1 - 4 The Golden Lampstand
1 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 description of the lampstand has not got lost and accidentally found its way to this place. The Author of the Bible, the Holy Spirit, has given this description here with a purpose. It connects directly to the last verse of the previous chapter. There we see Moses going into the tent of meeting to speak with the LORD. Moses speaks the Word of God to the people.
God’s Word is important for walking in the wilderness. In doing so, the goal is that we see the glorified Lord in heaven. But we can only see Him in the light that the Holy Spirit gives. The model for our walk through the wilderness is Christ in glory (Jn 17:19). In directing our hearts on Him we can live on earth to His glory. In the sanctuary we see Aaron busy, as a picture of the Lord Jesus as the High Priest Who knows what we need on our journey through the wilderness. When our eye is on Him in the sanctuary, our feet know where to go in the world.
The lamps of the lampstand must be placed in such a way that their light falls on the lampstand itself. The light of the Holy Spirit always falls upon the Lord Jesus (Jn 16:14). Anyone who spreads light should radiate it from and upon the Lord, not upon himself (cf. Mt 5:16). The Lord Jesus is the lampstand who carries the seven lamps. The believers are the lamps through which the Holy Spirit shines. The believers should not present themselves when they stand before God in the sanctuary, but the Lord Jesus. They talk to each other about heavenly things, about what each one has found in his examination of the Scriptures. The lampstand carries the lamps. The believers are supported by the Lord Jesus.
The priesthood of the Lord Jesus keeps the light burning. It is about the connection with Christ in the sanctuary in the presence of God on which everything depends. This can only be seen by the spiritual believer.
5 - 15 The Dedication of the Levites
5 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. 9 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. 13 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. 15 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;
Seeing Christ in the sanctuary as the model of our walk, as depicted in previous verses, also gives us ability to serve. The dedication of the Levites, of the servants, is done according to the purity of the sanctuary, for that is the field of their service. They are an offering of the people to the LORD, and the LORD gives them to the priests. They can only be pleasing to God in their service in the value of the offering Christ has brought to God and the Divine judgment of sin.
At the dedication of the Levites we see a special involvement of the people, more so than in the dedication of the priests. Priestly service is not primarily aimed at fellow believers, but at God. Levite service is focused on each other. The service of the Levites is to the church.
By a separate ceremony the Levites are separated from the people. What happens to them is not a picture of the conversion of the sinner, but of making the believer fit to serve God in a way that is pleasing to Him. Here we see how first the persons are made fit, and then they come to a service that is pleasing to God. We must first give ourselves to the Lord, and only then give Him our service (2Cor 8:5).
The first action is to be sprinkled with the purifying water. The cleansing does not consist of washing, but of sprinkling. Sprinkling is the transfer of the value of that which is sprinkled on the object which is sprinkled. By sprinkling it comes under the power of it. We see that with the sprinkling of blood. Sprinkling with water is done here. The purifying water is not used here because the Levites have sinned. That is not the case here. But a special awareness is needed of the work of the Lord Jesus through which the sins have been disposed of. The flesh must have no place, nothing of that which has to do with sin.
The second action is the shaving of all the hair from their bodies (cf. Lev 14:8). Hair speaks of what comes from natural man. That must be shaved. The razor represents the judgment that is passed over the flesh. Pride, for example, is such a hair growth that needs to be shaved, judged.
Then they have to wash their clothes. Clothes show what is public from man, how he behaves, the habits he has. Washing the clothes indicates that the whole revelation of the servant comes under the power of the Word.
After their cleansing the offerings can be brought, in this case two young bulls. The first is intended as a burnt offering, together with the accompanying grain offering; the other is a sin offering. Both the burnt offering and the sin offering is a great offering. Both offerings represent the degree of insight into the work of the Lord Jesus, on the basis of which they can perform their service. The service is performed at the level of the servant’s understanding of both the burnt offering – what the work of the Lord Jesus means to God, the honor He has given to God through it – and the sin offering – what the work of the Lord Jesus means in view of the problem of sin.
The laying on of hands by the Israelites shows their identification with the service of the Levites. All Israelites are involved, because the Levites are instead of the firstborn of the Israelites (verses 16-18). It is also important that the field of their service is the people of God. It is important that the church can identify herself with the service of servants. God involves the whole people.
The Levites are moved back and forth as a wave offering before God’s face. God wishes His people to bring His servants before Him. God’s people should not speak of the weaknesses every servant has, but of the way in which these servants remind them of the Lord Jesus, the true wave offering. After the people have moved the Levites back and forth as a wave offering, the priests also have to move the Levites back and forth. The service of each servant is in connection with both the daily life of God’s people and the priestly service.
16 - 18 Instead of the Firstborn
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.
After the identification of the Israelites with the Levites, expressed by the laying on of hands, the Levites are offered to the LORD. The Levites must do what the whole people should do. The Levites represent the whole people in their service and their service belongs to the whole people. In this way they became the property of the LORD instead of the firstborn. That fact is recalled again to emphasize that they are God’s property because of the redemption He has established.
19 Given to Aaron and His Sons
19 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.”
In verse 11 Aaron offered the Levites to the LORD. Now he gets them back from the LORD. God never remains someone’s debtor. We can never give Him anything that He will not give back manifold. What is given is always of less value than the person to whom it is given. The Levites are not above the priests, but they are their servants, so they are their lesser ones (Lk 22:27).
20 - 22 Dedication of the Levites
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.
The Divine instructions are carried out in detail. Only when all that has been pre-described to them has been done, the Levites may begin serving. For our service it is also of the utmost importance that we do exactly what the Lord tells us. It is important to be cleansed and let Him show us what He wants us to do.
23 - 26 Service Time of the Levites
23 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.”
There is a starting age and an end age. This must be applied spiritually. The Levites are only allowed to serve from the age of thirty (Num 4:3,23,30,35,39,43,47), but from the age of twenty-five they are allowed to cooperate. This refers to a preparatory period, which is necessary to be exercised (cf. Heb 5:14; 1Tim 3:13). Hastily rushing into a service for the Lord is not good.
We have a good example in the life of Paul. Immediately after his conversion “he [began] to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God” (Acts 9:20). After that he stays for some time in Arabia (Gal 1:17). Later Barnabas visits him and brings him to Antioch. In that church he does his service as a teacher (Acts 11:25-26). There, together with Barnabas, he is separated by the Holy Spirit for a special work. In the church is fasting and praying, the hands are laid upon them and they may go (Acts 13:2-3).
There will also come a time when the service in its full weight no longer needs to be done. Servants should not think that they are indispensable. The work is the work of the Lord. He maintains it. But even if active service ends, they are not discarded. There remains a supporting task. It is important to give young people advice in their early service, to provide them with the necessary ‘tools’ to perform their service (2Tim 2:2). They can pass on the torch of faith. In this way, brothers who are bound to their homes after many journeys due to old age can help others with advice. Others who can no longer attend the meetings may also be helpful in other ways. Their prayer and intercession are an invaluable help.