The Hebrew word for priest looks like this:  In English we spell it kohen (a transliteration—a translation of the sounds of the word’s letters rather than the word’s meaning). The word kohen comes from the Hebrew root word ken, spelled kaph-nun (the names of the Hebrew consonants—Hebrew had no vowels—pronounced like our English words, cough—noon).

The Hebrew letter kaph is a picture of the open hand and means to open. The nun is a picture of a seed. Ken then means the opening of a seed. When a seed opens the roots come out to form the base of and the support for the plant. The stalk is then able to rise up straight and stiff toward heaven.

Ken is also the Hebrew word for “yes.” If you ask me to do something, I will say “ken” or “yes.” My response is affirmative—I am firm in this, my affirmation forms a solid foundation for you.

The Hebrew kohen, then, was one who stood firmly on the earth and yet was always reaching toward and pointing to God in heaven. He (the Hebrew priest was always male) was the base foundation of and for the people. He taught them God’s Law (Torah) and instructed them in God’s ways. He rebuked them and corrected them as they strayed from God’s ways. In short, he represented God’s interests among the people.

The kohen was also the stalk that stood tall for the people. He interceded with God on behalf of the people. He assisted them as they offered sacrifices for their sins and as they celebrated renewed fellowship with God. In a word, the Hebrew priest mediated between the holy God of Israel and a very sinful human race.

According the New Testament, Christians now serve as God’s priests upon the earth. Such a role is not always popular but it is critically important—both to God and for the people.

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