A Prophet Among You


The Prophet and the Priest

In the leadership of ancient Israel was a triple representation of Jesus Christ and His work, for prophets, priests, and kings, in one way or another, typified the coming Redeemer. This was particularly true of the high priests and the kings, the two who were anointed in a special fashion that distinguished them from all others. For our present purpose we are interested in prophets and priests, and their relationship to the people and to each other. As spiritual leaders and types of the Saviour their work was vital. APAY 124.3

We need do no more than again call attention to the place of the prophet. Primarily, it was his responsibility to speak for God to the people. He might occupy any other type of position among the people and still be a prophet, for the reception of the gift of prophecy was not dependent on family or occupation. The voice of the prophet speaking instruction given him by divine inspiration served as the equivalent of the voice of God speaking directly. There are other implications of the term prophet as revealed in the experience of some in both Old and New Testament times, but they need not concern us in our present study. APAY 124.4

Priests stood in a different relationship to both the Lord and the people. Whereas the prophet represented God before the people, the priest stood for the people before God. Men separated from God by sin needed someone to act for them in things pertaining to God. As types of the Saviour, the priests were empowered to serve in this way. Paul, though speaking particularly of Christ, well describes this phase of the function of the priest. “Wherefore in all things it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.” Hebrews 2:17. In the fullest sense this was the function of the high priest, who was the true priest of Israel. Other priests served as his assistants. It was the high priest who bore the names of the tribes of the children of Israel “before the Lord upon his two shoulders for a memorial,” as the breastplate was fastened on him. Exodus 28:12. It was he who was so closely identified with the people that if they sinned, it was regarded as his sin also. On the other hand, if he sinned, the people sinned. The priest was one of the people, but set apart from them for a special ministry as their representative. Others who were not so set apart undertook the duties of the priest at times, but this proved disastrous. APAY 125.1

As in the case of the prophet, the priest was not selected by the people. But, unlike the prophets, eligibility for the priesthood depended on being a member of the family of Aaron. By no means does this indicate that every member of Aaron’s family was regarded by God as an acceptable candidate for the priesthood. Physical imperfections and disabilities disqualified a man to serve as priest, and other strict rules for eligibility were laid down. Leviticus 21:17-24. Only the man who was recognized by God to be a priest was genuine. What was true of the high priest was true also of the common priest: “For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God.... And no man taketh this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.” Hebrews 5:1-4. APAY 125.2

Prominent among the duties of the priests was that of offering sacrifices—“that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins.” Verse 1. There would have been no point to his service if he had nothing to offer. Hebrews 8:3. As the shedding of the blood of the Saviour was necessary to make atonement for the sins of the world, so the offering of the typical sacrifices was essential in bringing about reconciliation between man and God through the ministry of the priest. APAY 126.1

One of the distinctions between the ministry of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary and that of the priests in the earthly is that Christ “ever liveth to make intercession for them.” Hebrews 7:25. In connection with the offering of their sacrifices, earthly priests made intercession for those for whom they ministered; but theirs was a limited ministry. “And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death.” Verse 23. Intercession was a natural outgrowth of the sacrificial offerings for the expiation of sin. The work of a priest was the work of an advocate. APAY 126.2

The requirements and functions of the priesthood were not in the realm of the prophet as such. Although God chose the prophet, there was no particular requirement of family or tribal relationship. He was a representative of the Lord rather than of the people. His ministry did not involve the offering of sacrifices or the making of intercession in connection with them. APAY 126.3

There were times when a priest was called to be a prophet, as in the cases of Samuel, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. Then, of course, he bore the dual responsibility and could perform the functions of both offices. We are concerned, in this chapter, only with men who occupied one place or the other. APAY 126.4

Thus far we have noticed only the relation of prophet and priest to the Lord and to the people. We have done this to form a setting for our consideration of the relationship of the two to each other. APAY 127.1

The ministry of the priesthood was a perpetual ministry, while that of the prophets was Used to fill special needs. There were not always prophets, but there were always priests. As we think back over the total function of the prophet, and compare it with the responsibilities of the priest, we can see how the two offices could have been used regularly to complement one another. This was not always the case, and we will notice some of the methods of co-operation as well as some of the conflicts between prophets and priests. APAY 127.2

1. The revelations of God’s will, in the form of instruction for the people, came through the prophets. Through their religious services and dealings with the people, the priests were to help them put the principles of prophetic instruction into practice. The priests were the guardians of the law and were responsible for its observance. The whole plan for the conduct of the sanctuary had been revealed to Moses the prophet, but it was under the administration of Aaron and his sons. APAY 127.3

2. As a man speaking for God, the prophet brought rebuke, pointed out sin, and called the people to repentance. When the people came to confess their sins and present their offerings as a token of their confidence in the Redeemer who would remove their transgression, it was the priest who received them, guided in the making of the offering, and took upon himself the sin to be transferred to the sanctuary. It was he who made intercession for the sins of the people. APAY 127.4

3. At times the prophet came suddenly on the scene to bring his message. Some of these messengers functioned for only a brief period. On other occasions prophets ministered through several decades. Some lived and worked among the people, while others did not. It was to the priests that the people could turn regularly for help. Their multiplied numbers and the nature of their work made approach to them easier than to the prophets. APAY 127.5

4. Frequently it was necessary for priests to be included among the group to whom the prophetic messages of reproof were sent. Samuel’s first revelation pictured conditions in Eli’s family and told of the approaching punishment. Later prophets frequently denounced sin in the ranks of the priesthood. Priests had as much responsibility to accept the correction of the prophet’s message as did the people. In fact, because of their position and influence, their obligation was greater than that of others. APAY 128.1

5. Both prophet and priest were essential to complete the great circle of communication and ministry for needy humans. In co-operation, each made the work of the other more effective. When priest and people strayed from the path, the word of the prophet showed the way back. In turn, the priest could bring that word home to the individual heart. When the priest was having a difficult time holding the people to the way of right, the prophet’s message strengthened his hand. APAY 128.2

The relationship of priest and prophet did not differ greatly from that of the modern ministry and the word of God. Men set aside for the work of the ministry are counterparts of the Levitical priesthood. It is their duty to minister the word, to expound and teach it, to lead the people to accept its principles and practice them. They seek to lead the people to make their offering—a living sacrifice. They carry on their hearts the sins and weaknesses of their friends who sit in the pews. The people have access to the ministers for guidance and spiritual association. The administration of the services and activities of the church rests upon the ministry. APAY 128.3

But always the word of God, spoken by the prophets, stands as the voice of the Lord, as though He were present to speak in audible tones. It continues to instruct, to convict, to rebuke. When modern men wander, God’s word shows them the way back. Minister and people alike are under its principles. APAY 128.4