And when Moses saw that the people had broken loose (for Aaron had let them break loose, to the derision of their enemies), then Moses stood in the gate of the camp and said, “Who is on the Lord’s side? Come to me.”
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.’” And the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And that day about three thousand men of the people fell.
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.”
I preached on this last night at chapel and talked about how in any crowd of people, some are going to follow God whole-heartedly and some aren’t going to give a rip about Him at all.
I talked about how God chose the Levites from then-on to be His servant tribe–the ones that would handle all of the sacrifices and religious duties in the new nation.
But there was one thing I left out.
Not all of the Levites came to Moses that day. Every one of the men that came were from the tribe of Levi, but there were many Levites that stayed with the gold calf. That would prove to be a fatal mistake.
God was about to wipe out the whole nation when He was with Moses on the mountain. Now God had relented and downgraded to a lesser plague. First of all, the Levites had to be purified.
“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.’
They weren’t sent out to kill off all of the people that worshipped the calf. They were sent out to kill their own tribe. It is so easy to read over the lines of history and not think about the people involved. There is going to be a lot of pain and purification for Israel over the next 42 years. The people saw all of the miracles that God did to deliver them from Israel, but only the ones that are faithful to God and seek Him will make it to the promised land.
“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient?
So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.
God was purifying His people and He started with His priests. The Levites that knew the golden calf was wrong had to make a line in the sand that showed what (or WHO) was of utmost importance to them.
Jesus would make another extreme call to His disciples 1,300 years later:
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.
Moses started with the Levites and Jesus with His disciples. When we, who are called by God to lead His people, follow Him with all that we are and all that we have, He calls us to pure, dedicated discipleship too.