2 Chronicles 29:34, 36 Revised Standard
34 But the priests were too few and could not flay all the burnt offerings, so until other priests had sanctified themselves their brethren the Levites helped them, until the work was finished—for the Levites were more upright in heart than the priests in sanctifying themselves.
36 And Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced because of what God had done for the people; for the thing came about suddenly.
I must say, as I examined these verses this morning from the Revised Standard Bible I found them both intriguing and inspirational. It’s one of the few times in the Old Testament that we read of possible exceptions being made for the Law of Moses. The verses tell us that the Levites participated in the work of the Burnt Offerings. According to Leviticus there was a procedure for these tasks and until now the sons of Aaron performed them.
Leviticus 1:5-8 Revised Standard
5 Then he shall kill the bull before the LORD; and Aaron’s sons the priests shall present the blood, and throw the blood round about against the altar that is at the door of the tent of meeting. 6 And he shall flay the burnt offering and cut it into pieces; 7 and the sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire on the altar, and lay wood in order upon the fire; 8 and Aaron’s sons the priests shall lay the pieces, the head, and the fat, in order upon the wood that is on the fire upon the altar.
There is no mention of any Levites working or contributing here! However, when we come to 2 Chronicles 29, it appears the sanctification of Levites if preferred over allowing unsanctified priests do these activities. This implies that allowing the unsanctified to perform the ceremony would have caused the greater risk of provoking God than letting the more upright in heart Levites help out.
There are a number of circumstances where God justly judges with immediate consequence the presumption and arrogance of man. The two sons of Aaron were struck dead immediately for their arrogance of offering strange fire before God. David witnessed the instantaneous death of Uzzah for his presumption that he could place the Ark upon some new cart of transportation he had constructed in ignorance. Both these circumstances had clear directions and prohibitions written before in the Law of Moses. Both the arrogance and ignorance of men was quickly judge by God. But why is there no judgment for this questionable disregard of the Law of Moses in 2 Chronicles 29? One could conclude from verse 34 that God is unjust in His values and uses different standards in different situations.
But, as I read Leviticus again I realize one thing. Though it is designated as the sons of Aaron’s task the Levites help is not specifically prohibited either. In fact, the Levites helping the priests is very scriptural. Just read Numbers 18:1-3 from the Revised Standard. I have truncated the passage for easier reading.
1 So the LORD said to Aaron… 2…bring your brethren also, the tribe of Levi, the tribe of your father, that they may join you, and minister to you while you and your sons with you are before the tent of the testimony. 3 They shall attend you and attend to all duties of the tent; but shall not come near to the vessels of the sanctuary or to the altar, lest they, and you, die.
Well, isn’t that just fascinating? Call it an escape clause or whatever you want, the Levites could help any of the priests in their duties with the exception doing things specific to the vessels of the sanctuary or the altar. God allows and deems as service all else they are asked to do. They could flay the Burnt Offerings all day long; they just hadn’t been used in that capacity up to this point (or at least we never read of it). The sanctification of the Levites with their upright hearts was of greater value than using unsanctified men with plenty of gift and calling.
What I learn from this is to be a little slower to judge how things ought to be and quicker to let God use what and whom He deems sanctified for His use! It is easy for me to say no to the new just because it was never done a certain way before. That’s secure, safer and more comfortable. However, something is not less spiritual because it’s new and not been tried before. If someone has a gift to offer and there is not a prohibition, why not look to see what God can do with a person who is upright in heart? As Hezekiah, I may just end up rejoicing because of what God has done for the people! Evidently, when it comes to the Lord and His service, it’s the Upright in Heart that matters most!
J. Robert Hanson