Do me a favor and please read Psalm 134.
We are on the last of our “psalm of ascents” (psalms 120-134) and we end it with a psalm that is very much focused on the Levites and priests of God. So, as these men and women are on their pilgrimage to Jerusalem and the holy sanctuary of God, as they have sang of God’s love and dedication and asked for his blessings on their own lives they now turn their focus on those that would unite them, cleanse them, reconcile them, and pronounce the Lord’s blessings on their lives. Their desire? Verses 1-2 become this encouragement for the priestly leaders to turn to God and lift their hands up – and then in return they also ask (in verse 3) that God bless them.
As a pastor myself I am always thankful to hear that people pray for me, think about me, and encourage me in my calling. It’s hard work doing what we do each week and so any encouragement, any prayers, any word of blessings by the people I serve always makes me feel good. It’s good to know they support me, it’s good to know they care about me, it’s good to know that they pray for the work I do, the people I meet with, and all the spit and grit that goes in to what I do each week. And in truth? All ministers hear the joking remark that we only work on “Sundays” and the rest of the week we golf/nap/rest/play. And while we know it’s a joke – it’s an old one. And it’s just nice for the acknowledgement of all the things we really do but then just to hear that they are praying and asking God to bless us goes a long way.
But there is also a beautiful challenge here too because the pilgrims first pray that the priests lift up their hands and praise God. It’s really easy to get into a rut each week of working and crafting a sermon for Sunday and fail to spend time worshipping and praise God ourselves. It’s easy to spend time in the Word for Sunday and actually fail to spend time in the Word for my own benefit. And so for the pilgrims, who need these “men of the cloth” to be in a right relationship with God, their hope is that they are actually IN a healthy relationship with God. These men were their connection, their bridge, and their hopeful relationship with God. They needed the priests to be “on their game” – especially when they were making this massive pilgrimage.
Today? We still need our pastors, ministers, priests, all our men and women in this role to be “on their game” and Lord knows they need our prayers! They need them for their relationships with the people they serve, for the work they do, but for their own personal health and well-being as well. But we DO need to understand something. No longer do we believe that the priests and Levites are the ones who come between God and us. No longer do we believe that these men of God helped us atone for our sins by taking our offerings. Because of Christ, because his role as intermediary (1 Tim 2:5), because he is the High Priest in the Levitical order (Hebrews 4), because he makes US a kingdom of priests (Revelation 1:6) as well as part of the Royal Priesthood (1 Peter 2:9). WE have all taken on this role. So yes, we love our pastors and ministers and the work they do, we love that they have the education and training to minister the word, open it up and reveal it’s truth to us, and yes we need them to lead our services and play their role in our church…we must also recognize that WE TOO have a role.
We come to church to hear the Word of God from trained men/women of God. We gather together to be in His presence and bless him and be blessed by him. But we cannot keep and push our faith on just that. WE have a role to play as priests too. The barriers between us and God, just as the barrier between Jew and Gentile, have been demolished. And when we think about it, the role of the priests long ago was the work of reconciliation. And just as Paul writes in 2 Cor 5:18-19, all believers carry this role now. So in our work and play, in our church and our community, in our homes and all areas of our lives praise, worship, give thanks, share, and declare Christ and praise him for his role as Priest, King, and Prophet.
So YOU, child of the risen Savior…praise the Lord!
YOU…child of the Lord Most High…lift up your hands in the sanctuary (and all other places).
YOU…daughter of Christ…sing praises to the Lord.
YOU…son of Christ…give thanks for the blessings of God.
May the Lord bless you from his dwelling place, he who is the Maker of heaven and earth.