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Who is on the Lord’s side?
“And when Moses saw that the people were naked; (for Aaron had made them naked unto their shame among their enemies:) Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the LORD'S side? Let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him. And he said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour. And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men. For Moses had said, Consecrate yourselves today to the LORD, even every man upon his son, and upon his brother; that he may bestow upon you a blessing this day.” (Exodus 32:25-29)
I call you who love Christ and love the truth of Christ, you whose hearts rejoice in the gospel of God’s free, sovereign, saving grace, to a reaffirmation of your commitment and allegiance to Christ. I also call you who have, thus far, heard the gospel of the grace of God in vain. As the Spirit of God puts it, you have, thus far, received the grace of God in vain (2 Corinthians 6:1). You refuse to believe God. You trample under your feet the blood of the Son of God. You despise his grace. You resist his Spirit. And you rebel against his rule. You may even profess faith in Christ nominally; but you are yet an unbeliever. Your profession of faith is a sham, a mockery of Christ. Your heart’s allegiance is not to Christ, but to yourself and to the world. You I call, even as you read these lines, to faith in Christ.
I set before you life and death, Christ and the world. Yes, I press you to make a decision. Like Elijah, I say to you, “How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow him” (1 Kings 18:21). Like Joshua, I say to you, “Choose you this day whom ye will serve” (Joshua 24:15). That is precisely what Moses did in the text which heads this page. That is precisely what the Spirit of God says to all to whom this word of grace comes. — “Consecrate yourselves today to the LORD.”
While Moses was in the Mount receiving the law of God for Israel, Israel rebelled against the Lord. They did not openly deny God. In fact, they pretended to be worshipping the Lord. Dancing naked, like a bunch of barbarians, around their golden calf, we read in verse 5 that they pretended to keep the feast of Jehovah! They persuaded Aaron to make them gods which they could see, and feel, and touch. So, Aaron made them a golden calf. You know the story.
When Moses came down from the mount and saw their idolatry, he was furious. He smashed their “god” to pieces, burned it, scattered it upon the waters, and made the children of Israel drink it. He rebuked Aaron sharply. And the children of Israel, fearing God and fearing his prophet, went to their tents.
But there were some, about three thousand, stout-hearted rebels, who brazenly defied Moses and the God he represented. Moses, knowing that the rebellion had to be crushed and the rebels punished, issued a summons. He called for a decision. “Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the Lord’s side? Let him come unto me.” He raised up a standard, even the name of God the Lord. He drew a line in the sand and called for those who would follow the Lord to cross the line. A decision had to be made, a life and death decision. And it had to be made right then. – “And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him.”
There is a dreadful conflict going on today, a warfare between Christ and Satan, light and darkness, truth and error. The conflict is between light and darkness, Christ and Belial, Zion and Babylon. And you must decide between the two. Regarding this conflict, neutrality is impossible. You must and will decide either to follow Christ or to pursue the world. May God be pleased to reveal Christ in you and give you a heart to follow him.
And I want you to know that if you follow Christ, you must be prepared for spiritual warfare all the days of your life. So, while I seek recruits for Christ, I tell you plainly what the cost will be. Before you make your decision, I urge you to count the cost. I do not ask you to enlist blindly in the King’s army. He will have only willing, loyal-hearted volunteers. The cost is high; but Christ is worth the cost.
First, let me describe the engagement to which the Book of God calls us. It is a warfare. I am seeking recruits for war. But before you volunteer, you have a right to know what the warfare is and who the enemy is which you are about to engage. I call for you to take sides with the Lord Jesus Christ against all his enemies.
I call for you to choose the path of faith and oppose all unbelief. Skepticism is the way of the world. Unbelief is the way of the flesh. Faith is the way of life. If you would live in Christ, you must believe God (Hebrews 11:6). To believe God is to rely upon him. It is to trust and rely upon the revelation of God concerning his Son the Lord Jesus Christ (1 John 5:10). Faith in Christ is reliance upon the promise of God in Christ (Romans 8:32). It is trusting the Word of God in the face of trial, temptation, opposition, and heresy (2 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 11:1-3).
I call for you to choose the gospel of God’s free and sovereign grace in Christ and reject all the religious superstitions of the world. If we would follow Christ, we must turn our backs upon the world, the religion of the world, and those who will not follow Christ (Galatians 1:6-8; 1 Corinthians 16:22).
The religion of Christ is the gospel of pure, free, sovereign, unconditional grace in an all-sufficient, effectual Substitute (Ephesians 1:3-14; 2:8-9). The religion of this world is any deviation from or addition to grace alone (Galatians 5:2-4). You cannot follow Christ unless you turn your back upon antichrist and come out of the great whore (2 Corinthians 6:16 - 7:1).
I am calling for utter surrender to King Jesus. Let us give our allegiance to Christ alone and deny ourselves (Luke 14:25-33). If we would give allegiance to Christ, we must give ourselves in unreserved surrender to him and set our hearts in opposition to our own fleshly desires, the world’s allurements and charms, and the devil’s temptations
This is the engagement I set before you. It is a lifelong warfare, a bitter conflict in hostile, enemy territory, from which there is no reprieve and no truce as long as we live in this world.
Second, in order to enlist in any army, you have to meet certain requirements of eligibility. If we would follow Christ, we have to meet certain requirements. If you do not meet these three requirements, you can never be “on the Lord’s side.”
1. Forgiveness — Because we are sinners, justly condemned by the law of the Lord, our sins must be forgiven before we can serve the Lord. These sons of Levi were as guilty of idolatry as the rest of the people. They could not be accepted of God until their sins were forgiven. Therefore, Moses interceded with God for their forgiveness (v. 32). Like those Levites, we are all guilty, justly condemned sinners; but there is forgiveness with God, free, full, immutable, everlasting forgiveness of all sin through the Lord Jesus Christ (Psalm 130:4; 1 John 1:9).
2. Atonement — The only basis upon which the Lord God can or will forgive sin is satisfaction by blood atonement. God cannot forgive sin without atonement. And there can be no atonement without satisfaction. And there can be no satisfaction without blood. — “Without shedding of blood is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22).
These Jews could never have been accepted without atonement. — “Moses said unto the people, Ye have sinned a great sin: and now I will go up unto the Lord; peradventure I shall make atonement for your sin” (v. 30). In a word, you and I are not eligible for grace except by blood atonement. We cannot obtain mercy except we come to God through faith in the precious blood of Christ (Hebrews 7:25). Our hope is in the merits of Christ’s blood as the God-man, our Mediator. Our hope is in the efficacy of that blood. We must trust that blood, crying like the publican our Lord Jesus spoke of, “God be merciful to me a sinner!”
3. Consecration — And eligibility for service in the kingdom of Christ is decided consecration (v. 29). Faith in Christ is nothing less than the willful, deliberate, voluntary, decided consecration of my heart to him as my Lord and Master.
These Levites were required to openly declare their allegiance to the Lord, and so are we. When we identify with God’s truth, God’s church, and God’s messenger, we identify with Christ. The opposite is also true. When a person identifies with Christ’s enemies, a false gospel, and a false prophet, he identifies with antichrist.
What does this consecration to Christ involve? Read what Moses wrote by divine inspiration and you will see what it involved in the case of these Levites. They had to be willing to be aligned with the minority. They were one tribe against eleven. That is always the case with God’s people in this world. They are always in the minority.
They had to be prepared for stern conflict. Moses said, “Put every man his sword by his side” (v. 27). Their love for Christ meant hatred of their own kinsman. They had to choose between Christ and family. And they chose Christ (v. 28). They had to obey the Lord. Their heart allegiance demanded that they do the will of God, regardless of cost. And “the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses” (v. 28).
Eligibility for the kingdom of God requires these three things: Forgiveness, Atonement, Consecration.
Third, God gives us some great encouragements. The Book of God calls us to the kind of commitment that possessed Jephthah’s soul, the kind of commitment that these Levites exemplified, the kind of commitment that holds back nothing.
When Ignatius was martyred for his faith in Christ, he met death with utter commitment to the Lord Jesus, saying, “Now I begin to be a Christian.” That is the commitment I want to give my Redeemer. That is the commitment to which I call all who read these lines. I make no promises of a happy, peaceful, easy life in this world. Allegiance to Christ is costly. It is a constant aggravation to the flesh. And the way of faith, more often than not, is a path of isolation, trouble, temptation, and trial. I have tried to show you the cost and the conflict of faith in Christ. Now, let me encourage you to pay the price.
The cause I hold before you is the cause of Christ in this world. It is the cause of his glory and his truth. It is a cause with a sure foundation and certain end. Like David, let us go out to meet God’s enemies, the enemies of God’s Israel, armed with the whole armor of God.
“Is there not a cause?” Our cause is the cause of Christ. And Christ himself is with us (Matthew 28:18-20). The angels of God hold guard over us (2 Kings 6:17; Hebrews 1:14). We have no cause for fear. A great cloud of witnesses in heaven has led the way and marked it for us (Hebrews 12:1). Your own conscience bears witness with me. — “This is the way!” I call you to enlist in an army at war, but an army whose victory is sure, whose reward is eternal glory (Revelation 19:1-14).
I set before you the strait gate. Will you enter it? I call you to walk in the narrow way. Will you walk in it?
Fourth, I press upon you the claims of Christ and call for you to join the enlistment. — “Who is on the Lord’s side? Let him come unto me.” Have you made a decision to join ranks with the Son of God? Have you, in your heart, done so? If you have, then put on the colors of the King’s army by confessing Christ openly in believer’s baptism. Come out publicly for the Son of God!
All who take sides with Christ against hell and antichrist, all who take his cause to be their cause, all who come to Christ are like these Levites who came to Moses. Read what Moses tells us about them in Deuteronomy 33.
“And of Levi he said, Let thy Thummim and thy Urim be with thy holy one, whom thou didst prove at Massah, and with whom thou didst strive at the waters of Meribah; Who said unto his father and to his mother, I have not seen him; neither did he acknowledge his brethren, nor knew his own children: for they have observed thy word, and kept thy covenant. They shall teach Jacob thy judgments, and Israel thy law: they shall put incense before thee, and whole burnt sacrifice upon thine altar. Bless, LORD, his substance, and accept the work of his hands: smite through the loins of them that rise against him, and of them that hate him, that they rise not again.” (Deuteronomy 33:8-11)
These Levites who came to Moses, these men who publicly avowed and demonstrated their allegiance to the Lord were all divinely chosen men, accepted, priestly men, greatly blessed men, eternally blessed and daily blessed! And these blessed, chosen, believing men were proved of God faithful men!
I call for you and call upon myself, let us now commit and consecrate ourselves this day unto the Lord, let us commit and consecrate ourselves this day to the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior as decided, loyal soldiers in the cause of Christ (Romans 12:1-2). Put on the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:13-18). Make your first concern a matter of civil war. Wage war against your own self. Make no provision for the flesh. Engage the enemy at home. Go to war against your own hearts’ lusts!
And make it your business to oppose every proud, hissing serpent of hell, who dares raise his head in opposition to Christ and his gospel, who dares oppose the glory of our God and Savior. Our Master’s cause, his glory, his truth, and the souls of men are at stake. We must engage the enemy!
Martin Luther once said, “If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, then I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing him! Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battle front besides is merely flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.”
The gates of hell will fall before us. God will again send the Spirit of life upon his church. Moses’ prayer for Levi is my prayer for you who take sides with Christ and carry his banner of light through the darkness of this world, assailing the gates of hell with the battering ram of free grace.
“Bless, LORD, his substance, and accept the work of his hands: smite through the loins of them that rise against him, and of them that hate him, that they rise not again.” (Deuteronomy 33:11)