"I gathered them to the river that runs to Ahava, and there we camped three days. As I reviewed the people and the priests, I found there none of the sons of Levi." (Ezra 8:15)
The first group of returnees had already accompanied Ezra back to Jerusalem and the temple had been rebuilt. It is 50 years later and the sacrifices and spiritual life of the returnees is ongoing. The next generation is coming up. However, it hadn't taken long for the people to start abandoning the LORD'S ways once again. Even the priests were carnal. So God sent priest and scribe Ezra to Persia bring back another group of exiles who had been carried off to the Babylonian captivity, for the purpose of teaching the people at Jerusalem. (Ezra 8). This calling was prompted by Persian king Artaxerxes' letter to Ezra which decreed "that anyone of the people of Israel or their priests or Levites in my kingdom, who freely offers to go to Jerusalem, may go with you."
The Levites were the tribe of Levi, and when land was being distributed to the 12 tribes, the Levites received none. They were to be consecrated for service to the LORD at the Temple, (sort of deacons to the priests) (Numbers 8:6; Numbers 8:14). They were not to be farmers. Therefore they needed no land. (1 Chronicles 15:2; Numbers 3:6). The entire tribe is set apart for temple service on behalf of the people in submission to God.
So Ezra trudged back 900 miles, and put out a call for the people of Israel and priests and Levites. They came. They assembled. And Ezra reviewed the assembly and he saw people and he saw priests. He saw no Levites. (Ezra 8:15b)
No Levites showed up. Not one.
Can you imagine, the personal call of God to the very people He raised up for the purpose, declining the call. They were comfortable. They were settled. They likely thought, 'Let someone else go.' They ignored the reason they were put on earth: to glorify God in active service to Him.
The verse in Ezra 8:15 where no Levite showed up is one of the saddest. I like to picture the actual circumstances. I imagined in my mind the hillsides where the families were assembling, the donkeys and camels and trunks and baskets. The running children, and the sense of purpose and excitement. I imagine the women pitching the temporary tents as they waited for the rest to show up who would show up. I picture Ezra in his robe walking among the groups and clusters, and frowning as he finds no Levite. How sad! How awful!
As with every scripture, there is application to our day. Are we a Levite? Settled and comfortable? Do we fail to respond to His call of the one thing we are put on earth to do, which is to glorify God with our hearts and mouths and minds and our lives? Beware! It is easy to look back through the lens of 20/20 hindsight and say that they were foolish not to show up. But while living out our own lives do we do the same? We are human, like they were, so yes, we do the same.
I pray that if you receive a call to do a work for God that is outside your comfort zone, that you will respond. I'm not talking about the big things, like being a missionary in North Korea or something, but responding to any call that puts us either permanently or temporarily outside our comfort zone. I pray that for myself, too. I want to serve and I want to respond to the call, no matter what it is. I pray I respond like Samuel, like Isaiah, (1 Sam 3:4, Isaiah 6:8) "Here I am Lord! Send me!"
God brings us to a place to do a work or to grow in His light and that may be where He wants us for the rest of our lives. It may be, though, that He may prompt us to do something outside of where we feel comfortable. If He does, will you show up? Will I?