Today, I feel led by the Spirit to begin a series of writings called, “The Anatomy of the Biblical Church”. Wow! Such a constipated sounding title! Sounds kind of like the title of a textbook doesn’t it?
Well, I don’t intend for this teaching to boring but beneficial. If it comes from the Spirit, it can’t be anything but beneficial – right?
And, here’s the weird thing – yes, weirder than a constipated title:
I’m going to begin this series on the church in the Old Testament!
Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Exodus 19:5-6
These words were given to Moses by God on Mt. Sinai. They are words of purpose. In these words, God tells Moses to tell the elders of Israel that His purpose for them was to be a holy nation – a kingdom of priests. In these words, you hear God’s heart – His plan to make the entire nation of Israel into a holy and unique kingdom; ruled by God with each individual fulfilling a priestly role.
Now, I’m not saying that God’s plan was to never have the Aaronic priesthood. those who were directly responsible for the sacrifices and service of the Lord, but I am saying that Israel’s calling was a unique one among the nations. They were to exhibit the nature of God and they were to act as a testimony to all nations of the power and goodness of God.
Right after the Messianic calling of the Lord Jesus written about in Isaiah 61, we find God’s calling for Israel:
But you shall be named the priests of the Lord, they shall call you the servants of our God. Vs. 6
Now, back to the time of Moses.
After Moses told the elders of Israel the words of the Lord, Israel consecrated themselves and gathered at the foot of Mt. Sinai so that God could speak to the entire congregation. The sight was awesome – the smoking mountaintop, the sound of the trumpet, the lighting flashes and thunderclaps. The people beheld the glory of God! Moses said to the people:
Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin. Exodus 20:20
Then, Moses drew near to God in the fire and smoking cloud.
The whole time Moses was gone the people could see the mountain burning with fire – the flashes and thunders.
Priests draw near to God and as a kingdom of priests Israel’s calling was to be near to God.
But, when Moses returned to the people, here was their response to what they had experienced:
Now therefore, why should we die? For this great fire will consume us; if we hear the voice of the Lord our God anymore, then we shall die. Duet. 5:25
Verse 27: You go near and hear all that the Lord our God may say, and tell us all that the Lord our God says to you, and we will hear and do it.
The people asked Moses to be an intermediary for them. They didn’t want to speak to God face to face.
You see, they had been slaves in Egypt. They cried out to God under cruel bondage and God delivered them. Then, God led them across the Red Sea into the desert like a shepherd leads his flock. They had beheld the glory of the Lord all along the way in the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. They had known God as a provider. They had known God as a deliverer. They had known God as a protector.
But, God is many things, isn’t He?
They had also known God as justice. They had seen His holiness. They had experienced His purity.
They didn’t want to be a kingdom of priests – never had. They just wanted to be free – masters of their own destiny. They didn’t want to serve the Egyptians but truth be told, they didn’t want God to be their Master either.
They didn’t understand God. Oh, they loved His benevolence, His care, and how He fought their battles for them. But, they didn’t understand all this stuff about honoring God – this fasting – this consecration. Not only did they not understand it, truth be told; they didn’t like it!
“Did you know Moses was up on that mountain 40 days with God? And the whole time, he didn’t eat a thing! What a waste of time! And, who wants to go without food? Remember how God judged Korah, Dathan, and Abiram? That was over the top!”
I can just hear them talking to one another!
So, they told Moses: “You do this for us. Come tell us what you hear and we will do it.”
God told Moses in Parkey’s paraphrase:
“The people are right. Their hearts are not going to fear Me. If I force them into their calling, they will all end up dead. Oh, My heart breaks for their welfare! For Me to fulfill My promise to their fathers, it must be as they have said for now. Tell them to return to their tents.”
They didn’t want to fulfill their calling as a kingdom of priests. Priests are people of the Presence. The children of Israel refused their calling because of their refusal to give up their ways.
When you refuse God’s presence, you lose a correct perspective of God and when you lose a correct perspective of God, you live a life contrary to His character.
Listen folks, no one can adequately explain God to you nor can they adequately explain His ways. You must answer the call to go into His Presence to know Him and to live a life that pleases Him.
We know that due to Israel’s refusal of their calling under the Old Covenant, that the way was opened for, not just Israel but the world to answer the priestly call.
Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:4-5
You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us to be kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth. Revelation 5:9-10
The calling of the biblical church is that each of God’s people become people of His Presence!
Are you a person of His Presence? It’s not too late to fulfill your calling.