Aaron had let them get out of control and so become a laughingstock to their enemies. So he stood at the entrance to the camp and said, “Whoever is for the Lord, come to me.” And all the Levites rallied to him. Then he said to them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor.’” The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand of the people died. Then Moses said, “You have been set apart to the Lord today, for you were against your own sons and brothers, and he has blessed you this day.”
We later learn in Numbers 8, just how the Levites had changed their destinies on that bloody day. “Have the Levites stand in front of Aaron and his sons and then present them as a wave offering to the Lord. In this way you are to set the Levites apart from the other Israelites, and the Levites will be mine. They are the Israelites who are to be given wholly to me…When I struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, I set them apart for myself. And I have taken the Levites in place of all the firstborn sons in Israel. From among all the Israelites, I have given the Levites as gifts to Aaron and his sons to do the work at the tent of meeting on behalf of the Israelites and to make atonement for them so that no plague will strike the Israelites when they go near the sanctuary.”
In this year of the sword (The Hebrew year is 5777 and 7 in Hebrew represents a sword), it’s important to remember the significance of the Levites choice all those summers ago. Destinies were changed around the sword and their willingness to use it at the command of God. Since Jesus is described in Revelation as having We all make choices, some good and some bad, but we can’t choose the consequences of our choices. Those are inherent in the choices. We are all becoming something and someone beyond ourselves. No one is shocked when they harvest tomatoes unless they planted something else. Still, we all hope to escape the fruit of our worst decisions.
Gary Ryan Blair wrote, “Every choice carries a consequence. For better or worse, each choice is the unavoidable consequence of its predecessor. There are not exceptions. If you can accept that a bad choice carries the seed of its own punishment, why not accept the fact that a good choice yields desirable fruit?”
The Spring Feast of Pentecost celebrates the giving of The Law on Mt. Sinai, but forty days later in the heat of summer, as Moses descended from the mountain with the Law, he smashed the stones in a fit of rage when he saw the Israelites worshipping a golden calf. That occurred on the 17th day of the month of Tammuz (July 11th this year). The date marks the beginning of a three-week period of mourning leading into Tish B’Av, the ninth day of the month of Av, (August 1st this year).
Both dates are filled with tragedies. It was on the 9th of Av that the Israelites took the very bad advice of ten spies, that led them to wander the desert for 40 years until they died and their children entered the Promised Land. The First Temple was destroyed on the 9th of Av. Five centuries later, on the same day the Romans destroyed the Second Temple. Yes, both temples destroyed five hundred years apart on the same day. To add irony to the tragedy of the 9th of Av, it was on the 17th of Tammuz that the walls of Jerusalem were breached (first by Nebuchadnezzar and five centuries later by the Roman leader Titus in 70 AD.
Let’s journey back to Exodus 32 for the origins of the tragedies, “And Moses took the calf the people had made and burned it in the fire; then he ground it to powder, scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it. He said to Aaron, “What did these people do to you, that you led them into such great sin…They said to me, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.’ So I told them, ‘Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.’ Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!” [Yes, that was literally Aaron’s excuse.]
Moses saw that the people were running wild and that a sword coming out of His mouth, it’s important to understand the symbolism.
The sword we yield, the Word of God, is sharper than any other sword, and capable of dividing soul from spirit. This summer of 5777 is a time when specific “priestly” destinies are being birthed by the willingness of saints to open their mouths to bring deliverance to sinners trapped in a world where darkness often appears to be more powerful than our Light of Truth. It isn’t. Nothing and no one is greater and never will be. Just as priests are “set apart” for their service, God is setting apart those who are willing to stand out.
During World War II, Winston Churchill wouldn’t permit any type of contingency planning for failure, because he believed that the plans would likely leak out and then breed pessimism. Likewise, we cannot afford to lay down a sword that God has placed in our hands, when our destiny and the fate of the world hangs in the balance. Michelangelo wrote, “The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.”
When Moses climbed the mountain to bring the Word of God to the people, he left Aaron in charge. Likewise, when Jesus ascended to heaven, He left us in charge and left specific directions. This summer, destinies are being determined. Let’s be bold!
“Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.” Acts 4:29-31