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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Twelve Tribes of Israel - Levi



The name Levi is derived from the words "he shall accompany", “joined” and “to adhere”.

Levi was one of the twelve sons of Jacob. His mother was Leah, who also gave birth to Reuben, Judah, Simeon, Issachar and Zebulun. He was to bring a strengthening of relationship between his parents. "now will my husband be joined unto me, because I have borne him three sons", Genesis 29:34.

Levi is the ancestor of the Tribe of Levi. Levi joined Simeon in avenging their own sister, Dinah. They were treacherously killed the Shechemites, and so incurred Jacob's curse. They made circumcision, which God gave as a pledge of His holy covenant, the instrument of hypocrisy and bloody revenge. Jacob showed moral weakness when reproaching his sons not with the treacherous murder but with exposing him to danger ("ye have troubled me to make me to stink among the inhabitants of the land") . On his death bed he took a less selfish and juster view of their deed. When Jacob's death drew near, and the sons are gathered round him, Levi and Simeon heard the old crime brought up again to receive its sentence. They, no less than Reuben, the incestuous firstborn, had forfeited the privileges of their birthright. Simeon, as the one detained in Egypt, by Joseph, was probably the foremost of Levi's sons in the cruel attack on Rachel's son, and Levi probably joined him, though the spite began with the base born sons of Bilhah and Zilpah. The discipline made the sons, once so unfeeling towards Joseph, to become self sacrificing for Benjamin. As the two joined in crime, retributively they should be "divided and scattered" in Israel. Levi received no land inheritance but cities scattered through Israel (Joshua 21:1-40) and depended on tithes paid by the other tribes. The curse became a blessing to the nation by Levi's separation to divine service.

The Tribe of Levi was not included in the tribes who were given allotments of land during the conquest of Canaan, when the nation of Israel was first established. Instead of a land allotment, Joshua, who led the conquest of Canaan, gave 48 towns, scattered throughout the land of Israel, to the Tribe of Levi. The Levite was dependent on the tithes and food gifts of others. Levites were exempt from general military service (Numbers 1:49). The service of the Levite is the service of the spirit. Thus the tribe originally chastised for its warlike behavior became the tribe which exemplified peace.

Moses singled out the Tribe of Levi to serve as the nation's priests. The tribe of Levi was elevated to perform holy service, in the Tabernacle of the desert and in the Temple. Jehovah "proved" Levi. In Exodus 32: 25-29, a new scene opens to us. We are called to witness the dawning of a new day upon Levi. Here he was with his sword by his side, but, oh, for what a different purpose, and in what a different cause! Moses has come down from the Mountain and sees the Israelites in idolatrous and perverted behavior in worship of a golden calf. Moses calls for all who are on the Lord’s side and the Levites stepped forward. Moses orders them to kill all those who participated even if it means killing a brother, friend or neighbor. It is not now in anger and self-will, but in holy jealousy and care for the honour of the Lord God of Israel, and in simple obedience to His command; and although this may, and will, lead to the very cutting off of a brother, a son, or a friend, Levi cared not; for the word is, "Consecrate yourselves to the Lord, that He may bestow upon you a blessing." This was enough for the Levites.

Moses and Aaron's faithfulness (they were of the Levite tribe), the Levites' drawing their swords against their Israelite brethren as God's avengers of the idolatry of the golden calf, "slaying every man his brother ... companion ... neighbour ... son," where God's honour was at stake, gained God's approval and the choice of Levi as the priestly tribe. And henceforth, in following the footsteps of Levi, we shall find that, instead of being "swift to shed blood," they are to be "swift in following the movements of the cloud, and, "swift" in performing the service of the tabernacle.Levi ben Ya'akov (Levi son of Jacob), the father of the tribe of Levites, lived 137 years, the longest of all of the sons of Jacob. He had a particularly strong influence on the spiritual development of his progeny, and lived to see his great-grandsons, Moses and Aaron. The tribe of Levi developed separately from the other tribes of Israel. During the period of Egyptian bondage, the Levites avoided the slavery suffered by the others. They maintained their separateness in the land of Goshen immersed in learning, and maintaining the spiritual traditions.

The descendants of Levi played a roll in guarding and serving the tabernacle (Numbers 3:21-37). "The Levites shall be for Me" (Numbers 18:14), indicating that the special relationship with the tribe of Levi is permanent. The prophet Jeremiah relates God's promise that there will always be Kohanim and Levites fit to serve: "As I will never renege on My covenant with day and night, so is my covenant with...the Levites, the Kohanim, My servants" (Jeremiah 33:21).

The choice of the tribe of Levi for the highest spiritual service was due to their ability to channel their strong character in the service of God. Levi, the son of Jacob, was chastised for his anger by his father: "Cursed is their zealousness for it is brazen and their wrath for it is hard. I will separate them in Ya'akov and scatter them throughout Israel" (Genesis 49:6-7). The Levites were able to apply their physical and spiritual strength to the fulfillment of God's will and gain forever the role of God's trusted servants.

Here is a summary of the Levitical duties: First, "They shall teach Jacob Thy judgements, and Israel Thy law." Secondly, "They shall put incense before Thee, and whole burnt sacrifice upon Thine altar." Thirdly, "Bless his substance." Fourthly, "Accept the work of his hands." Fifthly, "Smite through the loins of them that rise against him, and of them that hate him, that they rise not again." It was a natural development, therefore, that the task of the Levite became to accompany the Divine Presence and serve in the Temple. His role as teacher and spiritual example is to lead and, thereby, accompany others back to their spiritual purpose

It is important that a man be walking close to God and obedient to His Word in order for him to be a teacher, a spiritual leader, a preacher. It is not teaching out of mere intellect, fluent words, persuasive argument. That is carnal, of the flesh and doesn’t change the heart. The Levites were to teach and instruct from a place of intimacy with God. Today, we need to teach out of a place of our own spiritual intimacy with God. We call that communion with God. We should have a relationship with God and have regular times of prayer, worship and Bible reading where we get in touch with our Source. Then, when teaching flows from the Spirit that is within you, hearts may be changed.

They were also to “put incense before Thee, and whole burnt sacrifice upon Thine altar”. This is worship. We put incense before God when we are presented to the Father by the fragrance of Christ. Christ makes us acceptable in His Presence. When we are present before Him, through Christ and through our choice to worship God, then the Father hears our prayers. They are as a fragrant odor before Him.

“Bless his substance.” An increase of blessing will ever be the result of true-hearted devotedness to Christ. "Every branch in Me that beareth fruit He purgeth, that it may bring forth more fruit;" "The diligent soul shall be made fat;" and "To him that hath shall more be given." Apostle Paul brought the same principle to Timothy when he told him to "meditate on these things; give thyself wholly to them, that thy profiting may appear to all”. Here he connects the "profiting" with the "giving himself wholly".

Grace takes up a sinner and leads him to the forgiveness of sins through faith in the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. This places him down in a position of responsibility to Christ, which position he by his evil human nature could never have sustained. Now that man can be put into a place of responsibility to Christ and it is clear that the more faithfully and diligently he works, the more blessed his spirit and his ministry will be.

The Lord does not ask a sinner dead in trespasses and sins to serve Him. All he could do would be polluted with sin… his very prayers are polluted; his meditations are polluted; his acts of benevolence are polluted; and therefore can do nothing acceptable in the sight of God. But the Lord quickens those that are dead in trespasses and sins, and then teaches them to “walk worthy of Him as dear children," and to be fruitful in every good word and work and when we do this He graciously condescends to "accept the work of our hands."

We’ve arrived at the fifth point in our subject, namely, "Smite through the loins of them that rise against him, and of them that hate him, that they rise not again." Christ has conquered the devil, death, hell, and He has crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts, and therefore when a soul believes on the Lord Jesus Christ, he is so placed as to have Satan, the world, and the flesh under his feet! It is as he walks in the power of resurrection life, that he can maintain this, his blessed ground. But we often are found under their feet, to the gross dishonor of our Lord, and to the sorrow of our own souls because we don’t walk in simple obedience. Obedience is a victory over our flesh and the devil and every fresh victory causes us to grow. Disobedience is our loss and each loss gives the enemy the power to attack anew.

Some question whether Levi had a precious stone with his name or no. If not, Ephraim and Manasseh were reckoned distinct, as Jacob had said they should be, and the high priest himself, being head of the tribe of Levi, sufficiently represented that tribe. If there was a stone for Levi, as is intimated by this, that they were engraven according to their birth (Exodus 28:10) it would be the carbuncle or beryl, a brilliant, glittering and flashing stone. Some say the garnet. Carbuncle means “little coal” meaning when it is held up to the sun, you can see a burning light through the gem. Garnets are the hardest stone next to diamonds.

The History of the Tribe of Levi, by C. H. Mackintosh.

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