“I also realized that the portions for the Levites had not been given them; for each of the Levites and the singers who did the work had gone back to his field. So I contended with the rulers, and said, “Why is the house of God forsaken?” And I gathered them together and set them in their place.” Nehemiah 13:10-11
When God had instituted the sanctuary and its services, hundreds of years before Nehemiah, through the patriarch Moses, one of the things that he had done was to sanctify, or set aside, to himself the tribe of Levi for service in the Temple. The Priests in the Temple were all descendants of Moses’ brother Aaron and this family was the only one permitted to administer the sanctuary sacrifices and other atonement rites. There were, however, many other necessary tasks that needed to be performed for the Temple: trained musicians to play and sing were needed, guards were needed, people were required to transport or carry things for the Temple, and these tasks were done by the rest of the families within the tribe of Levi.
To ensure that the Levites were always free to serve at the Temple God did not give to them any tribal territory when they settled into the land of Canaan. Instead forty-eight cities, scattered throughout the land of Canaan, were given to the Levites. Additionally, because the Levites wouldn’t be able to tend fields and vineyards, due to their duties at the Temple, God gave to the Levites the tithes that were returned to the Temple.
Some churches today, including the Seventh-day Adventist Church, still practice this God given plan for the support of those who labor for the church and they’ve found a great blessing in this system of financial support.
But this system, like all systems, requires that all the parts within it be functioning if it will fulfill its appointed purpose, and one part, the final part, and some would say the most important part, the fair and responsible distribution of the tithes to the Levites was not being done.
People can’t live if they don’t eat so the Levites had left their service in the Temple and had returned to their cities and had set to work in the fields surrounding those cities to gain a living for themselves.
Nehemiah must have noticed that the Temple was not staffed as it ought to have been. So he inquired into the matter and found that, while the tithes had been collected into the storerooms they hadn’t been distributed to the Levite families.
Once again Nehemiah is called upon to contend with the leaders of the people regarding their neglect of the laws and provisions that God had given to keep the people spiritually safe and holy.
Prayer continues to be a part of Nehemiah’s process as well and he calls on God to witness and remember his services on behalf of the people and the house of God.
The blessing promised by God, through the prophet Malachai, for the faithful return of the tithe and offerings is still available to those who are faithful.
“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.”