Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode · 6 years ago

Priests in the Kingdom of God (1 Chronicles 15:1-24)

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Rev. Christopher Chelpka

If you're able, please remain standing and let's hear God's word from first chronicles. First Chronicles, Chapter Fifteen. I'm going to read verses one through twenty four. David built houses for himself in the city of David and he prepared a place for the Ark of God and pitched a tent for it. Then David said that no one but the Levites may carry the Ark of God, for Jehovah had chosen them to carry the Ark of Jehovah and a minister to him forever. And David assembled all Israel at Jerusalem to bring up the Ark of the Jehovah to its place which he had prepared for it. And David gathered together the sons of Erin and the Levites, the sons of Kohath Uriel, the chief with a hundred and twenty of his brothers, of the sons of Mary I, Assaiah the chief with two hundred and twenty of his brothers, of the sons of Gershum Joel the chief with a hundred thirty of his brothers, of the sons of Elis Aphan. Shemaiah the chief with two hundred of his brothers, of the sons of Hebron Eliel the chief, with eighty of his brothers, of the sons of Uzil, Amendab the chief, with a hundred and twelve of his brothers. Then dvid summoned the priests Zadok and Abiathar, and the Levites Uriel, Assiah, Joel Shema yet Shamiah, Eliel and Aminadab, and said to them, you are the heads of the father's houses of the Levites. Consecrate yourselves, you and your brothers, so that you may bring up the Ark of Jehovah, the God of Israel, to the place that I have prepared for it, because you did not carry it the First Time Jehovah, our God, broke out against us because we did not seek him according to the rule. So the priests and the Levites consecrated themselves to bring up the Ark of Jehovah, the God of Israel, and the Levites carried the Ark of God on their shoulders with the polls, as Moses had commanded. According to the word of Jehovah, David also commanded the chiefs of the Levites to appoint their brothers as the singers, who should play loudly on musical instruments, on Harps and Liars and symbols to raise sounds of joy. So the Levites appointed Hemon, the son of Joel and of his brothers, Asaf, the son of Barachiah, and the sons of Mary I, the brothers or their brothers, Ethan, the sons of Kushiyah and with them their brothers, and the second order, Zachariah, jaws, zeal, Shemira, shamiramof Je Keel, uney Eliab Benniah, met Maassia, that's a Mattathia, Ella, Feluhu and Mikniiah and the gatekeepers Obed Edom and jl the Singers Hem on, Assaf and Efan, were to sound bronze symbols. Zachariah, Aziel, Shem Arama, Sheem Miramaf Jahel, uney Eliab Maas Sieia and then Aiya were to play harps, according to Alamof but Mattithiah and Elie Elf fell Ahu, Micnai, Obed Edom, Jel and Aziiah were to lead with liars. According to the Chemin if Cheniiaf, leader of the Levites and music, should direct the music. For he understood it, Barachiah and Elkanah were to be gatekeepers for the Ark. Sheebniyai, Chebnayah, Josh A, Fat...

Nethaniel, Amasi, Zachariah, then Ania and Eliezer, the priests, should blow the trumpets before the Ark of God. Obed Edom and Jehiia were to be gatekeepers for the Ark. You may be seated. I hope you'll excuse my pronunciations and remember that, despite of weaknesses there, the names are important. They are names that are connected with real people in a real time, in a real place, people that had, as we see here, very very particular duties to do one thing and not another, according to their stations, according to their callings, according to the things that God had given them. This is a lesson that David, as we have been reading first chronicles, it seems, he and the people had to learn. Have you ever made a mistake and learned a lesson from it? Yes, of course we all have, at least we hope so. We all make mistakes, sometimes some from ignorance, and perhaps there was the first time that you realized you're not supposed to leave the gas on very long before you light it. Or maybe the mistake was an outright sin. You did something you knew you ought not to do and you suffered the consequences for it and said to yourself and to the Lord and to those whom you harmed, never again. Look, we learn our lessons through the consequences that we face in this life, and David was very much like that in this particular instance. He references that here in first chronicles fifteen and if you remember from the past chapters, there was this particular incident that happened with the ARC. You Remember, back in chapter thirteen, they were rightly had this plan. They were going to carry the Ark of God back to Jerusalem and it would be a placed there. Eventually it would become it would be placed in the temple. But they made a mistake, they committed a sin. They did what they ought not to do, and it was this that, instead of carrying the ARC as they do here in Chapter Fifteen, with the Levites particularly in charge, carrying the arc on polls, they put it in a cart, something that God had not commanded and indeed forbidden. They carried it on a cart, the cart, the oxen that were driving the cart stumbled. Aza reached out his hand touched the ARC to catch it, and the Lord put him to death. These. Particular Word is used that the Lord broke out against the people. It's the same word that's used in first chronicles fourteen, when the Lord breaks out against the Philistines through David. And here we see that even in the success of David on the battlefield, there is a reminder that David is not immune, that the Israelites are not immune from the discipline and wrath of the Lord. They are to do as he has commanded. And in particular, the duty required here is one concerning the arc more broadly, the Levites and priests in general. You see what's going on here in Chapter Fifteen is David doesn't...

...merely get it right with the arc this time and have the Levites carry it. We see the Levites and the priests taking a central role in the theocracy. Remember, in this section of first chronicles, David is ascending to power, God's anointed one is taking his rightful place on the throne to rule over his people, to defend against their enemies. But of central part of that theocracy is the Levites and the priests. When you think of Israel as a theocracy, maybe this isn't the first thing you think of. You think of the king and the people. But there is this other aspect to it, this whole area of power, we might say, of the of life in Israel, which was central to who they were as a people, and it was described and is found in these persons, these offices of the Levites and priests. So underlying this action of carrying the arc in the proper way, but then this additional calling of all of these people with their particular names to these particular tasks, we see something very important. We see that David understands something about, something important about the Levites and the priests and, honestly, as Christians, it's something that we need to understand as well. It's not just a obscure portion of Israelite religion connected somehow to life in the Old Testament. It's a central part of who they were. It's in fact so important that many places in the book of Hebrews, most of the book of Hebrews, is devoted to this particular point, understanding who they were and how our Lord and Savior is connected with them. To understand the priests and the Levites is to understand David's action here. It's understand why the Holy Spirit, through the chronicler spends the time to really show how the system is being properly put in place, even as the king ascends and rules on his throne. It helps us understand David's action. It helps us the understanding the Levites and the priests help us, helps us to understand Christ is our high priest, and it also helps us to know who we are as priests of God. It's not so. It's not a way that we often think of ourselves, but the New Testament does indeed call us the Church of God, a kingdom of priests, a royal priesthood. How do you live as a priest? It is your calling. It's explicitly put this way by our Lord and his apostles. How do you live your life as a priest of God? Understanding all of these things as under is is understood by focusing on this particular institution in the Old Testament, and it's worth our time here, as the chronicler focuses our attention on it. The first thing we want to know, to which I've already pointed out, is it's importance. You see it in God's action, God when he breaks out against his people for their failure to carry the ARC. This way isn't some kind of random thing that God does, just a persnickety thing that he has decided. Now he does this and he has made this particularlar law to remind us of the importance. Perhaps this is why...

...this is as even as David is ascending to the throne, God makes and impresses this point on him, this particular thing. The role of the Levites and the priests in the life of Israel as a nation is not to be neglected. To understand why that would might be, it's helpful to know what the priests and Levites did, and we get that from many places in scripture, including here in first chronicles. We see and read of many of their different duties. We have singers, gatekeepers, guards, all kinds of different things. Way You might sum up the role is they were all working in connection one way or another, with the temple, the ARC being a central point of that, but many other parts as well. The priests were involved in the sacrifices and indeed brought sacrifices, but that wasn't their only job, and in fact the people themselves had an important role in that, often sacrificing the animals themselves. The priests, however, we're often connected with that altar. In particular, the sons of Aaron were given the job of maintaining the space between the holiness of God and the unholiness or commonness of the people. The priest did several other things, not just in connection with with the altar. There was gate keeping and guarding, for example, that had to be done. You remember that there were these very clear divisions in Israel between what was holy and what was not, between what was clean and it was unclean, and it was the priests particular task, and the Levites task to make these kinds of distinctions, even to the point of the Sword Standing Guard over particular places, making sure that no one entered into the places they should not enter. There was also treasury supervision, musicians that had to be organized and PLO played, baking that went on, various kinds of legal functions and one of the most important things teaching. In both Leviticus and Deuteronomy we read that the Levites were called to this particular rule of teaching people the Law of God. This, of course, happened a lot in the making of distinctions. You would bring an animal or you would present a disease on your skin and they would be called to apply and teach God's word. This thing is cleaned, this thing is not clean, this is holy, this is common. But these teachings not only went on as they expounded the word of God or as they applied it, but also in the symbolism of everything that was going on, in the way that they guarded the holy places, in the way that they enacted these sacrifices and symbolized all of these things. One Way to think about it all together is that the Levites had this particular role of shaping reality in Israel, of playing out in real time, through words and through actions, who God is and what he commanded. Over and over again, when you saw a Levite, when you came into contact, especially with a priest, you would be reminded of these distinctions and, in particular, of your failure to remain clean, to be holy, the barriers that were between you and God, the sins that constantly kept you apart. They had to be atoned for. The author of Hebrews brings this up and he says that...

...in the sacrifices there was this reminder year after year about sin, Sin. God was holy and he wanted a holy people for himself. But Sin and uncleanliness are always getting in the way, and the office of the Levites and the priests were a reminder of this. Their presence, their actions, their teaching, this was all very, very, very important. But you can think of reasons perhaps why a king might want to overlook these details, why a king in particular would be tempted to disregard this particular way of life. In Israel, the priests and Levites in many ways operated independently of the king. They were supported, for example, not by the King's treasury but directly from the people. Throughout the Bible we see various ways in which the priests would sometimes put a check on on the king and even engage in certain political actions from time to time. There was a way in which they remained independent and they and they, and they also maintained a kind of loyalty among the people to God that, if they weren't there, I'm perhaps could be more easily brought simply unto the king. You can see why kings in the time of Israel would at various times establish other places of worship, would mess around with the priesthood, establish their own priests, create new ways. It's often a temptation of man to take the things that belong to God and take them under himself. We have often seen in history where kings and emperor's desire worship for themselves to bring the religious aspects of a society all under them. The independence of the Levites and priests, in a formal way, in an institutional way, prevented this. It was a constant reminder of God's sovereignty over them all. And it wasn't I'm just the king. So we have this kind of importance in the general life of Israel, in the theocracy. We also have this theological importance, not only in teaching the distinctions between holy and common, between clean and unclean, but in particular, as I was mentioning earlier, they pressed over and over again the law. That's what Israel was remember. They were under the law. They were being taught constantly that they were incapable of doing the things that God commanded, that they needed their sacrifices to be atoned for. To Take that away would be to take the king, that take the people out from under God's law and put them under man's law. To Take that away from the people would be also to take them away to these great pointers that they had to grace and to forgiveness. So this is why it was so important for David to do what he did. In First Chronicles Fifteen, David doesn't just set these people up because they need some jobs and they need some places and he wants to keep them busy. He sets them up, he calls them particularly by name, with their brothers, to their particular stations, because the holiness of God had to be maintained,...

...that he had a responsibility to not ignore and neglect this part of Israel, but to uphold it and protect it. Well, this way that you see, David, I'm doing this in many ways reveals to us what Christ did. Christ does something even more than David. Not only does he not neglect the priesthood, he supersedes it and he even takes it on under his own offices. We see that in Christ these things that the priesthood pointed toward were made very, very great. In Christ, instead of offering sins over and over again, as the priest died, came as a final sacrifice and offered himself. This is very remarkable because it means that he didn't just bring us or keep us under the law but he brought us out from under it, no longer needing a sacrifice and a reminder sit of for sin year after year, because Christ was our final sacrifice. He brings us under the law, he establishes US under him, and in that the promises of God that we would be a kingdom of priests are fulfilled. From the beginning, God never wanted a bunch of sacrifices and a bunch of Atonement for sin. God wanted a people that would worship him and offer themselves as the sacrifices, that wouldn't offer their deaths through these animals, but would offer their lives in obedience, in praise, in thankfulness. But as long as sin remained there, as long as pollution and corruption and uncleanliness remained there, would never be possible. But when Jesus comes, in a sense, to his throne, he also takes on the role of a priest, he takes on the rule of someone who can take care of this sin problem once and for all. And he does this he forgives our sins in a way that is complete, in a way that is final. He gives to us his spirit that brings about obedience in our lives, that is truly pleasing to God, and this is how we are priests. We're not priests in the way that the Levites were or in the way that Aaron was. We are priests in and through Jesus. We belong not to the Levites, but to Christ and in him and in light of his perfect and final sacrifice, we don't offer up sacrifices for sin. We offer up the obedience, the spirit wrought obedience, that God desires from his people, and in that God is creating the people that he has wanted from the beginning. And this is why, in the New Testament, we have versus like this in Romans twelve one, where we are called to present your our bodies, your bodies as a living sacrifice wholly and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship, or Hebrews Thirteen, fifteen and sixteen. Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is the fruit of lips that acknowledges his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are...

...pleasing to God. You See, under the Old Testament, the Levites and priests were part of a system that was always commanding obedience, and then they were parting a part of a system that was always forgiving disobedience. But in Christ we act as a part of a priesthood that, instead of doing those kinds of things, offers up obedience, instead of sacrifices for sin, we give him the thing that he wants. Now we do that not because we are perfect in ourselves, but because Christ is working in us, because we, who are united to him, are united to him not only in his kingship but in his priesthood as well, and so we have the promises of God fulfilled. In Jesus, that David's greater son, we are a part of a royal priesthood that we may proclaim the Excellency's of God. Revelation one six, to give you one more verse, says to Him who loves US and has freed us from our sins by his blood and has made us a kingdom priests to his God and father, be glory and dominion forever. This is who we are. We are these names that are written here in first chronicles fifteen, when they just as they served in the temple, we also serve in the temple of the Lord, but we know now that that is his people gathered together in his name, and that is the remarkable thing that we do. When we give of our lives to one another in love, when we lift up our hearts in thankfulness and praise to God, we are workers in his house, servants in his name, those who have been consecrated by the very blood of Christ to be wholly and to be good servants of him. Throughout the Bible there are reminders that it is good and pleasant to serve the Lord, to be wholly and to be known and called to serve in his name. This is our calling, this is our blessing, as it comes to us in Jesus. So let us serve him, let us rejoice in him, let us offer up our whole bodies as sacrifices of praise that are acceptable and pleasing to him. Let's pray and ask that God would make these things so.

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