The Cross and its Shadow

ONE entire tribe of Israel was set apart for the service of the sanctuary. As we recall the last words spoken to Levi by his father Jacob as he lay on his death-bed, we might wonder that his descendants were chosen for that sacred work. When Jacob remembered the sins of Levi, he pronounced almost a curse instead of a blessing upon his son, and closed it with these words:“I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel.” (Gen. 49:5-7)

Wondrous is the love of our God that can change a curse into a blessing. (Neh. 13:2) Only a mighty God can make scarlet sins as white as snow. (Isa. 1:18) The impulsive nature which, under the control of Satan, drives a man to commit desperate crimes, is not removed when he is converted. That same impetuosity, consecrated and under the control of Christ, makes him a valiant warrior for the Lord. Saul, the desperate persecutor, when converted, became Paul, the leading apostle.

The fearless character which, under the control of Satan, led Levi to murder the Shechemites, when controlled by the grace of God, enabled his descendants to take their stand boldly on the Lord's side when the mass of Israel went into idolatry. (Ex. 32:26-29) God then turned the curse into a blessing; He said because they had observed His law and kept His covenant, they should “teach Jacob His judgements and Israel His law.” (Duet. 33:8-11)

In order that their influence for good might be more widely felt throughout Israel, the Lord, instead of giving them one portion of the land for their inheritance, as He had given the other tribes, appointed as their portion forty-eight cities scattered among all the tribes, (Number 18:20; 35:1-8) Truly they were divided in Jacob and scattered in Israel, but the curse was turned into a blessing.

Our God is “the same yesterday, and to-day, and forever.” (Heb. 13:8) When He pronounces evil against a nation or an individual because of their wickedness, if they turn from their wrong-doing, God says He “will repent of the evil” He “thought to do unto them,” and as in the case of Levi, a blessing will come instead of the curse. (Jer. 18:7-10)

The term “Levite” was applied to all the priests, but only the descendants of Aaron were to hold the sacred office. The remainder of the tribe were to do the, service of the sanctuary under the direction of the priests. They were not allowed to officiate at the altar of burnt-offering, nor to burn incense, nor to do any of the priest's work within the veil. The Levites were to serve, or minister to, the priests; but the priests were to minister for the people before the Lord. (Num. 18:1-7)

The Levites were consecrated to the work of the sanctuary by the laying on of hands by the whole assembly of Israel, and then Aaron offered them “before the Lord for an offering of the children of Israel.” (Num. 8:9-14)

The Levites were chosen by the Lord instead of the firstborn of Israel. (Num. 8:17,18) While journeying in the wilderness, they carried all that pertained to the tabernacle; but although they bore the sacred furniture, they were never permitted even to look upon it. (Num. 4:20)

After the temple was built, the Levites were assigned the work of waiting on the priests in the sanctuary service. They prepared the showbread, often led the singing, collected the tithe, and did a large amount of work in connection with the service of the Lord. (1 Chr. 23:24-32)

In the time of David the Levites began to serve in the sanctuary at the age of twenty-five. At fifty years of age they were to “return from the warfare of the service.” (Num. 8:23-26) They were not discharged; they still had an oversight of the work, but were not expected to perform arduous duties.

The work of the Levites was largely confined to the court, and thus typified the work of the gospel ministry of the present day.

Type Antiype
Num. 18:1-7. The Levites served under the priests in the court of the sanctuary. Matt. 28:19, 20. Christ's ministers are to go to all the world the antitypical court.
2 Chron. 35:3; 30:22. The Levites were teachers in Israel. Matt. 28:19. Christ commissioned His disciples to teach all nations.