“Let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, ‘Spare your people, O LORD, and give not to your heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: why should they say among the people, Where is their God’?’
Two steps up from the Court of Israel was the inner most court called the Court of the Priests. A small eighteen-inch curtain separated these two courts. Inside the Court of the Priests were three steps leading up to a pulpit. The priests occupied the pulpit while pronouncing a blessing. Twenty-three senior priests oversaw the daily operation of the temple, including the sacrifices and offerings. Before the break of the day, the priests on duty were ready and they assembled to cast lots to decide the assignment of the various daily tasks. It started with filling the lavers and preparing the altar. At about 9:00 a.m., they opened the gates and blew the silver trumpets to announce the commencement of the morning service. The service included slaying the sacrificial lamb, salting the sacrifice, trimming the lampstand, burning the incense, presenting the burnt offering and drink offering, blessing the people and blasting the silver trumpets. This was followed by the Psalm of the day, presented by the singers, accompanied by instrumental music. Immediately after the morning service, the Israelites might bring in their private sacrifices and offerings. It would occasionally continue till near the time for the evening sacrifice, which was about 2:30 p.m. The evening service was similar to the morning service. It ended at about 4:00 p.m.
At night, the priests kept watch about the innermost places of the Temple, including the inner court and the Temple itself. They also opened and closed all the inner gates. While the priests ministered in the Court of the Israelites, they wore a common priestly garment but when they ministered unto the Lord in the inner court, they removed their common garment and put on a holy garment, sanctified to the Lord. (Ezekiel 44:16-31) It was in the inner court where the priests presented the offerings to God they received from the laymen at the gate in the Court of the Israelites.
Priests were God’s ministers who spoke to God on behalf of the people. Prophets were God’s ministers who spoke to the people on behalf of God. The priests delivered the people’s offerings and sacrifices to God. The prophets delivered God’s message to His people. The prophet Joel brought a message of warning to the priests to stand in the gap between God’s children and the LORD. It was imperative for the priests to live exemplary holy lives before God’s children. While they performed their daily duties in the temple, Joel cautioned them to be mindful of Israel’s spiritual condition. For the priests to serve faithfully in the temple while God’s people lived in disobedience was unacceptable to God. If the children of Israel worshiped in the temple regularly but lived ungodly lives in the world, a host of unbelievers would have due cause to question the effectiveness or existence of their God. Joel told the priests to weep in repentance over this very sin that was being committed by the priests and God’s people. Joel urged the priests to uphold and model a standard of holiness so everyone, Jew and Gentile, would see and respond to God’s glory.
Is this true of the church today? Are we, the body of Christ, guilty of acting holy in church services and unholy in the world? Are we, as spiritual leaders, so mindful of what we do in the church building that we fail to see how we are representing Christ in the world? Do our actions in the world cause the people who know we are “Christians” to question the effectiveness and existence of God? Does all our time spent in worship and Bible study cancel out once we step back into the world?
In your realm of influence, are you consistently the same whether you be in church, at home, working, at school, on social media, or attending social events? Do you maintain a standard of holiness wherever you may be at any given moment? Do you represent God’s glory at all times and in all places so no one would ever question the effectiveness or existence of God in your life? Would someone be turned off by your unholy actions, what you say or how you act, that they say, “That’s why I want nothing to do with God or the church!” If you have been inconsistent in your walk, would you heed the prophet Joel’s warning, repent of your sin, and turn back to God? Would you do so because, if you are a follower of Christ, you are a royal priest in the midst of all people. (1 Peter 2:5, 9) By your actions today, will you point others to God and glorify Him in the process?