9But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. – 1 Peter 2:9-10
Let us remind ourselves that the audience that Peter is writing to are saved, Jewish people. Not immediately defined as Christians, because the concept of Jesus being the messiah is a new thought for them. Peter was referring to them as being solid in the Word and not stumbling over the stone of Jesus as warned in last weeks message. He goes on to declare that they are a royal priesthood.
Is being called a priest a good thing for a Jew?
Let us recall that in the Old Testament priests were from the tribe of Levi, where we get Levitical priests and Levitical law. In order to be ordained as a priest, one had to be from the tribe of Levi.
What are some of your visions of an Old Testament priest? What did they do? What were they like?
The high priest was the supreme religious leader of the Israelites. The office of the high priest was hereditary and was traced from Aaron, the brother of Moses, of the Levite tribe (Exodus 28:1; Numbers 18:7). The high priest had to be “whole” physically (without any physical defects) and holy in his conduct (Leviticus 21:6-8).
Because the high priest held the leadership position, one of his roles was overseeing the responsibilities of all the subordinate priests (2 Chronicles 19:11). Though the high priest could participate in ordinary priestly ministries, only certain functions were given to him. Only the high priest could wear the Urim and the Thummin (engraved dice-like stones used to determine truth or falsity). For this reason, the Hebrew people would go to the high priest in order to know the will of God (Numbers 27:21)
Now with that knowledge of high priest, what kind of insights do you have about the New Testament?
A different kind of priest
There is a Old Testament person named Melchizedek. He is an interesting figure that is actually quite significant when we review biblical priests.
Melchizedek, whose name means “king of righteousness,” was a king of Salem (Jerusalem) and priest of the Most High God (Genesis 14:18–20; Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 5:6–11; 6:20—7:28). Melchizedek’s sudden appearance and disappearance in the book of Genesis is somewhat mysterious. Melchizedek and Abraham first met after Abraham’s defeat of Chedorlaomer and his three allies. Melchizedek presented bread and wine to Abraham and his weary men, demonstrating friendship. He bestowed a blessing on Abraham in the name of El Elyon (“God Most High”) and praised God for giving Abraham a victory in battle (Genesis 14:18–20).
Abraham presented Melchizedek with a tithe (a tenth) of all the items he had gathered. By this act Abraham indicated that he recognized Melchizedek as a priest who ranked higher spiritually than he.
In Hebrews, chapter 7 it even says that Melchizedek was “without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, resembling the Son of God.
Levite or Judah? Priest or King?
We know through the bible that Jesus was labeled the King of the Jews; we learn he is King of kings, and Lord of lords. We know that Jesus came from the line or heritage of Judah. So we can think of Jesus as our high priest and a King. Is that even logical?
In 2 Chronicles we read about King Uzziah, King Uzziah reigned faithfully for decades until he took to himself the role of priest and came into the Holy Place to offer sacrifices. King Uzziah was removed from his position and inflicted with leprosy and he died in shame (2 Chronicles 26). It was not good for kings to think they were priests.
It can be confusing because Jesus was not a Levite; He was from the tribe of Judah, and that was the tribe that the kingdom was given to. To understand this we need to review the blessing Jacob gave to his sons in Genesis
9 Judah, my son, is a young lion
that has finished eating its prey.
Like a lion he crouches and lies down;
like a lioness—who dares to rouse him?
10 The scepter will not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from his descendants,
until the coming of the one to whom it belongs,
the one whom all nations will honor. – Genesis 49:9-10
The lion of Judah became a title for the king who came out of Judah. Jesus is that King.
The point—the main point of it all—is that the one priest who goes between us and God, and makes us right with God, and prays for us to God is not an ordinary, weak, sinful, dying, priest like in the Old Testament days. He is the Son of God—strong, sinless, with an indestructible life. Not only that, he is not ministering in an earthly tabernacle with all its limitations of place and size and wearing out and being moth-eaten and being soaked and burned and torn and stolen. No, Christ is ministering for us in a “true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man.” This is the real thing in heaven.
Also an important factor we need to grasp now is that this conjunction of kingship and priesthood does not finish with Jesus. Peter gives us the astonishing affirmation that in Christ we are a chosen generation and a royal priesthood. By virtue of the our being in Christ, we participate in His kingdom. We participate in His priesthood as those who make intercession for the lost as well as for the people of God. We are a nation that is holy, sacred, consecrated, and transcendent. We are a nation that is different from any nation that has ever appeared on this planet.
11 Dear brothers, you are only visitors here. Since your real home is in heaven, I beg you to keep away from the evil pleasures of this world; they are not for you, for they fight against your very souls.– 1 Peter 2:11
We discussed previously about Peter’s reference to foreigners, pilgrims and sojourners. Not only was he referencing the concept that the Jews reading the message were displaced from Jerusalem, but that we are also foreigners in this world in comparison to all eternity. When we recall the old testament details of the Israelites, they have always been foreigners it seems like. They were frequently roaming the deserts, even when Jesus came into his ministry he stated that he had no place to lay his head, he was nomadic in nature, going around from town to town. Many of us do not know that it has only been a relatively short time that Israel, as a country has been reestablished. When the Jerusalem was destroyed in 70AD, there was no such place as Israel, until 1948 with the Balfour Declaration. Essentially the Israelites were abandoned, homeless.
We need to grasp the reality that the Kingdom of God is not bound by any worldly borders. Being a Christian is not living in a specific country or being born into a specific bloodline or culture. In this world we will always be pilgrims.
Why are the Jews and us a chosen generation and royal priesthood, through this citizenship?
We have received our citizenship for the purpose of proclaiming God’s praises.
that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light – 1 Peter 2:9
Light & Darkness
The use of the concept of light and darkness is widely used through out the New Testament. Darkness is a place where no light intrudes, where deeds of evil are conceived and carried out. The Bible tells us that we are by nature the children of darkness. Darkness is our natural habitat. In our fallen condition, we feared more than anything else that a searchlight would be placed on our souls and that our sins would be made manifest to the world.
16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” – John 3:16-21
It seems like the whole world knows John 3:16, but that is just the exciting hopeful part of the message. The important thing we need to not forget is that there are men that will love the darkness, and there are consequences. The reason they love the darkness is that their deeds are evil. When our deeds are placed in the light, they are exposed for the wickedness that motivates them, which is lived out in darkness, our natural habitat. We have a built-in allergy to the things of God. Our natural disposition is not to seek Him but to flee from Him.
How long does it take to come out of the darkness?
Many individuals believe that our life is like stadium lights that get turned on and it takes a while for them to get warmed up and illuminate bright. This is not the case.
If you go into your bedroom tonight and turn out all the lights and shut the shades so that the slightest inkling of light cannot enter the room, you will feel the intensity of the darkness. Then throw the light switch and count the seconds it takes for the darkness to vanish. Darkness has no power to extinguish light. When the light comes on, the darkness vanishes. God, in His effectual call by the power of the Holy Spirit, changed your heart. He changed the desire you were born with, to seek and cleave to the darkness, and gave you a taste of joy and a love for the light, so that you willingly, gladly came and basked in the light of His presence if you are a Christian.
There are many songs and catchy sayings about seeing the light. A reference to getting a revelation and enlightenment. RC Sproul had a great quote when someone said to him, it looks like you have seen the light. He said:
“Yes, I have seen the light, and it is glorious. It dispels the darkness of my soul” – RC Sproul
Only God can do that. He has called us out of darkness not simply into light but into His light, and even beyond that, into His marvelous light. It is a marvel when God displays His light into the darkness of a human soul. Words cannot express the wonder of being brought out of the darkness into His light.
Tying it together
In closing, we learned a lot about biblical history today and it was not by mistake. The intention was to give some knowledge and hopefully some better understanding of the different tribes, priests, kings, and how it all fits together with us and Jesus. This information is very high level, but it may lead you to investigate some of your hunches a bit more. To learn your heritage and be better equipped when the world asks you such questions as:
- How can Jesus be King of kings and High priest at the same time.
- Who was Melchizedek and what did he represent?
- How are priests integrated into the church today, as laid out be Christ and the bible?
Once you knew very little of God’s kindness; now your very lives have been changed by it. – 1 Peter 2:10 TLB