The Sons of Levi

by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 10 - Purified by the Coming Messenger of the Covenant

Reading: Revelation 5:6-10.

We have been seeing something of the representative nature of the sons of Levi and that they set forth a thought of God concerning His people in all ages. We saw that in the first place the nation was represented before God on the principle of priesthood by the firstborn of all the families in Israel. Then the whole nation along that line, on that basis of priestly activity, broke away from the Lord at Mount Sinai. Under Aaron the Levite, they made the calf, they worshipped it, they threw open the door to the inrush of spiritual evil and spiritual powers inimical to God. Thus the whole nation in a priestly way departed from the Lord. It was evidently the priests who did it, the firstborn who led them astray, and, as you know, at that time Moses, coming down, seeing what had happened, went to the gate of the camp and called with a loud voice, "Whoso is on the Lord's side, let him come unto me", and all the sons of Levi went over to him. And Moses said, "Put ye every man his sword upon his thigh, and go to and fro from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour"; and they did so. And Moses, recounting that in the book of Deuteronomy, said, "At that time the Lord set apart the tribe of Levi, to bear the ark of the covenant."

Then the Lord, we are told, commanded Moses to substitute the tribe of Levi for the firstborn in Israel. The Levites became the representatives of the nation in a priestly way before God. The way in which they came to that position indicates God's thought: a people, by the sword of the Spirit, at great cost and sacrifice to their own souls, exalted the spiritual above the natural and struck for what was wholly according to God's mind and the full thought of God for His people.

The next thing is that their position, their vocation, as representative, was always in virtue of the shed blood. They are always in association with the altar. We may say that they are constituted and actuated by the values of the blood. We are led on by the blood to understand that it represents incorruptible life. When we come to the Lord Jesus as the great antitype of the Levites, we find that the blood is the life, and it is His own blood. He lives and He ministers and fulfils all the will of God and answers to the pleasure of God in virtue of His own incorruptible life; and then He gives of His own blood to His own to be their Life and the energy of all their living and their serving.

The great issue of that is in the passage we have read, the great corporate issue: "Thou... didst purchase with Thy blood out of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation." Now that is the background of things.

The sons of Levi, according to Malachi, were to be purified by the coming Messenger of the Covenant who should sit as the refiner of silver. That means this: the Lord Jesus in coming, would operate for the dispensation on the line of getting a people constituted and actuated by a Life which is not their own natural life, but the very Life of God, the incorruptible Life, whose very presence here on this earth would be in virtue of His own blood, the power of His own Divine Life. And all that which is of nature and other than of God would be that against which their hand is turned continually. That is the thing that the Lord Jesus is doing in a very intense way today. All over this world, the activity of the Lord by His Spirit is by the refining fires, securing a people who are wholly and utterly separated unto God.

Now I come to the more difficult part of what I have on my heart to say, because it will seem for a little while as though we have come down onto a lower level, but it is here that the great practical implication of things is to be recognised. I wonder how many of you have really looked into and investigated the nature and source of what is happening on the earth today?

To spiritual observers the time in which we live is, but for its horrors, almost fascinating in the uncovering development which is taking place. The true nature of things which have been powerfully working for a very long time by deception is now becoming clear to all except those who are gross in their blindness, or whose blindness is due to some grossness in their natures. The one thing which most people recognise about the present situation is its spiritual nature. That is to say, that it is not the upshot of merely political and natural rivalries, but that it is inspired by deep and mighty spiritual forces related to human life and destiny with a meaning infinitely transcending questions of material gains and possessions.

The very being and nature of God is involved in this situation. So also is His Son, His Word, the church, and Christianity. But I want to get down more deeply to the nature of things, and to uncover the issues which lie behind this age-long conflict which is now so much nearer consummation. Let it be fully realised that this thing that has risen up out of the earth is not something new. Many seem to think that it is something which has sprung into being in the last few years, the fountain-head of which is human. But it is not so. The thing itself is traceable back through all the centuries and lies at the root of all the conflict between heaven and hell. It has now, in the present phase, been precipitated in a definite and deliberate declaration of science of ideas. This ideology is:

The Ideology of the Blood.

And this goes to the heart of everything. Briefly, this is the position: the government of this world is to be in the hands of a people or race destined for this purpose. Such a people must be of a universal philosophy of life. It cannot and must not be Semitic blood, and particularly not Jewish; it cannot be Negro blood. Hence the hatred of the Jews. This also lies behind the antagonism towards Christianity, because it is said to be of Jewish origin for one thing, but of course there is a deeper reason, as we shall see, yet one which may not be recognised by those concerned. Above all, perhaps the feature most significant is the repudiation of:

The Testimony of the Word of God to an "Elect race".

Firstly, it is a primary truth of the Divine revelation that the ultimate government of this world is - by foreordination and predestination - bound up with "an elect race", "a holy nation", "a people for God's own possession".

But it is made equally clear that it will not be one of the nations of this world, but a people taken out of all the nations and constituted a heavenly people. That nation has been in the process of formation for many centuries. A great section of it is now "with Christ", and another great part is in all the nations, but in their essential new nature they are apart from the nations. That is to say, in the deepest reality of their being, because of regeneration they are not British, German, American, Chinese, Teutonic, Latin, Semitic, etc.. They are "All one man in Christ", "One new man". There is that which they all have in common which at once leaps to mutual recognition without formal introductions.

Blood and the Word of God

Secondly, then, the Divine revelation does make this ultimate issue one of blood; pure, uncorrupted and incorruptible blood. No one who has any knowledge of the Bible needs to be told of the great prominence given to blood from Genesis to the Revelation. If we take the Bible as it stands, then everything related to the destiny of man now rests upon or is governed by blood.

There are two main features of this teaching with regard to blood. Firstly, there is the sacredness and significance of blood in general. Then there is the blood which is particular and peculiar; blood which is other than and different from the blood which is common. These two things are recognised by the Aryan ideologists, but as we shall see, how Satan does simulate the most sacred things of God! When these two aspects of blood in the Scriptures have been followed through to conclusion, the issue that emerges is that blood is a universal basis of life. But since sin entered into the human constitution, blood, as in the Word of God, is a representation or type of something which is other than the human life of fallen man, and it is that otherness that constitutes a people for the fulfillment of the great destiny of Cosmic dominion.

What we have in the Bible on this matter of blood can be set down concisely thus:

  • The prominence of blood in both Old and New Testaments.
  • The sacredness of blood, as seen everywhere, commencing with Cain and Abel.
  • The sacredness of blood because it is the life. By the pouring out, or shedding of the blood, the life in it is not destroyed, though it is separated from the organism which it has quickened. The more recent branch of medical science in blood-transfusion is a powerful testimony to an underlying truth of Scripture, that life is transmitted by participating in blood-communion. Noah revivified the dead earth by shedding blood upon it after leaving the ark.
  • The blood is the nature; the essential elements of the nature.
  • The strong and repeated forbidding to shed or drink blood.
  • The blood is the instrument of a covenant. In the covenant of blood there is fellowship, inter-communion, sharing of nature, and oneness of life. (Surely this is the very heart of the incarnation and its meaning).
  • Blood is always God's sacred prerogative. Throughout the Old Testament there is His reservation set upon it. The Lord forbade the drinking of it, but in the New Testament - especially in that part where the Divine nature of Christ is most emphasised - the drinking is set forth as the only way of life. (See John 6:53). The significance of this seems clearly to be that in fallen man there is no life, no Divine nature, no fellowship with God, but in Christ all these abound, all are reserved by God unto Him, the beloved Son, and can alone be known, as Paul puts it, "in Christ".
  • The Scriptures Present a Twofold Conclusion in Relation to the Blood

    But when we have surveyed the entire ground of blood in the Scriptures, we are brought to one double-sided conclusion. The Bible comes down squarely and firmly upon this decision, and it is consistent throughout on the point. It is that in relation to blood there is a repudiation of one life and the appropriation of another, an "altogether other"; the "putting away" or "cutting off", and a bringing in or "putting on". One "whole body of the flesh" or "old man" is put away, and a "new man", "after the image of Him that created him", is put on. The "putting away" is in judgment; therefore life is taken. The "putting on" is in righteousness; therefore it is unto life and peace.

    Two Outstanding Embodiments of the Truth

    Two of the outstanding representations of this in the Old Testament which are taken up in their spiritual meaning for permanence in the New Testament, are circumcision and the Passover. The apostle Paul, who knew something about it, has given a fairly clear interpretation. In Colossians 2:11-12 he says: " whom ye were also circumcised with a circumcision not made with hands, in the putting off of the body of the flesh, in the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, wherein ye were also raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead."

    In Romans 6:3-6 with similar words he says: "...all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death.... We were buried therefore with Him through baptism into death, that like as Christ was raised from the dead... so we also might walk in newness of life... knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away."

    Circumcision, then, was a sign. It meant the putting of a divide by blood between one order of life and another. Paul makes both a statement and an implication in this connection. The statement is that Christ's death was the counterpart of circumcision and it meant the (representative) putting away of the body of the flesh. The implication is that baptism takes the place of circumcision and means identification with Christ in death and resurrection. Thus Christ is set forth as having, on the one hand, related Himself to an order that was to be put away in judgment and have its life taken from it. On the other hand, in resurrection Christ represents an order wholly acceptable to God.

    We emerge from this consideration with the one all-governing principle of Israel's origin (in type) and the Christian's life intact; namely, that God has put a great divide between two orders of life: that of the natural man, and that of the spiritual. That divide is represented by the blood shed, the life - or soul - poured out unto death. The divide cannot be bridged, it is a great gulf fixed. The most severe penal judgments rest upon any mixing of these two. The great end in view, the government of the world to come as vested in a people of one unadulterated life, is jeopardized wherever that divide is not observed and maintained. All this is so patent in the life of Abraham and Israel, the covenant-sign of which was circumcision.

    The Passover took up all these elements and made them the basis upon which Israel was corporately brought onto the ground of covenant. In the Passover for the first time we have recorded the details of God's covenant means (Exodus 12).

  • The Lord commands the choice.
  • A lamb.
  • Without blemish.
  • A male.
  • Of the first year. (Faculties coordinated, settled. Features determined.) Typical in qualities. Representative in selection.
  • The blood put on the two side posts and on the lintel of every house made a circle around everyone who passed through. It was a circumcision in suggestion.
  • "When I see the blood (token of My covenant with Abraham) I will pass over you", etc.
  • The flesh of the lamb to be eaten, reverently, as an indication of that intercommunion which the covenant secured.
  • Thus, the ground of judgment was removed, and the ground of fellowship in life provided and secured. This is taken up in the New Testament, and its spiritual values are represented in the "Communion" or "Lord's Table". "The new covenant in My blood".

    The Issue Joined - Methods of the Adversary

    Now, all this is very much in line with our outset. Right through the history of this world there has been a persistent and bitter antagonism to this testimony to the blood of the Lamb. It has taken various forms, but behind all there has ever been the recognition on the part of spiritual and cosmic forces of the significance and implications of that blood. It is no less a question than that of the ultimate control and dominion of the entire cosmic order.

    Something over a hundred years ago this antagonism assumed a certain form in Germany. It has become known as "The Higher Criticism", or "Liberal Theology", or again "Rationalism". The Word of God was dethroned from its place of final authority and made subject to the enthroned reason of man. Thereafter nothing escaped the destructive activity of this intellectual pride. The Word, once robbed of its authority, nothing was safe. So the Person of Christ was stripped of deity; the blood of Christ was called "the gospel of the shambles"; in fact, everything that God had exalted was abased, and the way was cleared for the exaltation of what God had abased. Humanism - the doctrine of man's essential goodness, virtue, and glory, gained a free course. Psychology - the science which rules out the supernatural and accounts for everything on the ground of man's mind or soul, making him his own Saviour and Lord - secured the reins of direction. Thus the principles of Babel and Babylon took possession in the religious and theological kingdom. "Let us make us a name." "See this great Babylon which I have made!'' All this has resulted in a most conspicuous fulfilment of a passage of Scripture which runs thus: "...because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved... for this cause God sendeth them a working of error, that they should believe a lie; that they all might be judged who believed not the truth, but have pleasure in unrighteousness" (2 Thess. 2:10-11).

    The "lie" in this case is the false blood ideology, and this brings right into line with that judgment which must come upon those who stand in the way of God's eternally determined end with regard to His Son. But the tragedy is that this basic antagonism to the blood of the Lamb, as back of rationalistic theology, has gained a strong foothold by the same means in all parts of the Christian world, through Britain and America. It will therefore not be possible for God wholly to take sides. These latter countries will suffer judgment, and their real enemies will be not ultimately Germany and Germany's allies, but the religious leaders and followers who have given an open door to spiritual forces; the one object of whose age-long and relentless activities is to secure the dominion of this world as against the Lordship of God's Christ.

    Whether this present phase is the final one is not for us to say. There may be a respite. But some things are certain. This is something in advance of anything ever yet. This thing is clearly heading up to the whole world coming under a single domination. It does not take years now to change the whole face and aspect of the world government. This final issue is bound up with the blood of God's Lamb. Satan hates that blood. It is the greatest menace to his world-kingdom. Truly spiritual people will have an ever-deepening appreciation of the meaning and value of that blood. The blood is the life, the incorruptible life. It constitutes a people of a heavenly order, and challenges all mixture, bringing ever and always into conflict with "the world rulers of this darkness".

    "And there was war in heaven; Michael and his angels going forth to war with the dragon; and the dragon warred and his angels; and they prevailed not, neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast down, the old serpent, he that is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world; he was cast down to the earth, and his angels were cast down with him. And I heard a great voice in heaven, saying, Now is come the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Christ; for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, who accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their testimony; and they loved not their life even unto death. Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe for the earth and for the sea: because the devil is gone down unto you, having great wrath, knowing that he hath but a short time" (Rev. 12:7-12).

    Here is the true thing, the Divine thing. Here we are, as never in the history of this world, locked in this desperate issue of bloods and supremacies and names. Do you understand why it is necessary that the sons of Levi should be purified? In other words, do you understand why it is necessary that God should get a people in this earth who are separated unto Himself from all that realm of nature where Satan's strength is, where God's purpose is effectually opposed?

    Satan has ever and always sought to mix and corrupt and pollute the life of the saints, to get into the people of God a mixture of life, a mixture of energy, a mixture of things in this world to break down the clear mark between what is of God, and what is not of God, what is of Christ and what is the old Adam. Satan is always trying to obliterate the distinctiveness between the Lord's people and what is not of the Lord, and so to remove the distinctiveness that the two things overlap and mix up, and in bringing about that mixture, that corrupting of the blood, so to speak, of the life, Satan has secured his victory over the people of God.

    The Old Testament is full of that very thing. There are the great laws of God for Israel about no intermarriage, no mixture. How the Cross came again and again upon that sort of thing! How the Lord had to stand back when it came in! In the days of Nehemiah one of his great problems was this matter of intermarriage; so many foreign wives in the very city. It is not easy to undo that sort of thing. All the way through the Old Testament that was one of the problems confronting the Lord, the mixture of His people, and it is all typical there, it is all in type.

    In the New Testament the thing comes out in clear expression that the Lord's people are born of His own life, share His own incorruptible nature, and are something altogether other than the men of nature. But here again the New Testament is just full of this mixture among the Lord's people. The Corinthian letter is just that: touching the world, taking the world into the church, among the things of God - love of worldly wisdom, worldly power - the flesh active in the presence of the very things of God. The letter was written in order to do away with those foreign elements.

    What I have been saying is not fiction or imagination. It is true; there are all the evidences of it. It is the fruit of a doctrine, and it is a doctrine which is a counterfeit of God's own thought concerning the saints, the church, the elect, people begotten of Himself, sharing His own life.

    Then what will be the principle of overcoming, of God's triumph? It will be the principle of the refining fires for the sons of Levi.

    Watch things now and in the near future. I do not want to assume the role of a prophet. I do not think it needs a prophet to foreshadow what is going to take place. I think we are going more and more to see that these things which represent mixture among the Lord's people are going to come very much under the sword of the Lord, that a real purifying work is going to be done, and those who will not be purified unto God in these coming days are going out. That is, God is going to effect a new separation in an inward way among His people to get them into a more utter position; everything is forcing that necessity just now.

    Things which have pre-occupied Christians, which are things - religious things even Christian things as such, but which have had elements of mixture in them in the methods and means employed - are coming under the hammer now and they are not going to be so easy of pursuit and utilization in the future. We are coming to the place where it is going to be the Lord, or nothing. If the Lord does not get us through, we are not going through. If the Lord is not our portion, we have no portion, and that is the Levitical position. "The Lord is their portion" is the statement about the sons of Levi, and we are coming there. Things which may be more or less good are being cut off, and the people of God are being brought to a position where, if the Lord is not their sufficiency, their portion, they are found lacking. Surely it must be increasingly like that in many parts of the world today. We are not going to escape. We have, I think rightly, foreseen that this thing is going to touch Christian countries in a particular way; so watch!

    But then do not just keep an objective eye upon the situation. Just remember again that this is what the Lord means by our trials, our fires and furnaces of affliction. He is purifying the sons of Levi, He is heading up this work which shall eventuate in this glorious realization - "Worthy art Thou... for Thou wast slain, and didst purchase unto God with Thy blood men of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation, and madest them to be unto our God a kingdom and priests: and they shall reign on the earth" (Rev. 5:9,10).

    "They". Who? Men purchased by blood out of every tribe, tongue, people and nation; out of them, separated by the precious blood. Oh, how the adversary hates that blood. It is only a part of this larger significance that the main onslaught on the doctrine of the blood of the Lord Jesus came from the very quarter through which this whole doctrine of world supremacy on the basis of blood has come.

    You can see why. Deeper than the intelligence of the very people who are involved in it there is the trail of the serpent undermining the doctrine of the blood of Jesus Christ in all its mighty efficacy and virtue, in order to substitute another blood, because that blood is recognised to be the virtue, the power, the energy, of the ultimate overthrow of the kingdom of Satan and of Christ's reign through His own over the nations. Therefore, get rid of that virtue, get rid of that value of the blood, and substitute it with that of man, super-man, man glorified and worshipped; it is all of a piece.

    I say we are in a tremendous thing today. I am always loath to predict or try to say exactly where we are in prophecy or in the movement of things, but I do not think we are far wrong in saying we are getting very near the end, that is, very near to the ultimate issue of the two bloods, the blood of the super-man, the Antichrist, and the blood of the Lamb; the blood of a people of this world seeking to dominate in their own virtue, in their own quality, and the dominion of that elect people, that holy nation, whose dominion will be in virtue of the incorruptible life of the Lord Jesus.

    To add more now would only be to overload and spoil. What has been said has been to indicate the tremendous thing in which we are today. We are not to regard this as just another bit of history, just another political quarrel, just another earthly extension of this quest and ambition for territory. Oh, it is deeper than that! It is satanic, as all who have any intelligence recognise; it comes from a far deeper source. It is from the doctrines of demons, which doctrines are always counterfeits of the truth. They would never succeed if they had not got behind them that which is the truth; and if they did not simulate the truth and so deceive, they would never prosper at all. We all surely have to acknowledge that the way in which things have gone has not been natural. This is inspired and energized by immense supernatural forces. Ah yes, but there are more immense supernatural forces, and the book of Revelation opens:

    "And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood..." (Rev. 1:5).

    "Didst purchase unto God with Thy blood men of every tribe, end tongue, and people, and nation, and madest them to be unto our God a kingdom and priests; and they shall reign upon the earth" (Rev. 5:9,10).

    They shall reign upon the earth with the Ruler of the kings of the earth.

    These things are indicative, they are not an exhaustive covering of the ground, but will help us to see the position in which we are.

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