Monday, February 19, 2007

Priests with a Royal Bearing; People with a Holy Calling

The Spirit guided Peter to write “royal priests” in 1 Peter 2:9 (adjective followed by verb), quoting from Exodus 19:6, the LXX (Greek), not the Hebrew. In Revelation 1:6, John quotes the same verse, but evidently from the Hebrew, which shows two nouns, “a kingdom and priests.”

Why? I think it fits with Peter’s point, which is that we are priests with a royal bearing, rather than kings with some added priestly duties. After all, Peter has made clear right at the beginning that we are outsiders, sojourners, and he will do so again in 2:12. We are related to the King, but we do not live life here as kings. We are servants, priests.

A priestly people is a little strange. From the Old Testament, we are used to have a priestly class within the people. Isn’t that what pastors are supposed to do today? Peter doesn’t think so. We all are priests.

Priests are blood-spattered. In New Covenant terms, this certainly does not involved animal sacrifice. But it certainly does involve Christ’s sacrifice. We show our blood-sprinkled (1:2) condition when we do two things: when we think often of our sin; and when we think often of our Savior.

When we emphasize how good we are, either trying to convince ourselves or others, we are not functionging as priests, or as Christians. One of the key differences between non-believers and believers is that the former often work hard at justifying self, while the believer finds his/her justification in Christ. The one covers and excuses sin and sins; the other confesses sin(s) and hates that which caused the death of Christ. If you are unaware of any struggle with sin, then I wonder if you even have a Savior.

Priests also are teachers of the ways of God. They take the hand of God with one hand, and the hand of man with the other, and seek to see them reconciled in Christ. If I let go of God and embrace man alone, I am no longer functioning as a priest. And if I forget about men and isolate myself in God, I also am no priest. Priests are continually concerned with a right relationship with God, for themselves, and for others.

Remember, we are priests, with a card in our wallet or a truth in our hearts that we belong to the King. We are not kings who practice religion on the side.

The other term under consideration is “holy nation.” The Greek word transliterates to a kind of “ethnicity,” leading me to think that this is about a distinctive group of people (as in the first term, “chosen race,) in whom an appreciation and hunger for holiness is evident and obvious.

God’s holiness speaks of His “otherness.” He is, so to speak, “out of this world.” That is, this world cannot contain Him, nor even describe Him, because He stands apart in key ways from anything that is known in the world or by the world. For God’s people to know God, they have, in a sense, their “head in the clouds,” not in the sense of being aloof, but rather, they can see or sense horizons that are beyond what we see and experience in this physical world. His holiness is not to be profaned, that is, made common or coarse. He is not ordinary. We should not treat Him, or His name, as such.

Of course, holiness also includes a concern of moral purity. It is the desire to see reflected in human terms what it means to be pure. We are not animals, and we are not to live like animals. The image of the holy God has been impressed upon us, though far from distinct as it once was.

In the OT, we were acquainted with the idea of holy “territory.” The burning bush, Mt. Sinai, the Tabernacle, the Temple, the Holy of Holies – had borders and boundaries. This seems to no longer be the case. The “holy nation” scatters with itself the holiness of God throughout the world. Our own “otherness” and striving for purity; our appreciation of the eternal dimension sets us apart, for God.

We are accustomed to driving past small towns or driving into large cities and seeing the spires of churches, pointing to heaven, reminding us that there is a God. This may be an excellent architectural feature, but it is not what God designed as testimony to His holiness. Rather, he is forming a people with a high calling, a holy nation, to point the world to a God that they do not know.

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