20 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.
21 “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, 22 so that the people of Israel do not come near the tent of meeting, lest they bear sin and die. 23 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. (Numbers 18:20-23 ESV)
I have never really understood this before because I only compared this promise to things in the natural. I considered woods and mountains, streams and fields and always felt like the Levites were being left out. After all, God is spirit. What does it mean to be alive in the natural and have no land ownership, even if God is my “inheritance?” Isn’t he everyone’s inheritance? Ah, there is the key! He is everyone’s inheritance, but in a particular order. The Levites represent the first people of all creation who come into their full inheritance. Thus God calls them his “firstfruits.”
Remember from the last post in this series that God specifically chose the Levites to guard and protect the Testimony. The reason for setting a guard about the tabernacle and the arc of the testimony was not to protect God’s things from men’s unclean hands. Rather, it was to protect unclean men from being consumed by God’s presence. At least three times God instructed the Levites to kill any person who attempted to break through to gaze upon the holy places within the tabernacle. This command uses natural consequences to illustrate spiritual realities. We first see this idea clearly illustrated when God prepared to reveal the Ten Commandments to Israel at Mount Sinai.
9 And the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I am coming to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe you forever.”
When Moses told the words of the people to the Lord, 10 the Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments 11 and be ready for the third day. For on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. 12 And you shall set limits for the people all around, saying, ‘Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death. 13 No hand shall touch him, but he shall be stoned or shot;[a] whether beast or man, he shall not live.’ When the trumpet sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain.” 14 So Moses went down from the mountain to the people and consecrated the people; and they washed their garments. (Exodus 19:9-14)
God warned Moses to so instruct the people in order to put the “fear of God” into them. The stark reality was that if the Levites, or someone else, did not physically kill the person presumptuously attempting to peer at or into the presence of God, then God himself would destroy him. Moses then wrote,
16 On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled.17 Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. 18 Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the Lord had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly. 19 And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder. 20 The Lord came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain. And the Lord called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up.
21 And the Lord said to Moses, “Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to the Lord to look and many of them perish. 22 Also let the priests who come near to the Lord consecrate themselves, lest the Lord break out against them.” 23 And Moses said to the Lord, “The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai, for you yourself warned us, saying, ‘Set limits around the mountain and consecrate it.’” 24 And the Lord said to him, “Go down, and come up bringing Aaron with you. But do not let the priests and the people break through to come up to the Lord, lest he break out against them.” 25 So Moses went down to the people and told them.
The reality was that the people of Israel were not ready to behold God face to face as was Moses. Over a long period of time of dwelling outside the camp of his own people God had worked deep humility into Moses’ soul. Moses thus became a prophetic picture of the one who has “worked out his salvation in fear and trembling,” of the one who has saved his soul. The Book of Hebrews deals exclusively with the salvation of the soul (versus the salvation of the spirit by faith in Jesus Christ). The writer of that Book alludes specifically to the awesome event at Mount Sinai described by Moses, saying,
18 For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19 and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. 20 For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” 21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly[a] of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect,24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
25 See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised,“Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:18-29)
This passage from Hebrews speaks to God’s overcomers, to “the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven.” This is the group which the Old Testament Levites typify. These are the ones who first come “to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.” They are also the ones who teach and prepare others to come into the City of God, New Jerusalem, while at the same time they protect them from destruction by attempting to come in to the presence of God too soon. This also explains why the Levites had no natural inheritance. Their inheritance lies within the spiritual realm of heaven itself wherein they will dwell in the very presence of God. God used the tribe of Levi to illustrate the spiritual inheritance of a people who willingly submitted to and obeyed the God of the universe. Spiritual Levites inherit nothing less than New Jerusalem itself!
22 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, 25 and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26 They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations.27 But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Revelation 21:22-27)
This inheritance, however, does not belong exclusively to prophetic Levi. He simply represents all of the first ones who come into oneness with God. Malachi prophesies Levi’s still future role:
“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. 2 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 fullers’ soap. 3 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, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord.[a] 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years. (Malachi 3:1-4)
Once Levi has been fully purified, refined, and prepared by his LORD, he will prepare the rest of the world for also coming into Christ’s presence. For if it were not so the decree of utter destruction found in the final verse of the Old Testament would be fulfilled.
[a] “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. 2 But for you who fear my name,the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. 3 And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the Lord of hosts.
4 “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules[b] that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel.
5 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of theLord comes. 6 And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” (Malachi 4)
Thus we see Christ’s Passover worked out in its fullness. The first Passover saved only the firstborn of Israel. God then substituted the entire tribe of Levi for these firstborn and placed upon them the mantel of bringing all Israel into God’s presence. These Levites then foreshadowed the manchild of Revelation, the firstborn sons of God in the exact image of their Creator and Father. They will become the messengers who are fully empowered to bring the entire earth into the knowledge and obedience of God. For otherwise the LORD would, as most suspect, come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction. How wonderful and how merciful is our God!