Regulations for the Heavenly Priesthood
“And my people they should instruct in the difference between a holy thing and a profane thing; and the difference between what is unclean and what is clean they should cause them to know.”—Ezek. 44:23.
1. How does the priesthood under Christ differ from all others, and why should the typical regulations of the priesthood have our attention?
PRIESTHOODS of human origin tend to become a law unto themselves, to make and revise their own regulations and to seek power and influence for their own selfish ends. Not so the body of priests yielding obedience to the great High Priest, Christ Jesus. Their first concern is for them to be found following their high priest’s steps closely, now and forever, for thus only can they be assured of the approval of the pure and holy God, Jehovah. They realize they must teach others by example as well as by precept. For their guidance in the field of right worship regulations have been provided, many of which were clearly forecast by the typical regulations governing the Aaronic priesthood and its services. So, by comparing the prophetic types and the later precepts given by Christ Jesus and his inspired disciples, we can with benefit learn that such priestly regulations are certainly of divine origin.—1 Pet. 2:21; 1 Tim. 4:11, 12.
2. The cleanness enjoined upon the Aaronic priesthood has what significance for Christ’s anointed followers?
2 The physical cleanliness enjoined upon the typical priesthood, for example, means to Christ’s followers more than similar cleanness of body, clothing and general appearance. It points to a cleanness of hands from wrong actions, and a pureness of heart from wrong thinking. It speaks of a cleansing from false religious thinking through the pure teaching from God’s written Word. Thus Jesus could say to his disciples: “You are already clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.” Those who enjoy privileges of sacred service before Jehovah must keep themselves in a clean state of mind and body by frequent self-examination upon the basis of God’s requirements.—John 15:3; Ps. 24:3-5.
3. What additional responsibility comes upon those who are serving at the “true tent”?
3 Priests serving under Christ Jesus must do more than maintain clean personal relations with Jehovah and his organization for pure worship. They must be prepared to accept the responsibility for giving the proper lead to others, making sure that such ones are indeed following that lead. So, as typical priests examined and supervised the physical condition of worshipers, the heavenly body of priests must likewise see to it that fellow worshipers today remain clean morally and spiritually. They must have the earnest attitude manifested by one of their own number, when he wrote: “For I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy, for I personally promised you in marriage to one husband that I might present you as a chaste virgin to the Christ. But I am afraid that somehow, as the serpent seduced Eve by its cunning, your minds might be corrupted away from the sincerity and the chastity that are due the Christ.”—2 Cor. 11:2, 3.
4. What responsibility does the Christian priesthood have with regard to the offerings of worshipers?
4 In Israel the offerings of the people had to be supervised and approved by the priests so as to be sure they met the requirements set by Jehovah himself for each particular situation. For example, a pigeon could not be offered where a young goat was prescribed. Also, a lame and otherwise valueless animal could not be presented if the offerer had something better to offer. (Mal. 1:14) Correspondingly today the underpriests of Christ or their appointed helpers, responsible men, should be anxious to see that each one is offering to Jehovah the sacrifice of praise that is commensurate with his ability. And, too, there should be aid for each worshiper so that his ability is continuously built up by kind and loving counsel and by faithful example. The meaning of the typical offerings brought by the individual Israelites is explained by the apostle Paul when he writes: “Through him [Christ Jesus] let us always offer to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips which make public declaration to his name. Moreover, do not forget the doing of good and the sharing of things with others, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”—Heb. 13:15, 16.
5. Oversight by the priests of the actual condition of the worshipers themselves points to what?
5 Remembering that in those ancient times it could occur that someone might bring a sacrifice to the Lord without real devotion or with some impure or selfish motive, as did Cain, we know it is important that the motive for service and worship of Jehovah be given careful attention. Responsible ones in the congregations will always keep in mind that genuine gratitude to Jehovah is what should spur each one to present his offerings of worship. Without that the offering may well be worthless. This, too, should be the basis for offering ourselves to Jehovah in dedication. How important, then, the service of aiding would-be worshipers to study to know God and Christ! Such knowledge taken into good and honest hearts is what begets gratitude, an overriding desire to express appreciation. Christians who have this sound foundation of understanding do not require to be pushed or pressured into presenting their sacrifices to Jehovah. Spirited Bible discussion and kindly practical suggestions are most effective. ‘Take my kindly yoke upon you,’ is the invitation of the High Priest, Christ Jesus.—Matt. 11:29, 30.
6. The facilities provided for the worship of the Israelites at the tent point to what provision for which worshipers today can show appreciation?
6 Caring for all the services of the sanctuary was the duty of the priesthood under Aaron. Here we can reflect on how easy it was made for the Israelites in general to bring their offerings to Jehovah. Had not the Levites already cared for all the multitude of details so that the holy place with all of its utensils and provisions was always in readiness? In the same way congregations of Christians can appreciate the great amount of work that has been done by responsible servants in drawing up schedules, preparing programs, arranging meetings, organizing effective preaching campaigns, all with a view to facilitating the earnest worship of the whole congregation.—1 Tim. 5:17.
7. What should be the mental attitude of those who compose the Christian priesthood, and with what effect on worshipers?
7 Think of how encouraging and refreshing it must have been to worshipers of Jehovah to bring their offerings to faithful priests who rejoiced in their privilege of service at the tent, instead of to surly, overbearing or even evil ones like the sons of Eli! It would be so easy today for responsible brothers to think only of the heavy load of responsibility coming upon them and to overlook the marvelous results that Jehovah is giving in the way of multiplying worshipers. Joy must go hand in hand with responsibility. The apostle Paul was well-balanced on this score, for here is how he expressed himself: “Besides those things of an external kind, there is what rushes in on me from day to day, the anxiety for all the congregations.” “Notwithstanding, even if I am being poured out like a drink offering upon the sacrifice and public service to which faith has led you, I am glad and I rejoice with all of you.”—2 Cor. 11:28; Phil. 2:17.
8. How should strength and firmness combine with love in the services of the Christian priesthood?
8 Faithful priests under Aaron had to combine loving consideration of the people’s circumstances with strength and firmness of purpose. After all, Jehovah’s requirements had to be carried out, his law had to be enforced. They had to reflect Jehovah’s dealings, firm where he was firm, forgiving where he was forgiving. Phinehas had to slay the Israelite who fell for the female bait held out by pagan religion. (Num. 25:7, 8) He and his fellow priests had to show a different attitude toward those overtaken in sin and giving evidence of genuine repentance. They had to adopt Jehovah’s own attitude as expressed at Isaiah 66:2: “To this one, then, I shall look, to the one afflicted and contrite in spirit and trembling at my word.” Thus it is in the Christian congregation that there must be firmness in expelling brazen offenders against God’s laws, and at the same time loving rehabilitation for those who have, in weakness, fallen into sin and who then repent.
9. Marriage requirements of the typical priesthood point to what in the reality of today?
9 In Israel the priests were forbidden to enter into a marriage alliance with a foreigner. Indeed, the Israelites in general were warned against such a course. The danger was that a pagan mate would influence one to apostatize from true, clean worship. This regulation can bear literal application in the Christian congregation today, for the apostle Paul wrote: “Do not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers.” (2 Cor. 6:14) This also constitutes a warning to avoid all kinds of interfaith movements or actions. Joining even in the prayer, whether spoken or sung, of someone who is not a dedicated servant of Jehovah, could render one guilty of the practice of interfaith.
10. In what senses must those of the priesthood under Christ understand the prohibition on intoxicating liquor while on duty?
10 The command to the Aaronic priests to abstain from intoxicating liquor when on duty at the holy place was to ensure that approach to Jehovah would be with proper respect, and also to make sure that the priesthood were wide awake and alert to their duties to aid the people in clean worship. Today in a literal way those who have service to perform in the field preaching or at congregation meetings will apply this regulation. They too must respect Jehovah and appreciate the holiness of all things pertaining to public worship. (1 Cor. 11:20, 21) Christians today must also be on guard against all the insidious forms in which the intoxicating, sleep-inducing doctrines of Babylon the Great are presented.
11. What do we learn from the eating by typical priests of their portions of the sacrifices?
11 Priests were not permitted to eat their portions of the sacrifices outside the holy limits of their own households. Referring to this provision, the apostle Paul instructed: “Do you not know that the men performing sacred duties eat the things of the temple, and those constantly attending at the altar have a portion for themselves with the altar? In this way, too, the Lord ordained for those proclaiming the good news to live by means of the good news.” (1 Cor. 9:13, 14) So, persons who receive the means of livelihood or small monetary allowances in return for devoting themselves fully to services that promote the worship of fellow Christians, or to the field ministry of teaching and preaching, are in fact rewarded with holy things, monies and other goods that have been devoted to the service of the Lord. “The worker is worthy of his wages,” is the way the Scriptures describe this principle. (Luke 10:7) But those wages, whatever form they take, are holy and must be used by the laborer, not in some foolish, worldly manner, nor for personal enrichment, but in a way that will extend and improve the opportunity of the laborer to continue in his or her life’s work of dedication to Jehovah.
12, 13. The priestly duty of sounding the sacred trumpets points to what?
12 The Aaronic priests alone were authorized to sound the sacred trumpets. The notes they blew must be clear and understandable so that the people might know what was required of them. The apostle Paul wrote: “For truly, if the trumpet sounds an indistinct call, who will get ready for battle? In the same way also, unless you through the tongue utter speech easily understood, how will it be known what is being spoken? You will, in fact, be speaking into the air.” (1 Cor. 14:8, 9) There is responsibility, therefore, for Christ’s underpriests today to sound out a clearcut, easily understandable message from God’s Word to all peoples, one that is couched in the language of today, that will stand out from the false and blatant and biased messages of human organizations. Fearlessly, and using this journal in a signal manner, as they have done for over eighty-five years, the underpriests of Christ Jesus are sounding forth a clear message from God’s Word for this day in which we live. Also, they have, by Jehovah’s undeserved kindness, been privileged to produce and publish the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, the Bible in easily understood language of today. That all of this does constitute a distinct trumpet call is fully proved by the great crowd of people from all races and nations who are responding to it and sincerely seeking to approach Jehovah in dedication.
13 Not to be overlooked is the fact that this same “trumpet” message sounds the call to warfare against Jehovah’s enemies. It is true that those who respond do not engage in any literal warfare with fleshly, man-made weapons. They do, however, equip themselves with the “suit of armor” and the weapons that God has provided, and as they move forward in battle against superhuman, devilish foes, God gives them the power to pull down strongholds of error and emancipate prisoners who have longed for mental and spiritual freedom to serve God.—Eph. 6:10-18; 2 Cor. 10:3-6.
NO LAND INHERITANCE
14. The inheritance provision of the typical priesthood holds what significance when applied to Christ’s body of priests?
14 The fact that the priests and Levites were to receive no land inheritance is also most significant. The scripture explains: “And Jehovah went on to say to Aaron: ‘ . . . I am your share and your inheritance in the midst of the sons of Israel. And to the sons of Levi, look! I have given every tenth part in Israel as an inheritance in return for their service that they are carrying on, the service of the tent of meeting.’” (Num. 18:20, 21) Those of the heavenly priesthood under Christ look forward to no earthly inheritance, for their “citizenship exists in the heavens.” Thus, as the remnant of underpriests still serve here in the flesh and administer the sacred things of God’s visible organization for pure worship, they have no selfish stake in material possessions. Everything they have is devoted to Jehovah and his “true tent.”—Phil. 3:20.
15. What additional responsibility devolves upon the Christian priesthood, and has it been faithfully discharged?
15 By his prophet Jehovah declared: “For the lips of a priest . . . should keep knowledge, and the law is what people should seek from his mouth; for he is the messenger of Jehovah of armies.” (Mal. 2:7) Thus a grave responsibility devolves upon the remnant of the body of Christ’s underpriests today. Theirs is the obligation to keep on ministering to fellow worshipers in all the earth “their [spiritual] food at the proper time.” (Matt. 24:45) Have they proved faithful to this commission? Happily we can answer Yes. For many decades now they have published in the pages of The Watchtower a diet of faith-building knowledge. Therein have been set forth unequivocally the requirements of the pure and holy God relating to the many and varied departments of human activity. God’s mind on so many vital issues of the day has been made clear. Attention has been focused upon the Bible as the living Word, a guide in all matters for those who are seeking the Source of life.
16, 17. The stewardship of the tithes of all Israel pictures what responsibility upon the “faithful and discreet slave,” and how is it being handled?
16 Since Jehovah gave the nation of Israel its existence as well as all their possessions, and eventually their land, he could very justly require the payment to the Levites of the tenth of everything they acquired, the firstborn of their animals or the value thereof, and the value of their firstborn children. In this way provision was made for the upkeep of the tent of meeting and all the arrangements for pure worship. The priests were responsible to use these provisions in a wise and judicious manner, having in mind that all the valuable things that thus came into their stewardship represented the sincere and devoted worship of their fellow Israelites.—Num. 18:8.
17 To what does this point in the reality having to do with the priesthood under Christ? Evidently this means a responsibility upon the “faithful and discreet slave” and its appointees in the congregations today to see that the multitude of small contributions made by dedicated Christians throughout the world are wholly devoted to the purpose for which they are offered, namely, the wide proclamation of this good news of the established Kingdom to all nations. That this is being faithfully cared for is to be seen in the record of the many new and larger branch homes and factories where more and more dedicated men and women are busily engaged in producing and distributing Bible literature in scores of languages. It can also be seen in the increased quantity of printed Bible-study aids that are shipped out from factories operated by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. It is also evident in the great numbers of specially trained ministers who are being sent out to remote places, both at home and abroad, to organize lovers of truth and righteousness for study of the lifegiving Word of God and for participation in the offering of sacrifices of praise.
18. What was the value of the sabbath provision to the Israelites?
18 Sabbath keeping, one of the obligations imposed by Jehovah on the Israelites, would properly come under the special supervision of the priests. They would be responsible, as God’s representatives, to see that those rest days were faithfully observed. (Ezek. 44:24) The purpose of the sabbath is expressed thus: “And you must remember that you became a slave in the land of Egypt and Jehovah your God proceeded to bring you out from there with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. That is why Jehovah your God commanded you to carry on the sabbath day.” (Deut. 5:15) Not only would the godly Jew enjoy a welcome respite from labor on this day, but he would also have opportunity to contemplate the marvelous deliverance that God had given together with all the subsequent blessings of victory and prosperity in the land he gave to Israel. Thereby he would be moved to render unto Jehovah the finest of his possessions as offerings in expression of loving gratitude to the Giver of every good gift.
19, 20. How does this apply to Christian worshipers, and what responsibility does this bring upon the Christian priesthood?
19 Since it is the principle back of, and not the letter of, the Mosaic law that applies to followers of Christ Jesus, this matter of sabbath keeping has an even deeper significance to them. From the moment when each Christian offers himself in dedication to Jehovah he is under obligation to live each day, seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year, as though it were a sabbath of rest. Not rest from doing good and performing the service of God, but rest from selfish labors looking to achievement of personal ambitions. Rather, he puts the worship of God first in his life, and even when he has to engage in secular work so as to earn a living for himself and his family, he never loses sight of the fact that he is a dedicated slave of God. He keeps always in mind the marvelous deliverance from sin and death’s dominion that Jehovah has provided through the sacrifice of his dear Son. His life should be a life of praise to Jehovah.
20 Rightly, then, the underpriests of Christ should supervise such spiritual sabbath keeping. They must aid those who are approaching God to see the appropriateness of dedicating their lives to Jehovah. They must also aid all those who have undertaken a life of dedicated service to Jehovah to keep to it faithfully and to maintain a clear vision of this genuine rest from selfish labors. That is why this journal repeatedly publishes reminders to all who love God of their obligation to assemble regularly for study and training, for this is how all worshipers are incited to love Jehovah and prove their love by right works.—Heb. 10:24, 25.
21. Do the requirements for worship and conduct of the Christian priesthood apply to anyone else? Explain why.
21 Not only must the anointed followers of Christ Jesus follow their High Priest in the matter of teaching God’s requirements by precept and example, but others who would please Jehovah must strive to follow their example in turn. All who approach the Source of life and gain his favor must also keep themselves clean physically, morally and spiritually; they must offer the best of their service to Jehovah and with good motive; they must undertake duties and responsibilities in God’s congregation with joy and appreciation; they must be firm for right worship; they must keep themselves clear of unnecessary association with worldly persons; they must always approach opportunities of Kingdom service with reverence and wakefulness; they must use all of Jehovah’s provisions for them in a way that honors the Giver; they must be prepared to speak out the message of God clearly and understandably to others; they must be prepared to devote themselves and their possessions to the furthering of Kingdom interests, while, of course, making proper and reasonable provision for those dependent upon them. Jehovah calls upon all of his worshipers to live up to the same high standard set forth in his written Word.
22. By what, then, are those called to the heavenly priesthood recognized, and how does this affect all other sincere worshipers?
22 Jehovah’s provision of a holy priesthood under Christ, the great High Priest, is made so that all who will may come and receive education for life. (Rev. 22:17) In a typical manner he disclosed the regulations that would govern such a body of heavenly priests. He also provided shadow pictures of the process by which he would empower that priesthood for effectual service. This he did in order to build up our confidence in the existence and authority of such a priesthood. How grand to realize that we have a fully installed and powerful High Priest with his assisting body of priests to aid us in all of our weaknesses and problems so that we can approach and at last stand approved before the pure and holy One, Jehovah!