Posts Tagged ‘priests’

The last portion of Jeremiah 29 is yet another letter.  The first two sections were the words of Jeremiah, first to the exiles, then to the rebellious who were still living in Jerusalem against the instruction of the Lord. This last portion is a letter written by a false prophet named Shemaiah.

After Jeremiah’s reproof to all the false prophets – the group to which Shemaiah belonged, Shemaiah writes his own letter.  He writes to the priests in power regarding the true prophet, Jeremiah.  Namely, Zephaniah, the next in line to the high priest.  Shemaiah is so dead set on roasting Jeremiah that he even pokes at the priest prompting him to do his duty in persecuting Jeremiah.  He says something like this: You’re the priest aren’t you?  You’re the one God chose above everyone else.  Are you not going to do your job and get rid of this guy?

Now, I don’t know about you, but if I was a prophet who had a word of truth for God’s people, and another prophet came along and refuted everything I just said, the first thing I would do is defend my true words.  Shemaiah does not defend his words or his so called prophesies in the least.  Instead, he writes to the priests in power and tells them to persecute his rival, Jeremiah.  The reason?  He says unpleasant things that none of us like to hear.  He must be lying.  He must be a troublemaker.  He’s always talking about problems.  He must want us to suffer.

Hmmm.  Wonder who is telling the truth of God?  Is it the guy warning everyone over and over to repent lest they be judged?  Or is it the guy telling everyone to relax, stay comfortable, and kill the guy who says anything otherwise?

Zephaniah seems to have a clue as to what’s really going on.  We know so because he reads the letter written to him in the presence of Jeremiah.  He proves his allegiance to Jeremiah while exposing Shemaiah.  I’d say this guy is pretty wise.  Then again, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to observe who is out for himself here and who is serving the best interests of the people at great personal cost.

The best way to find out who is lying and who is telling the truth is to get both together and have a talk about who said what and see who squirms and who can confidently defend their own speech.

After Zephaniah read out the divisive, maligning words of Shemaiah, Jeremiah received some more words that actually did come from the mouth of God.  They went like this:

“Send to all the exiles, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord concerning Shemaiah of Nehelam: Because Shemaiah had prophesied to you when I did not send him, and has made you trust in a lie, 32 therefore thus says the Lord: Behold, I will punish Shemaiah of Nehelam and his descendants. He shall not have anyone living among this people, and he shall not see the good that I will do to my people, declares the Lord, for he has spoken rebellion against the Lord.’” ~Jeremiah 29:31-32

God’s going to punish you, false prophet, because you pretended God sent you when he did not.  You deceived God’s people and led them astray.  Because of that, God is going to annihilate you and your entire family from the land of the living.

How’s that for a comeback?

There are times when public misrepresentation and maligning calls for public rebuke and debunking.  True prophets do the latter while false ones take care of the former.  Unfortunately, in the words of Matthew Henry, “The characters of the false prophets are often thrown upon the true ones.”

Either way, God gets his glory in the end – both by the destruction of deceivers and by the obedience of the virtuous.

Therefore, be the better guy.  Bear up and rebuke the bad guys when the Spirit of the Lord beckons you.


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Have you ever wanted to just skip over certain verses in the Bible and pretend they weren’t there?  Well, if there ever was a chapter I wanted to skip, it is the one I met with today.  The more I studied Jeremiah 23, the less I wanted to comment on it.

Sometimes people avoid hard words because they do not like them.  Others shy away because they hurt too much.  But once in a while, both happen at the same time and the gazing in and drawing out of that which God intends is deeply painful.  Ironically, in this – the chapter that so reaches me at the depths of my heart – God’s Word is pointing at the fact that that indeed is what it is supposed to do when rightly divided.  Unfortunately, those who had charge over it’s distribution and understanding were corrupt and compromised.  Their fault was that they refused to hear, teach, submit to, or share the true words of God and instead led the people with lies and lasciviousness.

So, in the chapter warning of what happens when God’s shepherds avoid and deny God’s true words, I find myself reminiscent of a time where that very practice nearly destroyed me.  In a chapter where the leaders of God’s house, namely the pastors and prophets, were blatantly denying His Word, corrupting the people, and neglecting those whom they were responsible for caring for and shepherding on His behalf, I find myself not satisfied or glad for their soon coming judgment, but broken.  Because God will not be mocked.  He will not forever allow men to parade around pretending piety while partnering with false prophecies.  And apart from repentance, God will judge these kinds of men most harshly.  And that is the last thing I ever want to see, even for ministering men who most miserably mismanaged me personally and have made no apology.

If there is one thing I have learned as a result of corruption in church leadership, it is that when you love someone there is nothing they can ever do that will make you love them less.  Love covers a multitude of sin.  I have learned more about love from those who failed to love me well than I have from anyone else.  I have learned what love is not.  I have learned how much love costs.  I have learned how long love stays.  I have learned how desperate love is.  I have learned how much love forgives.  I have learned how long love waits.  I have felt how much love hurts.  I have learned how much love hopes.  I have experienced the brokenness of God in having a heart completely wrecked with love and anger at the same time.  I have shared in Christ’s sorrow in seeing those who I long to love despise and reject me.  I have learned so much about love from the pain I’ve known pertaining to the very things Jeremiah chapter 23 talks about.  This was a difficult chapter for me.  Bear with me.

In Jeremiah 23, the prophet is called to preach a message concerning the leaders of God’s people.  The priests (pastors) and prophets of God’s people, or shepherds, receive here a word of severe warning and coming judgment for their crimes.  “Woe to the shepherds…” says the opening verse.  Why woe?

The men who were supposed to be caring for, teaching, building up, and correcting the people of God were doing anything but.  They were actually doing the opposite.  They are here blamed for scattering the sheep, driving them away, and not attending them.  They are indicted for lying, prophesying falsely, idolatry, and personal corruption and immorality in their own lives.  They even were teaching the people to follow them in sin and corruption because that’s what it is when you have power, position, and influence over a people.  They do as you do.  Every student becomes like his teacher.

So God is not happy with these priests and prophets.  He tenderly promises to give His people new, good shepherds who will love and care for them (23:4).  He promises the Messiah who will be completely righteous to them and for them (23:5-6).  He promises deliverance from their enemies and restoration in their homeland (23:7-8).  But that’s the good news.  The bad news is, God has still got to deal with these guys who have so injured and marred God’s people and His true words.

Jeremiah himself is broken.  I feel you, Jer.  He’s looking out at all his would-be ministry friends seeing nothing but corruption and sin.  He’s seeing God’s just judgement coming for them.  He’s grieving for their wrongdoing, their lack of concern, lack of repentance, and all the collateral damage they have so foolishly, selfishly caused without care.  Listen to the prophet’s heart:

“My heart is broken within me; all my bones shake; I am like a drunken man, like a man overcome by wine, because of the Lord and because of his holy words.”  ~Jeremiah 23:9

Jeremiah is just devastated.  He doesn’t understand how those who set out to be the very best for God ended up being the very worst.  They were all adulterers.  The priests and the prophets, who were supposed to be most responsible to be holy, just, and righteous were wholly ungodly and corrupt.  They prophesied by false gods.  They themselves committed adultery, walked in lies, and helped evil people prosper.  They promised peace as war was upon them.  They gave no urge to anyone to repent, rather, comforted those who continued in blatant sin as they themselves did.  And Jeremiah was here to tell them all that judgment was surely coming.

God goes on a bit of a diatribe with these guys through his prophet.  He says,

“Am I a God at hand, declares the Lord, and not a God far away?  Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the Lord.  Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord…Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?”  ~Jeremiah 23:23-24, 29

God’s asking these rhetorical questions so that these corrupt leaders will recognize where they really are.  God’s like, do you guys really think there’s somewhere you can go to get away from me?  I’m everywhere at all times.  My word is like fire!  And the truth of it is about to burn this whole thing down.  Just who exactly do you guys think you are mocking me, maligning my words, and saying what ought not to be said of me?  Do you want to know what’s really going to happen because of these things you’re doing?  I’ll tell you:

“…I will surely lift you up and cast you away from my presence, you and the city that I gave to you and your fathers.  And I will bring upon you everlasting reproach and perpetual shame, which shall not be forgotten.” ~Jeremiah 23:40

God will judge most harshly those who pretend piety and hurt deeply his people.  He will faithfully send shepherds who love and care for those who have been so damaged by false pastors and false prophets.  And there is no cure for the bitterness those two realities are for one who loves both.

And the prophet was brokenhearted.  And the girl who knew so well the very deeds done here did not clap her hands.  She did not say, “Amen.”  She was not smug or satisfied.  She saw only what Jeremiah said as she sobbed.

“My heart is broken within me; all my bones shake.  I am like a drunken man, like a man overcome by wine, because of the Lord and because of his holy words.” ~Jeremiah 23: 9


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In Nehemiah 11 and 12 we are given a record of those who went back to live in Jerusalem after the captivity.  Jerusalem was the Holy City of God.  The temple was there and all of those who attended it.  Let’s consider who was there:

Nehemiah 11:1 – The leaders and the chosen were living in Jerusalem.
Nehemiah 11:2 – The willing were living in Jerusalem.
Nehemiah 11:10 – The priests were living in Jerusalem.
Nehemiah 11:15 – The Levites were living in Jerusalem.

One would think more people would have wanted to live here given the overwhelming number of high quality, godly men who resided within the city.   But, no, many did not and there were several reasons for that.

Firstly, people know that the closer to God and His people they get, the more responsible they are for their own actions and attitudes.  Therefore, many choose to keep their distance in order to keep their comfort and pet sins close and God farther away.  I think we can all relate to this kind of avoidance whether we have done it or seen others do it.

Not only that, but Jerusalem was hated by their neighboring communities.  Many times, the closer we get to Christ, the more we are hated by the world.  He said it would be so.  Many people who are happy to profess belief are simply not willing to suffer for his namesake.  It was true of these people and it’s true today.  Only those who are sold out and wholehearted will follow God wherever he leads with absolute reckless abandon.

Lastly, Jerusalem wasn’t a place to sell wares and get rich.  It did not have the advantages of a good trading city so those who were trying to make money in business wouldn’t have wanted to be in Jerusalem if they could help it.  Men often look out for number one rather than placing the priority of their lives in their spiritual journey and responsibility.

Still, Jerusalem had some pretty great men manning it.  Because primarily those with position and integrity dwelt in Jerusalem, that in itself should have been a draw for others to relocate to this city.  Those that were not encouraged to move were at least inspired to encourage.  Nehemiah 11:2 says, “And the people blessed all the men who willingly offered to live in Jerusalem.” While they may not have been willing to sacrifice comfort and safety for the Lord’s work, they did admire those who were.

Then again, it may have been more of a, “You go so I don’t have to,” kind of encouragement.  These people knew that their leaders were drawing names to determine who would move because there weren’t enough people in the city.  The more men who volunteered to move meant the less who had to be randomly chosen.

Chapter 12 begins by listing by name the priests and Levites who came back from exile first.  It tells us that some were in charge of songs of thanksgiving, some as priests, some overseeing praise and thanks, and some standing guard at the gates.

Jerusalem was a great city of God complete with spiritual warriors, watchers, and pray-ers.  They would not have had to cast lots if it hadn’t been wanting for workers, though.  Such is God’s Kingdom.  The harvest is plentiful, but he workers are few.  May we be ever willing to go wherever he calls and make a home wherever he blesses.

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In Exodus 30:17-21, God instructs Moses on building a basin made out of bronze for the priests to wash in.  This sink-type item was to be placed between the entrance to the Tent of Meeting and the altar which was in the outer court.

The purpose of the bronze basin was for the men whom God had chosen to act on behalf of the people to wash their hands and feet before ministering or coming near the altar.  Although they were already physically clean, this mandate was how God chose to point them to their need to place their own purity always, always, always before any work they would do in ministry.  It was to remind them constantly of their own dire need to confess, repent, and be wholly pure before the Lord in thought, word, and deed before any taking any action on behalf of others in prayer, intercession, and offering sacrifice to God.  If they would not be diligent about their own purity and cleanness before serving the Lord and being in His presence, the consequence was death.  (Exodus 30:21)


Likewise, men who answer God’s call to ministry and fail to constantly and diligently bow before the Lord prior to offering ministry to others or offerings to the Lord today will ultimately die spiritually due to their own pride and self-sufficient presumption.  If men who minister to others do not understand their own desperate need for God’s help, for his mercy and forgiveness, and for their own purity, they will not be able to stand in adversity or with any confidence or assurance before the Lord or before men.

Therefore, men who seek to lead others toward God must have clean hands and a pure heart.  Without that, they will be wholly ineffective in any kingdom work they attempt regardless of the size of their church or the title in front of their name.  Yet those who would daily recognize their own need, be daily cleansed, and be clean before carrying out ministry will be blessed forever by the faithful promise of God.  (Exodus 30:21)

In God’s book, personal purity always comes before pastoral ministry.

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priestly garb

The last portion of the priestly garments to be elaborated upon by God were the robe of ephod, the turban with engraved golden plate, a coat, a sash, and undergarments.

The robe of ephod went overtop of the ephod and underneath the breastpiece.  It had pomegranates stitched into it for beauty and bells attached for safety.  Doubtless the fruit was a reminder of life and fruitful ministry and the bells were to remind everyone of the necessity to revere God as holy.  The bells were worn to identify and protect the priest when he went into God’s holy and sacred presence.  The text says the priest had to wear bells so he did not die!  The reason is that sacred places require authorization.  God is to be respected.

The next item described was the turban.  It was to be made of fine linen and worn on the priest’s head.  It was to have a gold plate fastened to the front which read, “Holy to the Lord.”  This identified the high priest and he was to bear any guilt from the offering of the people.  Matthew Henry says this:

“Through him what is good is accepted; our persons, our performances, are pleasing to God upon the account of Christ’s intercession, and not otherwise.”

And not otherwise.  We could never, ever be accepted by God on our own merit or well-doing.  Without an intercessor to cover our sin and failure, we will not be accepted at all.

Finally, Moses was instructed that the priests should wear coats, sashes, and caps.  All of this was for the glory and beauty of God to be seen in them: Imago Dei. Moses was to dress, anoint, ordain, and consecrate his brother, Aaron, and Aaron’s sons to the priesthood.

This is quite the ensemble.  Let us remember their dress and know that all of God’s ministers are called to be set apart, prepared, and dressed in the full armor of God.

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Still on Mt. Sinai, once God was finished giving instructions to Moses on how to build and furnish the tabernacle, he proceeded to instruct Moses on the people who would be attending it – the priests.

Exodus 28 is a record of what the priests were to wear and the significance of their garments.  From their heads to their undergarments, the priests were to be notably and specifically dressed.

 “Then bring near to you Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the people of Israel, to serve me as priests—Aaron and Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty.You shall speak to all the skillful, whom I have filled with a spirit of skill, that they make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him for my priesthood. These are the garments that they shall make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a coat of checker work, a turban, and a sash. They shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother and his sons to serve me as priests. They shall receive gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen. ~Exodus 28:1-5

In verses 1-5, we see the sovereign choosing of God highlighted as he informs Moses that his brother, Aaron, and all of his descendants were to be the priests serving in temple.

Notice that Moses did not argue with God or sulk because he himself had not been chosen for this particular job.  Moses was a prophet.  He had much to do for God and for the people already.  Moses’ job was different than that of a priest.

In this time, priests were primarily responsible for attending the ever-burning fire and the sacrifices given.  Heads of families were responsible for the teaching of their own people on the ways of God.  Once synagogues became commonplace after the Jews’ captivity, the priests and leaders in the temple then became teachers and preachers of the law and the Word of God.

Today, it is still true that prophets hear words from the Lord, see visions, direct God’s people in His ways, warn, intercede, correct, and admonish all.  Priests and pastors attend to House of God, shepherd the people, and help them do what God has called them to.  These are very different callings .  Prophets can preach and preachers can prophesy, but these are not the primary responsibilities each has.  Both are equally important, but, a priest has a much more tender relationship with the people while a prophet generally is held at a distance because the people fear, avoid, and even hate him for his truth-telling.

Nevertheless, Moses isn’t complaining.  He is happy to give his younger brother this honor.  Aaron had served under him up until this point and God honored him for it.

As we see in verse 2, Moses was instructed to have holy garments made for Aaron.  He was told to call all those who were skillful to this task.  That tells us that these garments were not only mandatory, but they were greatly important to God.  He wanted them to be exactly as he instructed that his own glory and beauty might be seen through these men.

Each item that the priests wore had a meaning and a purpose.  We will be examining those in the coming days, but notice today especially what God’s Word says of those Moses was to call to the task of making these clothing items for the priests.

You shall speak to all the skillful, whom I have filled with a spirit of skill, that they make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him for my priesthood. ~Exodus 28:3

The lesson here is that God gives people their skills and talents.  He gives them a “spirit of skill” and he expects it to be used for his glory and according to his very specific instructions.

God chooses who will be the prophet.
God chooses who will be the priest.
God chooses who will make the garments.
God chooses who will have trade skills.
God chooses who will be given a spirit of skill.
Good chooses what those who have been given a spirit of sill and excellence will make and do.
Good gives the skilled workers the materials needed to produce what will most glorify him.

Get this, Christians!  This is so very important.  Prophets are not better than priests.  Prophets are just people chosen by God to be prophets.  Priests are not better than the people they serve because they are called to teach, preach, and counsel others.  Priests are just people chosen by God to be priests.  And, finally, skilled workers who make and do jobs of trade with excellence are not unspiritual or unused of God simply because they are preaching, teaching, or prophesying like prophets and priests are doing.  Skilled workers who make and do jobs of trade are filled with a spirit of skill, according to Exodus 28:3, and are therefore just as spiritual and used of God when they act upon their calling as prophets and priests.

Did you get that?  It’s important.  There are no spiritual superheroes in God’s house.  Every person is greatly needed and equally important.  Therefore, there should be absolutely no attitudes of superiority or looking down on a man who works a trade vs. a man who preaches or vise versa within God’s house.  AMEN.

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standBloodthirsty King Saul has found out from an eye-witness where David had been.  He called the priests led by Ahimelech to him and they all came.

Then the king sent to summon Ahimelech the priest, the son of Ahitub, and all his father’s house, the priests who were at Nob, and all of them came to the king. 12 And Saul said, “Hear now, son of Ahitub.” And he answered, “Here I am, my lord.” 13 And Saul said to him, “Why have you conspired against me, you and the son of Jesse, in that you have given him bread and a sword and have inquired of God for him, so that he has risen against me, to lie in wait, as at this day?” 14 Then Ahimelech answered the king, “And who among all your servants is so faithful as David, who is the king’s son-in-law, and captain overyour bodyguard, and honored in your house? 15 Is today the first time that I have inquired of God for him? No! Let not the king impute anything to his servant or to all the house of my father, for your servant has known nothing of all this, much or little.” ~1 Samuel 22:11-15

Saul inquires deceitfully but Ahimelech answers honestly.  The priest basically says this: “Look, I always help and encourage David.  It’s my job, and besides that, why wouldn’t I?  He’s one of your best men!”  Ah, but here’s where Ahimelech gets confused: “Let not the king impute anything to his servant or to all the house of my father.”

It is true enough that Ahimelech was innocent in this affair with David.  Clearly, if he and his priests had been guilty of that which Saul accused – conspiring against their king and rallying forces with David to commit treason, they would not have come to speak so obediently and so willingly when called by Saul.  But who was it that had already imputed a curse upon Ahimelech’s house, as well as his father’s house?  Not Saul. (more…)

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