The Hebrew Scriptures show us three great venues of covenant community leadership. When things got going, leadership resolved into three offices, authoritative ministers to shepherd, supply and save His people: Prophet, King and Priest. One of the glaring asymmetries between guys and gals in the Old Testament is how God called only men to the latter two offices. God’s masculine call may be especially curious when it comes to priests (Exodus 29:9, 29–30; 40:13–15).
Priests were there to be present with the people, helping them in their spiritual walk. When things worked right and the priests were doing their job, one can imagine a good deal of counseling coming from them, as people brought their sacrifices and their problems to the tabernacle, and then, temple. Priests needed sensitive wisdom as they brought the law to bear on the life knots into which God’s people tend to often get tied.
Priests also prayed for the people as the priests made their sacrifices for them. Whereas the king ruled for them and protected them, he was necessarily distant. And the prophet came from the Divine throne room, advising the people, but largely the king, as to God’s will according to past promises, the current covenant, and future hopes. But the priest was there to intercede for the holy subjects, to bring much needed petition before God for them and to rejoice with them in the answers the Lord would grant in a regular way.
So why not women?
One would think many of these things a woman could be quite good at, maybe even do better than many men. Why wouldn’t God use the fairest of all creation, “the last and best of all His works” for these needed tasks?
The answer lies in one word, the one priestly function that was the most important thing that a priest did, the sine qua non of priestliness. What is it, you ask? REPRESENTATION.
The priest was there to represent the people to God, and to represent God to the people. Representing was the priest’s raison d’etre. And that foundational function was established for man, so men could become men. As Adam was formed to represent Eve and the rest of the human family to God, in their creation (e.g., Genesis 5:3) and their sin (e.g., Genesis 3:9, Romans 5:12-21), and so as a husband is to represent his wife in dealing with the Lord (e.g., John 4:15-16), and so as men in a church are to represent the people in intercession (e.g., 1Timothy 2:8), so God arranges His people to encourage men to this masculine feature.
This is essential for all men who want to be masculine to see. Do you want to be manly? Be willing to step forward in appropriate moments to represent the close women in your life. Rather than hanging back to see how it turns out, stand up when no one else wants to and take the lead to resolve the issue. Instead of making sure the appropriate party in your family feels the blame for some wrong, assume the priesthood for your family and make sacrifice for them. Go to God for them and accept for the sin, not the blame, but the responsibility.
Represent. And you will be being a man. And women, don’t begrudge your men this work, but encourage them to it. Your life will be much better for it.
Are you ready to see men represent well and appropriately?