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4 And ye shall know that I have sent this commandment unto you, that my covenant might be with Levi, saith Yahweh of hosts.
They were "the priests, the Levites", as the Law repeatedly called them (e.g., Deut. 17: 9), and as such frequently acted as His representatives in Israel in the discharge of duties which, though they were properly the responsibility of the High Priest, were too numerous and too extensive for him to be able to attend to them all. They were the custodians of the written Law (Deut. 17: 18; 19 : 17), and the spiritual instructors of the people (Lev. l0 : I I ; Deut. 24 : 8)
Law and Grace Ch 11
7 For the priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of Yahweh of hosts.
The Levites were not to have any inheritance in the land assigned to Israel. They were to find their maintenance in another way. They were to be supported by a fixed contribution of a tenth from the produce of all the land. Nevertheless, they were to have cities of their own, though no fields or estates in the country (Joshua 21: 1-3).
"All the cities of the Levites within the possession of the children of Israel were forty and eight cities with their suburbs" (verse 41).
These cities were scattered through the territories of all the other tribes. The enumeration of their several localities is minutely set forth in Joshua 21. The business of the Levites rendered this distribution necessary. Their business was to keep God before the mind of the people and to instruct them in the law.
They were intended to be a spiritualizing element in the population. The tribe of Levi was separated for this very purpose (Num. 8:14; 16:9). The character of the personal Levi and his immediate descendants appears to have been the basis of the selection.
How excellent a feature in the national life of Israel was this -- the wide scattering through all the land, of these Levitical cities as radiating centres of light and wisdom -- protecting the surrounding population from the mentally benumbing effects of a merely agricultural life while not interfering with the invigorating and broadening tendency of an out-of-door and opulent occupation...
...That it was a failure we know: but this was not the fault of the law, but of the people, and principally of the teachers.
...The reproduction of the system under Christ will be attended with very different results:
"I will settle you after your old estates, and do better unto you than at your beginnings." "I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding." "Thy people also shall be all righteous: they shall inherit the land for ever." "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them."
When we extend our view beyond the settlement of the people in families on the land, on the basis of inalienable inheritance (subject to unconditional and compulsory release every fifty years), to the further laws given to bring individual life under reverence, and purity and gratitude, and to rouse up public life into recurring seasons of joyous social activity, appreciation of the law of Moses swells and bursts into enthusiastic admiration.
Law of Moses Ch 8.
13 And this have ye done again, covering the altar of Yahweh with tears, with weeping, and with crying out, insomuch that he regardeth not the offering any more, or receiveth it with good will at your hand.
But, the Mosaic offerings were not always unpleasant to Yahweh. It was the abominations of the offerers that made them disgusting in his sight. The High Priests and their sacerdotal households, who ought to have been "Holiness to Yahweh," were very often men of reprobate character, setting an example to Israel which they were not slow to follow, thus verifying the sayings,
"Like priests, like people," and "the leaders of my people cause them to err."
...The saying, "insomuch that he regardeth not the offering any more, or receiveth it with good will at your hand," implies that there was a time when he did regard the offering, and did receive it with good will, or pleasure, at their hand. Indeed the Spirit saith so in so many words when testifying of the purification of the sons of Levi; as it is written,
"Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant to Yahweh (or regarded, and received with good will) as in days of old, and as in former years." (Mal 3:4)
In reading Yahweh's reasons for taking no pleasure in the sacrifice and offering; and burnt offerings, and offering for sin which were offered in Judah by the law, we are forcibly reminded of the sectarian practices and dogmas of our day.
When ecclesiastics want to "bring down the Holy Ghost," they assemble the people to what they call "the altar of the Lord," which, like Judah's priests of old, they "cover with tears, with weeping, and with crying out." This was the practice of Baal's worshippers, from whom the Jews learnt it; and it is the idolatrous custom in these times of those who profess to go to the Lord to "get religion!" But the reader will perceive from the words of Yahweh himself that he despises such religion-getting, and turns his back upon it; so that the fruit of these ecclesiastical demonstrations are not of God, but of the carnal mind unenlightened by his truth.
The priests also who practiced this Baalism held a dogma essentially the same as Universalism. They taught that
"Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of Yahweh, and he delighteth in them."
This was in effect affirming that men would be saved however evil they might be; for it is only in the saints that Yahweh delights. Such doctrine and practices, then, as these caused Yahweh to take no pleasure in the sacrifice and offering he had ordained in the Mosaic law; and therefore Messiah came to do, or establish, the Second Will - to bring it into force through the offering of the body the I-shall-be had prepared for himself.
Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, Dec 1854