man sinned and the whole human race was plunged into vanity and chaos, suddenly there came across the sunshine of that fellowship a dark cloud which blotted out the light and hid the face of God from man. Man now was not only a banished criminal, but he was also an estranged son, cast away from the Father's heart and home and no longer experiencing that blessed fellowship and beautiful relationship with his Creator, God, and Father.
Man has wandered long and far seeking something he knows not what. His heart is empty and it will never be filled until it is filled with that blessed love of God. He will for ever be restless until he finds himself at home in God again, until he knows once more that oneness with the living God.
"Wherefore in all things it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people" (Heb. 2:17). "For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need" (Heb. 4:15-16). There are two things every man needs - reconciliation to God - and grace to help, strengthen, and give overcoming victory in time of need that we may continue the journey, pressing forward into the fullness of our redemption in Him. These instinctive cravings of the soul are as mighty and irrepressible as the craving of the body for sleep or food; and they are as evident amid our luxury and refinement as in primeval forests, or beside the historic rivers of antiquity.
To meet these two needs - reconciliation and grace to help - men have constituted one of their number a priest. That word has an ominous sound to our ears, because it has been associated with immoralities and cruelty. The world has never seen more unscrupulous scoundrels than its priests, whether of Baal or Moloch, of Judaism or the Papacy. All through the ages it has seemed impossible for men to receive power in the spiritual realm without abusing it to the injury of those who sought their help. Study the history of the priesthood, which murdered the Christ because He threw too strong a light upon its hypocrisies and villainies; and you have the history of every priestcraft which has darkened the world with crime, and saturated its soil with the blood of its prophets and the saintliest of men.
AND YET THE IDEA OF THE PRIEST IS A NATURAL AND A BEAUTIFUL AND A SCRIPTURAL ONE. It is natural for men who are conscious of sin barring their approach into the presence of a holy God to say to one of their fellows, "Our hands are stained with blood, and grimed with toil; our garments spotted with pollution and dust; our lives too busy for us to spare time for those rites which alone can fit the sinner to stand before the eye of God; do for us what we cannot do for ourselves; prepare yourself by holy rite, and vigil, and fasting from sin, so as to be able to stand in the presence-chamber of the All-Holy; and, when you have acquired the right of audience with Him, speak for us, make reconciliation for our sins; and then come forth to us, ministering of His life and blessing those who have not attained to your position, but yet struggle with the strong, rough, bad world in which they live."
This seems to be the underlying thought in all that vast system of this world's priestcraft which has built temples in every land, reared altars on every soil, and constituted a priesthood among the most degraded as well as the most civilized races of mankind.
And there is great BEAUTY in the work and ministry of a true priest, as God has ordained. In the Levitical Priesthood of the Old Testament the priest who had a true priest's heart was not always engaged in the bloody work of sacrificing flocks of fleecy sheep, by which alone, in those rude days, the cost of sin could be computed; the true priest would have other, and, perhaps, more touching work. He would be the shepherd of the timid souls around him; listening to confessions whispered over the heads of the dumb victims; feeling compassion for erring, helpless, and wayward ones; comforting those who were passing through scenes of sorrow, till faces, shadowed with tears, began to gleam with holy light; arresting the proud hand of the oppressor. Never possessed of self-interest; never looking for ease, or pleasure, or gain; never resting while one poor wanderer was away in the snowdrift or on the desert floor. Yes, and more! He would be the spokesman of souls, praying for those who did not pray for themselves; praying with those who knew not what or how to ask; interceding for the whole race of man. Ah! such was the ministry of the true priest, beautifully typifying the greater priesthood to come, the chosen race born from above, the holy nation conformed to the image of God's Son, the royal priesthood, the people prepared for HIS PURPOSE.
THE MINISTRY OF PRIESTHOOD
Deep down in the heart of men there is a strong and instinctive demand for a priest, to be a mediator, to lay one hand on man, and the other on God, and going between both to bring the two together into unification. A priest or priesthood infers that there is a reason why such has been called into play. It denotes that there is an estrangement between God and His creatures and the priest ministers to bridge that gulf and bring about peace and at-one-ment.
Webster's dictionary defines priest as: a mediatory agent between God and man. In the Old Testament the word priest is translated from the Hebrew word COHEN, the root meaning of which is "one who stands up and draws nigh for another." The Greek word, in its root, means "to minister." Thus, a priest is one who "draws near and ministers on behalf of another." And the priest always draws nigh and ministers in TWO DIRECTIONS - drawing nigh to God on behalf of the people and drawing nigh to the people on behalf of God. The priest stands and ministers unto the Lord on behalf of the people while, on the other hand, he ministers unto the people on behalf of the Lord. The ministry of the priest is an intermediate or go-between ministry. He reaches out with one hand and takes hold of God; he reaches out with the other hand and takes hold of humanity; and he brings the two together by virtue of his priestly ministration.
The inspired writer to the Hebrew saints says of our Lord Jesus Christ: "We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; a MINISTER OF THE SANCTUARY, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and nut man" (Heb. 8:1-2). What does he mean what does he mean when he says that Christ is the "Minister of the Sanctuary"? In every temple there was a god, an unseen god, to whom the temple was devoted. But there was a priest, the priest of that temple, who was to receive the petitions or the sacrifices of the worshipper and to get the answer back from God. So it was with Aaron in the Old Testament. It is said of him and of the priests of Israel, "they shall stand in My presence to minister," and they shall go out and bless in My name."
There is both a Godward and a manward work in reconciliation and redemption. And so our great High Priest, Jesus, stands as the Minister of the Sanctuary, as the Priest of the Tabernacle, the realm of His dwelling, and He ministers in a dual way. Christ as the Minister of the Sanctuary, has done these things: First of all, He opened the sanctuary, the way into the fullness of the presence and life and power and glory of God. This He did by His blood, pouring out His life, making it available so that in its power we have access into God. When He ascended into the heavenlies He entered, with His own blood, by the energies of His own divine life, into the Holiest place. And we read that with that blood, with that sacrifice - the better sacrifice of a divine life - the heavenly things were cleansed, and that in opening up the Holiest with His blood, He secured for us complete and most confident access into God's presence and glory. In Himself He brings us nigh unto God. But He does more. Without interruption there flows back from the Father to the Son, in whom He delights, a stream of blessing to impart to His people upon earth. And even so, as the sunlight streams from the sun, there flows forth unceasingly from the Son of God a stream of life and light and love and power and glory unto all who believe. It is flowing even now. Oh! we must realize this. The Christ brings us nigh to God IN HIMSELF and IN HIMSELF He brings God into us. "To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself" (II Cor. 5:19).
In the Old Testament on the Day of Atonement, on that day and that day alone, the High Priest entered in beyond the veil, from the Holy Place into the Holy of Holies. That great veil which had hung there for so long kept out any who might enter into the presence of God. There in the Holy of Holies, in that perpetual darkness, God dwelt in the Shekinah Glory between the outstretched wings of the two Cherubim on either side of the Ark of the Covenant, beneath which were the broken tablets of the law and over which was the gold-covered Mercy Seat. Once each year, and only once, the High Priest could touch that veil, They had been carefully and sternly forewarned that should any man touch that veil, he would instantly be struck dead by God, reminding us that no man can enter into the realm of God unless he comes in God's way and in God's time and in God's appointed method. And so the High Priest comes not without blood, having first confessed his own sins, and the sins of the people, and offering a sacrifice for his own sins, and for the people's.
The mystery of it is that ALL ISRAEL - every man, woman, and child - were on that day identified in the person of the High Priest. He was a representative man, a corporate man as it were. The whole congregation of Israel went into the glory beyond that veil IN HIM. He drew nigh unto God on their behalf, and they were brought nigh unto God in him. The people of Israel never knew when the High Priest would come out again. They never knew whether the sacrifice for his own sins, and for their's, had been acceptable, if he had done all things right, or that coming there in the darkness where God dwelt he might be struck dead. And so they had placed golden bells all around the hem of his robe. As long as they heard those bells tinkling they knew that the Priest was still alive and their hopes were alive in him. They knew that soon he would emerge from that awsome realm and come forth to bless them in the name of God. They knew that even as they had gone in beyond the veil in the High Priest, so would God come forth from beyond the veil in the Priest to bless them, imparting of Himself into them.
The High Priest was thus the mediator between God and the people. He carried the presence of God the sins and needs of the people, and carried the people in him. He obtained from God the power to declare the remission of sin and the right of blessing the people. God drew nigh unto the people in the person of the Priest. God ministered of Himself unto the people through the blessing of the Priest. "And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of the congregation, and came out, and BLESSED THE PEOPLE: and THE GLORY OF THE LORD APPEARED UNTO ALL THE PEOPLE" (Lev. 9:23). The service of the priesthood is clear, FIRST TO MINISTER TO THE LORD, then to stand between the Creator and His creation, to minister the life of Christ to those who sit in darkness, in the region of the shadow of death, until all are fully reconciled to God again. The body of the Christ, as its glorious Head, must be a kingdom of priests, a people for His purpose.
True priestly blessing is to flow out two ways: TO GOD, and to man. "BLESS THE LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless His holy name" (Ps. 103:1). "Thus will I BLESS THEE while I live; I will lift up my hands in Thy name" (Ps. 63:4). As a dear brother in the Lord has written: "There is something so precious about the action of a child that turns to you with their hands outstretched and lifted up to you - signifying their desire to be received of you, of their trust, of their love, of their willingness to cast themselves upon you for their care. Is this not an earthly parable of what it means to BLESS THE LORD, lifting up our hands in His name? We freely acknowledge that we love Him, we trust Him, we commit ourselves to Him, we desire to be received by Him. An uplifted hand bespeaks volumes of blessing to the Lord. And uniquely enough, while we are thus blessing Him, speaking well of Him, and signifying to all that we deem Him worthy of our love and trust, it brings rich blessings to our own heart as well, for He does receive us, and He does become our strength and security, our sufficiency for all things. Praise God!
"'GIVE UNTO THE LORD, ye kindreds of the people, give unto the Lord glory and strength. Give unto the Lord the glory due unto His name: bring an offering, and come before Him: worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness' (I Chron. 16:28-29). The outflow of our spirit in worship before Him need not be limited by time or space, nor affected by circumstances, nor hindered by lack of others with whom to unitedly worship. Even this phrase included, 'bring an offering' - in blessing the Lord there surely are more ways of bringing an offering, than sending a check to the needy somewhere. That is all well and good in its place, as He directs and orders our way. But we are now speaking of, GIVING TO THE LORD - offerings of praise, expressions of our adoration, songs which magnify Him in our consciousness, so that our spirit flows out to Him in love.
"There is another facet to consider also, for the very girding up of the loins of our mind, to bless the Lord, will restrain thoughts which are negative and unfruitful. Ah, you cannot truly BLESS THE LORD, and sing praises to Him, and at the same time think Condemnation thoughts toward your neighbor because his dog dug up your flower bed. Therefore we are encouraged to 'bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless His holy name.' When ALL THAT IS WITHIN US is centerized in the act of blessing the Lord, it has brought our whole being into harmony and oneness, positive and upbuilding. Wonderful! Then there is a reaching out to bless others - this is a ministry unlimited by time or space, unhindered by an Iron Curtain, or any other such man-caused barrier. As our 'vapours of blessing' ascend, the Spirit of the Lord can cause them to distill in blessings in the remote corners of the earth.
" 'And as soon as David had made an end of offering burnt offerings and peace offerings, he BLESSED THE PEOPLE in the name of the Lord of hosts' (II Sam, 6:18). 'The king (Solomon) turned his face, and BLESSED THE WHOLE CONGREGATION of Israel...' (II Chron. 6:3). 'Then the priests the Levites arose and BLESSED THE PEOPLE...' (II Chron. 30:27). The Levitical priesthood were charged with the ministry of blessing the people and to put the Lord's name upon them so that He would bless them. This was a foreshadowing of that greater priesthood to come, the Order of Melchizedek. In Gen. 14:19, as Abraham returned from battle and the rescue of Lot, we read that Melchizedek met Abraham, 'and he BLESSED HIM... and BLESSED THE MOST HIGH.' The Order of Melchizedek is an ORDER OF BLESSERS, no cursings, no negation to be uttered, no darkness, no blackness, but theirs is a ministry of blessing" -end quote.
I cannot emphasize too strongly the important truth that ALL PRIESTHOOD has a double outreach - ministry to both God and man. It could not be otherwise, for a priest is one who "stands between" two factions in mediation, and the moment a priest ceases to touch both God and man, unifying the two, he simply ceases to be a priest. He may be a worshipper who speaks to God, or a king who rules the people for God, or a prophet who speaks on behalf of God, but no man can have a one-sided ministry and be a priest. The priest must minister unto God on behalf of men and unto men on behalf of God. The priest must touch God with one hand and mankind with the other hand, bringing the two together by his ministration. Anything less or different than this is not priesthood at all.
When Moses blessed the priestly tribe of Levi he said, first, "They (the Levites) shall teach Jacob (the carnal man) Thy judgments, and Israel (the regenerated man) Thy law," and secondly, "They shall put incense before Thee, the whole burnt sacrifice upon Thine altar." This is priestly, SPIRITUAL MINISTRY unto both God and man. As to the ministry unto men, how true it is that it is only the man who himself walks in power before God that can speak with effect to the hearts and consciences of others; nothing else will do - nothing else will work, either upon the hearts or in the lives of those about us. There may be, and, alas, is much of mere sermonizing, systematic teaching and preaching of things which the mere intellect may have received, and which, by a natural fluency of language, we may be able to give out; but all such teaching is vain, and must be laid aside by all who would be a part of God's Royal Priesthood. True, it might often give to our gatherings and our witnessing an appearance of barrenness and poverty which our poor, proud, programized, activity conscious hearts could ill brook; but would it not be far better to keep silence than to substitute mere carnal effort for the blessed energy of the Holy Spirit?
True ministry, however, the ministry of the Spirit, will always touch men in their deepest hearts and commend itself to their consciences. We can always know the source from which a man is drawing who speaks in "the words which the Holy Ghost teacheth," and with "the ability which God giveth;" and while we should ever pray to be delivered from the mere effort of man's intellect to handle the holy truths of God, we should diligently cultivate that power to teach which stands connected, as in Levi's case, with the denial of the claims of flesh and blood, and with entire consecration to HIS PURPOSES.
In the second aspect of Levi's ministry we have a very elevated point: "They shall put incense before Thee, and whole burnt offering upon Thine altar." This is ministry UNTO THE LORD. We put incense before God when we are enabled, in the power of communion, to present in His presence the sweet odor of the Spirit's work in our lives and the sacrifice of praise. But a priest never approaches God solely for himself, he continually represents men unto God, so in Rev. 8:3-4 the incense of worship is offered up "WITH the PRAYERS of the saints." In either of these dual roles, the Levites in ministry to their brethren, and the Levites in worship before God, it was as acceptable in the sight of God, and as divine an exercise of his priestly functions, for a Levite to instruct his brethren as it was for him to burn incense before the Lord. This is very important. We should never separate these two things. If we do not see that it is the same Spirit who must qualify us to speak FOR God as to speak TO Him, there will be a great lack in our ministry. And if we endeavor to speak only FOR God and do not minister TO Him, or, if we minister TO Him but fail to MINISTER HIM unto men, then we know nothing of THE ROYAL PRIESTUGOD. Oh God! make us priests indeed.
It is interesting to note that the Melchizedek Priesthood is also a priesthood flowing in two directions. "And Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the Most High God. And he BLESSED HIM (Abraham), and said, BLESSED BE ABRAM of the Most High God, possessor of heaven and earth, and BLESSED BE THE MOST HIGH GOD" (Gen. 14:18-20). How interesting that Melchizedek blessed ABRAM, and then goes on to also BLESS THE MOST HIGH GOD. God is raising up a priesthood who will not only be able to bless men but they will be able to bless God, for they BECOME THE BLESSING OF GOD, redounding to His praise continually. These are those priests who do nothing of themselves, but fulfill the word, "Lo, I come to do THY will, O God," doing only those things which they see the Father doing.
Our Lord Jesus Christ is the High Priest of the Melchizedekian Order, to which we, the members of His body, the Royal Priesthood, are called, and while He has beautifully offered Himself up to God as a sweet smelling savour, an acceptable sacrifice, and the incense of all His divine attributes, He also "is able to SAVE THEM to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession FOR THEM" (Heb. 7:25). I have met many would-be Sons of God across the land who pride themselves that they have been called aside to MINISTER UNTO THE LORD, but they have absolutely no corresponding vision to SAVE MEN, and wouldn't walk across the street to minister to a needy soul. Ah, I do not hesitate to tell you, precious ones, that such have no true revelation of what is embodied in the MELCHIZEDEK PRIESTHOOD. How I rejoice in the knowledge that Jesus Christ, the High Priest of the Melchizedek Order, does indeed have a ministry manward! Without it I, and you, too, precious friend of mine, would still be lost without God and without hope in the world. Thank God, HE REACHED DOWN HIS HAND FOR ME!
"Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need" (Heb. 4:16). "...that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to MAKE RECONCILIATION FOR THE SINS OF THE PEOPLE" (Heb. 2:17). "And He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, BUT ALSO FOR THE SINS OF THE WHOLE WORLD" (I Jn. 2:2). HE ever liveth to bring such victory to His creation, none left out, none rejected, for "I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw ALL MEN unto Me" (Jn. 12:32), and "all the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before Thee" (Ps. 22:27). And there shall come a priesthood who shall truly labor together with Christ until all enemies are subdued under His feet, until death is no more, until all things are made new, until the knowledge of the glory of the Lord covers the earth, as the waters cover the sea, and until HIS LIFE FILLS THE UNIVERSE, praise His name!
Furthermore, the Priesthood of the Sons of Zadok revealed in Eze. 44:9-31, contrary to what many teach, is also a dual priesthood, to God and man. "And the Levites that are gone away from Me, when Israel went astray, which went astray away from Me after their idols; they shall even bear their iniquity. Yet shall they be ministers in My sanctuary, having charge at the gates of the house, and ministering to the house: they shall slay the burnt-offering and the sacrifice for the people, and they shall stand before them to minister unto them. Because they ministered unto them before their idols, and caused the house of Israel to fall into iniquity; therefore have I lifted up Mine hand against them, saith the Lord God, and they shall bear their iniquity. And they shall not come near unto Me, to do the office of a priest unto Me, nor to come near to any of My holy things, in the most holy place: but they shall bear their shame, and their abominations which they have committed. But I will make them keepers of the charge of the house, for all the service thereof, and for all that shall be done therein. But the priests the Levites, the SONS OF ZADOK, THAT KEPT the charge of My sanctuary when the children of Israel went astray from Me, THEY SHALL COME NEAR TO ME TO MINISTER UNTO ME, and they shall stand before Me to offer unto Me the fat and the blood, saith the Lord God: THEY SHALL ENTER INTO MY SANCTUARY, AND THEY SHALL COME NEAR TO MY TABLE, TO MINISTER UNTO ME, and they shall keep My charge" (Eze. 44:10-16).
How clear that there was a class of Levites who busily served in the temple, and yet they were not serving HIM; they were merely serving the HOUSE. If an Israelite came along to the temple and wanted to worship God, those Levites would come to his aid and help him offer his peace offering and his burnt offering. They would help him drag the sacrifice to the altar, and they would slay it. Surely that was a grand work to be engaged in! And God took account of the service of those Levites who helped men bring their offerings to the altar, and who ministered to the house. Yet, because of their departure from the Lord, HE STRIPPED THEM OF THEIR PRIESTHOOD, and all that they did was not ministry to Himself. They were serving the house, but they were not serving God. And they were not called priests, for their's was a one-sided ministry.
But what do we really mean when we talk about serving God or serving the temple? Here is what the Lord said: "But the priests, the Levites, the sons of Zadok, that kept the charge of My sanctuary when the children of Israel went astray from Me, THEY SHALL COME NEAR TO ME TO MINISTER UNTO ME; and they shall STAND BEFORE ME to offer unto Me the fat and the blood." The conditions basic to all ministry that can truly be called ministry "unto the Lord" are - drawing near to Him and standing before Him. Such ministry is confined to a certain place, "They shall enter into My sanctuary, and they shall come near to My table to minister unto Me." Ministry that is "unto Me" is in the inner sanctuary, in the hidden place, alone with God, not in the outer court exposed to the crowd. Unless we really know what it is to draw near to God, we cannot know what it is to serve HIM. It is impossible to stand afar off and still minister to HIM. We cannot serve HIM from a distance, encumbered with the activities of THIS WORLD. There is only one place where ministry to Him is possible, and that is in the Holy Place. In the outer court you approach the people; in the Holy Place you approach the Lord. It is only as we draw near to Him that we can minister to Him. To come into the presence of God and kneel before Him for even an hour many times requires all the strength we possess. Oft times we sing the old hymn, SWEET HOUR OF PRAYER, and it is a lie upon our lips for we haven't spent even a half hour in prayer for months. But everyone who ministers to the Lord knows the preciousness of such seasons in the secret place of His presence, the sweetness of lingering there in communion with Him. It need not be physically alone, but alone in attitude of heart, the whole being lifted up unto Him, and flooded with His presence. And more and more as we learn what this means, our ministry unto Him becomes a PERPETUAL STATE OF MIND AND BEING, rather than a momentary exercise. The Royal Priesthood LIVE AND WALK AND HAVE THEIR BEING IN THE SPIRIT, the mind of the Father communicated unto them continually, His nature ruling, His presence abiding.
But we may think, as many do, that these sons of Zadok, because they did not minister TO THE HOUSE, had no ministry whatever UNTO MEN. NOT SO! For the Lord had a further word for these sons of Zadok, and gave them this instruction: "And when they go forth into the utter (outer) court, even into the utter court TO THE PEOPLE, they shall put off their garments wherein they ministered, and lay them in the holy chambers ... and THEY SHALL TEACH MY PEOPLE the difference between the holy and the profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean. And in controversy THEY SHALL STAND IN JUDGMENT (as judges); and they shall judge it according to My judgments" (Eze. 44:19,23-24).
Can we not see by this that there is NO PRIESTHOOD OF ANY ORDER which is excluded from the dual ministry which true priesthood embodies. To abolish either of these roles would be the destruction of the priesthood itself. Watchman Nee wisely wrote: I love to read in Acts 13 about the prophets and teachers in the Church at Antioch, that 'as they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Ghost said: Separate Me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.' We see there the one principle that governs the work of God in the New Testament dispensation. The Holy Spirit only commissions men to the work AS THEY ARE MINISTERING TO THE LORD. Unless ministry to the Lord is the thing that governs us, the work will be in confusion. In the beginning of the Church's history in Antioch, the Holy Spirit said, 'Separate ME Barnabas and.Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.' God does not want volunteers for His work; He wants conscripts. He will not have you preaching the Gospel just because you want to. The work of the Lord is suffering serious damage today at the hand of volunteers; it lacks those who can say as Christ did: 'He that sent Me...' Oh, brothers and sisters, the work of God is God's own work, and not work that you can take up at your pleasure. Neither Churches, nor missionary societies, nor evangelistic bands can send men to work for God. The authority to commission men is not in the hands of men, but solely in the hands of God. Serving the Lord does not mean that we do not serve our fellow-men, but it does mean that all service to men has service to the Lord as its basis. IT IS SERVICE GODWARD THAT URGES US OUT MANWARD" -end quote.
God has always wanted a priesthood. The priesthood is foundational to the outworking of His redemption and central to His plan of the ages. The covenant of God still stands today: "Now therefore, if ye will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then ye shall be A PECULIAR TREASURE UNTO ME ABOVE ALL PEOPLE: for all the earth is Mine: AND YE SHALL BE UNTO ME A KINGDOM OF PRIESTS, AND AN HOLY NATION." Oh, beloved, come, let us now open our hearts wide to Him. Come, and as we gaze upon this glorious ministry and its life-flow to all the families of the earth, let us yield ourselves unto God that He may work His wondrous work in our lives, bringing us into such union with Jesus, the High Priest of our profession, that we become in nature and power His ROYAL.-PRIESTHOOD in the earth! The manifestation of the Sons of God for which all creation is in travail is nothing more nor less than the full manifestation of God's fully developed and empowered body of KING-PRIESTS AFTER THE ORDER OF MELCHISEDEK. Those apprehended unto this ministry are indeed, A PEOPLE FOR A PURPOSE!
This is but a feeble introduction to so vast and glorious a theme, which winds its way like a mighty shimmering river through the pages of Holy Writ. We shall pursue this subject, Lord willing, in coming issues.
J. Preston Eby
P O BOX 371240
El Paso Texas 79937
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