The Essence of Priesthood is the Word of God

God chose the Levites from the 12 tribes of Israel to exclusively assign to them His work. As a result, over 20,000 Levites did the work at the tent of meeting and served other religious duties. Who was Levi, the ancestor of the Levites? He was the third son of Jacob, who killed all the males in Shechem in revenge for the rape of his sister Dinah by the prince of Shechem. Because of Levi’s violent temper, Jacob at his deathbed withdraws his approval of or support for the assembly of the Levites and curses them twice. Ironically, however, the curse is later reversed and the Levites become the recipients of blessing. How were the Levites, the descendants of a murderer, designated as the priestly tribe by God?

The leader of Israel who led the Exodus fro Egypt was Moses, a Levite. His obedience to God and His Command exerted a positive influence on his tribe. In fact, the Levites were the only tribe among the Israelites who did not take part in the idolatry of the golden calf when Moses ascended Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments. As Moses witnessed this blasphemous event and urged the Israelites to repent and follow God, most agreed. However, 3,000 Israelites refused Moses’s plea for repentance and were later killed by the Levites. As seen in this event, the Levites were the people of righteous anger, who prioritized the Word of God over blood relations or nationalism. It was for this reason that the Levites were forgiven of their sins in the past and appointed as the priestly tribe. Like the Levites, we can be absolved of our sins in the past and used as God’s rational instruments if we repent and love Him. As the Levites, Aaron and his descendants assumed the roles as priests whereas other Levitical descendants assisted the priests at the temple. The functions of priests included sacrifice, absolution, legal instruction, judgment, and benediction.

The essence of priesthood is the Word of God. In spite of their sinful human nature, priests were able to offer sacrifice pleasing to God so long as they abided by the Word of God. However, they were subject to the mercilessly judgment of God when they arbitrarily fulfilled their duties in violation of God’s command. In Leviticus and Numbers, God specifically instructed Aaron to take his censer, place incense on it, and present it before Him. Nonetheless, two of the four sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, offered unto God “unholy fire” and were consumed by God’s fire. This story clearly illustrates that the foundation of priesthood is the Word of God, not personal wisdom or strength.

Abuse of priestly functions continued even in the period of the Judges as can be seen in Hophni and Phinehas. They sinned against God because they merely fulfilled religious duties without having encountered God on an intimate level (1 Samuel chapter 2). By misappropriating the sacrificial meat and having illicit relationships with the women who served at the entrance to the tabernacle, they desecrated God’s sacrifice and the temple. Against such blasphemy, Eli, their father, exhibited great leniency and later they were killed and their family met their premature demise. Furthermore, their descendants became blinded in their eyes with tears and grief-stricken. If a priest fails to keep God’s commands, he and his family grow susceptible to curse and damnation (Hosea 4:6). Conversely, if a priest remains steadfast to the Word of God, his family, people, and land will be protected. Worship and resolution of sin are the most important responsibilities for men.

God has made us, the post New Testament saints, royal priests (1 Peter 2:9). The Bible also calls us to be holy priests who offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:5). We have become the living temple of God that moves and walks with Jesus Christ. Now is the time to appreciate and cherish our royal priesthood through sincere worship and resolution of sin. Let us make utmost effort in studying and instructing the Word of God and also in serving, blessing, and loving fellow believers. Let us serve the Church of God, witness the Gospel, and evangelize. Then, we will be able to render eternal glory to God, who has made us holy priests (Revelation 1:6). Our lives as the holy priests depend upon keeping of the Word of God.

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