A faithful tribe created the pattern of intercession, reverent peace, and knowledge to turn others from iniquity.
Malachi 2:5-7 – “My covenant with him [Levi] was one of life and peace, and I gave these to him; it called for reverence, and he revered me and stood in awe of my name. True instruction was in his mouth, and nothing wrong was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and integrity and turned many from iniquity. For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should desire instruction from his mouth, because he is the messenger of Yahweh of Armies.”
Out of all of the tribes of ancient Israel, the tribe of Levi was entrusted with the ministry of the priesthood. Moses and Aaron were Levites, and the high priesthood remained within the specific line of Aaron, while the remaining priestly duties were distributed amongst the rest of the Levites.
Many today who are believers in Messiah consider themselves to be a type of priesthood because of a very famous passage written by the apostle Peter.
1 Peter 2:9-10 – But you are a chosen family, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
As always, it’s important to maintain the context and audience relevance of a passage to better understand its meaning. In this case, this passage was written to a specific group (or groups) of people almost two thousand years ago. The people that Peter was writing to are listed as “those chosen, living as exiles dispersed abroad in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient and to be sprinkled with the blood of Yeshua Messiah.”
According to the Cambridge Bible commentary:
“Literally, taking the words in their Greek order, to the elect sojourners of the dispersion. The last word occurs in the New Testament in John 7:35 and James 1:1, and in the Apocrypha in 2 Ma 1:27. It was used as a collective term for the whole aggregate of Jews who, since the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities, had been scattered in Asia and elsewhere.”
These were the descendants of Israelites who had been scattered throughout the known world 750 years earlier, when the Assyrians had taken the northern ten tribes captive and intermixed them among all of the people they ruled over at that time. We know this is the case based on Peter’s reference from the prophecy of Hosea. This prophecy of Hosea spoke about how God would reject his people for their disobedience, scatter them among the nations, but then again he would restore them and call them sons of God.
Hosea 1:9-10 – Then Yahweh said: Name him Lo-ammi, for you are not my people, and I will not be your God. Yet the number of the Israelites will be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or counted. And in the place where they were told: You are not my people, they will be called: Sons of the living God.
In the minds of the disciples, this prophesied restoration and reunification of the tribes was taking place before their eyes.
1 Peter 2:10 – Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
This is why Peter could call those people a priesthood; they were the descendants of the Israelites who had stood at the foot of Mount Sinai 1500 years earlier.
Exodus 19:1, 5-6 – In the third month from the very day the Israelites left the land of Egypt, they came to the Sinai Wilderness. … “Now if you will carefully listen to me and keep my covenant, you will be my own possession out of all the peoples, although the whole earth is mine, “and you will be my kingdom of priests and my holy nation.‘ These are the words that you are to say to the Israelites.”
All of the Israelites were not Levites, but the Levites were only representatives of the nation before God, just as the nation was representative of God before the rest of the world.
But this is not a condition of race or ancestry, but one of faith. There were non-Israelites also present at Mount Sinai who were included in that holy nation of the kingdom of priests.
Exodus 12:37-38 – The Israelites traveled from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand able-bodied men on foot, besides their families. A mixed crowd also went up with them, along with a huge number of livestock, both flocks and herds.
God was creating a new thing, a nation out of all nations that would be called to represent him in the world. It was made up of his people chosen out of all the nations. This is why this passage comes to have important meaning to believers in Messiah. Just like those ragged folk standing at the foot of Mount Sinai, God is now calling people from all nations to join the kingdom of God. This is made possible through faith in his Messiah, his representative king. Faith in the Messiah allows believers to participate in a type of priesthood, a representation of God to the rest of the world.
As such, we are commissioned just as Levi was to be a people of integrity. The same qualities that were evident in the ancient tribe of Levi as related by Malachi should be evident in us today.
- He revered God and stood in awe of his name.
- True instruction was in his mouth, and nothing wrong was found on his lips.
- He walked with God in peace and integrity and turned many from iniquity.
- For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should desire instruction from his mouth, because he is the messenger of Yahweh.
If we are to take our walk with Messiah seriously, we should consider that we represent all that God wants to convey to the world. We can intercede on behalf of others and provide true instruction to all people. Most importantly, we must walk in integrity and peace; this is how others will be turned from iniquity.
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