1 Peter 2:4-5 – As you come to him, a living stone – rejected by people but chosen and honored by God – you yourselves, as living stones, a spiritual house, are being built to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Yeshua Messiah.
As we have seen in previous writings, Peter is writing to groups of early Jewish believers who had been scattered throughout the Roman empire. This was the result of their diaspora, their scattering, due to their ancestral idolatry and rejection of the Torah of God. God had removed the northern ten tribes from the land of Israel with the Assyrian invasion of 740 BC, and they were distributed and exiled throughout the known world at that time.
1 Peter 1:1 – Peter, an apostle of Yeshua Messiah: To those chosen, living as exiles dispersed abroad in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia…
Now, over 700 years later, Peter is writing to their descendants and sharing the good news that God is restoring his lost sheep of those tribes into one flock and one fold through faith in Messiah. Peter is using the imagery of the temple as a way of illustrating their restored relationship to the true faith as the remnant of God, a remnant once again called out from among the overall religious majority of what was at the time orthodox Judaism.
Amidst this temple imagery, Peter illustrates how it is not the physical temple that matters; he knew it was about to be destroyed because Messiah had prophesied it decades earlier. Instead, Peter relates how the remnant people chosen by God were in the process of becoming something else, a spiritual priesthood that would have the privilege of offering spiritual sacrifices to God.
Biblically, the priesthood did not exist for its own purpose; the priesthood was a selected tribe within the larger community of Israel as a nation that was to be the mediators, the go-betweens. They had been chosen and set apart by God for the purpose of serving the others by presenting the sacrifices and offerings on behalf of the rest of the nation to God. Peter is conveying that these remnant believers scattered among the nations were not believing just for themselves, but that their role was to be a spiritually set-apart group that would be the example to others who would come after them, those who would believe because of their faithfulness. In so doing, they would effectively become a spiritual priesthood, the go-betweens who would bridge the divide between the natural priesthood which was about to be destroyed and the spiritual reality of the new temple in the New Jerusalem, the spiritual temple of the ongoing kingdom of God. They had become the “living stones” within the temple that Yeshua had prophesied he would build.
Mark 14:58 – “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with human hands, and in three days I will build another not made by hands.’ “
Are believers today the spiritual priesthood that Peter is writing to? No, we need to recognize that he was writing to a specific group of people at a specific point in time two thousand years ago. However, are there symbolic parallels between believers today and those of the scattered Israelite remnant who were being brought back into the fold? Indeed, believers today are a minority group of people called out from the masses of the overall population; we are to be examples of faithfulness to those among the rest of the community; and we are to be serving others with spiritual sacrifices on behalf of God. We are participants within the spiritual temple built by Yeshua who have the privilege of enjoying God’s presence.
We must always remember that we are standing on a legacy of faithful believers who have gone before us, but we are not here to enjoy the mercies of God for our own benefit. No, if we are to be true to our calling, we are here solely for the purpose of others. We must, like the early called-out remnant, perform our spiritual service to others with obedient and caring hearts, that others may also participate in the spiritual temple within the eternal kingdom of God: The New Jerusalem.
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