Lesson 02 – The Priest
What is a priest? A dictionary would define a priest as someone who performs religious rites and make sacrificial offerings. To fullly understand what a priest is, we need to know what were the priest's functions. Priests had three functions:
- The priests represented the people to God
- The priests represented God to the people
- The priests guarded the sanctuary and the people from the sanctuary
The priests represented the people to God in the sanctuary by the various sacrifices as specified in the covenant between God and Israel made in Mount Sinai:
- Burnt offering
- Sin offering
- Guilt offering
- Peace offering
- Gift/grain offering
The priest represented God to the people in the following ways:
- The priests functioned as the voice of God in teaching and in prophecy (Exodus 28:30; Deuteronomy 33:8, 10; Numbers 27:21-23)
- The priests would bless the people on behalf of God (Leviticus 9:22; Numbers 6:22-27)
The priests guarded the sanctuary and the people from the sanctuary, because holiness can be dangerous to impure people (Leviticus 10:1-7; 2 Samuel 6:6-7). The sanctuary was located in the middle of the camp of the Israelites and the Levites encamped around the sanctuary as a safeguard to this end (Numbers 2:17).
In the sanctuary, the priests could only minister in the Holy Place. Only the high priest could go into the Most Holy Place once a year to minister before God.
In the sanctuary, the priest would act as an intercessor, or mediator, between the people and God (Exodus 3:12; 4:16). What does it mean to intercede? To intercede is to go between two parties, to plead to one on behalf of the other.
- So, why is there a need for a priest to be an intercessor for the people? Let's turn to Ezekiel 22:30
- Answer (highlight to read): There is a gap between the people and God, so there is a need for someone to fill that gap.
- How did there come to be gap between the people and God? Let's turn to Isaiah 59:2.
- Answer: Our sins have separated us from God.
- How is intercession even possible? Let's turn to Amos 3:7.
- Answer: God revealed His plans to His prophets before they came to be.
Intercession is still needed today because sin broke the relationship between God and humanity. Sin created a gap between us and God that we cannot cross on our own. We need someone to bridge that gap (Genesis 28:12). Jesus Christ is the bridge that closes the gap between us and God (John 14:6). It is only through Jesus that we can repair our relationship with God. The priesthood pointed to Jesus as our ultimate intercessor!