The Grunt Work

And when Aaron and his sons have finished covering the sanctuary and all the furnishings of the sanctuary, as the camp sets out, after that the sons of Kohath shall come to carry these, but they must not touch the holy things, lest they die. These are the things of the tent of meeting that the sons of Kohath are to carry.

“And Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest shall have charge of the oil for the light, the fragrant incense, the regular grain offering, and the anointing oil, with the oversight of the whole tabernacle and all that is in it, of the sanctuary and its vessels.” Numbers 4:15-16

The Levites, even though they were set apart by God for the ministry, were still not allowed to touch the contents of the Tabernacle. Only the priests could do that. They would pack all the implements, covering them completely, and then the movers came. And there was a complete division of labor. One clan carried the contents of the Tabernacle. Another carried the curtain walls. And another carried the hardware.

What is different today is that we all carry the holy place within us. Each of us is God’s temple and is part of the priesthood.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 2 Corinthians 4:7

The Levites

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Behold, I have taken the Levites from among the people of Israel instead of every firstborn who opens the womb among the people of Israel. The Levites shall be mine, for all the firstborn are mine. On the day that I struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, I consecrated for my own all the firstborn in Israel, both of man and of beast. They shall be mine: I am the Lord.” Numbers 3:11-13

God had chosen this entire tribe to be a representative substitute for all the first born of Israel. And they had no inheritance of land. They were dedicated to the ministry. In this case, they all had responsibilities for guarding and transporting various parts of the Tabernacle. For this, the rest of the tribes supported them. Many years later, the Lord would send a strong rebuke for failing to support them.

Do we have the equivalent of Levites today? I believe we do, but they are not dedicated to moving, storing, and transporting a mobile worship center. In Ephesians 4 we are told there were specific ministries given as gifts to the church to build US up. Those are the apostle, the prophet, the evangelist, the pastor and the teacher. And they are supposed to be equipping us to do the work of the ministry, “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…”

Unfortunately, the church today is a barebones operation that has laid off the apostle, prophet and evangelist, and given the teaching job description to the pastor, who hands it off to volunteers at Sunday school. It should be little wonder that so little biblical ministry gets done.

According to studies by Christianity Today and the Evangelical Christian Credit Union, fewer than 8% of church members tithe. So, we get what we pay for.

He Dwells in their Midst

These are the people of Israel as listed by their fathers’ houses. All those listed in the camps by their companies were 603,550. But the Levites were not listed among the people of Israel, as the Lord commanded Moses.

Thus did the people of Israel. According to all that the Lord commanded Moses, so they camped by their standards, and so they set out, each one in his clan, according to his fathers’ house. Numbers 2:32-34

The women and children were not numbered. They were not counted among the fighting force. Even the Levites, who were not part of the armed forces, only numbered the men. Was this institutionalized unfairness, or just a reasonable division of labor. A man’s work was bruttish and laborious, and often dangerous. I’m not sure it ever entered an Israelite woman’s mind, when her brawny husband came back from battle, smeared with the blood of his enemies, “Yeah, I can do that as well as you can.”

As we have become softer, more civilized, and less manly, education, technology, and plush infrastructure have made it much more appealing to women to leave the home. And birthing babies and raising them is, for the most part, the same old blood, sweat, and tears it has always been.

Unfortunately for the church, we have forgotten we are at war. We are more interested in compromise and comfort than in conquest and conversion. And that is the language of men, who used to relish hardship and struggle.

The Census

The Lord spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tent of meeting, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying, “Take a census of all the congregation of the people of Israel, by clans, by fathers’ houses, according to the number of names, every male, head by head. From twenty years old and upward, all in Israel who are able to go to war, you and Aaron shall list them, company by company. And there shall be with you a man from each tribe, each man being the head of the house of his fathers.” Numbers 1:1-4

The promised land was not a vacation destination. It was inhabited by people who were the objects of God’s judgment. The Israelites were taking stock of their fighting men before going to war.

Likewise, Christ did not save us so we can coast to heaven on a parade float. It is no accident that we are told to put on the whole armor of God, and that the weapons of are warfare are for pulling down strongholds. But the Israelites’ warfare is an allegory for our own. Unlike Israel’s armies, are warfare is fought in heavenly places and our weapons are not earthly. We are to pray, lead godly lives, and proclaim the good news. We are not to assimilate, take cover, and sell out.

Setting Standards

“If a man dedicates to the Lord part of the land that is his possession, then the valuation shall be in proportion to its seed. A homer of barley seed shall be valued at fifty shekels of silver. If he dedicates his field from the year of jubilee, the valuation shall stand, but if he dedicates his field after the jubilee, then the priest shall calculate the price according to the years that remain until the year of jubilee, and a deduction shall be made from the valuation. And if he who dedicates the field wishes to redeem it, then he shall add a fifth to its valuation price, and it shall remain his. But if he does not wish to redeem the field, or if he has sold the field to another man, it shall not be redeemed anymore. But the field, when it is released in the jubilee, shall be a holy gift to the Lord, like a field that has been devoted. The priest shall be in possession of it. If he dedicates to the Lord a field that he has bought, which is not a part of his possession, then the priest shall calculate the amount of the valuation for it up to the year of jubilee, and the man shall give the valuation on that day as a holy gift to the Lord. In the year of jubilee the field shall return to him from whom it was bought, to whom the land belongs as a possession. Every valuation shall be according to the shekel of the sanctuary: twenty gerahs shall make a shekel.” Leviticus 27:16-25

The law would persist for generations. Priests would come and go, but standards had been set, and things would not be done arbitrarily. this is done to insure justice. Some laws were given some wiggle room, however, in the event that a person was to poor to pay a certain valuation.

Some unbelievers think that today, any Christian in leadership can just say, “God told me,” to justify any nutty thing they want to do. Although this happens in isolated cases, where there is no real accountability, in the general population false prophets are quickly and easily exposed. The scriptures have standard and rules, and false prophets are treated harshly. It’s the reason you can hardly name more than a few, if that.