The Tribe of LEVI
Henry Law, 1858
"Of Levi, he said, Let Your Thummin, and Your Urim be with Your holy one, whom You tested at Massah, and with whom You contended with at the waters of Meribah—who said unto his father and to his mother, I have not seen him—neither did he acknowledge his brethren, nor knew his own children—for they observed Your word and kept Your covenant. They shall teach Jacob Your judgments and Israel Your law—they shall put incense before You, and whole burnt-sacrifice upon Your altar. Bless, Lord, his substance, and accept the work of his hands—smite through the loins of those who rise against him, and of those who hate him, that they rise not again." Deut. 33:8-11.
Levi was peculiarly the Lord's. This tribe toiled not in military service. Its happy hours revolved in holy duties. Its life was round the altars. The tabernacle was its charge, and its employ looked always unto God.
Thus it appears a ministerial type. We see in it the pastor's portrait. It represents that heaven-born, heaven-sent band, which stands apart to deal with man for God.
This is life's highest privilege—earth's grandest dignity—honor, which angels do not share—glory, which drives all other heroes into shade. The greatest minister is our greatest man. His words achieve the noblest triumphs on the world's stage.
What then, will Moses' lips pour forth, when Levi's tribe comes for its blessing? Reader, draw near to hear! Spirit of God, draw near to teach!
Choice servants are addressed—therefore, choice gifts will be bestowed. Levi's outline is first drawn. Three bold characteristics are displayed. These threefold marks are, holiness—acquaintedness with trial—impartial zeal.
1. The tribe is HOLY. "Let Your Thummin and Your Urim be with Your holy one." Holiness! What is it, but the image of our God—conformity to Christ—the stamp of heaven upon the soul. It is God living in the heart—moving in each step—breathing in each breath—heard in each word—pervading the whole man. It is the Spirit's presence, saying, let there be light, and there is light—let there be love, and there is love—cleaving sin's roots, and they decay—sowing pure seed, and it bears fruit. It is an upward course—leaving the world behind—eschewing evil—hating what Jesus hates—panting to be godlike. It is that lofty state, which springs from reception of the Gospel. Truth sanctifies. Error is darkness in mind and life. Christ seen—Christ loved—forms the new man. So, too, it is happiness without alloy. The holy man alone is happy. All sin is misery. Departure from it is the path of peace.
Servants of Christ, seek holiness. Let this crown sparkle on your brow. From head to foot let this robe clothe you. Inhabit earth as Zion's citizens. So will your life preach louder than your lips. So will your walk have magnet-influence, attracting unto heaven. A holy shepherd wins a holy flock.
2. Next, Levi had conflicted with TEMPTATION—"Whom You tested at Massah, and with whom You contended with at the waters of Meribah."
It was one of Israel's darkest days, when the camp murmured, because water failed. We lack clear evidence, that Levi was not tainted with this guilt. But from this mention, we take hope, that he stood firm, when others fell. But whether he resisted or gave way, the temptation put him to the test. Massah proved him. Meribah sifted his principles.
All Adam's sons live tempted lives. Satan is not yet chained. There is no place—no heart—which he infest not. His wily crafts exceed all power to count. And his wrath increases, as the time grows less. But the Lord's ministers are his especial hate. Against them every dart is hurled. For them all snares are laid. And why? Their fall brings many to the dust. The sheep will wander, when the shepherd strays.
But still his weapons often wound himself. For frequently temptation proves to be a purifying furnace, and a brightening file. The tempted lose their dross, and gain more brilliant polish. So, too, it is a school of discipline. Here ministers drink deeply of experience's cup. They thus become expert to sympathize with others' woes—to open out the adversary's arts—to point to strongholds of defense—to stay the slipping feet, and to pour balm into the stricken soul. Thus trials give ability and skill. Satan uses them; and the result is injury to himself.
3. Levi has, too, the praise of honest ZEAL—"Who said unto his father and to his mother, I have not seen him—neither did he acknowledge his brethren, nor knew his own children." These words again remind of dreadful evil in the camp. Moses was absent in the mount. The impatient people ask for gods to lead them on. A golden calf is made. They worship it. The air echoes with festive noise. Moses in haste comes down, and cries, "Who is on the Lord's side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him." Ex. 32:26. They draw their swords. They rush to vindicate the cause of God, They spare not friend nor relative. No ties of kindred or of blood screen from due vengeance. Where they find sin, there they deal death. God gave the zeal, and braced their nerves, and smiled upon their deed, and thus applauds it.
You ministers, mark this. Your office calls you to reprove—rebuke—condemn. Evil is evil, wherever it is seen. You must stand flint-like before all the world. If relatives and friends transgress, they must be boldly checked. You speak for God. You must be honest, fearing no man's face.
Levi, thus portrayed in threefold character, then receives a sixfold blessing.
1. A grand distinction first appears. "Let your Thummin and your Urim be with your holy one." The message is distinct. Let Levi ever stand a priest before his God. Let the breast-plate, with its mysterious contents, ever gird him. These contents, though shrouded in some mist, intimate perfection and light. At once we see the foremost ornaments of ministerial life.
PERFECTION! Nothing inferior may be sought. The walk may have no stain. The garments must be purely white. The keen observer may detect no fault. Oh! what vigilance—what care—what prayer are needed! Lapses in those who guide, produce extensive ruin. Lord, lead Your servants in a perfect way! Be a protecting shield around! Adorn them beauteously with every grace!
LIGHT! Father of lights, be their light! May they forever dwell beneath Your rays, and, as reflecting mirrors, scatter radiance around! May they go forth, as champions clad in armor of light! Thus may true Thummin and true Urim ever be the glory of those, who are ambassadors for Christ!
2. Next, "They shall teach Jacob Your judgments and Israel Your law." Here is the pastor's solemn dignity. He occupies a pulpit-throne. Thence he announces the decrees of the eternal kingdom. The flock sit round to hear God's judgments—to receive God's law.
Preacher, take heed. Your volume is heaven-inspired. Add not—it is impiety. Detract not—it is sacrilege. It is not yours to frame a system or devise a code. Your message is prepared. Your text-book is divine. Read and proclaim. Let all your teaching flow in one clear stream—"Thus says the Lord." The Gospel committed to your trust is God's glory—His wisdom in the highest—the transcript of His mind—the mirror of His love—the power, which drives out darkness, softens hearts, gives new birth to dead souls, breaks Satan's chains, snatches from hell, uplifts to heaven, converts bold rebels to devoted friends, and plants a paradise in the world's waste. Then PREACH THIS WORD—only—clearly—fully. Be faithful. Be distinct. Signs of salvation will then surely follow. The seed of truth is never lost. It has an innate life. It is impregnate with divinity. Who can destroy it? Truth long since would have died, if Satan or man's hate had power to slay.
3. Honors are added. "They shall put incense before You—and whole Burnt-sacrifice upon Your altar." They shall cause sweet savor to ascend. The Gospel-savor is the sweet merits of Christ's fragrant work. They shall pile victims on the altar. The Gospel has but one victim—the God-man slain.
These words are as a trumpet-voice to warn each minister. The pulpit stands his golden altar, from which precious fragrance should never fail to rise. Sermons should all be redolent of Jesus's worth. Each utterance should be, as curling incense, filling heaven and earth with joy. The pulpit stands, too, his brazen altar, on which victims bleed. The congregation should be led to sit around the cross. The dying Jesus should be the one grand sight—giving Himself a willing offering, that guilt may thus be cleansed, and sins obliterated, and debts paid, and curse removed, and God appeased, and hell's gates closed, and heaven's throne won.
4. It follows—"Bless, Lord, His substance." Levi had no allotted lands. "I am your portion, and your inheritance," said God. Numb. 18:20. The tabernacle-offerings are their supply. A special maintenance is their lot. Special servants are specially sustained.
They must be well fed, whom God thus supplies. Let then no faithful pastor fear. He may not have—he covets not—abundance of earth's pelf. But the barrel will not fail. The cruise will still suffice. In God he has incalculable wealth. "The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and of my cup—you maintain my lot." Paul testifies, "I have all, and abound—I am full." Phil. 4:18.
5. It is encouragingly added—"Accept the work of his hands." Smile, Lord, when Levi thus draws near. Turn not from the prayer, the service, and the praise, which he presents upon Your altar.
Here is the joy, the hope, the strength, the victory of the faithful servant. He knows, that truth proclaimed by life and lip—in public and in private—cannot but prosper. The Gospel-sickle reaps not in vain. Harvests of saved souls will be brought in. Heaven's garner will be filled. He will present before God's throne children begotten by his words—jewels drawn by his efforts from nature's quarry, and polished as pillars for the palace of the King. The labor is not in vain. The Lord accepts.
6. Lastly—"Smite through the loins of those who rise against him, and of those who hate him, that they rise not again." A Korah—a Dathan—an Abiram rose to assail. But their defeat was signal. They died not the common death of men. The gaping earth devoured them. Numb. 16:32.
So faithful ministers must always expect the adversary's rage. They foil him most. Therefore he most desires their ruin. As against Christ—so against them—he marshals his whole force. But while he mightily assails, Omnipotence protects. While his many legions harass, an infinity of love defends. Thus they hold on. Thus they hold out. Thus they will ever bloom, like Aaron's rod, until the last saint is gathered in. Their teaching voice will sound on earth, until the hallelujah is full-toned above. They go on conquering, for Jesus fights beside them.
You ministers, turn not from Levi, without many a solemn thought. There is no work like yours—so holy—so exalted—so godlike! There is no help like yours. Jesus, who sends you, goes forth by your side. There are no hopes like yours. The brightest crown is that, which sparkles with redeemed gems. Bless God—take courage—work. Uplift the cross with prayerful hands. Preach the true Christ. Live the true life of faith. Then Levi's full inheritance will raise you high. How high, God only knows! Christ's fellow-workers will not be low among Christ's fellow-heirs.