For the first two parts of this (chapter 7-8) view these links:
This has been added to the end of the corresponding blog “Israel’s Purpose and Destiny” for this chapter:
Israel as Priests
There is a word that I have used multiple times up to this point, but have not given any kind of definition. The word is priest. We are called to be priests. Israel is called to be the priesthood to the nations. Priestliness is a word that we cannot define. We can only explain it. We can only apprehend it. We know when we have apprehended a definition of that word when we are apprehended by it. When we can no longer live our lives without the reality of priestliness working through us, we have begun to obtain a definition of that word. Ironically, it actually takes a bit of priestliness in order to even try to search out a definition to that word. It is the sacrificial life. It is the expression of fatherhood. It is the hope of men. It is the beauty of holiness. It is the reality of eternity.
There is an incident in the life of Jacob, after he is renamed Israel, that might give us insight to what it is for Israel to be priestly. Israel goes to his brother Esau. When they meet, they end up weeping upon one another’s neck. They exchange words – Esau saying that Jacob should keep his gifts, and Jacob pleading with Esau to accept the gifts. Jacob then says, “For to see your face is like seeing the face of God.”[i] Could you imagine an Israeli that would go to their brethren, whether the Islamic nations of Ishmael, or the Esau people that have desired their annihilation, to weep upon their necks and claim, “To see your face is like seeing the face of God”? What manner of man is this?
God had said multiple times regarding the Levites, “They shall have no inheritance among their brothers; the Lord is their inheritance, as he promised them.”[ii] The priests of God have no inheritance. What that might mean in regard to Israel is that they will not be settling among the nations. Just as the Levites were given cities of refuge to live in, there will be a City called New Jerusalem that the Israelites will dwell within. Their inheritance is not among the nations. It is a certain City that comes down out of heaven. It is a heavenly place before it is an earthly reality.
Their inheritance is first and foremost the Lord their God, and secondarily it is the Promised Land. Their first inheritance is the Lord. With that inheritance, they will somehow be in the world, but not really be in the world. They will be ambassadors. While the Lord even rules and reigns from Zion and Jerusalem, the people Israel will be among a world that is not within that City of Light. The nations will be all around that City, and will come up to it to take the leaves from the tree of life for their own healing. Somehow, life continues as we know it, and yet life is nothing like what we know or understand. Somehow, we see the prophetic texts speaking of a coming Kingdom that will be established upon this earth, and yet we will still be ambassadors to those in outer darkness – those who can see the Light, but are not able to bear that Light.
We find in Deuteronomy 17:8-13 that those who govern Israel are the priests. There aren’t courts or judges set up by kings and government. Instead, the priest is the one who judges. Why? It is because the priest is the one who ministers before the Lord. They will judge in righteousness, not according to what they think or desire, but according to truth and equity. They will say, as Jesus said, “If I judge, my decision is true, because I do not stand alone. I am with the Father who sent me.”[iii] They will judge righteously so “that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God”.[iv]
As it says in Isaiah 14:2, “The house of Israel will possess the nations as menservants and maidservants in the Lord’s hand.” Later we read in Isaiah, “Surely you sill summon nations you know not, and nations that you do not know will hasten to you, because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has endowed you with splendor.”[v] “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, the darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.”[vi] “For the nation or kingdom that will not serve you will perish; it will be utterly ruined.”[vii] These verses are speaking of the same phenomenon. They go hand-in-hand together. When we see the connection, that priesthood means being the head, but at the same time it means being the least and the sacrifice on behalf of the people, our romantic notions disappear.
This kind of adoration and exultation comes from severe humiliation. Just as Christ bore the cross before He was raised unto glory and ascended to the right hand of God, Israel must go through utter terror before they are exalted into priesthood. To whom much is given, much will be required.[viii] This is not something to covet. I fear that many of those who are Christians, and who play games from Sunday to Sunday, will also be sifted. They too will experience terrible torment. The reason for this is because we are all called to be that priesthood together. The two have become one, and our calling must be fulfilled together or not at all. If the Church is not in a place capable of ruling and reigning with Christ, then they will be forced to endure extreme tribulation in order to be purified and refined.
We read at the end of Ezekiel 37, a chapter about the utter devastation of Israel that brings them down to being only dry bones so that they claim, “Our hope is gone, and we are cut off”, the following passage: “I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant. I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever. My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. Then the nations will know that I the Lord make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them.”[ix]
Isn’t it interesting that many times in the prophetic texts, we have the sweep from utter devastation to ecstatic exultation? It is personified in the man Joshua when we read from Zechariah 3:4, “The angel said to those who were standing before him, ‘Take off his filthy clothes.’ Then he said to Joshua, ‘See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put rich garments on you’.” We see here the symbol of Israel being taken out from the filth of the world, where we all seem to be fascinated with sinful lusts, and being brought into the priesthood. Their righteous acts, which are filthy rags before the Lord,[x] will be replaced with priestly apparel.
Later in Zechariah, we find verses such as 8:13, “As you have been an object of cursing among the nations, O Judah and Israel, so will I save you, and you will be a blessing. Do not be afraid, but let your hands be strong.” And again in 8:23, “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In those days ten men from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, “Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you”.’” This is the fulfillment of the priesthood. They will display the Lord their God to all men and all nations. We will take part in their joy, ruling and reigning with Christ. That is, of course, if we do indeed make it to ruling and reigning. It is said in Revelation 20:4-6 that not everyone attains to that first resurrection.
This priesthood is holy. Only they that have come into the realm of God’s holy heart can then teach others of that holy heart. Some will rule over 10 cities, and others will rule over 5. It will be allotted according to our character. They that have not attained to a place in Christ to be able to rule and reign with Him, which is the reward of priestliness, will not have a place to rule and reign. They will make it into the new heaven and new earth after the judgment seat, but they will not be a part of that City. They will be marked with those that must come up to the City in order to take the fruit and leaves of the tree of life for their healing. This only scratches the surface, and does not do justice in explaining true priesthood. Yet, it will have to suffice for now.
[i] Genesis 33:10
[ii] Numbers 18:20, Deuteronomy 10:9, but the direct quote comes from Deuteronomy 18:2
[iii] John 8:16
[iv] Joshua 4:24
[v] Isaiah 55:5
[vi] Isaiah 60:1
[vii] Isaiah 60:12
[viii] Luke 12:48
[ix] The first quote was verse 11, the latter quote verses are 26-28
[x] Isaiah 64:6