So far, I have loved preaching through Exodus. Even if you were to just look at it in terms of literature, what a great story. But then as believers, the shadows of the gospel are so rich. Jesus is everywhere.
I loved preaching the genealogy in Exodus 6 this past week. It’s probably been my favorite so far – and that from a genealogy! As I mentioned on Sunday, there’s a great story of redemption hidden within that list of funny, hard-to-pronounce names. The story of Levi and his sons have so much for us to learn from and so much hope for us to cling to.
Because of time, I didn’t cover some of the details that we could have talked through (Even still, I preached 57 minutes! I don’t know what’s happened to me). On Sunday, we mentioned how Levi was cursed because of his use of the sword (Gen. 34; 49:5-7). Yet what’s interesting is that it would be through the use of the sword that the sons of Levi were redeemed.
In Exodus 32, the people of Israel create a golden calf, proclaim it to be the god that saved them, offer sacrifices to it, and engage in horrific sin and debauchery. Meanwhile, Moses is on the mountain receiving the 10 Commandments and God’s covenant with Israel. He comes down from the mountain, “saw the calf and the dancing” and gets so angry that “he threw the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain.” The people have gone wild. Everyone has turned away from God. And at that point, Moses calls out, “Who is on the LORD’s side? Come to me.” What we read next is incredible.
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.’” 28 And the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And that day about three thousand men of the people fell. 29 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.” (Exodus 32:26-29)
This isn’t the easiest passage to understand. But basically, the entire nation deserves to die. In Exodus 24, the people had agreed to the terms of the covenant and knew that the price of treason and rebellion was death. They had willingly made their vows to Yahweh. Blood was sprinkled on them as a sign that if they should not keep the terms of their covenant with the LORD, it would be their blood that would be shed. Yet God does not wipe out the nation as they deserve. He judges a small section of the nation. Commentators suggest that perhaps these were the ringleaders of the rebellion. Whatever it was, God judges the people…through the Levites. The Levites choose loyalty to Yahweh above loyalty to their own kin. And as a result, God on that day, ordains them into His service.
Levi was cursed because of his use of the sword. And yet it was precisely through the use of the sword that the sons of Levi were redeemed. Levi used the sword to display his selfish, cruel, unholy anger. The sons of Levi used the sword in obedience to God to display His holy, just, wrath. Levi was cursed because of his wrongful use of the sword. The sons of Levi were redeemed because of their right use of the sword.
To me, what’s amazing about this is that God not only redeems the sons of Levi from the curse of their father, but redeems them in the very way that Levi was cursed. God blesses them precisely in the place where Levi was cursed. What a thought – that God can turn the very things that were curses in our hands to be blessings in His hand. I think of the alcoholic who meets Jesus and heads up an AA recovery group. The very place where he fell, becomes the place where God redeems him and uses him. Or I think of the young man who struggles with pornography, God frees him, and he becomes a voice into the lives of other men helping them to overcome sexual temptation. The very place where he was once cursed is now the place where he is a blessing. The couple that had a horrific marriage, God heals them, and then they become counselors who offer healing to other struggling couples. You could go all day listing examples. You probably have some from your own life. Isn’t it amazing that God not only redeems cursed men and women, but often redeems them to be a blessing in the very places where they were once cursed.
Jacob cursed Levi saying that he didn’t even want to be in Levi’s presence. And yet it was the sons of Levi who were allowed into the Holy of Holies! God would stand in Levi’s presence, or better yet, where no one else was permitted to stand in God’s presence, the sons of Levi were!
This week, I was not only encouraged to think that God made blessing come from cursed Levi, but how He did it is just as amazing. There’s much to think about and meditate on here. I’d encourage you to do that.