<<one who carries out religious rites/ceremonies>>

After being delivered from Egypt and en route to Canaan God told the Israelites that if they were obedient to Him they would become “A kingdom of priests [for] God” – that is, with the whole nation and each individual relating directly to Him (Ex 19:5,6). However, the sin of the people prevented this from happening so He appointed specialist priests and the sacrificial system, by which His original desire could be outworked.

The priests were only chosen from the tribe of Levi (thus the term Levitical priesthood) while only those who descended from Aaron, the first High Priest, could function in this leading role (Num 18:7).  The priests were God’s spiritual representatives or intermediaries between Him and the people, showing them how to follow God, besides performing the daily sacrifices and maintaining the temple (Ex 29:38-44; Lev 10:10,11; Num 1:50,51; Deut 10:8, 17:8-13; Mal 2:7). There were specific requirements and duties for these priests, who were dedicated’ to offer the sacrifices to God, and were the focal point of the Israelite company (Lev 21:1-9; Josh 3:6, 6:6,16). As priests they did not inherit any land but instead were provided for by part of the sacrifices that were regularly offered by the people (Lev 5:13; Num 18:24-32, 31:30; Deut 10:9, 14:29, 18:1,2; Josh 14:3,4).

The OT performing of sacrifices was not a do-it-yourself activity that could be undertaken by anyone. God selected or gave permission to those who were to offer sacrifices to Him. King Saul was reprimanded when with impatience he offered a sacrifice in direct violation of the words of Samuel, "I will come down to you to sacrifice...but you must wait seven days until I come to you..." (1 Sam 10:8, 13:13). Later King "David built an altar to the Lord there and sacrificed..." however this was in obedience to the command of a prophet (2 Sam 24:18,19,25). So while primarily the procedure of sacrifices was to be performed by the priests He did authorize others to offer sacrifices too. In the OT as is the case today, God desires obedience.

In the OT the people could not approach God directly but only via the priests, and with a sacrifice. This foreshadowed Christ who offered “One sacrifice for sins, once for all”, enabling anyone to approach God directly through Jesus, our great high priest, who intercedes for us (Heb 7:25,27, 10:10,12). Consequently, we are called “a priesthood of believers”, having free and unlimited access into the

Do I function as a priest before God?

presence of God to offer our sacrifices of praise, thanksgiving and grateful service, and to be channels through whom God can minister to humanity (1 Pet 2:5-9; Rev 1:6, 5:10).

In some churches today, the spiritual leader or minister is called a priest.

See also: Levites, presence of God, sacrifice.