A Holy Priesthood
On his forehead the Old Testament high priest wore a small gold plate engraved with these profound words: HOLY TO THE LORD (Exod 28:36).
It was a reminder to the high priest and to all who saw him that he was dedicated in a special way to the privilege of God’s service. This was more than his daily occupation; it was his life.
If you were a priest, you could enter the special courts and holy places of the temple and you could handle the holy things. Day and night, the priests would present offerings to God. Sheep and goats, cows and birds, bread and oil—all of it given to God in heaven. This was vital work, carried out by utterly inadequate persons, but graciously accepted by God.
In the New Testament, we are called a “royal priesthood” (1 Pet 2:9). Or as the apostle Peter also writes in 1 Peter 2:5,
You… are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
Formerly, one particular tribe and family was dedicated to the task of performing worship at the temple, but now it is a calling for every one of us.
And see what kind of priests we are meant to be, according to Scripture: holy. We don’t have a visible reminder on our foreheads in the same way as the high priests did, but we too, have become a holy priesthood. This holiness can be looked at in two ways, negative and positive. For our daily lives, both are important.
Negatively, holiness means being separated from sin and from the corrupting things of the world. We are always being drawn to conform to the unbelieving world. There is a steady pressure to be and to act just like everyone else. But Peter says in the same context, “Abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul” (1 Pet 2:11).
That is a life-shaping command: Abstain! If you’re a priest, you don’t wander into places where you could become unclean. If you’re a priest, you don’t watch things that will pollute your thoughts. You don’t spend time with people who could weaken your commitment to Christ. Remember the engraving that God has put on your heart: you are a priest, HOLY TO THE LORD.
And positively, our holiness as a priesthood means that we have the privilege of daily offering ourselves to God. A priest gives no leftovers to God, but we say: “Here I am, O Lord. Use me in your service.”
My talents, my gifts, my time, my thoughts—it is all HOLY TO THE LORD. Christ calls us to be priests not for two hours every Sunday, but to be priests at the jobsite, and in the kitchen, and at school, and on the bus, and in your community.
As Romans 12:1 says, “Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” Present your bodies—like your hands to help a fellow saint, or your eyes to study his Word. Offer your ears to listen to someone who needs to talk. Offer your mouth to speak a gracious word to someone who is discouraged. Present yourself as a spiritual sacrifice!
Maybe sharing in the holy priesthood sounds like a lot of work, more than you can reasonably handle at the moment. A lot of times we feel so poorly equipped to be the kind of servants whom God wants. Other times we wonder if what we do really matters—you’re just a young person and a student, or you’re just a mother at home, or you’re just an office worker, or a tradesman. We can feel like our holy works don’t amount to much.
Most days, we don’t feel very priestly or very worshipful or very holy.
But think of who has set us apart for service. It is our great high priest Christ Jesus who wants us to do this work. It is Christ who delights in this work. It is Christ who promises to help us for the work when we ask.
So don’t become weary in doing good.
Know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain.
For it is God who works in us, both to will and to work for his good pleasure!