The Original Worship Leaders

What do you think about when someone brings up the tribe of Levi? Some of you may think, oh yeah, they’re one of those 12 tribes in the Old Testament. A few of you are thinking, why are we talking about jeans? Then those of you who have done any studying of the Old Testament remember that the Levite tribe was a significant group of people who marked our Christian heritage in a huge way.

It’s not uncommon for people to compare the role of the worship leader to that of the role of a Levite. But today I hope to broaden our horizons as we really ponder God’s use of this special family and compare them to the role of our ministry as worship leader within the Church body.

Their loyal and strong nature is what marked the Levites from the very beginning. The original Levi, the 3rd son of Jacob, was known for his passion and zeal. Sometimes that zeal landed him in a heap of trouble, but that same zeal would continue for generations and eventually be the reason God chooses them specifically for their roles in the Temple. Remember the episode of the golden calf during the time of Moses? All the Israelites fell prey to the temptation to worship the idol and indulge in worldly behaviors – all except one group – the Levites. They remained loyal to the Lord and defended His honor to the bitter end (Exodus 32:25-29). It was at this point that they were rewarded with an elevated spiritual status and services that were taken away from the other tribe leaders (Numbers 3:11-13). Some of these services included carrying all the Tabernacle vessels during each move, acting as gatekeepers and honor guards, assisting in preparing certain sacrifices and offerings, and providing all the music in the Temple.

As I mentioned earlier, the Levites are often referred to as the worship leaders of the Bible, but I would love to explore a little further the idea that they were so much more than that and how this impacts our ministries today by homing in on 2 key components of this Old Testament “team”.

The first component recognizes just how diverse the roles of the Levites were (Numbers 3, 4 & 18). Yes, a key part of their responsibilities was to usher in the presence of a Holy God, to prepare the way and set the scene for the Lord to move. But that was just one piece. The same can be said for our ministry teams, right? Yes, you might carry the torch of being the one leading the music piece each week, but there are also dozens of other people whose roles are just as critical and important. It may be as a musician in one of the bands, or behind a soundboard creating the perfect mix, or running a camera looking for just the right shot to help convey the atmosphere to an audience on the other side of the screen. There isn’t a single role on the team that is trivial, unnecessary, or able to be done without. Just like the Levites’ duties, the responsibility held within each position on a worship team (whether musical or technical) is heavy and is to be done with excellence and integrity so as not to compromise the message and movement of God. Remembering this important truth will also help keep us humbled in our role as a worship leader. Not only are we but one small piece of the puzzle, but it is our responsibility to make sure the other pieces feel just as necessary.

The second is, to me, the most important part of who the Levites were, and that is their “set apartness”. God chose them specifically for their roles because of their vigor in following the leadership of the Lord. The case of the golden calf was just one of many times the Levites did what no one else was doing, in an effort to remain holy. And God rewarded them consistently for that. Did you know that they were spared the Egyptian bondage because they had separated themselves from the rest of the tribes and immersed themselves in learning God’s ways and continuing the holy traditions passed down to them from their fathers? God saw their efforts and kept them from centuries of slavery, and in so doing, allowed His own worship and glorification to continue. What a lesson we could learn from this part of our heritage. How far we have drifted from this state of holiness.

What does this kind of “set apartness” look like today?

God calls us to be holy as He is holy (Lev. 19:2), to flee from temptation (1 Tim. 6:11), to avoid even the appearance of evil (1 Thess. 5:22), to appear as aliens in a foreign land (1 Pet. 2:10-12). That seems pretty cut and dry to me – refrain from sin at all costs. And I believe for the most part, we as believers do a fairly good job of steering clear of the “big ones.” But Satan is cunning, isn’t he? He creeps into the small, forgotten crevices of our beings and works his magic so that before we know it, we’re covered up in sin that we never saw coming, and destroying our influence and credibility in the process. Take social media for one of many examples. We live in a day and age where every single thing we say and do is being monitored and watched. From the opinions we post personally to the things we “share” or even “like”. While that seems creepy on many levels, it doesn’t diminish the truth that every move we make on Facebook, Twitter, or your community of choice is seen and scrutinized. One could easily write that off as petty and unfair, but at the end of the day, our choices online could make or break a lost person’s view of Christians, God, and the Church. So how do we combat to hang on to holiness in areas that aren’t really sin-ridden, but can be gateways to self-destruction? I think the answer can be found in the lifestyle of the Levites - prayer and an almost preoccupation with God’s Word. They were so in tune to God’s voice and so covered up in His teachings that they knew with every step, whether they were doing the right thing or not. If they were here today, I think they’d say something like, “Before you click Post on that comment, before you engage in gossip with that lost neighbor, before you put on that revealing top, before you continue in conversation with that promiscuous co-worker, before you buy a ticket to that sketchy movie, just run it by the Holy Spirit first.” He is never going to condone something that goes against His Word and character. He is never going to be okay with those borderline sins that, in the world’s eyes, aren’t that bad. He will always be FOR the person who seeks Him first. He will always reward those who pursue His ways. He will always protect the hearts and minds of those who put Him above any other.

So as we continue to grow as leaders and worshipers, let’s learn from our forefathers. Let’s glean the wisdom they offer us through God’s Word. Let’s practice a holiness that perhaps we’ve never explored before.