In my previous post, I talked about how a holy God still uses, indeed privileges, messed-up people to serve Him. In this second and last part of the series, I explore the theological foundations of such a paradox.
So, why do I say that in the context of worship ministry, our qualifications for those who serve should be musical skill and good attitude, rather than personal holiness? (I am not saying of course that people shouldn’t grow in holiness. We should! – because it is a sign of an ever-growing relationship with God).
The first thing we need to understand is the role of a priest. In the Bible, a prophet is someone who is God’s mouthpiece. He represents God to His people, to give direction, comfort or correction. A priest, on the other hand, represents the people before God.
Hebrews 5:1 says:
Every high priest is selected from among men and is appointed to represent them in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sin.
This is why in Old Testament times, how Israel fared as a nation was dependent on the quality of her high priest. If the high priest was good, then the nation was blessed. If the high priest was bad, then Israel suffered the consequences.
Obviously, no high priest was ever perfect. The writer of Hebrews goes on to say that the high priest himself was subject to weakness and so had to offer sacrifices for his own sin as well as the sin of the people (verse 3).
Thankfully, we now have a High Priest who is incorruptible, who lived a perfect life and now sits at the right hand of God. He is a High Priest, not of the order of Aaron, but of the order of Melchizedek; who did not inherit the lifeblood of Adam’s line but who was beyond and before Adam. This priest, the writer says is (in Chapter 7, verse 16):
one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life.
So, as Jesus is, so are we in this world (1 Jn 4:17). In other words, just as Jesus is perfectly righteous, so are we seen as righteous by God in this world. What a reassuring thought!
This was actually foreshadowed when the law was instituted in the book of Exodus. There is much to be said about the significance of God’s design of the high priest’s garments (which we won’t have space to cover). But in relation to the headpiece, God gave these directions (Exodus 28:36-38):
Make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it as on a seal: HOLY TO THE LORD. Fasten a blue cord to it to attach it to the turban; it is to be on the front of the turban. It will be on Aaron’s forehead, and he will bear the guilt involved in the sacred gifts the Israelites consecrate, whatever their gifts may be. It will be on Aaron’s forehead continually so that they will be acceptable to the Lord.
Notice this: the gold plate on Aaron’s forehead has the words “Holy to the Lord” engraved, not written, on it. Engraving speaks of permanence. It cannot be erased or be taken to with liquid paper. This means that God’s standard of holiness is eternal and uncompromising. But, as Aaron brings the gifts of the people before God, God sees the mark of holiness on Aaron (it is “on Aaron’s forehead continually”). As a result, the priest absorbs the guilt of the people and the gifts are acceptable to the Lord.
At the end of the day, the gifts of the people aren’t holy and acceptable because the people were holy, it was because God saw the gifts through the high priest.
So today, as a musician, preacher, usher, connect group leader, event organiser, church barista, finance guru, rubbish-picker – the efficacy of your offering has nothing to do with how good you are. They are acceptable to God, and efficacious, because they go through our High Priest, Jesus, the only high priest who is forever perfect and righteous! This should give you the confidence to serve God no matter how you might feel about yourself, or what others might say about you. See yourself as God sees you; put your gifts (whatever they may be) in His hands; and let Him use them for His glory!