“Take heed to thyself that thou forsake not the Levite as long as thou livest upon the earth.” Deuteronomy 12:13
When I started this study on the “take heed” statements in Deuteronomy I must admit I felt a little stumped as to what the application for the church could be regarding this one. We no longer have Levites, and while all believers and in some ways pastors can be seen performing similar functions, the application still did not seem clear. However, after reading and praying I think the Lord brough several things to mind which are of help to the New Testament era believer.
Forsaking the Levite Meant Forsaking God
Consider some of the functions of the Levites and some historical incidents given in Numbers 1:47-54 and 2 Chronicles 11:13-17. They spent their lives in and around the Tabernacle, serving the Lord. If you never saw a Levite, chances are you never went to the Tabernacle. As Christians in the New Testament church we worship God wherever we can, but for ancient Israel their worshipped centred on the Tabernacle. It was the one place sacrifices for sin and free will offerings could be accepted. To forsake the Levite meant, by extension, that you had forsaken God.
Forsaking the Levite Meant Forsaking Fellowship
Numerous Old Testament passages, Deuteronomy 16:11 for example, indicate the involvement of the Levite in celebrations. Some sacrifices included portions being shared by the worshipper and the priests and those working within the tabernacle. If you never saw the Levite then it not only meant you had forsaken God, but you had also forsaken your brethren. If their celebrations and worship happened in a single place, a place where you were never to be found, then you would have no fellowship with them.
Forsaking the Levite Meant Forsaking Responsibility
A final consequence of forsaking the Levite was that you abandoned your God-given responsibility to tithe toward the maintenance and upkeep of the Levites and the Tabernacle (Deuteronomy 14:27-29 and 2 Chronicles 11:13-17). The Levites did not have an inheritance as the other tribes received. They depended on the required tithes of the other tribes. If you forsook the Levite, then you were not upholding your responsibility to him.
The New Testament Application
Principles drawn from the treatment of the Levites can be carefully transferred to the New Testament congregation and their pastor or pastors.(This is not to elevate the man but the office and the principles involved.)
If You Avoid the Pastor and Other Believers You Must Avoid Church Fellowship and gathering together as a congregation is clearly demonstrated and commanded throughout the New Testament (Hebrews 10:24-25). Numerous passages in Acts and epistles describing believers coming together for worship, praying, fellowship and preaching. Remember, these were before the days of the phone and Internet. Obvious, right? So that meant the only means of encouraging one another, as clearly commanded, was in the presence of one another. Gathering together as a called out assembly, meeting with the church, is a command. If you do not do that, you are in disobedience.
If You Avoid the Pastor and Other Believers You Miss Fellowship Believers who are right with God look for opportunities to be with other believers. The old saying goes, “Birds of a feather flock together”. So, at the risk of taking the analogy too far, which birds do you drift toward? Christians or people who do not believe in Christ and the Word of God? If you do not gather together with other believers for worship as a called out assembly then you are disobeying a clear command in Scripture. (Acts 2:42 and 1 John 1:1).
If You Avoid the Pastor You Neglect Your Responsibility God’s Word clearly teaches in 1 Corinthians 9:1-14 and other passages that a local church has a responsibility toward their pastor(s). I know there are those who disagree, and perhaps I’ll go into more detail about this in another passage. But for the time being I am going to plainly put forward that if you are a believer who has aligned yourself with a local church, then you have a responsibility to help with the maintenance and upkeep of the pastor and the ministry. If you neglect that then I believe it is disobedience.
God help us to be faithful in our service with and to our local church.