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The priests in the Tabernacle, and later the Temple, operated under the Levitical commands of the Mosaic Covenant. Their daily sacrifices and offerings were required so God’s people were able to commune with Him and be led by His grace and mercy (click here to read a post about OT sacrifices). The sweet aromas of the burnt, meal, and peace offerings and the not so sweet aroma of the sin and trespass offerings wafted out of the altar of the courtyard. The priests performed their daily rituals with reverence and obedience.
The Mosaic Covenant, along with the Levitical Priesthood, is now obsolete. It finished when the great High-Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ, made final intercession on our behalf. Scripture tells us that He sat down, having completed His Priestly ministry. It finished after He entered the Holy of Holies of heaven’s tabernacle and sprinkled His blood on the mercy seat. Because of His sacrifice on the cross, there remains no more sacrifice for sins (Hebrews 10:1-18). His sacrificial act rendered the Old Covenant obsolete and established the basis of the New Covenant.
Christianity is the New Covenant God has made with mankind. The New Covenant also comes with a new priesthood. Every Christian is a priest in the new Covenant. As priests, we have different privileges and responsibilities than the priests of the Mosaic Covenant.
Here are the functions of the priesthood Christians should concern themselves with. Welcome to the priesthood!
Not sacrifice for sins
We need to explicitly understand there is a major difference between the priests of the Old Covenant and the priests of the New Covenant. The primary function of the Old Covenant priest was to make an offering for sin for themselves and on behalf of other people. Because Christ has already made a complete and finished offering in the New Covenant, any offering we give or any sacrifice we put forth, is not done with the pretense of cleansing ourselves from sin. We are to make offerings and sacrifices; however, we are not to do so as a way to present ourselves sinless before God. Never undervalue the complete saving work of the cross by adding more sacrifice for sin.
Love God and others
Love fulfills the Law. As priests, we are to love God and others. To love God with all our heart, understanding, and strength; and to love our neighbor as ourselves, is an offering far exceeding any burnt offering and sacrifice (Mark 12:33). When we love God and others it is better than the choicest offerings and sacrifices performed by the Levitical priests. God desires we show compassion towards one another more than He desires sacrifices (Matthew 9:13; 12:7). When we are walking in love, it is an offering and sacrifice with a fragrant aroma to God (Ephesians 5:2), pleasing to Him. Doing good toward others is a pleasing sacrifice on the altar (Hebrews 13:16). As priests, let us be fully governed by love.
Minister the Gospel
We are a royal and holy priesthood, set apart by God to proclaim God’s excellency (1 Peter 2:4-10). For mankind, the excellency of God is displayed in the dispensation of His grace. Just as the Levitical priests were set apart for the proclamation of God’s holiness through sacrificial offerings for sin, we, as a priest in the New Covenant, minister the gospel (Romans 15:16). We offer up the sacrifice of our lips, giving thanks to God (Hebrews 13:15). Our priestly proclamation is the declaration of the atoning sacrifice for sins made by Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary.
The Levitical priests worshipped God by making offerings. We also are to serve and thereby make continual offerings. Our worship is to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, not conformed to the world, but transformed (Romans 12:1-2). Our living sacrifice is the pouring out of our lives for others. (Philippians 2:17; 2 Timothy 4:6). Serving others manifests in a myriad of ways (shoveling, cleaning, discipleship, baby-sitting, nursing, laundering, witnessing, moving, cooking, etc.). We demonstrate a heart of gratitude when we offer up to God acceptable service, performed with reverence and awe (Hebrews 12:28).
One of the functions of the priests in the Old Covenant was to keep the altar of incense burning in the Holy Place. The altar continually burnt with incense and the aroma was pleasing to God. The Apostle John writes that he saw the prayers of the saints as an offering being made before God (Revelation 5:8; 8:3-4). When we pray, God is honored and enjoys the sweet aroma before His throne. Just as the altar of incense in the Tabernacle burnt continuously, our prayers are to be unceasing.
In the Old Covenant, people gave to the Levites so they may minister. In the New Covenant, all believers are to be giving of their finances for this is an acceptable sacrifice to God (Philippians 4:18). Apostolic mission work, benevolence, and church ministry require financial support. We please God when we participate in the giving of our finances for the purpose of honoring Christ and His body.
Let us be sure to ask God to grant us wisdom and grace for the ministry set before us.
Over the years I have made it a habit to read the presidential proclamation which set aside the last Thursday of October as a day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens,” as it was declared by Abraham Lincoln 148 years ago. I trust you will be blessed as I am to read this during this season of Thanksgiving.
October 3, 1863
By the President of the United States
The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.
In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and provoke their aggressions, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict; while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.
Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.
No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.
It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people. I do, therefore, invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a Day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that, while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation, and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United Stated States to be affixed.
Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.