God made humans to be kings and priests – but why?

Peter describes the people of God as “a royal priesthood” in 1 Peter 2:9. It’s a combination of kings and priests. And the purpose of being kings and priests is to “declare the praises (or virtues) of God” (same verse). According to Peter, then, a royal priesthood makes who God is – in all his excellent virtues, or qualities – both visible and obvious.

But how does being a “king” and a “priest” do that? What’s so special about those two terms?

There’s a clue in God making us in his image. By making us kings and priests it must mean he’s a king and a priest too. Or put the other way round – if he’s a king and a priest then we, as perfect little images of him, must be kings and priests too.

But what do the words “king” and “priest” mean in God’s terms?

Again, there’s a clue in Genesis, because it makes clear right off the bat that God is in charge. It was by his authority and his word that our world came into being. He then set up shop here himself and took charge of what happened next. So, God is all about authority. It’s not surprising, then, that when he made humans in his image he gave us the job of “ruling” and gave us authority too. In an exact reflection of himself he put us in charge.

So that’s the “king” part sorted out. It means authority, rulership, and being in charge. But what about the “priest” part? What does that mean in God’s terms?

We have our clue in what God gave that first man to do. He gave the man a garden to care for. He gave him birds and animals to name. He created a woman from the man’s own body. What that did to the man was teach him how to care – care for the plants and trees, care for the birds and animals, and care for this lovely creature that came from himself. All of which God obviously cared for too, so in making this man in his image, he equipped him to care just as he does. And there you have an obvious description of a “priest” in God’s terms. Priests care.

Kings and priests combined together, therefore, means “caring authorities”. And in that simple phrase we have the perfect picture of God, and what he created us to be, as little images of him.

We make his excellent qualities known, therefore, by taking charge of this planet and caring for it. Wherever we go and whatever we do we make absolutely sure that the plants, trees, birds, animals and our fellow humans flourish.


Made in God’s image as man and woman – but what for?

When God said he made humans in his image, what was he getting at? Well, in context he was talking about rulership of the planet, Genesis 1:26.

Rulership is central to what God created humans for. It’s what he made us in his image for, to equip us to rule in the same way that he rules. Because that’s what he created the planet for, to enable humans to learn how to rule like him.

So God didn’t just slap together a beautiful, functioning planet to hum along on its own. It could easily have hummed along on its own, because the plants, trees, birds and animals all had to ability to endlessly reproduce. The animals would live off the land, plants would reseed themselves to keep on producing food for the animals, water bubbled up from the ground to feed the plants, and the sun took care of the rest. It all worked perfectly on its own, without humans – up to Genesis 1:25.

Verse 26 then makes it clear that God wasn’t interested in the planet just spinning away in space for no purpose. He created humans to rule it. But why create a creature for the sole purpose of rulership?

Because that’s what God is all about. He’s about rulership, which is easy for us humans to understand, because we like kings and queens and kingdoms too. We like setting up systems that use human talent and the planet’s resources to nurture and develop the creation so it flourishes. It’s exciting stuff. And clearly it’s exciting for God too, because he created this planet with exactly that in mind. He deliberately designed this planet so that it would flourish under human rule.

But not any old human rule, though. It would have to be rulership the way God does rulership, ruling the way he rules, in the same image and likeness of his rulership. And only then would his creation flourish.

So here we are now, thousands of years later, and have we discovered yet what ruling in his image means? Do we know yet what kind of rulership works to the benefit of all creation?

We should know, because Genesis 2 tells us. Rulership is simply about caring. It starts with caring for every part of the physical creation, pictured by the man being made from the ground and working the garden that God created – and because the man needs the help of a woman, it’s their caring for each other that completes the picture. And there you have the essence of good rulership – man and woman together caring for the planet and each other.

And God made us in his image so we could.