Exodus 19:4-6a (NIV)
You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
As we slowly begin to turn toward the New Testament in our exploration of what it means to “receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22), there is a major Old Testament idea that we must consider. It sets the stage for what it means for followers of Jesus to be Spirit-empowered people in every generation. This big idea—the idea of the royal priesthood—means that we are a people in whom heaven and earth meet. To be filled with the Holy Spirit means that we have a special priestly role to fulfill as Jesus’ disciples in the world.
In Exodus 19, a beautiful calling is placed on the people of Israel, from the oldest to the youngest. The Creator has chosen them from among all of humanity, saying, “you will be my treasured possession.” Because of their sheer belovedness and God’s great affection toward them, they will be carried on “eagles’ wings” to be drawn into increasing intimacy with the great I Am. This people and their God will share a mutual bond marked by hesed (covenant lovingkindness)—for all time.
The entire nation, God intended, would be a set-apart people who would communicate to the nations of the world that God is with us, for us, and on our side. In other words, they would be an entire kingdom of priests—every last one of them. While this may be a challenging idea for our modern mind to comprehend, it is worth a few moments to reflect on what God’s intention for the royal priesthood would be, from Adam and Eve to you and me.
In the Biblical ideal, a “priest” is a holy, set-apart one, a true meeting place of heaven and earth, an image-bearing, human sanctuary who embodies unbroken worship and unceasing covenant loyalty. A priest is to be one who, anointed by the Spirit, nurtures and facilitates the connection between God and people. A priest is to take another’s hand to guide the way to wholeness in relationship with God. A priest is to lead a heart to embrace God’s great story of rescue and restoration—with all its personal and corporate implications. A priest is one who calls God’s people to worship in spirit and in truth, to maintain covenant love, and to thereby resist idolatry—and the injustice, dehumanization, and spiritual disorientation that inevitably follows it.
A priest is a worshiper of the true and living God, and leads others to become the same. A priest, in the New Testament, is a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:10), and Jesus is our great High Priest (Heb. 4:14-16).
1 Peter 2:9 speaks directly to us at this point, saying: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
With the coming of the Holy Spirit to empower us, and with Jesus our Great High Priest dwelling within us, today we as “royal priests” are to guide others to maturity in Christ as they take their place in the royal priesthood alongside us. The Spirit of God is ever-watchful over our calling to be a royal priesthood, moving us toward maturity as heaven-meets-earth people.
Every spiritual gift, every Spirit empowerment given to the Church, is designed to help us become those royal priests—bringing others back into covenant with their heavenly Father.
Jesus, I receive the Holy Spirit. I welcome the calling to become your “royal priest,” bridging the gap between others and your love. Come, Holy Spirit, fill me today with love and power to lead others into the divine healing and intimacy you have intended for them. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Have you ever seen yourself as a place where heaven and earth meet? If not, what could you begin to do to nurture that understanding in your heart?
For the Awakening,