Why did God tell Moses to cleanse the Levites (Num. 8:5-6)? Because anyone who has a communal responsibility has to be physically and morally clean.
In our age we see leaders who may be physically clean but at the same time morally corrupt, and we wonder if things could ever have been so bad before. Wondering like that is not a new thing. Like a neighbour who told me every year that he had never known such a cold winter, we tend to think our times are worse than anything in the past.
Yet every age cries “foul!” Even the Bible has its times of deep depravity. Biblical-era leaders included murderers, adulterers and thieves. Samuel warned the people that this would happen but they didn’t believe him, and his warnings came true.
However, having an ancient precedent doesn’t exculpate our own age or any age. Symbolic of leadership, the Levites of our era need to be cleansed.
On one level this is the task of the public. People who lack “clean hands and a pure heart” (Psalm 24:4) should not be voted into office and if they are they should be removed. If they can’t give a lead they shouldn’t be leaders.
They should hear that message loud and clear from the community, and the community should have the courage to turn on them and remove them.
But the problem should never go on so long. The leader should have the conscience to resign before he or she needs to be pushed.