We are, for the most part, a materialistic people. We live in an age of abundance.
We’ve all heard stories of families being torn apart over finances. Whether is debt or arguments over inheritance… it’s all the same. We all want what we consider to be ours!
As a child I can remember being concerned over equality of portions. It didn’t matter what it was: candy, cake, time, etc… Many times I robbed myself of my own enjoyment of whatever it was that I had just out of concern for what the other person had.
We’ve all done it! If you haven’t ever rushed to eat a slice of pizza as fast as you can so you can be the first to get up and get the last piece then you probably aren’t human… or a pizza lover like myself.
In fact, equality is a HUGE issue in today’s world.
When thinking about equality or “equal” portions my mind immediately goes to a story about one of the 12 tribes of Israel… the Levites.
We see part of that story concerning the Levites and their portion or inheritance in Numbers 18:20-23 where it says,
And the Lord said to Aaron, “You shall have no inheritance in their land, neither shall you have any portion among them. I am your portion and your inheritance among the people of Israel. To the Levites I have given every tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service that they do, their service in the tent of meeting, so that the people of Israel do not come near the tent of meeting, lest they bear sin and die. But the Levites shall do the service of the tent of meeting, and they shall bear their iniquity. It shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations, and among the people of Israel they shall have no inheritance.”
We see it discussed in Deuteronomy 18:1-2 as well when it says,
The Levitical priests, all the tribe of Levi, shall have no portion or inheritance with Israel. They shall eat the Lord’s food offerings as their inheritance. They shall have no inheritance among their brothers; the Lord is their inheritance, as he promised them.
So… what is going on here? The context of these passages goes a little like this… the land is being divvied up and the Levites are told that they don’t get a share!
How do you think that went over? Imagine having 11 siblings and a piece of family property is being divided up amongst you. When all eyes turn to you for your turn to receive a “portion” or piece you are shot down and told that you are the exception and don’t get to take part in the sharing. Feelings are probably going to be hurt and you are going to leave with a variety of emotions: anger, sadness, disappointment, etc.
You may be saying… Tanner I know there is more going on here with these passages. Give me the context.
When diving deeper into this subject we see that the Levites were the tribe of Israel in charge of the tabernacle and the sacred rituals. They were the priests of their time making sacrifices on behalf of the people.
How does this apply to us?
We are more like the Levites than most of us know or acknowledge. A study of the New Testament reveals that now because of the work of Christ Jesus all of us Christians are adopted and saved into a priesthood of believers. Peter said in 1 Peter 2:5,
You too are living stones, built as an edifice of spirit, into a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
Revelation 1:5b-6 says,
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
The Levites were priests and now because of Jesus we are too!
Now that we have established our priesthood what is next? Below, we will break it down into some particular points for organizations sake and develop our idea of living as a priest.
- We must offer a sacrifice.
Now, because of this “priesthood” we have been given all Christians can offer unto God spiritual sacrifices. In fact, it really isn’t that we “can,” offer sacrifices… we SHOULD!
Romans 12:1 says,
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
The good news is that we don’t need anybody except Jesus to mediate this transaction!
Hebrews 4:14-16 says,
All have the right to go directly to God through Jesus Christ, our High Priest.
So I hate to break it to you… but when it comes to offering sacrifices and living like the Levites (priests) our equality is tossed aside. In all actuality our sacrifice starts with “our” portion.
When we give up what we think to be “our” portion we actually gain the best inheritance of all… Jesus!
- We must live as a Levite.
Some of you may glance at that sub-heading and say, “This dude is crazy. I’m not giving up everything I have (food, shelter, money) and managing a Tabernacle or “tent church.”
But if you will hear me out I promise you that it will be beneficial.
When thinking about my personal priesthood and the priesthood of believers I wonder… do we really understand the magnitude of importance in being priests according to the new covenant?
1 Peter 2: 9 says,
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
Many of us when reading that passage immediately notice that we are chosen, but too many of us miss or ignore the purpose for which we have been chosen. The turning point in the verse happens right smack dab in the middle with the three simple words,
“that you may”
We have been chosen to fulfill the purpose of proclaiming Christ’s excellencies here on earth!
Therefore, what does it mean for us to live in accordance to our type of priestly calling? Worshiping, serving, and praying for each other is certainly a good start. Our ultimate calling is to walk as Christ walked.
The verse out of 1 Peter 2 continues on in verses 11-12 to present us with ways to live as a chosen priest. It says,
Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
Hebrews 13:15 says,
Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.
One thing I do find important to point out is that not every Levite had the same role. When studying the Levites we can find out that there were four divisions of the tribe of Levi. Some handled the primary priestly roles and others fell into “supporting” roles.
Some Levites made the sacrifices and handled the sacred rituals and artifacts. Others served by doing the on-going maintenance, disassembly, transport, and erecting of the Tabernacle, etc.
An understanding of this can help us to avoid frustration. We are all chosen for the ultimate purpose of proclaiming Christ… but the methods may be different. Obviously all of us can’t be pastors, worship leaders, Sunday school teachers, etc. But, we all can be servants which is ultimately what a priest is.
- We shall not want.
The Levites (priests) were called to give up their inheritance and portion to follow the call on their lives.
There is a story of a rich young ruler in Matthew who asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. In that story we see the dangers of trying to follow Jesus but hold on to our “stuff.” When Jesus told him to sell all he had, give to the poor, and then follow Jesus, the rich young ruler refused because he trusted his “portion” to satisfy his needs.
We see that story in Matthew 19:16:22,
And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
When the Day of Judgment comes which inheritance do you want to hold? The inheritance of Jesus or the inheritance of the world?
We know to live like Christ we must trust in Him solely to satisfy and fulfill our needs. Ultimately, He is sufficient.
In Luke 9:58 Jesus says,
“Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
If Jesus is the ultimate high priest and we are to model our priesthood after His then I think the command and call is simple.
- We must hold fast to our inheritance in Christ.
Hebrews 10:23 says,
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.
We should hold fast to our inheritance given by Christ because out of the twelve tribes of the Israel the Lord chose one to be His own. The Levites. The priests.
Numbers 3:45b says,
The Levites shall be mine: I am the Lord.
Because we have been chosen we must hold fast because our inheritance is greater than anything we can attain here on earth.
Psalm 16:5 says,
The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup.
Lamentations 3:24 says,
The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in him.