1 Chronicles 23:28-32 NLTse (28) The work of the Levites was to assist the priests, the descendants of Aaron, as they served at the house of the LORD. They also took care of the courtyards and side rooms, helped perform the ceremonies of purification, and served in many other ways in the house of God. (29) They were in charge of the sacred bread that was set out on the table, the choice flour for the grain offerings, the wafers made without yeast, the cakes cooked in olive oil, and the other mixed breads. They were also responsible to check all the weights and measures. (30) And each morning and evening they stood before the LORD to sing songs of thanks and praise to him. (31) They assisted with the burnt offerings that were presented to the LORD on Sabbath days, at new moon celebrations, and at all the appointed festivals. The required number of Levites served in the LORD’s presence at all times, following all the procedures they had been given. (32) And so, under the supervision of the priests, the Levites watched over the Tabernacle and the Temple and faithfully carried out their duties of service at the house of the LORD.
The Levites were chosen by God to serve in the priesthood to one extent or another. God chose the Levites after Moses came down from that mountain and found that golden calf Aaron made. So he stood at the entrance to the camp and shouted, “All of you who are on the LORD’s side, come here and join me.” And all the Levites gathered around him. Moses told them, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: Each of you, take your swords and go back and forth from one end of the camp to the other. Kill everyone–even your brothers, friends, and neighbors.” The Levites obeyed Moses’ command, and about 3,000 people died that day. Then Moses told the Levites, “Today you have ordained yourselves for the service of the LORD, for you obeyed him even though it meant killing your own sons and brothers. Today you have earned a blessing.” (Exodus 32:26-29 NLTse).
The whole scene seems rather strange. Aaron, a Levite started the whole mess by making that golden calf. But the Levites stood on God’s side and followed his commands by killing the people who were really behind the rebellion. That shows us how God sees everything everyone does, and gives us a chance to walk away whenever we find out we followed the wrong crowd. In a sense, God showed the Levites how He is able to forgive people for their sins once they turn back. We can see why God led us back to this story and Moses. We have an example of Aaron making a major mistake. Eventually God gave Aaron the position of high priest. Imagine a religion where the earthly high priest has to rely on the Heavenly High Priest to be forgiven for a major error, and who knows how all their little sins.
We see so many ways scripture pointed us back to other stories that led us to answers to questions we didn’t know we had to ask. That is rather strange when you think of it. In most cases, people didn’t know they were sinning when they made mistakes. In many cases, they were following someone’s advice at the time. Here we are, sitting with God’s Spirit, studying a little scripture, and we find answers before we know it, and at times, before we ask questions. Scripture has a way of putting us in the position to make a decision. Do we follow people into mistakes and sins, or do we follow God into answers we never would have expected to find on our own?
Later God secured the Levites blessing by called them His adopted sons. And the LORD said to Moses, “Look, I have chosen the Levites from among the Israelites to serve as substitutes for all the firstborn sons of the people of Israel. The Levites belong to me, for all the firstborn males are mine. On the day I struck down all the firstborn sons of the Egyptians, I set apart for myself all the firstborn in Israel, both of people and of animals. They are mine; I am the LORD.” (Numbers 3:11-13 NLTse).
Imagine being chosen as God’s firstborn sons. Which do you think ranks higher, a king, or God’s firstborn son? In God’s eyes, everyone is equal. God doesn’t play favorites. Some people may be assigned different duties than others. That was a physical lesson taught in the Old Testament. But since the Levites and priests failed to recognize Jesus as the Messiah, they lost their authority as religious leaders. Peter made it clear, that system was replaced by the new system, a priesthood open to all of Jesus’ followers.
As we look down through scripture, what did the Levites accomplish? How did they help God get the word out about His plan of Salvation? What did they know about that plan? Is that the message we’re supposed to see when we review story after story about David and see details he missed when he consulted scripture to move one of his projects forward?
What kind of messages do we see coming out of the duties David gave to the Levites? Some of those roles like assisting priests, cleaning out the courtyard, taking care of the rooms, checking the weights and measures, changing the sacred bread, and singing praises. But are they important on a physical or spiritual level?
It seems rather strange to think, David never lived to see the temple, but he assigned duties to all the Levites. Some of those duties concentrated on the financial side of the temple. Those rooms on the side of the temple were designed to store the temple treasures. What were the weights and measures used for in Solomon’s day? Eventually the weights and measures were used to convert government currency into temple shekels. It was little more than a type of tax someone invented. Those rooms on the side of the temple were cleaned out and given to one threatening king after another. Those rooms became a symbol of relying on gold and silver before turning to God for help and advice.
Other ministries may have been looked at as a way of serving God, but what did they amount to? Assisting the priest, what was that? Helping with a sacrificial system that eventually drifted so far away from God’s original plan, hardly anyone saw the real sacrifice standing in the temple courtyard preaching, just before the priests had Jesus arrested and hung on the cross.
What ministry did that singing and praise amount to? How much of a role was God’s Spirit allowed in that ministry? Were their praises from the heart, a one on one praise to God, or a prearranged list of songs to sing, and prayers to recite? Did a committee arrange the day to day songs and praises until someone came up with the idea to set a yearly schedule repeated for generations?
Worship can and should be meaningful. Those stories in scripture showing us how praise, and worship God eventually turned into mindless rituals. Are those stories recorded so we learn from those mistakes, and don’t repeat them? You want to assist a priest? Assist Jesus the High Priest. You want to sing, then sing like every note is focused on Jesus. You want to assist with the sacrifices? Hey, we don’t sacrifice animals anymore. But there are sacrifices. Our time is one offering, one of the few we still offer to God. Let’s take a look back at someone who sacrificed a lot of time to God.
Let’s take a quick flight over Joseph’s life. At one time he was Jacob’s youngest and most loved son. If he wasn’t Rachel’s son, Joseph may not have been Jacob’s most loved son. But that love cost Joseph plenty. His brothers were jealous. Their jealousy ran so deep, they wanted to kill their little brother. Keep in mind, God was working hard in the back ground to put all those details together, and to make them all work for the best of everyone involved in the long run.
God gave Joseph dreams, and the ability to interpret them. That was only the beginning of Joseph’s spiritual gifts and his ministry. God had to work ahead of Joseph by influencing Potiphar. God had to make sure Potiphar was in the proper position in Egypt so the rest of the plan would work. Satan was hard at work in Potiphar’s wife. Satan used her weakness to direct her. All of that had to come together. God also had to work with Joseph and Joseph had to work with God.
Joseph was a shepherd. What did he know about running a household and business? God had to teach Joseph accounting and a host of other skills to impress Potiphar. Joseph was into what we call, on the job training. Joseph had to have constant communication with God to learn all the details and skills he needed to be successful. Joseph had to learn how to train other people. That was not something he learned living with Jacob and his brothers. Joseph was the youngest. It was his role to sit and learn, not teach. Joseph had to learn those skills from God.
Satan saw Joseph’s progress, but had no way of knowing the plan God was working on. All Satan wanted to do was get rid of Joseph, or at least slow him down. Eventually Joseph wound up in prison. Joseph didn’t know anything about running a prison. Joseph didn’t have a day of experience as a prisoner. Once again Joseph found himself in the position of relying on God for on the job training. Which was easier in prison, based on the fact Joseph had a back ground of skills to pull from. Still, God had to make sure Joseph was what we can refer to as, an important prisoner. Someone who caught the attention of the chief jailer. And God had to work on the chief jailer, who no doubt also had Satan trying to influences him. In any other circumstances Joseph could have lost his life in a day, and no one would have asked any questions.
Eventually Joseph found himself standing in front of Pharaoh. That took the aid of two more men. One lost their life, to remind us how quickly things can go wrong when God is not working on plans for our lives everyday. The other forgot all about Joseph for years. Eventually the butler spoke up and got Joseph out of prison. Joseph was back conducting his original ministry, interpreting dreams. Joseph saw how God worked with him all those years. Joseph didn’t hesitate to give all the credit to God. We have to believe Joseph spent a lot of sleepless nights since the day his brothers sold him to slave traders. We can hardly imagine the conversations Joseph had with God and the questions he asked. What about the answers God provided? Those answers were the only thing that could have gotten Joseph through those days.
As it turned out, Joseph helped a nation, the surrounding countries, and his family make it through one of the worst droughts ever seen. Another detail God had to work on. Not only the drought, but the crops to make it through the drought, and a plan to make it through those seven years. That took some planning, and a lot of cooperation from key people, Joseph being the center of those events.
Worship is not a set of prearranged ceremonies, details, songs, praises, or whatever people may plan as an outward show. True worship is living and depending on God from day to day, minute to minute like Joseph had to. Otherwise, how would that story had turned out if one or more details were changed?
Day to day events is one of the forms of communication God uses. What would have happened if Joseph didn’t see God in his life everyday? What would have happened if Joseph gave up on God? Would his family have died? Would that have marked the end of the bloodline that led to Jesus? Would God had saved Judah, and let the rest of the family perish? We can’t imagine how everything would have changed if Joseph had given up, or doubted God.
This is another contrast God used to teach. Joseph placed his life in God’s hands, and became the number two man in Egypt. It was a long, rough road to get there, but God did deliver. On the other hand, we see what that priesthood turned out to be when Jesus conducted the earthly phase of His ministry. Joseph stuck with God all the way. What did the priests do? Did they give up on God?