A Royal Priesthood by Pastor Tony
Imagine the following: A mountain stands before us. Like a fold of sheep, we had been led to a patch of green grass in the midst of a dry desert. We find ourselves in the wilderness of Sinai.
We were born in Egypt. Egypt, and all its pain and misery, was all we had ever known. And though slavery and hard labor had been our daily experience, there were those among us who kept reminding us of the God of our fathers. Stories of God’s plan through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were echoing in homes throughout our Jewish community. Those stories flickered like a table lamp in our dark homes.
That glow was set in vivid contrast to our apparent reality – the only life that we had ever really known was the life of slavery…until everything changed.
Over the course of just a few weeks our world had been turned upside down. We witnessed, first-hand, the mighty work of God – In our midst! The God of our fathers was no longer merely the God of our fathers. His actions proved that He was our God.
We watched as He carefully proved His sovereignty over the Egyptian gods and goddesses. He transformed water into blood, filled Egypt and only Egyptian homes with frogs. He sent gnats to harass them, then flies, diseased animals, boils, hail, locusts, darkness and death.
We watched as the Lord delivered us from the mightiest army on earth – God granted us life as walked across dry land – land that would immediately become a wet grave for that impenetrable army.
Our God was actually accompanying and leading us to a new life. On this whirlwind of a journey He had provided for us in a myriad of ways. Food, water, supernatural durability to even our footwear.
In so many ways, the circumstances that the Israelites found themselves in, in Exodus 19, are reminiscent of the circumstances we as Christians find ourselves in today. I won’t get into the all those details here (though I would love to talk more about that someday), but I pray the parallels were self-evident as we imagined those Biblical circumstances.
For the moment, let’s consider the people’s situation in Exodus 19 a little more closely. In verse 4 God tells the people, “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings…” (it is not hard to imagine the people thinking through all the ways in which He had delivered them). He goes on in verses 5, saying, therefore “obey my voice and keep my covenant.” As such, He declares in verse 6, “you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”
After this stirring speech the people respond to God in verse 8, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.”
The people, with great confidence, proclaim that they will undertake this responsibility – with no hesitation. For them, to be a “kingdom of priests” is unquestionably what they will do.
Yet, as we might expect, they will quickly fail to obey the Lord. They will not truly function as a “kingdom of priests.”
The longing and desire to be a “kingdom of priests” would flicker like a table lamp in dark homes for generations thereafter. That glow would be set in vivid contrast to reality – the only life humanity had ever really known was the life of slavery…until everything changed…in Jesus.
When Christ came and took our place, He was the first one able to truly proclaim “All that the Lord has spoken I will do.” He did what no man was able to do.
Because of Christ and what He did, Peter is able to proclaim (in 1 Peter 2:9) that indeed the promise of Exodus 19:6 has come to pass. We are now “a royal priesthood!” God’s desire for His people and the longing of His people has been realized in Jesus Christ!
This is who you are! You are a kingdom of priests.
But, as a pastor, this truth leaves me absolutely baffled. Why do so many of us function as though we are not part of the priesthood. We leave shepherding to others. We say, you (not me) are a priest!
If the Israelites, in Exodus 19, responded with a readiness to serve as a kingdom of priests (despite the fact that they would never be able to actually do this), why are we (those who actually are a royal priesthood) reluctant to function as priests among one another? We who have been guaranteed the role of royal priesthood through the grandest act of God in all of history respond in the opposite way the Israelites did – though we actually are His royal priesthood!
You may be reading this thinking, ‘What do you mean?’ Well, how many of you feel like you cannot possibly shepherd a high school student? Our reasons are varied – ‘I don’t have time’, or ‘I am not qualified’, or ‘I need you (the “real” pastor) to tell me what to do otherwise I refuse to do anything’, or (name your excuse).
You may not have noticed, but we’ve been asking you to consider mentoring or discipleing a high school student for the last six months. Are you believing that you are not really a priest of the most high God? Here I think our actions betray what we profess to believe.
Please, I beg you, if you have been called unto Jesus Christ, you have been called to function as His priests. That means all of us ought to be shepherding, guiding, discipling and pouring into the younger Christians among us! If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you are not exempt from this calling. We are a kingdom of priests. I’m pretty sure that Peter does not say, “the pastoral staff at New Life are the royal priesthood.” The call is universal.
So, royal priesthood, who will you begin to shepherd today?
Your fellow royal priest,