Priest & Cup Bearer: A Tribute to my son Levi Nehemiah Jacobs on his Eight Birthday
Eight years ago I was thinking of a Biblical name for our second son. Having completed over year of Greek and Hebrew then (For those of you know what I am talking about; because you think you‘ve all got it all figured out after one semester of the languages only to find out that maybe not), I came up with names like Melek, Mikael; Melek-zedek etc. My spouse did not buy any of that, she asked “who names their child Zedek?” So during one of my morning devotions, I heard the Spirit of God say to me name him Levi. My devotion that morning had nothing to do with choosing a name for our son. At the end of my devotion that mooring, I informed my spouse (then) that we will name our son Levi and went ahead to explain how I came to that decision.
What Amazed me was that she knew the name she had chosen for our son’s middle name all the time that I was trying to find one. She said “I will name him Nehemiah.” I was not sure of her criteria for choosing the name, but it sounded good to me. Not only did it sound good to me, but I also know that many scholars believe that Nehemiah “the cup bearer” was also a priest from the Tribe of Levi. I thought it was a confirmation from God to name our son Levi. Our son Levi is indeed a priest.
Levi never mentions ten words without referencing God or something Christian related. Sometimes, when I am watching news and he happens to come into the living room, I change the channel if it has inappropriate content for kids. He would say to me, “you are Christian why are you watching bad show?” I will have to explain to him that it is not a bad show, but that I changed channel because it was not appropriate for his age. Levi cannot sleep without the Bible being read and prayer said. Each time I am dropping him and his brother off at the their mother‘s, if I forget to anoint them, he will remind me, and he has to be the first one to anointed.
Nehemiah: From Centralized Faith to Localized Faith
One could argue that Nehemiah was as important to the formation of Judaism in the same fashion that the Prophet Moses was to the creation of the nation of Israel. In the book that bears his name, we learn of how Nehemiah obtained the favor of King Artaxerxes, which enabled him to organize a movement that rebuilt the city of Jerusalem. Not only did Nehemiah obtain the king’s favor to rebuild the city of Jerusalem, he also rebuilt the people’s lives.
After Nehemiah secured the “shalom” of city of Jerusalem, he selected certain division of the Levites and charged them not to conduct worship in Jerusalem but to go to the towns and the villages throughout Israel to teach the Jewish faith there and provide priestly services. The temple became dispersed to the people rather than the people coming to the temple. This is a very remarkable achievement by Nehemiah because up until this time all Jewish worship took place in the temple in Jerusalem with the Levites solely assigned to minister that worship.
Nehemiah’s community organizing skills led to the initiation of the synagogue worship system which in about hundred years became the center of religious instruction, decision making, and maintaining of the ethics of the Israelites. About three hundred years later, the synagogue became as important as the temple as the Jews went to their local synagogues to receive instruction and to worship God no matter where they lived, and their only obligation to Jerusalem was to travel there three times a year to celebrate the feasts of First fruit, Passover, and Booths. This is how localized faith became a centralized institution and it all happened because Nehemiah led a delegation that not only rebuilt the city but also rebuilt the peoples lives. The synagogue became the model that was used by the Christians to form the local Christian Churches. The synagogue became the Church and the Rabi became pastor or priest. The book of the law (Torah) became the Bible. It was the synagogue that formed Judaism into a movement that would eventually give us Jesus. And this happened because Nehemiah was not blindfolded by the comfortable lifestyle and luxury associated with “Susa” (Washington DC maybe?) and did not allow affluence to hinder him from pondering on the plight of his people and the city of Jerusalem. I pray God’s shalom on my beloved son Levi on His eight birthday on November 27, 2013 Amen!