PRIESTLY THEOCRACY II
Moses was of the tribe of Levi and he did secure the most prominent role in Israel for his tribe. He set up his brother Aaron as the High Priest and as the spiritual leader. The Levites were the guardians of the “Theocratic System” based on the Law and the religious ordinances and worship of Yahweh. Religion was to dominate the public, as well as the private life of every Hebrew. The priest was to wear special garments that set him apart from the people. God spoke to Moses:
Then bring near to you Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the people of Israel, to serve as priests — Aaron ad Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty. And you shall speak to all who have ability, whom I have endowed with an able mind, that they make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him for my priesthood. These are the garments which they shall make: a breast-piece, an epod, a robe, a coat of checker work, a turban, and a girdle; they shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother and his sons to serve me as priests. “They shall receive gold, blue and purple and scarlet stuff, and fine twined linen” (Exodus 28:1-5).
The Levites were not to be numbered by their ancestral tribe. For the Lord said to Moses:
“Only the tribe of Levi you shall not number, and you shall not take a census of them among the people of Israel; but appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of the testimony, and over all the furnishings, and over all that belongs to it; they are to carry the tabernacle and all the furnishings, and they shall tend to it, and shall camp around the tabernacle. When the tabernacle is to be set out, the Levites shall set it up. And if any one else comes near, he shall be put to death. The people of Israel shall pitch their tents by their companies, every man by his own camp and every man by his own standard; but the Levites shall encamp around the tabernacle of the testimony.” Thus did the people of Israel; they did according to all that the LORD commanded Moses (Numbers 1:49-54).
The Levites were set apart by Yahweh to be his servants and they were to be sustained by the tithe of the tribes, that were given the land promised to their fathers.
The Levitical priests, that is, all the tribe of Levi, shall have no portion or inheritance with Israel; they shall eat the offerings by fire to the Lord, and his rightful dues. They shall have no inheritance among their brethren; the LORD is their inheritance, as he promised them. And this shall be the priests’ due from the people, from those offering a sacrifice, whether it be ox or sheep; they shall give to the priest the shoulder and the two cheeks and the stomach. The first fruits of your grain, of your wine and of your oil, and the first of the fleece of your sheep, you shall give him. For the LORD your God has chosen him out of all your tribes, to stand and minister in the name of the LORD, him and his sons for ever.
And if a Levite comes from any of your towns out of all Israel, where he lives—and he may come when he desires—to the place which the LORD will choose, then he may minister in the name of the LORD his God, like all his fellow-Livites who stand to minister there before the LORD. They shall have equal portions to eat, besides what he receives from the sale of his patrimony (Deuteronomy 18:1-8).
Like Moses, the Levites shall have access only to God. They shall provide the leadership, even another prophet like Moses, that will stand in the gap between the people of Israel and Yahweh. This was the request of the people of Israel themselves. They were afraid to face God. The people of Israel promised to trust Moses as their mediator between God and them:
The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brethren—him you shall heed—just as you desired of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ And the LORD said to me, ‘They have rightly said all that they have spoken. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brethren; and I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not give heed to my words which he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’ And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?’—when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously, you need not be afraid of him (Deuteronomy 18:15-22).
To the Christians, Jesus fulfilled Moses’ prediction of a prophet like him. The Jews are still waiting for Moses’ man to come and deliver them from the Gentile oppression. They still hold to the prophecy of Isaiah:
And he will come to Zion as Redeemer, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression, says the LORD. And as for me, this is my covenant with them, says the LORD: my spirit which is upon you, and my words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your children, or out of the mouth of your children’s children, says the LORD, from this time forth and for evermore (Isaiah 59:20-21).
However, to the Christians Christ was greater than Moses. Moses was only a servant while Christ was a Son of God:
Therefore, holy brethren, who share in a heavenly call, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession. He was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in God’s house. Yet Jesus has been counted worthy of as much more glory than Moses as the builder of a house has more honor than the house. (For every house is built by some one, but the builder of all things is God.) Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ was faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if we hold fast our confidence and pride in our hope (Hebrews 3:1-6).
According to Paul, the body of the convert to Christ houses the Spirit and God, who is Spirit:
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If any one destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and that temple you are.”… “ Do you not know that he who joins himself to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For as it is written, ‘The two shall become one.’ But he who is united to the Lord becomes one Spirit with him. Shun immorality. Every other sin which a man commits is outside the body; but the immoral man sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (I Corinthians 3:16-17; 6:16-20).
Jesus, Himself, declared that Moses was totally familiar with Jesus. Moses wrote about Jesus, communed with Him, and followed His Law and explained His Law’s meaning:
Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; it is Moses who accuses you, on whom you have set your hope. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writing, how will you believe my words (John 5:45-47)?
Jesus took Peter, James, and John up a mountain to pray. And while Jesus prayed, heaven opened and Moses and Elijah talked with Jesus:
And as he was praying, the appearance of his countenance was altered, and his raiment became dazzling white. And behold, two men talked with him. Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep but kept awake, and they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is well that we are here; let us make three booths, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. As he said this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silence and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen (Luke 9:29-36).
Moses raised up a serpent to save Israel from death, but God raised up the Son of man as the Savior of mankind. The reason was to complete the Law that was given to Moses, who was forced to change it to please the people. Jesus provided the proof how Israel lost the way. And the Christians also will loose their way, if they do not obey Jesus’ Commandments. Jesus did not change a dot of the Law, which He gave to Moses, in the first place. The Law is the guide of what God expects of the human being that houses “His Image and His Likeness”:
No one has ascended into heaven but he who has descended from heaven, the Son of man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life (John 3:13-15).
Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:17-20).
And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one’? What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” He said to them, “For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery” (Matthew 19:3-9).
And the Pharisees and the scribes asked Jesus, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with hands defiled?” And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophet of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching the doctrines the precepts of men. You leave the commandment of God, and hold fast the tradition of men.”
And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God, in order to keep your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him surely die’; but you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, What you would have gained from me is Corban’ (that is, given to God)—then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God through your tradition which you hand on. And many such things you do” (Mark 7:5-13).
In case one seeks to debate the role and value of the Law as a way back to God, one must read the parable on “The Rich Man and Lazarus.” Before the story, Jesus uttered this warning:
The law and the prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and every one enters violently. But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one dot of the law to become void (Luke 16:16-17).
There was a rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, full of sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table; moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried; and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus in his bosom. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that you in your life-time received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if some one goes to them from the dead they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead’ (Luke 16:19-31).
The reason why Israel, or any other people, or any other nation has failed and will continue to fail, was and is to stop the Levites from practicing and teaching the Law of God to their people. The Levites stopped functioning because the Israelites became delinquent in their duties of delivering the tithe into the storehouses of God, or places where the Law was taught:
In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world (Hebrews 1:1-2).
Behold, I send my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the LORD whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? “For he is like a refiner’s fire and like a fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, till they present right offerings to the LORD.
Then I will draw near to you for judgment; I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the LORD of hosts.
For I the LORD do not change; therefore, you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed. From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How are we robbing thee?’ In your tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me; the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house; and thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing. I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the LORD of hosts. Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the LORD of hosts.
Your words have been stout against me, says the LORD. Yet you say, ‘How have we spoken against thee?’ You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God. What is the good of our keeping his charge or of walking as in mourning before the LORD of hosts? Henceforth we deem the arrogant blessed; evildoers not only prosper but when they put God to the test the escape.’ Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another; the LORD heeded and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and thought on his name. “They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, my special possession on the day when I act, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you shall distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him” (Malachi 3:1-18).
Leadership depends on two things: bread and the law, not the human law, but the “Divine Law,” which is God’s Commandments. Even spiritual and moral leaders are flesh and blood who must be sustained on bread. The people of Israel failed in their obligation to the Levites and so have all the people in the world to their spiritual and moral leaders. America and Christianity are no exception. Jesus, the Christ, through whom the world came into being, has concluded that bread alone cannot sustain man. Man depends entirely on the Creator’s Law and not only man’s law. Jesus quoted the law that Yahweh (the Lord) gave to Moses:
And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know; that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but that man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord (Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4).
Leaders are shepherds, who must feed their sheep a healthy diet — very much like a physician who described the right medication, which human taste-buds reject. But if the shepherds must spend their time feeding themselves, they will become bread oriented and they will neglect their flock. It is the flock that is responsible to supply the bread for their shepherd. And it is the shepherd who is accountable to teach the flock God’s Law by which bread can be obtained legally and justly. Leaders who feed on their people, will starve together. The warning Yahweh issued to Ezekiel is timeless:
Son of Man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the LORD GOD: Ho, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fatlings; but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the crippled you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd; and they became food for all the wild beasts. My sheep were scattered, they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill; my sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them.
Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: As I live says the LORD GOD, because my sheep have become prey, and my sheep have become food for all the wild beasts, since there was no shepherd; and because my shepherds have not searched for my sheep, but the shepherds have fed themselves, and not fed my sheep; therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: Thus says the LORD GOD, Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my sheep at their hand, and put a stop to their feeding the sheep; no longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them (Ezekiel 34:2-10).
The Lord promised Jeremiah that He would replace those bread-hungry shepherds with caring shepherds that will gather and feed the sheep.
Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing (Jeremiah 23:3-4).
God did install such a Shepherd! And we know Him! The Shepherd’s name is Jesus the Christ. The Shepherd laid His life on the line for his sheep. He knows his sheep and they follow His voice:
I am the good shepherd. The shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. He who is a hireling and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hireling and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again; this charge I have received from my Father (John 10:11-18).