Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”
The upside-down nature of the kingdom of God didn’t start with Jesus. It’s always been a core element of the people of God. In Israel’s story, we see this in the inauguration of their nation at Sinai.
Imagine you are an Israelite after the Exodus and Red Sea miracle. You have witnessed your God display His power on the gods of Egypt and the human empire of Egypt. Then in the early days of the wilderness, you see how He can provide life (bread and water) in a desolate place. Following this, a leadership structure was established. Putting it all together, you have power, resources, and leadership; the key components to starting an empire. You come to Sinai to get commissioned, expecting to hear how you’re going to use these things to be the new Egypt, the new transcendent power with God as King. Instead you hear something completely different.
You are to be a kingdom of priests. Not a kingdom of power, or a kingdom of resources, or a kingdom of kings, but a kingdom of priests. In essence, a kingdom of servants. Priests by design represent the people to God, and God to the people. They are the embodiment of who God is while mediating who the people are to God to keep everyone in relationship together through a sacrificial system. This is the nature of who Israel was to be. They were meant to be an ‘on-display people’ of what it was like to be in relationship with God, thus drawing the nations to God.
This dynamic becomes the initial seeds of the kingdom of God that Jesus came proclaiming. It was never about power, resources, or leadership, but of being priests, now not bound by ethnicity or land borders, but going everywhere through the Spirit so that those filled with the Spirit would go to the nations and draw people to the living God.