Reading: Mal. 3:3; Deut. 10:8; 1 Chron. 13:6-10; 15:2,13-15; Acts 9:15-16; 15:14; Phil. 2:9-11.
We have been seeing that the sons of Levi represent the Divine thought as to the people of God, that is, they stand for a people wholly given over to the interests of God without any mixture, without any personal interests or considerations, abandoned utterly to that which is nearest to the heart of God. They came into their place with the Lord on that ground because they demonstrated in a very real way that that was their mind.
The passages above are all Levitical in a very real sense. To the Levites was committed the charge of the ark of the testimony of the Lord, and in the passage in 1 Chronicles 13 it is said about the ark that it is the ark of the testimony or the covenant of "the Lord Jehovah who is enthroned between the cherubim where the Name is called". So that the innermost feature of the ark is that it is the place of the Name. The testimony is as to the Name, the Name is the testimony; therefore, to the Levites there was entrusted the testimony of the Name. They were called to be the custodians of the Name of the Lord throughout the earthly sojourn of His testimony; to bring that Name through at last into its final resting place without having suffered dishonour or loss.
It was a great day when they brought the ark of the testimony into the completed temple and drew out the staves and the glory of the Lord filled the house - a foreshadowing of that great day when the testimony of Jesus would be brought to its final resting-place in glory. It said that the Levites had fulfilled their trust and had triumphed in the thing to which they were called. They had borne the Name through all the vicissitudes, the ups and the downs, the assailing, trials, and difficulties of the way. They had borne it through and had at last landed that Name in the place of everlasting rest and security where it would know no more of that chequered history of this world.
We have been seeing that the Levites of the Old Testament are only a temporal representation of an eternal or an abiding thought of God to have in His people such as shall bear His testimony, shall carry responsibility for His Name. Paul, therefore, in a spiritual sense, was a great Levite. The Lord said of him, "He is a chosen vessel to bear My name" (Acts 9:15). Peter's declaration at the council in Jerusalem was a great one; that this dispensation is marked by this particular activity of God, "to take out of the nations a people for His name" (Acts 15:14); and that Name is none other than the Name of Phil. 2:9 - "God hath given unto Him (Christ) the name which is above every name".
The Name always means entitlement, in the sense of rights. When the Lord is jealous for His Name, He is jealous for Himself as being entitled to occupy the supreme place in His whole universe, to have no rival or peer, to have no one who can approach unto Him in those rights, His entitlement, His prerogatives, His position. His Name is above all. That Name is given unto the Lord Jesus and therefore the Name of Jesus is not just a title in the sense of a designation. The Name of Jesus indicates His supreme entitlement and rights; His position, and that position as gained, won and achieved in virtue of His humiliation and death. "Wherefore God highly exalted Him, and gave unto Him the name...". So then, the Name carries with it, ever and always, the entitlement to supremacy; the rights of absolute sovereignty and Lordship.
We know how in the type that was true in the case of the ark. It was a mighty thing, a mighty witness on the right hand and on the left. Uzza put forth his hand to hold the ark. This presumptuous act, well-intentioned, but very forgetful of the significance of things, brought Uzza to his death. He was smitten and died there before the Lord. The Name meant death to Uzza because he did not take account of what that Name meant.
You remember that at a certain time Israel, in a superstitious relationship with the ark, thought that it would save them in the day of battle and brought the ark in at a precarious moment. That Name is not something to be used as a superstitious charm; it is too holy for that. It did not deliver, but nevertheless, when it got into the camp of the Philistines, its power was very clearly seen and felt. The Philistines were smitten, Dagon came down, the Name was mighty among the enemies of the Lord. Yes, that Name is a mighty Name, it is above every Name.
The Levites were entrusted with that testimony of the Name, the ark where the Name was called. Theirs it was to bear the Name in holy association with it, therefore they had to be holy. The Name loses its active value among the Lord's people and through the Lord's people as His chosen vehicle for its expression in the day that the Levites are defiled, in the day that the Lord's people lose their essential holiness of character.
There are great enquiries in our time as to the meaning of the impotence of the church, the weakness of the church, the inability of the church to lay an arresting hand upon things in this world, and how impotent it is! How sadly lacking is a voice of God in and through His church today; a voice which has anything of an arresting power upon men in any far-reaching way. The church might not exist today, for all its real effectiveness on this world and on this world situation. Yet the church is called to bear the Name which is above every Name.
The answer to the enquiry as to the meaning of this weakness and impotence in the life of God's people will be found in the direction of their mixture, their contamination. They have lost their position of absolute distinctiveness in holiness unto God. You see, when that Name was set forth in all the glory of heaven on the day of Pentecost, (for that was the key to Pentecost - the Name), when that glory was revealed in association with the Name, it was because a mighty holiness movement had started out from heaven. It was the day of a great holiness movement (not a holiness teaching) in the power of the Holy Spirit.
You can never have the power of Pentecost without the holiness of Pentecost; you never get the effect of Pentecost without the Name in its holiness. To recover the real power in testimony demands the recovery of holiness. Therein lies again the need for the purifying of the sons of Levi, the Lord's people, to bear the testimony of the Name. They have got to be suitable to the Name; there has to be a correspondence between us and the laws which we bear, if there is to be any power of Christ manifested in us at all.
It is saying a very commonplace thing to say that in the New Testament everything is in the Name of Jesus. That is, it is not by using the Name, it is by vital oneness with the Name.
When we pray in the Name of Jesus, we are not just using a phrase, saying 'in the Name of Jesus', meaning really 'by the Name of Jesus'. No, that is not the New Testament thought at all. The New Testament thought is that we are in, baptized into, identified with, standing right into the value of what He is as Lord, as supreme sovereign, as occupying the place as well as possessing the Name. It is fellowship with Him in that exaltation; it is oneness with Him in His glorious enthronement. We pray in His entitlement to everything. "Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My name" (John 15:16). That is not coming to the Father and just saying 'in the Name of Jesus'. No, let me repeat, that Name is His entitlement which God recognises, which God acknowledges. He has won that place and God recognises His rights. You stand right into the achievement, the triumph, the exaltation, the rights of the Lord Jesus through faith recognising that He is Lord. On that ground you ask, and the Father acknowledges, recognises.
You find that it is just that in all directions. In the case of evil spirits, it was in the Name of Jesus they had to yield, give way. He is Lord in every realm, Lord of demons, Lord of natural conditions, Lord in heaven, acknowledged Lord by hell, recognised Lord in earth too. It is standing into what He is by faith. Very often that represents a severe test. The whole situation does seem to deny the fact that Jesus is Lord, and in a very severe way challenges His triumph and His supremacy. Nothing seems to indicate that He is triumphing, and we are tempted to wait until we see something that really does give evidence of His triumph before we believe that the situation can be dealt with. Satan seems to be in possession, and to be master of the situation. The conditions which deny Christ's sovereignty are there with a strong foothold, and we are called upon in faith to take up a position in the Name of the Lord Jesus and to hold that position. We may have to hold on for a long time while faith is being proved to be faith, not experimenting with the Lord. When faith has been proved and we maintain the position right through to the end, then the Lord works.
The Lord has no mere theories about this thing. He is not going to leave us in a false position. This thing has got to become an inward reality. We shall very often be called upon to maintain a long-drawn-out faith attitude that Jesus is Lord in spite of everything, before we know the victory. Holding on desperately, the battle rages and faith triumphs, and then the thing lets go; in the end, the Name is proved triumphant. So it is not using the Name, but it is in the Name by a position - a heart position, a faith position, a spiritual position. The Levites become one with this thing in a living relationship.
I think it is very patent to all who are discerning that the course of things in this world, on this earth, is very definitely moving towards the issue of names. It is a bid for a name, it is the exalting of a name; it is the unholy succession of what sprang into being at the tower of Babel long ago - "Let us make us a name" (Gen. 11:4). That history is coming to intensification now in a way in which it has never been before. Never was the world so wholly involved in that issue as now - nor so terribly and fiercely. Never were so great stakes being cast for the Name as today. It is all heading up to this question of one name in the earth. That is the direction of things, and we surely know that, in these days, it does not take long to produce that issue. Great names can very quickly be overthrown and cease to be great names in our day; names of dictators can come up and go down in no time. But the direction of things is that there shall be one name in the earth, and that name will tolerate no rivals. It may use allies, but eventually it will put them down and be supreme, or seek to be. It is the bid for a name.
And that again - as we saw in the matter of blood - is precipitating very rapidly and very forcefully the whole question as to whose is to be the name of him who has dominion from sea to sea, unto the ends of the earth. That is the secret, the hidden, the spiritual background of what is going on, and the saints are involved in that more immediately and directly than anyone else. This whole thing is really, if we did but know it, raging round the church. It is the thing which is most immediately concerned in this matter. If the church can be swamped and overwhelmed, then that other name will be triumphant, but that Name which is above every name cannot suffer loss or be ultimately defeated.
And yet withal, although it is a matter of the Divine sovereignty and the Divine supremacy that will secure its ultimate triumph, God's method and means remain the same as ever. He must have a people for that Name; He must have the sons of Levi to whom is entrusted the testimony of the Name. The Lord's objective then, at a time like this when the issue of names is becoming so much more intense, is to get a purified people who will be entrusted with His testimony, the testimony of His Name, and will bear it through triumphantly to the end.
But I want to get inside that. That is saying things which can be mentally grasped in a kind of objective way. What does this mean? We have been seeing that the Name of Jesus is not just something objective and apart from the believer or from believers. It is not something that is taken up as a theme by the sons of Levi, but it is the very honour and glory of Christ Himself as being upheld in the life and conduct of His people. We either preserve the Name in honour and glory, or we allow the Name to come into reproach. It can be deprived of its meaning and value by our manner, our conduct, our demeanour, our life. Everything where we are concerned in our own private life, our own walk and our own relationships with others bears in the first place upon the Name of Jesus. It either really does bring glory and honour to that Name so that that Name is honoured by us, or it does the other thing.
The issue which arises in every situation of difficulty, every crisis, every affair in our lives, and between us and others, is the glory of the Name of Jesus; no less than that. If we should find ourselves getting a bit strained in our relationships, if we should be giving or taking offence, if things become difficult between us and we are apart, the thing which has got to govern us in our attitude towards that and in our handling of it, is the glory of the Name of Jesus. Matters in our own private lives which may be wrong, questionable, doubtful, have to be settled on this point, not on any lower ground; not as to whether they are more or less right or wrong, harmful or permissible, but what about the glory of the Name of Jesus? That is the thing at stake. Every situation is raised up by the enemy in relation to the Name. If only that Name can be defamed, robbed of glory, dishonoured in those who bear it, the testimony has gone, and that other name, that evil name, has triumphed. It is a battle of names in our innermost spiritual experiences and affairs. We are not going to stand upon our dignity for our rights, to be personally vindicated, God forbid! May we have the grace that lets go all personal rights, all personal vindications, all our position and reputation, for the sake of the Name.
It is a suffering way, the way of the Name. It is always a suffering way to our souls. "He is a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings, and the children of Israel; and I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name's sake" (Acts 11:15-16). Those two things being brought together keep things balanced. It is a great idea to be a chosen vessel to bear the Lord's Name before Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel; that is a great vocation. Ah yes, but that is all balanced by: "and I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name's sake". The Levite's way is a suffering way because it is always in association with the altar; it is in the fellowship of Christ's sufferings. The Name is only maintained in its glory as we suffer for that Name in our own souls and that very often means the denying of our own souls and the laying down of our own personal lives and all interests which are ours, for the sake of the Name.
This is simple, elementary, but it is very practical and necessary. If we, and all the Lord's people, had ever been actuated by this stand, what a different situation there would have been in the church. Oh, how different things would be! So very much of all the trouble, arrest, confusion, shame, grief and regret is because we have stood on some other ground: our name, our interest, our feelings, our likes and dislikes and preferences, and so on, and we have not been governed by this consideration: how is the Lord's Name affected by this? In order that the Lord's Name might be preserved in honour and glory, we very often have been called upon to let go our name, our position, our right and our vindication, all that sort of thing, to be emptied right out to the dust, poured out like water. This bearing of the Name is very practical. It comes very near to the inner life. May I say it again? It is not just using the Name of Jesus as a kind of phraseology or a phrase. No, it is being in the good of it and being jealous for it.
That is the great Levitical thought in Malachi. If you just glance through that brief book of prophecies, you will see how these things are brought together again and again: the Name, fearing the Lord, His Name, and the Levites. And you will see that what is there is just this: the Levitical company is represented by - "Then they that feared the Lord spoke often one to another; and the Lord hearkened and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon His name" (Mal. 3:16).
They spoke often one to another. More literally, they were in conference frequently with one another. What were they in conference with one another about? They were thinking upon His Name. His Name was in their thoughts, and they were thinking, "How can that Name, in a day like this, be delivered from the position into which it has been dragged by our priesthood, by our religious leaders, by the nation? How can that Name be recovered in its glory and honour?" They were thinking about it, and then they talked to one another about it. How could it be done?
They thought about His Name and talked to one another about the honour of His Name, the glory of His Name, and the Lord hearkened and heard. It is a picturesque word here - the Lord put His ear down and listened, turned to the Recording Angel and said: 'Do you hear what they are talking about? Write that down and write down the name of every one of those people.' "They shall be Mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up My peculiar treasure." A book of remembrance was kept. That is the Lord's attitude towards those who were jealous for His Name, who are burdened about His Name, and who meet together and talk about His Name. These are true Levites. The Lord says, "My covenant was with Levi of life and peace" (Mal. 2:5). That is the benediction of God upon those whose supreme concern is for the Name. The benediction of God: life and peace.
I hardly think I need say more, for what we are saying is more by way of indication than anything else. I do not want to finish these things off so that you feel that everything has been said that could be said. I am trying to leave things where you feel there is something more.
In this time, when this great question of the Name is so much at stake and involved in world situations, God is seeking, by fires of trial in the personal, the individual, as well as the collective life of His people, to get them to the place where, separated by fires of refinement from all the dross, mixture and adulteration, the Name shines out in clearness; that Name becomes glorious in them and through them.
The Lord is jealous for His Name. Do you not think that the Lord wants His Name to be more glorious among men than it is? Can you think that He is satisfied to have things as they are today so far as His Name is concerned, that men can so largely and extensively with such impunity, point to that which is supposed to represent God in the earth with a snap of the fingers, and say that it does not count? There has got to be something more than that to satisfy God and God will begin in the heart of His people. His chastening of His children, the sons of Levi, the refining fires, are in the direction of His Name coming out more gloriously in us. That is what He is after.
I am sure we are ready to consent to anything that will mean that the Name of the Lord Jesus shall be glorified. Does that not appeal to us? Not that we should be glorified, but that the Name of the Lord Jesus should be glorified. May we be true Levites who are really in heart jealous with God's own jealousy for His Son's Name, finding real fellowship with God on this matter, and so shall He have in us an instrument, a vessel, which shall bring great satisfaction to His heart. A very precious vessel - "My peculiar treasure" He says. The Lord enable us, by His grace, to endure the fires unto that end to bear His Name.
Will you review everything in the light of that Name, the interests of that Name? Reconsider every situation. If there is anything that is dishonouring to the Lord, not glorifying the Lord, do not stand for your vindication, your rights, that you shall come out on top vindicated. Just take this attitude: the Lord's Name is not glorified in this situation, and that is all there is about it. The Lord's Name is not glorified in this, and, whatever it costs me I let go for the sake of the honour and the glory of that Name! Let everything in the future be governed by that interest.