The role of a priest in any religious system is to act as a go-between - to represent humans before a divine being, and to represent the divine before humans. This can be a very stressful role.
In this chapter, we discover that Aaron and his sons are to fulfil this role in Israel, and the significance of the role is emphasised by the special clothing they are to wear. Some aspects of the clothing represent God (e.g. the high quality materials used - many of them being the same as were used for the holiest parts of the Tabernacle) - and some aspects of the clothing represent the people (e.g. the precious stones with the names of the twelve tribes written on them).
As Christians we are meant to read these instructions through the lens of the New Testament. There the word priest is not used to describe a special sort of Christian, but it is used in two ways:
- To refer to Jesus - the ultimate high priest, who was both fully divine and fully human, and who made the ultimate, once-and-for-all sacrifice (see Hebrews 9).
- To refer to all Christians - who have a priestly duty to represent God to a spiritually needy world, and a priestly duty to represent a spiritually needy world to God through prayer:
But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted. (1 Peter 2:9-10, The Message)
Questions to ponder: How do you feel about being a priest? In what ways are you living out your priestly calling - in your home, neighbourhood and workplace? In what ways can we support each other as we fulfil this role?