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Scripture reading – Numbers 8

We have followed Israel’s journey from Egypt (Exodus), through the wilderness, to a year-long encampment at the base of Mount Sinai. Leviticus chronicled the LORD establishing His Covenant with the children of Israel and the Tribes accepting the terms of that Covenant represented in His Law and Commandments. The Book of Leviticus also established the nature of Israel’s worship and sacrifices. Finally, it memorialized the Tabernacle’s design, its “holy place” that included the Ark and other furnishings within and without the sanctuary.

The Book of Numbers was the census record of the Twelve Tribes of Israel (Numbers 1-2). Because the firstborn of every Hebrew household was to be dedicated to the LORD, He adopted the tribe of Levi as a substitute for the firstborn of Israel (Numbers 3:12-13). While Aaron and his sons were to serve the LORD as His priests, the Levites were chosen to assist them with the daily sacrifices and the care of the Tabernacle during Israel’s journey in the wilderness (Numbers 3-4, 7).

Illuminating the Tabernacle Sanctuary (Numbers 8:1-4)

With the Tabernacle erected, and the instruments dedicated, the LORD commanded Moses to instruct Aaron to illuminate the interior of the Tabernacle, lighting the lamps on the “candlestick” (8:2). The lampstand, termed as a “candlestick,” is described in Numbers 8:4 as “of beaten gold, unto the shaft thereof, unto the flowers thereof, was beaten work: according unto the pattern which the Lord had shewed Moses, so he made the candlestick” (8:4).

The Levites Ordained and Consecrated to the Ministry (Numbers 8:5-22)

While Aaron and his sons served the LORD as priests, the tribe of Levi was consecrated to assist them and serve the people when they came to worship (8:5-26).  Because they were ministers of the people, the Levites were commanded to go through a purification process that included shaving “all their flesh,” washing their clothes, and making themselves ceremonially clean by the priests sprinkling water on them (8:5-7). After the rite of purification, the Levites were to bring two young bulls, one to serve as a meat offering and the other as a sin offering (8:8).

Moses then brought the Levites “before the Tabernacle” (8:9). Then, all the people of Israel gathered and placed “their hands upon the Levites” (8:10) and identified their serving on their behalf. Next, the Levites put their hands on the young bulls and identified with their sacrifice as their substitute (8:9-13). Thus, before the LORD, and in the sight of all the people, the Levites were separated “from among the children of Israel” (8:14). Then, the LORD declared, “the Levites shall be mine” (8:14), “to do the service of the tabernacle” (8:15). The children of Israel identified them as the replacement for their firstborn (8:16-18).

The Levites then assisted Aaron and his sons as ministers “in the Tabernacle…and to make an atonement for the children of Israel” (Numbers 8:19-20). Thus the Levites began helping in the daily sacrifices (8:21-22), and the age of service for them was between twenty-five and fifty years old (8:23-25).

Closing thoughts:

While the rite of dedication and consecration was outward (8:6-8), the LORD desired that his ministers would be separated from the world, set apart from the people, and consecrated to Him (8:14). They were to be cleansed, and dedicated to serving Him (8:15).

An application: The LORD commanded those who served Him and ministered to His people to be holy, sanctified, and dedicated (Leviticus 20:7). While times have changed, the LORD has not, and the apostle Peter in his epistle to believers repeated Leviticus 20:7, and exhorted them: “15But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15–16).

Tragically, many ministers in the 21st-century church have failed to aspire to be holy in life and conduct. Believers should expect in their pastors the fulfillment of Paul’s charge to Timothy: “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).

Questions to consider:

1) What tribe of Israel was dedicated to serving the LORD and assisting Aaron and his sons in the Tabernacle? (Numbers 8:6-11)

2) From whom were the Levites to separate? (Numbers 8:14)

3) In whose place were the Levites serving the LORD? (Numbers 8:15-18)

4) Where were the Levites to minister? (Numbers 8:22)

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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