The Royal Priests of Balkum

by Andy Wood on October 20, 2010

in Uncategorized

On a county road in rural Alabama, in the heart of peanut country a long time ago, a unique, once-in-a-lifetime gathering of people took place.  It was about this time of year.  And I happened to be there.

It was a meeting of the Royal Priests of Balkum.  And I had been asked to address them.

Let me hasten to say that there wasn’t much about those in attendance that day that looked particularly royal.  Priestly either, for that matter.  There were some farmers, a few teachers, lots of retirees, some pastors, some homemakers, a missionary or two.

The program actually said “Henry County Baptist Association.”  The sign outside said, “Balkum Baptist Church.”  And I had been asked to speak on an assigned subject:  the priesthood of the believer.

They didn’t hear me groan.  But groan I did.  The “doctrinal sermon” they called it.  And this year’s doctrinal theme had become a denominational hot potato.

But duty called, and the Baptists of Henry County awaited.

And so did the Lord.

He was waiting on me to learn a priceless lesson.

Redefining Royal Roles

In the days of the Old Testament, a faithful Jew thought in terms of two kinds of God’s people:  “the people,” and priests.  The people came to the priests as a go-between to God for purposes of praise, thanksgiving, confession, commitment, or requests.  Sometimes the priest would return to them with a word from the Lord.

Inside the Tabernacle or the Temple, a veil separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies, which symbolized the presence of God.  Only the high priest could enter there, and just once a year.

When Jesus was crucified, the veil in the entrance to the Holy of Holies was torn from the top to the bottom.  That symbolized the fact that the way had been provided for you and me to come boldly and freely into the presence of God.

Every one of us has become a priest.

The Meaning of the Priesthood

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).

Peter wasn’t writing to a class of super-saints.  He referred to every believer, regardless of outward appearance, as priests of the Lord God.  That’s just as true today.  Even the folks at Balkum were royal priests.

Chosen Generation – we are Selected

There is ultimately one reason we have access into the presence of God, and that is because we’re chosen.  Jesus Himself said, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give to you” (John 15:16).

I’ll tell you what I told the Royal Priests of Balkum:  God has specifically chosen you to bear fruit as an intercessor!  Answered prayer isn’t just a luxury for your convenience.  You have been chosen by your Father as an intercessor, and that means when you come to Him as a priest, you are heard!

Wouldn’t it be sad if we never came?

Royal Priesthood – we are Servants

“Royal Priesthood” could either mean priests who serve a king, or it could mean “a kingdom of priests.”  Either way, at the end of the day, you are called to attend to the King of kings.

What did priests do, anyway?  They represented God to the people.  And that’s exactly the position you occupy.  The Bible refers to you as an ambassador for Christ.

That’s pretty tall cotton… for a peanut farmer.

I used to have one of those stained glass pictures of Jesus hanging in the baptistry behind me when I’d preach in one location.  One young mama used to get her little boys to be still by saying, “Look at Jesus!”  One day they were together and one of the boys saw me from a distance.  “Look Mama,” he said, “there’s Jesus!”

Hoo boy.  Talk about your big shoes to fill.  But that’s what priests do.  They serve the King and represent Him to those who don’t know Him. And legally speaking, someone could say the same about you.  “Look!  There’s Jesus!”

Holy Nation – we are Separated

Looking out across the Royal Priests of Balkum, most of them didn’t look all that different.  But different they were!  They were set apart; that’s what “holy” means.  Set apart from past sin, and different from the surrounding world.

Leviticus 19 is the first time you see the phrase, “Be holy for I, the Lord, am holy.”  In practical terms it means:

  • That in a world where children rebel against their parents, we teach our kids to honor theirs.
  • That in a world that uses its free time for pleasure, we set a day aside to worship the Lord God.
  • That in a world full of fads and idols, we honor God as the most important priority in our lives.
  • That in a world consumed with profit, we give to meet the needs of others.
  • That in a world of selfishness and dishonesty, we respect the rights of others.
  • That in a world that largely ignores the handicapped or those with special needs, we take special care to love them.
  • That in a world that favors the wealthy and despises the poor, we look beyond the cover, and see the heart.
  • That in a world full of gossip and slander, we respect the privacy of others.
  • That in a world full of resentment and revenge, we show what forgiveness is all about.

Live that out and there’s no doubt about it – you’ll be set apart from the rest of the crowd around you.

His Own Special People – we are Secure

The Royal Priests of Balkum were people God referred to a His cherished possession.  But I’m not so sure they really believed that.  In fact, one of the biggest frustrations I have had in ministry is convincing Christians that they are more than just a bunch of poor, good-for-nothing people doing their best to get to heaven.

The testimony of the New Testament is that those whose lives have been redeemed by God’s love and grace have been bought with a significant, costly price.  In fact, it cost God the life of His Son in order to buy you back from sin and death.

Doesn’t that tell you something about God?

Doesn’t that tell you something about you?

Think about it.  What do you do with your most cherished possessions?  Do you show them off?  Insure them?  Lock them up for safekeeping?  Whatever you do, you don’t carelessly toss them aside.

Neither does God.

The Mission of the Priesthood

Peter said that these citizen-priests, chosen and cherished by God, were on a mission – “that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”

The Royal Priests of Balkum were commissioned as advertisers, or broadcasters.  They had been commissioned to market the praises of God.

So are you.

Let me show you how that works.

  • A family near you is in financial bondage.  What God is looking for is a priest who can tell them, “My God can meet your needs” (Philippians 4:19).
  • A family or individual is broken-hearted because of death.  God is looking for a priest, who can tell them that “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up all their wounds” (Psalm 147:3).
  • Not far away, a fellow Christ-follower is ready to give up.  God is looking for a priest to point them to “Jesus, author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2)
  • Today you may cross the path of an alcoholic or some other form of addict.  God is looking for a priest, who will praise a Jesus who “preached deliverance to the captives” (Luke 4:18).
  • Without a doubt, if you see people at all, you will encounter someone who is consumed with guilt and far from God.  God is looking for a priest, who will praise the One who said, “though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18).

What made the Royal Priests of Balkum so extraordinary was the fact that they were so, well, ordinary.  Like an elite strike force that has been trained to blend into the crowd, these people were uniquely equipped to execute their mission because they had been empowered to do so.

As  you’ve figured out by now, the Royal Priesthood isn’t confined to peanut country.  You’ll find royal priests wherever you find someone who has trusted Christ.  The Royal Priests of Balkum could just as easily be the Royal Priests of Rochester.  Or Dubuque.  Or Lawrence.  Or Auckland or Madrid or wherever you mix it up.

Jesus said we are royal priests.  Let’s live like one.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Karen October 20, 2010 at 10:54 pm

You asked, “Think about it. What do you do with your most cherished possessions?”

Well, I’m a pack rat. Every card from a loved one, every piece of artwork my children ever did (ok, well, almost every…). So I was touched to see in Revelation 5:8 that God stores away our prayers, in bowls. Just like my kids’ notes that show a picture of me with one eye bigger than the other or that, um, “pyramid” that was a bit misshapen, He keeps every imperfect message from me. Wow, He must love me! Talk about a way to make someone feel cherished.

Andy Wood October 21, 2010 at 9:29 am


I LOVE that reminder… both that he keeps our prayers, however misshapen, and that He encourages us to FILL UP THE BOWLS.

Isn’t it amazing that in His father-love for his children-priests, he actually puts furniture in heaven to accomodate the likes of us?

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