Moses blessed the Israelites in Deuteronomy 33. You can see the situation of each tribe. Let’s look at the tribe of Levi.
Deuteronomy 33:8-11: “And of Levi he said, ‘Give to Levi your Thummim, and your Urim to your godly one, whom you tested at Massah, with whom you quarreled at the waters of Meribah; who said of his father and mother, I regard them not; he disowned his brothers and ignored his children. For they observed your word and kept your covenant. They shall teach Jacob your rules and Israel your law; they shall put incense before you and whole burnt offerings on your altar. Bless, O Lord, his substance, and accept the work of his hands; crush the loins of his adversaries, of those who hate him, that they rise not again.’”
From the passage, we can see that the blessing of priesthood was given to Levi, as it clearly says here, “Give to Levi your Thummim, and your Urim to your godly one.” The latter part of Deuteronomy says how Levi took God’s side in one incident. Initially, the Levites had lost the blessing of the firstborn, but later on, they received the blessing of priesthood because they stood on God’s side, remained faithful to Him, and their heart to God was not affected by human affection.
Verse 10 says, “They shall teach Jacob your rules and Israel your law; they shall put incense before you and whole burnt offerings on your altar.”
Putting incense represents praying to God, and it also talks about burnt offering. The sons of the Levites, the descendants of Aaron, had been priests.
Let us look at Exodus 32. You can read the whole chapter when you get a chance. It’s very tragic. On Mount Sinai, God established a covenant (the old covenant) with the Israelites. Originally, God wanted the whole nation of Israel to be a kingdom of priests, but they soon turned to idols. Moses was so angry that he threw the two tablets and broke them at the foot of the mountain! They broke the covenant and were not able to keep it, that is, the first and second commandments. They made idols and even worshipped and danced before them!
Exodus 32:25-29 reads, “And when Moses saw that the people had broken loose (for Aaron had let them break loose, to the derision of their enemies), then Moses stood in the gate of the camp and said, ‘Who is on the Lord’s side? Come to me.’ And all the sons of Levi gathered around him. And he said to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God of Israel, “Put your sword on your side each of you, and go to and fro from gate to gate throughout the camp, and each of you kill his brother and his companion and his neighbor.”’ And the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And that day about three thousand men of the people fell. And Moses said, ‘Today you have been ordained for the service of the Lord, each one at the cost of his son and of his brother, so that he might bestow a blessing upon you this day.’”
The people committed a grave sin. In other books, we can see the sons of Levi standing on God’s side, disregarding human affection. For example, you can read what Phinehas did in Numbers 25 and Psalm 106.
Let’s read Numbers 3:11-13. “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Behold, I have taken the Levites from among the people of Israel instead of every firstborn who opens the womb among the people of Israel. The Levites shall be mine, for all the firstborn are mine. On the day that I struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, I consecrated for my own all the firstborn in Israel, both of man and of beast. They shall be mine: I am the Lord.’”
The firstborn was redeemed by God by the blood of the lambs. Brothers and sisters, we, as the firstborn, should also be consecrated to the Lord. Verse 12 says, “Behold, I have taken the Levites from among the people of Israel instead of every firstborn who opens the womb among the people of Israel. The Levites shall be mine, for all the firstborn are mine.”
And verses 44-45 say, “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Take the Levites instead of all the firstborn among the people of Israel, and the cattle of the Levites instead of their cattle. The Levites shall be mine: I am the Lord….’”
The Levites became the firstborn in place of all the firstborn of Israel, and the blessing of priesthood fell on them.
Indeed, the firstborn is a representation of the whole nation, meaning that the whole nation belonged to God. Same for the cattle; actually, all our possessions on earth should belong to God. Indeed, all came from Him, just as Job wrote, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb… The Lord gave…” (Job 1:21) Brothers and sisters, you and I have been redeemed by the blood of the Lord. We and what we have all belong to Him, because all are His.
You should at least be clear by now that the blessing of the firstborn is so great. The head of the household was also like the priest of the household. Abel offered sacrifices. The son of Adam offered sacrifices. Who taught them that? I believed that on one hand, they learned it from what God did after man sinned: He prepared tunics of skins for Adam, to give him warmth and to cover his shame. I don’t know what animal skins were used to make the tunics, but most likely, they were lamb skins. When men sinned, God immediately promised that the seed of the woman would bruise the head of the serpent. I find it so precious: His beloved Son would become the seed of the woman. It’s so touching that a Child was born for us. Mary gave birth to Jesus. He had to die because it was said that the heel of the seed of the woman would be bruised, but He would bruise the head of the serpent. It’s so precious that the Lord was wounded for us. He bore the greatest pain. But He came in order to destroy the work of the enemy and to take away our sins.
I am not sure how much God had told them. And regarding offerings, even back then, Abel already brought to God an offering and He accepted it, because Abel offered the firstborn of the flock which required the shedding of blood. Cain brought to God an offering of the fruit of the ground which was planted by man. We cannot rely on man but on the blood of the Lamb. The Lamb is mentioned from Genesis to Revelation. And at the end, in Revelation, many passages talk about the Lamb. The Lord is the Lamb who was slain. Our names are written in the book of life of the Lamb. Our names have already been recorded in heaven, in the book of life of the Lamb.
Abel offered sacrifices. So did Noah. At the time, there was no law. Abraham also offered sacrifices, as mentioned in Genesis 22. Job was the ancestor and he also offered sacrifices. You can see from the Book of Job chapter 1 that he offered offerings for his sons. Whether it’s Abraham, or Isaac, or Jacob, they all built altars and sought the name of the Lord. They were all the heads of their households. As we mentioned earlier, the firstborn was also the head of the household. They offered sacrifices and were like the priests of the household. They also blessed others just as the priests did. The firstborn was the head of the household and he had special authority. Reuben was supposed to be of honour, glory, and power, but he had lost his birthright due to his problems.
Brothers and sisters, we are so blessed. In Old Testament times, being a priest was very honourable; even kings could not be priests. When Uzziah attempted to burn incense, he became leprous (2 Chronicles 26). Saul lost his kingship because he offered an offering by his own will (1 Samuel 13).