📷: Joshua Earle
I grew up in the bustling, African city of Johannesburg. The church I called home throughout my childhood and into my early twenties was large in size. The sanctuary was an eight-thousand seater, packed to capacity during each of its multiple Sunday services. At the end of every meeting, a fiery team of men and women stood before the stage and those in need of prayer could come forward and have hands laid on them. The sick were healed, demons cast out and heaven shaken with fervent requests. It was always a red-hot time of heaven touching earth. My mother served as one of these prayer warriors throughout my high school years and when I started university, I asked whether I could likewise join the team. The pastor responsible clearly saw beyond my eighteen-year-old self and agreed. And so, Sundays saw me standing alongside esteemed, mature believers (all at least twenty years my senior!) and serving as best I could, learning as I went. I will always remember how there were certain congregation members – and unfortunately, a number of them – who would approach us far too frequently, requesting a word from the Lord. “Please, tell me what the Lord is saying to me,” they would plead. Sunday after Sunday, their entreaty was the same. They trusted us to hear from God regarding their dilemmas more than they trusted their own spiritual ears. “How horrid!” I remember thinking to myself. “Lord, I never want to be like one of them. I am your child. Your children should be able to hear Your voice.”
Why do I share this story with you? These dear believers had given up their priestly privilege. God prophesised this privilege in Exodus and the death and resurrection of our Saviour Lord made its materialisation possible. Let us turn to Exodus 19 together. Therein, we find the Israelis in the wilderness of Sinai and at the base of its mighty mountain. God had delivered His chosen people out of the iron fist of Egypt and was posing a renewal and reaffirmation of the covenant He had made generations earlier with their patriarch, Abraham. “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself,” God declared.“Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation”(Exodus 19:4-6). A kingdom of priests. What a significant statement. God wanted a kingdom of priests. What does this mean? Surely, it cannot simply mean that Israel would have a priesthood. Many nations had priesthoods for their various gods and goddesses. It had to mean something more. And, it did. Priests are so named because of their access to the deity served. No mediator stands between them and the deity. This is exactly what God wanted for each and every one of His people: complete access. He had created them all; He loved them all; He wanted them all. Yet, on account of their sin-nature and consequent aversion to His holy presence, this “en masse” priestly calling could not yet be fulfilled. Take note of the reaction of the general Israeli populace to the presence of the Almighty: “Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, and the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off. Then they said to Moses, ‘You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die’”(Exodus 20:19). These men and women had no desire for access. They did not want close contact. They did not want to be without a mediator. They wanted a mediator. They demanded it. And so, God obliged. Moses mediated. Aaron and his family were appointed as the priesthood. The human shields were firmly in place.
Today, dear believer, all has changed. Each and every child of God is a priest. We have complete access to God. We have called on the matchless name of Jesus Christ for salvation, becoming blood-bought and blood-washed. Rather than have a sin-fuelled nature, we have a born-again nature. Rather than fleeing from His holy presence we are possessed by it: God in us. The only mediator who remains is Jesus Christ. He is God the Son and so, the mediator between us and God is God Himself. We could not be nearer to Him. Finally, God has His kingdom of priests! “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light”(1 Peter 2:9). Yes indeed, every believer is a priest of Jehovah, called to intimate fellowship and devoted service, pulling others into this same precious communion. Yet, how many believers have given up this blessed privilege? They remain dawdling in the outer court, refusing to pick up the mantle of their priesthood. Everything they receive from the Lord is through the filter of someone else’s God-experience. They want their pastor to teach them Scripture rather than diving one-on-one with the Spirit into its depths. They want the prophet to give them a word from God rather than seeking His voice themselves. They want the evangelist to pray for their sick body rather than standing firm and faith-filled on His healing promises until they see the manifestion. They spend more time submitting prayer requests than praying. They spend more time listening to worship music than worshipping. They spend more time reading Christian books than the Bible. And so, they receive revelations second-hand. They are stuck firmly back in the Old Testament alongside those skittish Israelites, waiting for their Moses-of-the-hour to come down the mighty mountain and spoon-feed them heavenly mysteries. How horrible.
Dear friend, as we start this new year, let us be committed to our priestly calling. It is an extraordinary privilege. Do not let your spiritual ears become deaf to His voice because you only hear it through the mouth of someone else. Yes, God uses the five-fold offices and our fellow believers to equip and encourage us. However, this should be second-place to you and Him, face-to-face, Your ear to His mouth and His ear to Your lips. This is the honour His sacrifice has procured for us. Believe it. Embrace it. Intimacy with Him is your privilege. Intimacy with you is His eternal reward.