Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Israel the Priestly Nation

Pastor Smith puts it nicely:

Sin comes to a sharp focus in Israel. Here sin becomes transgression because the Law defines the lines that make sin a transgression. Israel’s position before God and for the world was to recognize this sin as transgression and deal with it accordingly. This is what a priest does. At the giving of the Law this is the purpose for which God set Israel aside, constituting her as a nation. Exodus 19:6 makes this clear: “‘And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.” Israel’s vocation was to bring sin (which became transgression, an intensified form of sin) to the place of judgment, put it to death, receive life from God, and take that life to the world, making it fruitful in every sense of the word. As the world’s priest, Israel would draw upon herself the sins of the world and, in turn bring life to the world as a light to the nations. Offering gifts and sacrifices on the behalf of others is at least one of the various duties of a priest.
Israel’s priestly duty concerning the nations is most pointed demonstrated in the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths. While the Feast commemorates the wandering of the children of Israel in the wilderness, it looks to the ingathering of the nations into the people of God. In other words it looks toward the time when the world will be made alive. But in order for this to happen, sin must first be punished. During the week of worship, Israel was to offer up a total of seventy bulls. With the emphasis on the ingathering of the nations, it is difficult to miss the significance of the number seventy and its reference back to Genesis 10 and the Table of Nations. Israel was sacrificing for the nations. Israel did not exist for herself. She existed for the life of the world.

- William R. Smith, The Apocalypse of Faith: An Exegetical Study of Galatians 3:19-29

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