Am I a Levite?
Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron? (Hebrews 7:11, ESV)
If you’re a worship leader you’ve probably heard at some point that your role in the church is to be a Levite. And you’ve probably thought, like I have in times past, “Wow! The Levites were a big deal in worship . . . I guess my role must be pretty important.”
Well, you’re right! Your role is vitally important, but we might need to take another look at this idea of being a “Levite” in today’s church.
To be fair, the term “Levite” has become synonymous with “worshiper” in church culture—and for good reason. Levites were especially tasked by God to steward the tabernacle and temple worship practices of the Israelite people. The rules of engagement for worship were so robust that these people spent every waking moment either preparing themselves for worship or performing the rituals on behalf of God’s people. Some of their responsibilities included: singing psalms and playing music, providing construction and maintenance for the temple, guarding against intruders who may try to enter the forbidden interior places of worship, and acting as teachers and judges among other functions. The Levites were a busy bunch to say the least.
In the polytheistic culture of the ancient world, worship was a serious issue. So much so that God had to give incredibly specific instructions to break the Israelites of bad idolatrous habits.
If you touched something forbidden—you were dead.
If you entered somewhere forbidden—you were dead.
If you were not ritually clean before worship—you were dead.
Being a “Levite” doesn’t sound so appealing, huh?
At first glance, all of this Levite business sounds pretty horrible. But God was up to something much bigger than the severe accounts of the biblical narrative. As we read these stories in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, two things become incredibly apparent:
1) True worship is an impossible task for sinful people.
2) There is only one true priestly Levite to reconcile people to God in worship: God himself in the person of Jesus.
The writer of Hebrews makes this abundantly clear. The Levitical priesthood was insufficient in fulfilling God’s desire for worship relationship with his people. The rituals, sacrifices, and ceremonies were only instituted to underscore the untouchable purity of God’s holiness and to act as a foreshadowing of what God wanted to establish through the sacrifice of Jesus.
We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 6:19–20)
Because of this reality, the role of every believer is to live in the authority that God has given through Christ’s shed blood and the power of the Holy Spirit. The special “Levites” are gone and the “priesthood of believers” has come.
. . . and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (Revelation 1:5–6)
And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9–10)