Those who were called by God to the priesthood were to minister to Him as priests. We read this three times at the beginning of Exodus chapter 28, in verses 1, 3, and 4. God wants them to “minister to Me as priest”.
Through the years, the western church has created a false idea of what it means to be a priest/pastor today. Because of this, today's flocks, or congregations, do not fully understand the role that a pastor should have in their life.
To truly begin to understand God’s purpose for those he called into the priestly ministry we have to go back to the original language.
That whole phrase “that he may minister to Me as priest” comes from the Hebrew root word kä·han'. This word describes someone who undertakes any one’s cause by becoming that person’s deputy or delegate. So we can see that God was instructing Moses to tell Arron and his sons that they were to be God’s deputies amongst the people. They were to be the earthly representation of God’s complete authority on earth, as we can see from the definition of the word deputy.
1 a : a person appointed as a substitute with power to act
b : a second in command or assistant who usually takes charge when his or her superior is absent
2 : a member of the lower house of some legislative assemblies
The word deputy carries with it a legislative meaning. In other words those who are deputies are given the power to act and enforce the established law. That power is given to them by the one who deputized them.
With this understanding we can see that the priest’s primary function was to enforce God’s law among the people. They were God’s delegated authority on earth. It was their secondary function to be the people’s means of coming to God.
This instruction comes before anything else concerning the tabernacle or the responsibilities of the priests. Because God laid out this command first it must be the most important of all the instructions given. If we understand nothing else about how the priesthood was to function, we must understand this concept.
We can spend all our time, money, and effort in making sure we have the tabernacle (church building) built correctly. We can hire interior decorators who will help us make sure that the accessories of the tabernacle (church building) are made by the most skilled artisans and that we have an attractively neutral color palate that will appeal to the most people. We can even require that the priestly robes (pastor's suits) are the most well made coverings anyone has ever seen. Yet, if the ones who are called to the priesthood are not functioning properly in the role the way God intended then it is all for nothing.
A true priest will bring the Lord’s wants and desires to the people before taking the people’s needs and desires to the Lord.
A failure of the people to understand the primary function of the priest/pastor results in a lack of submission to God’s authority. The people come to church to have their needs met without first finding out what God expects of them.
This is how we have ended up with hirelings in the pulpits of America. We have built ministries that are focused primarily on the needs of the flock rather than the desires of God. I am not saying that a pastor should neglect his flock, God wants to meet the needs of His people, but first He wants to speak His desires to them.
How would our hearts be changed if instead of making constant requests of God we made it our first priority to ask Him what He wants? Would we even have the same needs that we carried into our services with us?
Phillip Reed is the Associate Pastor of Faith Chapel Ministries. His passion is to reconcile the lost to their Heavenly Father.