Priesthood and Advocacy: April 2007

Table of Contents

1. The Priesthood of Christ
2. Priests by Calling
3. The Advocate With the Father
4. Our Great High Priest
5. Aaron and Hur
6. The Paraclete
7. Priesthood and Advocacy
8. The Priesthood of Melchisedec
9. Aaron and Melchisedec
10. The Worship of Holy Priests
11. The Word of God and Priesthood

The Priesthood of Christ

The present service of the Lord Jesus for His redeemed is presented to us in a double way, first as our High Priest with God for all that connects with our condition in weakness here, and then as Advocate with the Father in case of sin. The Epistle to the Hebrews gives us His priesthood; the Epistle of John, His place as advocate. Priesthood is founded on the work the Lord Jesus has accomplished on the cross, where for the moment He was both priest and victim. He was there as “a merciful and faithful high priest in things relating to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Heb. 2:17 JND). However, He did not properly enter upon priesthood till He took His place on high. This is important as to the place of priesthood, because it proves that it has nothing to do with any question of sin. The priesthood of Christ is taken up on the ground of an eternal redemption that has put away sin forever before God, and a merciful and faithful High Priest exercises it for us that we may not sin.
For Our Weakness
Priesthood is for our weakness, which is our condition as long as we are here. It supposes then a justified and delivered people, as Israel was in type, when brought to God through the Red Sea, with the wilderness lying before them and the rest and glory of God at the end. He who is our Moses, the leader of our salvation, is conducting us there as the sons of God. The path in which He would sustain us by priesthood is His own in which He has gone before. Three great characteristics of that path are opened out to us in the epistle: perfect dependence — “I will put My trust in Him” (Heb. 2:13), obedience learned by the things He suffered (Heb. 5:8), and faith, of which He is the great prototype (Heb. 12:2).
We read that “in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succor them that are tempted” (Heb. 2:18). With what reality it brings Him before us as having been in our path, to know that He was tempted. At the very opening of His public path in the Gospels He had to meet the temptations of Satan in the wilderness. His perfection is seen in that He suffered being tempted, for with Him the effect of the presentation of anything contrary to God was only to produce suffering. With us, if not by faith reckoning ourselves to be dead to sin and walking in the Spirit as the power of the deliverance that Christ has wrought for us, there is the horrible answer of the flesh within to the temptation presented from without. There was none such with Him; He suffered being tempted, and that is the absolute opposite of sinning. “He that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin,” as Peter says in his first epistle (ch. 4:1), exhorting us to arm ourselves with the same mind as Christ. Tempted we shall be, but when in weakness we take sides with God against ourselves, refusing the evil, the mighty succor of the Lord comes in to our support, lest weakness without support should turn to willfulness and sin.
In Aaron’s garments of glory and beauty he bore, as a type, the names of the children of Israel engraved upon the onyx stones on the shoulders of strength and also upon the breastplate of judgment upon his heart. We have the reality of both as we consider the High Priest of our confession, for, besides strength to succor as in chapter 2, chapter 4 brings out the wonderful sympathy of His heart. “We have not a high priest not able to sympathize with our infirmities [or weaknesses], but tempted in all things in like manner, sin apart” (Heb. 4:15 JND). Weakness is not sinful, for Christ was crucified in weakness. It is in weakness that our path has to be made good for God in the midst of temptations, subject to the assaults of the enemy, opposed by every principle of man and his world, in danger of being wearied and fainting in our minds, and through varied exercise. How blessed that there is not a detail of our weakness, under every form of trial and testing, that Jesus, our great High Priest, does not enter into, in the perfect sympathy of a human heart on the throne of God and with all the divine strength of His compassion. The throne where He sits becomes a throne of grace where we can come boldly with every phase of need, to obtain mercy and grace for seasonable help (or strength).
He Has Been There
But the question may arise, How can One so exalted as the Son of God enter into all the details of His people’s weakness and need down here? The answer is given us in chapter 5. He has been here, and in circumstances of pressure and sorrow such as never fell to the lot of any other man. Not that He is in them now, for if I am in difficult circumstances myself, I am not so free to enter into those of another. But if I have been in them and am now out of them, I can fully sympathize with the trials of others. How infinite the love and grace that brought the Son of God into the path of testing! “Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered” (Heb. 5:8). In Gethsemane with all its unfathomable sorrow, the last and most crucial of all the scenes of testing and trial, we have an example of what He had to go through, and that fitted Him perfectly to be all we need in our High Priest. Out of His own deep experience of human sorrow and trial, we have the consciousness that there is nothing that we have to pass through that He cannot enter into, to sustain us as we seek to walk in the same path of His obedience.
But the truth of priesthood goes farther. I do not here refer to the order of it, as that of Melchisedec proved to be superior to that of Aaron by so many points of contrast in chapter 7. While His priesthood is indeed after the order of Melchisedec, the Melchisedec character of His priesthood will not be in exercise till He comes out in millennial glory. The present exercise of His priesthood is analogous to Aaron’s. But at the close of chapter 6 He is presented as having entered within the veil, as our forerunner, so that we have a personal guarantee for its fulfillment in the place “whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest forever after the order of Melchisedec” (vs. 20), and this also gives us the sanctuary of God as the refuge and home of our hearts. He had first of all secured all that was needed for us in the way of succor and sympathy for the path through the wilderness. Now He seeks to conduct our hearts to where He is, to His side of things in the bright scene of God’s presence, so that we will be followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
He “Ever Liveth”
Nor is He inactive there, for we are still on the way, and love engages Him to be ever occupied with us: “Able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them” (ch. 7:25). We have the dependent life of Christ in us, sustained by the resources of grace and strength that are ministered to us by His priestly intercession and service. Were that exercise of priesthood to cease for a moment, we should soon find out where we were, and how dependent we are upon it. But it is not possible, for the Word says, “He ever liveth to make intercession” for us, as if He had nothing else to do but to think of and care for us. Since our resources are being derived moment by moment from what Christ is, “made higher than the heavens” (vs. 26), we are prepared for the full, positive side of priesthood, which carries us in heart and spirit into the heavenly scenes themselves (ch. 8-10). There is a perfect sacrifice that brings us into the perfect heavenly sanctuary, and we are introduced there as perfected worshippers, having no more conscience of sins (ch. 10:12). The Holy Spirit is the witness to the work of the Son of God to make good the counsels of the divine will that gives us this perfect conscience, our sins and iniquities remembered no more.
Our Home Link to Heaven
And now in chapter 10:19-22 the Spirit of God summons us to take up our place before God accordingly. “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh; and having an high priest over the house of God; let us draw near.” Thus once more Christ is presented to us as priest, when He appears representatively for us in the presence of God, giving us a home link to connect our hearts in the most intimate way with all that is there.
The house of God over which He is priest consists of all who are Christ’s, “whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end” (ch. 3:6). Each true Christian then has this wondrous place of unhindered access to God in the sanctuary of His own presence. “With a true heart,” it is added, and “in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (ch. 10:22). Applied typically we have the two parts of the consecration of the priests. First, we have perfect rest of conscience and heart as to all the past in the presence of God through the blood of Christ, and, second, the water of the Word applied to bring us into a nature capable and free to enjoy that holy presence. We are, in truth, a consecrated priesthood, but it was not the object of the Epistle to bring out our priesthood but that of Christ, and so the subject is not enlarged upon. (See the article on page 111.)
May it be ours, then, by His grace, to realize more and more, not merely the blessedness of having every need of our weakness met by the priesthood of Christ, but of becoming more familiar with the sanctuary of which He is the minister. By His work on the cross He has given us our title and fitness for the presence of God, and He maintains us in the enjoyment of it by His priesthood.
J. A. Trench, adapted

Priests by Calling

Christians are priests by calling, as being risen together with Christ, and have access to God: “An holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).
Concise Bible Dictionary

The Advocate With the Father

In considering the intercessory work of the Lord Jesus, we find that it is to maintain us in spite of weakness here, in consistency with our heavenly calling. Priesthood does not contemplate sin in the people of God. It is founded on the perfection of the sacrifice by which sins were removed from before God forever, and removed therefore from the conscience of the believer. Yet we do sin, and if there were no provision for failure and sin in the believer, how terrible it would be.
In infinite grace this first epistle of John brings in the office of Christ as advocate. Let us look at the way the Apostle presents Christ in this character, considering what has gone before. Addressing the whole family of God in the endearing term of “children,” he says, “These things I write unto you, that ye sin not” (1 John 2:1). He refers, of course, to what has gone before in 1 John 1. Three things belong to the Christian position. First, we walk in the light: The light is God perfectly revealed and known. Then, we have fellowship one with another in that light. And, then, the blood of Jesus Christ, which cleanses us from all sin, is the basis of the whole position, alone making it possible for sinners such as we.
Relationship With the Father
All that has thus gone before in 1 John 1 is brought to bear upon our souls in 1 John 2, that we might not sin. But he immediately adds, “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and He is the propitiation for our sins.” Even when the sin of one of His own is in question, the love of the Lord Jesus does not fail. He does not leave us to ourselves, but takes up our case and acts for us, according to our necessity. This is the force of the word “advocate.” It is the same word in the original as “comforter” applied to the Holy Spirit in John’s Gospel. It is one who acts for us in all our circumstances, wherever we have need of Him. Note also that He is an “advocate with the Father.” The sin of the believer has not changed the relationship in which he stands with the Father. We can never be disowned as such. This makes sin a far more heinous thing — being committed against all the light and relationship and love into which we have been introduced.
According to Hebrews 10, there is no more conscience of sins for those who have believed God’s testimony to the perfection of the finished work of His Son. That is, the conscience never again connects sin with judgment to come, but rather with a judgment that has taken place in the death of Christ and is forever past. The conscience rests where God rests, and He remembers our sins and iniquities no more.
Communion Broken
But Satan might seek occasion to tempt the fallen one to think he could never call God his Father again. In this very connection John presents the Advocate with the Father, that we might know the relationship to be immutable. And besides, it is “Jesus Christ the righteous.” He is there in all His own personal perfection, and “the propitiation for our sins,” in all the abiding efficacy of His work. No charge can stand against those whom God has justified. Rather, sin has interrupted our communion, and the blessed service of the Lord as advocate is to restore that communion. Nor is it that we have to go to Christ to intervene for us. “If any man sin, we have an advocate.” He acts from Himself to bring about in us all that is needed for restoration. His object is to bring us to detect and judge in ourselves that wherein we have failed — to confess our sins, that we may know a Father’s forgiveness and be restored to the joy of communion with Him.
The Washing of Peter’s Feet
This precious service of the Lord for us is illustrated by His ways with Peter in the Gospel of John. John 13:1-11 gives us the principle of it in the symbolic washing of the disciples’ feet. There was clearly something far deeper in it than the mere lesson of humility. The first verse shows us the new position that the Lord was taking, and this gives its character to all the subsequent communications. “Jesus knew that His hour was come that He should depart out of this world unto the Father.” We have to go through the world out of which He had to depart, but He would not forget us in all our need, for “having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end.” In His unfailing love was found the spring of His action that follows, and Peter was allowed to hear of a love beyond all our thought, the very night he was to deny that he ever knew Him. He into whose hands the Father has given all things undertakes the cause of those who are beset with danger in such a world as this and are so liable to fail.
Peter resents the humiliation of the Lord in stooping to wash his feet, till he learns that it is essential to his having part with Jesus where He was going. And thus we learn that while His wonderful service for us includes recovery from sin and the soul’s restoration, yet it goes much further in love. He cannot bear a cloud between us and Him, and He provides for the removal of whatever would intercept the light and joy of His presence. Peter thought he could not have too much of such washing: “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head” (John 13:9).
The Water of the Word
This leads the Lord to distinguish between two applications of the water. In type, water, in Scripture, represents the Word of God applied in the power of the Spirit. The first is that by which we are born wholly anew and made partakers of a new life and nature. This application can never be repeated. The second is what the washing of the feet implies — namely, the constant application of the Word to preserve or deliver us from what would hinder blessed nearness to Him. Nor are we left to apply it to ourselves: “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with Me.”
We see it as we follow out His ways with Peter and with each of us. No warning led Peter to suspect the danger he was in — he thought that a warm heart would carry him through anything for the Lord. But nature’s energy must fail in such a path as that, and he succumbs before the taunt of a servant girl, even to deny repeatedly that he ever knew the Lord. “And the Lord turned and looked upon Peter” (Luke 22:61). That look broke his heart, for it told of a love that knows no change. He knew that he was forgiven even before the special message from His risen Lord, or the personal interview that was accorded him.
Communion Fully Restored
But communion was a very different matter and had yet to be restored. There was still the sense of distance and a void in his heart that none but Christ could fill. He goes back to the old occupation of fishing, leading others with him. It was a profitless night, but it made way for the Lord to intervene in His power and grace and to lead Peter into the reality of what He could not understand when the Lord wanted to wash his feet. “Jesus stood on the shore” (John 21:4). The net was now well filled and all brought to land, where already a meal was prepared for them by the Lord Himself. When it was over, Jesus said to Peter, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me more than these?” (John 21:15). How gently and yet irresistibly the question would recall his confident boast — “I will lay down my life for Thy sake” (John 13:37). Who had failed so appallingly as he? What can he say? To whom can he turn but to the One so sinned against? “Yea, Lord; Thou knowest that I love Thee” (John 21:15). But it is to be noted that Peter does not content himself with using the general word for love that the Lord employed, but he uses the word for the special love of a friend. “Thou knowest that I am attached to thee,” and so again when the Lord repeats His question. But three times he had denied Him. It was painful work, but the conscience must be deeply probed, and the root of his failure laid bare, that the recovery might be thorough. The third time the Lord puts the question, but with a touch of inimitable grace He adopts Peter’s word, already implying that He trusts him. “Simon, son of Jonas, art thou attached to Me?” (John 21:17 JND). Peter could not but feel it, but under that all-searching eye fixed on him in such love, he could only answer, “Lord, Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I am attached to Thee” (John 21:17 JND). The work is done. The defiled feet are washed, and the Lord can confide to Peter His most precious interests here — His lambs and sheep, to shepherd and to feed. And now He gives him, in the power of communion fully restored, to take the path in which once he had broken down so utterly. He should go into death for the Lord.
The Lord’s Advocacy
Thus we are permitted to have a precious sample of the action of the Advocate in the case of the sin of His own. It is the Lord who sets Himself to apply His Word to the conscience and heart, to detect and bring to light what it is that has broken communion or hindered the enjoyment of His presence. He does so that we may confess it and judge ourselves. The moment that point is reached, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.
How blessed the revelation of these distinct aspects of the service of the Lord Jesus for us, whether as priest with God or as advocate with the Father. But how it should make us abhor the defiling thing, whatever it may be, which has needed the service of the Son of God to deliver us from it. He desires “truth in the inward parts” (Psa. 51:6), but He must work to produce it, so that we may have confidence before Him with a heart that has nothing to condemn us.
J. A. Trench, adapted

Our Great High Priest

Our great High Priest is sitting
At God’s right hand above,
For us His hands uplifting,
In sympathy and love:
While here below, in weakness,
We onward speed our way;
In sorrow oft and sickness,
We sigh and groan and pray.
Through manifold temptation,
My soul holds on her course;
Christ’s mighty intercession
Alone is her resource;
My gracious High Priest’s pleadings,
Who on the cross did bleed,
Bring down God’s grace and blessings,
Help in each hour of need.
Oh, Jesus, blessed Saviour,
We hope to see Thee soon,
Who once on earth didst suffer,
Who soon for us wilt come;
’Twas God’s most gracious favor
That gave His Son to die —
To live our Intercessor,
To plead for us on high.
A. P. Cecil, Little Flock Hymnbook,
#79, Appendix

Aaron and Hur

“Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephidim.
“And Moses said unto Joshua, Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek: tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in mine hand.
“So Joshua did as Moses had said to him, and fought with Amalek: and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill.
“And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed.
“But Moses’ hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.
“And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.” Exodus 17:8-13
In this passage we find that Joshua, at the commandment of Moses, goes out at the head of men chosen for the battle. Joshua brings before us Christ leading His people into conflict in the energy of the Spirit of God. The battle is the Lord’s, for without Him we cannot expect victory. We must count on the Lord in every situation, instead of relying on the energy and schemes of men. There can be no successful warfare with the enemy apart from the energy of the Spirit of God. “Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
We see Joshua leading his men below in the plain, as Moses goes up with Aaron and Hur to the top of the hill. Moses in this way is a type of Christ in heaven in intercession for His people. He leads His people in the energy of the Spirit below, but maintains them by His intercession above in the presence of God. Apart from His priestly intercession they have no power against the enemy, and the energy of the Spirit is in relation to this intercession. Paul could say, “It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” (Rom. 8:34).
Aaron — the Great High Priest
But no one man is a perfect type of Christ, and thus Aaron and Hur are needed too. Moses’ hands were heavy, and he was helped by Aaron and Hur. Aaron, although not formally set apart for the priesthood at this time, is, no doubt, a type of Christ as our great High Priest. Because of all that Christ has gone through, He is able to intercede for us. He has experienced in this world all that a sinless man could experience and thus is able to be “touched with the feeling of our infirmities” (Heb. 4:15). If we avail ourselves of His priesthood and are willing to “come boldly unto the throne of grace” (Heb. 4:16), we will indeed “receive mercy, and find grace for seasonable help” (Heb. 4:16 JND).
Hur — the Advocate
We see also that Hur is needed, and his name means “white” or “purity.” He is a type of Christ as our Advocate, for we read in 1 John 2:1, “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” If we realized more our weakness and infirmity and availed ourselves of Christ’s priesthood more often, we would not sin. However, if we sin, we find that we have an advocate in Christ — one who meets us in our need. The word translated “advocate” is the same as that which is translated “comforter” in John’s Gospel, and it literally means “one who takes charge of and looks after all of our affairs.” We cannot fight the battle with sin on our conscience, and God never supposes that the believer must sin because he is weak. However, God has graciously made provision if we sin. The same One who bore our sins on the cross now goes to God, in righteousness, to act for our restoration. Every possible situation is covered, and victory is assured! The Spirit of God is our Comforter or Advocate down here, for He was sent down when the Lord Jesus was glorified in heaven. But how wonderful to realize that the Lord Jesus is also our Comforter or Advocate up there, acting for us if we sin.
The Two Hands
There is a beautiful detail to be noticed here. When reference is first made to Moses, it says that “when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed.” Only one hand is mentioned, although it took Aaron and Hur together to hold up his hands, in the plural. In type, this brings before us a precious truth concerning the priesthood and advocacy of the Lord Jesus. We do not always come to the throne of grace to avail ourselves of the priestly functions of the Lord Jesus, for we do not always feel our need. We do not feel our weakness, and, as a result, our hand may fall down and miss the Lord’s ever faithful hand of priesthood. Then Amalek, a picture of the energy of the flesh in the believer, may prevail. But the other hand, the hand typical of advocacy is still uplifted; it never fails. We do not need to ask the Lord to come to our aid in His capacity as advocate, for He does this without our asking. We are told to come boldly unto the throne of grace, but if we sin, it simply says that “we have an advocate with the Father.” As soon as we sin, even if we have not realized the full extent of our failure before God, Christ as our Advocate begins to act in order to restore us. How blessed, and how reassuring! Truly “He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him” (Heb. 7:25)! W. J. Prost

The Paraclete

The word “paraclete” signifies one who takes up the cause of another. It is translated “Comforter” in reference to the Holy Spirit (John 14:16) and “advocate” in reference to the Lord Jesus (1 John 2:1). Christ in the glory is an advocate for a son of the Father if he should sin. He is the Paraclete in heaven while the Holy Spirit is the same on earth to secure the spiritual welfare of God’s children.
Concise Bible Dictionary

Priesthood and Advocacy

Priesthood is the divine provision of grace to sustain those who have been set in God’s righteousness before Him in Christ. It reconciles the condition of a poor, feeble creature on earth, liable to fall at any moment, with the glorious position which is his in Christ. I believe that Hebrews is the complement of the Epistle to the Romans — the one setting us, through redemption, before God in Christ and the other maintaining us there. In its prime aspect, it is preventive and sustaining. “Hold Thou me up, and I shall be safe.” You find at the end of Hebrews 4 the provisions made in order that we may not fall in the wilderness — the detective power of the Word of God to deal with the will and the supporting priesthood of Christ to support us in our weakness.
The priesthood of Christ is to sustain us in our weakness and keep us from falling. The advocacy of Christ is to support us before God if we sin. “If any man sin, we have an advocate” (1 John 2:1). He is engaged before and with the Father for us. The result of His advocacy is to turn the Word in its convicting power on the conscience by the Spirit. When confession is produced, the soul having bowed under His action, then restoration follows.
F. G. Patterson

The Priesthood of Melchisedec

Royal Priesthood
Abraham gave a tithe of the spoils to Melchisedec (Gen. 14:18-20). He was a type of the Lord Jesus. This Melchisedec is called both king and priest —“King of Salem” or “King of peace,” and “priest of the most high God.”
In Psalm 110:1 the Lord Jesus is addressed by God, who said unto Him, “Sit Thou at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool.” This is followed by, “The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchisedec” (vs. 4).
The Lord Jesus on high is now a priest after the Aaronic order, that is, of intercession and compassion. When He comes forth in the millennium, He will act in priesthood after the order of Melchisedec, that is, combining priesthood and kingship in His Person. As Zechariah says, “He shall be a priest upon His throne” (ch. 6:13). It will be what Peter speaks of as “royal” priesthood. It will not be intercessory, but dispensing royal bounties. In Genesis 14, Melchisedec brought forth bread and wine for the refreshment and cheer of the victorious warriors.
King David’s Example
In 2 Samuel 6 we get the account of David’s bringing home the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom, and he “danced before the Lord with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod” (vs. 14). The linen ephod was a priestly garment, and so here David is acting as king and priest (royal priesthood). Then he dispenses royal favors, as we read, “He blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts. And he dealt among all the people, even among the whole multitude of Israel, as well to the women as men, to every one a cake of bread, and a good piece of flesh, and a flagon of wine” (vss. 1819). This is also a type of Christ when He sits as priest upon His throne. The Christian anticipates that time and can act as a royal priest now, spreading royal blessings as he goes out and abroad. In contrast, the “holy” priesthood is connected with going into the presence of God to offer up spiritual sacrifices. Compare verses 5 and 9 of 1 Peter 2.
P. Wilson

Aaron and Melchisedec

The present service of Christ as High Priest is after the pattern of Aaron’s service, but when He comes forth in His robes of glory and beauty, He will assume the Melchisedec character, for He will then be a priest on His throne. When He is king and priest, all believers, through virtue of association with Him in the grace of God, will also be kings and priests (see Rev. 1:56), and hence the twenty-four elders are seen seated on thrones, robed with priestly garments and with crowns of gold on their heads (Rev. 4).
E. Dennett

The Worship of Holy Priests

We read about priesthood in the second chapter of 1 Peter; we read about holy priests and about royal priests. Holy priests offer the sacrifice of God, the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, worship. Holy priesthood precedes royal priesthood. Royal priesthood is testimony, but God puts the holy priesthood first.
In John 4, in that wonderful interview with the woman there by the well, we find God the Father as a seeker. What is He seeking? He is seeking worshippers, worshippers who will worship Him in spirit and in truth.
Things have become so confused in the Christian profession today that the very word “worship” is often not understood. We find that ministry is often confused with worship. Ministry may create worship in the heart, but ministry itself is not worship. In John 12:13 the Lord is invited into the home of Martha. Here we have one of the most beautiful examples in the Word of God of a real worshipper. We can learn what it is to be a worshipper from this little scene at Bethany.
“Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment” (John 12:3).
Can you imagine a scene more fitted to the delight of heaven than what we have before us in this third verse? Christ is the center of the scene! Mary, this dear devoted child of God, is on her knees at His feet again. She is not there with a request. She is just there to pour out upon those blessed feet the best she had. She had this box of ointment, very precious. I suppose that a conservative estimate would say that that box of ointment was worth, in purchasing power, the equivalent of several thousand dollars in American currency today, and yet nothing was too good for Christ. She was there anointing His feet and wiping His feet with her hair, and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment. Oh, beloved saints of God, there is no odor like that —the odor that comes from the owning of the loveliness of the Person of Christ.
The whole house was filled with the odor—worship ascending up to God. That is what the Father is seeking first — worshippers. If we come into His presence as worshippers and dwell there as worshippers, it fills our hearts with the loveliness of Christ. Then we want to go out in service and tell someone else about the Saviour we have found.
C. H. Brown, adapted

The Word of God and Priesthood

There are two things that God employs in carrying us through the desert as spoken of in Hebrews 5. One is the Word of God and the other is the priesthood of the Lord Jesus.
The Word and Our Flesh
The Word of God is used for the detection and discerning of the thoughts and intents of the heart. It is “quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword .   .   . and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Whatever is flesh it cuts down mercilessly, and we thank God for it, because it is a hindrance to our blessing. The warning of which the Apostle speaks here, alluding to the history of Israel, is that their carcasses fell in the wilderness. They had got out of Egypt, and yet their carcasses fell in the wilderness. There is, of course, for us, the danger answering to that —a very real danger. No doubt God will keep His own to the end, but there is the principal danger, and if we are kept, it is through faith. Now that which tends to make us fall in the wilderness is the flesh, and the means that God uses that we should not fall in the wilderness is the Word that is sharper than any two-edged sword. Whatever is not a thought that comes from God and an intent that goes to God, the Word of God judges — that is, whatever springs naturally up in the heart of man, whatever comes from the flesh (which, of course, is everything in a mere natural man).
As regards acceptance with God, we can say the flesh is condemned already. “What the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.” Thus, looked at as a question of righteousness in the cross of Christ, God has condemned sin in the flesh, and then, when we come to journey through the wilderness, the Word of God judges whatever is not according to that Word. The cross has dealt with the flesh already — whatever did not suit the death of Christ in a thought or act was thereby judged and condemned. The Word of God is one means for the practical carrying out of this. The second means employed is the priesthood of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Priesthood and Our Need
The Word of God, we saw, judged the thoughts and intents of the heart, while the priesthood applies to all infirmities and failures. The moment it is a question of a thought or intent of the heart, it has to be judged as coming from the flesh, and this is done by the Word of God, which is sharper than any two-edged sword. On the other hand, looked at as regards trials and weakness, there you get the priesthood of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Word of God is the eye of God, judging everything in my soul that is not according to Himself. And then we have “a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God.” Where it is a time of need and difficulty, it is the High Priest full of tenderness and mercy “that we may find grace to help in time of need.” It cannot be, evidently, anything inconsistent with the Word of God. It cannot be the one to cut and the other to spare the flesh, and therefore the priest must sustain us according to the blessing which is given us entirely out of reach of the flesh. And so it is that Christ becomes High Priest. He is gone up where the flesh cannot enter. That is the place in which we have to say to God, and therefore, as our High Priest, He has to carry on our affairs in that presence of God where nothing that defiles can enter. He lays the foundation of that in the sacrifice by virtue of which He can go there, so that this very priesthood of Christ is founded on our acceptance.
The Passage Through the Wilderness
As a figure, the redemption of Israel out of Egypt, which preceded all their journey in the wilderness, is here used. We have done with Egypt altogether. The Red Sea put death and judgment between the journeyers and Egypt, and so with the saint now. Death and judgment form the starting-point of the saint. There is that which goes before it in exercise of heart, and when a soul sets out to leave this world of ruin and condemnation, it often finds itself, as Israel did, on the banks of the Red Sea, the waters before and their enemies behind them. There they were completely shut in to this judgment, where Satan was driving them. But the moment they had passed over the Red Sea, all that was entirely and finally closed. What had been a barrier when Israel could go no farther was now left wholly behind and served as a barrier against Egypt. And to us, death and judgment are a securing barrier between us and all that are against us. It is not that there may be no conflict afterward —no weariness afterward — but there is no question of deliverance after that. If Israel was not faithful, they failed in gaining victories, but there was no question of God’s being against them.
Next comes this journey through the wilderness, the judgment of the flesh by the Word, and then the priesthood of Christ which is exercised for us. And when I come to see where Christ is, I find that it is the very One that has gone through the death and judgment that were due to me, and He has taken His place in the presence of God, where He is exercising His priesthood. He has settled the point where I belong — where I worship — and it is in the presence of God that is my place. All that belongs to me, as in the first Adam, is done with in my fellowship with God — not as regards conflict with it, but as regards my place with God. The old nature is there still, and the Word comes and judges all the movements of it that would hinder me in my path. But the place where Christ exercises His priesthood is out of the flesh altogether; it is in heaven. Israel had a place on earth and a priest on earth; we have a place in heaven and a priest in heaven.
J. N. Darby