“…you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”
You are a priest.
As I’m reading through the Bible these days, I’m realizing that us recognizing that that is who we are seems to be pretty important in the Bible. As a matter of fact, this concept of being priests seems to bookend the entire biblical narrative.
After the great and miraculous deliverance of the Hebrews from Egypt, there remained a yearning question of “Who are these people that Yahweh has so powerfully delivered and what does he plan to do with them?”
Out of that question does God tell Moses to tell the entire nation–you will be for me a kingdom of priests. That every single one of them and as a unit would function as a priest before God.
This idea carries and persists into the New Testament as Peter exhorts new Gentile believers that they “are a chosen people, a royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9). Even though we are now Jesus-followers, this identity that was in God’s heart thousands of years ago still applied to those walking in his new covenant.
Yes, we are priests. But it begs the question–what is a priest?
As I am reading through Exodus, I am loving this description of what a priest wore as it gave such vivid imagery into a priest’s role. This is God’s instructions for a priestly ornament:
Take two onyx stones and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israel in the order of their birth—six names on one stone and the remaining six on the other. Engrave the names of the sons of Israel on the two stones the way a gem cutter engraves a seal. Then mount the stones in gold filigree settings and fasten them on the shoulder pieces of the ephod as memorial stones for the sons of Israel. Aaron is to bear the names on his shoulders as a memorial before the Lord.
A priest was to take two stones, and on it write the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. And they would carry themselves as well as these stones into the presence of the Lord.
It was this idea that a priest carries the weight of those around him/her into the presence of God. That when we go into the presence of God, we take not only our concerns and problems, but with us, the weight of those God has entrusted to us, as palpably felt by the weight of these stones.
It is reminiscent of the story of the man on the mat who couldn’t see Jesus himself for healing, but whose four beloved friends carried the weight of the man through the roof of a house into Jesus’ presence.
That is what a priest does, and that is who we are as people.
We are people who bring others before God in prayer and intercession. We bring them as both a burden and a joy to our hearts, knowing that the weight of their struggle, weaknesses, and pain are empathized by us in the place of prayer, and knowing that we have joy doing our God-given role as mediators between humans and him.
I am a priest; you are a priest; we are all priests.
And so I ask–Dear priest, who are you praying for today? Who has God already entrusted to your life to lift up before him so that the world around us may prosper?