Israel: The Nation of Priests
What do you think of when you hear the word “priest”? Depending on your background, a particular style of clothing might come to mind, or a specific religious denomination, or perhaps you might even think of yourself! But has the word “priest” ever made you think of an entire nation…?
In Exodus 19:5-6 the LORD appoints Israel to be a nation of priests, “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”
When the LORD first instituted the priesthood, he had Israel in mind.
What was the purpose of this priesthood? Among other things, they were to act as witnesses to the nations of the one, true living God (Isaiah 43:10). They were given access to God’s presence in the tabernacle, where they were to perform the duties of atonement through sacrifice, worship, and prayer.
God desires order in His house. In Exodus 28 He meticulously begins laying out His instructions concerning the duties and expectations He would require of His priests. How did the job description of a priest begin? The very first priestly task instituted by God was to intercede on behalf of the Jewish people. “There shall be twelve stones with their names according to the names of the sons of Israel… for the twelve tribes”, and thus the priest would “bear the names of the sons of Israel – on his heart, when he goes into the Holy Place, to bring them to regular remembrance before the LORD” (Exodus 28:21, 29).
This breastplate was a crucial element of the priestly attire. It was mandatory for the priest to don this physical reminder of God’s heart for the tribes of Israel before doing the work of intercession before Him.
New Testament, Same Calling
The Old Testament is filled with stories of Israel’s humanity—one generation serving the Lord mightily only for the next generation to fail miserably. Did these sporadic failures annul the divinely-instituted office of Jewish priesthood? Paul clearly stated that the gifts and the calling given to the Jewish people by God are irrevocable (Romans 11:29). Peter penned this exact same notion in his first letter.
He addressed his epistle to the “elect exiles of the Dispersion” – “sojourners and exiles” who were to keep their “conduct among the Gentiles honorable” (1:1; 2:11-12). The word ‘elect’ refers to those who believe in and are saved by the blood of Yeshua. Peter is addressing his letter to his Jewish brethren who have been living amongst the nations, exiled from the land of Israel.
Therefore, in 1 Peter 2:9, the LORD is encouraging those exiled Jewish believers that their age-old calling to be His witnesses and His priests—even though they were far from the temple in Jerusalem—was still secure. “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”
In their time of distress, cast out of their ancestral homeland, the LORD was encouraging the Remnant of Israel that their calling remained. He is a faithful God!
Applying the Priestly Pattern
In order to look forward, we must first look back. Isaiah 61:6 designates the nation of Israel as the priestly mediators for all the nations of the world when they come to worship on Mount Zion in the End Times. Not only did God comfort the exiles of the early Jewish body of faith in their priestly calling, He prophesied through Isaiah that the nations would be served by the priesthood of Israel in the age to come!
As the Scriptures have taught us, God mandated that a priestly heart would feature His chosen people front and center. As we wait for the fulfillment of God’s promises on earth, we too can adopt this priestly spirit and pattern our spiritual lives according to God’s design.
If the first task of this ancient priesthood was to enter the presence of the LORD with all twelve tribes of Israel inscribed on their hearts, then consider, what is on your heart when you enter the presence of God to intercede?
“And listen to the plea of your servant and of your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. And listen in heaven your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.” 1 Kings 8:30
Join us this week as we pray for Israel in the following ways:
To find out more about specific prayer initiatives within Israel and for Israel, check out what these FIRM Members are doing:
1. Jewish Voice: https://www.jewishvoice.org/pray/scriptures
2. Dugit Ministries Prayer Tower, Tel Aviv: https://www.dugit.org/pray/
3. Jerusalem Prayer Tower, a ministry of King of Kings: http://www.jerusalemprayertower.org