1 Peter 2:9-10 Pt. 2
“But you are a royal priesthood…” vs. 9b
There is a story about an old missionary couple who had spent their lives working in Africa. They were returning to New York City to retire. They had no pension, their health was broken, and they were discouraged and afraid. When they went down to the wharf to board the ship, they discovered that they were booked on the same ship as President Teddy Roosevelt, who was returning from a big game hunt.
When they boarded the ship, no one paid any attention to them. Then they watched the fanfare as the President arrived, with the band playing and people waiving and straining for a glimpse of the great man.
As the ship moved across the ocean, the old missionary said to his wife, “Dear, something is wrong. Why should we have given our lives in faithful service for God in Africa all these years, and yet no one cares about us? Here this man comes back from a big game hunt, and everybody makes much over him.” His wife replied, “Dear, you shouldn’t feel that way. Try not to be bitter about it.” But he said, “I just can’t help it. It doesn’t seem right.”
As the boat neared America, he became more depressed. When the ship docked, a band was waiting to greet the President. The mayor of New York plus a bunch of national leaders were there. The papers carried the story on the front page. But no one noticed the missionaries, as they slipped off the boat and went to find a cheap flat and to look for work.
That night the man’s spirit broke. He felt that God had abandoned them. It just wasn’t fair. “We don’t have anyone to help us and no where to go,” he told his wife. “Why doesn’t God meet our need?” His wife replied, “Why don’t you go into the bedroom and talk to the Lord about the whole thing?”
A short time later he came out of the bedroom, but now his face was happy. His wife asked what happened. He said, “I told the Lord the whole thing. I told Him that it’s not fair. I told Him how I was bitter because the President received this tremendous homecoming, when no one met us when we returned home. And you know, as I finished, it seemed as though the Lord put His hand on my shoulder and said simply, “But, you’re not home yet.” (There are several versions of this story. This one is from Ray Stedman, Jesus Teaches on Prayer [Word], pp. 30-31.)
Read Passage – 1 Peter 2:9-10
9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Without A King
In the theocratic world of the OT Jewish nation, the priesthood was established with the purpose of being the highest ranking official of the people. The ideal for them was to have not king but God himself and then the priesthood was to serve as the mediator and overseer of the people. God made it pretty clear that was what he wanted and what was best for them. He said in Exodus 29:45-46:
“Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. They will know that I am the LORD their God…” Exodus 29:45-46
Sometimes you might wonder why the O.T., especially the book of Exodus is filled with all those laws and regulations and the reason is that God was establishing himself as the king and the priests as the ones who would monitor and watch over the people. Many of those laws and regulations are given directly to the priests so they would know exactly how to make sure things were handled properly.
God has always wanted people to recognize Him as king of their life. But he has always given us freewill to make that decision as well. We even sing phrases like “King of my life I crown thee now” or “You are my king (from Amazing Love).”
Corruption of the Priesthood
Here’s where thing went awry and fell apart: the priesthood became corrupt. You might remember the priests received no land in The Promised Land. They were told that God would be their inheritance but as is the case with man, we need things more tangible and concrete to call our own and that doesn’t stop with the priests as well.
Over time the priesthood became more corrupt and eventually it got to the point where it borders not only on abuse, but it doesn’t’ look or act Godly either. As we move into New Testament time and Jesus is on the scene, he points out the hypocrisy in who they are and even calls them on it. He says about them in Matt. 23:25:
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.” Matthew 23:25
They look the part on the outside. They are wearing all the right clothes, saying things that sound good, and making sure they play the part. But…behind the scenes and inwardly, they are not only living a lie, they are not the representation of God that they were called to be. It’s interesting to note that the only people Jesus ever really comes down on is the priesthood.
Establishing a Royal Priesthood
It came to a point where the priesthood wasn’t being effective or even being what God wanted. Really it was time to establish a new priesthood. Here’s what takes place for this new priesthood to be established: Jesus Christ. God sent his son and it’s through him and the work he did on the cross that this new priesthood is established. It gets better. What I like about this is this new priesthood he calls “royal.” Verse 9b:
“But you are a royal priesthood…” vs. 9b
What is royal? The dictionary defines it as:
A. of kingly ancestry
B. of, relating to, or subject to the crown
C. being in the crown’s service
For us to really comprehend the magnitude of what God is saying to us here, we are going to look at what God is saying to us about how we live by looking back at the responsibility of the priesthood God established in the Old Testament and put the new addition and /or blessing of being “royal” with it. It all comes down to three areas of our lives.
1. Characterized by Holiness
First, the priesthood was supposed to be characterized by its holiness. You may remember that part of Peters call from 1 Peter 1:15 is for the New Testament church is to be holy:
“But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do…” 1 Peter 1:15
To remind you, holiness is: to be completely separate, no confusion with anything, anyone else or any other god. It is saying that He stands apart and above everything else.
The priesthood in the Old Testament was to be characterized by not being like everyone else. They were meant to be separate and to stand above or apart from everything else. Not having land or material things was not a punishment or meant to deprive them of things, it was meant to help them rely on God, lean on God, and stand above others, not in an arrogant way but in a Godly way.
So here me out on this but many people feel that if they follow God they have to give up material things or what many people might say are the good things in life. No, the call is to make God king of your life and to be set apart for him. That means we keep material things in perspective and not make them our hearts desire and our main thoughts. Doing that keeps us looking for what is to come as Peter points out in 2 Peter 3:11-12:
“You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.” 2 Peter 3:11-12
Being characterized by holiness means that we find joy in this life and pleasure in the things that God has provided for us but that our ultimate desire and ultimate goal is to spend eternity with him. That attitude can only come about when we set ourselves apart for God. The real challenge for the old priesthood was finding their worth in God and in him being their king, not in material things. They couldn’t do it. They wanted the material things of wealth, power, and prestige over God and it eventually took over their lives.
Our Challenge: What things are we putting too much worth in and allowing to take the place of God? i.e. money, relationships, job, power, a hobby, a person, etc.
There is a kind of character that flows from knowing you’re characterized by holiness. There’s a kind of moral character and being and style. There’s a kind of character quality that flows from knowing being characterized by holiness.
2. Access To God
A second thing the Old Testament priesthood has and that is ours as well is access to God. In Exodus it describes the clothing the priests would wear to enter the holy place, it says in Exodus 28:4:
“These are the garments they are to make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a woven tunic, a turban and a sash. They are to make these sacred garments for your brother Aaron and his sons, so they may serve me as priests.” Exodus 28:4
A priest gets in. A priest comes into the inside. If you’re going to a place where you want access, you’d better look good. This is true, of course, for the priests. The priests of the Old Testament did not go before the Lord in jeans and sneakers. The priests wore the most beautiful and most gorgeous garments in the whole country. They were symbolic, just like your tux is a symbol.
Ex. You’re invited to go visit the Queen of England. How do you dress?
Ill. The time I was invited to visit…
Now I think we have a clue in the story of Christ’s death that gives us some insight into how Christ’s work changes the priesthood and opens it up to the royal priesthood that Peter is talking about. It comes in Mark 15:38:
“The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” Mark 15:38
As soon as Christ has died, the old priesthood is put aside and I believe that the tearing of the curtain has significance to this end; the old priesthood is put aside, the curtain is torn and it is no longer the “priests” that can enter but all can come in who claim Jesus Lord and Savior of their life. The central wonder of the gospel is we have access to the central height of the universe. Another way to put it is we have access as priests to love, serve, and commune with God. The priests are no longer the mediator, the go between, Jesus is the mediator and we are the priests that can go straight to God. This is awesome news.
3. Offers Sacrifices
And thirdly, the priesthood of the Old Testament were the ones called to make the sacrifices. The two jobs of the priests in the OT that are still what we are to do today
1. Be advocates for God – the came to the God on the peoples behalf
2. Led in worship. The worship services and the sacrifices.
The Old Testament goes into great detail in describing the sacrifices and how they were to be performed. We look back at those and get overwhelmed with all they had to do. They had sacrifices for everything and we can’t fathom the idea of offering all those animals and first fruits and then having to atone for all the things we have done wrong. But that was a way of life for them. David talks about this in Psalms 54:6:
“I will sacrifice a freewill offering to you; I will praise your name, LORD, for it is good.” Psalm 54:6
But the good news is, and it all points back to Jesus, Jesus paid the whole sacrifice. No more animals, no more grain offerings, none of the things the priesthood of Old Testament had to offer or perform, Jesus takes care of the whole thing. But here is the new take on the offering of sacrifices by the priesthood, we are to offer sacrifices, but not like in the Old Testament, Christ has made those sacrifices new and they are different;. Hebrews 13:15 says:
“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.” Hebrews 13:15
The royal priesthood offers sacrifices: sacrifices of praise. And if we continue on into verse 16 it also says:
“And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” Hebrews 13:16
So the New Testament royal priesthood has two jobs as well:
1. Be advocates for God by singing his praises
2. Be people who do good so that others see God though our good works.
John Wesley, theologian and author, said:
“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”
Jesus the High Priest
One last thing about we, the church, being a priesthood of believers; we have a high priest. The high priest was the chief of all the priests. The one allt he other priest took their cures from, reported to, and looked to for leadership and guidance; Jesus is the high priest. Hebrews 14:4 tells us this:
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.” Hebrews 4:14
Jesus was a high priest because he paid the ultimate sacrifice, he atoned for our sins, he enter the holy of holies, and now sits at the right had of the Father. Because Jesus is our great high priest, we’ve got a friend in high places. We’ve got connections in heaven.