The tribe of Levi was very important to the Chronicler because of their central role in temple life and in the system of Old Testament worship established by God. At the center of the tribes were the priests who were descended from Aaron, the brother of Moses. They alone could draw near to God in certain very important liturgical rites necessary for the safety of the entire nation. They brought offerings and intercession from the people up to God, and sent down God’s announcement of blessing down to His people.
The Levites were guardians of the ceremonial and ethical holiness of the entire covenant community. They were scattered throughout Israel as teachers and judges, and were given cities of refuge where they were to seek the truth in difficult judicial cases involving the loss of life. They were not only to be studious jurists, but enforcers of God’s wrath against those who threatened the safety of Old Testament life through their high-handed disregard for the Law of God.
One major change that took place in the function of the tribe came in the change from movable tabernacle to stationary temple during the days of David and Solomon. David established a new element of musical worship where the Levites were music leaders, psalm writers, singers, and instrumental musicians. The Levitical life came to a crashing end in the exile of Judah to Babylon. The Chronicler sought to reestablish the practices of the temple liturgy in the return to the Promised Land. The Levites were of central importance in this vision for the future.
The biggest change for the tribe, and for all of the Jews, came in the arrival of the Messiah who would open up for the world a new way of access to God. Through Jesus, all who believe in Him are called “priests to His God and Father.” Now Levites, as well as people from every tribe throughout the world, could find rich communion with God through Jesus Christ our Lord. While we have elders and deacons who help to lead us in worship and service, it is the privilege of every child of God to be a living letter of Jesus throughout the earth (2 Corinthians 3:3). We speak as those who have the oracles of God, and we serve as those empowered by the Spirit of the Lord (1 Peter 4:11). The overwhelming fact of Jesus as our atoning sacrifice and our hope for eternity can be our joy today. He helps us to reject the tyranny of living according to shifting circumstances or the disapproval of those around us who may reject what we hold to be most weighty and glorious.