Hebrew Highlights 141 – Kingdom of Priests
Shalom, this is Yuval Shomron coming to you from Jerusalem.
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”
You may recognize this famous passage from 1PE 2:9. It is often quoted and expounded on. Later in this study we will take a look at the verses which follow. They add quite a bit of responsibility to our glorious calling.
Peter was not speaking a new revelation in this passage. Rather, he was giving us a sort of synopsis of many scriptures well known among the Jewish people. We’ll take a look at some of them today, and glean some wonderful insight into what they mean. I should start out by mentioning that these promises were given to the children of Israel, even in the case of the quote from Peter. Those of us who are grafted in to God’s olive tree can claim them for our own. However, we must also live up to the accountability which goes with them.
Let’s start our lesson by reading EXO 19:5-6, “Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation."
Already we wee that our status as priests comes with a price. We cannot ignore God, and continue sinning and expect to be a part of His holy nation.
Before we go on, we might ask the question, “what exactly is a kingdom of priests?” If we take the example of sons of the tribe of Levi in the Bible, who were set aside to minister to the Lord, we can learn a lot. Not every single person in the clan was a minister. The heads of households took turns serving in the temple, according to a system of rotation. Many of them were farmers or shepherds in their vocation. Yet they were ready and willing to step up to the altar to serve God when needed. This reminds me of our own calling in 2TI 4:2, “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.” Not every one of us is a full time minister. However, as part of Gods priestly clan, we should each be ready to minister when the opportunity arises.
Let’s go on to our next Old Testament quote. DEU 7:6-8, "For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. "The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the Lord loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the Lord brought you out by a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”
I believe this passage can come in handy in two circumstances. First of all, we should remember it when we feel we are in the minority. For instance, as parents, we may find ourselves attending a PTA meeting in a secular school where some moral issue is being discussed. It may be the screening of a movie, or the inclusion of a book in the library, or even the dress code. We need to be willing to stand up as the chose priest of God in the situation, and be ready to defend truth and goodness as seen in the light of God’s word.
Secondly, when we feel inadequate to minister or serve God, we need to remember that He chose us because of the very fact that he redeemed us. It is His love, not our prowess which makes us capable servants.
Our uniqueness is emphasized again a few chapters later in DEU 14:2, "For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; and the Lord has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.” As believers we should realize that being in the minority is a privilege, not a threat. Out of all nations, those in God’s kingdom have been chosen to reveal God’s truth and light to the rest of the world.
The next paragraph we will peruse speaks both of Israel’s renewed calling in the end times, and the gentiles participating role. ISA 61:4-6, “Then they will rebuild the ancient ruins, They will raise up the former devastations, And they will repair the ruined cities, The desolations of many generations. And strangers will stand and pasture your flocks, And foreigners will be your farmers and your vinedressers. But you will be called the priests of the Lord; You will be spoken of as ministers of our God. You will eat the wealth of nations, And in their riches you will boast.”
Together the saved Jews and gentiles will finally take their place as God’s Levitical tribe, ministering, preaching, and reaping the rewards thereof.
Not only are we to be priests, but we as a people become the very temple itself where our ministry is to be preformed, as we seen in 1PE 2:5, “you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
Now it’s time to take a look at the verses following our original text. 1PE 2:9-17, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation. Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. Honor all men; love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.”
I think we can see why we so often hear only the first verse quoted. As I said before, the priesthood carries with it a lot of responsibility. When Peter said, “Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles,” he was talking to the first Messianic Believers. But again, if those of us who are grafted-in gentiles want to be a part of God’s ministry team, we have to keep our behavior excellent among the unsaved people of the world.
In order that our newly won royalty doesn’t go to our heads, Peter reminds us that we are still under authority, even to certain earthly institutions. Just as policemen and politicians are sworn to uphold the law of the land they themselves write and enforce, we must maintain the law of God if want to win others to His Kingdom. After all, the whole purpose of our calling is to “proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.”
By the way, the New American Standard reference to “a people for God's own possession,” is a better translation than the King James version’s “peculiar people.” However, we do sometimes feel peculiar indeed in the world we live in today. We should wear our peculiarity with honor. Obviously, if we want to change the world, we have to be different from them.
I think this passage in Peter is a very important one to teach our children. They, more than us parents, may often feel out of touch with their peers as they attempt to walk in God’s path. If they understand their calling early, it may be easier for them to fulfill it.
Let’s end our study today with one more cross-reference. REV 1:5-6, “and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the first-born of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us, and released us from our sins by His blood, and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father; to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
We, the people of God, are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and a people for God's own possession.” However, all glory goes to Yeshua HaMashiach, the King of Kings, and Lord of Lord’s, our great High Priest. Jesus our Messiah chose us when we were not even a people, and by His own spilt blood purchased us, and put a crown on our heads. Right now we serve as ambassadors for His Kingdom to an unsaved world. One glorious day we will lay our crowns at His footstool, and minister to Him in person forever.
Shalom Shalom from Jerusalem