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When the Levites Return to Their Posts
When the Levites 1.jpg

 

When the Levites Return to Their Posts
by Shani Ferguson

“Let me write the songs of a nation, and I care not who writes its laws.” This brilliant piece of wisdom is attributed to 17th century Scottish poet and politician Andrew Fletcher. With his hands in both the arts and legislation, he found that when properly applied, the arts carried more influence on the behavior of society than the weight of law. Fletcher’s thoughts were echoed in the hippie, counterculture movements of the 1960s and 1970s, where a famous guitarist was quoted saying, “I use music to open up people’s souls; then, I preach whatever I want.”

While insightful, these comments were not establishing anything new. Scripture notes how God (who already understood everything about human nature) used music to influence society. Music was so important in God’s ideal society that He allocated an entire tribe (the Levites) for the purpose of training up the best worship makers (musicians, intercessors, etc.) for service. 

Levitical duties would include stewarding the tabernacle (and later the temple), interceding on behalf of the people, and establishing worship music as a pillar of Israelite culture. As songs were composed, they would be written down and cataloged. The book of Psalms includes 150 of these songs, and several more are recorded throughout the Old Testament.

Worship Makers - Catalysts of the Supernatural

The Levitical worship makers served in various roles and places. Some were stationed at the tabernacle while others traveled. One such traveling group is noted in the story of Saul, who was anointed to be king by Samuel. Despite his later poor choices, King Saul’s early years were pleasing to God. But Saul was not a born leader.  After anointing him, Samuel sent Saul away to encounter a band of prophetic musicians, whose worshipful music God used to transform Saul from a simpleton into a man who could rule a kingdom. Even when Saul departed from God’s path and was tormented by an evil spirit, worship music would give him times of relief.

In times of battle, worship makers were called upon to create an atmosphere of praise for the Lord’s presence to inhabit. Their worship also served to remind the Israelites who was fighting on their behalf, for the Israelites rarely won a battle on their strength alone, but rather in their faith in a more powerful God. Getting before the Lord prior to battle was common practice for the Israelites; hearing His strategy was vital. At times, the presence of the Lord so filled the atmosphere created by worshipping musicians that it literally annihilated the enemy in front of their eyes (2 Chronicles 20). The battle against swords and chariots was literally won with the sound waves of harps, drums, and singers declaring God’s greatness. Picture a modern day orchestra set on a hilltop playing How Great is Our God, with planes and drones being slapped out of the air, and you get the idea of how unbelievable this must have been to watch.

During the years of exile, the Israelites were not free to rule themselves and worship in the same fashion as they were instructed to by God. Mind you, the reason they were exiled is because they were living contrary to God’s instructions already. But in exile, they were forced to learn a different lifestyle and culture. The status the Levites had become accustomed to was abandoned. When the Israelites were finally allowed to return decades later, they needed a refresher course on what exactly it meant to be God’s chosen people. This would include a reading of the Law for all the people to hear and a beat down from Nehemiah (where he literally beats them) when he finds out the Israelite men had taken in foreign wives and their idols and had neglected the role of the Levites.

When Nehemiah hears about the foreign wives and their idols, he is angered. But when he hears of the neglected Levites, he is devastated. The Levites were not interceding on behalf of the people before the Lord, and furthermore, not maintaining the atmosphere and attitude of worship among the people. The Israelites would not mature into their role as the people of the presence of God without the Levites in active duty. Instead of being sustained in their role as ministers before the Lord, the Levites had been given plots of land as an inheritance to grow crops for themselves – the very thing the Lord had said was not to happen. God knew if the Levites were going to serve before Him with excellence, it had to be all they were focused on doing. Nehemiah knew that in order to nurture the fledgling Israelite spiritual culture, the sounds and atmosphere of worship had to be ever present.

I discovered that the portions of the Levites had not been given to them, and that all the Levites and musicians responsible for the service had gone back to work their fields. So I rebuked the officials and asked them, “Why is the house of God neglected?” Then I called them together and stationed them at their posts. (Nehemiah 13:10-11)

Worship in Israel Today

Just as in the days of Nehemiah, Jews today are returning to the land from the four corners of the earth. And just as in Nehemiah’s day, the worship makers must return to their posts. To be clear, the issue at hand is not to begin a quest to track down Jews from the tribe of Levi. While fascinating, attempting to identify tribe origins today is an imperfect science at best and distracts from the bigger picture. King David himself, one of the greatest musician/singer/songwriter/composer/psalmist/worshippers of all time, was not of the tribe of Levi. The bigger picture is that  skilled musicians/singers/songwriters who can create an atmosphere of worship are key to Israel’s thriving spiritual life.

Today, Israel has been physically reborn, but her spirituality remains infantile. There is no anointed and respected voice on a national level calling modern day Israel to worship the one true God. Music itself remains an important aspect of Israeli culture and is the loudest voice heard in Israel today; however, the message is dominated by godless artists. On the occasion that a song about God is released on the radio, you will find that even hardcore secular Jews are happy to sing along. Of course, they will also sing along with the next song that celebrates debauchery, but that is because they are simply following wherever the music leads. Even when Hamas wrote a song in Hebrew intending to intimidate Jews, Israelis sang along with a smirk (mostly because Hamas militants have terrible Hebrew accents and even worse grammar, so it was really funny. But the point is, they listened to the message because of the music...).


WorshipperRevelation at a New Age Festival

Israelis pack out music performances from the tiniest hole-in-the-wall clubs to the highest-class theaters. From Rock to Electronic music to Jazz, Israelis cannot resist quality music. They flock to the desert or the shores of the Sea of Galilee for pagan music festivals in which they try out and trade pagan practices learned while traveling in the likes of India or Tibet.

About 10 years ago, we took a group of musicians to one of these pagan music festivals. Our band of skilled believing musicians and singers prepared Hebrew songs of adoration to the God of Israel. There would be no doubt which God we were singing about. We practiced several times a week for months to offer something beautiful to the Lord in the midst of the festival’s plethora of idolatry.

These were the most brilliant musicians I had ever worked with. They had spent years honing their craft and we worked so well together. They were unified in the desire to represent the Lord with excellence of spirit and craft in the midst of the spiritual depravity of the festival. After each set, Israelis approached us asking about the “presence” they felt in the tent. We were excited. We wanted to play these songs of worship in more places so more Israelis could experience His presence. But after the festival, our musicians had to go back to their home and back to their jobs. They worked as janitors,  in hardware shops and as customer service representatives. We would get together on occasion to sing and worship the Lord, even playing for no audience at all. It was with these musicians that we recorded our two albums in Hebrew and English “Close” and “Garden of Secrets.” But we all had families to support, and we all knew there are no job openings for “Levites” in Israel.

I knew in my heart that one day this would have to change! But it would only change when the Body at large would take it upon themselves to put the Levites back in their posts. The ears of the people of Israel must become familiar with the sounds that glorify God and know that He dwells in praise. Israel needs an atmosphere of worship in her midst. The sounds of the praises of God must drown out the revelry.

The Children of Israel were not chosen so they could wander the earth feeling special. They were chosen to be the people of the presence of God. It was supposed to be that when you were among the Jews you could experience God. After years of exile and two destroyed temples, we have become the people who keep kosher, who wear fancy hats, and who do not drive cars or turn on light switches on the Sabbath. Yet, we as a people have no clue how to live in His presence – and we were chosen to be the experts at it!

MatisyahuSinger/songwriter Matisyahu is one of most notable examples of a Jewish man who turned to Orthodox Judaism in his quest for God. He became an international music star with his passionate and descriptive lyrics about God. He has since abandoned the constricting religious lifestyle but continues to express his heart towards God in his music. I once heard him reject the title of “prophet” as he explained: The prophets knew God and heard His voice, he, on the other hand did not. One can only imagine what he could become if he would come to know the Lord.

The musical gift God has bestowed on His people throughout history is in plain view. One only need look at the long list of highly influential - even legendary - Jewish musicians worldwide (Lenny Kravitz, Bob Dylan, Barbara Streisand, Pink, Neil Diamond, Billy Joel, Simon and Garfunkel - and the list goes on) to see that utilizing music to move people is practically a calling on them. A calling, sadly, that rarely gets used for its original purpose.

But what if the Levites were reinstated? What if worship music were to become common place in Israeli culture and the Lord were once again to corporately dwell among the praises of His people? What if a future battle with Hamas or ISIS began with a worship set? What if Israeli atheists would be obsolete because whether they chose to follow God or not, they wouldn’t be able to deny His tangible presence?

The nations will continue to resist the existence of Israel just as they resist the sovereignty of God over them. We can combat their threats by appealing to politicians with earthly power. We can call on earthly armies to use their military power to defend us. But we can also create an atmosphere of praise where the One with the power over all can dwell. It is His defense of us that will ultimately be our only hope and victory in battle. More importantly, God’s dwelling presence among us would allow the Jewish people to fulfill our destiny as an example of what a nation with God in their midst looks like. That “Light to the Nations” Israel is supposed to become means God’s light shining on your nation!

Right now, the worship makers are at home, tending to their own fields. Their instruments lay in a dusty corner, their songs in a box under the bed, and the calling the Lord gave them hidden in a corner of their heart. It will happen eventually. Someone will come along and return the worship makers to their posts. But what if it was us? What if you and I could go down in history as the ones who helped reinstate the atmosphere of worship in the land of Israel?


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israel-band.jpg

“Our band comprising of local Israeli musicians and Israelis who immigrated to Israel from Brazil.”




 
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