We're continuing our study of the book of Deuteronomy, as Moses review God's Law for the people of Israel.
There seems to be a lot of confusion among Christians as to who the Levites were. Remember that Jacob (Israel) had many sons, including Levi. Levi then had three sons:
Ex. 6:16 These are the names of the sons of Levi according to their generations: Gershon and Kohath and Merari...
Each of these three sons became the patriarchs of the three Levite clans: the Gershonites, the Kohathites, and the Merarites. Together, they were known as Levites - people of the tribe of Levi.
God had originally chosen the firstborn son of each family to serve Him in His temple, but when Israel rebelled at the foot of Mount Sinai and created the golden calf, God took that privilege away from them.
As a replacement, God chose the tribe who had taken Moses' side. As you recall,
Ex. 32:25-26 ...when Moses saw that the people were out of control - for Aaron had let them get out of control to be a derision among their enemies - then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, "Whoever is for the LORD, come to me!" And all the sons of Levi gathered together to him.
Because the tribe of Levi demonstrated that they were for the Lord, the Lord chose them instead of the firstborn.
But this is where the confusion usually lies. You see, while the entire tribe of Levi was called to serve in the temple, they were not all priests. Each of the three clans were given duties. The Gershonites' duties...
Num. 3:25-26 ...in the tent of meeting involved the tabernacle and the tent, its covering, and the screen for the doorway of the tent of meeting, and the hangings of the court, and the screen for the doorway of the court which is around the tabernacle and the altar, and its cords, according to all the service concerning them.
The Kohathites duties...
Num. 3:31 ...involved the ark, the table, the lampstand, the altars, and the utensils of the sanctuary with which they minister, and the screen, and all the service concerning them;
Num. 3:36-37 Now the appointed duties of the sons of Merari involved the frames of the tabernacle, its bars, its pillars, its sockets, all its equipment, and the service concerning them, and the pillars around the court with their sockets and their pegs and their cords.
So you could generally say that the Merarites were in charge of the exterior, the Gershonites were in charge of the structure, and the Kohathites were in charge of the furniture.
"But where," you ask, "are the priests?" They are the descendants of Aaron. Because Aaron was a Kohathite, all of the priests were Kohathites, but because priests had to descend from Aaron, not all of the Kohathites were priests.
The Levites who served in the tabernacle were men, and their time of service was from the age of 30 to 50 (Num. 4:3). At the age of 50, they were to retire (Num. 8:25).
But regardless of whether they were young or old, male or female, all of the Levites were dependant upon the other tribes for support. The land they farmed was in each of the other tribes' territorites (Num. 35:2-8). The money they received and the meat that they ate was from the offerings that the other tribes made to the Lord (Num. 18:24). The Lord said,
Num. 18:24 "For the tithe of the sons of Israel, which they offer as an offering to the LORD, I have given to the Levites for an inheritance; therefore I have said concerning them, 'They shall have no inheritance among the sons of Israel.'"
The Lord has carried this concept through to the church as well. Tithes and offerings are given to support the house of God, as well as those who take care of it and those who minister in it. Paul the apostle spent most of 1Corinthians 9 talking about this subject.
1Cor. 9:13-14 Do you not know that those who perform sacred services eat the food of the temple, and those who attend regularly to the altar have their share from the altar? So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel.
Some people have a real problem with giving money to the church. They think that everyone should be a volunteer, and that everything should be done without cost. But they clearly haven't thought that through. Where would the money come from to have a place to meet? To have Bibles to give away? To have a minister who dedicates 80 hours a week to ministering to people instead of 8 hours a week? To have supplies for children's crafts, to pay for the electricity to keep the lights on? The fact is that in both the Old and New Testaments, believers are directed to give to the house of God to support the ministers of God.
The Law also said that when a Levite desired to come to Jerusalem, he could do so whenever he wanted. A place was to be made for him to serve, and he was to enjoy the same blessings as those who were also there serving.
I experienced a part of this blessing a couple of weeks ago. Chelsea and I stopped by a Calvary Chapel on our way to the Bible College in Southern California. Our intention was simply to attend the Wednesday Night service. But instead, we were given a guided tour of the entire campus, fed dinner, and put up in a very nice hotel for the evening. It was an unexpected blessing with undeniably biblical roots! The only thing I missed out on was the chance to serve!
Now the law moves from the sacred to the profane. From the ministers to the sorcerers. The nations around Israel sacrificed their children to their false gods, and practiced all sorts of sorcery, magic, and witchcraft. All of these things are detestable to the Lord, and the children of God are not to participate in them.
While many Christians would never dream of sacrificing their babies, many don't think twice about reading their horoscope, or believing in television psychics. If you are one who believes in these charlatans, or know someone who does, I highly recommend that you pick up the tape on Zechariah 10:2, where we went in-depth into the fact that...
Zech. 10:2 ...the diviners see lying visions and tell false dreams; They comfort in vain...
In that study, we exposed the methods of so-called psychics and channelers like Crossing Over's John Edward who comfort in vain - giving hurting people false hope through lying visions.
Saints, these things of the occult are not to be believed, watched, played with, or dabbled in. They are detestable to God, and God forbids them in your life. The entryways seem so innocent - "Bewitched" on TV, "Harry Potter" books, a Ouija Board as a party game, listening to people tell their "ghost" stories. Don't be deceived - all forms of sorcery are an abomination to the Lord.
Moses promises the people of Israel that in the future, a prophet like him would be raised up by the Lord. As it turns out, this is a major prophecy in the Scriptures:
- Peter made reference to this prophet when he preached to the crowd that gathered after he and John healed the lame man (Acts 3:22-23).
- Stephen also mentioned this prophecy in his message to the Council (Acts 7:37).
- The priests and Levites asked John the Baptist if he was the Prophet.
Some commentators say that Jesus is the fulfillment of this prophecy. But if you listen to Peter's sermon in Acts 3, it is unclear as to whether he is making reference to Jesus, or to a prophet who would appear between Jesus' resurrection and return:
Acts 3:18-24 "But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time. Moses said, 'THE LORD GOD WILL RAISE UP FOR YOU A PROPHET LIKE ME FROM YOUR BRETHREN; TO HIM YOU SHALL GIVE HEED to everything He says to you. And it will be that every soul that does not heed that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.' And likewise, all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and his successors onward, also announced these days."
How can we know? I believe we have a hint in the Jews' questioning of John the Baptist:
John 1:19-21 This is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, "Who are you?" And he confessed and did not deny, but confessed, "I am not the Christ." They asked him, "What then? Are you Elijah?" And he *said, "I am not." "Are you the Prophet?" And he answered, "No."
It is clear that the Jews did not think that the Christ was the same as the promised prophet. If we use that to eliminate Jesus as the fulfillment of the prophecy, then who will fulfill it? I believe a likely candidate can be found in Revelation 11, when God says,
Rev. 11:3-6 "And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for twelve hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. And if anyone wants to harm them, fire flows out of their mouth and devours their enemies; so if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this way. These have the power to shut up the sky, so that rain will not fall during the days of their prophesying; and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood, and to strike the earth with every plague, as often as they desire."
One of these prophets sounds very much like Moses - having the power over the waters to turn them into blood, and striking the earth with every plague. He also fulfills the prophecy that if you don't give heed to him, you will be destroyed. And he precedes the return of Christ.
These things cause me to lean towards Moses' prophecy being fulfilled not in Christ, but in one of the two witnesses in Revelation 11.
As we finish the chapter, the Lord makes some very strict statements about anyone who would presume to call himself a prophet:
1) If someone prophesies in the name of another god, he is a false prophet.
2) If someone prophesies something that doesn't come to pass, he is a false prophet.
3) If someone prophesies something that the Lord didn't command him to say, he is a false prophet.
In the church today, we would rarely encounter someone prophesying in the name of another god. However, the other two seem to happen quite frequently. It is clear that we tread on dangerous ground when we say, "Oh, the Lord showed me this," or "God has revealed this to me." Because of the judgment that comes upon someone for prophesying falsely, the best standard to follow is, "Better safe than sorry."