My first name Levi is a Biblical name that is derived from the Hebrew Bible and holds great significance. It refers to the name of the 3rd son of Jacob, who was born to Jacob after his encounter with God which resulted in his name being changed from “Jacob” to “Israel.” The descendant of Levi was chosen to serve God and was responsible for carrying the Ark of the Covenant through the desert into their promised land.
Some people are intrigued by my first name “LEVI”. I guess you could say that name is weighty to carry around due to its biblical significance and meaning. Like Levi in the Bible, I too have been chosen and have flourished despite facing adversity.
I decided to use this name for myself after having a dream because it’s special to me in many ways. In addition to its etymological meaning which can be interpreted as “The Chosen One” and “God has been present with me in my affliction,” my immediate life context truly reflects it.
I grew up in a country where political uncertainty, international sanctions, and even a few years of postponed education due to political crises back in the late 90s made it hard for me to move forward in my life and faith.
Despite the challenges we faced as a youth in Myanmar and the university’s intermittent closure, I worked at a radio and television station during my college years. It was there that I read news, appeared on tv screens singing patriotic songs and attending state events on special occasions at a very young age. It seemed like my life was better than most people’s during this time and indeed it was! But it wasn’t all sunshine and roses for me. As much as I loved what I did for work and how it made me feel about myself, there were hard moments too: not knowing what kind of future awaited me; feeling helpless as those around me struggled with difficulties; wondering if things would ever get better future in our country. It was so hard for me to move forward in faith. It was harder to see what my life would be when I grew up.
There were days when I felt lost and hopeless. It’s no surprise that I suffered from depression due to my lost hope, confidence, and faith in myself but then … something happened that changed everything for me.
One day when I was in the kitchen, deep down inside my heart, I questioned God about what was going on in my life.
Why am I living in this era?
Why am I in this situation?
I worship you without ever seeing you.
How do I know that the God I worship is a real God?
Do you even know that I exist?
Do you know me?
Do you know my name?
Do you know SAP NEI THANG?
Speak to me. Show yourself to me.
There are many more questions rises from me. Although I did not say those words in my mouth, my heart cried too loud in the spirit. It’s hard to describe because it’s so much bigger than words.
Suddenly at the very moment in the kitchen, I felt dizzy and was about to faint. I walk slowly to the living room where my mom was. My mom saw me looking unconscious, my mom asked me to lie down on the floor then I heard a loud voice saying,
“SAP NEI THANG.
I have given you everything.
But you do not know how to receive it.
Now onward I will call you L E V I”.
Then I woke up from sleep. My mom was praying beside me, my dizziness and headache were gone and I told my mom about my dream the powerful voice called me LEVI.
My mom said to me, “God is calling you. You must serve God. It is in the Bible. God chooses the descendants of Levi to serve Him”.
What my mom said to me almost caused me to faint one more time. I was so scared to serve God. I thought that people who serve God were not well paid, and I didn’t want to be underpaid. So I said, “If God is calling me, He must provide me with all my needs. He must let me live comfortably.”
I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but I never realized that Levi was one of the tribes of Israel until then. I grew up in a Methodist church and a Baptist church, and I learned about Abraham, Jacob, Isaac, Joseph, and Moses at Sunday School but never Levi. I guess I just assumed that Moses was a Hebrew—not a Levite. I didn’t realize Moses was from the tribe of Levi until I had the dream and happened to read the Bible for myself. It was an eye-opener to me as a Christian to realize that Moses was part of Levi’s tribe! I’m sure plenty of other kids out there can relate to this feeling—like you know your Bible stories by heart but somehow missed something important along the way.
The dream was so vivid that I could not shake it from my mind. It had become a part of me and I knew that this was the name God had given me.
My family and I are conservative Baptists and telling this dream to our pastor was difficult for us. However, our pastor encouraged us to follow what God had shown me in the dream and suggested that the new name should be added to the original name as often when God changes a person’s name, He does so to establish a new identity. He also told us that adding Levi as part of my name would help me remember it better or perhaps even inspire others to see what God is doing in my life through this new identity.
So my Dad went to the newspaper and declared that “Sap Nei Thang” became “Levi Sap Nei Thang.” My passport, household records, and national identity card were all changed accordingly!
Since 1997, my full name has been Levi Sap Nei Thang. From that moment, the full meaning of my name is ‘the person who is called by God and who is wealthy, wise, famous among royal white people.”
After I had my name changed, I started searching for any worship service that would help me closer to God. In one of the services, the pastor was asking people who were interested in surrendering to Jesus to stand up. I stood up with strong conviction, which was the bravest moment of my entire existence.
God heard my cry. He answered me by giving me a name: Levi. God gave me the faith, love, hope, and courage to keep moving forward no matter what happens in my life and in this world, knowing the meaning of my name goes a long way in defining my character.
My faith grew stronger than ever before because of one simple revelation: we can choose how we respond to life’s challenges! We could choose to let them destroy us or we could choose to rise above them and become stronger than ever before!
I know now that everything happens for a reason and sometimes we have no idea what those reasons are! But we have to have faith that they’re out there somewhere… and then trust God to lead us toward them when they do show up! He gave me strength through His word; His word is powerful enough to give us hope when all else seems lost!
I know what it’s like to feel lost and hopeless.
I know what it’s like to feel like your life is going nowhere, even though you’re doing everything right.
I don’t want you to feel alone, because I’ve been there too.
I’ve been there many times.
And here’s what I learned: You can get through it. You just have to keep moving forward, even when things seem bleakest and almost hopeless. You have to cling tightly to your faith in Jesus, even if it feels like nobody else believes in it anymore.
Since I know about Levi, he’s been on my mind a lot—and it turns out he has a pretty fascinating story! Levi is the third son of Jacob and Leah. He’s the only son who isn’t named after his mother (like Reuben). Instead, he gets his name from his father: “I have been made fruitful in the land of my affliction.” That’s a pretty powerful statement from someone who had been enslaved by his brother for decades!
The name Levi originated as a biblical name derived from the Hebrew word. Levi was one of 12 sons of Jacob who went on to become leaders of the 12 tribes of Israel.
In the New Testament, Levi was another name for Matthew the Apostle and writer of the Gospel.
However, The descendants of Levi are known as the Royal Priesthood. During the Exodus, the Levite tribe was particularly zealous in protecting the law of the highest God in the face of those worshipping the golden calf idol.
Therefore Numbers 3:12
“I have taken the Levites from among the sons of Israel instead of every firstborn, the first issue of the womb among the sons of Israel. So the Levites shall be mine.