Last time we started into uncovering what the core meaning of “worship” is, as it relates to our faith and congregational gatherings. 1 Peter 2:9 instructs that we, followers of Christ, are a chosen race, a royal priesthood. Many thoughts and images may come to mind when you hear the term priest. Many things come to my mind, and my being a priest is not one of them! Let’s get a little better acquainted with what a biblical priest is and how being “a royal priesthood” should affect our worship.
I’ll assume that many do not understand the biblical role of a priest. Early in the nation of Israel the tribe of Levi were designated as the priests for the nation. Their responsibilities included taking care of the sanctuary (tabernacle and later the temple) and performing the sacrifices, rituals and ceremonies surrounding the people’s worship of God (Numbers 18). The priests served as the mediators between the people and God. Now, as Hebrews 5:5 says, Jesus Christ has become our perfect High Priest whose once-for-all sacrifice was wholly perfect and final, lasting forever. Furthermore Christ, as our perfect High Priest, now intercedes as our Mediator forevermore (1 Timothy 2:5).
All that being as it is, Peter talks of Jesus’ followers as being made into a royal priesthood. So we, under the rule and guide of the great High Priest, are given a role also. Deuteronomy 10:8, after the new tablets of the ten commandments where placed in the ark, we see that the “the Lord set apart the tribe of Levi to carry the ark of the covenant of the Lord to stand before the Lord to minister to him and to bless in his name”. There it is! The Lord appointed the role of the priests to minister to him and to bless in his name! This plainly explains that our foremost role as a priest in the royal priesthood is to minister to the Lord.
This knowledge should free us, but also challenge us as to what we think of worship. Zach Neese in his book How to worship a King shares, “…there is not a single word for worship in the Bible, Greek or Hebrew, that includes the idea of ministry to mankind.” He continues, “Worship is simply not for us. It is for God.” Neese goes on to say,
“We have made worship about us – our preferences, our tastes, our comforts, our opinions. We have made it about ministering to our needs and coddling our self-centered natures. When we make worship about us, what we communicate to God is that worship is for us.”
This results in a subtle form of idolatry that I suspect most of us never even considered. Obviously, there is always a part of ministry that is to man (John 21:15-17), but we need to make certain that ministry to man never becomes our primary objective. Neese goes on to use the example of David and Saul. You remember the story… Saul lost favor with God and David gained favor with God. We can see that one of Saul’s downfalls was a desire to please the people above pleasing God. Neese follows with this challenge:
“Priests court the heart of God. Politicians court the hearts of people. Which are you?”
So, member of a royal priesthood, what is worship? It is first and foremost to minister to the triune God.