Priests and War

Readers here know how much I loathe the priesthoods of men: in the main, they are self-certified power-seeking men who are far more interested in restricting knowledge than in spreading it, in gaining power over others than in empowering others.

But I must recognize the authority of Christ in all things. So by the force and power of His word, I must recognize the genuine and worthy priesthood of God.

Naturally, Christ – who comes first in all good and holy things – is our High Priest, in the order of Melchizedek. It is by His spotless sacrifice that we are saved; it is by His word that we are granted the way to life everlasting.

Accept no imitations!

(Points directly to Our Political Saviours,
the black-robed, white robed, and uniformed bureaucrats that serve them,
and the Messianic State, Healer and Protector of the People.)

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;

Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy. — I Peter 9-10

With Christ as Our Head, we can now turn to the only effective priesthood in the world, as the Levitical priesthood has been destroyed with the fall of the Temple and the end of the covenant with Israel, in AD 70.

In The Mosaic Head Tax and State Financing, James B. Jordan outlines another function of the priesthood, in addition to offering sacrifices and teaching: deciding when a Christian Commonwealth should go to war. There are two reasons for this:

Warfare, like the rest of life, must only be conducted when the cause meets Divine requirements. If it doesn’t, then no war may be declared.

Warfare requires the shedding of blood. There are situations when it is justified, even mandatory – especially in individual & familial self-defense, but also for the community (i.e. in resisting invasion and bandits) – but in the circumstance of warfare, the shedding of blood makes a man unclean.

Jordan comments (bold in the original):

I believe that the reason is that spilling blood in warfare renders men unclean and in need of cleansing or purification. All spilled blood defiles the land, and atonement is needed to prevent the wrath of God (cf. Deut. 21:1-9). It is curious that the blood and death of warfare is never said to defile the warriors, even though a Nazirite (holy warrior) broke his vow if he came in contact with death (Num. 6:9-12). Why didn’t the blood and death of the battlefield result in the breaking of the Nazirite vow? It seems to me that the reason is that the atonement money paid at the mustering of the Lord’s host covered for the blood and death of battle. This is why payment of the atonement money is tied to the mustering of the army for war.

Now, let’s read the actual text: Deuteronomy 21:1-9

If one be found slain in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee to possess it, lying in the field, and it be not known who hath slain him:

Then thy elders and thy judges shall come forth, and they shall measure unto the cities which are round about him that is slain:

And it shall be, that the city which is next unto the slain man, even the elders of that city shall take an heifer, which hath not been wrought with, and which hath not drawn in the yoke;

And the elders of that city shall bring down the heifer unto a rough valley, which is neither eared nor sown, and shall strike off the heifer’s neck there in the valley:

And the priests the sons of Levi shall come near; for them the Lord thy God hath chosen to minister unto him, and to bless in the name of the Lord; and by their word shall every controversy and every stroke be tried:

And all the elders of that city, that are next unto the slain man, shall wash their hands over the heifer that is beheaded in the valley:

And they shall answer and say, Our hands have not shed this blood, neither have our eyes seen it.

Be merciful, O Lord, unto thy people Israel, whom thou hast redeemed, and lay not innocent blood unto thy people of Israel’s charge. And the blood shall be forgiven them.

So shalt thou put away the guilt of innocent blood from among you, when thou shalt do that which is right in the sight of the Lord.

The main concern of God here is the shedding of innocent blood by unknown assailants: innocent blood must be protected. People are to protect their own lives, and the family home: it is the duty of the godly state to protect innocent life in accordance to the law.

(If the state fails to do this, then obviously the population is either in rebellion against God, or being oppressed by invaders. If in rebellion, then that nation must then be led to repentance by godly preachers, lest God send an even worse affliction! If they are being oppressed by invaders, repentance may well be called for: community violence against the oppressor may be decided upon by by local authorities, but not by lone men acting on their own initiative.)

In warfare, it is often unknown or in dispute who killed who, so the atonement money covers the guilt here. If someone is breaking into a home at night and that intruder is killed, then that intruder’s blood isn’t innocent blood: in this case, the defender is acting as a priest, lawfully protecting the lives of those in the home. For more on this, see Biblical Self-defense.

To continue on the function of priests in wartime, as discussed by Jordan:

Indeed, holy war was a specifically priestly function. The torching of cities is to be understood as taking God’s fire from off His altar and applying His holy fiery wrath to His enemies. Thus, the torched cities were called “whole bunt sacrifices” in the Hebrew Old Testament (Deut. 13:16, Judges 1:17, 20:40, in Hebrew). During the holy war, the men became temporary priests by taking the Nazirite vow (Numbers 6; 2 Sam. 11:11 + Ex. 19:15; Deut. 23:9-14; Judges 5:2, “That long locks of hair hung loose in Israel . . .”) This is all to say that the rendering of specific judgments is a sabbatical and priestly function, not a kingly one. The kingly function in the Bible is in the area of leading, cultivating, and shepherding, especially through the skillful serving of one’s subordinates (Mark 10:4245). The sword of the state executes the judgments rendered by the priests. (In the New Covenant age, every believer is a priest, just as the Old Covenant believers became priests by taking the Nazirite vow. In our system, the priests render judgment by sitting on a jury, and then the state executes the judgment.)

Thus, the military duty is priestly, and a duty of every believer-priest. Both church and state are involved in it, since the church must say whether the war is just and holy, and the state must organize the believer-priests for battle. The mustering of the host for a census is, then, not a “civil” function as opposed to an ecclesiastical one, and the atonement money of Exodus 30 is not necessarily a poll tax, as some have alleged.

Modern preachers have abandoned their lawful function to the state, happy to shed the duties – and the consequences, should they make the wrong call. So the men with the guns get to decide when it is justified to use them.

This is unwise, to say the least. But this shirking of responsibility isn’t unique to pastors: the United States Congress has pointedly refused to guard ts right to declare war, and is happy to toss it at the feet of Caesar the President. ‘Getting re-elected is important; keeping the pork coming is important; actually upholding the terms of the Constitution is not.’

Admittedly, the will of the Congress reflects the will of the population at this time. To change this, the pastors must preach self-governance, as a self-governing and liberty-minded people would put a halt to the antics of law-despising politicians rather quickly. Too bad most pastors are seminary-processed debtors, and thus eager to avoid challenging lawlessness and courting controversy.

It will be up to energetic laymen (typically grounded in house churches), filled with the spirit, to change things.

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