The priests of Levi’s tribe were called from among the twelve to perform temple sacrifices on behalf of all the tribes’ sins, and this was meant as an opportunity for them to learn the value of meekness. While all of Israel had been punished for widespread unfaithfulness and idolatry, the Lord addressed Levi’s excessive pride by subjecting His tribe to the lowliest of positions. Levi was given the humiliating task of serving the other prisoners of God’s law. The many laws of the Old Covenant created a monotonous life of legal restriction, and Levi’s punishment an be compared to a teacher telling him to write 1,000 times, “I will cherish my liberty and learn the value of servitude” on the chalkboard in front of the entire class.
On the larger scale of humanity, all men, guilty of transgression before God, had been imprisoned by the law of sin and death, and the entire nation of Israel was called with the responsibility of interceding on behalf of the whole world. As the first nation to learn of the salvation available through the one, true God, Israel’s responsibility was to share their revelation to other nations. Spiritually speaking, this is what the Bible means when it says, “the older will serve the younger”, and it is also illustrated through various sets of siblings in the bible, which we will explore later. Exodus describes the original call to priesthood. Notice, it is not only for Levi’s tribe, but the entire nation of Israel.
5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”
Here we see another lesson illustrated by God through Israel. The relationship and responsibility that Levi had to the other tribes is the same relationship and responsibility that Israel was supposed to take for the world. However, just as the Levitical priests failed, the majority of Israel, which had been called as types of priests to the nations, also failed to accept the purpose of their spiritual calling. That is why the bible says that few among the called were actually “chosen.” Nevertheless, the purpose of God moves on, so He would eventually extend the invitation to Gentile nations who weren’t originally called.
It is vitally important that we, as Gentiles, don’t make the same death-deserving mistakes as Israel, which is why understanding the ways of Levi and its priests is crucial to escaping the judgment which is still to come. Notice, the following New Testament scripture in 1 Peter 2 grants to Gentile nations the very same priestly calling once exclusive to the nation of Israel. Verses 4-8 describe what caused Israel to fail, and verses 9-11 outline the new calling of the all other nations and peoples to step into the abandoned priestly positions.
1 Peter 2:4-12 NASB
4And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, 5you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6For this is contained in Scripture: “BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A CHOICE STONE, A PRECIOUS CORNER stone, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.” 7This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve, “THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE VERY CORNER stone,” 8and, “A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE”; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed. 9But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY. 11Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. 12Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.
This passage instructs Gentiles to respect and responsibly handle their position as “a royal priesthood”. Gentiles were once “not a people”, meaning they used to be outside the covenant, but are now considered people of God. As a result, a proper understanding of Old Covenant priests and their erroneous ways is healthy to avoid falling into the same judgment as New Covenant leaders.
MODERN PRIESTHOOD (FAME KILLS)
Just as the law was exploited by Israel’s leaders then, the law continues to be one of the most grossly abused concepts in scripture, and much of it stems from a failure to understand why it was instituted in the first place. Throughout the landscape of modern religion, the misapplication of law has continued to be as much of a stumbling block for church leaders today as it was with the Pharisees. The Mosaic law, which was given to a people guilty of abusing their liberty, was more like a strict prison for rehabilitation than a permanent framework for free living. It placed reigns on the entire nation of Israel, especially the descendants of Levi, because they had incessantly abused their privilege. As Galatians 3:19 explains, it was never meant to be an eternal solution, but a temporary measure to restrain flesh until the arrival of Jesus.
19Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come.
The law, through its regimens and restrictions, was added to expose just how rowdy the flesh had become while also constraining it until the arrival of the Seed of promise. So, continuing to preach a legalistic gospel based on adherence to strict laws is like telling a nation’s free people that they must live like its criminals and abide by the restrictions of its prison system. Romans 8 is an undebatable passage proclaiming that believers in Christ possess the liberty of the New Covenant.
Romans 8:1-2 KJV
“1There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 2For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.”
So, the Spirit of Christ has provided freedom from the law of sin and death, and salvation is our acceptance of that ticket to freedom. God’s commandments still exist, but the primary difference of the new covenant is that we are free and responsible to choose righteousness, not forced to perform it. It is sad when people have become so accustomed to life in prison, that they’d rather remain incarcerated if it means they don’t have to trust God in their liberty or work in His kingdom. The realization that freedom comes with responsibility has left many to remain lazily in bondage.
Then there’s the greater problem. The Pharisees and Levitical priests, chosen to handle the temple services under the law, were like prisoners forced to serve meals to the other prisoners. But through spiteful acts of deceit, many of them capitalized on an opportunity to manipulate their fellow inmates by withholding the food they had been instructed to serve. By controlling the rations and withholding food from others, they created a secondary power system to leverage control and power over those they were supposed to serve. Then, when Jesus came and pardoned all the prisoners’ transgressions, the opportunity of freedom for all destroyed the manipulative leverage of those Pharisees who had seized control. As more people go free, there are less left to manipulate. Ultimately, instead of accepting their own freedom, the Pharisees resorted to threatening prisoners with the law’s punishment for leaving in a desperate attempt to keep them bound and maintain their corrupted authority. These and all false leaders show in themselves that they would rather have control a system of complete bondage than let everyone be free.
1Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, 2Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: 3All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. 4For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. 5But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, 6And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, 7And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. 8But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. 9And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. 10Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. 11But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. 12And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.
When we observe the law and the Levitical priests, we learn that spiritual leaders have always been called to serve others, not Lord over them. During the Old Covenant period, the Levitical priests corrupted servitude into a controlling advantage which greatly angered God. For a group of people insisting on taking advantage of others for personal gain, an opportunity to serve under the law should have been viewed and accepted as an opportunity to demonstrate contrition and repentance. Instead, it was seized and exploited to take advantage of others, yet again. This was the ultimate mark of pride and self-obsession and the last straw for an unruly people. Thus, leaders who demand congregational allegiance to themselves or deprive God’s people of their opportunity to grow in freedom are deserving of the greatest kind of punishment.
1At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, 3and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. 4“Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5“And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; 6but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
Religious leaders who advocate the necessity of legalism hate to lose their control, and they are actually still bound themselves. The authoritative work of Jesus in the earth provided the key to unlock the gates of the law’s imprisonment, and all who are saved from its captivity are called to show others that the doors of their jail cells have been unlocked. In the New Covenant, serving is no longer a punishment for pride, but an honor in humility. Spiritual leadership is not, nor was it ever a top down system, but a bottom-up organizational structure established so that those who have the advantage of favorable positioning serve those who don’t. Those that have much are required to assist those with little, so that the entire group is elevated.
The new covenant church, established by Christ, is comprised of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, and it is not a system where these five positions stand above the rest. It is designed so that they humble themselves under their awareness of God’s mercy and grace. It’s the only way to truly save those that are lost. This is what the Pharisees were supposed to do. It is what Jesus did, and it is what those called as spiritual leaders of His church are called to do until His return.
John 13:5-9 NASB
5Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. 6So He came to Simon Peter. He said to Him, “Lord, do You wash my feet?” 7Jesus answered and said to him, “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.” 8Peter said to Him, “Never shall You wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” 9Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.”
1 Peter 4:10
As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
1 Corinthians 4:7
For who makes you so superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?
The failure and refusal to truly serve is what characterizes those in the state of Levi, even today. Anyone Jew or Gentile, who rejects the grace of Yahshua-Jesus or fails to appropriately preach from the grace they have received exists in a typical “state of Levi”. Denying His deity and deceiving His sheep through man-made philosophies is just cause for judgment and imprisonment by the Old law.
Because of Israel’s affinity for their misguided position in the law, the focus of God’s grace was about to shift to anyone willing to pick up where they had fallen short. The humiliation of serving the Old Covenant law would become the honor of serving in the new Covenant. Both the responsibility and reward of receiving the Lord’s covenant would be granted, primarily, to Gentile nations, because much of Israel was stubbornly and arrogantly clinging to the state and season of Levi. The woes prophesied from the mouth of Christ were about to become reality and judgment in the season of Dan.