On Our Shoulders, Over Our Hearts: Our Royal Priesthood

RockCitySkyBut you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. I Peter 2:9

Saying “Yes”

I think we sometimes forget our authority in Christ, we don’t fully grasp what it means to stand before the throne of a Holy God to advocate on behalf of someone else, maybe sometimes we offer up a prayer and don’t realize the weight that it holds. But I’d like to challenge you to begin to see prayer–your prayers–for the power that they possess, and realize, too who it is we are representing when we enter into the presence of our Creator God. I hope that by sharing a little of what I’ve learned about the Old Testament priesthood, I can show you what depth and power those prayers have.

This past week’s study brought us further into Leviticus (8-10), examining what it meant for a priest to advocate on behalf of the nation of Israel, this priesthood began with the person of Aaron.

Did Aaron know what he was stepping into? No, but I think this is probably one of the most beautiful parts of the whole story of the Isrealites’ journey. Aaron, from the beginning, was simply doing what God needed him to do. He began by speaking on behalf of a stuttering, uncertain man named Moses who was called in the middle of the desert while on sheep duty. It wasn’t glamorous and it wasn’t even conceivable that this man would one day lead an entire nation of people. But Aaron was available and he was willing to be a mouth piece, there had to be a great deal of trust in God that he heard from, initially, second-hand but couldn’t deny once He began to show his power in the signs they were to present before Pharaoh.

In following Aaron’s transition to priesthood, it is necessary to note exactly how human Aaron really was. It was he that built the golden calf while Moses was up on the mountain, it was he, along with Miriam who complained that God was speaking to him too, so, just like us, he gave into the calls of jealousy, judgment, and giving into peer pressure. But over time, God transformed Aaron, just as he is transforming us today, he loves us, and just as Aaron served as a high priest, we too are a royal priesthood. We don’t have to feel worthy, we just have to be willing. Say “yes, ” it’s ok if you cringe a little, or even if you’re a bit scared–it’s the best yes you’re ever going to say.

Preparing Ourselves

Clearly, Aaron was flawed, we are reminded of this when we see the requirement of him having to sacrifice for himself first, even before he could advocate for the people (Leviticus 29:1-3). But before we get to that, let’s take a step back and take a quick look at the priestly cleansing process in Leviticus 8:

1) v. 3-4: Gathering the entire assembly to the tent of meeting

2) v. 6 Moses brought Aaron and his sons and washed them with water

3) v. 7-9 He put the tunic on Aaron, tied the sash around him, clothed him with the robe and put the ephod on him, fastening the ephod with a decorative waistband

4) v. 10-11 Moses took the anointing oil and anointed the tabernacle and everything in it, and so consecrated them. He sprinkled some of the oil on the altar 7 times, anointing the altar and all its utensils and the basin and its stand to consecrate them

5) v. 12 He poured anointing oil on Aaron’s head to consecrate him

If we, as followers of Christ are a part of this royal priesthood, then like Aaron and his sons, we must be suited up: with the breastpiece, ephod, robe, woven tunic, turban, sash. To me, all bear a significant correlation to the armor of God in Ephesians 6:10-18: the breastplate (righteousness), the shoes (peace), the sword (God’s word), helmet (salvation), the shield (faith). We too, must be dressed.

Who Are We Representing?

Exodus 28: 12, “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.

“There are to be twelve stones, one for each of the names of the sons of Israel, each engraved like a seal with the name of one of the twelve tribes.” (21) Whenever Aaron enters the Holy Place, he will bear the names of the sons of Israel over his heart on the breastpiece of decision as a continual memorial before the Lord. Also put the Urim and the Thummin in the breastpiece, so they may be over Aaron’s heart whenever he enters the presence of the Lord. Thus Aaron will always bear the means of making decisions for the Israelites over his heart before the Lord. (29)

 What are the names of the people that are engraved on your shoulders and over your heart? Your sons, your daughters, your immediate family and friends? We shouldn’t be weighted down with this responsibility, but like Aaron, we must be aware who we are representing with we enter the presence of God, atoning first for our own sins, through the blood of Jesus Christ, then coming unwaveringly to present our requests.

The Lord, indeed, is our portion.

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16