Numbers 3 Commentary
The scripture zooms into the Levitical family with a list of key figures. Then the LORD confirms Aaron and his sons as priests. The rest of their brothers, (the Levites) are recruited as helpers. There is a clear division of labor. Here we see that even less honorable tasks like carrying tabernacle posts and pegs are important to God. So time is taken to assign required tasks to individuals and groups.
In a very strange transaction, the LORD states that the Levites belonged to Him – as payment for saving and preserving Israel’s firstborns in Egypt. We are tempted to think of Christ’s work of salvation as a sale/buy transaction. The LORD buys off one who is meant for the chop. You were not bought so that you can roam the streets free but to be a slave of Christ. The transaction that the LORD refers to here wasn’t one for political reasons. There was genuine interest in the slaves. This key line underlines the work of salvation and highlights the cross more brilliantly.
In the immediate context Israel must pay in order to clear off the debt. It’s a debt that Israel incurred when the LORD saved Israel’s firstborns. The debt has been partly cleared by Israel’s offer of free labor to the LORD (Levites). The difference must be paid for by cash. It is a constant reminder that salvation isn’t free. Someone (Christ Jesus) paid for it.
Every Levite male a month old or more is counted and listed. For other tribes only males aged 20 or more were counted. The reasons are obvious. What may not be obvious is that the age of service, be it potential or actual, is right at the beginning for the priest. It tells us the importance of teaching our children to trust in God the very moment they are born.
It would be great if we taught our children to speak out the word ‘God’ first before the word ‘mum’! Won’t it be easier to point them to God at this stage when the LORD’S glory is strongest?
It’s at this stage that even pagans are left awestruck by the mysteries of God’s creation, as the LORD works wonders through the gears of child birth, first breath, first suckle, first glance and the first smile. It’s actually easier to preach to a mother than a diva!
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