by Oliver Carlos
In the 1990s, I used to play guitar and bass in our church band. Many people may think it’s cool being in such a position, but I’d say it’s not quite like that. There’s a heavy responsibility that goes with being up front. The weekly 20 to 30-minute stint on stage is a product of tons and tons of practice and keeping one’s heart and motives right before God. In those years, I wrote a song about my life as a church musician. The title of my song was “I’m a Levite.”
A very interesting part of the Bible is the story about the Levites. We can find this in the first five books of the Old Testament. The Levites were from one of the 12 tribes or clans of Israel. Their main ancestor was Levi. This clan was in-charge of the temple worship of the whole nation. The priests, musicians, singers, and temple assistants all came from the tribe of Levi only. Those who were not Levites were banned from doing those jobs.
Another characteristic of the Levites was that they went through intense training before they can perform in the temple. As early as childhood, they were already taught how to play musical instruments. They were also taught that they had to be excellent and not mediocre when making music. Most importantly, their hearts must be right before God as they perform in their temple worship.
God set a very high standard for the Levites in doing their temple work. They just cannot horse around. They must wear the right clothes and must be physically and ceremonially clean. They must always bring out their A-plus level of performance when making music. Their lives and their hearts must be fine-tuned to the Lord before they enter the venue. One little violation of the standard is a grave offense before God. Some even died instantly on the spot!
In the old times, there was a big curtain to separate that holiest place in the temple from the rest of the building. Actually, only the chief priest can enter that inner room. The other lower-rank priests just stayed on the outer room and outer court. Meanwhile, the ordinary people, the non-Levites would worship in an outer hall, which was far from the holy of holies.
Why did God set these rules for the Israelites in their worship? It is because he wanted to teach the people the concept of holiness. He wanted to tell them that he is a holy God, and the people who come to him must also be holy. If we’re not holy, we are banned in his presence. That’s why sinful man cannot dwell with a holy God for eternity.
But that is just half of the story. Jesus came and died on the cross. After Jesus breathed his last, there was a violent earthquake. In the temple, the curtain on the altar was torn from top to bottom (not bottom to top which is man-made). The top to bottom tear means it was God who tore it to say to everyone that they now have access to the holy of holies. Christ’s death and resurrection gives his believers the right to enter heaven and fellowship with a holy God for eternity. They have been made holy because of Christ’s sacrifice. This is explained in Hebrews 10:19–22 (TLB):
“Now we may walk right into the very Holy of Holies, where God is, because of the blood of Jesus. This is the fresh, new, life-giving way that Christ has opened up for us by tearing the curtain — his human body — to let us into the holy presence of God… let us go right in to God himself, with true hearts fully trusting him to receive us.”
This is the good news for us today- we are no longer banned. Jesus made a way. He is in fact inviting us to come to him and enjoy the fullness of life that he has secured for us. What keeps you from enjoying the peace of mind and abundant joy God has for you? Leave them behind and fix your eyes on Jesus. Let us rejoice and walk right into that path he has prepared for us.