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BibleProject Podcast
The Royal Priest • Episode 8
Mark of the Priest or Mark of the Beast?
47m • April 19, 2021
Thanks to our audience for all your incredible questions! In this week’s episode, we tackle questions like: How could God break his covenant with the tribe of Levi? What’s the connection between the forehead markings of priests and followers of the beast? And why did offering his own sacrifice cost Saul his kingship? Listen in to hear the team answer your questions.
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QUOTE

What God says is, “I promised your house, the house of Aaron, that you would walk before me forever. You have blown it, so now you lost the job.” But then what God says is, “I’m going to raise up a faithful priest for myself and a faithful house that will walk before me forever.” So what God’s changing is not the promise, but who will get to participate in the promise. … This is part of the way the Messianic hope develops through the story of the Hebrew Bible. … What really begins to strike you, generation after generation, is not God breaking his promise, but that he keeps making it available to each generation.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • David was authorized to eat consecrated bread because he is the ultimate royal priest. Jesus’ Sabbath activities were also more-than-okay because he is the true cosmic priest-king.
  • In 1 Samuel 2, God isn’t breaking his promise to the Levites––he is changing who gets to participate in it. God offers humans a genuine partnership, and they can either participate or disqualify themselves.
  • The storyline of the royal priesthood isn’t meant to highlight how God changes his relationship with the priestly line. Instead, it highlights his incredible faithfulness and graciousness as, generation after generation, God keeps offering humanity chances to participate in his covenant purposes.

What’s the Connection Between Israel’s Priests and Modern Church Leaders?

Tsen from Brazil (1:04)

What is the relationship between the priests in the Hebrew Bible and the modern pastors from our churches?

The Levitical priesthood finds its ultimate fulfillment in the priesthood of Jesus. However, God designed all humans to function as priests, as part of bearing his image in the world. After the fall of humanity in Genesis 3, we see the image of God fracture in such a way that only select people work as priests.

Moving into the New Testament, we find specific followers of Jesus are called and gifted to be leaders within the early church, but in a different capacity than the Levitical priesthood. Levites are born into their job description, while pastors and other church leaders are called and gifted by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:11). That being said, Pentecost––when the Holy Spirit first came to the earliest disciples in Acts 2––represents a recreation of the Genesis 1-2 design that all humanity can be (and should be) priests. Being a pastor today is just one of the many ways a follower of Jesus lives out their calling to bear God’s image.

Are We Meant to “Shine” as God’s Image?

Carlos from North Carolina (7:40)

You mentioned the way Moses’ face glowed as he stood in the gap for Aaron and the connection to the transfiguration. Is this also supposed to connect back to the embodiment of God as his image (tselem) or to scenes like the burning bush?

In Genesis 1, God creates three realms: skies, waters, and land. In the realms above, he places the sun, moon, and stars––the shining “rulers” of the skies. In the realms below, God creates image bearers to rule the land. God’s human image bearers are decidedly not shining, as they come from the dirt. However, Psalm 8 describes how God elevates humans to a place of value and authority even over spiritual beings.

Every time humans act as priests, they shine: Moses’ face shines when he’s been in God’s presence, God instructs the Levitical priests to wear shining robes. As priests, humans take on the qualities of the rulers above (the sun, moon, and spiritual beings) because God has given them authority over the heavens and the earth (Philippians 2:15, Matthew 17:1-8, 2 Corinthians 4:6-10).

Mark of the Priest or Mark of the Beast?

Gina from California (14:10)

Is there a relationship between the engraving of Yahweh’s holiness on the golden plate of the priest’s turban in Exodus 39:30, also described in Exodus 28:38 as a mark on Aaron’s forehead, and the mark of God’s name on his bondservants’ foreheads in Revelation 7 and 22? And is there also a counter relationship to the mark of the beast?

The descriptions of priests’ attire in the Hebrew Bible specify that priests are to wear the phrase “belonging to Yahweh” on their foreheads. And all Israelites are instructed to bind the words of the Shema, a prayer they learned to recite morning and night, on their hands and foreheads (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).

In Ezekiel 9, there’s another instance of Israelites having their foreheads marked. In this case, the mark is a sign of people who are grieved by the idolatry of Babylon and therefore spared from Yahweh’s judgment. John had all of these images in mind when he described the forehead markings of God’s servants in Revelation, which are indeed an anti-mark to the mark of the beast.

Why Was David Allowed to Break the Sabbath?

Tim from Texas (20:20)

In 1 Samuel 21, when David was fleeing from Saul, David was given the sacred bread of the presence to eat. Jesus said in Matthew 12 that it was not lawful for David and his men to eat this bread. So my question is why didn’t God discipline David for breaking this law? Is it because God saw David as an anointed priest?

Jesus’ reference to David occurs while he and his disciple are plucking grain from a field and eating it on the Sabbath. The context of 1 Samuel 21 is critical to Jesus’ analogy. When David eats consecrated bread, he is fleeing for his life from Saul. Already anointed in private as the true king of Israel, David is waiting for God to exalt him, while the publicly recognized king of Israel tries to kill him.

When David runs for his life, he has no gear or food so he takes the Sabbath bread. Both this act and the very act of fleeing on the Sabbath are technically illegal. But Yahweh doesn’t appear to be upset. In fact, Jesus is implying that David was authorized to eat the sacred bread because he is the ultimate royal priest. Jesus’ point is, if David’s actions on the Sabbath were okay, then Jesus’ actions are more than okay since he is the true cosmic priest-king.

Did God Break His Promise to the Tribe of Levi?

Hope from Ohio (28:30)

My question today is about the connection between 1 Samuel 2 and Numbers 25. In 1 Samuel 2, you guys talked about how God “canceled” the promise he made to the Levitical priesthood in Numbers 25. Knowing the failures of this priesthood, I get why God chose to do this. But at the same time, I was hoping you could talk a bit more about what we are to make of the fact that God did "break" a promise here. How do we hold this promise breaking alongside what we know to be true about God, that he’s a covenant-keeper?

At the beginning of 1 Samuel, Eli is presiding as high priest, and he and his sons are so corrupt God sends a prophet to them to announce that he is going to remove them from their positions. God also announces that he will raise up an anointed priest from a line other than the tribe of Levi.

Tim reframes the question this way: what we really want to know is, is God canceling his promise, or is he responding to the failure of people he invited to participate in that promise? To cancel his promise, God would have to be “done” with humans or at least done with Israel. God isn’t breaking his promise to Israel, but he is changing who gets to participate in it. God offers humans a genuine partnership, and people can choose to participate or disqualify themselves. (This is the biblical design pattern of “the test,” which only Jesus passes perfectly.)

As it relates to the whole story of the Bible, this story isn’t meant to highlight God “breaking” a promise. Rather, it highlights the incredible faithfulness and graciousness of God. Generation after generation, he keeps offering the houses of Aaron and David chances to participate in his covenant purposes.

What Was Wrong With Saul’s Sacrifice?

Aaron from the Netherlands (36:22)

In the podcast series you talked about David taking up the royal priestly role, up until his downfall with Bathsheba. I was wondering where Saul fits into this picture, especially regarding 1 Samuel 13 where Saul makes an offering to God because he was tired of waiting on Samuel. That would seem to fit in perfectly with the royal priestly role, but instead it is a fall moment, as Samuel had previously told Saul to wait for him. Why did Samuel not allow Saul to offer a sacrifice? Or, in other words, why is Saul not allowed to take up the royal priestly role?

The author of 1 Samuel packs the story of Saul offering a sacrifice with biblical hyperlinks back to the golden calf narrative (Exodus 32) and to the story of Achan (Joshua 6-7). First, Saul’s kingship itself is a result of Israel’s desire to have a king “like the nations.” In other words, their desire is idolatrous, wanting a human image as their king instead of collectively being God’s image with God as their king.

Saul is presented as a kind of “golden calf” himself. In 1 Samuel 13, he’s given specific instructions to wait for Samuel (and for God’s deliverance in battle), but Saul gets scared and attempts to take matters into his own hands. He fails this test by displaying his lack of trust in God. In contrast, David’s life is marked by trust in Yahweh despite seemingly impossible circumstances.

Referenced Resources

Show Music

  • “Defender (Instrumental)” by TENTS

Show produced by Dan Gummel and Cooper Peltz. Show notes by Lindsey Ponder.

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Priest E1  –  1hr 2m
Priests of Eden
1hr 2m
Priest E2  –  44m
Who Was Melchizedek?
44m
Priest E3  –  49m
Doomed to Fail?
49m
Priest E4  –  1hr 1m
David, the Leaping Priest-King
1hr 1m
Priest E5  –  57m
The High Priest Showdown
57m
Priest E6  –  1hr 2m
The Priest of Heaven and Earth
1hr 2m
Priest E7  –  51m
We Are the Royal Priesthood
51m
47m
An interview featuring Rev Dr Amy Peeler  –  1hr 2m
Jesus, Melchizedek, and the Priestly Line
1hr 2m
An interview featuring Dr. Josh Mathews  –  1hr 3m
Why Melchizedek Matters
1hr 3m
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