"I am the vine, you are the branches"
Priesthood, Part 2
Priests of Melchizedek
In our last newsletter we saw that Peter said, "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." But Peter was not the first to call us a royal priesthood. In fact, it was God who spoke those words to the people of Israel at Mount Sinai when He gave them the Torah. He said, "Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine: and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." How could God speak this at Mount Sinai to all the people when He said that only the Levites would be priests? And what about us today who are not Jews? Well, for us, we have been grafted into Israel, so everything that God spoke to them and promised them we inherit when we accept the atoning work of Yeshua. But for the Jews, who God was speaking to, He was referring to those who one day would be seen in Messiah Yeshua, and when Peter was speaking on the Day of Pentecost, he was referring to what God spoke of on that first Pentecost, that those who would be in Messiah Yeshua would be the priesthood. But Yeshua was not a High Priest like Aaron, but as we see in the book of Hebrews, Yeshua is a High Priest in the order of Melchizedek. So who is Melchizedek?
To know Melchizedek, we have to go back to Abraham. There was a war between the kings of the area. Lot, Abraham's nephew, was taken captive. When Abraham heard this, he gathered all his servants and went to rescue Lot. God gave Abraham victory, and as he was returning from the battle, Abraham meets Melchizedek. Moses tells us that Melchizedek was the king of Salem and that he was the priest of the Most High God. The Psalmist writes in this Messianic psalm, "The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind, ‘Thou art a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek'" (Psalm 110:4). Years later, the writer of Hebrews tells us that Melchizedek, whose name means righteousness, was without father or mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, he abides a priest perpetually.
Now, in this newsletter we are not going to debate if this was Yeshua or if this was a heavenly high priest and Yeshua became a high priest in his order. But what we learn is that in God's sanctuary, the priesthood exists and we who are in Messiah Yeshua now become part of that priesthood serving at God's altar. We are now priests of Melckizedek, priests of righteousness.
The Priests of Melchizedek
We saw in the last newsletter that the Aaronic priests wore vestments of sanctity, which were garments of holiness, garments of glory, garments which were like the fullness of the Lord. We too have garments to wear. As we compare our garments with theirs, you will see that our garments are not like theirs, for our garments are spiritual, for we worship at a tabernacle not built with human hands. "For we are living stones being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Yeshua, the Anointed One" (1 Peter 2:5). When we accept Yeshua then we become part of the Kingdom, and as servants of the Kingdom, we must live according to the ways of the Kingdom. One of these ways is that we are to serve God in His sanctuary. Remember, God told Moses to make the sanctuary exactly like the one he saw in heaven. That means we, as priests of the heavenly sanctuary, must also serve according to God's ways.
The priests wore an ephod, robe, tunic, and a sash. Scripture tells us that we are to robe ourselves in righteousness. We see in Revelation that the righteous are clothed in white linen which represents their righteous acts. So what is righteousness? Righteousness is when we comprehend holy principles and live by them. It's purity of heart, conforming one's heart to Divine law. Righteousness is justice, honesty, virtue with holy affection. Righteousness is being free from guilt and sin in accordance to Divine law. Righteousness is obtained only in Yeshua, for our righteousness is as filthy rags. God's sanctuary is all about holiness and purity. We see this in the Book of Zechariah. This book speaks about the Messianic Age. The book starts with a call to repentance, much like John the Baptist who preceded Yeshua. Without repentance, one can not minister before the Lord. The Psalmist writes, "Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord, and who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood, and has not sworn deceitfully." As we see in chapter 2 of Zechariah, the people are told to flee Babylon, which stands for the world and its ways. This is important because we can not serve two masters. We must forsake the world and be transformed by the renewing of our minds. We are to place our minds on things above, not on things below.
Then in chapter 3, we see Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the Lord. This is such great insight into the spiritual realm. Joshua was clothed in filthy rags (sin) and those rags were removed. Scripture tells us that we are to take off the old man of corruption. We are to put off things like anger, wrath, malice, slander, abusive speech, immorality, impurity, evil desires, greed, and idolatry and put on the new man of righteousness, being clothed now in Yeshua, for our lives are now hidden in Him. It's no longer I who lives, but Yeshua who lives in me. Joshua is told, "See I have removed your iniquity and clothed you with festive robes." You see, when we repent and return to God's ways, He then removes our filthy rags, which is our sin, and He then clothes us in clean garments of holiness and righteousness which are the festive robes, much like garments of the Bride and Bridegroom.
If you remember, we saw that these garments of splendor referred to the garments of the bridegroom. These are the garments of the priesthood. These are the garments of the service of the Lord. Scripture tells us that when the Bridegroom (Yeshua) comes for the Bride (the redeemed), the bride will be clothed in these festive garments. They will be white linen (purity) and they will be without spot or wrinkle, blameless and holy, now washed clean in the blood of Yeshua. He is our covering that we put on. It is His righteousness that we wear. We also see from the book of Zechariah that standing before God was also the accuser of the brethren. So serving at the altar of God can also include an encounter with the accuser of our soul. So our garments are holy and festive, but also garments of a warrior, for our service to the Lord requires us to fight a spiritual battle as well as doing the work of the Kingdom. We are going to take a closer look at these Garments of Righteousness.
The breastplate worn by the priest was worn over the chest. We see that this covered his heart. This was also called the Breastplate of Judgment. Scripture tells us that we are to guard our hearts. It's our hearts that lie and are deceitful. It is our hearts that the enemy of our soul wishes to have control over. So when battling the enemy, we are to put on the breastplate of righteousness. It is our protection, guarding our hearts. The heart is the center of our emotions. It is with the heart that we love or we hate, we forgive or we resent, we judge or we show mercy. We are to judge according to righteousness. We are to put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience like we would put on clothing. We are to wrap ourselves in these virtues and live by them daily. When we live by these virtues, our hearts are protected from the accusing finger of the enemy.
The Head Covering
The priest wore a head covering that also included a head piece. We too are to cover our heads. We are to put on salvation as our covering. Part of the Armor of God is the helmet of salvation. This is to protect our minds. Paul tells us that we are to pray about everything and not to be anxious, for then the peace of God will guard our minds and hearts. We are to think about only good things, things of good repute, things that are honorable and lovely, that are true and right; and we are to put our thoughts on heavenly things, not on things of this world because Yeshua, our salvation, has delivered us from sin and death. God has now brought us out of darkness into His light. By dwelling on what is good, we will not allow the seeds of sin to grow in our hearts. Protecting our minds is protecting our hearts!
On the head piece was written "Holy to the Lord," and we too have the name of Yeshua written on our foreheads. The Aaronic priest would give a blessing in which he would raise his hands and form them like the letter Shem which stands for The Name; God said, "I will put My name upon My people." We find that Yeshua, right before He ascended back to heaven, lifted up His hands and blessed them. When He did this, He was actually putting His name upon them through the priestly blessing.
Covering one's head speaks of humility. I know that Paul, in Corinthians, speaks of this, that if a man prays with his head covered he disgraces himself. But my opinion is if a man disgraces himself by covering his head when he prays, then God has led His people into disgrace for God had the priests all cover their heads and Yeshua Himself covered His head when He prayed. In fact, Paul covered his head when he prayed because he himself said that he kept Torah to the letter. In Zechariah we see that after the filthy rags were taken off Joshua the high priest that he was given a clean turban. So once again, if this was true, God would not have had His priests cover their heads. But what we need to understand is that Paul spoke and taught according to rabbinic thinking. What Paul was talking about was that a man was to be a covering for his wife and not vice versa. We see this in Ephesians that the husband was to be the head of the wife to sanctify her. Again, Paul refers to the fact that he was speaking in reference to Yeshua who is the head or the covering of the redeemed.
Humility, which the head covering represents, is what we are to strive toward. The writer writes, "He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and walk humbly with your God." You see, God is a holy God and we are to enter into His presence with humility.
The sash was worn around the middle. We too have a sash that we wear, it is better known as truth. We are to put on truth as part of the Armor of God. Scripture tells us that God would send the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth. So when we are led by the Spirit and walk with the Spirit, we are walking in truth and righteousness. Without truth we cannot enter the Kingdom of God, for Yeshua said that He was the way to eternal life and that way was walking in truth. Of course, we know that Yeshua is the Word and the Word is truth. The middle of our body is the center of gravity to us. We are securely planted when the middle of the body is straight. So placing truth around our middle, which is the center of gravity, means that we will be balanced and we will not fall. It is like the foundation of a building: if the foundation is good then the building will stand straight and tall and will not topple over. This is what truth is to us when we put truth on as our sash around our middle; we will stand straight and tall and not topple over.
Of course, we can't forget the Scripture that says, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news." Again, setting our minds on what is good protects our minds and hearts and the beginning of that good news is repentance; if we repent, turn from our sins, and take off those dirty garments of the old man and put on the new man, the clean white garments, clothing ourselves in Yeshua, being covered by His blood, living in newness of life which is righteousness, and wearing the breast piece that covers our hearts and putting on salvation on our heads, walking in humility with the Name of Yeshua on our foreheads, with truth around our middle, this will give us a picture of who we are in Yeshua as we stand before God at His altar. This is what the Gospel is all about! These are the shoes that we are to walk in. Without these garments we can not stand before God. If there is something not right in our lives, we must make it right. Yeshua said, "If your brother has anything against you leave your gift at the altar and go make things right first." God is a holy God and we too are to be holy, bringing praise and renown to His Name.
Are you wearing the vestments of the priesthood? Are your garments white and clean? Maybe you did not realize that we are to minister to God daily at His altar. People think that we can come as we are; well, that's true when you first come to find Yeshua as your Lord and Savior, but then He cleanses you and gives you the garments of the priesthood. Today, if your garments are soiled, quickly stop where you are and repent, turn back to truth and righteousness, and Yeshua, who is our faithful High Priest who lives to make intercession on our part, will take those filthy garments off of you and give you the clean garments of the priesthood, the garments of service. He will welcome you to His altar where you can come and minister to Him in His presence once again.