What are some things that come to your mind when you think about a priest?
If I'm honest, my mind's eye has often conjured up an image of a catholic priest; it is a tangible picture, after all. If I drift to thoughts about the Old Testament, I reflect on sacrifices and the temple - not that I am able to visualize that very well, since the images of my mind are drawn from the illustrations of children's books I have read to my kids.
So, I feel like for most of us, we don't have a solid box to understand the role of a priest.
We have a hard time imagining what it was like in the early days of Israel, our evangelical churches don't contain the office of priest, and animal sacrifices are not a cultural norm these days. Thus the role is marked by mystery and obscurity, leaving us with little context for us to apply to our lives.
Yet, Scripture tells us we are "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light" (1 Peter 2:9-10, ESV). God has called us into a priesthood, He has given this function to us as followers of Christ.
What do we make of that?
An ancient role, awarded to us by God's grace, may seem impractical, in this day and age. Yet we are called. We are chosen, to be His priests.
To help us understand our priestly role, Ed Welch writes this book "Created to Draw Near: Our Life As God's Royal Priests".
The purpose of his book is that "we must understand ourselves as priests by how God identifies the priesthood rather than how we experience priests past and present."
He writes each chapter as a meditation on different aspects of the priesthood, drawing in truths from Old Testament laws & prophecies, and New Testament fulfillments, to help us comprehend this ancient role. A role that has implications for how we live today, as followers of Christ. At the end of each chapter, he provides response questions, allowing the reader to meditate and reflect.
He summarizes the role of priests, that they "served in God's house, knew God close up, ate meals with him, and enjoyed his presence. When they circulated among the people, they had the enviable job of pronouncing a blessing over them."
Serving. Knowing. Enjoying. Blessing.
How do those words fit for you?
It may stir emotions in your heart, as you reflect on your walk of faith. Maybe there are feelings of guilt or shame. Maybe there is a deep longing for more. There may be confusion as you wonder how this is supposed to fit in your life, when it currently looks like everything other than.
But, this is what we are created for. This is how we glorify God with our lives, and serve others, through our role as priests of God. "God's intent for humanity has been that we would live in his house and receive his divine hospitality. That is the mission of the priests - priests are near to God."
What difference would this make in your life, acknowledging your role as God's royal priest?
In his book, he looks at three perspectives that inform our role as priests.
We are created by God, and we are "bent toward connection and closeness." Our very being desires that intimacy with others and with our Creator. This intimacy grows as we follow Him in obedience. Through the lives of the patriarchs we see God leading and guiding His people; we see Him establish a place for His presence in the tabernacle and the temple. Yet, time and again we see people turning from God's ways, and away from that intimacy. Our past reveals that we were born with a sinful nature which we battle daily, and as we fight against it, we draw nearer to Christ.
In Jesus we see our Great Priest, we see Emmanuel, who is God with us. He is the one who descended down to us, who became our Passover lamb, the one in whom we are to believe. He atoned for us, as the high priests would atone for the sins of Israel. That sinful nature we labor against has been atoned for, by the power of His glorious grace! He died and rose again, and is coming back again. We live our lives as priests by the help of His grace and in the power of His promises.
We continue to walk in obedience daily, and as "The Spirit brings you into the presence of God, and you shine as you reflect the light of Jesus." It's a beautiful picture of the priesthood, that like Moses, we can reflect the glory of God to those around us. The priests were set apart for God, and so we enter the world in our spheres of influence, our work, activities and families, as a people who are set apart. Yet, even in our uniqueness as believers, our role as priests means that we teach, encourage, and bring others into that same union with Christ.
As a member of a priesthood, we have God's Word that illuminates how we live. Even in this seemingly ancient role as a priest, we have practical applications for us today as we step out into our worlds, shining His light and carrying His aroma to those around us. "Created to Draw Near" is a great encouragement to us, as we continue to discover what that role means for us and how we live.
"You are a royal priest. That reality will change how you live."
Thank you to Crossway and Netgalley for the ARC and for the opportunity to post an honest review.