Prophet, Priest, and King in Biblical History (2 of 4)
After the Fall, we find the steady decline of human civilization from Genesis 4 (the murder of Abel) down till Genesis 11 (the Tower of Babel). The decisive break comes in Genesis 12 with the call of Abraham. Through Abraham’s family, deliverance from the curse will finally be realized. Unfortunately, Abraham’s seed (i.e. family) was eventually taken captive in Egypt, but that was not the final say. 400 years after their captivity, God powerfully broke the chains that bound the Israelites, and called them to be His own special possession. Now, here in the history of national Israel, we see the reoccurring theme of the three-fold office.
Prophet- God’s sent prophets to the people to act as covenant emissaries to the leadership of Israel. Especially after the establishment of the kingship, the job of the prophet was to call the King and the people of the nation back to covenant faithfulness, or, if repentance did not come, to pronounce the curses of the covenant on the rebellious nation.
Priest– Likewise, since they we also affected by the Fall, even covenant members (the people of Israel) were still sinners and in need of atonement and reconciliation with God. Built right into the system of worship commanded by God was the provision of sacrifice. Their rebellion demanded death, but God, in His great mercy, provides a substitute. The priest, stemming from the family of Moses’ brother Aaron, were to present sacrifices to God, and pronounce forgiveness to the people (especially on the Day of Atonement, see Lev. 16)
King- Like Adam before them, the Kings of Israel were to righteously represent God’s rule. The kings were not above the law (see the role of the prophets above), but were instead the channel through which God’s rule was enforced. When the King was godly, the people prospered, but (as we’ll see below) when the king fell into idolatry, the people followed in his sin.
Of course, these were the ideals. Sadly, the actual history of Old Testament Israel rarely resembled God’s design, and like Adam before her, Israel also experiences a corrupted form and inversion of the offices of prophet, priest, and King:
Prophet– One need only to flip through the book of Jeremiah, for example, to see that the prophetic office soon became corrupted. Instead of calling ungodly kings to covenant faithfulness, many of these so-called prophets said whatever the kings wanted to hear, blessing their every undertaking. They declared to speak for God, but in reality, these were false words, words not commanded by God.
Priest- Likewise, with the example of Aaron’s sons, and the sons of Eli the priest in 1 Samuel, we see that the priesthood was spoiled as well. Some priests took portions of the sacrifices that were for God. Likewise, some took money, and later (in Ezekiel) even worshipped pagan gods in the Temple (God’s very house!).
King– As the books of 1-2 Kings and 1-2 Chronicles present, the monarchy in Israel was far from loyal to the ways of the Lord. In fact, the nation of Israel split as a result of God’s judgment on Solomon, for his idolatry on unfaithful to covenant fidelity. but also names such as Jeroboam, Ahab, and Manassah come to mind when we think of the wicked king that lead Israel (the northern kingdom) and Judah (the southern kingdom) into idolatry.
Next we’ll take a look at how Jesus fulfills these roles…