Priests and Kings — Attached to Praise

In Genesis 29, we’re briefly introduced to a woman who plays a key role in Biblical history. Though she is largely overlooked, her legacy shaped the religion we now call Christianity in fascinating ways.

Now Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah’s eyes were delicate, but Rachel was beautiful of form and appearance. (Gen 29:16-17)

The matriarchs of Genesis see themselves as filling their godly role when they have children who grow up to play key roles in Biblical history. These women are heroes of motherhood as well as of faith. They have their own speaking lines, personalities, and relationships with God, but they’re typically remembered in terms of the children they raised.

Priests and Kings -- Attached to Praise | marissabaker.wordpress.com
photo credits: “Tallitot” by Robert Couse-Baker (CC BY); “Danish royal crown” by Dion Hinchcliffe (CC BY-SA); “Shofar and Candlesticks” by slgckgc (CC BY)

Leah mothered 6 of Jacob’s 12 sons, as well as the only daughter recorded for any patriarch. Her sons Levi and Judah were the ones God used to found lines of priests and kings. Though the story of Rachel and her son Joseph overshadow the other sons in Genesis, kingship and priesthood play a huge role in God’s plan and there’s much we can learn from Leah’s take on the birth of her sons. Read more

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Clothed in Holiness

“What do you think dignity’s all about?”

The directness of the inquiry did, I admit, take me rather by surprise. “It’s rather a hard thing to explain in a few words, sir,” I said. “But I suspect it comes down to not removing one’s clothing in public.” (Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day)

This quote comes from a delightful little book about a British butler looking back on his life. Much of his reminisces center around this idea of dignity. He connects dignity with “a butler’s ability not to abandon the professional being he inhabits.” A butler who cannot do this is “like a man who will, at the slightest provocation, tear off his suit and shirt and run around screaming.” In short, a good butler keeps himself covered in the role he is committed to no matter how trying the circumstances.

Clothed in Holiness | marissabaker.wordpress.com
Photo: Messianic Dance Troupe by Larry Jacobsen

I would probably not have connected this with the Bible if not for a message I heard on the same day I was taking The Remains of the Day back to the library. The Rabbi at my local Messianic congregation taught on the priestly garments and how we choose to “cover” ourselves with either good or bad actions, words, and character traits. Read more

Consider the High Priest

In Hebrews 3:1, the writer tells his “holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling” to “consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus.” The word “consider” invites us to “observe fully” (Strong’s G2657) and “fix one’s eyes or mind upon” Jesus (Thayers). That’s what we did in last week’s post for His role as Apostle, and what I hope to do this week for His role as High Priest.

Consider the High Priest | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Changed Priesthood

Christ’s priesthood is “after the order of Melchizedek.” It’s a key point in Hebrews’ discussion of Christ as our High Priest, even though we know very little about Melchizedek from his 3-verse appearance in the Torah. Read more

Pointing To Christ

Sukkot/the Feast of Tabernacles is over for another year. We kept the Feast on the East Coast this year, and I’ve come back with collections of new friends, sea shells, and blog pot topics mined from messages we heard.

The Feast pictures Christ’s Millennial reign described in Revelation 20:4 and other prophecies. In this verse, the saints are said to “live and reign with Christ for a thousand years.” Revelation 1:6 and 5:10 describe our role as “kings and priests.” There’s quite a bit of responsibility contained in those roles, but it boils down to one simple task. In the words of a gentleman who spoke on the second day of the Feast, “kings and priests point others to Christ.”

Pointing To Christ | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Kings

When Israel asked for a king, God called it a rejection of Him because they preferred having a physical ruler and military commander to trusting in Him (1 Sam. 8:7, 19-20). This request wasn’t unexpected, though, and God already had guidelines for kings in place. Only a native Israelite could rule (Deut. 17:15), he wasn’t allowed to amass a huge army, or take the people back to Egypt, or marry many wives (Deut. 17:16-17), and he had to write a copy of the law (Deut. 17:18).

And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left, and that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel. (Deut. 17:19-20)

Knowledge of God, reverence for Him, obedience, and humility are key qualifications for kingship. The first king, Saul, was chosen because he could lead armies and was humble (1 Sam. 9:16, 21). When he lost that humility and stopped obeying God, he was rejected as king (1 Sam. 15:11, 17).

And when He had removed him, He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.’ (Acts 13:22)

To become kings, we must have a heart like the King of kings. God won’t let people rule in His family if they aren’t on the same page as Him. There’s a psalm David apparently wrote for his successor, Solomon, that talks about this.  Psalm 72 points to Messiah’s reign and describes God as a great King, whose example of righteous judgement and commitment to His people lesser rulers would do well to imitate. Kings are supposed to model what Jesus Christ is like, and point to Him by their example.

Priests

When there was a tabernacle or temple standing, priests were always there. Their job was to minister before the Lord and “to bless in His name” (Deut. 10:8). They were also involved in settling judicial disputes, especially in the time before the kings (Deut. 21:5).

One of the primary ministerial responsibilities of the priests involved offering sacrifices. People couldn’t just sacrifice to God anywhere — they had to come to the temple and have a priest present it on their behalf. Today, Christ fills that role of intermediary between believers and God. He has helpers, though, just as the High Priest did in the Old Testament.

Pointing To Christ | marissabaker.wordpress.comyou also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.  (1 Pet. 2:5)

We’re already becoming a priesthood today, and we’ll be doing even more in the future. As priests, we serve and point others to our High Priest, Jesus Christ (Heb. 4:14-5:10). The quallifications for this type of service are very similar to those for a king.

Then I will raise up for Myself a faithful priest who shall do according to what is in My heart and in My mind. I will build him a sure house, and he shall walk before My anointed forever.  (1 Sam. 2:35)

To walk before God’s Anointed, the Messiah, forever, we must tune-in to His heart and mind. We have to follow His lead, teaching others about Him and pointing to the High Priest. Everything we do in any sort of leadership role — now or in the future — is done in service to the King of kings and Priest above all priests. Pointing others to Him is the best thing we can do for the people we’re called to serve.

Malachi’s Message

In most Bibles, Malachi is the last book in the Old Testament, leading directly into the Gospels. It’s an intensely personal book where the Lord challenges His people regarding the way they worship Him. This happened some time after the temple rebuilding described in Haggai and Zechariah — long enough for the spirit of revival to wear off and the people to grow lax in their worship.

Malachi’s call to return to God comes before the first coming of Christ, but it’s equally relevant as we wait for His second coming. Like Israel at this time, we could slip into lax, lukewarm worship that doesn’t honor God and won’t qualify us to live in His family.

Malachi's Message | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Honoring God

God opens this book with the words, “I have loved you.” He’s writing a letter to Israel, and that’s the first thing He says. The very next thing is Israel’s question, “In what way have You loved us?” (Mal. 1:2). It’s a common, heart-breaking theme in the scriptures — God loves us, but we don’t love Him back and we won’t even admit the problem is ours.

“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am the Father, where is My honor? And if I am a Master, where is My reverence? says the Lord of hosts to you priests who despise My name. Yet you say, ‘In what way have we despised Your name?’ You offer defiled food on My altar, but say, ‘In what way have we defiled You?’ By saying, ‘The table of the Lord is contemptible.’ And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably?” says the Lord of hosts. (Mal 1:6-8)

When we offer God our time, money, and/or efforts on a level that wouldn’t be acceptable to other humans, we’re demonstrating contempt for God. If you rush through prayer in a way that would be rude if you called up your Dad on the phone, then you dishonor God. If you volunteer to help out with something at church and turn in a performance that wouldn’t be good enough for your boss at work, you dishonor God. He deserves our best, not our leftovers.

You also say, ‘Oh, what a weariness!’ and you sneer at it,” says the Lord of hosts. “And you bring the stolen, the lame, and the sick; thus you bring an offering! should I accept this from your hand?” says the Lord. “But cursed be the deceiver who has in his flock a male, and takes a vow, but sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished — for I am a great King,” says the Lord of hosts, “And My name is to be feared among the nations. (Mal. 1:13-14)

We know from the story of the widow’s mite that God respects sincere offerings, however small. But we also know from the story of Ananias and Sapphira that pretending to give God one thing and then trying to slip in something of lesser value is abhorrent to Him.

Warnings for Priests

I think about this when I see a minister stand up in front of his congregation and say he just pulled an old message out of his files for today. A message about one of your old messages, which you freely admit you just cycle through every once in a while, just doesn’t seem like giving God your best. It’s something we all have to beware of — any time we set things we’re doing for God at a lower priority we’ve fallen into a dangerous attitude.

“And now, O priests, this commandment is for you. If you will not hear, and if you will not take it to heart, to give glory to My name,” says the Lord of hosts, “I will send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have cursed them already, because you do not take it to heart.” (Mal. 2:1-2)

These messages to priests can apply to all of us. After all, Peter tells use we’re a “priesthood” being built up to serve God (1 Pet. 2:5, 9). However, the warnings are more serious the more responsibility a person has in the household of God. “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required” (Luke 12:48).

“For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge, and people should seek the law from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts. But you have departed from the way; you have caused many to stumble at the law. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi,” says the Lord of hosts. “Therefore I also have made you contemptible and base before all the people, because you have not kept My ways but have shown partiality in the law.” (Mal. 2:7-9)

God has little patience for leadership that fails His people, as evidenced by Jesus Christ’s reaction to the scribes and Pharisees. He even said if we can’t do better than the religious leaders of His day, then we will not enter God’s kingdom (Matt 5:20). These were people who memorized the Old Testament, tithed regularly, and were held in high regard for their religious learning, yet Jesus said that people like them won’t be part of His family because their attitudes were wrong.

Doing Better

So much of the minor prophets’ messages to ancient Israel put me in mind of our nation today. We started out with at least the intention of being a Godly country, but we don’t even a have that any more. In addition, many of the churches have become slack in keeping the law of God.

Yet from the days of your fathers you have gone away from My ordinances and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord of hosts. “But you said, ‘In what way shall we return?’ “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ in tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation.” (Matt. 3:7-9)

When we turn away and refuse to render “to God the things that are God’s” (Matt. 22:21), we bring a curse on ourselves. To do better and “return to God,” we have to turn completely away from sin and start serving God.

We live in a world that says evil is good (Mal. 2:17), that boasts of pride and wickedness (Mal. 3:15), oppresses the innocent, and regards not God (Mal. 3:5). Our lives as part of God’s church — His temple — must be a sharp contrast to this attitude.

“Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,” says the Lord of hosts. “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like launderers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer to the Lord an offering in righteousness. (Mal. 3:1-3)

God’s not going to let His people stay polluted by the world. I believe this prophecy is being fulfilled now — that Jesus Christ, our High Priest, is in His temple right now purifying His servants. If we learn through this refining process to serve God in righteousness, we will be part of His family. We have to acknowledge our shame and guilt, turn around, and begin serving God as we never have before. We need to stop being scared and live boldly for Jesus, meeting together to encourage each other and built up the temple.

Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord listened and heard them; so a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and who meditate on His name. “They shall be Mine,” says the Lord of hosts, “On the day that I make them My jewels. And I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.” Then you shall again discern between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him. (Mal. 3:16-18)

Servants of God Forever

Servants of God Forever | marissabaker.wordpress.comLast week we talked about the future, and what the people of God might be doing in the tribulation leading up to Christ’s return. Today, let’s go a bit father into the future. In Revelation 20, we’re told that the devil will be locked away for 1,000 years while the faithful live and reign with Christ (20:4). At the end of the Millennium, he is released and those who join his rebellion against God are destroyed, and Satan is locked away (20:7-10). This is followed by the second resurrection and final judgement of the dead who were not counted among the firstfruits.

From this point on, we have very little detail. Revelation 21 and 22 gives descriptions of the New Jerusalem and the new heaven and new earth, and we’re told there will be “nations of those who are saved” (21:24). We know “the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” giving light to the entire world (21:22; 22:5). One thing we don’t know is exactly what we’ll be doing there. Most speculation I’ve heard assumes we’ll be helping Christ re-build the world and counsel survivors of the tribulation through the Millennium. Some have suggested we might spread out and colonize other planets after that. But we really don’t know. I’ve always thought that if it was really important for us to know, God would have told us. A message I heard a couple weeks ago, though, has me wondering if He did give us some clues after all.

Servants

The Rabbi at my Messianic group was talking a couple weeks ago about patterns that God sets up in how He runs things. In ancient Israel, the Levites were a tribe set apart for God, which this speaker connected to our role today as God’s called-out people. The Rabbi’s focus was on how that affects us today, but I wondered if it might carry over into the future as well, with God re-using this pattern.

Thus you shall separate the Levites from among the children of Israel, and the Levites shall be Mine. After that the Levites shall go in to service the tabernacle of meeting. So you shall cleanse them and offer them like a wave offering. (Num. 8:14-15)

The Levites — 1 tribe out of 12 — were specifically set aside for God to serve in His tabernacle. Verse 11, here in Numbers 8, calls them “a wave offering from the children of Israel, that they may perform the work of the Lord.” Similar wording is used today, as we’re called to present ourselves to God as an offering.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. (Rom. 12:1)

Our lives aren’t our own. When we commit to following God, we pledge everything we are to His service. We are His, and just as He said the Levites “shall be Mine,” so He can call each of us His because He redeemed us.

For they are wholly given to Me from among the children of Israel; I have taken them for Myself instead of all who open the womb, the firstborn of all the children of Israel. For all the firstborn among the children of Israel are Mine, both man and beast; on the day that I struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt I sanctified them to Myself. I have taken the Levites instead of all the firstborn of the children of Israel. (Num. 8:16-18)

Servants of God Forever | marissabaker.wordpress.comBecause of the events that happened on Passover, when the Lord rescued Israel from Egypt, all the firstborn were holy to Him. Instead of having all the firstborn sent to serve in the tabernacle, though, He set aside one tribe for that role. In much the same way, Jesus Christ’s sacrifice made redemption possible for all people, but right now He’s only working with the firstfruits.

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1 Cor. 6:19-20)

We are purchased with Christ’s blood, bought-back from our enslavement to sin so we can serve God (Rom. 6:15-23). That’s not a role that’s going away any time soon.

And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever. (Rev. 22:3-5)

This is in the description of the New Jerusalem. Right before this, it talks about “the nations” who walk in God’s light and are healed by the tree of life (Rev. 21:24-22:2). Then, we see God’s servants mentioned as a separate group. Could that be those who were firstfruits, continuing in their role as servants especially chosen for God’s holy use?

Priests

Not all the Levites served as priests. Even within the tabernacle service there were different roles and responsibilities. Most notable was the fact that there was only one high priest at any given time. Today, the role of High Priest is held by Jesus Christ (Heb. 8:1-6), whose perfect sacrifice fulfilled the sacrifices offered by the Old Covenant high priests. So, where did the rest of the Levites fit in?

And I have given the Levites as a gift to Aaron and his sons from among the children of Israel, to do the work for the children of Israel in the tabernacle of meeting, and to make atonement for the children of Israel, that there be no plague among the children of Israel when the children of Israel come near the sanctuary. (Num. 8:19)

Here, the Levites are described as a gift given to the high priest for service in the tabernacle. This is repeated several chapters later.

 Behold, I Myself have taken your brethren the Levites from among the children of Israel; they are a gift to you, given by the Lord, to do the work of the tabernacle of meeting. (Num. 18:6)

This sounds a lot like Jesus’ prayer on the night in which He was betrayed.

I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them. (John 17:9-10)

Servants of God Forever | marissabaker.wordpress.comGod has given us to His Son, our High Priest, to serve and glorify Him. As quoted earlier, we are God’s temple today. That’s where priests serve — in the temple (or the tabernacle, at the time when Numbers was written). Jesus is in His church as the High Priest in His temple, and we’re right there serving with Him.

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Pet. 2:9)

Even today, God’s people are described as a priesthood. That role continues into the future — definitely into the Millennium, and quite probably beyond.

Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years. (Rev. 20:6)

When you look back at the book of Numbers, both passages we quoted about the Levites’ role as helpers to the high priest emphasized service. That’s also the common thread uniting the two descriptions of God’s people in the future as servants and priests. If we want to work on something that will carry over into the future, serving God by serving His people seems a good place to start. There is an aspect of our future that involves ruling, but to learn to rule with Christ, we must first learn to serve. That’s what Christ did and does (Phil. 2:5-9), it’s what Paul did (Phil. 2:17-18), and that’s what we should be doing.