Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
Who does God use? What kind of people does God use to move mountains and make great feats and achievements? The Lord is more than happy to use anyone who comes to him for help, even murderers. Most people know the story of Moses pretty well. But for a quick refresher, we’ll review his career from the Word. While recounting the history of Israel, Stephen noted,
When Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his fellow Israelites. He saw one of them being mistreated by an Egyptian, so he went to his defense and avenged him by killing the Egyptian (Acts 7:23-24).
Moses was a murderer! Not only was he a murderer, but he also was also very arrogant at that time. The Bible records, “Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not” (Acts 7:25). Did you catch that? Moses didn’t even feel bad about the murder; he thought he was justified in his killing, even though God had not told him to do it. On top of being an arrogant murderer, Moses was living in disgrace for the great sin he had committed. Stephen explains,
The next day Moses came upon two Israelites who were fighting. He tried to reconcile them by saying, “Men, you are brothers; why do you want to hurt each other?”
But the man who was mistreating the other pushed Moses aside and said, “Who made you ruler and judge over us? Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?” When Moses heard this, he fled to Midian, where he settled as a foreigner and had two sons (Acts 7:26-29)
But when we think of Moses, most people don’t think of the murderer-turned-pariah. We usually remember what happened after his 40 years of exile out in the desert. God came to Moses because he had humbled himself before the Lord. Actually, later the Holy Spirit notes how humble Moses had become in the eyes of God. We read, “Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3). Because he came to God, God came to him, and provided Moses with his mission. Stephen continues with the part of the story most of us are familiar with, the Exodus;
This is the same Moses whom they had rejected with the words, “Who made you ruler and judge?” He was sent to be their ruler and deliverer by God himself, through the angel who appeared to him in the bush. He led them out of Egypt and did wonders and miraculous signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea and for forty years in the desert.
This is that Moses who told the Israelites, “God will send you a prophet like me from your own people.” He was in the assembly in the desert, with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers; and he received living words to pass on to us (Acts 7:35-38).
Talk about turning one’s act around! God took…well basically a criminal with a cold heart and turned him into one of the most famous people in the whole Bible. The Lord loves to take people who are broken and fix them up to be useful not only to him but other people as well. While Moses’ story is great, did you know that he’s not the only killer that God redeemed in the Bible? In fact, he’s not even the first!
“Wait, didn’t Moses’ story start in Exodus: the second book of the Bible?” That’s right, but our story today comes from Genesis, the first book. Back in Genesis, Jacob’s daughter Dinah slept with a man named Shechem. The Bible isn’t clear if it was a rape situation or premarital consensual relations, but either way, she had lost her honor by this man. Now Shechem actually loved Dinah and wanted to marry her, so he approached her family. The Bible records,
Then Shechem said to Dinah’s father and brothers, “Let me find favor in your eyes, and I will give you whatever you ask. Make the price for the bride and the gift I am to bring as great as you like, and I’ll pay whatever you ask me. Only give me the girl as my wife” (Genesis 34:11-12)
So although impatient and disrespectful of his soon-to-be wife’s culture, Shechem wasn’t a terrible person, and seemed to be honorable (even if as an afterthought). Dinah’s brothers were angry with Shechem for defiling their sister, and decided to set a very high bride price- a painful one. We read,
We will give our consent to you on one condition only: that you become like us by circumcising all your males. Then we will give you our daughters and take your daughters for ourselves. We’ll settle among you and become one people with you. But if you will not agree to be circumcised, we’ll take our sister and go (Genesis 34:15-17).
That’s right; everyone in Shechem’s town would have to be circumcised in order for him to marry Dinah. Since Shechem really did want to do right by Dinah, though, he complied and the whole town was circumcised. However, Levi and Simeon (two of Dinah’s brothers) had no intention of letting their sister marry this guy; and so we read,
Three days later, while all of them were still in pain, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and attacked the unsuspecting city, killing every male. They put Hamor and his son Shechem to the sword and took Dinah from Shechem’s house and left. The sons of Jacob came upon the dead bodies and looted the city where their sister had been defiled. They seized their flocks and herds in the city and out in the fields. They carried off all their wealth and all their women and children, taking as plunder everything in the houses (Genesis 34:25-29).
Levi and Simeon killed every man in the whole town, while they were recovering from a very painful procedure no less. And to top it all off, they stole all of the people’s stuff too. This is a brutal mass murder that was carried out by Levi and Simeon. Obviously God was likely shocked by their actions, and their father Jacob even cursed both of them when he was blessing his children. Jacob pronounced his curse over his sons in Genesis 49:5-7,
Simeon and Levi are brothers-
Their swords are weapons of violence.
Let me not enter their council,
Let me not join their assembly,
For they have killed men in their anger
And hamstrung oxen as they pleased.
Cursed be their anger, so fierce,
And their fury, so cruel!
I will scatter them in Jacob
And disperse them in Israel.
God held the two tribes to the curse as well, since when the Israelites entered the promised land, Simeon wasn’t given land of their own, rather they got some area inside of Judah (and were later spread out all over as a nomadic tribe) and the Levites were also not given any land of their own and were spread all over Israel.
Well hold on here, Levi was cursed, but the Levites themselves ended up becoming the priestly class. What happened? Most people (including me) probably assume that because Moses was a Levite that God pardoned them through him. However, the Holy Spirit showed me that this was not the case. In fact, the reason why the Levites were honored by being the tribe to serve God had nothing at all to do with Moses (which may be why Aaron’s sons, not Moses’ were the actual priests). God blessed the honored the Levites because of a covenant he had made with a reformed Levi. Wait, what? Levi’s story ends in Genesis 49, doesn’t it? Apparently not. The Holy Spirit showed me that according what is written in Malachi; God made a new covenant with a reformed Levi off-camera, and had set up the Levite’s place long before Moses was even born. Malachi records,
“And you will know that I have sent you this admonition so that my covenant with Levi may continue,” says the Lord Almighty. “My covenant was with him, a covenant of life and peace, and I gave them to him; this called for reverence and he revered me and stood in awe of my name. True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from their sins” (Malachi 2:4-6).
It seems that after was cursed by his father (which as we noted, the Lord still held the Levites to), Levi himself underwent a revival of his spirit and repented of his ways. The Lord saw his desire to reform, and blessed Levi and made a covenant that led to his descendants becoming priests and clergymen.
What makes this so important? If the Levites were blessed through Moses, nobody would be all that surprised. But Levi himself was a mass-murderer. He participated in the merciless killing of every man in a town. In the US he’d be looking at multiple life sentences or the death penalty for sure. In some places it might even go to a military tribunal of some sorts. Levi would have been pretty high on the FBI’s most wanted list. And yet, because he repented of his ways, God came to him and blessed him and gave his descendants a great honor through him. Not only that, but God noted that true instruction was in his mouth, and from my own experience, I can tell you that only the Holy Spirit can provide that gift. So here this awful mass-murderer was not only pardoned by God but also given the Holy Spirit and the ability to preach. If Levi can be forgiven, so can you. Your sin is not too great, no matter what you’ve done; the Lord will forgive you if you turn to him. Paul reminds us in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Your forgiveness is waiting for you, just take it and turn from your sinful ways. We read,
For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we now received reconciliation (Romans 5:10-11).
Through Jesus Christ, we can be made clean in the eyes of God, any time. Of Christ it is written, “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 7:25). No matter the day or time, or where you are in your life, Jesus is at the throne of God, speaking on your behalf. Trust in him and accept his awesome forgiveness, then see what the Lord will do with you. Levi became the head of a family of priests; Moses saved a nation- who knows what God has planned for you! And so we read,
Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, morn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.