Numbers 8 Devotional
by Pastor Mark Hudson
Let’s review where we are in the book of Numbers. The following is a partial outline of the book of Numbers from Wenham:
- The people of God prepare to enter the promised land (1:1-10:100
- Censuses (chapters 1-4)
- Cleansing the camp (chapters 5-6)
- Offerings for the altar (chapter 7)
- Dedication of the Levites (chapter 8)
- The second Passover (chapter 9)
- The silver trumpets (10:1-10:10)
- From Sinai to Kadesh (10:11-12:16)
III. Forty years near Kadesh (13:1-19:22)
We remember that the order and organization of the material serves the purpose of the author. The author is selective about the material included as well as when and where it is included. Wenham compares Leviticus and Numbers. “Leviticus highlights the nature of true worship and holiness. Numbers focuses on the land of promise and Israel’s journey towards it. God’s character and his reaction to Israel’s behavior are constant throughout these books . . . . If Leviticus emphasizes the importance of holiness and cleanness, Numbers reiterates the value of faith and obedience. Where Leviticus stresses the role of sacrifice in creating and maintaining right relations between God and man, Numbers accentuates the indispensability of the priesthood for preserving the nation’s spiritual health” (Wenham pp. 38-39). We don’t expect you to merely accept these summary statements but to read and study and see if Wenham’s observations is true to the text.
In chapter 7, we discover what Levites do and what they need for their work. Gershon needs two wagons; Merari needs 4, and the Kohathites need none since the most holy objects were carried on their shoulders. Then in chapter 8, the Levites are dedicated to their work for the nation. Notice in 8:4, the lampstands are made “according to the pattern that the Lord had shown Moses . . . .” All this matters to God.
The Levites are important to God, “the Levites shall be mine” and “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.” (8:14, 16). As you continue to read in this chapter, the Levites are given to God in place of the firstborn sons, given to Aaron as a gift from the tribes of Israel, to do service at the tent of meeting for (or in place of ) the people of Israel, to make atonement for the people of Israel with the result that there may be no plague among the people of Israel when the people come near the sanctuary (8:17-19).
Notice all the cleansing prior to service. We are always in need of cleansing from sin. We draw near in our uncleanness to be washed by God. We do not clean ourselves prior to coming to God. We approach Him and He makes us fit to serve Him. That is why confession of sin should always be part of our private and corporate worship.
The last section is interesting to me. I have heard a few people say there is no such thing as retirement in the Bible. If they mean, leaving the work force and spending your time on your own pleasures, we don’t think there is an argument for that kind of retirement. But if people mean ministers should not retire from their current ministry, Numbers 8:23-26 suggests there is some work God commands people not to do after a certain age. We cannot claim the Levite after age 50 never worked again, but there is a clear age when they could start and when they had to finish. While we do not think these verses directly relate to our employment, it is hard to see how someone can say there is no such thing as retirement in the Bible after reading these verses.
The people of God in both the Old and New Testaments rarely demonstrated faith and obedience. So, it is refreshing to see verses like 8:3, 4, 20, 22 where God speaks, and His people obey. The writer repeats that rather mundane phrase often, God speaks and an individual like Moses or Aaron obeyed, or a group of people obeyed. We wish we were like that. How much happier we would be. How much heart ache we would avoid?
We have someone dedicated to God, in one sense, in our place. Christ is the perfect God-man who lived a sinless life and died in our place. In another sense, we are priests or as Peter says, “ . . . you yourselves . . . are being built up . . . to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (I Pt. 2:5) because of the work of Christ. Granted, this is not a strict analogy, but we are to be servants of God leading others to Christ. “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness, has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” II Cor 4:5-6.
Dear Heavenly Father, You are kind beyond all measure. You are thrice holy, majestic, pure, unchanging in you goodness, full of love and grace that exceeds our imagination. Thank You that You call the Levites to Yourself. You call each one who believes with an effectual call . . . to know, love, and obey You. Fill us with the power of the Holy Spirit so we can please and honor You. How can we ever comprehend what You have done for us in the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ? In Your glorious name we pray. Amen.