28. Hiking in Hebrews: Lessons from Levi

Quick: what’s your favorite book in the Bible? Is it Genesis, full of heroes like Noah, Abraham, and Joseph? The Psalms, full of longing, petitions, and praise? Isaiah, rich with prophecy and promise?

 
I’ll bet you didn’t say Leviticus. This third book of the Bible gets short thrift from most readers.

 
Unlike more exciting books, Leviticus is short on stories and big on rules and regulations. It’s all about the Levitical priesthood, beginning with Aaron as high priest, and gives us chapter upon chapter of teachings about offerings (sin offerings, guilt offerings, grain offerings, fellowship offerings, burnt offerings); priestly ordinations; clean and unclean foods; cleansing from childbirth, menstruation, and infectious diseases; unlawful sexual relations; religious festivals; hair cuts (10:6), and even instructions about mildew! And the laws don’t stop with Leviticus. Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy repeat, expand, and continue the Rule motif.

 
There’s a reason Jesus and the Jews refer to the Pentateuch—the first five books of the Bible—as the Law.

 
Most Christians, knowing we’ve been set free from the Law through Jesus’ sacrifice, give these sections a wide berth.

 
But not our skillful Sherpa—the anonymous, Spirit-led writer of Hebrews. He wants to dive deeply in these books, drawing comparisons between the physical priesthood of the Levites, and the spiritual priesthood of Jesus. You sense he wants to go deeper than these pages, and his ‘slow to learn’ audience (Heb.6:11), will allow.

 
In that sense, Hebrews 7-10 are perhaps the hardest portions of our hike, the sections we might want to skip if we want to go easy. But where’s the fun in an easy hike? I, for one, like the steep challenges most of all.

 
Amazing bits of insight await a closer look. Take this passage, for example:

 
Now the law requires the descendants of Levi who become priests to collect a tenth from the people—that is, their brothers—even though their brothers are descended from Abraham. This man {Melchizekek}, however, did not trace his descent from Levi, yet he collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises….One might even say that Levi, who collects the tenth, paid the tenth through Abraham, because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor. (Heb.7:5-6; 8-10)

 
I’ve underlined the words that blew me away. Levi, three generations away from being born, was mystically participating in a past event that would only be illuminated two thousand years in the future!

 
He was already in the body of his ancestor, awaiting his role in God’s story.

 
This foreknowledge of our existence is spoken of in other passages, like these:

 
Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations. (Jer.1:5)

 
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139:15-16)

 
But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles.(Gal.1:15-16)

 
We might think this foreknowledge and appointing from God is reserved for his ‘special’ ones—men like Jeremiah, David, and Paul. But God’s love is inclusive and unlimited, and I think we can—and should—delight in his foreknowledge of OUR existence, and the plans he’s always had for us. Imagine God ANTICIPATING your birth, and the golden days when you’d come to know him through whatever stumbling path led to your conversion. How awesome is that!

 
I love the concept imbedded in this wordy text about Abraham, Melchizekek, and Levi: that we already existed in the bodies of our ancestors. That all the genes and chromosomes that make you “you” were blended for generations to produce God’s ultimate product: the unique individual YOU are, unlike anyone else who’s ever lived. And to think of this process, this planning for us, as intentional, not random or arbitrary.

 
I’ve struggled, at various times in my life, to like myself— the product of imperfect parenting and my own awareness of sin. And I transferred this unlikeability to God’s feelings for me. Yes, I knew (at least theoretically) that he loved me, for God so loved the world. But did he like me? Did I make him roll his eyes or look away?

 
Thankfully, seeing God’s hand in my life and spending intensive time in the Scriptures has cemented God’s personal love for me. Like Sally Fields, I can now gush, “You like me! You truly like me!” He might not like everything I say or do—what springs from my sinful nature—but I’m as fearfully and wonderfully made as any other beloved human on earth.

 
This passage from Hebrews thrills me. To think of my pre-existence in the bodies of my ancestors, and of God’s plans for me –not only my birth, but all the days ordained for me and all the good works he’s planned for me to do (Eph. 2:10)—fills me with reassurance and joy. Even more, to ponder God’s anticipation of our ‘reunion’ in heaven…what hope to light my days!

 
I hope you can thrill in God’s careful planning and foreknowledge of your life, too. As Christians, we’re part of a mighty chain of ancestors, descendants, and participants, conducting our interacting, interwoven roles on the faith hike to heaven.

 
And THAT should make us smile, no matter what earthly troubles face us today.

6 replies »

  1. Hi Marilyn,

    I think I need help grasping this passage 😜🙏 are you talking about us being reincarnated from generations before is type of thing? I must say I don’t have a handle on the text!

    Like

    • No, I’m not talking about reincarnation–the Bible says we’re born only once (Heb. 9:27). But the Hebrew writer notes that Levi was already in the body of his ancestor, Abraham, when Melchizedek met him–three generations before he would be born. So it’d part of God’s foreknowl

      Like

    • No, I’m not talking about reincarnation: the Bible says we’re born only once (Heb. 9:27). But the Hebrew writer notes that Levi was already in the body of his ancestor, Abraham, three generations before he’d actually be born. So it speaks of God’s foreknowledge of us–where we originate, the genes that make us unique.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Amazing and encouraging insights and thoughts Marilyn. Love reading your blogs. x

    On Fri, 18 Oct 2019 at 22:05, Purple Splash of Glory wrote:

    > Marilyn Kriete posted: “Quick: what’s your favorite book in the Bible? Is > it Genesis, full of heroes like Noah, Abraham, and Joseph? The Psalms, full > of longing, petitions, and praise? Isaiah, rich with prophecy and promise? > I’ll bet you didn’t say Leviticus. This third ” >

    Liked by 1 person

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