From Numbers 18-20
Numbers chapters 16 and 17 set the context for today’s passage. A man named Korah and his family challenged Moses’ and Aarons right to lead. It was a power struggle and they wanted to lead as well. Moses accepts the challenge and the LORD defends his right to lead and punishes Korah and many members of his family. The ground literally eats them up (Nu 16). Following this the LORD sets up a challenge to vindicate Aaron in his leadership as Priest of Israel. He and all the chiefs from the other houses each put a staff in the tent of meeting. In the morning, if one of them sprouts some buds or flowers then that man is the Priest and his family will be Priests there onwards. Aaron’s staff is the one which buds (Nu 17).
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
Then the people ask;
12 And the people of Israel said to Moses, “Behold, we perish, we are undone, we are all undone. 13 Everyone who comes near, who comes near to the tabernacle of the LORD, shall die. Are we all to perish?” (Nu 17:12–13)
This is where our passage picks up. At the end of these leadership disputes.
18 So the Lord said to Aaron, “You and your sons and your father’s house with you shall bear iniquity connected with the sanctuary, and you and your sons with you shall bear iniquity connected with your priesthood. (Nu 18.1)
The people fear the LORD. Not just in reverent awe. But genuine fear. They fear death because they know the LORD will eventually wipe them out. The LORD sets up the priesthood with this in mind. ‘They shall bear iniquity’. The expression underlies the early Old Testament concept of sin in which it becomes a burden which people have to carry. It covers them and weighs them down. The LORD can see sin’s hanging on people.
The priesthood is intended to bear the sins of the people.
This is the LORD’s answer to their fear. The levitical priesthood will deal with their sins. They will bear it, have it atoned for and forgiven.
2 And with you bring your brothers also, the tribe of Levi, the tribe of your father, that they may join you and minister to you while you and your sons with you are before the tent of the testimony. 3 They shall keep guard over you and over the whole tent, but shall not come near to the vessels of the sanctuary or to the altar lest they, and you, die. 4 They shall join you and keep guard over the tent of meeting for all the service of the tent, and no outsider shall come near you. 5 And you shall keep guard over the sanctuary and over the altar, that there may never again be wrath on the people of Israel. (Nu 18.2-5)
The priesthood is also meant to look after and guard the sanctuary (the tent of meeting). No outside is allowed to come near. Only the LORD’s chosen people.
The LORD chose another who came and replaced them in this role.
6 And behold, I have taken your brothers the Levites from among the people of Israel. They are a gift to you, given to the Lord, to do the service of the tent of meeting. 7 And you and your sons with you shall guard your priesthood for all that concerns the altar and that is within the veil; and you shall serve. I give your priesthood as a gift, and any outsider who comes near shall be put to death.” (Nu 18.6-7)
The levites are described as a ‘gift’ to the people. Their service at the tent of meeting is for the people as well as the LORD. Once again, outsiders are to be kept away.
This is just one of many steps where the LORD is giving a means by which Israel’s sins can be atoned for and forgiven. The levitical priesthood performed their duties for many centuries afterwards.
Story of Israel
Sadly, its very soon that the priesthood will let their guard down, so to speak, and idolaters will invade the tent of meeting. Drastic steps will be taken soon afterward. The LORD will give another ‘gift’ to the people.
Story of Jesus
Much later the LORD sent his son Jesus. Jesus was descended from both Judah and Levi. He was a royal priest. So after he died and rose again they spoke of him this way. Relating to his priestly duties the author of Hebrews wrote;
11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. (Heb 9.11-14)
Everyone at some point in time has sinned and drawn the wrath of God. Jesus is the one who died in our stead and purified us so we may stand before the LORD.
If you’ve sinned, repent and ask the LORD for forgiveness.
Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2015. All Rights Reserved.