“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.” (Malachi 2:7 NKJV).
Under the Old Covenant, the foremost or primary ministry of the priests was to the LORD. This essentially involves tending daily the seven lamps in the holy place so that the lamps may burn continually, burning sweet incense every morning on the altar before the ark of Testimony, and keeping the fire burning on the altar of bronze before the door of the Tabernacle (Exo. 27:20-21, 30:7-8, Lev. 6:12).
Likewise, under the New Covenant, the foremost ministry of the believers as priests is to the LORD. As priests to God, the believers are expected to diligently attend daily to God’s Word and yield promptly and continuously to the leading and prompting of God’s Spirit (Col. 3:16, 1 Thess. 5:19, Gal. 5:25).
The believers are also expected to offer prayers, worship, praises, or thanksgiving continually to the LORD (Lk. 18:1, 21:36, 1 Tim. 2:8, 1 Thess. 5:17-18, Heb. 13:15). Moreover, the New Covenant priests are also expected to offer, present, or yield their bodies to God as a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1).
The born-again believers minister to God as His priests by yielding, offering, or presenting members of their body as instruments of righteousness to God (Rom. 6:19).
As a believer, it is expected of you to “reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 6:11 NKJV).
Besides ministering to God, the Old Covenant priests also ministered to people. Similarly, the ministry of the New Covenant priests is not restricted to God; they also have a ministry or responsibility towards people.
What are the responsibilities of the New Covenant priests to the people?
Let us learn from the ministry of the Old Covenant priests to the people of Israel!
The Old Covenant priests ministered to the people of Israel in three major ways. It is wisdom for us to examine these ways and more importantly the underlying truths or principles.
First, the Old Covenant priests appeared before the LORD, not just for themselves, but as the people’s representatives.
The priest bore the names, the needs, the burdens and requests of the people of Israel before the LORD. The priests were intercessors for the people, standing on their behalf before God.
God instructed Moses, “And you shall put the two stones on the shoulders of the ephod as memorial stones for the sons of Israel. So Aaron shall bear their names before the LORD on his two shoulders as a memorial.” (Exo. 28:12 NKJV).
The priests of old were forbidden to appear before the LORD without bearing the burden of the people. It is a sin for the priests to fail or cease to intercede for the people and to teach them the right way of God.
Samuel said to King Saul, “Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you; but I will teach you the good and the right way.” (1 Sam. 12:23 NKJV).
Similarly, believers today as the New Covenant priests are expected to come before the LORD, not just for their sake, but for the sake of others, to intercede for them.
Paul admonishes the believers to discharge their responsibility as priests towards all men.
1 Timothy 2:
1 Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men,
2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. (NKJV).
The Lord Jesus Christ as our great High Priest bore our sins and the penalties of our sins in His own body on the cross (1 Pet. 2:24). Moreover, having risen from the dead and seated at the right hand of the Father, our High Priest, Jesus Christ, lives forever to make intercession for us (Rom. 8:34).
The Scripture reveals, “For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.” (Heb. 9:24 NKJV).
Not only did Christ die for us; He also lives for us!
What a great High Priest we have in Christ!
The Scripture testifies, “Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” (Heb. 7:25 NKJV).
“My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” (1 John 2:1 NKJV).
As priests to God under the leadership or authority of Jesus Christ, the great High Priest, the believers are expected to follow Jesus’ example.
Jesus said, “For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.” (John 13:15 NKJV).
Peter also said, “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps.” (1 Pet. 2:21 NKJV).
Sadly, many believers today as God’s priests are failing in their primary responsibility to people by appearing before God only for themselves, not bearing the names, burdens, needs or requests of others before God.
What a contradiction to the example of Jesus Christ, our great High Priest!
Second, the Old Covenant priests ministered to the people by offering daily on their behalf both gifts and sacrifices for sins.
The priests were commanded to “offer a bull every day as a sin offering for atonement…” (Exo. 29:36 NKJV).
The New Testament reveals that “every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.” (Heb. 10:11 NKJV).
However, the New Covenant priests need not to offer any daily offering or sacrifice for their sins or for the sins of the people they are called to minister to. Why?
Because Jesus Christ, our great High Priest “had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God” (Heb. 10:12 NKJV)!
The Scripture states, “For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.” (Heb. 10:14 NKJV).
Although there is no need today for any other offering for sin, yet believers today as God’s priests are still expected to present their “bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” (Rom. 12:1 NKJV).
Paul admonishes, “And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” (Rom. 6:13 NKJV).
This implies yielding or presenting your whole being – spirit, soul and body, and time, skills, talents, gifting, potentials, and resources – to God to use, flow through, and make a blessing to other people.
Third, the Old Covenant priests were the custodians of the Law and so have a great responsibility to teach the people the Law – God’s moral standards, the good and the right way of God.
The Scripture records, “So Moses wrote this law and delivered it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and to all the elders of Israel.” (Deut. 31:9 NKJV).
Therefore, the priests were expected to live according to the law of God as an example, a motivation, and encouragement to the people.
The Scripture states, “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.” (Mal. 2:7 NKJV).
But, when the priests failed to keep and teach the law of God to the people of Israel, the people stumbled at the law and became unruly, thereby provoking God’s wrath.
God rebuked the priests for failing in their responsibility.
8 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.
9 “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.” (NKJV).
The present appalling spiritual and moral condition of the Church is a clear indication of our failure as the New Covenant priests to wholly conform to the teachings and principles of Jesus Christ, and also a clear indication of our laxity to teach, preach and proclaim the whole counsel of God’s Word.
Beloved, as one of the New Covenant priests, you have a huge responsibility towards this generation. The Lord Jesus Christ, your High Priest, is stirring you up today to awake to your responsibility as God’s priest to people.
This generation is in dire need of a teaching priest like Ezra who “had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel.” (Ezra 7:10 NKJV).
This generation also needs a praying priest like Samuel who said “as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you; but I will teach you the good and the right way.” (1 Sam. 12:23 NKJV).
Friend, rise up today in the might of the Holy Spirit to become one of God’s teaching and praying priests to this generation.
Prayer: My Dear Heavenly Father, I awake today to my calling, ministry and responsibility as a teaching and a praying priest of God to this perishing generation. My Dear Holy Spirit, teach, help and strengthen me daily to effectively discharge my responsibility to my generation, in Jesus’ name. Amen.