by Skip Moen
“I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar; I will also consecrate Aaron and his sons to minister to Me.” Exodus 29:44
To Minister – This is a surprise. Aaron and his sons are not ministering to the people. They are ministering to God. They are consecrated to the Lord. The focus of their actions, the instructions that they follow, the purpose of all that they do, wear, eat and say is about worshiping God. Given our view of ministry, doesn’t that seem a bit strange? Can you imagine going to church and watching the pastor worshiping God? What do you think church would be like if the role of the ‘clergy’ were only to serve the Lord, not to provide the sermon, chair the committees, run the staff or develop the programs? Who would do all the rest of the things that needed to be done? Oh, now I get it. This little change implies that everyone has an active role to play. No more passive congregants.
In Hebrew, the word translated ‘to minister’ is kahan. You can see that it is directly related to the word kohen which means ‘priest’. Therefore, the translation should really be, ‘to act and serve as priests to Me.’ The concept of ministry, so popular in our view of church, really doesn’t fit here. After all, God doesn’t need counseling, sermons, praise and worship teams, Sunday school curriculums or offering collectors. If Aaron and his sons were consecrated by God to act and serve as priests to Him, what does that really mean? How is it different from our invention of the role of the clergy? Most importantly, why does God need priests anyway?
We usually think of priests as intermediaries. They act as some kind of official bridge between us and God. Of course, that role seems to have been replaced by the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. Now we believe that each one of us acts as a priest. But what we discover from Exodus is that this concept really isn’t new. It was established the day that God chose Israel to be a kingdom of priests. The priestly role that all of God’s children play is directed toward those outside the Kingdom. We act as intermediaries for those who have not yet been grafted into Israel. We are God’s hands and feet to the lost. But that’s not the kind of role that Aaron and his sons play. After all, Israel is not lost. Israel doesn’t need to be grafted in. Israel is already elected. So, why does God establish the Levitical order?
David tells us what they do (see 1 Chronicles 15:2). Moses tells us when they do it (Exodus 32:26). And God tells us why (Deuteronomy 10:8). You can read some of the details in (Numbers 1:50-51 and Numbers 3:6-10). God establishes His priests before Him because they were passionate about who He is. They are God’s official praise team. They bless God. In the process, they are living examples of active obedience and submitted worship.
Does God need priests who run the local church? Hummm! I’m not so sure that’s what He had in mind. Maybe the idea of a church as a community of saints doesn’t really support the hierarchy that we find so numbing. God seems to have had another purpose in mind, namely, blessing Him. I wonder if we are ready for that kind of priest. And I wonder if there really is any other kind …… Just thinking!
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