Door of Faith – Lesson Eight

Purpose of the Levitical Priesthood


God’s abandonment of the order of the Melchizedek Priesthood in favor of the Levitical Priesthood was another of His major moves in history.  It was a temporary arrangement until Jesus Christ “was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.” Heb. 5:10.  Most of Jacob’s offspring had lost their faith in the covenants God made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob while they were slaves in Egypt.  One purpose of the category of law in the Levitical Priesthood was to make Israel conscious of their sins (Rom. 3:19, 20).

The Levitical Priesthood was not an improvement for developing Israelites as children of God (Gal. 3:19-22).  Children cannot be developed under a law that causes them to feel guilt that leads to shame about their short comings (Rom. 3:19, 20; 5:13, 14).  God knows this and parents should.  Successful parents rear their children according to the purpose and way God created them.  “If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical Priesthood (for on the basis of it the law was given to the people), why was there still need for another priest to come – one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron?” Heb. 7:11.  The value of the Levitical Priesthood was to tutor and govern Israel, the Lord’s firstborn son, until the time was right for God to change back to an order similar to the Melchizedek Priesthood (Ex. 4:22; Gal. 4:2).  “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we possess.”  Heb. 4:14.

God’s first major move came when He blocked mankind’s right to the “tree of life.”  The result was both physical and spiritual death for mankind (I Cor. 15:22).  He took this action in regard to physical death because of the useless struggle for mankind to live forever in a physical body with the capacity of knowing good and evil (Gen. 3:22).  Physical death is a blessing for people after living “under the sun” for seventy or eighty years (Psa. 90:10).  Evidently God feels people have enough time to produce offspring in a marriage relationship; nurture their children in a healthy family environment and develop themselves as His children.  Physical death of mankind did not cancel God’s purpose for His creation.  The eternal plot in God’s story is to house His children’s spirits in a new body after the resurrection (I Cor. 15:50; Phil. 3:20, 21).  After being outfitted in our new heavenly bodies we will be permitted to get back to the “tree of life” in the spiritual city of God in heaven (Rom. 8:18-25; Rev. 22:12-16).

God’s second major move was made to protect the spiritual/mental environment of Noah and his family of eight from Satan’s culture in the world (Gen 6:8; Heb. 11:7).  The leaders and parents of all the remaining people in the world during Noah’s time were confined to their “boxes of life” without God’s fellowship and guidance (Gen. 6:1-7).  Satan’s people had become a threat to God’s predestined purpose for creating mankind.  Their influence on Noah and his family could have eradicated the last family on earth who had faith in God.

God’s third major move exalted one nation over the other nations (Gen. 12:1-3).  This resulted in one Israelite nation and all other nations, the Gentiles (Eph. 2:11-13).  Abraham and Sarah’s descendants were identified as Israel.  They were also called “Jews” about the time Israel was being carried into Babylon captivity.  See II Kings 16:6 where the Hebrew word translated Jew or Judaite is “yehhoodee.”  Also see Jer. 34:9 and Esther 2:5.  The other nations were identified as the Gentiles (Isa. 42:6).  All nations came from Noah’s sons.

In this third move, God offered covenants to the nation of Israel.  The covenants included physical and spiritual blessings for the satisfaction of all the needs God had created in human beings.  The Israelites’ faith in His covenants was credited to them as righteousness (Gen. 15:6).  The doctrine of justification by faith gave them a peaceful relationship with God.  In this peaceful fellowship they could improve their own character and personality in holiness (Deut. 7:6-9).  The Gentiles should have been blessed by witnessing God through physical Israel; however, at times the reverse had happened (Gen. 18:18; Rom. 2:24).

The fourth major move of God happened on Mount Sinai.  This move was different in purpose from the earlier moves.  The intent of the previous moves was to separate the covenant keepers from the covenant breakers.  God changed to the Levitical Priesthood with the category of law He gave to Moses to recover the Israelites from their sin of being “ignorant covenant breakers.”  Something had gone very wrong in their “family life” environment during the time Israel was in Egypt.  People with faith in God’s covenants had once again become an “endangered species” on earth.  The change of priesthood brought Israel under “tutors and governors” until the Christ came (Gal. 4:2-5).  The aim of this lesson is to understand how the Levitical Priesthood benefitted Israel and God’s eternal plan to have them as children in His kingdom.  


The Israelites Moses led out of Egypt on “eagles’ wings” were mostly descendants of Jacob’s twelve sons (Numbers 26:2; Ex. 12:37, 38; 19:4).  God made this major move about fifteen hundred years before John, the Baptist, was sent as a forerunner of the Christ.  The change from the Melchizedek Priesthood to the Levitical Priesthood was a “step down” in the manner God maintained His relationship with the offspring of Abraham through the descendants of Jacob.  We have not been told the exact time God decided to make this change.  Levi was not blessed by his father, Jacob, to serve as priest during Israel’s sojourn in Egypt (Gen. 49:5, 6).   However, Moses and Aaron were chosen by God from the offspring of Levi to lead the Israelites out of Egypt (Ex. 6:16-27).  The Levites distinguished themselves by standing with Moses at the time the people rebelled and persuaded Aaron to make an idol in the form of a golden calf as their god (Ex. 32:25-29).

God chose the tribe of Levi to serve as the priestly tribe with Aaron and his family as the first line of high priests.  Approximately three hundred years later, Eli was serving as high priest in Aaron’s family line.  Because Eli did not control his sons, “Solomon removed Abiathar,” the last of Eli’s family, from the high priest line.  See I Sam. 2:30-35; I Kgs. 2:27.  God chose Zadok and his household as the new family to serve as high priests (I Kgs. 1:43, 44).

Now a man came to Eli and said to him, this is what the Lord says: ‘Did I not clearly reveal Myself to your father’s house when they were in Egypt under Pharaoh?  I chose your father out of all the tribes of Israel to be My priest, to go up to My altar, to burn incense, and to wear the ephod in My presence.  I also gave your father’s house all the offerings made with fire by the Israelites.’  I Sam. 2:27, 28

God gave the decrees, commands and laws accompanying the Levitical Priesthood to Moses on Mt. Sinai after the Israelites arrived in the Desert of Sinai (Ex. 19:1, 2, 10, 11).  “Then Moses took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people.  They responded, ‘We will do everything the Lord said; we will obey.’” Ex. 24:7.  After this, “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Come up to Me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and commands I have written for their instruction.’”  Ex. 24:12.  The Ten Commandments instructed the people how to maintain fellowship with God and their neighbors (Ex. 20:1-17).  The Law of Moses functioned from the outside in; whereas, the law of life describes how the spirit of man develops from the inside out (Matt. 5:21-32; Heb. 10:16, 17).  The covenant God gave Israel through the Levitical Priesthood dealt first with the behavior of a person.  When an Israelite’s behavior missed the mark unintentionally, which is sin, their conscience received a guilty mark (Lev. 4:27).  Their sin ruled their lives until restitution was made according to God’s requirement (John 8:34).  There is no sin offering for intentional sin, or willful sin (Lev. 5:15; Heb. 10:26).  The Apostle Paul explained how the Law of Moses worked in Rom. 7:7-13.

 We have no information about why the Israelites lost their faith during their 430 year sojourn in Egypt; however, let us consider some weaknesses and sins that could have had long range corruptive consequences.  All children grow up in a “box of life” developed by their parents.  The culture in which the children live during their formative years may form their outlook, or “world view,” for the remainder of their lives.  See the Introduction of this series of lessons.  Moses said some children may suffer the consequence of “the sins of their fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate God.”  Deut. 5:9.  Although children are not responsible for their father’s sins, they may suffer because of the negative environment their parents created for them in their formative years (Ezek. 18:19-23).

Jacob did not abide by God’s marriage covenant in which one woman and one man become one flesh (Gen 29:14-30; Gen. 2:24, 25).  Consequently, a marriage based on the “wisdom of men” covenant may have developed children who were insensitive – even to their own siblings.  Children who had been reared in a family setting, or “box of life,” with one father and four mothers may have had trouble understanding God’s true family covenant – one woman and one man (Gen. 2:24).  Jacob’s children grew up in an unhealthy mental environment.  See Gen. 29:16 – 30:24.  The behavior of ten of Jacob’s twelve sons revealed the absence of brotherly love.  Several of Jacob’s sons desired to kill their brother, Joseph; not for money or glory, they were simply jealous.  All of them agreed to sell their brother into slavery and lie to their father about his existence (Gen. 37:17-36).

These were the men who were responsible for rearing their children according to God’s “requirements, commands, decrees and laws” during the order of the Melchizedek Priesthood (Gen. 26:5).  Their children produced the multitude of Israelites Moses led out of Egypt by God’s mighty hand (Ex. 15:6, 17).  Most of these Israelites revealed a tendency to be “stiff-necked” even after they had seen God destroy the Egyptian economy with several plagues (Ex. 5:21; 14:10-12; 16:2; Deut. 9:6; 10:16; Acts 7:51).  Stiff-necked people want what they want and they want it now; based on their own wisdom and righteousness.  Stiff-necked people don’t function well in marriage.  Selfish hard-hearted fathers and mothers may have played a role in the degradation of the children of Israel while in Egypt.  Moses allowed divorce because their “hearts were hard.”  Matt. 19:4-9.  God wrote the Ten Commandments on stone; not on their hard hearts (Ex. 34:1).  The laws of the new covenant are being written on the hearts and minds of Christians (Heb. 8:10).

God does hate divorce (Mal. 2:16): But why?  Is it merely because it is His law; consequently, people must obey God Almighty?  Or is it because God holds parents responsible for rearing His children for Him?  See Isaiah 43:5-7; Ezekiel 16:20-22; Matt. 18:1-9; Eph. 6:4.  Parents cooperate with God to properly rear His and, for a while, our children.  Married life involves more than a man and woman becoming one in a sexual relationship.  Both parties must have the same goals for their own self-development and their children’s mental, spiritual and physical health (II Cor. 6:14-18).  One of the reasons God arranged for Abraham’s descendants to kill, or drive out, all the non-Israelites from Canaan was to preserve His marriage covenant for rearing children (Deut. 7:1-6).  He did not want the sons of God to marry the daughters of men as they did in Noah’s day (Gen. 6:1, 2).  God’s marriage covenant was established in the Garden of Eden.  Jesus Christ validated the “Eden marriage covenant” for God’s people today (Matt. 5:31, 32).

The reason God wanted the Israelites to destroy the people who occupied the land He promised their forefathers was because these people worshiped idols (Deut. 7:5, 16, 25, 26; 9:3-6).  Idolatry was another reason God separated the descendants of Abraham from what became known as the Gentiles (Deut. 29:16-18).  The first and second of the Ten Commandments reveals God’s mind and heart about all forms of idolatry (Ex. 20:1-6; Deut. 4:15-19, 25-28).  Although God knows the condition of our hearts, He was testing the Israelites’ faith to determine how He would need to help them (Ex. 20:20; Luke 16:15).  God’s covenants with Israel’s forefathers were affirmed for them because of their faith; however, the promises in the covenants were valid for their children only if they had faith.  Faith was weak or missing in most of the Israelites when they left Egypt.  Still they sought some power outside themselves for the satisfaction of their innate needs for food and drink – perhaps even their higher needs.  So, while Moses was with God for forty days on Mt. Sinai, they persuaded Aaron to build an idol to represent a power greater than natural forces.  Upon its completion they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”  Ex. 32:4.  Greed is idolatry (Col. 3:5).  When people depend on money to satisfy the innate needs God created in us, we have a problem with idolatry.  Israel never overcame their idolatry problem.

God was ready to wipe all of them off the face of the earth; except for Moses and his family (Ex. 32:9, 10).  Moses pleaded and “the Lord relented and did not bring on His people the disaster He had threatened.”  Ex. 32:14.  God made this major move that involved a change of priesthoods to save the remnant who would decide to put their faith in His covenants.  God desired to save them all; however, only those with “children of promise” identity were the remnant who were saved (Rom. 9:27; Gal. 3:21, 22).  The Levitical Priesthood served as God’s major tool to bring the children of promise to Christ (Gal. 3:23-25).

Please note the aim of this lesson is to understand how this major move of God benefited His purpose for our creation as well as the Israelites.  This point is important for our understanding about “how to read a narrative.”  We read the individual narratives in God’s story in the Bible.  He has pieced these small stories together in a chronological time line in most of the narratives from Genesis through Esther.  While reading the individual stories we ask: “What is God doing in this narrative?”  We must be very alert about what God was doing when He made major moves such as He did with Adam, Noah, Abraham and now Moses.  We always want to know how these major moves promoted God’s purpose for creating us to be His eternal sons.  If we do not keep God’s purpose in mind about our own creation, we will not read the Bible stories according to God’s full intent for having them recorded (Rom. 16:25-27).

God is the protagonist, Satan is the antagonist and we are the people for which they are battling.  Both the protagonist and the antagonist will offer programs for the satisfaction of the innate needs God created within us.  We have been given the right to choose the programs we believe will work for us.  Jesus was not afraid to challenge the Israelites to test His teachings (John 7:16-19).   This could be called “experimental faith.”  Jesus was saying “just try my teaching to see if they came from God who created you.”  Christians make the same decision Joshua made when he said, “But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”  Josh. 24:15.  The Israelites who had entered Canaan said to Joshua, “We will serve the Lord our God and obey Him.”  Josh. 24:24.  However, belief and repentance is only the beginning of the battle for “children of promise.”  We must continue to live by faith in His covenants.  The multitude of the Israelites did not, but a remnant did; it happened as Isaiah predicted:

‘Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved.  For the Lord will carry out His sentence on earth with speed and finality.’  It is just as Isaiah said previously:  ‘Unless the Lord Almighty had left us descendants, we would have become like Sodom.  We would have been like Gomorrah.’  Rom. 9:27-29

The Levitical Priesthood was God’s choice for maintaining His kingdom in the Israelite nation.  The people were provided with a priesthood with which they could physically and spiritually interact.  God was the king; however, because of their spiritual weakness, He finally crowned a man named Saul for their king, as per their request (I Sam. 8:5; 12:12, 19, 20).  God never gave up His power as king to anyone, including Jesus Christ (I Tim. 6:15, 16; I Cor. 15:27, 28).  Israel was God’s kingdom on earth.  This is the subject of Lesson Nine in this series (I Chron. 28:5).

Because the Israelites were not ready to walk by faith, God finally provided them with a king and priest they could physically see and hear.  He used oral prophets to maintain His rule (Judges 4:4; II Sam. 7:4; II Kings 2:1, 2; Psa. 113:1-9).  God said, “I spoke to Moses face to face,” although Moses never actually saw God’s face (Num. 12:6-8; Ex. 33:12-23).  Samuel, an oral prophet, related messages from God to the people (I Sam. 2:26; 7:5; Acts 3:21-26).  Samuel also served as judge (I Sam. 7:15).  God’s challenge was to make the multitudes of people who had been in slavery for many years into a great nation, “so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God and that there is no other.”  I Kgs. 8:60.  Israel was God’s evangelism tool for the Gentiles; however, they often failed their commission (Rom. 2:17-24).   God’s Nation is the title of Lesson Nine.

It was God’s goal to develop faith in each Israelite so they would love Him as the provider for their innate needs.  “Without faith it is impossible to please God.”  Heb. 11:6.  First they had to give up their faith in idols.  It was a continual struggle for Israel; a struggle they often lost.  Next they had to become loving fathers and mothers so their children would not be selfish with their love for the less fortunate – a world problem.  A millennium later, Jesus told the Israelites, “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.  Matt. 22:37-39

The Israelite children could not “honor their fathers and mothers” if their parents did not keep the remaining five commandments God wrote on stone.  See Ex. 20:12-17.  A child has no choice but to believe what his or her parents believe. This condition for children generally remains until they are mature enough to understand abstract principles.  Israelite parents needed to hear, understand and believe the first commandment (Ex. 20:1-6; Deut. 6:1-9).  It was necessary for the Israelites to have faith in God to care for them before they could identify as “children of promise.”  In all periods of time, since Abraham, God’s people are identified as “children of promise.”  As Paul said, “For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.”  Rom. 9:6.  The Israelites who lived by faith during the Levitical Priesthood were children of the promises God made to their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Rom. 2:1-4, 28, 29; Gal. 6:15).

The physical care and spiritual guidance God offered in His covenants were designed to build faith in the Israelites.  See Ex. 19:5, 6; Ex 40:34-38; Lev. 26:3-13; Deut. 7:6; 8:1-9; 28:1-14.  People will only have faith in what we believe will give us hope of satisfaction for our innate basic and higher needs.  God does not try to scare people into having faith.  He offers us covenants through priesthoods.  The laws attached to these covenants describe how our spirits from God live in our bodies (Eccl. 12:7; II Cor. 4:7).  God supplies the physical and spiritual substance to give us hope for the satisfaction of our inherent needs.  Israelites who had faith in His covenants received the grace of the gift of righteousness.  We must understand all about God’s covenants to place our faith in them.

Another very important point about ourselves must be understood: We love, in a brotherly manner, those who we believe will help us find satisfaction for our needs.  We are speaking of the quality of love translated from the Greek word, philadelphia.  Some people love people although they may not offer help for their God-given needs.  This is agape love.  This is the love responsible parents have for their children.  It is the quality of love God has for His children and His enemies.  People must have faith that God knows how He created us and His covenants have been designed to fulfill why and how He created us (Matt. 6:25).  Please review Lessons One and Two.  We love God because He satisfies the innate needs He created in us.  This was Paul’s gospel appeal to the idol worshipers in Lystra (Acts 14:14-17).

The foregoing is how we can understand two of the reasons God chose to change to the Levitical Priesthood.  God moved in a highly visible and dynamic way to satisfy Israel’s basic needs.  He also promised them His fellowship, plus honor and glory as a nation, if they would obey His commands (Ex. 19:5, 6).  This would give them hope for the satisfaction of their higher needs for praise, honor and glory (I Pet. 1:7).  Those who recognized these blessings offered by the God of Abraham could be moved to grow in faith in His long range covenants.   They could even love God with all their hearts, souls and minds.  This love for God would also strengthen their love for their neighbors, if they believed their neighbors’ spirits also came from God and were designed in His likeness (Jas. 3:9).  Some Israelites responded positively to God’s “hands on” treatment, but most did not.  See a list of those who did in Heb. 11:32-40.

The Israelites who came out of Egypt had another problem.  They were sinners but they were uninformed about God’s laws of life for human beings.  Abraham knew about God’s laws of life (Gen. 26:5).  We can assume Isaac, Jacob and his twelve sons knew what Abraham knew.  Apparently, the teachings about God’s purpose for creation and His design of “human beings” had failed to be passed on to the descendants of Abraham in Egypt (Ex. 14:26).  At some point during their 430 years in Egypt their sins began to reign in their spiritual death (Rom. 5:21).  Even though, they were not convicted of sin, their sin ruled over what they called life.  It was not the quality of life they were created to live; therefore, it was not life at all  – it was death.

“Sin was in the world.  But sin is not taken into account when there is no law.” Rom. 5:13.  This was the situation from Adam to Moses.  Paul used this scripture to prepare the saints in Rome to understand how Adam “was a pattern of the One (the Christ) to come.” Verse 14.  He worked through this “In Adam/in Christ” dichotomy in verses 15 through 19.  (A dichotomy is a contrast between two entities that are mutually exclusive).  He then informed the saints about the reason God put Israel under a category of law, like the Law of Moses: “The law was added so that the trespass might increase.”  Rom. 5:20.

All people “in Adam” trespass the law of life.  At times we do not even do the good we know we ought to do.  The Law of Moses made the Israelites aware they were sinners; therefore, their “sin increased.”  So the Israelites’ sins would be the reigning force over their lives, if they did not have a sin offering.  The law of the Levitical Priesthood convicted the Israelites of their sins.  The law had changed with the priesthood (Heb. 7:11, 12).  Blood sacrifices for their unintentional sins were also offered in this priesthood.  “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.”  I Cor. 15:58.  Paul was speaking about the category of law such as the Law of Moses.  Please note, there were no sin offerings recorded in Genesis because during this period the law of life did not convict the people of their sins.  We know they sinned because “death reigned.”  Rom. 5:13, 14.

Sin was defined by God in practical language to Moses.  See Ex. 18:19, 20; 20:22, 23; Num. 12:4-8.  In addition to the Ten Commandments, sin was defined in “do not” terms with explanations.  See Exodus, chapter 19; Leviticus, chapters 17 – 19.  For instance, tattoos were forbidden (Lev. 19:28).  They were also told what to do when they “sinned unintentionally.”  They were to make specific blood offerings.  See Leviticus, chapters 4 and 5.  Unnatural sexual relation sins, such as men with men, were punishable by death (Lev. 20:13).  Please read the Book of Leviticus for the specifics about different kinds of sins and different sin offerings.  God did, indeed, put Israel under “tutors and governors” to bring them to Christ.  The law in the Levitical Priesthood served both as their spiritual and national law.  See Exodus 21:1-23:9.

The law of life did not convict people of their sins from Adam to Moses; however, those who did not apply the spiritual laws of life to their inner-man were spiritually dead.  Spiritual death means they were living separate from God who designed them.  They did not have the instructions from the One who created them; therefore, they did not know life (John 1:3, 4).  In Romans 1:18-32, Paul revealed the result of what happens when spiritual death reigns over a community of people.  His discourse may help us understand God’s challenge with physical Israel.  They were ignorant about what sin was that leads to spiritual death; consequently, their sins dominated their culture.  This is a fitting description of the culture of the world today (I John 2:15-17).

The Ten Commandments and other laws were God’s instruments for informing the people of their sins (Rom. 3:19, 20).  For those who got the message, it would solve their “stiff-necked” problem.  The law made them conscious of their sins.  Guilt on the conscience is indeed humbling to Christians who are serious about our identity as sons of God.  We want to fix what caused us to sin; however, we cannot overcome our defects and feel guilty, simultaneously, about our sins caused by the defects.  “But thanks be to God!  He gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” I Cor. 15:57.  God’s covenant for Christians in the blood of Jesus Christ removes guilt from repentant sinners’ consciences (Heb. 8:12; 10:1-3).  Faith in sin offerings of the blood of animals did not remove guilt from the Israelites’ consciences because God still remembered their sins (Heb. 8:12; 9:13, 14; 10:1-4).

Let us consider another defect in the Israel community God solved during the Levitical Priesthood.  Since the Israelites had been ruled by taskmasters in Egypt for many years, they required help with their organizational skills (Ex. 23:24-26).  God provided detailed plans for their spiritual growth and His own “hands on” leadership as their Lord.  For instance, at Jethro’s suggestion, Moses appointed leaders from among the twelve tribes to assist him to serve the people (Num. 11:16, 17; Ex. 24:1).  When Moses cried out for relief during a high level abuse incident from the people; God gave seventy men a portion of the Spirit He had given Moses.  God ordained an oligarchy, or reign of few, for their leadership.  See Num. 11:13-17.  God did not want a monarchical or democratic form of rule.  He is God Almighty.  “Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house, testifying to what would be said in the future.” Heb. 3:5.  Please read the Book of Numbers to understand the help God provided for these people who were being prepared to be God’s nation in Canaan.  Sixteen of the thirty six chapters in Numbers begin with, “The Lord said to Moses.”  Even then, more than once, Moses was found pleading with God to spare the Israelites’ from His wrath (Num. 14:12; 16:21).  These stories have been recorded for Christians for a specific purpose.   See Rom. 15:4; I Cor. 10:6-12; Heb. 3:7-11; 12:28, 29.

The Lord replied, ‘I have forgiven them, as you asked.  Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the Lord fills the whole earth, not one of the men who saw My glory and the miraculous signs I performed in Egypt and in the desert but who disobeyed Me and tested Me ten times – not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers.  No one who treated Me with contempt will ever see it.’  Num. 14:20-23

The aim of this lesson has been to understand the value of the Levitical Priesthood in relation to God’s purpose for creating mankind.   Because God created all people “to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers,” the value of all of God’s major moves were to help all people learn to love God (Rom. 8:28, 29; II Pet. 3:9).  Did the Levitical Priesthood play a part in Jesus’ role to “bring many sons to glory?”  Heb. 2:10.  Please read the Apostle Paul’s summary statement about the value of the Levitical Priesthood and God’s work through the leadership of Moses in Galatians 4:1-7.  This scripture explains how God’s move to ordain the Levitical Priesthood helped the Jews, but what about the Gentiles?  Yes, the Gentiles also (Rom. 3:29-31).

Blessings were promised to Gentiles in God’s covenant with Abraham (Gen. 12:3; Hos. 1:10).  Israel had to be rescued from slavery in Egypt by God’s mighty hand for their sake and for the hope of all people in the world.  “The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed.  The Scripture does not say ‘and to seeds,’ meaning many people, but, ‘and to your seed,’ meaning one person, who is Christ.”  Gal. 3:16.  “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”  Acts 4:12.   This statement includes the people who lived by faith from Adam to Christ.  They did not fully receive what they were promised in God’s covenants before He gave Christians all spiritual blessings in Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:3; Heb. 11:39, 40).

For this reason we want to give careful consideration to the activity in and around the “tabernacle” as our last point in this lesson about the value of the Levitical Priesthood.  See Exodus, chapter 36 through 38 for the identification and unique design of the tabernacle and its furnishings.  The reason Christians have a vested interest in Moses’ design of the tabernacle is because it was a shadow of how Jesus, our priest, serves us in heaven.

They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven.  This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: ‘See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.’  Heb. 8:5

The tabernacle was maintained by the tribe of Levi in the center of the Israelites campsites during their 40 years of wandering while God instructed them about righteousness (Num. 18:1-32).  Because the Levites stood with Moses for God at the time Aaron had built an idol for the Israelites; Moses said, “You have been set apart to the Lord today, for you were against your own sons and brothers, and He has blessed you this day.” Ex. 32:29.  The high priests were selected from the tribe of Levi from the descendants of Aaron (Num. 20:22-26).  They lived by God’s “everlasting covenant of salt before the Lord for both you and your offspring.”  Num. 18:19.  The covenant of salt is explained in Num. 18:8-24.  Aaron and his four sons were the first priests; however, Nadab and Abihu, were consumed by fire from the Lord because they offered unauthorized fire (Lev. 8:30; 9:1-24; 10:1-3).   These priests served the people in their approach to God by the tabernacle services; however, Aaron was the high priest who entered the holy of holies on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:1-22; Heb. 9:1-10).

After the tent and all the fixtures were in place “on the first day of the first month in the second year:” – “Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.” Ex. 40:17, 34.  “From evening till morning the cloud above the tabernacle looked like fire.  This is how it continued to be; the cloud covered it, and at night it looked like fire.” Num. 9:15, 16.  This was the program God prepared for the Israelites who did not have enough faith to maintain an open “door of faith” to see God – who is spirit (John 4:21-24; Acts 14:27).  The tabernacle was replaced by the temple during Solomon’s reign as king over God’s kingdom (I Kings 6:14; 8:1-13).  This is the arrangement God made for the Israelites to be cleansed of their sins so that His kingdom could be seen in them by the Gentiles.

God arranged many spiritual activities such as the Passover and the Day of Atonement.   This special atonement was for the sins of the whole nation (Lev. 16:34).  “Three times a year you are to celebrate a festival to Me.”  See Ex. 23:14-17.  See the schedule of these festivals in Lev. 23:1-44.  The Israelites were taught to be givers of their own substance in many different programs in addition to their tithes.  “Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year.”  Deut. 14:22, 28, 29.

One of the values of a Christian’s study of the period of the Levitical Priesthood, especially in the wilderness travel, is to see God working with people in “real time.”  Although the Israelites were lawless and ungodly; God dedicated His power and wisdom to recover from Satan all who responded to His covenants.  It was a rare encounter between God who is holy and mankind, who inherited the responsibility for choosing good over evil, but did not know what was good.  After Jacob’s twelve sons migrated to Egypt, their leaders and parents failed to teach their offspring to discern between good and evil (Heb. 5:14).  Once again we witness God protecting those who desired to be “children of promise” by eliminating thousands of the rebellious Israelites (Ex. 32:28; Lev. 10:1; Num. 11:1-3, 33, 34; 14:29; 16:31-35; 25:1-9).  Please note God’s long range promises for rewards and punishments in Leviticus 26:1-46.

Only the highlights of the beginning of God’s story with Israel have been touched in this lesson.  The aim was not to tell the story, but to understand the value in this major move of God for us.  Christians need to have faith that the “Lord’s arm is never too short” to provide what is needed to accomplish His purpose to have an eternal family formed by “children of promise” as His sons.

Since the children have flesh and blood, He too shared in their humanity so that by death He might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.  For surely it is not angels He helps, but Abraham’s descendants.  Heb. 2:14-16

In this lesson we have understood how God began to help Abraham’s descendants recover from their status of slaves to “children of promise,” so they could be His great nation.  This was God’s long range plan to bring them to Jesus Christ, so that He can continue to help Abraham’s descendants today.  Paul told the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, “For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh.”  Phil. 3:3.  Christians are the “Israel of God.”  Gal. 6:16.  “Our citizenship is in heaven” because “He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves.”  Phil. 3:20; Col. I:13.

In Lesson Nine, the same historical setting will be used to see how God built the Israelite nation during the Levitical Priesthood period.

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