Today’s reading: 1 Chronicles 6-8.
There’s power in repetition to drive home a point. In 1 Chronicles 6 we are given the genealogy of the descendants of Levi, the priests who year after year offered sacrifices in the tabernacle and then the temple. The first of these priests was Aaron, Moses’ brother, who died in the wilderness. Eleazar, his son came next, and served as the Israelites entered the Promised Land. There is Zadok, who served as priest under King David and supported him when Absalom rebelled against David. Hilkiah served as priest when Josiah was king and the lost Book of the Law was discovered in the temple. Seraiah was executed when Nebuchadnezzer sacked Jerusalem. His son, Jehozadak, was exiled to Babylon.
For 800 years these priests offered sacrifices, but the sacrifices failed to change the people or save the nation. After the return of the Babylonian exiles, some 400 years before the birth of Christ, Malachi prophesied about the Levites:
Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD. Malachi 3:1-3
Jesus came to the temple as the messenger of the New Covenant, the covenant of grace based on Jesus’ perfect once-for-all sacrifice. The writer of Hebrews, always magnifying the superiority of Jesus, reminded us of the inadequacy of the priestly sacrifices.
For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Hebrews 10:1-4
The repeated sacrifices of the sons of Levi for those 800 years could not save the people. Instead, their example shows us that our need for salvation still remains. Their continual sacrifices framed the picture for the one perfect sacrifice that was coming.
Image by Bro. Jeffrey Pioquinto, SJ on Flickr, CC by 2.0