Dear Members in Christ,
Our sacred duty
Exhortation from 2 Chronicles 8:14
What does the word “duty” remind us of? The recent spread of the Covid-19 infections across the globe has made us all aware of those who are doing essential duties. Many are faithfully engaged in duties in emergency services or uniformed services, like the police, fire and rescue teams and emergency medical services. For them, duty means carrying out that which is essential and mandatory. There are no options when it comes to the performance of essential duties. For such persons, negligence or absence from duty is an offence punishable by law. Understandably so, the law has to be strict as the performance of these duties are so critical it can make a difference between life and death.
What do we understand about our duties as citizens in the kingdom of God, and what are the duties which a believer must fulfil? What does the Bible teach us about the responsibility of a believer? Let us examine the account in 2 Chronicles 8:14 to see what the bible teaches about the duties of a priest.
The royal appointment of priestly duties
In relation to the duty of the Levites who served in the house of the Lord, the Book of Chronicles records the appointment of the work of the Levites as a “duty” thus,
“And he appointed, according to the order of David his father, the courses of the priests to their service, and the Levites to their charges, to praise and minister before the priests, as the duty of every day required: the porters also by their courses at every gate: for so had David the man of God commanded.” 2 Chronicles 8:14.
In this verse, the wise King Solomon had commanded the priests to continue with the roster of the daily duties of the Levites. This was a legacy which Solomon’s father, King David had instituted. We know that this was a command issued by King David to Solomon because the verse clearly says that the duty roster was, “according to the order of David his father.” The emphasis in this verse is that during this regime, the duties of the priest was commanded by “David the man of God.” It was not just by the whim and fancy of an earthly royal but one who is after God’s own heart, thus the phrase, “the man of God.”
Now, in the ancient days, the appointment of the king is not to be taken lightly. Violation or negligence of a royal decree is a serious matter which may result in very severe punishment, even the death penalty in some cases. Since the course of the priests’ duties is commanded by the King, the priests ought also to be mindful not to incur the wrath of God’s anointed. These duties by the priests are to be carried out reverentially as before God. But ultimately, it is a sacred responsibility towards God. Therefore, we can quite easily understand that the priests and porters will carry out their work dutifully and obediently, for any slackness or infringement is a grievous violation of God’s command.
The diversity of spiritual duties
The passage above teaches us that the priests minister by courses, so what are the priests’ duties in ancient times? The duty and service rostered for the priests cover many areas of worship and devotional life of God’s people. There is the daily sacrifice which must be offered in the morning and the evening (Exodus 29:38, 39). In the institution of the offering of the daily sacrifice, God promises to sanctify the priests, the altar and the tabernacle and to dwell with His people (Exodus 29:44-46).
The priests are also charged with teaching the word of God to the people. This duty is most clearly demonstrated when the returnees from the Babylonian captivity congregated in Jerusalem and the priests and scribes gathered to teach the people (Nehemiah 8:1-3). The key figure behind the spiritual education of the returnees was Ezra the priest (Ezra 7:10, 11). In the above account, the Levites, “caused the people to understand the law: and the people stood in their place.” Nehemiah 8:7. The Levites are custodians of the Word, they are charged firstly to learn the Word, and then to teach God’s people. All these and many other services are the spiritual duties
required of the priests and Levites.
How should this knowledge be applied to us? Remember the bible describes the believers as members of the priesthood. The Apostle Peter writes that believers are, “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people ...” 1 Peter 2:9. Thus, we are reminded that we too have essential duties as members of the priesthood. We must constantly offer our sacrifice offering of praise and thanksgiving. The Apostle Paul says in Hebrews, “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.” Hebrews 13:15. Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us constantly praise God with our lips and our lives. Let us remember to worship God for the grace and salvation He has bestowed upon us. A Christian’s life of a good testimony is one way to praise and glorify God.
Just as priests are given the responsibility to teach God’s word, we are given a charge to study the Scriptures and apply it in our lives. “Study to shew thyself approved unto God…” 2 Timothy 2:15. Let us apply our effort to engage in the study of God’s word. It is a dual duty, firstly to study the Word, and secondly to teach. There are many avenues for learning opportunities e.g. bible study groups, FEBC online classes, mid-week exhortation at prayer meeting, Church Seminars, etc. Let us not be slack in our duty to learn and equip ourselves for God’s use.
Just as mandatory and essential services are viewed with utmost seriousness, negligence is a severe breach. Spiritual duties are equally important due to its sacred nature. Let us remember that these are some of the essential duties required of us as Christians. The worship, praise and devotion towards our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and the study of His word to enrich our spiritual lives ought to be a part of our daily lives. Let us be exhorted to apply effort and resource in devotion and study to grow ourselves spiritually. May God strengthen our inner man daily for His service. Amen.
Dn Lim Seh Beng