Yahweh had separated the Levites as a unique tribe among the twelve in Israel to serve Him. Because they had stood against the depravity that the children of Israel engaged in during the incident of the golden calf, God ordained them for service (Exodus 32:29). The Lord made many pronouncements about what this meant and how it was to work. Primarily the Levites guarded and maintained everything that related to Yahweh. They cared for the tabernacle, the ark of the covenant, and all the implements necessary for worship. Their duties were extensive. In Numbers 18:5 we see one more requirement that God placed upon them:
“And you shall keep guard over the sanctuary and over the altar, that there may never again be wrath on the people of Israel.”
The trust that Yahweh imputed to the Levites was sacred. Among their consecrated duties was the necessity to protect everything that pertained to God. If they did their job properly, it had incredible power. It would prevent God’s wrath from falling upon the people of Israel. In return for this tremendous responsibility with its dire implications, God made it clear that His favor would be upon the Levites. Consider Numbers 18:12,14 in this regard:
“All the best of the oil and all the best of the wine and of the grain, the firstfruits of what they give to the Lord, I give to you… Every devoted thing in Israel shall be yours.”
For their faithful service to Him with this sacred trust, God would provide immense blessings to the Levites.
Unfortunately, as we’ll see in our progression of reading through God’s Word, the Levites went terribly off the rails. One such instance is recorded in Judges 17, which details how a Levite became a priest in the household of an Ephraimite named Micah to facilitate the worship of his household gods. The story progresses in Judges 18 to where this Levite accompanies the men of the tribe of Dan to gladly be their priest in service to their idols. In another incident in Judges 19, a Levite allows his concubine to be ravaged by evil men in Benjamin, when he willingly gives the woman up to them to protect himself. Then he cuts her lifeless body to pieces, sends parts of her throughout Israel, and stirs up the people to come against the wickedness of the Benjamites, which almost wipes out this chosen tribe of God (Judges 20).
These blasphemous incidents among the consecrated Levites – along with the continual apostasy of the children of Israel- brought God’s wrath, judgment, and punishment upon the people. Instead of maintaining their purpose and following the will of God, the Levites became like those in the culture around them. They became like the world. It didn’t end well.
Moving to the time of Jesus, we see the evolution of this story. The Israelites, during the time of silence after the prophet Malachi, realized they needed to turn back to Yahweh. This resulted in the rise of the religious, law-adhering Pharisees. These were not necessarily Levites, as witnessed by the fact that the Apostle Paul was originally a Pharisee from the tribe of Benjamin. They had become so rigid in following the Law and tradition that Jesus spoke forcefully against them for the hardening of their hearts. Mark 7:8 gives us a view into Jesus’ attitude toward them:
“You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”
Because of their wayward leadership, Israel missed the coming of Jesus as their Messiah. Israel once more earned God’s wrath that will come to a head during the Tribulation.
Now, consider briefly that sacred trust which God invested in the Levites to prevent His wrath upon the people. Pastors and leaders of churches today have that same duty for their flocks. Sadly, just as with the Levites, vast numbers of churches have fallen into apostasy and become no different from the secular culture around them. The fault lies squarely upon those whom God called to lead these congregations.
Religious leaders have forgotten God and actually made a mockery of His Word. The consequences of rejecting Him are as disastrous today as they were in the days of ancient Israel. God has removed His hand of protection upon the churches and upon America. The fire of His wrath is falling. There are many wolves in sheep’s clothing in the churches and the nation has rejected God at the highest levels of government.
This will not end well.
For those of us who still honor and revere God, who have made Jesus our Savior and Lord, our job in these darkening days is to continue shining the light of Christ and to persevere. Jesus is coming back soon for us. We need to hold on and occupy until that glorious day.