Ancient temples needed two things: priests and idols. The idols contained the deity’s presence and the priests mediated that presence for the people.
Genesis tells us God made humanity in the image and likeness of our Creator. That word “image” is the Hebrew word tselem, but it’s best translated “idol.” That’s right. You’re God’s idol. Whenever people see you they’re supposed to realize they’re in the presence of God Almighty.
This is the reason for the many prohibitions in scripture against idolatry. Other idols can’t think, can’t speak, and can’t act. The only way God wants to be represented in the world is through you.
One of the many functions of the priesthood in the Ancient Near East was to guard the temple, to watch it, and to keep it. Many priests were warriors and wardens, guardians and protectors, charged with securing the temple treasury against thieves and the temple sanctuary against blasphemers. Biblical scholar GK Beale claims this guardianship also logically included “Adam teaching God’s law” to the other members of Creation so they might help one another to obey and to repel uncleanliness. This mandate continued in Leviticus, where the priests were charged to keep unclean things out of the temple altogether so as not to desecrate the presence of God.
If, like Adam, we are God’s priests, then part of our work is preservation, just as part of our work is inoculation. We’re supposed to keep ourselves clean and keep the unclean things out of our lives, since we are the locus of God’s presence on earth.
Adapted from Dying For A Fix