This is a story about Rabbi Akiva, a renowned and revered Jewish rabbi of the first century. One late afternoon, Rabbi Akiva was on his way home to Capernaum. As he walked, he was also meditating and reciting the Scriptures. He was so focused that he didn’t realize that he had taken a wrong turn. Suddenly he found himself standing in front of the Roman fortress gate and a loud voice shouted, “Who are you? What are you doing here?” Rabbi Akiva was startled and could barely respond. Again the guard called out, “Who are you? What are you doing here?” After Rabbi Akiva gathered his thoughts, he shouted back: “How much do you get paid to ask me these questions?” The guard was now confused as to why this stranger would ask such a question in response. After a few moments of silence, he said, “Two drachma per week!” (a drachma was worth about a day’s wage.) Then Rabbi Akiva, with intense conviction shouted back to the Roman guard: “I’ll pay you double if you stand outside my house and ask me those two questions every morning!”
As followers of Jesus Christ, do you know who you are and what is the purpose of your life? Is your life purposeful or are you drifting aimlessly? The apostle Peter said as followers of Christ, we are given new identities and purpose. “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Pet 2:9).
Paul said, “even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us” (Eph 1:4). God chose us purposely, not randomly and as children, we are given full rights (Gal 4:7). In the old covenant, only the priests can perform sacrifices and lead worship. Having sanctified and perfected us through the offering of himself (Heb 10:10–14), Jesus Christ has made all who are in Him the priesthood that God always intended His people to be. We are no longer worship observers but active worship participants. When God said “you,” is he referring to a singular pronoun “you” or a plural “you”? God said, “You are to be holy to me for I am holy, and have set you apart from the nations to be my own” (Lev 20:26). “You” refers to all God’s children, not just a select few.
To complement the impressive titles that God has given us, we are given an equally impressive purpose, “to declare the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Pet 2:9b). When we forget our identity, we may become overwhelmed with the task that God has called to do. God help us, we may even give up or become lazy or even be complacent. Therefore, before we begin each day, let us ask ourselves these two questions, who we are and what we are doing here?