Israel's Eternal Priesthood
Israel's Eternal Priesthood
By: Merle Rawlings
The Father is definitely regathering Israel in our day--all Twelve Tribes, the "commonwealth of Israel."(1) Prophets have looked forward to this day for some 2,500 years. Certainly the Apostles of Yeshua (Jesus) looked forward to Israel's regathering and restoration as well (Acts 1:6). Those faithful brethren knew well the amazing blessings inherent in Israel's final regathering and full restoration.
The primary focus of this treatise is to examine the appointment, ministry, and future calling for the descendants of Levi, Aaron, and Zadok in restored Israel. In the context of the "last days,"(2) the Father tells the prophet Malachi that He "will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver."(3) One might wonder what He has in mind for these sons of Levi?
With each of Israel's previous returns to the Land, the priestly tribe of Levi has ministered to the Lord, taught Israel the difference between the holy and unholy, and judged in matters of controversy. There is every indication that after the Father's purifying process is accomplished, the Levites will "offer to the Lord an offering in righteousness."(4) They will be servants in Israel, ministering to the Father and serving His people, Israel, as long as day follows night and night follows day.(5)
The Torah's covenants and promises stand forever. And the Father's covenants, promises, and appointments to Levi and Aaron will be honored as Israel's future unfolds. For all who long for the full and complete restoration of the kingdom to Israel, the best is surely yet to come!
NOTE: In this treatise, "regathering" and "restoration" include all the monumental results and provisions of Jeremiah (the Levite) 3:15-18, 16:14-15; Zechariah (the Levite) 8:7-8, 11-13, 22-23, 10:6-10; and Acts 3:21.
TREATISE OVERVIEW: Forever in the "house of the Lord"(6) and the "house of Aaron;"(7) the Torah's eternal calling and appointment of Levi, Aaron, and Zadok.
The twenty-third Psalm has always been a favorite. Especially touching and reassuring is the closing phrase, "And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."(8) Think of that--"forever"--not for a million years, not for epochs, or ages, but as Webster notes: "For eternity; for always; endlessly."
For Israel's tribe of Levi, "forever" has great significance as well. Most of us have experienced years of teaching that the eternal covenant and appointments of the priestly tribe of Levi have come to an end. The teaching is that in New Testament times, all believers in Yeshua have become "priests." Consequently, Levite priests in today's regathering and restoration of Israel are no longer needed or necessary. Levi's eternal covenants and appointments apparently have an ending for some. "Forever" in the case of Levi and Aaron is not forever after all.
Our Father, however, is straightforward in His selection of the Levites: "...the Levites shall be Mine."(9). And twice in Numbers Chapter 3, the Lord says, "Take the Levites instead of all the firstborn among the children of Israel..." The tribe of Levi supports the ministry of Aaron in Israel and "...the needs of the whole congregation..."(10). And Moses reminds the children of Israel: "Take heed not to forsake or neglect the Levite [God's minister] as long as you live in your land."(11) Why is it important today for Messianic Israel not to forsake the Levites? "For the Lord your God has chosen him out of all your tribes to stand to minister in the name of the Lord, him and his sons forever."(12)
Centuries after Moses, the Levite, informed us about a "...kingdom of priests...,"(13) Jeremiah wrote about "...the Levites, the priests, My ministers."(14) Jeremiah was told by the Father that His covenant with David AND Levi would endure as long as day follows night and night follows day.(15) Messianic teachers frequently apply these verses to the descendants of David; however, most of us have yet to hear them be applied a single time to the descendants of Levi.
When King David says, "...He has made with me an everlasting covenant..."(16), we readily accept it as "everlasting" or without end. Additionally, the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel write of "everlasting" or "perpetual" covenants concerning Israel(17) and again these covenants are accepted as everlasting, perpetual, or never ending. BUT when the Torah and Israel's prophets apply the same words directly and unequivocally to the Father's eternal covenant with Levi and Aaron, these covenants are denied and rejected. (Strange way to rebuild a nation!)
Despite clear teachings in the Torah that the Father gave the priesthood ministry to Aaron and his sons forever(18), this everlasting appointment is disregarded or dismissed by today's believers. How is it hermeneutically consistent to accept an everlasting covenant with Judah and Israel as being eternal, yet in the same breath deny an everlasting covenant with Aaron and Levi as being eternal?
Writing in the Messianic Israel Herald(19), Rabbi Mordechai Silver notes, "...God never, and I repeat never, breaks or annuls His covenants." (emphasis Rabbi Silver's). Referring to the Hebrew meaning, he explains, "The Hebrew is explicit in that eternal or forever means just that, forever!"(20) Rabbi Silver also assures us in the same article, "When God makes a covenant He keeps it to the end."(21) How true--not only regarding covenants made with Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, and Israel, but with Levi, Aaron, and Zadok as well!
As Israel's restoration process continues and expands in scope and detail, we will see Levi and Aaron restored to their eternal office. Leviticus 10:8-11 details one example of Aaron's responsibilities in Israel: "Then the Lord spoke to Aaron, saying: Do not drink wine or intoxicating drink, you, nor your sons with you, when you go into the tabernacle of meeting, lest you die. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations, that you may distinguish between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean, and that you may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the Lord has spoken to them by the hand of Moses."
Based on this statute from the Torah, Ezekiel, the Levite, prophesies Aaron's similar future responsibilities in the new Temple yet to be built: "But the priests, the Levites, the sons of Zadok, who kept charge of My sanctuary when the children of Israel went astray from Me, they shall come near Me to minister to Me...And they shall teach My people the difference between the holy and the unholy, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean."(22) Does the Father endorse the prevailing dismissal of Levi and Aaron in a restored Israel? Apparently not since Aaron and Zadok have a key, vital, role ministering in Israel's future Temple!
Much of Levi's portion of the restoration is "waiting in the wings," so to speak. For example, all too often we hear of theologians or congregational leaders in serious "controversy" concerning doctrine, direction, or policy. So strongly are these positions held, that some teachers and congregations will not fellowship or attend meetings with those holding divergent views or opinions.
The Holy One of Israel has already set up His "Binding Arbitration Board" for Israel and its membership and operational procedures are specifically noted for all who believe in Torah and desire to follow its teachings (thus becoming "Torah observant.") The Father, knowing that controversies are inevitable in Israel, provided for a fair hearing and justice.(23) All "...matters of controversy..."(24) are to be judged by "...the priests, the Levites..."(25) and "...you shall be careful to do according to all that they order you...according to the judgment which they tell you, you shall do; you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left from the sentence which they pronounce upon you."(26) This is the Lord's instruction for arbitrating or deciding "matters of controversy" in Israel, period. Please note: Neither those claiming the "priesthood of the believer" nor those claiming the Melchizedek priesthood were ever given Aaron's and Levi's duties in Israel. Truth and justice will flow in restored Messianic Israel when Levi once again fulfills his eternal calling and destiny.
Note a future duty of "...the priests, the Levites, the sons of Zadok..."(27) described by Ezekiel: "In controversy they shall stand as judges, and judge it according to My judgments..."(28) Isaiah, speaking of Israel's future repentance and restoration writes, "I will restore your judges as at the first..."(29) Deuteronomy chapter 17 records who Israel's first judges were.
Both Ezekiel and Isaiah teach that in restored Israel the Levite priests will again act as impartial judges in controversies to ensure fairness and justice among the people. That provision and outcome alone will make restored Israel the envy of any judicial system on earth; it will also be a highly visible testimony of faithful Torah observance among Messiah's followers.
Another responsibility for the Levites in restored Israel is the collection of the tithes(30). Alluding to the commandment of Numbers 18:21-26, Malachi writes, "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house..."(31) In a complete restoration of Israel in the Land, expect the Torah-ordained collection of the tithes to be observed once again.
In Malachi Chapter 2, the Lord severely rebukes, reprimands, and chastises His rebellious Levite priests of that day. In Malachi Chapter 3, the Lord says, "He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the Lord offerings in righteousness."(32)
The Lord's sovereign plan to "purify" and "refine" the "sons of Levi" has several important future implications for "...restoring the kingdom to Israel."(33) The Lord Himself tells us of a previous time when Levi walked carefully and obediently before Him thus blessing all Israel. "Then you will know that I have sent this commandment to you, that My covenant may continue with Levi, says the Lord of hosts. My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him as an object of reverence; so he revered Me and stood in awe of My name. True instruction was in his mouth and unrighteousness was not found on his lips; he walked with Me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many back from iniquity. For the lips of a priest should preserve knowledge, and men should seek instruction from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts."(34)
In the last chapter of Isaiah, the Lord informs us of His final, ultimate regathering of Israel. "Then they shall bring all your brethren from all the nations as a grain offering to the Lord, on horses, in chariots, in litters, on mules and on camels, to My holy mountain Jerusalem, says the Lord, just as the sons of Israel bring their grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the Lord. I will also take some of them for priests and for Levites, says the Lord. For just as the new heavens and the new earth which I make will endure before Me, declares the Lord, so your offspring and your name will endure."(35)
Part of the misunderstanding of the covenant of Levi and Aaron concerns the "priesthood of the believer" or the "royal priesthood" mentioned by the Apostle Peter. Much earlier, Moses had written about an extraordinary reward for Israel's obedience and keeping the Father's covenant: "And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." (Exodus 19:6) It is in this context that Peter admonishes his Israelite readers-- "pilgrims of the Dispersion"(36) --- to "...be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, 'Be holy, for I am holy'."(37)
Peter continues by identifying faithful Israelite believers in 1 Peter 2:5 as "...a spiritual house...a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices..." Please notice carefully the sole function or duty of "a spiritual house...a holy priesthood," according to Peter: "...to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ."(38)
Examining 1 Peter 2:9, we find a similar function or duty specified for "...a royal priesthood, a holy nation..." : The function or duty is "...that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light."(39)
There we have it-- the responsibility, obligation, task, commission, and charge of Peter's priests is to "offer up spiritual sacrifices" and "proclaim the excellencies of Him." That is the core meaning of Exodus 19:6 and the Amplified Version underscores it: "And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests, a holy nation [consecrated, set apart to the worship of God]. These are the words you shall speak to the Israelites." The "kingdom of priests" will "offer up" and "proclaim," having been "set apart to the worship of God." May every believer daily offer up spiritual sacrifices to our Messiah and proclaim the excellencies of Him to all who will hear.
It is worth noting that Aaron's and Zadok's priesthood ministry appointments occurred after Exodus 19:6. Moses' "kingdom of priests" and Aaron's eternal priesthood ministry in Israel function simultaneously and harmoniously in restored Israel with each fulfilling their duties and callings set forth by Messiah Yeshua.
It is within this context that those identified as "priests" in similar Scriptural references(40) will function now and in the future. Just as Levi and Aaron have their eternal calling and duty in future Israel, so also "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" will never cease to "offer up spiritual sacrifices" and "proclaim" (declare, cry out, announce, extol, lift up, laud, raise up, praise highly) the "excellencies" of our Messiah!
Peter never intended his epistles to the diaspora of Israel to be used to teach the cessation of God's eternal covenants and appointments with Levi and Aaron. Dr. David Friedman identifies Peter as the Torah-observant talmid hakham or "leading student" of Rabbi Yeshua. "Any rabbi's talmid hakham would have viewed his rabbi as a role model and would have closely followed his teachings. This is the way the world of rabbis and their students functioned in first-century Israel."(41)
Jesus taught, "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished."(42) It is inconceivable that Peter, the Savior's leading student, taught Israelites in his epistles that the eternal covenants given in the Torah to Levi and Aaron were abrogated or cancelled.
As Dr. Friedman concludes, "If Yeshua taught that the Law and the Prophets were still valid, his students (especially the talmid hakham) would have learned and taught the same."(43) Once again, Peter never intended his epistles to the diaspora of Israel to be used to teach the cessation of God's eternal covenants and appointments with Levi and Aaron.
At this point, let's consider aspects of the priesthood of "Melchizedek king of Salem [later called Jerusalem]."(44) Some believers believe they hold the "rank"(45) of the Melchizedek priesthood and minister in its authority. Perhaps, but we must also be aware of the Messiah's continuing, eternal choice of Aaron: "Now if He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all, since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Law."(46) Dr. David Stern translates Hebrews 8:4 as follows: "Now if he were on earth, he wouldn't be a cohen at all, since there already are cohanim offering the gifts required by the Torah."(47)
Since Jesus Himself was "...not made priest without an oath"(48), one must assume that today's believers claiming the Melchizedek priesthood have experienced the same oath delivered to them by the Father.(49) It would be enlightening to hear the first line of the Melchizedek priesthood's oath from one of these individuals. In any case, may their service to the Father and Israel be to the glory of Israel's Messiah, "...a Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek."(50)
Aaron and his descendants offered "the gifts required by the Torah" in Israel. It is highly instructive to learn that if Yeshua were on earth, He would not be a priest/cohen "at all." The Messiah of Israel still recognizes the eternal office and calling of Levi, Aaron, and Zadok. One day, His regathered people will also.
(NOTE: The New King James Version is used except where noted otherwise)
1.) Ephesians 2:12
2.) Micah 4:1 NASB
3.) Malachi 3:3 NASB
4.) Malachi 3:3
5.) Jeremiah 33:19-22 NASB and NKJV
6.) Psalm 23:6
7.) Psalm 115:10, 12; Psalm 118:3; Psalm 135:19
8.) Psalm 23:6
9.) Numbers Chapters 3 and 8
10.) Numbers 3:6-7
11.) Deuteronomy 12:19, Amplified
12.) Deuteronomy 18:5. See also 1 Chronicles 23:13
13.) Exodus 19:6
14.) Jeremiah 33:21
15.) Jeremiah 33:20-22
16.) Second Samuel 23:5
17.) Isaiah 61:8; Jeremiah 32:40 and 50:5; Ezekiel 37:26
18.) Exodus 29:9 and 40:15; Numbers 25:13
19.) Rabbi Mordechai Silver, "Who Is God's Covenant With?" Messianic Israel Herald, 2:3, Page 9
20.) Ibid. Page 11
21.) Ibid. Page 13
22.) Ezekiel 44:15, 23
23.) Deuteronomy 17:9-13
24.) Deuteronomy 17:8
25.) Deuteronomy 17:9
26.) Deuteronomy 17:10-11and 21:5
27.) Ezekiel 44:15
28.) Ezekiel 44:24
29.) Isaiah 1:26
30.) Numbers 18:21-28; Hebrews 7:5
31.) Malachi 3:10 NASB
32.) Malachi 3:3 NASB
33.) Acts 1:6 NASB
34.) Malachi 2:4-7 NASB
35.) Isaiah 66:20-22 NASB
36.) 1 Peter 1:1
37.) 1 Peter 1:15-16
38.) 1 Peter 2:5 NASB
39.) 1 Peter 2:9 NASB
40.) Isaiah 61:6; Revelation 1:6, 5:10, 20:6
41.) Dr. David Friedman, They Loved the Torah, Baltimore: Lederer Books, 2001, Page 60
42.) Matthew 5:17-18 NASB
43.) Dr. David Friedman, op. cit., Page 60
44.) Genesis 14:18 Amplified
45.) Hebrews 5:6 and 10, 6:20, 7:17 Amplified
46.) Hebrews 8:4 NASB
47.) Dr. David Stern, Complete Jewish Bible, Clarksville, MD: Jewish New Testament Publications, 1998
48.) Hebrews 7:20. The Amplified reading of Hebrews 7: 20 is more insistent about a necessary "oath."
49.) Hebrews 7:20-21 Amplified
50.) Hebrews 7:21 Amplified
Friedman, Dr. David. They Loved the Torah, Baltimore: Lederer Books, 2001
Silver, Rabbi Mordechai. "Who Is God's Covenant With?", Messianic Israel Herald, Volume 2, Issue 3
Stern, Dr. David. Complete Jewish Bible, Clarksville, MD: Jewish New Testament Publications, 1998
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