The Numbering and Service of the Levites

Numbers 3‑4  •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 7
NUMBERS, CHAPTERS 3. & 4.
The Levites were taken up that the ways of Goy toward His redeemed firstborn might specially be shown out in them.
The Lord took them from among the children of Israel, instead of all the firstborn. "Therefore," said He, "the Levites shall be mine; because all the firstborn are mine; for on the day that I smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, I hallowed unto me all the firstborn in Israel, both man and beast mine shall they be: I am the Lord," (Num. 3:11-1311And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 12And I, behold, I have taken the Levites from among the children of Israel instead of all the firstborn that openeth the matrix among the children of Israel: therefore the Levites shall be mine; 13Because all the firstborn are mine; for on the day that I smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt I hallowed unto me all the firstborn in Israel, both man and beast: mine shall they be: I am the Lord. (Numbers 3:11‑13).)
They who were the special witnesses of the grace of GOD, in the day when judgment was poured out, were in a special way to be His own, serving Him in the ways of redemption, as set up in the mercy of GOD-the ways of His mercy and love to poor sinners lying under judgment. Such, in the shadows of the law, was the service of the Levites; and such, in the good things that have come to us in Christ, is the service of the saints.
There are two numberings of the Levites marked, one in the third chapter, and the other in the fourth chapter of Numbers; but with striking difference between them. In chapter 3. they are reckoned from a month old and upwards; but in chapter 4. they are numbered from thirty years old and upward, even unto fifty years old; they are reckoned according to the days of their strength in this chapter, and, accordingly, their several services are here revealed to them; but they were set in blessing as GOD'S firstborn in the days of their weakness; for, not what they did for Him, but what He did for them, was the ground of their standing.
Here two things are taught us. First, the question of service does not come in, when we are taken up as the redeemed in Christ. Second, the demand for service begins at once, when we are looked at as strengthened by Christ. In this service, lie reveals His mind, and we obey it.
Among the Levites, some had one service to do, and some had another; but responsibility to GOD made each do what he did. The sons of Kohath carried the sanctuary; the sons of Gershon carried the curtains of the tabernacle, and the hangings of the court; and the sons of Merari bore the boards of the tabernacle, the bars, the pillars, the sockets, and the pins. Such was the choice of the Lord for them, not of them for themselves. Had the sons of Gershon carried the ark, this would have been self-will in them, not service for GOD, because He said to them, Carry the curtains. Responsibility to GOD made each do what he did, and kept him from interfering- in other things: and so it is now with the brethren in the Lord. " I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of GOD, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto GOD, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of GOD. For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as GOD bath dealt to every man the measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; or ministry, let us wait on our ministering; or he that teacheth, on teaching; or he that exhorteth, on exhortation." (Rom. 12:1-81I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. 3For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. 4For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: 5So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. 6Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; 7Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; 8Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness. (Romans 12:1‑8).) The brethren are entreated by the mercies of GOD, to holy devotedness of themselves to GOD, and are exhorted against being conformed to the world. Conformity with the world blinds men's perception of the will of GOD, and sets them doing their own will; but he who is transformed by the renewing of his mind, proves what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of GOD: his affections and purposes are after -his renewed mind; and the Lord has promised to him who has a single eye, that his whole body shall be full of light. All are called to their labors in subjection to GOD, as were the families of the sons of Levi. If the mercies of GOD are not kept before our hearts, then we fail in presenting ourselves aright. If conformity to the world comes in, and we lose spiritual energy in our renewed minds then we fail in proving what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of GOD. And if we go beyond our measure of faith, then we assume what we are unfit for.
This varied labor in service is all for perfect order. He among the sons of Merari who carried even the pins, bore what was necessary for the perfection of the tabernacle: better for him to do this for God than to despise His work, and assume another. Equally would subjection to GOD keep the sons of Kohath happy in the holy service of bearing on their shoulders the ark, and table of shewbread, and all that belonged to the sanctuary.
We have GOD to serve as our purpose; we have His word and Spirit to guide and lead as to the way of service; and all as His redeemed, through the blood of Christ.
The burden of a Levite, as he went forward through the dreary wilderness, was a glorious burden: it belonged to the sanctuary of GOD, and was the witness of His grace and mercy to sinful men; and so with the service of the saints in the world; their service is in what belongs not to the world. " The bread of GOD is He which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world." (John 6:3333For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. (John 6:33).) " I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world; again I leave the world, and go to the Father." (John 16:2828I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father. (John 16:28).)
In the sanctuary the uncovered ark of pure gold, with the cherubims overshadowing the mercy-seat, rested in the most holy place: the priest alone could there see and enjoy it. In Levite service, the ark was covered over; still it was the ark; from the sanctuary it came; and inside that covering lay all the hidden splendor in which, in the sanctuary, it appeared.
This made the burden a precious one to a devoted Levite; he knew whence it came, and what it was; and so, if it was only a pin, it belonged to the tabernacle, and the Lord told him to carry it.
In all this, the service of the Levite waited on and followed the service of the priest; this was the order established of GOD; and in all our service of testimony in the world, communion in the holiest with the things of which we testify, should ever go before. Thus it is that in responsibility we shall be led out, but also controlled. In the holiest we have our communion with Christ: in our service in the world we have our testimony about Christ; but this should ever follow, and be connected with the other.
If the acts of service of the sons of Kohath were made the standard to judge the conduct of the sons of Merari, then they might be despised in their service; but they did unto the Lord what they did, according to His will concerning them; and in His good will the sons of Kohath and the sons of Merari were all fellow laborers in the same tabernacle.
So it was, that when Gaius, for the Lord's sake, received the strangers who, for His name's sake, went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles, the apostle adds, "We ought therefore to receive such, that we might be fellow-helpers to the truth." The poor preacher was 'a helper to the truth when he proclaimed Christ's name. And Gaius was a fellow-helper to the truth when he took him into his house, and fed and lodged him.
So again, " He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet, shall receive a prophet's reward." Here is one who is not a prophet himself; but he loves a prophet, and receives him as such, and thus becomes associated in blessing with a prophet. Did he assume to be a prophet when he was not one, then there would be no such association, and no blessing.
In all this may we learn subjection to GOD, knowing that if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not, Such is the grace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ.