First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday ~ November 8, 2020)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
2 Chronicles 26:16-21; 1 Peter 2:9-10
Life can be tough and challenging sometimes. I believe that when life gets tough, we have two choices. We can either look down or look up. We can either think about what we lack or consider what we already have. We can either look at our suffering and pain or seek more grace and strength from God. When life gets tough, we can either allow the world and our circumstances to define us or let God and His unfailing love do so.
Writing to the first century Christian community exiled and scattered throughout the provinces of Asia Minor, the apostle Peter charged those persecuted Christians to neither allow the world nor the present circumstances to define who they are. He reminded them that they are God’s elect. In 1 Peter 2:9-10, he wrote, “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. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
As I mentioned last Sunday, 1 Peter 2:9-12 is the passage I have chosen for our stewardship campaign this year. My goal is to help us discover or rediscover our identity in Christ. 1 Peter 2:9 offers a three-dimensional definition of our identity as Christians. “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation,” says 1 Peter 2:9. Last week, we got to unpack the first part of this statement, “But you are a chosen people.” Yes, Christians were rejected by Rome, they were mostly rejected by their communities including their own families, but they are chosen, embraced, and loved by the Almighty God.
God handpicked YOU to be on His team. It’s not that we deserved to be chosen, as if we were the best honeydew melon or tomato in the produce aisle. No, God chose us, bruised and rotten as we are by nature, simply by His grace. Because of Jesus we went from one side of the meter –guilty – to the other side of the meter – justified – all because of what Christ has done. And, as Romans 8:31 reminds us, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”
This morning we get to the second section where Peter says we are “a royal priesthood.” Peter continues to unfold who we are based on who God has made us to be. Peter says, “You are a royal priesthood.” These chosen believers were called out from the world to be a royal priesthood. For an audience that was probably primarily Jewish, this would have stood out. In the Old Testament, the monarchy and the priesthood were strictly separated. Priests came from the lineage of Aaron, from the tribe of Levi. Only priests could approach God at the temple; only they could offer the sacrifices. The rest of the Jews could not. Kings come from the tribe of Judah. They were also special in Israel because they were anointed with oil by a priest. This means they were equipped and empowered by God to do the task of ruling Israel and setting an example to the surrounding nations.
But again, these privileges were not for regular Jews and they were strictly separated. We see the strict separation of these two roles in two kings that were judged by God for trying to combine the priesthood and the kingship. King Saul was anxious to go to battle, and instead of waiting for the priest Samuel to come and offer a sacrifice to the Lord, he decided to do it himself. In 1 Samuel 13:8–14, God told him that because of this, God had sought a man after his own heart to rule. Saul was judged for trying to merge the priesthood and the kingship.
We also see this in 2 Chronicles 26:16–21 with a king named Uzziah. Uzziah became very successful, and therefore, prideful. He felt that because he was so great, he could burn incense in the temple—again a work specifically for the priest to do. The priests gathered together to confront him and said, “You will not be blessed by the Lord because you have been unfaithful.” King Uzziah became angry at this and reached out to burn the incense, and leprosy broke out on his forehead because God judged him. He then stepped down from being king and passed the kingship to his son. He died a leper.
Therefore, the privilege of being “a royal priesthood” would have stood out to the original audience. It was impossible to happen. It was a privilege beyond anyone’s imagination. The only way this is possible is through Christ and under the New Covenant. Do you see the generosity of our God? In the Book of Revelation 1:6, John gives glory to Christ for making us “kings and priests to His God and Father.” This never crossed anyone’s mind, but in Christ, the impossible becomes possible. So what do we do with this profound truth? Put on your priestly robe.
Put on Your Priestly Robe
Any priest had two major responsibilities. First, they talk to people about God. They bring God to the daily lives of the people. Second, they talk to God about people, their circumstances, their challenges, and their burdens. There is no better time to take our priestly responsibilities seriously than today. This has been a tough year for a lot of people. The pandemic has taken a toll on every single aspect of our lives. Needless to say, this past week has been a rough one too. There is a lot of tension in the air because of the election. You can tell how divided and broken our nation has become. Friends, we need to argue less and pray more. We need to pray for God’s healing and reconciliation. We need to offer more grace and less criticism. Our nation needs our prayers. Our world needs our prayers. It’s time to put on your priestly robe. We are to intercede for our nation, for the light of the gospel to go forth, and for the needs of God’s people around us. This is a tremendous job that God has called us for.
Friends, what a privilege God has given us in Christ to be “a royal priesthood” to our God. In many ways, this can seem daunting. Don’t let it be. Instead, begin to practice your priesthood in small ways. Pause and pray about the things that are going on around you. Pay attention to the needs of God’s children around you. If you get a sense that God might be nudging you into an action of grace and mercy, trust God as you step forward. This is the heart of good stewardship of time, talent, and treasure. Keep your eyes open to see how God moves in and through your actions. Amen.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.