[From the archives.]
When I was a kid, I had all sorts of dreams about becoming great. I’d dream of being a sports superstar (I was one of the most athletic people imaginable, no matter what sport you wanted to play), or a famous actor (being completely nerdy and goofy looking wasn’t a key to stardom back then like it is now), or a hero of some sort (yet I never got a chance to rescue anyone from a burning building and then be interviewed about it on TV). Sometimes I’d even dream that someone would discover that I’m a long-lost heir to some noble title, like being an earl or something. That one didn’t happen either.
Little did I suspect that I’d eventually surpass all these daydreams. No, I’m not talking about my present job. That’s rather pedestrian and mundane compared to what I’ve really got going for me.
You see, I jumped right past the ranks of nobility and became royalty.
Royalty of Believers
I’ve heard the phrase “royal priesthood” for almost as long as I’ve been a Christian. It’s taken from 1 Peter 2:9.
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
When I first read that passage, I thought this was something new, a new order of things that God came up with for the church under the New Covenant. But recently I’ve come to doubt that understanding.
It turns out that the prophet Jeremiah spoke of royalty and priests during Old Covenant times as well:
For this is what the Lord says: “David will never fail to have a man to sit on the throne of Israel, nor will the Levitical priests ever fail to have a man to stand before me continually to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings and to present sacrifices.”
“… I will make the descendants of David my servant and the Levites who minister before me as countless as the stars in the sky and as measureless as the sand on the seashore.” (Jeremiah 13:17-18, 22.)
These verses about an unending supply of priests and kings are in the context of God’s promise to restore his people, a theme Jeremiah returns to many times in his prophecies. These types of prophecies are almost always at least partly messianic in their purpose. And as such they point to life under the New Covenant, not just the Old.
The way we can tell that the passage above from Jeremiah 13 concerns New Covenant reality is that after Jeremiah’s lifetime there never was another king from the line of David sitting on Israel’s throne before the New Covenant came into existence. Rather, the promise of having a king who will always sit on the throne is now fulfilled in Jesus, and the promise of having a great high priest who always stands before God for us is likewise fulfilled in Jesus.
Yet Jeremiah also said that David’s descendants (the royal family) and the descendants of the Levites (the priestly class) would be countless, without measure. That must mean that these are the people God promised to Abraham in Genesis 15:5.
“Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”
God promised even before the Old Covenant that his people would be beyond measure. He promised during the Old Covenant that his people would be royalty and priestly in the restoration to come, and he tells us now under the New Covenant that in that restoration we have become his royal priesthood.
I’m a royal priest.
My dreams have come true.