The Significance of Levites in Relation to Heavenly Fullness
First of all, it is this fragment - "The priests, the Levites, bearing it", bearing the ark - that is the key to our present consideration.
In this book of Joshua, the Levites have a large place. They are referred to quite a number of times. Indeed, at one point the whole chapter circles around them. and it is the significance of the Levites in relation to heaven fullness that I want by the Holy Spirit's help to try to bring to you. Many of us are quite familiar with the history of the Levites, but it is necessary for us to go over that ground hurriedly to begin with.
In this book of Joshua the Levites are presented in three ways. Firstly, as we have just seen, as bearing the ark of the covenant into the bed of the Jordan and standing there with it, with a two-thousand-cubit space between them and it and the people - a very great distance, as we saw in chapter five. Then, secondly, in Joshua 14 it is stated that the Levites were given no inheritance. That is, in the dividing up of the land, unlike the other tribes they were not apportioned a particular area, they were given no inheritance in the land. But, thirdly, in chapter 21, the chapter which circles around the Levites, you find that all the tribes had to give something of a plot, a place, to the Levites. The Levites were distributed among all the tribes, and their place and their portion was not all together in one place, but in relation to the whole country, so that you might say the Levites were just scattered all over the land, everywhere, in relation to the rest of the people. Those are the three things about the Levites, in this book, full of wonderful significance.
Levites Represent the Heavenly Thought
What do they signify? Let us go back. You remember how the Levites came into being as a tribe. It was on the occasion when Israel departed, when the calf was made, and they cried, "These be thy gods, O Israel" (Exodus 32:4), and they left the Lord. And Moses came down, heard and saw, destroyed the calf, stood in the gate and cried, "Whoso is on the Lord's side, let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him. And he said unto them, Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, Put ye every man his sword upon his thigh, and go to and fro from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbor. And the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses" (Exodus 32:26-28). All earthly considerations were sacrificed to the heavenly interest all earthly relationships severed for the heavenly thought; everything of natural sentiment and emotion, all that was of the mere soul, was slain in the interests of that which governed the very coming out of the people of God. For it was in the thought of God that they should be a heavenly people, and not thus involved in the spiritual system governing this world. In that alone the Levites are seen to represent the heavenly thought of God. A very drastic and utter thing, was it not, that they should do that.
And you remember the Lord never forgot it. Right at the end of the Old Testament, in the last book, Malachi, referring to the matter of Baal-Peor, where Phineas maintained the stand for heavenly interests originally taken on the occasion of the making of the golden calf (Numbers 35), the Lord said, "My covenant was with him [Levi] of life and peace" (Malachi 2:5). 'He did not acknowledge his brethren' (Deuteronomy 33: 9): that is, he did not look with sympathy even upon his own flesh when that moved away from God's high thoughts. God made His covenant with Levi. So at the very outset the Levites were selected, and separated from all the rest of Israel, as taking the place of the firstborn in Israel, and they became the tribe of the firstborn ones; and from that many of you will at once in
your minds leap over to the letter to the Hebrews - "Ye are come unto ... the ... church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven" (Hebrews 12:22, 23). Here is the heavenly thing coming in again: the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven - the Levites, the heavenly thought.
(continued with # 32)