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The Jewish Priest

What do you think of when you hear the word “priest”? Most people wouldn’t think of a Jewish 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?

Israel in the Bible as Jewish Priests

In Exodus 19:5-6 the LORD appoints a nation of Jewish 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. And what was the role of priests in ancient Israel?

Primarily, they were to act as witnesses to the nations of the one, true living God (Isaiah 43:10). It meant that they were given access to God’s presence in the tabernacle. There, they performed the duties of atonement through sacrifice, worship, and prayer.

What God Requires of Kingdom of Priests

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).

The Priestly Breastplate of Tribes

If you visited any souvenir shops in Israel, you may have come across pendants or images of a tablet with 12 precious stones. They each symbolize a tribe of Israel. This unique ‘tablet’ was originally a breastplate, like a piece of armor for the High Priest.

This breastplate was a crucial element of his 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.

Priestly Calling in the New Testament

The Old Testament is filled with stories of Israel’s humanity. One generation served 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”. He called them “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.

“A Royal Priesthood, A Holy Nation”

Therefore the LORD is encouraging the exiled. The age-old calling of Jewish believers to be His witnesses and His priests was still secure. Even though they were far from the temple in Jerusalem!

“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.” (1 Peter 2:9)

In their time of distress, far from their ancestral land, the LORD was encouraging the Remnant that their calling remained. The God of Israel is faithful God!

Applying the Pattern

In order to look forward, we must first look back. Isaiah 61:6 designates the nation of Israel as the priestly mediators. They will serve all nations 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 also 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.

Our Priestly Calling

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

These are words of King Solomon, who build the first Temple. He dedicated this House to the Lord not just for Israel sake, but for the world’s.

Join us in praying for Israel in the following ways:

  • For the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6).
  • That God would open the hearts and eyes of many in Israel to know Yeshua as Messiah (Isaiah 53).
  • For the Body of Messiah in Israel to be strengthened and for believers to be a light to their friends, family and community (Eph. 3:16-19).
  • Pray for governmental leaders and those in authority to lead with wisdom and justice (1 Tim. 2:2).

Bring the Kingdom of God to Israel by Transforming Lives

Are you looking for a way to impact Israel? FIRM has an opportunity for you to transform lives in Israel in the name of Yeshua (Jesus).

The Tribe is a passionate and faithful group of monthly donors on a mission to transform lives in Israel through the love of Jesus. Join the Tribe today: firmisrael.org/thetribe

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FIRM is a global fellowship of Biblically-grounded believers committed to cultivating Messiah-centered relationships that bless the inhabitants of Israel—Jews, Arabs, and others—and the Jewish community around the world.
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