We were led into prayer by this scripture, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession” called to offer “spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 2:5, 9). If Christ’s character is most visible in the sacrifice of the cross then Jesus’ people have never looked less like him. Like Israel of old the people of God are being “destroyed for lack of knowledge” and our priestly ministry is not being recognised by the Lord (Hos 4:6). Such harsh words can be supported by a scriptural examination of the sort of sacrifice royalty offers to God.
As a symbol of Christ Adam was a king commanded to exercise dominion over the earth and a priest called to offer up life in all its dimensions to God (Gen 1:26-28; Rom 5:14). The maintenance of his royal dignity as God’s firstborn son required however a costly inner sacrifice (Luke 3:38).
Warned by the Lord that sin meant sure death Adam was called to live each day under the prospect of dying (Gen 2:17). He was to walk in this knowledge by faith as a “living sacrifice…good, acceptable and perfect” (Rom 12:1-2).
The satanic deception was that Eve and Adam could reign as kings free from any prospect of death (Gen 3:4-5).
The devil suggested that deathlessness was the true hallmark of royal dignity and one that abolished the need for any priestly sacrifice.
The tragic truth was that in refusing to live sacrificially in fellowship with their Creator Adam and Eve fell under the dominion of death and lost their royal dignity (Rom 5:14).
God however! Did not abandon humanity but established a means of reconciliation.
Through the generations the LORD reminded his people of their royal priesthood by commanding the costly sacrifice of the firstborn; the fruit of youthful vigour and the first part of a new generation belonged to God (Ex 13:2, 12; 34:19).
This principle of forfeiting the first fruits is much older than the Law of Moses. Abel offered the “first born of his flock”; Cain however, Eve’s own first born and thus one who should have known better, offered the Lord only “the fruit of the ground” (Gen 4:3-4).
Cain and his cheap sacrifice are not accepted and sin comes to “rule over” his life (Gen 4:5ff.).
Whenever humanity refuses to offer the priestly sacrifice of firstborn it always loses royal dignity and comes under the rule of evil powers. The dynamic of costly sacrifice is powerfully illustrated by an Old Testament horror story.
The Wrath of Chemosh
The spiritual power released in the practice of sacrificing the first fruits of life is illustrated in 2 Kings 3.
In Mesha’s mind his impending defeat was a sign of the anger of Chemosh his god, Chemosh’s anger was turned from Moab to Israel by the sacrifice of his first born son destined to rule.
The royal prince was the only life with sufficient dignity whose death could turn away divine wrath (cf. John 11:49-50).
This grisly story points us to a powerful spiritual truth.
Whoever by faith sacrifices the best in their life, their first fruits, whether this is a son, crops, money, vocation, time etc. believes that divine power can multiply fruitfulness in opposition to the natural outcome expected from such a slaying.
For Christians, the sacrifice of the first born is a type of the resurrection of the Lord (cf. Heb 11:17-19).
The Sacrifice of the King
The wrath of Chemosh seems merely redirected from Moab to Israel, but the nature of this god as wrathful remains unchanged.
The sacrifice of Christ the only Son is the exact opposite of the perverted father-son epic in Moab, for the sacrifice of the cross reveals a Father who is not naturally wrathful (John 3:16-17).
Whilst outside of Christ the wrath of God remains, in the Son there is no place for wrath (John 3:36; 5:24).
Jesus is the holy priest-king who has always been God’s treasured possession and in whose image Adam and Israel were called and created (Ex 19:5-6).
The source of the dignity of humanity is found in him and expressed in his triumph over all evil in the course of a sinless life (Heb 4:15).
As the one destined for sacrifice nothing reigns over him.
Jesus must however reign in death as well as in life. The title over his head, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.”, prophetically testifies to such a royal death (Matt 27:37).
Unlike the prince of Moab, who must have felt uniquely honoured to die to appease his god and father, Christ’s death in our place is experienced as the indignity of Fatherlessness.
“My God…why have you forsaken me?”” (Mark 15:34).
In the cross the rule of sin, Satan and death seem to strip Jesus of all royal dignity.
The truth of the cross as an infinitely dignified royal sacrifice is however manifested in resurrection; from here on Christ begins to rule until every enemy is placed under his feet (1 Cor 15:25; Heb 1:13).
The faithful sacrifice of the firstborn brings forth fruitfulness opposite to every natural expectation.
Instead of decrease the kingdom of God increases without end (Isa 9:7).
In Christ you are a royal son and possess the value of a premier sacrifice (Rom 8:29).
When called by God to sacrifice for Christ we should be excited, for such sacrifice will intensify our royal dignity and extend God’s kingdom.
Whatever we offer up of our life’s first fruits will surely be multiplied for God’s use through resurrection power; “death is at work in us, life in you” (2 Cor 4:8-12; Phil 3:10).
Jesus’ words about his destiny are true for us all; ““The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified….unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:23-24).
Conformity to death and resurrection is what a means to be a royal priesthood.
A great deception however is at work in our affluence.
All who surround themselves with worldly treasures and claim them as sure signs of God’s blessing are merely warding off their fear of death.
Whilst those who have learned to walk in sacrifice enjoy the royal dignity of being “treasured possessions” of the Lord and reign in life free from the fear of death (Rom 5:17). These are hardly hidden things.
If the Church leaders of today embodied the life of royal sacrifice so much spiritual power would be released that we would be back in the book of Acts (2:42-47).
A mature faith knows that the sacrifice of the firstborn: “WHAT WE TREASURE MOST”, releases a spiritual fruitfulness directly opposite to the naturally expected outcome.
This is true whether the sacrifice involves family, finances, career, ministry opportunities or whatever.
Increase overcomes decrease through the rule of God to his glory.
This is not some formula, but conformity to the character of Christ.
Too many Christians today lack the clarity of conscience which testifies that their sacrifices are pleasing to God.
Too few lack royal dignity in the way of death-and-resurrection.
Surely it is time to ask the Spirit of the Lord to search our hearts as to what we can offer up as royal priests.
The cost will be great but the growth will be greater.
MESSAGE DELIVERED: 19.8.16 |
Author: Dr. John Yates