Intercession: In the Midst of War & In the Place of Wrath

Today’s selected reading continues in the Old Testament book of Numbers which was written and recorded by Moses the servant of the Lord. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the third and fourth chapters. THESE ARE THE NAMES OF THE SONS OF AARON! THESE ARE THE NAMES OF THE SONF OF AARON, THE PRIESTS WHICH WERE ANOINTED! WHOM HE CONSECRATED TO MINISTER IN THE PRIEST’S OFFICE! AND NADAB AND ABIHU DIED BEFORE THE LORD! WHEN THEY OFFERED STRANGE FIRE BEFORE THE LORD, IN THE WILDERNESS OF SINAI! AND THEY HAD NO CHILDREN! AND ELEAZAR AND ITHAMAR MINISTERED IN THE PRIEST’S OFFICE IN THE SIGHT OF AARON THEIR FATHER! BRING THE TRIBE OF LEVI NEAR, AND PRESENT THEM BEFORE AARON THE PRIEST, THAT THEY MAY MINISTER UNTO HIM! THEY SHALL KEEP HIS CHARGE, AND THE WHOLE CHARGE OF THE CONGREGATION BEFORE THE TABERNACLE OF THE CONGREGATION, TO DO SERVICE OF THE TABERNACLE! THEY SHALL KEEP ALL THE INSTRUMENTS OF THE TABERNACLE OF THE CONGREGATION, AND THE CHARGE OF THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL, TO DO THE SERVICE OF THE TABERNACLE! THOU SHALT GIVE THE LEVITES UNTO AARON AND HIS SONS! THEY ARE WHOLLY GIVEN UNTO HIM OUT OF THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL! I HAVE TAKEN THE LEVITES FROM AMONG THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL INSTEAD OF ALL THE FIRSTBORN THAT OPENETH THE MATRIX AMONG THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL! THE LEVITES SHALL BE MINE! ALL THE FIRSTBORN ARE MINE! ON THE DAY THAT I SMOTE ALL THE FIRSTBORN IN THE LAND OF EGYPT I HALLOWED UNTO ME ALL THE FIRSTBORN IN ISRAEL! MINE SHALL THEY BE! NUMBER THE CHILDREN OF LEVI! AND THE CHARGE OF THE SONS OF GERSHON IN THE TABERNACLE OF THE CONGREGATION! AND THEIR CHARGE SHALL BE! AND UNDER THE CUSTODY AND CHARGE OF THE SONS OF MERARI SHALL BE! NUMBER ALL THE FIRSTBORN OF THE MALES OF THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL FROM A MONTH OLD AND UPWARD! THOU SHALT TAKE THE LEVITES FOR ME (I AM THE LORD) INSTEAD OF ALL THE FIRSTBORN AMONG THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL! TAKE THE LEVITES INSTEAD OF ALL THE FIRSTBORN AMONG THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL! THE LEVITES SHALL BE MINE! I AM THE LORD!

When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find the instruction and commandment of the LORD transitioning from numbering all those from within and among the congregation of Israel who were able to go forth to war, and moving into the place where He instructed Moses to turn his attention toward Aaron and his sons, as well as the Levites. I firmly believe that before you can truly understand that which is written and contained within these chapters it is absolutely necessary to first turn and direct your attention back to the first chapter of this Old Testament book. If you journey back into the first chapter of the Old Testament book of Numbers you will find that after Moses had numbered all those from among the children of Israel there was a specific rule and instruction concerning the Levites, which were also taken from among the congregation of the children of Israel. If you begin reading with and from the forty-seventh verse of the first chapter of this Old Testament book you will encounter the incredible reality that the LORD God of the Hebrews was doing something within the congregation of the children of Israel—not only as it pertained to those who were able to go forth to war, but also those who were able to minister in the sanctuary and the work of the Tabernacle of the congregation. The more I read and the more I consider the words which are found within these chapters the more I come face to face with the reality that for the congregation of the children of Israel to function in their God-given and God-ordained role within the earth, there needed to be a steady balance between those who went forth to war and engaged in battles, and those who ministered before and among the sanctuary of the living God, which was the place of His name and presence. For us to truly understand the congregation and assembly of the children of Israel we must recognize that as much as there was needed men who were able to go forth for war and into battle, there also needed to be those who were ordained and chosen by the living God to minister before His holy altar, and in the work of the ministry of the Tabernacle. Consider if you will the final words recorded in the first chapter of this Old Testament book beginning with the forty-seventh verse:

“But the Levites after the tribe of their fathers were not numbered among them. For the LORD had spoken unto Moses, saying, Only thou shalt not number the tribe of Levi, neither take the sum of them among the children of Israel: but thou shalt appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of testimony, and over all the vessels thereof, and over all things that belong to it: they shall bear the tabernacle, and all the vessels thereof; and they shall minister unto it, and shall encamp round about the tabernacle. And when the tabernacle setteth forward, the Levites shall take it down: and when the tabernacle is to be pitched, the Levites shall set it up: and the stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death. And the children of Israel shall pitch their tents, every man by his own camp, and every man by his own standard, throughout their hosts. But the Levites shall pitch round about the tabernacle of testimony, that there be no wrath upon the congregation of the children of Israel: and the Levites shall keep the charge of the tabernacle of testimony. And the children of Israel did according to all that the LORD commanded Moses, so did they” (Numbers 1:47-54).

Within the opening chapter of the Old Testament book of Numbers you will notice two distinct realities concerning the congregation of the children of Israel. In the first forty-six verses of this opening chapter you will notice the concept of war and all those who were numbered from among the children of Israel to go forth into war. In addition to the concept of war you will also notice the concept of wrath, as it was mentioned in the final eight verses of the chapter. What is so absolutely intriguing about these two realities is that there were essentially two roles of intercession that were ordained in the midst of the children of Israel. On the one hand there was the intercession of warfare, as there were those who were numbered from among the congregation of Israel, and from each tribe that would go forth into the battle and would wage war against the enemies of Israel. Essentially, that which those who were numbered among the congregation of Israel which went forth to war fulfilled and accomplished in the midst of the congregation and assembly of Israel was to stand between the congregation and the battle—between the assembly and the warfare, and between the assembly and the enemy. Pause for a moment and think about this for a minute, for when we think and speak about intercession we must recognize that there is a role and purpose of intercession when men and women will station and position themselves between others and the battle, as well as between others and the conflict. There is this aspect and element of intercession which positions men and women between the advance and attack of the enemy and adversary and the congregation and assembly. When we think about intercession we must think about it in terms of those who are willing to stand their ground and position themselves between the conflict and struggle and the people of God. Those six hundred thousand plus who were numbered from among the children of Israel were in all reality committing a form of intercession among the congregation of Israel, for they would act as an intermediary and a buffer between the enemy and adversary which would seek to rise up against the people and the people themselves. The role and function of intercession is in all reality a tremendous concept of those who are willing to stand and position themselves in the throes of battle and in the throes of conflict in order that it might not come nigh unto the people of God. This isn’t to say that the people of God can and will be without trials and tribulations in this world, for that is not only unrealistic, but it also is not scriptural. It was Jesus Christ Himself who declared that in this world we will face many trials, and it was the apostle Paul who declared that we must through many trials enter into the kingdom of God.

As I read the words which are found in the opening chapter of this Old Testament book I am completely and thoroughly convinced that there was this intercession of warfare that existed in the midst of the congregation of the children of Israel as when war would rise up against the people, there would be those who would go forth from among them and engage the enemy and adversary. It’s worth noting that not every person from among the congregation of the children of Israel went forth out into the midst of the battle, but those who were numbered from among the congregation as those who were ready for war and those who were ready for battle. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and consider this awesome truth, for within the opening chapter of the book of Numbers we find a powerful concept of intercession as there were those who were numbered from among the children of Israel who would stand between the congregation and warfare, and would stand between the congregation and the enemy. When we think about and when we consider intercession we must think of it as more than simply prayer, but as a literal and actual positioning ourselves between the battle and another brother or sister. Intercession is about more than just prayer alone, but is about a deliberate and intentional willingness to stand in the gap between the enemy and adversary and the people of God. Those men who were twenty years of age and upward were numbered among the children of Israel as those who were able to go forth to war, and thus doing battle with the enemy and adversary marched against the people of God and threatened their existence. It’s quite astonishing to think about and consider the fact that when you read and think about all those six hundred thousand men who were numbered from among the children of Israel were engaged in a tremendous sense of intercession as they stood between warfare and the people of God. The women and the children who remained behind would not be numbered from among the congregation of Israel as those who were able to go forth to war, and all those young men nineteen years and younger were not numbered among those who were able to go forth to war. What an absolutely and wonderful concept and truth it is to think about and consider the fact that there was a form of intercession that was found in the midst of the congregation of the children of Israel, as the children of Israel were essentially interceded for by those men who would go out and engage the enemy in battle.

I sit and consider the words which are found within the opening chapter of the Old Testament book of Numbers and cannot help but come face to face with the absolutely astonishing reality that intercession as we know and have come to think of it includes those who are willing to position themselves in between the people of God—those who perhaps are unable to engage in the struggle, or perhaps those who aren’t yet able to engage in the struggle—and the conflict and struggle which threatens their existence. There are those from among the congregation and assembly of the people of God who are in fact numbered among those who are not only ready, but who are also willing and able to enter into the throes of battle that they might engage the enemy head on and prevent their assaults and attacks from coming nigh unto the people of God. It is a truly wonderful privilege and responsibility to be as one who is able to go forth into war and as one who is able to stand in the gap between the people of God and the conflict which threatens to violently overthrow their faith, their trust and their confidence. There is something to be said about those who are willing to lay their lives down and put their own lives on the line to run into the midst of the battle, as an enemy and adversary—perhaps one that is far too great, and much stronger than those whom they have come against—threatens to come against them. Intercession does in fact have at the very heart and center of it the unwavering ability and willingness to position yourself between the attacks and assaults of the enemy in order that you might engage the weapons and advances of the enemy come against the people of God. It is quite a remarkable and astounding concept to think there are men and women who show absolutely no regard for their lives and for their own well-being as just like fire fighters who rush into the midst of the flames and into the midst of a burning building they rush right into the struggle and right into the fight. Oh that we would recognize and understand that intercession carries with it the tremendous humility and self-sacrifice within the heart and soul of one who is willing to insert and place themselves between the conflict, between the struggle, between the battle, between the warfare and the people of God—those who perhaps are unable to fight, or perhaps those who don’t have the strength to fight and engage themselves in battle.

With all of this being said, it’s important to think about and consider the fact that as certainly and as much as there were those who would position themselves between war and warfare and the people of God, there were those who were positioned by the living God between the congregation of Israel and the wrath of God. As you read the words which are found within these chapters you will find that when the LORD was speaking unto Moses concerning the congregation of the children of Israel, as well as the Levites, He was very clear that the children of Israel would pitch their tents, every man by his own camp, and every man by his own standard, throughout their hosts. While on the surface this might not seem significant, it is actually quite interesting when you consider the words which come immediately before them, as well as the words which come immediately after them. If you read the words which immediately precede you will find the following command and warning given from the LORD: “…and the stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death.” This is even more significant and carries with it an even greater meaning when you consider the words which follow immediately after the description of the children of Israel in relation to where the Levites themselves were camped in the congregation of the children of Israel. If you read the words which are found in the fifty-third verse of this first chapter you will find that “the Levites shall pitch round about the tabernacle of testimony, that there be no wrath upon the congregation of the children of Israel: and the Levites shall keep the charge of the tabernacle of testimony” (Numbers 1:53). If the opening verses describe intercession as those who positioned themselves between warfare and the children of Israel then the final verses of the first chapter presents us with a strong and powerful picture of the priests who positioned themselves between the children of Israel and the wrath of God. If you read and study the ministry of the priests which were ordained and appointed by the living God you will find that they were the ministers of the sanctuary and those who were positioned between the children of Israel and the wrath of God. What’s more, is that the altar of burnt offering which was present in the court of the sanctuary was of utmost importance, for it was that altar where the ministry of intercession would take place as the priests would present the offerings upon the altar, as well as minister with the blood to provide atonement for the children of Israel, as well as themselves. If you study the pattern of the sanctuary and the pattern of the Tabernacle you will find that there were essentially different layers of protection which were in place between the congregation of the children of Israel and the wrath of God.

In the Holy of Holies where the Ark of the Covenant rested with the Mercy Seat over and above it we find the living God meeting with the children of Israel and speaking directly unto Moses. It would be above the Holy of Holies and above the Ark of the Covenant where the glory and presence of the living God would rest with the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. As you move from the Holy of holies outward through the Tabernacle you will find that there was the altar of incense which represented the prayers and intercession of the priests and people. Moving even further away from the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy of Holies you will find the altar of burnt offering where the ministry of sacrifices took place in the court of the LORD. It was there in the court where the sacrifices and offerings of the children of Israel were placed upon the altar and burned in the fire as the blood of the offerings was poured out at the base of the altar, or sprinkled before the LORD. With that being said, it’s necessary that we understand that even beyond the altar of burnt offering there were those who were positioned between the people of Israel and the wrath of God, for the LORD specifically commanded that the priests and Levites be camped between the tabernacle of testimony and the people that the wrath of God might not break out upon the people of Israel. It’s important for us to recognize and understand this fact, for when you think about intercession you must think about the reality that intercession also carries with it those who are willing to deliberately place themselves between the wrath of God and the people of God. The priests did more than simply present the offerings and sacrifices upon the altar of burnt offering to make atonement for the children of Israel, for their very camps and household was stationed and positioned between the congregation of Israel and the tabernacle of testimony that the wrath of God might not be unleashed upon the congregation. When you think about the ministry of the priests it would be very easy to consider them as solely as those who made sacrifices and offerings upon the altar, however, according to the first chapter of the Old Testament book of Numbers the priests served a greater role and function within and among the congregation of the children of Israel—namely, that they were actually positioned between the congregation of the people of Israel and the wrath of God. The LORD was very specific that any stranger that came near the tabernacle would surely be put to death—similar in nature to the instructions and commands the living God gave to Moses while the children of Israel were at the mountain in the midst of the wilderness. The LORD gave very clear and specific instructions through Moses unto the children of Israel that none of them dare approach or touch the mount to break through and gaze upon the living God, and any soul which would dare make an attempt to do so would surely be put to death.

THE STRANGER WHO DRAWS NEAR DIES! THE PRIESTS WHO DRAW NEAR! NOT EVEN THE PRIESTS ARE EXEMPT FROM THE HOLINESS OF GOD! NADAB ANS ABIHU WERE ANOINTED! NADAB AND ABUHU WERE CONSECRATED! It’s quite interesting to read the words which are found within these two chapters, for within these chapters we encounter a very distinct warning and word of caution. As you read the words which are found within these chapters you will find the warning given unto Moses concerning the strangers among the children of Israel and those who would and should not draw near unto the tabernacle and sanctuary of the living God. There is a strong and powerful warning within these chapters that the stranger among the children of Israel might not come near the Tabernacle without incurring a very steep penalty of the Lord’s judgment upon them. The Lord was very clear when speaking unto Moses that the stranger ought not come near unto the sanctuary lest they be put to death at the hand of the Lord which would break out against them. It’s necessary that we recognize and understand these words, for within these words we find almost an identical warning as that was given concerning coming near unto the mountain of God within the wilderness. As you turn and direct your attention back to the nineteenth chapter of the Old Testament book of Exodus you will find the living God giving Moses a very clear and direct command that the children of Israel should consecrate themselves for two days and to be ready against the third day, for on the third day He would come down among the children of Israel atop and upon the mountain of God in the wilderness. What’s so intriguing about this word spoken unto Moses is that with it the Lord also commanded and instructed the children of Israel not to come near unto the mount to somehow gaze upon the Lord. What’s more, is the living God gave a very distinct warning unto the children of Israel that they not even touch the mountain, and that any soul which touched the mount would surely be put to death. It’s necessary that we recognize and pay close attention to these words and warnings, for the living God was very clear and very specific when warning the children of Israel, for that soul which came near unto the mountain—yea, even that soul which dared touch the mountain of God—would surely be put to death by being shot through. Oh what a tremendous word of warning it is to consider how the living God commanded such respect and honor for His glory and presence that He warned the children of Israel that none draw near or touch the mount lest they be out to death.

The warning which the living God gave unto the children of Israel is actually quite powerful when you think about and consider it, for the same type of warning the living God gave unto the children of Israel concerning drawing near and touching the mount was the same type of warning the living God gave concerning the stranger in the midst of Israel and coming near unto the sanctuary which resides and tested in the midst of the congregation of Israel. The two warnings—one concerning the mountain of God, and the other concerning the tabernacle which rested in the midst of the children of Israel—were meant to reflect the divine holiness of the living God which would be manifested in the midst of His people. It is worth noting and pointing out these words of warning unto the children of Israel—and evening unto the stranger—for these words of warning demonstrated the tremendous need to reverence and honor the holiness, the glory and presence of the living God. The living God would not allow any soul among the congregation of Israel to come near the mountain which was present in the midst of the wilderness lest they be put to death, and the living God issued the same kind of warning unto the stranger in the midst of the congregation of the children of Israel lest they draw near and come unto the sanctuary and perish. As you study the role and function of the priests you will encounter the tremendous truth that the priests served a secondary function in the midst of the solemn assembly. If you turn and direct your attention back to the first chapter of this Old Testament book you will find that the priests were to camp before the tabernacle of the living God and the people of God lest the wrath of God break out before, in the midst of and upon the children of Israel. The priests and the Levites were to be stationed and positioned between the sanctuary and the people of israel lest the anger and wrath of the living God break forth in the midst of the people. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this absolutely wonderful and tremendous reality, for it demonstrates the reality that the priests were essentially a buffer which stood in the midst of the assembly and the living God. I happen to find it absolutely incredible that the living God would station and position the priests and the Levites between the sanctuary and the people—almost as if it were some prophetic shadow and type of the role and function of intercession. The priests and Levites were to be camped in the midst of the camp between the people and the sanctuary lest the Lord break out against the people and they incur His wrath. This role and function of the placement of the priests and Levites is actually quite astounding when you think about it, for it was almost as though they were a line of defense between the sanctuary where the glory of God rested and where the food of heaven was offered.

With these words being spoken concerning the stranger being unable to draw and come near unto the sanctuary, as well as the reality that the priests and Levites were stationed and positioned between the sanctuary and the people we get the strong sense that the living God was calling for a tremendous and wonderful respect for His holiness and for His authority. What’s more, is you get the sense that the living God was calling for and requiring the children of Israel honoring His glory and presence which rested and swelled in the midst of them. With the warning given at the mount concerning coming near the mountain of God, and with the warning given concerning the stranger among the solemn assembly coming near unto the sanctuary we must ask an additional question—namely, what about the priests? It’s one thing for the living God to issue a warning unto the assembly itself, and it’s one thing for the Lord to issue a warning concerning the strangers which were found in the midst of the people, but it’s another thing altogether for the Lord to have such a warning given unto the priests and those who drew near unto the sacred and holy altar, and those who ministered before and around the altar of being offering which was present in the midst of the people. The question I can’t help but ask as I sit here this morning is concerning the priests and whether or not it was possible for the priests to violate the holiness of the living God, and whether the priests could dishonor the glory and presence or the living God. The truth of the matter is that when and as you read the words which are found within this third chapter of the book of Numbers you will find that it was absolutely possible for the priests of the living God to violate the command concerning the holiness and honor and glory of the living God. The third chapter of this particular book brings us face to face with the awesome and incredible reality that the priests could indeed violate the commands and decrees of the living God, and even experience and incur the divine wrath of the living God. Is it possible for the priests of the living God to violate His holiness and violate His glory and presence, and thus be consumed by the same wrath which they were to protect the congregation of Israel from? This question is actually one that is quite remarkable and astounding when you think about and consider it—particularly and especially when you consider the Old Testament book of Leviticus and Numbers, for when we come to these books we find a tremendous call for the honor and reverence of the holiness and glory of the living God. What’s more, is that within these two books we find the ordination, the appointment, the consecration and the anointing of the holy priests of the living God. The truth of the matter is that it was absolutely possible for the priests of the living God to violate the holiness of the living God, and to bring upon themselves the same wrath they were intended to protect the children of Israel from experiencing themselves. In fact, if you read the third chapter of this Old Testament book of Numbers you will encounter this firsthand with the description of Aaron and his four sons. Consider if you will the opening four verses of the third chapter in this Old Testament book of Numbers:

“These also are the generations of Aaron and Moses in the day that the LORD spake with Moses in mount Sinai. And these are the names of the sons of Aaron; Nadab the firstborn, and Abihu, Eleanor, and Ithaca’s. These are the names of the sons of Aaron, the priests which were anointed, whom he consecrated to minister in the priest’s office. And Nadab and Abihu died before the LORD, when they offered strange fire before the LORD, in the wilderness of Sinai, and they had no children: and Eleanor and Ithamar ministered in the priest’s office in the sight of Aaron their father” (Numbers 3:1-4).

The account and narrative of Nadab and Abihu and their ministry as priests before the living God in the midst of His holy sanctuary is found in the Old Testament book of Leviticus, for it is there within that book we encounter and experience Nadab and Abihu violating the command of the living God and doing that thing which He instructed them not to. Within the Old Testament book of Leviticus you will find the narrative and account of Nadab and Abihu, and how they violated the holiness and glory of the living God by doing something which He neither commanded, nor authorized them to do. When speaking concerning the narrative of these two sons of Aaron it is absolutely necessary to draw and call your attention to the fact that what they were indeed and what they were in fact guilty of was violating the holiness and glory of the living God, and they did so by doing that which was neither authorized nor commanded by the living God. In all reality, if you study the Old Testament you will find that Nadab and Abihu weren’t the only priests who violated the holiness of the living God, for if you come to the Old Testament book of First Samuel you will find that the two sons of Eli the high priest in the nation of Israel—Hophni and Phineas—also violated the holiness and glory of the living God. VIOLATING THE ANOINTING THAT IS UPON YOU! VIOLATING YOUR CONSECRATION! VIOLATING THE MINISTRY YOU WERE ORDAINED TO FULFILL! In all reality, I would like to draw and call your attention to the two narratives and two accounts of these two sets of brothers who were consecrated and anointed as the priests and ministers of the living God, for the narrative of their lives is a sad commentary on their disrespect and dishonor for the glory and holiness of the living God. There is within the Old Testament a truly wonderful and powerful picture that while the priests and Levites were called and ordained by the living God to camp between the congregation of Israel and the sanctuary lest the wrath of God break out before and upon them, it was possible that the priests could indeed violate the command of the living God. The opening verses of the third chapter of the book of Numbers provides us with a commentary on the lives of Nadab and Abihu, for it reveals how they died before the LORD when they offered strange fire before the LORD. IN order to truly understand that which is written within the opening verses of this third chapter—as well as understanding the role of the priests and Levites which would be found within these two chapters—it is necessary that we think about and consider the words which are written in the Old Testament books of Leviticus and First Samuel concerning these two sets of brothers who were ordained and consecrated as priests of the living God and ministers of His holy sanctuary. Consider if you will the narrative and account of these two sets of brothers, and how it was indeed possible for priests to violate the command and holiness of the living God:

“And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He commanded them not. And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD. Then Moses said unto Aaron, This is it that the LORD spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come. Nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified. And Aaron held his peace. And Moses called Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Uzziel the uncle of Aaron, and said unto them, Come near, carry your brethren from before the sanctuary out of the camp. So they went near, and carried them in their coats out of the camp; as Moses had said. And Moses said unto Aaron, and unto Eleanor and unto Ithamar, his sons, Uncover not your heads, neither rend your clothes; lest ye die, and lest wrath come upon all the people: but let your brethren, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning which the LORD hath kindled. And ye shall not go out from the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: for the anointing oil of the LORD is upon you. And they did according to the word of Moses” (Leviticus 10:1-7).

“Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belak; they knew not the LORD. And the priests’ custom with the people was, that, when any man offered a sacrifice, the priest’s servant came, while the flesh was in seething, with a flesh hook of three teeth in his hand; and he struck it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or pot; all that the flesh hook brought up the priest took for himself. So they did in Shiloh unto all the Israelites that came thither. Also before they burnt the fat, the priest’s servant came, and said to the man that sacrificed, Give flesh to roast for the priest; for he will not have sodden flesh of thee, but raw. And if any man said unto him, Let them not fail to burn the fat presently and then take as much as thy soul desireth; then he would answer him, Nay; but thou shalt give it me now: and if not, I will take it by force. Wherefore the sin of the young men was very great before the LORD: for men abhorred the offering of the LORD” (1 Samuel 2:12-17).

“Now Eli was very old, and heard all that his sons did unto all Israel; and how they lay with the women that assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And he said unto them, Why do ye such things? For I hear of your evil dealings by all this people. Nay, my sons; for it is no good report that I hear: ye make the Lord’s people to transgress. If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him: but if a man sin against the LORD, who shall intreat for him? Notwithstanding they heartened not unto the voice of their father, because the LORD would slay them” (1 Samuel 2:22-25).

It is quite clear and quite obvious from these three passages of Scripture that it was indeed possible for the priests of the living God—those who were consecrated and those who were anointed to minister before the living God in His holy sanctuary—to violate the holiness and command of the living God. It was indeed possible for the priests who were ordained and appointed to minister before and around the sacred and holy altar to violate the command and holiness of the living God, and as a direct result of their rebellion and transgression, they would be slain by the living God. What is quite interesting and quite astonishing when you read and consider the words and language which is found within these chapters is that not only is and not only was it possible for the priests of the LORD to violate the command of the living God and to rebel against His authority and holiness, but it was also possible for those who were consecrated, and even those who were anointed as priests of the LORD to violate the command and holiness of the living God. What’s more, and what we must also carefully consider is that it is possible for such who were anointed and such who were even consecrated as holy and separated unto the LORD to die at the hand of the LORD as He breaks out upon them. Before we begin reading about the ministry of the Levites and priests as it was written and recorded within the Old Testament book of Numbers we are met with and directly confronted with the reality that not even were the priests of the LORD exempt from obeying the command of the LORD. It was absolutely possible for the priests of the living God—those who were anointed, and those who were consecrated as holy before and unto the living God—to violate the command of the living God, and as a direct result of their violation of His command and holiness, the LORD would break forth against them in the midst of the congregation. If you study the narratives of Nadab and Abihu, as well as that of Hophni and Phineas, you will find that the LORD broke out against the two sons of Aaron as fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them where they stood. In the case of the two sons of Eli you will find that the LORD did not break out upon them with a consuming fire, however, you will find that when the army of Israel went forth into battle against the Philistines—not only was the Ark of the Covenant captured (the Ark of the Covenant which was coincidentally carried by the two sons of Eli)—but so also were the two sons of Eli killed in battle. What an incredibly tragic day it was to think about and consider the fact that not only was that symbol of the glory and presence of God captured by the enemy, but two priests of the LORD were killed in battle according to the LORD who would break out against them in the midst of the land.

It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand that which is written and that which is found within these chapters, for within these chapters we encounter and come face to face with the tremendous reality that it was absolutely possible for the priests of the living God, and those who were anointed and consecrated to violate the command of the living God, and as such to find the LORD breaking out against them to bring them to a swift end. Nadab and Abihu were struck down by the hand of the LORD when fire came out from before the living God of heaven and earth and consumed them. What a striking difference from the fire which came out from before the LORD and consumed the offering which was upon the altar of burnt offering. The living God declared that by those who drew near to Him He would be regarded as holy, and yet Aaron’s two sons—Nadab and Abihu—showed no regard for the holiness and command of the living God, for they dared offered strange fire which was neither authorized, nor commanded by the living God. In the case of the two sons of Hophni and Phineas—not only did they violate the command and holiness of the LORD concerning the offerings of the congregation of Israel, but they also violated the command of the living God by sleeping with the women who came unto the Tabernacle to present their offerings and gifts before and unto the living God. Oh that we would truly recognize and understand the narratives of these two sets of brothers, for these two sets of brothers were consecrated and anointed by the living God as His holy priests and ministers within His sanctuary, and as such were held to a much higher standard of holiness and obedience before and unto the living God. Even after the living God had kindled a great burning in the midst of the congregation of Israel by consuming Nadab and Abihu with fire Moses instructed Aaron and his sons to not leave the door of the tabernacle of congregation lest they incur the wrath of God upon themselves, and the wrath of God breaking out upon the congregation of Israel as a whole. What we must recognize and what we must understand when thinking about and considering the narratives of these two sets of brothers is that it is possible for the priests to violate the command and authority of the living God. What’s more, is that these two narratives prove and demonstrate the not even the priests and those who were anointed and consecrated to minister before the LORD were exempt from holiness and obedience before the living God. Through the narrative and account of Nadab and Abihu we find that it is possible to be anointed, and it is possible to be consecrated by the living God, and yet to so violate the command and holiness of the living God that he break out against and consume you. What an incredible word of caution and warning is found within the first four verses of the third chapter of the book of Numbers, and how absolutely astonishing it is to think about and consider the fact that even in our generation it is possible for those who have been consecrated—and even those who are and have been anointed of the living God—to violate the command and authority of God, and as a result of their rebellion to His authority, the living God can in fact break out against them. It is a very solemn thing, the holiness of God, for the living God requires full honor and reverence of His holiness, and full honor and reverence of His glory and His presence. Moreover, the LORD shows great respect for that place where He has put His name, thus indicating that in addition to the wonderful reality of requiring obedience to the holiness of the living God, the LORD also requires respect and honor unto his name and that place He sets his name.

With all of this being said, it is absolutely necessary that we understand the tremendous truth that not even the priests and ministers of the living God are exempt from the divine wrath and judgment of the living God, for before we even encounter the words which LORD would speak unto Moses concerning the Levites we find a solemn warning and word of remembrance concerning the two sons of Aaron who were struck down before and in the presence of the LORD because of their violation of His holiness, His glory, His presence and His commands . As you continue reading the words which are found within the third and fourth chapters you will find the living God calling for the presentation of the tribe of Leviticus to appear before Him, for the LORD had specifically called and chosen them to minister before and unto Him. This is actually quite interesting when you consider and think about the fact that in the wilderness when the congregation of Israel sinned against the LORD with the image of the golden calf, Moses called for all those who were on the LORD’s side, and of all the tribes of Israel, only the sons of Levi responded by coming forth. As a direct result of the sons of Levi coming forth before and unto Moses they were chosen by Moses to take up the sword and bring about a great slaughter in the midst of the people that the judgment of the living might be stayed in the midst of the people. The sons of Levi would once again take up the sword, as you will read that Levi himself took up the sword with his brother to slaughter Shechem and others when their sister Dinah was raped when she went out to see the daughters of the land. In that generation of Levi he would take up the sword against those who violated his sister, and would do so with his brother as they would put to death a great number of husbands, sons, fathers, and the like. In the wilderness at the sin of the golden calf the sons of Levi would again take up the sword as they would bring about a great slaughter in the midst of the congregation of Israel according to the command of Moses that the judgment of the LORD might be stayed. It’s necessary that we recognize and understand this absolutely incredible reality, for when we come to the third and fourth chapters of the book of Numbers we encounter the living God calling for the sons of Levi to be brought unto Him at the tabernacle of the congregation that they might step into that for which they were called, chosen and ordained. In fact, in the first several verses of the third chapter you will find the living God calling for the tribe of Levi to be brought forth unto Him, and to be presented unto the LORD, and before Aaron the priest, that they might minister unto Aaron. What’s more, is that when the tribe of Levi was called to come forth and when they were presented before the LORD, they were chosen specifically that they might keep the charge of Aaron, that they might keep the charge of the whole congregation before the tabernacle of the congregation, and to do the service of the tabernacle.

What we find within these chapters is a truly wonderful and powerful picture of the tribe of Levi being chosen by the living God—not only to minister unto Aaron and his sons who were consecrated and anointed as the priests of the living God, but also to minister before and unto the living God. When the sons of Levi were called near unto Moses the first time they were commanded to take up the sword that they might stay the judgment of the LORD in the midst of and upon the people, however, what we find now when the tribe of Levi was called a second time was that they were chosen for something much different than merely taking up the sword against their brethren, for they would be called and chosen now that they might minister before and unto the living God. The sons of Levi were specially called and chosen by the living God in place of the first born sons of Israel, for you will recall in the Old Testament book of Exodus that when the living God destroyed the firstborn within the land of Egypt, He called for and declared that the firstborn sons of the children of Israel—both of man and beast—were specifically called and set apart unto Himself. What we find concerning the sons of Levi is that they were called and chosen instead of and in place of the firstborn sons among the congregation of the children of Israel, and were essentially substituted for them in the sight and presence of the living God. The Levites numbered more than twenty-two thousand at this time in the wilderness, and this whole assembly of Levites were specifically called and chosen by the living God—not only as a substitute for the firstborn sons of the congregation of Israel, but also as wholly set apart and given unto Aaron and his sons in the ministry of the tabernacle. While Aaron and his sons were ordained and appointed as the priests and ministers of the living God, the Levites were called, chosen and ordained by the living God for the work of the ministry of the Tabernacle—for its breaking down and setting up, and even for the covering of the instruments of the tabernacle, as well as the furnishings of the tabernacle. In all reality, it’s quite intriguing to think about and consider the fact that the Levites were specifically called and chosen by the living God from among the congregation of Israel—not for warfare and not to go out to battle, but for the ministry of the sanctuary and for the work of the living God in the midst of the congregation and assembly. These two chapters are filled with the names of the sons of Levi according to their households, as well as the numbering of the sons of Levi that they might be presented unto Aaron and his sons as ministers in the midst of the sanctuary and in the midst of the congregation of the children of Israel. It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand this absolutely remarkable and astounding reality, for this reality brings us face to face with those who were numbered from among the people of God—not for the purpose of warfare, and not for the purpose of battle, but for the purpose of work and for the purpose of the ministry of the tabernacle.

As I bring this writing to a close I feel a great need to bring and call your attention to the absolutely tremendous and wonderful reality that the Levites were specifically called and were specifically set apart from the congregation of Israel in place of and as a substitute for the firstborn sons who broke the matrix in the midst of the congregation of Israel. What’s more, is the Levites were specifically called and chosen by the living God for the purpose of work, and that of the work of the ministry. How absolutely remarkable and astounding it is to think about and consider that there were those that were specifically numbered from among the congregation for the purpose of warfare, but there were others who were specifically numbered from among the congregation for the purpose of work. When we think about the divine will and purpose of the living God, it is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand that the living God ordains and appoints those for the purpose of warfare, battle, conflict and struggle, while the living God appoints others for the purpose of work, and specifically for the work of the ministry. You wouldn’t think that there would be any significance in the breaking down and setting up of the Tabernacle, however, that which we find within these chapters clearly indicates that the LORD specifically calls and chooses the tribe of Levi for and unto Himself for the breaking down and setting up of the Tabernacle, as well as the carrying and covering of its instruments and furnishings. Oh how absolutely wonderful and incredible it is to think about and consider the fact that the sons of Levi were wholly given unto Aaron and his sons who were the priests and ministers within the holy sanctuary for the purpose of carrying and covering the sanctuary, as well as for the breaking down and setting up of the Tabernacle. Oh there would be those who choose to exalt and elevate those who go forth into the throes of battle and those who go forth into the midst of the conflict and struggle to wage war, and would dare suggest that those who were called and chosen for the work of the ministry of the Tabernacle have less of a role and function in the midst of the people of God. The truth of the matter is that this simply isn’t the case it is was written and revealed within these chapters, for the sons of Levi—the tribe of Levi itself—was specifically called and chosen by the living God for the work of the ministry of the Tabernacle, for they were those who would not go out to battle, and they were those who would not ever take up the sword to strike down the enemies of the children of Israel. Oh that we would recognize and understand this absolutely wonderful reality, for there is a specific role and a specific purpose for those within the congregation of the children of Israel, as there are those who are specifically numbered to go out unto battle and to wage war, while there are others who are specifically called and chosen for the work of the ministry, and for the breaking down and setting up of the Tabernacle with all its instruments and furnishings. Oh that we would read these chapters and would come face to face with the absolutely wonderful reality that there are those who have been specifically called and ordained by the living God for the purpose of work rather than warfare, as they have been set apart for the work of the ministry of the tabernacle while others are those who take up the sword and go out to battle.

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