Book of Numbers Chapter Eight Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
Service And Rest
Verses 1-4: "Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 'Speak to Aaron and say to him, 'When you mount the lamps, the seven lamps will give light in the front of the lampstand.' 3 Aaron therefore did so; he mounted its lamps at the front of the lampstand, just as the Lord had commanded Moses. 4 Now this was the workmanship of the lampstand, hammered work of gold; from its base to its flowers it was hammered work; according to the pattern which the Lord had shown Moses, so he made the lampstand." The "lampstand" of these verses is the Menorah of the Tabernacle, which was later placed within the Jerusalem Temple. It is a precursor of Jesus Christ, who is the "light of the world" (John 8:12). He also said to those who place their faith in Him, "you are the light of the world" (Matthew 5:14), and Revelation 1:20 reveals that, "the seven lampstands...are the seven churches." Churches, by the way, are not merely buildings or religious organizations, for the word "church" is about—people. Note here also that Aaron, the high priest, had come to understand and accept that whatever Moses said in instances like these, was from the Lord.
Verses 5-8: "Again the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 6 Take the Levites from among the sons of Israel and cleanse them. 7 Thus you shall do to them, for their cleansing: sprinkle purifying water on them, and let them use a razor over their whole body and wash their clothes, and they will be clean. 8 Then let them take a bull with its grain offering, fine flour mixed with oil; and a second bull you shall take for a sin offering." In order for us to be right in the sight of God, a sacrifice must be given on our behalf. We are a race of guilty beings, and the substitutionary death of the Innocent, strange as it may seem, must occur in order for the guilty to be pardoned. A price that we cannot pay, must be paid, and so "Christ was offered once for the sins of many" (Hebrews 9:28).
Verses 9-12: "So you shall present the Levites before the tent of meeting. You shall also assemble the whole congregation of the sons of Israel, 10 and present the Levites before the Lord; and the sons of Israel shall lay their hands on the Levites. 11 Aaron then shall present the Levites before the Lord as a wave offering from the sons of Israel, that they may qualify to perform the service of the Lord. 12 Now the Levites shall lay their hands on the heads of the bulls; then offer the one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering to the Lord, to make atonement for the Levites." The Levites were merely people, flawed, imperfect sinners like everybody else. The same is true for all in authority, whether clergy or secular we are flawed beings who occupy positions of trust and we are amazingly appointed to those positions by God. Romans 13:1 is clear that, "there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God." It's sad that those in office and the people who look to them, often do not recognize the divine nature of such assignments. The people of Israel were involved, laying their hands on the Levites, the Lord's approval was sought, and sacrifice was made for those who would serve the Lord.
Have you ever thought of your own life as a "wave offering to the Lord?" You were not born as some kind of "accident," but are "fearfully and wonderfully made," as David observed in Psalm 139:14. The Levites were especially chosen, seen here in Verses 13-14: "You shall have the Levites stand before Aaron and before his sons so as to present them as a wave offering to the Lord. 14 Thus you shall separate the Levites from among the sons of Israel, and the Levites shall be Mine." They were to be taken out of ordinary lives into God's special purpose for them, and from the moment you place your faith in the Lord, you also become separated, and are HIS for all eternity.
Verses 15-18: "Then after that the Levites may go in to serve the tent of meeting. But you shall cleanse them and present them as a wave offering; 16 for they are wholly given to Me from among the sons of Israel. I have taken them for Myself instead of every first issue of the womb, the firstborn of all the sons of Israel. 17 For every firstborn among the sons of Israel is Mine, among the men and among the animals; on the day that I struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt I sanctified them for Myself. 18 But I have taken the Levites instead of every firstborn among the sons of Israel." To enter service to and for the Lord, is not some kind of career decision. Instead, it is the call of God, offered to those who do not deserve it, for purposes greater than our understanding. The Tabernacle where the Levites would serve was the earthly copy of a heavenly original, as glimpsed in places like Revelation 11:19, where the "ark of His covenant" and His holy temple may be seen. Through the work of our hands, within our words, the Lord acts in ways deeper and more profound than anything we can comprehend in this life. Israel was rescued from Egyptian slavery, just as we have been taken from the slavery of our sinful thoughts, words and actions. We who trust in the Lord have been delivered through the sacrifice of Jesus, but we we continue to be touched by this sinful world and must "confess our sins" (1 John 1:9). We confess, He forgives and makes us clean.
Verses 19-22: "I have given the Levites as a gift to Aaron and to his sons from among the sons of Israel, to perform the service of the sons of Israel at the tent of meeting and to make atonement on behalf of the sons of Israel, so that there will be no plague among the sons of Israel by their coming near to the sanctuary.' 20 Thus did Moses and Aaron and all the congregation of the sons of Israel to the Levites; according to all that the Lord had commanded Moses concerning the Levites, so the sons of Israel did to them. 21 The Levites, too, purified themselves from sin and washed their clothes; and Aaron presented them as a wave offering before the Lord. Aaron also made atonement for them to cleanse them. 22 Then after that the Levites went in to perform their service in the tent of meeting before Aaron and before his sons; just as the Lord had commanded Moses concerning the Levites, so they did to them." All of Israel's priests were of the tribe of Levi, but not all the Levites were priests, and these verses especially deal with those who minister as called by the Lord, but are not themselves ordained as clergy. The call of every Sunday School teacher, each parking lot attendant, all in ministries of service, whether considered high or low in those positions, are chosen by God, waved before the Lord, clean in His sight, and dedicated in service to Him. You are pure and holy, set apart by your decision to say "yes" to God's call. Serve with joy, for He has called you.
Verses 23-26: "Now the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 24 'This is what applies to the Levites: from twenty-five years old and upward they shall enter to perform service in the work of the tent of meeting. 25 But at the age of fifty years they shall retire from service in the work and not work any more. 26 They may, however, assist their brothers in the tent of meeting, to keep an obligation, but they themselves shall do no work. Thus you shall deal with the Levites concerning their obligations.'" If you are older in years, you may be noticing that your energy level is not what it once was. Even your interest in activities that once fascinated you has inexplicitly diminished to some extent. God knows your heart, that you and I want to serve, and He also knows when we can no longer do what we once did. Hebrews 4:9 is clear that "there remains therefore a REST for the people of God," which can have partial fulfillment here on earth, as He unfolds our lives, but His true retirement program is in eternity, where we will know His rest—forever.
Lord, I confess my sins. You know them, but I tell You anyway, for that is what You have taught me to do. I am Yours, my King. I surrender to You, knowing that You can make me clean, forgiven and set apart for Your purposes in my life. Thank You for the high privilege of serving You. In Jesus Name. Amen.