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Lessons From Levi (Part 1)

The closing book of Old Testament revelation contains many censures of

God's people because of their spiritual condition yet, shining through

Malachi's sombre message are some words of high commendation:

"My covenant was with him of life and peace; and I gave them to him that he might fear, and he feared Me, and stood in awe of My name. The law of truth was in his mouth, and unrighteousness was not found in his lips: he walked with Me in peace and uprightness, and did turn many away from iniquity (Mal 2:5,6)".

These words were spoken about Levi. In considering them let us reflect on the history of Levi - the man and his tribe.

We read about the birth of Levi in Genesis 29. It is a story that has sad features. Jacob had been grievously deceived by Laban and he found himself married to a woman whom he did not love. The unrighteous action of Laban caused Leah to be the victim of very unhappy circumstances; she

knew that she was not loved. The deep emotions and longings of her heart were expressed in the names she gave to sons whom she bore to Jacob. When her third son was born she said, "Now this time will my husband be joined unto me ... therefore was his name called Levi" (Gen. 29:34). In giving this name it may be that Leah's thoughts did not take her beyond her immediate yearnings, but something of its significance was to emerge later.

For twenty years Jacob lived in the household of Laban. Then one day Jacob heard the Voice that said to him, "I am the God of Beth-el... now arise, get thee out from this land, and return unto the land of thy nativity" (Gen. 31:13). The message was clear.

As Jacob journeyed towards Beth-el he came to a place called Shechem where he purchased a piece of land and set up his encampment. "And he erected there an altar, and called it El-elohe-Israel" (God, the God of Israel). God had said plainly to Jacob, "I am the God of Beth-el". How foolish it was for Jacob to think that he could decide for himself where he would settle down and, having done so, could claim God's approval for the altar which he erected. When divine revelation indicates the place of divine choice, man has no right to substitute some other place for it. Jacob's action was to have grave consequences.

Jacob had a daughter named Dinah, and while her family were living outside Shechem she "went out to see the daughters of the land". Perhaps she felt lonely and longed for companionship and some sociality. This is a natural desire; and like all natural desires it needs to be governed and guided by the requirements of divine propriety. Loneliness may become an oppressive burden to its victims and it tends to expose them to exploitation. Dinah got into undesirable company, with the sad results described in Gen.

34.

The experience of his daughter must bear some relation to Jacob's decision to settle down near Shechem, and Jacob must bear some responsibility for what happened. Going through life with a family is no easy task for God fearing parents, and many godly fathers and mothers, in spite of careful and prayerful upbringing of their families, have had deep sorrow because of the waywardness of their children. Nevertheless parents need wisdom so that they do not make decisions which expose their families to unnecessary temptations. Parental example can either strengthen or weaken the confidence of their children in the revelation of God.

The sequel to Dinah's downfall was an incident in which we see sordid intrigue, wicked conspiracy, deceit, treachery, cruelty, anger. Men lost their lives, women and children lost their liberty, animals lost the use of their limbs. Worse than all these, Jacob lost his testimony. On the one hand we see the altar with its high-sounding name, El-elohe-Israel. On the

other hand we see savage butchery. Jacob said to his sons, Simeon and Levi, "Ye have troubled me, to make me to stink among the inhabitants of the land" (Gen. 34:30).

Now, Levi means "joined". We see him here joined with his brother in a brutal crime. How careful we should be about those to whom we join ourselves. Much wrongdoing is traceable to undesirable companionship. This is often emphasized by those who have to deal with delinquency in human society today. In company we may find ourselves under the power of strong minds and we may yield to evil influence before we have had time to consider the possible consequences. This may lead to serious reproach on our individual and collective testimony for God. Many promising lives have been blighted and wasted by the corrupting power of wrong company. It is good to be joined to true disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jacob could not forget what Simeon and Levi had done. The dying Jacob gathered his sons around him to speak to them his last words. It was a solemn occasion. In the presence of all his sons, and with words of condemnation, he joined Simeon and Levi as partners in serious wrongdoing. It may be that with remorse Levi recalled having joined himself with his brother in the shameful happenings at Shechem. It is sobering to ponder that we are quickly approaching the day when as servants we shall be gathered in the presence of our Lord to give account of our stewardship. It will be a time of manifestation. It will be a time of recollection. What will be said to us in that day?