Commentary on "Abiathar: The Priest"
Day 1: Sabbath Afternoon, November 6, 2010 - Introduction
The study for this week is about Abiathar, a priest at the time of David. The Sabbath School Quarterly takes its departure from 1 Peter 2:9 and discusses the priesthood of believers. The lesson suggests, from Exodus 19:6, that the priesthood of all believers had been God’s ideal for all time. The context in which this statement is found should be read as well. In Exodus 19:5-8 we find:
Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel." So Moses came and called the elders of the people and set before them all these words that the LORD had commanded him. All the people answered together and said, "All that the LORD has spoken we will do." And Moses reported the words of the people to the LORD. *(See note at the bottom of last day’s lesson.)
This was the Old Covenant and was entirely conditional upon Israel’s obedience. Notice the word “if” in verse 5. Of course, we all know the general direction of the nation of Israel. They are an excellent example of disobedience. Because of that, they were never a kingdom of priests.
Believers following our Lord Jesus Christ are a kingdom of priests, not by obedience to our commandments, but by the mercies of his grace and power. The New Covenant is not conditional upon the obedience of the believer. Although Peter (1 Pet. 2:9) quotes this phrase from the Old Testament, it does not have the same conditions attached to it. 1 Pet. 2:4-16 provides much information for this unconditional priesthood:
As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture: "Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame." So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, "The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone," and "A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense." They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.
At the end of today’s lesson we find the following statement (p. 77 of the Teacher’s Quarterly):
This week we’ll look at Abiathar’s story, which gives us some important glimpses into the Old Testament priesthood and tells us that priesthood is not based just on pedigree or education but on personal commitment to the Lord. As in the case of Abiathar, wrong choices can disqualify a member of the priesthood.
Although subtle, there is a problem with this statement. Below is the same paragraph with important words added, underlined and in bold italic, indicating how this could be phrased much differently, differentiating it from the New Testament understanding of the priesthood of all believers.
This week we’ll look at Abiathar’s story, which gives us some important glimpses into the Old Testament priesthood and tells us that the old testament priesthood is not based just on pedigree or education but on personal commitment to the Lord. As in the case of Abiathar, wrong choices can disqualify a member of the old testament priesthood.
The New Testament priesthood of all believers is not based on pedigree or education. It is also not based on personal commitment to the Lord. It is based on the commitment of our Lord to us. Also, New Testament priests (of this believer’s priesthood) are not disqualified by wrong choices. We can be disqualified by unbelief, by forsaking our Lord; but we are not disqualified by other wrong choices. It is this confidence we have in our Lord and his consistency that provides power and strength to do what we otherwise could not do in our own power.
Let us always remember that the New Testament priesthood of all believers is not a Levitical priesthood. It is a priesthood of a different kind, just like the high priesthood of our Lord Jesus is a priesthood of a different kind than the Levitical priests. His is a Melchizedekian priesthood. Let us be careful this week to not confuse the different kinds of priesthood that are identified in Scripture.
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