Friday, March 01, 2024

2024.03.01 Hopewell @Home ▫ Numbers 3

Read Numbers 3

Questions from the Scripture text: Whose generations are listed here (Numbers 3:1)? From what time? Whose sons are listed in Numbers 3:2? What was special to them (Numbers 3:3)? But what happened to which of them (Numbers 3:4)? Why? Where? What didn’t they have? Who remained to do what? Who speaks to whom in Numbers 3:5? Whom is he to bring near (Numbers 3:6)? To present to whom? To do what? What, specifically, would they do for Aaron (Numbers 3:7)? And for whom else? Where? To what objects were they to attend (Numbers 3:8)? And to what needs? To whom were they given (Numbers 3:9)? How much? Who were to do what in Numbers 3:10? What if someone else came near? Who spoke to whom in Numbers 3:11? Whom has He taken from among whom (Numbers 3:12)? In whose place? Whose are the Levites? Why (Numbers 3:13)? When had He made this claim (cf. Exodus 13:1–2, Exodus 13:11–15)? Who spoke to whom in Numbers 3:14? Where? What did He tell him to do (Numbers 3:15)? In what manner? From what ages? What did Moses do in Numbers 3:16? Into what three clans were they divided (Numbers 3:17)? Which families belonged to Gershon (Numbers 3:18)? Which o Kohath (Numbers 3:19)? Which to Merari (Numbers 3:20)? How many were the Gershonites (Numbers 3:21-22)? Where did they camp (Numbers 3:23)? Led by whom (Numbers 3:24)? What were their responsibilities (Numbers 3:25-26)? How many were the Kohathites (Numbers 3:27-28)? Where did they camp (Numbers 3:29)? Led by whom (Numbers 3:30)? What were their responsibilities (Numbers 3:31)? Who kept charge over them, in which specific duty (Numbers 3:32)? How many were the Merarities (Numbers 3:33-34)? Led by whom (Numbers 3:35)? Where did they camp? What were their responsibilities (Numbers 3:36-37)? Who camped where (Numbers 3:38)? To keep charge of what? What if someone else came into this area? How many Levites were there altogether (Numbers 3:39)? Who spoke to whom in Numbers 3:40? What did He tell him to do? From what ages? Who were to be taken in their place (Numbers 3:41)? Besides men, what else were to be substituted in this way? What did Moses do (Numbers 3:43)? What did the number come to? Who spoke to whom in Numbers 3:44? What did He tell him to do (Numbers 3:45)? Why? What still had to be addressed (Numbers 3:46)? How were they redeemed (Numbers 3:47, cf. Leviticus 27:6)? To whom was the money to be given (Numbers 3:48)? From whom did Moses take this money (Numbers 3:49-50)? How much of it (Numbers 3:50)? To whom did he give it (Numbers 3:51)? Why?

Why did the priests have to be numbered twice? Numbers 3 prepares us for the evening sermon on the Lord’s Day. In these fifty-one verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the first numbering of the priests was to teach us especially about how the Lord redeems His people through a Substitute. 

A matter of survival, Numbers 3:1–10. As the Spirit moves to the census of the Levites, He reminds us of a grievous gap in the families: “Nadab and Abihu had died before YHWH when they offered profane fire before YHWH in the Wilderness of Sinai; and they had no children” (Numbers 3:4). Half of the priestly line never made it out of Sinai. Their attendance to their priestly duties would be for their own safety and Israel’s. So the Levites are given to them to help attend to those duties (Numbers 3:5-9), lest an outsider come near and forfeit his life (Numbers 3:10).

Praise God that our High Priest is holy, harmless, and undefiled. He brings us, safely, all the way to God Himself. And if we wish to come through Him, to come in a safe manner, two things must be true. First, we must come only in the actions that He has commanded, trusting that this is to come through Him and with Him. Second, we must not come trusting in the manner that we worship but upon the merits and continued work of Christ as He intercedes/mediates in our behalf. 

Even the layout of their camp, with the particular clans of Levi that were the buffer on their side, would be a reminder when it was time to worship: apart from God’s provision of atonement for our sins and of the acceptable way of worshiping Him, wrath would be consuming us like fire for this.

Claim by redemptionNumbers 3:11-20. This first numbering of the Levites is from one year old and upward. It is a reminder that YHWH has actually taken all of Israel for Himself as holy. He shows this in a covenantal way by claiming the firstborn (the beginning of a new generation) as His own. Here, there is a great initiation of this claim, with God taking an actual tribe of people, and then establishing a redemption price for the firstborn, which would then continue.

We no longer have a redeeming of the firstborn. Christ is the firstborn and heir of all. But the covenant sign of baptism, in the Name of the triune God, is also a baptism into the Name of Jesus. It is a reminder that we have been bought at the price of His blood and that this gives us not only the privilege of being joint-heirs with Christ, but also the responsibility of devoting our whole lives to the Lord as purchased persons.

As Egypt learned (and teaches us), to all of humanity, God is Judge of them and their children.  To Him belongs even those beasts that are ours in our households. And God killed firstborn men and beasts of the Egyptians. But as the first Passover showed (and teaches us), to His church on the earth, God is deliverer of them and their children. Each generation of the church must embrace this and teach their children this, as they hope in God to give that eternally saving faith that corresponds to this lesson that He has built into our lives. 

Mundane service for heavenly worshipNumbers 3:21-37. There was much that had to be done, and we will focus on that more in the next chapter, with the “30 and over” census. But already the families listed in this chapter have their various duties included (Numbers 3:25-26Numbers 3:31Numbers 3:36-37). To have it repeated, and expanded upon in detail, drives home how earthy/mundane so much of this is. But it was necessary for the worship of God. 

In this, we are reminded that Christian worship is even less earthy. There are earthy things to be attended to: arranging a suitable place, communicating the time, making sure that there is water for baptism or bread and wine for the supper. But our Great High Priest has done the bulk of the earthly work so that we might have more heavenly worship under the administration of His priesthood. The trend to spruce up the sights, sounds, and smells of public worship is fleshly, sensual, and does not do justice to what God has taught us about the priesthood of the Levites, let alone the priesthood of Christ. More on this in chapter 4.

SeparationNumbers 3:38-39. The principle of separation runs through the chapter, even as the passage tracks the western (Gershonite, Numbers 3:21-26), southern (Kohathite, Numbers 3:27-31), and northern (Merarite, Numbers 3:32-37) buffer zones. But it is when we get to the east side, toward Judah, where Moses and Aaron’s families camp (Numbers 3:38), that the Lord reminds us again that they are attending to the needs of the children of Israel, because if an outside came near, he was to be put to death. 

“Elect” rather than “firstborn,” Numbers 3:40-43. It is remarkable that the Lord does not take the firstborn for Himself. Levi himself had not been the firstborn. Isaac was not Abraham’s firstborn. Jacob was not the firstborn. Repeatedly, the Lord makes clear that both for eternal salvation and for role/usefulness in the church, He operates upon a principle of free, divine election. Here, He elects Levi for Himself. 

SubstitutionNumbers 3:40-45. In addition to the biblical/spiritual principle of election, this passage also teaches the biblical principle of substitution. Rather than take the price of redemption from our hand, the Lord is willing to take a suitable substitute in our place. In this case, the price of redemption for a tabernacle laborer is five shekels. But the price of redemption from guilt and wrath is incalculable (cf. Psalm 49:6–9). Yet, our God was willing that His Son would become man in order to be our suitable substitute!

Precision and preciousnessNumbers 3:46-51. The number is very close, just 1.2% different! But, we belong to a precise God. He will not overlook the redemption of any individual of His people, just as He will not overlook the full atonement for any one of our sins. In this passage, 1,365 shekels testify to the fact that His precision communicates the preciousness of His people and their redemption.

How can you safely draw near to God? When, especially do you do so? At those times, how do you remember that/how you are safe? In what ways does the Lord have a claim upon your life? How are you responding to that claim? What are some “earthy” things that you can do in order to attend well upon the public worship? But where/how does this worship especially take place? How does “who gets saved” get decided? How was the price for your sin paid? When do you feel like you are unnoticed or uncared about? How does this passage give you 273 reasons not to feel like this?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we thank You that You have given us a safe way to draw near to You. Grant that we would offer You heavenly worship through Jesus. And glorify Yourself in Him, by Whom You have paid the full price of our ransom. For, we ask this through His glorious Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP116B “I Still Believed” or TPH61B “O Hear My Urgent Cry”

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