|Posted by Lorraine Serra on June 17, 2010 at 9:59 AM|
“Levi feared Me, and was reverent before My name.” Malachi 2:5
As we continue our study in Chapter 2, we have heard the Lord of Hosts rebuking the
priests for their corruption, insincerity, and failure to lead the people of Israel by example and through instruction. God is threatening some huge consequences for their insincere worship and tainted offerings, and He promises they will all be wiped out so that the covenant with Levi may be purified and continue as originally intended.
In case you don’t know, the “office” or “assignment” of priestly leadership was assigned to the Levites, the tribe of descendants of Levi, back in the book of Numbers. The Lord spoke to Moses, about 2 years after the Exodus from Egypt, and told him and his brother Aaron to take a census of all the children of Israel who had come out of Egyptian captivity. He wanted each tribe to be accounted for and given their place and duties within the camp.
Now, Genesis tells of the beginnings of the earth and its peoples. However, all the detailed genealogies, or lists of family trees we find listed in the book of Numbers are truly fascinating.
To add a bit more background, and an awesome example of God’s sovereignty over the activities of man, we remember that Abraham “begat” Isaac who “begat” Jacob. Then from Jacob came the 12 tribes of Israel, one of which was named for Jacob’s son, Levi, born to him by his wife, Leah.
Now, in Genesis 29 we read of how Jacob had to marry older sister Leah first, and then the woman he really had eyes for, Rachel, a week later. Because it was the custom that the older daughter be married first, the father of these girls, Laban, had tricked poor Jacob, consenting to allow marriage to Rachel, but slipping Leah in under a veil first! This deception was the reward for Jacob’s 7 years of hard labor for Laban among the flocks. So, he did marry Rachel, too, but had to labor another 7 years for her.
God’s justice at work: in the same way Jacob had convinced his older brother Esau to sell his birthright for a bowl of soup; in the same way Jacob had then deceived his blind old father, Isaac, into giving him the blessing meant for the firstborn; here Jacob is the one duped by his own father-in-law, forced to marry Leah instead of Rachel. What a surprise in the morning, coming out of the tent into the light to find he had been sleeping with the wrong woman!
Sadly, the account continues in Genesis 29:30 that Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah, and in fact, Leah was unloved and sad. But, God in His sovereignty, His grace and mercy, poured out His love and smiled upon Leah. She conceived 4 sons while Rachel was barren: Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah.
The meanings of the names of the children paint the picture of Leah’s heart:
Reuben-“See, a son!” Simeon-“since I am unloved the Lord has heard me”
Levi-“Now my husband will be attached to me” Judah- “Now I will praise the Lord.”
It is no accident that Leah was blessed to give birth to the men whom God would assign as the priestly and kingly tribes, that is, the Levites, priests ”attached to Him”, and from the tribe of Judah would come the kings of Israel, leading to the coming of the King of Kings, Jesus Christ, who deserves all praise!
Wow, now that’s what I call a plan of redemption! That’s a plan for righting wrongs, for elevating justice!! Leah, her maid servant, and Rachel’s servant all bore children for Jacob, 10 sons and one daughter, Dinah. And, yes, Rachel did later conceive and bear two famous sons in the end, Joseph and Benjamin.
Looking back with 21st century eyes, isn’t it simply amazing how God’s plan was unfolding in the lives of these simple human beings? When you read of the jealousy, deception, plots and wrangling of people trying to get what they want, it is like a modern soap opera!! But, despite the best or worst efforts of these folks, God had a sovereign plan, His plan went forth and was accomplished and continues to be revealed in this day. I am so comforted by that fact, as recorded in the historical records for us in the Bible and by secular historians.
In the desert journey, then, Moses and Aaron took the census and accounted for all the men over the age of twenty, who could serve as an army from amongst all the tribes. Only the Levites, were not numbered. They were appointed protectors of the Tabernacle, that is, the sacred holy place for worship, which housed the Ark of the Covenant, the presence of God. They would pack it up when the encampment moved on, and set it up again. The tribes were set up all around the Tabernacle with their armies totaling over 600,000 men.
It truly is an amazing feat to imagine close to 2million people traveling through the Sinai desert towards the Promised Land. Reading these accounts never ceases to convict my puny heart of the might and majesty of God Almighty!
So, when did the Levites become priests of the temple? After the census and organization of the people of Israel, the Lord told Moses that his nephews, the sons of Aaron, would be anointed and consecrated to minister as priests. There were only 2 of Aaron’s 4 sons at this point. The two older sons had died when they offered profane fire before the Lord. But, that’s another story!! (Exodus 24) So, at this point, with a crowd so large and growing all the time, God called the Levites to assist Aaron and his 2 sons, Eleazar and Ithamar.
Sometimes, when we start to dig into a study, we take a side road for awhile to gain more insight and background. I find it’s almost like surfing the internet: one click leads to the next, and before you know it, a couple of hours have passed! At least when studying God’s word, the time is well spent, always full of the passionate love and interaction of God with His people, and awe-inspiring with its detailed chronicles of history. That’s the Bible; a collection of 66 history books. What a journey!
It seems that in Malachi Chapter 2 the priests had forgotten their history. They had forgotten how Phinehas, grandson of Aaron, turned away the wrath of God and saved Israel from destruction in a past descent into idolatrous worship. It was at that time, in Numbers 25, that God made an everlasting covenant of peace with the descendants of Aaron and the Levitical priesthood, because they were zealous for God, and made atonement for the people. They knew God’s power, they feared and respected and acknowledged Him above all. God's covenants are unbreakable and He will not allow them to be slandered or corrupted! (verse Thus, He continues through verse 9 pointing out the failure of this annointed priestly tribe to keep their oath of zealous service to God and faithful leadership of His people.
The seduction away from God seems to be ever present, and never-ending. It was true for the Israelites, and true for us today. When priests and leaders fall victim, what are the rest of us to think? God has called all believers a "priestly people", set apart for His service. How easy it is to rationalize our constant need for self gratification. In those days, God punished the apostates severely, with fire, with invading armies, with plagues, with the earth opening up to swallow them alive. But, never without fair warning and clear expectations. Are we witnessing such movements of God in our world today? Volcanoes, earthquakes, epic floods, terrorist attacks.... Maybe.....It might be worth considering.
There are always consequences to evil. If not immediately, then eventually. And most certainly, ultimately when we stand before God in the next life. Will the record of our life be an account worthy of blessing or cursing? Thanks be to God that Jesus has already exonerated us, and paid our penalty on the cross of Calvary. Accepting His free gift of forgiveness, admitting our hopelessness without Him, and responding to His great love with devotion and humility makes for a peace-filled life now and eternally.
Thank you, O Lord, for the gift of forgiveness through Christ which I need every day!
Next time, we will study Malachi’s instructions from God about marriage.
Categories: MALACHI Study