1 Bear the Guilt
1 So the LORD said to Aaron, “You and your sons and your father’s household with you shall bear the guilt in connection with the sanctuary, and you and your sons with you shall bear the guilt in connection with your priesthood.
The theme is still that we depend on the priesthood of the Lord Jesus. It is a priesthood in the power of resurrection. More than ever before, we depend on that priesthood in our time. On the basis of the intercession of the Lord Jesus, there are also believers in Christianity today who are saved from being dragged along in the general apostacy that is becoming increasingly apparent.
This chapter is the answer to the people’s question about the priesthood at the end of the previous chapter (Num 17:12-13). For the first and only time the LORD addresses Himself directly to Aaron. He does this to show Aaron the privileges of the priesthood, not only of the high priest, but also of his sons. The point is that in the believers, as priests on earth, fruit for God comes forth, worked by the High Priest. That is what God desires. To this end He has formed us into a holy priesthood (1Pet 2:5; Rev 1:6).
But then He must also speak of iniquity. Being a priest gives not only privileges but also a great responsibility. They will notice every guilt of the people, to which the people are insensitive, and will bear it before God. They must act accordingly in accordance with the holiness of God and remove that guilt from His presence according to His instructions. Thus, believers who know the priesthood as a privilege and actually exercise it, will feel co-responsible for what happens in Christianity. They will acknowledge its guilt before God, while they also know that by virtue of the intercession of the Lord Jesus and their own intercession God still tolerates Christianity.
2 - 4 The Levites Serve the Priests
2 But bring with you also your brothers, the tribe of Levi, the tribe of your father, that they may be joined with you and serve you, while you and your sons with you are before the tent of the testimony. 3 And they shall thus attend to your obligation and the obligation of all the tent, but they shall not come near to the furnishings of the sanctuary and the altar, or both they and you will die. 4 They shall be joined with you and attend to the obligations of the tent of meeting, for all the service of the tent; but an outsider may not come near you.
There is not only responsibility, there are also privileges. Performing the priestly service is such a privilege. The Levites have nothing to do with the sanctuary and the altar, that is, they have no direct task there. Their service is to help the priests in their priestly task. Thus the ministry of the Word is intended to promote the priestly service of the believers. If the Word of God is explained, it will arouse the desire of believers to praise God, that is, as priests they approach God with spiritual sacrifices.
The close connection between priesthood and Levite service is emphasized here. The Levite must join the priest, not the other way around – Levi means ‘added’ (Gen 29:34). Every Levite service must be aimed at enabling the priest to do his work better, the bringing of offerings. Levite service outside the sanctuary cannot be separated from the priesthood that enters God. God wants the connection between what happens outside and what happens inside the veil to remain.
5 - 7 A gift for the Priests
5 So you shall attend to the obligations of the sanctuary and the obligations of the altar, so that there will no longer be wrath on the sons of Israel. 6 Behold, I Myself have taken your fellow Levites from among the sons of Israel; they are a gift to you, dedicated to the LORD, to perform the service for the tent of meeting. 7 But you and your sons with you shall attend to your priesthood for everything concerning the altar and inside the veil, and you are to perform service. I am giving you the priesthood as a bestowed service, but the outsider who comes near shall be put to death.”
Of the priesthood it turned out in the previous chapters that it was not appreciated by the Israelites. God now shows that His attitude toward Israel depends precisely on the priesthood they despise. We can apply this to the situation in Christianity. There is little or no worship in spirit and truth in Christianity. Where it is found, God accepts it for the whole and can let the whole exist.
We read that the Levites are a gift and that the priesthood is a gift. Both gifts are given to the priest. That is, it is grace and not merit. As far as we are concerned, we must acknowledge that we are only unworthy slaves (Lk 17:10). Believers who are aware of this will serve the Lord with joy as Levites and with great gratitude as priests, which in turn will be to the benefit of the whole.
8 - 19 The Income of the Priests
8 Then the LORD spoke to Aaron, “Now behold, I Myself have given you charge of My offerings, even all the holy gifts of the sons of Israel I have given them to you as a portion and to your sons as a perpetual allotment. 9 This shall be yours from the most holy [gifts reserved] from the fire; every offering of theirs, even every grain offering and every sin offering and every guilt offering, which they shall render to Me, shall be most holy for you and for your sons. 10 As the most holy [gifts] you shall eat it; every male shall eat it. It shall be holy to you. 11 This also is yours, the offering of their gift, even all the wave offerings of the sons of Israel; I have given them to you and to your sons and daughters with you as a perpetual allotment. Everyone of your household who is clean may eat it. 12 All the best of the fresh oil and all the best of the fresh wine and of the grain, the first fruits of those which they give to the LORD, I give them to you. 13 The first ripe fruits of all that is in their land, which they bring to the LORD, shall be yours; everyone of your household who is clean may eat it. 14 Every devoted thing in Israel shall be yours. 15 Every first issue of the womb of all flesh, whether man or animal, which they offer to the LORD, shall be yours; nevertheless the firstborn of man you shall surely redeem, and the firstborn of unclean animals you shall redeem. 16 As to their redemption price, from a month old you shall redeem them, by your valuation, five shekels in silver, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, which is twenty gerahs. 17 But the firstborn of an ox or the firstborn of a sheep or the firstborn of a goat, you shall not redeem; they are holy. You shall sprinkle their blood on the altar and shall offer up their fat in smoke [as] an offering by fire, for a soothing aroma to the LORD. 18 Their meat shall be yours; it shall be yours like the breast of a wave offering and like the right thigh. 19 All the offerings of the holy [gifts], which the sons of Israel offer to the LORD, I have given to you and your sons and your daughters with you, as a perpetual allotment. It is an everlasting covenant of salt before the LORD to you and your descendants with you.”
The priests are distinguished in Aaron and his sons (verses 8-10) and Aaron and his whole family, sons and daughters (verses 11-19). There is food that is only for Aaron and his sons, those are the most holy things. There is also food that his whole family can eat, that is, all those who are clean from his sons and daughters. In the pictures of the Bible we see in the sons believers who live up to their priesthood. They are not satisfied that they know they are priests, but they actually exercise their priesthood. The daughters represent believers who are priests in principle, but in practice do nothing with it.
This difference is reflected in the food consumed. The grain offerings, guilt offerings and sin offerings are only for the sons. The peace offerings are for the sons as well as the daughters. All offerings speak of the Lord Jesus. But spiritual maturity is needed to feed on the Lord Jesus in what He has been in His life on earth, and to understand what He is as the One Who has taken the guilt upon Himself and bore the sin.
This insight is not necessary in the case of a peace offering. If someone has only recently come to conversion, he can immediately thank the Lord Jesus for his salvation. He can enjoy the breast of the wave offerings as a picture of the love of the Lord Jesus and of the right thigh as a picture of the power of the Lord Jesus. That is eating the peace offering.
In order to penetrate into what that redemption has cost Him, it is necessary to have been occupied with the meaning of the work of the Lord Jesus. Daughters represent believers – both men and women! – who are satisfied with the awareness that they are priests, but are not concerned with spiritual things. They know their position and are grateful for it, but it does not encourage them to enter the sanctuary with offerings. Sons represent believers – both men and women! – who are active in searching the Scriptures to know the meaning of the work of the Lord Jesus. It touches their hearts and they long to praise God in the sanctuary for what they have seen of His Son.
The sin offering is slaughtered in case someone has sinned. The priest who brings it must eat it. Eating the sin offering represents the penetration into what it has cost the Lord Jesus to undergo judgment for that sin. If someone has sinned, a priestly believer can help such a person confess it. This is only possible by thinking about the Lord Jesus as a sin offering and showing that He suffered for that sin. By confession sin is forgiven. Helping someone to be restored in the fellowship with the Father and the fellow believers cannot be done by a ‘daughter of Aaron’. This must be done by a ‘son of Aaron’. A newly converted can’t do that. It requires priestly maturity.
The income of the priests consists of (parts of) different sacrifices and the best of the land. The latter, of course, can only be got when the people live in the land. It is the responsibility of the people to give the best of their income to the LORD (Lev 27:30). Also every devoted thing and the firstborn is for the LORD and He designates it for the priests. What is for the LORD is also for the priests.
This regulation is given by the LORD to increase the solidarity of the people. So the people must also be busy with the blessing of the land. People, priests and Levites, all is connected. As believers we are the people, and we are also priests and Levites. Our daily lives contribute to our service as priests and Levites. Our lives also contribute to the priestly and Levite services of the others.
A ‘covenant of salt’ points to the sustainability of this statute as an indissoluble covenant. God always holds fast to what He has given in precepts as a blessing for His people.
20 - 24 The Inheritance of the Levites
20 Then the LORD said to Aaron, “You shall have no inheritance in their land nor own any portion among them; I am your portion and your inheritance among the sons of Israel. 21 “To the sons of Levi, behold, I have given all the tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service which they perform, the service of the tent of meeting. 22 The sons of Israel shall not come near the tent of meeting again, or they will bear sin and die. 23 Only the Levites shall perform the service of the tent of meeting, and they shall bear their iniquity; it shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations, and among the sons of Israel they shall have no inheritance. 24 For the tithe of the sons of Israel, which they offer as an offering to the LORD, I have given to the Levites for an inheritance; therefore I have said concerning them, ‘They shall have no inheritance among the sons of Israel.’”
These verses also refer to the land to which the people are on their way to. The LORD has already made known in the wilderness what shall be the portion and inheritance of the priests and the Levites. They get no property, no piece of land. But that will not be a loss for them. They receive the LORD as their “portion” and their “inheritance” (verse 20; Deu 10:9; 18:1; Psa 16:5; 73:26; Lam 3:24). Everything belongs to Him. He who has Him as his inheritance has much more than a part of the land. He has everything. The Christian possesses everything in Christ Who is his portion, for all blessings are summarized in Him, in Him are “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2:3).
25 - 32 The Tithe of the Levites
25 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 26 “Moreover, you shall speak to the Levites and say to them, ‘When you take from the sons of Israel the tithe which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then you shall present an offering from it to the LORD, a tithe of the tithe. 27 Your offering shall be reckoned to you as the grain from the threshing floor or the full produce from the wine vat. 28 So you shall also present an offering to the LORD from your tithes, which you receive from the sons of Israel; and from it you shall give the LORD’s offering to Aaron the priest. 29 Out of all your gifts you shall present every offering due to the LORD, from all the best of them, the sacred part from them.’ 30 You shall say to them, ‘When you have offered from it the best of it, then [the rest] shall be reckoned to the Levites as the product of the threshing floor, and as the product of the wine vat. 31 You may eat it anywhere, you and your households, for it is your compensation in return for your service in the tent of meeting. 32 You will bear no sin by reason of it when you have offered the best of it. But you shall not profane the sacred gifts of the sons of Israel, or you will die.’”
The tithe of the Levites come from the people of God. Our spiritual tithes that we give as members of the people of God prevent the Levites of sinning. An application is that we do give deconstructive but constructive criticism on a service. All those who are allowed to do a service must be supported by encouragement, by passing on something we have received from the Lord Jesus. Then we get a healthy Levite service. So we can also pray for each other.
Those for whom life consists of contributing to the work of the Lord are just as responsible to give of their income to the Lord. The Levites themselves must also pay the tithes, a statute that is also held after the exile (Neh 10:38-39). They pay their tithes of what they receive from the best of the people. They give the best of the best.
Failure to comply with this statute means that the servant loads sin on himself. Meeting this commitment never makes us poorer, but richer, not materially, but spiritually: “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows” (Mal 3:10).