Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode · 6 years ago

Why The Levites Matter (1 Chronicles 23)

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Rev. Christopher Chelpka

Well, feel free to re main seated as I read tonight from First Chronicles, Chapter Twenty three. I'm going to read this passage and it's going to stand as something of a placeholders, not the word I want, but it's going to to be a sampling, we might say, of this chapter, as well as the following chapters, which I'll have all together in my mind tonight, twenty three through twenty six actually, and even a little bit of twenty seven. But I'll just be reading twenty three tonight and I'll explain a little bit more in a minute. Well, let's give our attention to God's word. Here we read and we hear of David. I'm not only preparing the materials for the temple, but also the servants for the temple. When David was old and full of days, he made Solomnon his son King over Israel. David assembled all the leaders of Israel and the priests and the Levites. The Levites thirty years old and upward were numbered, and the total was thirty eight thousand men. Twenty four thousand of these, David said, shall have charge of the work in the House of the Lord. Six thousand shall be officers and judges, four thousand gatekeepers and four thousand shall offer praises to the Lord with instruments that I've made for praise and David organized them in divisions corresponding to the sons of Levi, Gershawn, Kohath and Mera marry Mary. The sons of Gershon were Leiden and Shemai, the sons of Leyden J Yel, the chief and Zetham and Joel Three. The sons of Shemai shellamoth, Haziel and Harun three. These were the heads of their father's houses. Of Leiden, and the sons of Shemai, Jay Haf, Zinnah and Jet Joush and Beriah. These four were the sons of Shemay Jay half was. Jay Haf was the chief and Zizza the second, but Jush and Beaa did not have many sons. Therefore they became counted as a single father's house. The sons of Kowaf, Amram is, Har Hebron Uzel, for the sons of Amram Aaron and Moses, Aaron was set apart to dedicate the most holy things that he and his sons forever should make offerings before the Lord and Minister to him and pronounced blessings in his name forever. The Sons of Moses, the man of God, were named among the tribe of Levi. The Sons of Moses, Gersham and Eliezer. The sons of Gersham Shebu well, the chief, the sons of Eliezar Reyabia. The chief. Eliezar had no other sons,...

...but the sons of Yabia were very many. The sons of Ishar, Shell am if, the chief, the sons of Hebron, Jarahjeria, the chief, a Mariah the second, Jahasil the third and Jechamm the fourth. The sons of Uziel, Mike of the chief, and is Sheia the second. The sons of Merari, Moli and Mushi, the sons of Molli, Eliezar and Kiss Eliezar died having no sons, but only daughters, their kinsmen, the sons of Kish married them. The sons of Mushi, Molli, edder and jeremoth three. These were the sons of Levin by their father's houses, the heads of father's houses, as they were listed according to the number of the names of the individuals, from twenty years old and upward, who were to work or who were to do the work for the service of the House of Jehovah, the House of the Lord. For David said, Jehovah, the God of Israel, has given rest to his people and he dwells in Jerusalem forever. And so the Levites no longer needed to carry the tabernacle or any of the things for its service. For, by the last words of David, the sons of Levi were numbered from twenty years old and up, were for their duty was to assist the sons of Erin for the service of the House of the Lord, having the care of the courts and the chambers, the cleansing of all that is holy and any work for the service of the House of God. Their duty was also to assist with the showbread, the flower for the grain offering, the wafers of unlove and bread, the baked offering, the offering mixed with oil and all measures of quantity or size. And they were to stand every morning thanking and praising the Lord, and likewise at evening and whenever burnt offerings were offered to the Lord, on Sabbaths, new moons and feast days, according to the number required of them, regularly before the Lord. Thus they were to keep charge of the tent of meeting and the sanctuary and to attend the sons of Aaron their brothers for the service of the House of the Lord. May God bless his word to us. Well, I'm going to do the opposite of what I did this morning. This morning I took a rather large passage and zero down on a single word and spent a whole sermon focusing on on that word, and will do so in some following words in there in Romans nine. Here I'm doing the opposite, it were, zooming up to thirtyzero feet to look at the whole I'm not just a few sentences or chat or or paragraphs, but even several chapters. I'm here in Chapter Twenty three, twenty four, twenty five,...

...twenty six, and also a little bit in twenty seven. We see a David really organizing the servants for the temple and we have this listing of the tribe of Levi's duties. Now, why would David single out the tribe of Levi? Why not talk about Judah or someone else? Well, it's because the temple is what he's very concerned about right this is what he's been concerned about, what he's been focusing on for several chapters now. As the king has gone in a statin been established by God on His throne. So, to the Ark of God, the king of kings is to have his place established and he has promised that God, that is, has promised that Solomon David Son would build a temple. And so in the last chapter, I'm we focused on David's preparations of those materials. We talked about the vast quantities of gold and and silver and and all the rest. Here we have this vast quantity of people. I'm not just King Solomon watching over the project, ruling over the people, but Levites and priests, priests and Levites. If you imagined yourself as having a large stadium or something like that, think about what it would be required to keep it running, to service it. What would you need? Well, you'd need people in charge of lighting, security, the lawn, if, let's say it's a football field or a baseball field or something like that. You have maintenance repairs, you'd have scheduling issues, you'd have all kinds of things and you probably have departments of people. Right so big as this building and so so much traffic comes into it, so many people are involved in the process that you're going to put a lot of energy into the service of that work. Everything would fall apart really quickly if you built a beautiful stadium and then you know you just tried to do your best to keep it up. You you wouldn't stand a chance right well, it's a similar thing with the service I'm here with the temple, except instead of building a stadium for play, God is building a temple for worship, for communion with his people, and so he has these these this group of people, one of the tribes leave, devoted to caring for these things, and that's what we read about here. A basic understanding about the Levites and the priests is probably not the most important thing on your priority list, but let me assure you that understanding who these people were, what this tribe is, actually does make a difference, not only for our general understanding...

...of the Old Testament and understanding what we might call our own family history, but in understanding something about Jesus, about who we are, who God wants us to be. So let's consider this group, the tribe of Levi, the priests and the Levites. This in the evening. I want to begin by just thinking about these basic terms, priest and levite. Now in the Bible they can be used in a variety of ways. In fact, you'll probably get yourself into trouble if you can give definitions that are more narrow than the Bible has. You'll find yourself a creating all kinds of endless puzzles and contradictions and it can be rather confusing. But if you will have a broader definition of these a broader definition which includes generally how these things work, you'll find that it all sorts out fairly neatly. Essentially, what you have is one of the tribes of God's people, Levi, one of the sons. Believe he was the third son, and under this group you have essentially two groups of people, Blood Division within this tribe, the priests and the Levites. And I realize that can be a little confusing because Levi is the tribe and then you have a group of people within the group called the Levites, but there it is, deal with it. So you have Levi and then under that you have this division between the priests and the Levites. The division is expressed in verse thirteen of this chapter. The sons of Amrm Aaron and Moses. Aaron was set apart to dedicate the most holy things, that he and his son's should ever make offerings before Jehovah and Minister to him and pronounce blessings in his name forever. But the sons of Moses, the man of God, were named among the tribe of Levi. So you have this division of Labor. Well, how does the Labor work out? The priests are of a higher order than the Levites and they're devoted in particular to dealing with the altar. They are the ones who deal with the blood, who are doing the sprinkling, who are offering these things up to God. Now, sometimes we are a little confused and we think that it's the priests that are offering the sacrifices. In a sense, not true. It was the worshippers responsibility to sacrifice the animal. You'll say you, as the head of your household, would bring an animal to come and have it sacrificed. You would be doing the one that would be doing the cutting. Now, the priest would take that blood and would applied in certain ways and would deal with it. He was in charge. He was in charge of that altar in particular, the sacrifice is the offerings and those kinds of things. But in order for that to happen there was this whole complex of other duties that were required, and those went to the Levites. You follow me so far, priests...

...and the Levites. This group of Levites could be divided up into about four categories. There are temple servants and people most directly in the temple. There are musicians that are described in chapter twenty five, there are gatekeepers that are described in chapter twenty six, and then also various kinds of officials. This is a list that's given to us at the beginning of Chapter Twenty three, when we read in verse four, of those who help charge of the work in the House of God. There will be officers and judges, gatekeepers and those who offer praises to the Lord with instruments that I have made for praise. Well, that list that's given there in verse twenty or in the beginning of twenty three, gets reversed a little bit. The last three get reversed and essentially what you have is a progression from the center of the temple, the holiest place, outward to let places that are less and less holy. So you have the temple servants, and then the musicians and connection with them, and the gatekeepers in connection with them, and then finally, the officials. Now, when you take these general titles and begin to dig into the text to look at their duties, you find out that there's an awful lot. Again, think back to your stadium, example, and all the things that would be required just for, let's say, keeping the lights on. Well, imagine, for example, what would be required to take care of the accounting at the temple. Imagine all of the money that's being brought in on a regular basis. Imagine the kind of security that would be needed to protect that. Imagine the kind of things that would be necessary to account for it and watch over it. Then you have, on top of of all of this, not just a general accounting of these things, but there's a ceremonial process on top of it. All things must be kept holy in the temple, and so there were all kinds of rules and regulations that these men had to watch carefully over, had to be careful about. There were various cleansings and furniture that had to be watched. That's all within the temple. Then, as we saw in an earlier tap chapter. There were musicians. These musicians were divided up and all kinds of categories, choirs and trumpeters and all kinds of things that had to specialize in their particular area. Then there were the gatekeepers, people in charge of making sure that the people who came in were properly clean and those who weren't were properly kept out. There were people that Levites, who are in charge of teaching the word of God, almost like pastors in a sense. I'm teaching and training. There were officials who are a charge of money and accounting and people who are in charge of even making judgments about decisions. There was a very big job because this, this was the center of Israel, this was her capital, the main building...

...aside from the king's palace. This is the most important thing, even above the king's palace. This is the center, the heart of the people. So just as the capitals of our cities and states and countries are busy places with all kinds of departments and people, so too would be the temple. The priests would be particularly devoted to the arc and manipulating the blood. The Levites would be supporting that work and cleansing and purity and accounting and prophesying and all kinds of other things. And that's essentially what we have in these chapters, is David's organizing of these people, of these groups. What are we to observe from all of this? What difference does this make to us? I think there are a lot of things we could think about and reflect on, but let me mention a three. The first thing we see is that the temple is about worship. God could have built another kind of building, right, you could have built a stadium if you wanted. The Nation of Israel could have all been about sports, right. Or God could have built them all. He could have filled it with all kinds of shop and commerce, of various kinds of Sandal shop over here, get your wine over here, vineyard supplies, what you name it, a big mall properly devoted to making a lot of money. That's not the center of Israel either. The center of Israel, the point of communion between God and his people, is not a stadium, it's not a mall, it's not a park, it's a temple. That's significant, isn't it? Because God is there not just to rule, but it is about worship. Israel is about worship. When our connection with God, our communion with God, our relationship with God, is defined in this way, it's about worship. Sometimes I meet people who seem to have this idea that one might have a relationship with God and even believe in him, in a sense, trust in him, or something like that, and yet worship has no part of their lives. Worship is unimportant, whether that's the formal, corporate worship that we are enjoying right now, or whether that's private worship, Bible reading, prayer, devoting oneselfs and it oneself and in good works to God. Some people seem to believe that we can have a relationship with God, that worship is a thing on the periphery, a thing you might do if you have time, a thing that might be important if you get around to it. Yeah, sure, a helpful...

...thing, something that's good for encouraging our hearts, but this is something that God demands in relationship to him. He places the Temple and at the center of Israel, because Israel is a kingdom of worshippers, and the same is true in the New Testament when God constitutes us us a people. You remember what we considered last time from passages like a first Peter where he describes us as being living stones being built up into a Holy Temple. Your relationship with God, in Jesus Christ, is about worship, isn't it? If we are a temple, if the Holy Spirit is dwelling in us, then that's what God wants. He doesn't build us up living stones into a stadium or a mall or big open space or hiking trail, all nice things. God wants our worship. What is that worship? Well, it of all several things. Involves humbling ourselves. Worship as an act of submission, isn't it? Worship is an act of going before God and saying you deserve worship, you deserve my praise, you deserve my thanksgiving. It's to treat him not as a business partner or a plaything or someone or a therapist, but it's to treat God as a God, as the God, as our God. Worship also involves sacrifice, and we see that in the priesthood, don't we? To go before God, to have communion with God, to worship God requires something of us, and that is a clean heart. The Psalm say who shall send the hill of the Lord? WHO shall come up to Mount Zion. Who shall worship God, and it's the one who's holy, the one who does what is right, the one who obeys God's Commandments. That's what God requires. But in order for that, for that to happen, because of our sinfulness, there has to be a sacrifice, and that's why the temple, in addition to being a very magnificent and beautiful place, with all of its architecture and columns and and paintings and and carvings and gold and silver and Cedar, was also a place that was very bloody. I wish I could see what it looked like. I try to imagine it sometimes, what years of blood caked onto the altar would look like, what it smell like. I don't know. As beautiful as a place it was, it was also a bloody place, but the bloody was it was grotesque in the sense that there was sin that was being dealt with, but it's also beautiful...

...in the sense that sin is being dealt with, God's grace being given to us, atonement for our sins, forgiveness in such an to such a degree that God would say that he is pleased with us and desires to meet with us and be with us and accept us as pleasing in his sight. The temple is about worship. Worship is about sacrifice for sin. Worship is about humbling oneself. Worship is about giving God his due, and the same is true for us today. When we come to worship, we come with humility, we come giving God what is rightfully his praise and honor and glory, but we come with sacrifice. None of you showed up this evening, I see, with any animals. But there's a reason for that, isn't there? Because the blood of Jesus covers the need for every sacrifice once and for all perfectly. He takes care of it so that you don't have to throw lambs in the back of the minivan on the way to church, so that you don't have to come and slaughter an animal and think about your sins again and again, and so that the priesthood wouldn't have to continually offer up these sacrifices again and again and again. Hebrews Chapter Ten tells us that Jesus offered his perfect sacrifice once and for all. We come with our bibles and praises on our tongues, knowing that Jesus is sacrifice is complete and we have forgiveness in him. It's in that spirit and on that ground that we worship. A second thing we can notice about the importance of this chapter and these priests and the leavines is that, instead of just an empty temple, it was Phil with these people that God desired to serve a serve him, and not just serve him, but serve the people. They were really there on behalf of the people. In other words, the priests and the Levites were not just there for themselves and not just therefore God, but they were God's tool to be there for all the rest of Israel. Here's another way to think about it. The priests and the Levites is really read about them and all their divisions and specialties and all whatnot. We're not a specialized worshiping class in which you could belong to some other tribe and say, well, I don't need to worry about worship, leave eyes got it. Levies. Taking that part of our taking care of that part of the Kingdom. Not So.

Levi. I was not there to take care of worship for everyone else. Leave. I was there to assist in worship, to serve the people in worship. So, for example, those that played instruments were given, we're commanded to play these instruments so that those who would come and worship could be assisted in the singing. Unto God, the priests and the Levites were there to sacrifice, yes, but there were worshippers who had to come and sacrifice. It's similar for us in the New Testament as Christians. We have a levitical class, so to speak. We have servants in the temple that are devoted full time or by vocationally, sometimes too, the worship of God. We have ministers, we have elders, we have deacons, we have these offices that God has especially appointed people that God is especially called to serve in this way. But just like the Levites of old, they serve in the temple of the Lord not as a specialized worshiping class, but as servants to us all, as worshipers. They are extensions of what we might call the General Office of the believer. We are all prayers, we are all singers, we are all preachers, we are all elders and deacons. And a very real sense, are not all of us called to minister to the needs of one another? Are Not each of us given gifts so that we might use them in the service to God in his church. Are Not all of us given the word of God that we might share it with others? We are, and this means just like Israel couldn't never come to the temple or never show up with their sacrifice because, well, the Levites have it covered, you also have a responsibility of they to God as a worshiper, to come before him and to worship him. There is a distinction, of course, there are those that are called particularly to serve, to lead, direct command a teach, but this is something we're all called to do and to build one another up in. You get both the distinction and the calling in an important verse in Ephesians. Let me read it to you. It's Ephesians for a verse eleven, speaking of Jesus, the Apostle says, and he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and the teachers. These are the gifts that Paul says. He pours out on the churches.

But notice what their job is. To equip the saints for the work of Ministry, FOR BUILDING UP The body of Christ, until we all attain the unity of faith in the knowledge of the son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. You see, where as a calling that God has on each of our lives, a gifting that he has given each of us. In Our last Membership Vale, for those of you who have taken it or have heard it, you remember it says, do you promise to participate faithfully in this Church's worship and service? That's a vow that it's not just for ministers to take, but it's for all of us to take. The temple of the Lord that he is building up with us, these living stones on the foundation of Jesus Christ, are great sacrifice, is one in which he calls us all to think about the gifts that we've been given, to consider what it is God has given us, in particular how we might serve the body, how we might worship the Lord. So this effects how we live and worship in the Kingdom of God, doesn't it? The facts how we think about ourselves in relation to the temple. There's a reason that Peter says of the Church in general that they are the Christians. We are a royal priesthood, one third thing I'll draw your attention to us we close, is, as we think about our duties as Christians, we have to go back again think about the foundation of Jesus as that foundation of the temple are great sacrifice. This is very important because it means that there has been a chain inge and in fact it is Jesus and his sacrifice that has created this change. You see this in Colossians and then you see it again in Hebrews. Let me explain. Do you remember what the Levites were in charge of before this temple was put into process or was being built? What were the Levites in charge of before? They were musicians and accountants and keepers of the vessels and all these kinds of things. Yeah, they had to carry the ARC. That's what they had to do. They were in charge of putting the tent up, taking it down, rolling it, putting it together, constructing it and moving it from place to place. This was their job. But their job changes, doesn't it? There's a change in the priesthood a little bit little bit, when the chant, when when the place of worship changes from the tent or the Tabernacle to the temple? I bring this point up because there it's similar to...

...what happens in the New Testament, only too much to greater degree. If there was a change in the priesthood as we moved from Tabernacle to temple. Can you imagine what would happen if the temple, this building, this physical building in a particular place, became a spiritual building that is worldwide and made of people? You might expect a change in the priesthood, wouldn't you? It's one way to look at it. Another way to look at it is through the sacrifices, and this is what the author of Hebrews says. So, for example, in ten four, he says, for it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me? In Burns offerings and Sin Offerings? You've taken no pleasure. Then I said, behold, I have come to do your willow God, as it is written in me of me in the scroll of the book of life. And then again, going for a little further down, we read in Verse Ten, I'm very sorry, in verse nine he does away with the first order in order to establish the second. You hear the change. there. Jesus comes and offers his body on the cross to do away with the old order. This means that those people who desire to go back to the temple, to go back to the sacrifices, are entirely out of order, because Jesus came to do away with the first order. Why? In order to establish the second. And then there's a conclusion, and by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all. This tells us that when we live in this world, we don't live in a templess world. We don't live in a godless world, a worshipless world, a communionless world. We don't need to read about the temple in First Chronicles and go, oh, how awesome that would have been, how wonderful it would have been to see all that and to participate on all that. Boy, I wish we could do that. I wish we could be that close to God. I wish we could have this great priesthood and all of these levites. We don't need to long and look back, because God has given us something even better. He's given us something that is eternal, something that's imperishable, something that the author to Hebrews will go on to say later, is unshakable. It can't be shaken, it can't be destroyed. The centrality of the priesthood and the sacrifice and the blood and all of the Levites is they attend...

...around that, serving to the needs of their brothers in Arin. All reminds us and points us to the eternal priesthood and effectual sacrifice of Jesus Christ. When Jesus Christ went to the Cross, and other words he died to forgive us of our sins, yes, but to US establish something new. The temple was a it's not gone just because that's gone, I don't know. It's gone because Jesus removed it, and that should be significant for us as Christians. It should be a significant that he removed it, that he did away with the priesthood, that he did away with the offerings and instead rose again from the dead and establishes us in him. So it means when we go to worship, when we seek holiness, we don't do it through the sacrifices and various washings and sacrifices and feasts to make us holy. Instead, we do it in Jesus, and everything that we do, whether you're a full time minister or not, is focused in on that thing, is focused in on the worship of God, preaching the Cross, serving in accord with the cross, suffering under the Cross, celebrating the Cross. Just as the Levites all were surrounded and devoted to serving Aaron, and so do to disserving so those sacrifices could take place in the temple. We all do the same, except not around Arin, around Jesus. That's why we're always talking about him, that's why we're always devoted to him. That's why we, as a holy pre stood that are called by God to serve him, are devoted to Jesus Christ, the role of the temple and the servants. It's all expanded, it's all better, it's all more permanent, and this is what God has done for us. Knowing that, I'll ask you a personal question. Will that affect the way you think about your worship? Well, that affect the way you think and sort through things in your mind. When you say, how can I serve my brother this Sunday? How can I serve my sister over the course of this week. How might I offer myself to do good? How might I offer myself to do God as a pleasing sacrifice? You are priests. You are priests. God has called you to serve him and to worship him, but not after the old order, after a new one, a permanent one and imperishable one. Let us pray, then,...

...and ask that God would help us to serve him and to worship him as he deserves.

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