Peter says believers are a holy priesthood (1 Peter 2:5), drawing parallels with the priesthood established under the Law. Peter packs a lot of information and theological truth in that one metaphor. We’ve been breaking down what Peter wants us to understand. The first thing is God has cleansed us from our sin. We are specially clothed. We are anointed for service. As we serve, we must remain obedient. And one of the first commands we are given is to teach people God’s word. Today, we’ll finish with the sacred duty of interceding for others.
Old Testament priests interceded for the people
When we think of priests, we think of sacrifices. It was the priest’s job to offer the sacrifices on behalf of the people. Each year on the Day of Atonement, the high priest represented the people as he entered the Holy of Holies to seek atonement for their (and his own) sins. Leviticus 16 gives the details on the priest’s duties that day.
Later, in the prophets, the priests are called on to cry out to God for the people. For instance, in Joel 2:17 it reads, “Let the priests, the LORD’S ministers, Weep between the porch and the altar, And let them say, “Spare Your people, O LORD…”” In Malachi, the Lord instructs the prophet to call out the priests whose actions, namely bringing dregs for offerings, undermine their words. “And now ask for God’s favor. Will He be gracious to us? ⌊Since⌋ this has come from your hands, will He show any of you favor?” asks the LORD of Hosts. Malachi 1:9
Even when they failed, there was nonetheless an expectation of intercession for the people.
Jesus intercedes for us
John 17 records Jesus’s prayer in the Upper Room. In verses 6-24, He prays for our protection, our joy, our sanctification and our unity, among other things. But His intercession didn’t end with the conclusion of His earthly ministry. Hebrews explains His high priestly work and is worth reading the entire book. But here’s one example in Chapter 7
[B]ut Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.Hebrews 7:24-25
Believers have a duty of interceding for others
Paul serves as a great example of intercession. My favorite intercessory prayer of his is Ephesians 3:14-21. In all of the epistles, we find examples of the writers praying for their readers and others, and asking for prayer for themselves as well. However, in 1 Timothy, the apostle Paul commands us to intercede.
First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.1 Timothy 2:1-2
We are to pray for all, then specifically for those who have authority. James adds a call to pray for the sick.
Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord;James 5:14
Prayer was a distinctive mark in the early church.
And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.Acts 2:42
Being a priest in the Old Testament carried a great responsibility. Being a New Testament priest does too. Let us embrace this call and fulfill the duty God has entrusted to us through Christ.