Daily Thoughts from Numbers: Success God’s Way

Now the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and say to him, When you set up the lamps, the seven lamps shall give light in front of the lampstand.” And Aaron did so: he set up its lamps in front of the lampstand, as the LORD commanded Moses. And 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 that the LORD had shown Moses, so he made the lampstand.

   And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Take the Levites from among the people of Israel and cleanse them. Thus you shall do to them to cleanse them: sprinkle the water of purification upon them, and let them go with a razor over all their body, and wash their clothes and cleanse themselves. Then let them take a bull from the herd and its grain offering of fine flour mixed with oil, and you shall take another bull from the herd for a sin offering. And you shall bring the Levites before the tent of meeting and assemble the whole congregation of the people of Israel. When you bring the Levites before the LORD, the people of Israel shall lay their hands on the Levites, and Aaron shall offer the Levites before the LORD as a wave offering from the people of Israel, that they may do the service of the LORD. Then the Levites shall lay their hands on the heads of the bulls, and you shall offer the one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering to the LORD to make atonement for the Levites. And you shall set the Levites before Aaron and his sons, and shall offer them as a wave offering to the LORD.

   “Thus you shall separate the Levites from among the people of Israel, and the Levites shall be mine. And after that the Levites shall go in to serve at the tent of meeting, when you have cleansed them and offered them as a wave offering. For they are wholly given to me from among the people of Israel. Instead of all who open the womb, the firstborn of all the people of Israel, I have taken them for myself. For all the firstborn among the people of Israel are mine, both of man and of beast. On the day that I struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt I consecrated them for myself, and I have taken the Levites instead of all the firstborn among the people of Israel. And I have given the Levites as a gift to Aaron and his sons from among the people of Israel, to do the service for the people of Israel at the tent of meeting and to make atonement for the people of Israel, that there may be no plague among the people of Israel when the people of Israel come near the sanctuary.”

  Thus did Moses and Aaron and all the congregation of the people of Israel…

   And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “This applies to the Levites: from twenty-five years old and upward they shall come to do duty in the service of the tent of meeting. And from the age of fifty years they shall withdraw from the duty of the service and serve no more. They minister to their brothers in the tent of meeting by keeping guard, but they shall do no service. Thus shall you do to the Levites in assigning their duties.”  (Numbers 8:1-26 ESV)

Still preparing the camp for war, Yahweh reminds the people that the golden lampstand that sits in the first chamber of the tabernacle, the Holy Place, sheds the light in the tabernacle.  It makes visible the table of showbread, a table with fresh loaves of bread laid out each day, and the altar of incense, where incense burns continually.  Yahweh is the light of Israel, provides her daily bread, and hears her prayers.

Then Yahweh has Aaron and Moses consecrate the Levites for their duties of caring for the tabernacle.  Shaving all one’s body hair would definitely set one apart, and the Levites are offered as a sacrifice to Yahweh in this ceremony, in place of Israel’s firstborn and as a gift to Aaron and the priests to help them conduct the services of the tabernacle (the sacrifices).

Whereas earlier the Levites were numbered according to those 30-50 years old, from 25 years on they may serve in the tabernacle, perhaps those first 5 years as apprentices.  Then they must cease carrying the tabernacle at age 50, being allowed only at that point to guard it while it is set up.  This is a recognition of the manual labor required in moving the tent.

What this ceremony signifies is that nothing is more important to Israel’s success than a right relationship to God.  This kind of public ceremony focuses Israel on God’s presence among them and His power to give them victory.  It is our own folly that we would ever compromise our relationship with God in order to make “progress.”  Saul will try it later when Samuel is late for offering sacrifice before Israel goes to battle (1 Samuel 13).  David, with somewhat purer heart, will try it with his attempt to move the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6).

We cannot truly go forward without first kneeling before the One from whom all victory comes.

Where they are now:  From the two consecutive entries in the 1988 Class Notes section of the Oberlin Alumni Magazine’s Spring issue.

  • Lizz Frost is the epidemiologist and public health specialist for Doctors Without Borders’ Aral Sea Area program.  She is in Karakalpakstan, in northeastern Uzbekistan, where the Amu Darya River delta has completely dried up.  Lizz writes, “The delta that was once home to flocks of waterfoul, beavers, bears, and wolves is now a desert that can hardly support even a few camels grazing.  I won’t even start to describe the health effects.”  Before coming to the Aral Sea project in July 1997, Lizz was an epidemiologist in Ghana.
  • Brad Pedinoff has a new “tortoise-shell colored cat.”

(Harper’s, August 1998)

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