Pastor Chuck Swindoll shares the following insights on the difference between a priest and a prophet.
"Every preacher must wear two hats. He must be part priest, and he must be part prophet. Back in biblical times, there were two distinct people who did those two distinct things.
The priest’s work was pretty routine. He studied the books of Moses and he kept the divine order, and he kept the calendar of scheduled events exactly as God commanded. There were few surprises for the priests. And really not many opportunities for him to get in trouble with the people. He just did his job faithfully and consistently and was usually wanted and appreciated. Sometimes, he was absolutely essential.
His work was safe, however. He could keep his mouth shut, never have to share his opinion or make waves, he just did his job faithfully. The priest dealt primarily with externals among the nation of Israel: the washing, and the ceremonies, and the special days and those unique feasts and festivals. That was his job – to maintain an eye on those things and to guide the people in observing them.
His work was relatively easy. Long hours, I’m sure, but no one could say he was operating on a spontaneous or emotional basis. He had the law, and he followed it. His job was to preserve the past and maintain and protect the status quo.
The prophet, however, was not like that at all. Every day for him was different. There was no ritual the prophet followed. He not only had to know what God taught in his book, he had to understand his times, so he had to be kept up on the daily news. He not only had to keep up with it, he had to be able to interpret it in light of what God had said so he could challenge and warn the people about the future.
The prophet’s work was a vulnerable work. It required courage. He was not wanted. He was seldom respected by the sinful people and often hated, resented, and martyred. No simple game plan for the prophet to follow. His work was spontaneous, emotional. He had a disturbing influence, because he wasn’t dealing with externals – he always went to the internals. The sin of the heart. The erosion of the people. Never easy.
The prophet’s task, unlike the priest, was to interpret the present in light of the past and then give direction that would preserve the future.
Priests calmed things down. Prophets stirred things up."
- from Swindoll's message "Beware! Religious Performance Now Showing"
And from Warren Wiersbe . . .
"If I had my choice, I would rather be a priest than a prophet. Most people don’t want a prophet around, because he makes them uncomfortable. A prophet weeps while others are laughing. A prophet wears a yoke that gets in people’s way and knocks expensive trinkets off the shelf. While the popular leaders bend with the wind, the prophet stands firm as a wall, so he can lead the nation forward. He is a physician who exposes the ugly sores before he applies the medicine. He is in short a person who creates problems by revealing problems so he can solve problems. Who wouldn’t want to be a priest instead of a prophet?"
- Warren Wiersbe, The Integrity Crisis