Israel was called to be a nation of priests. Priests had direct access to God. And they had no need of intermediaries, whether human or animal. This direct access to God eliminated all the idols and all humans from interfering between a person and his/her Maker. God’s Spirit did not and does not require intermediaries. The Holy Spirit has a direct line with the human spirit. The concept of direct access to God was foreign to the Hebrew people, as it is even foreign to us today, and to most religious people. Even, when God (Immanuel) invites everyone directly, man still leans on others to introduce him to God (Matthew 1:23):
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30).
Thomas said to Jesus, “Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, ad the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; henceforth you know him and have seen him” (John 14:5-7).
GOD (YAHWEH) TOLD MOSES THAT HE WAS GOING TO SPEAK DIRECTLY TO THE PEOPLE
Moses gathered and prepared the people of Israel. And Yahweh descended in a dark cloud and with a fiery hand and voice that carved the Ten Commandments into ten stone plates before the eyes of the people (Exodus 20).
And Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how Iboe you on eagles’ wins and brought you to myself. Now therefore if you will obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my own possession among all peoples for all the earth is mine, and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.”
So Moses came and called the elders of the people, and set before them all these words which the LORD has commanded him. And all the people answered together and said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do.” And Moses reported the words of the people to the LORD. And the LORD said to Moses, “Lo, I am coming to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe you for ever.”
Then Moses told the words of the people to the LORD. And the LORD said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments, on the third day the LORD will come down upon Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. And you shall set bounds for the people round about, saying, ‘Take heed that you do not go up into the mountain or touch the border of it; whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death; no hand shall touch him, but he shall be stoned or shot; whether beast or man, he shall not live.’ When the trumpet sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain.” So Moses went down from the mountain to the people, and consecrated the people; and they washed their garments. And he said to the people, “Be ready by the third day; do not go near a woman” (Exodus 19:3-15).
The head of every Hebrew household was a priest to everyone under his roof and he held them all accountable to the Law of the Covenant. Moses gave these specific restrictions:
Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the ordinances which the Lord your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it; that you may fear the LORD your God, you and your son and your sons’ son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life; and that your days a be prolonged. Hear therefore, O Israel, and
Be careful to do them; that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the LORD, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD; and you shall love the LORD you God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. And you shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be a frontlets between your eyes. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
And when the LORD your God brings you into the land which he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac,and to Jacob, to give to you, with great and goodly cities, which you didn’t build, and houses full of all good things, which you did not fill, and cisterns hewn out, which you did not hew, and vineyards and olive trees, which you did not plant, and when you eat and are full, then take heed lest you forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
You shall fear the LORD your God; you shall serve him, and swear by his name. You shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the peoples who are round about you; for the LORD your God is the midst of you is a jealous God; lest the anger of the LORD your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth.
You shall not put the LORD your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah. You shall diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your God, and his testimonies, and his statutes, which he has commanded you. And you shall do what is right and good in the sight of the LORD, that it may go well with you, and that you may go in and take possession of the good land which the LORD swore to give to your fathers by thrusting out all your enemies from before you, as the LORD has promised.
When your sons asks you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the ordinances which the LORD our God has commanded you?’ then you shall say to your son, ‘We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt; and the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand; and the LORD showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and all hs household, before our eyes, and he brought us out from there, that he might bring us in and give us the land which he swore to give to our fathers. And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as at this day. And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us (Deuteronomy 6:1-25).
INDIVIDUALISM DID NOT SURVIVE — HOWEVER — INDIVIDUALISM WOULD REAPPEAR DURING THE TIME OF JEREMIAH
Joshua was the first and the last who held that the individual Hebrew leaders obey the Law. After Joshua, the priests and the Levistes took over, and Israel never became that spiritual nation the world so desperately needed (Judges 2:6-15). Then, after the Babylonian captivity, Jeremiah saw a return to individual accountability and so did the prophet Ezekiel among the exiles. No one can leave their sin behind by moving elsewhere:
Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of man and the seed of beast. And it shall come to pass that as I have watched over them to pluck up and break down to overthrow, destroy, and bring evil, so I will watch over them to build and to plant, says the LORD. In those days they shall no longer say:
‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” But every one shall die for his own sin; each man who eats sour grapes his teeth shall be set on edge.
Behold, the days are coming says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah,
Not like the covenant which I made with their fathers when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant which they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD. But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each man teach their neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more (Jeremiah 31:27-34).
Then the Spirit lifted me up, and as the glory of the LORD arose from its place, I heard behind me the sound of a great earthquake; it was the sound of the wings of the living creatures as they touched one another, and the sound of the wheels beside them, that sounded like a great earthquake. The Spirit lifted me up and took me away, and I went in bitterness in the heat of my spirit, the hand of the LORD being strong upon me; and I came to the exiles at Telabib, who dwell by the river Chebar. And I sat there overwhelmed among them seven days.
And at the end of seven days, the word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way he shall die in his iniquity; but you will have saved your life. Again, if a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die; because you have not warned him, he shall die for his sin, and his righteous deeds which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will requite at your hand. Nevertheless if you warn the righteous man not to sin, and he doesn’t sin, he shall surely live, because he took warning; and you will have saved your life” (Ezekiel 3:12-21).
JESUS REVIVED THE INDIVIDUAL PRIESTHOOD — BUT IT TOO DID FADE
The Apostle Peter used the priest concept of Moses to challenge his own constituency:
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were no people but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy but now you have received mercy (I Peter 2:9-10).
Redemption is a three-way partnership. The purpose is to atone and to recompense for damages, which occur between two humans beings, who are both children of God, regardless whether they are saints or sinners. The two persons, do not just injure and hurt each other, but they also hurt God the Father, who created them. In this life, the prodigal son has the same access to God the Father as the good son. It was the good son the Father had to persuade to accept his wayward brother (Luke 15:11-32). According to Jesus, to make things right with your Father, you must first make things right with your brother. If you expect someone to sue you, settle with him before you get to court, and if your brother has a grievance find out what troubles him. If you cannot reach an agreement and obtain forgiveness, get help. It is forgiveness that atones for the guilt and for the transgressions committed to the sister, to the brother, to the neighbor, and even to the enemy. A follower of Jesus Christ is a priest/priestess in the mission of laying their lives on the altar for God (Romans 12:1-2). Jesus was adamant about these instructions. He wanted his disciples to start the day with praying:
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors (Matthew 6:12).
For if you forgive men their trespasses your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses (Matthew 6:14-15).
You have heard that it was said to the men of old, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison; truly, I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny (Matthew 5:21-26).
If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:15-22).
If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back (Luke 6:32-38).
THE HEBREWS HAVE NOT PRODUCED PATERNAL PRIESTS NOR HAVE THE CHRISTIANS
The human male has not become the dominant leader that he was expected to be. All the Biblical leaders have capitulated to their female partners. It is not a bad idea to share benefits with both sides, but not when it violates the Command of God that states: “Thou shalt not; for, if you do, you will die!” It is mind boggling what Eve, the women in Noah’s time, Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Bath Sheba, and others did in their days. The families did not thrive under their leadership. The families were broken up and the rights of the first born were passed over, with the conjecture that God approve it. Yet, contrary to their presumptions that God loved Jacob and hated Esau, it was Esau’s seed that prospered and so did Ishmael. There is not a single family in the Old Testament that resembles some of the qualities families had, I served as pastor. The same is true in the New Testament. The writer to the Ephesians idea of an ideal family is not paternally priestly, but female subjection to the husband, as if the husband was the Lord himself (Ephesians 5:22-33). I do love the Lord, but not the way I love my wife, who has blessed me with three sons and provided a home filled with love for me, for fifty-eight years. Jesus, at the age of twelve, was not getting from his family what He was looking for when He stayed behind in the temple (Luke 2:41-52; Mark 3:21). The only person that acted as a priestly father figure was a Roman officer by the name of Cornelius in Caesarea. He provided the kind of home where relatives and friend could enjoy the “Presence of God” in the Holy Spirit. Before Peter could open his mouth, the Holy Spirit displayed His Presence (Acts 10). Peter gave this report:
While Peter was still saying this, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and extrolling God. Then Peter declared, “Can any one forbid water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days (Acts 10:44-48).