But the Levites were not listed along with them by their ancestral tribe. For the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Only the tribe of Levi you shall not list, and you shall not take a census of them among the people of Israel. But appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of the testimony, and over all its furnishings, and over all that belongs to it. They are to carry the tabernacle and all its furnishings, and they shall take care of it and shall camp around the tabernacle. Numbers 1:47-50, ESV.
After laying out the results of the census of Israel’s fighting men, there is still one tribe not counted: the Levites. The Levites have the responsibility of caring for the tabernacle. They are to pack it up when it is time to move, carry it on the journey, and put it together when it is time to settle. They are to camp immediately around it and guard it against outsiders. According to verse 53, their presence “around the tabernacle of the testimony” will keep the wrath of God from falling “on the congregation of the people of Israel.” They were a buffer between the unclean and the holy; they were mediators.
As we continue in Numbers, we will learn more about the role of the Levites, especially concerning the tabernacle and the priesthood. For now, it does us good to be reminded that outsiders will find no safe entrance into the presence of God. In fact, we need someone who will come between us and that holy presence to keep us safe until we can, somehow, be made clean. We need a mediator.
The New Testament is clear. Jesus is our mediator. Actually, by His righteous life, sacrificial death, and victorious resurrection, Jesus has redrawn the picture altogether. He has entered into the real presence of God, the tent not made with human hands (2 Corinthians 5:1; Hebrews 9:11). He has accomplished the work necessary to not just protect His people from a holy God but to reconcile us to Him. He has made His people clean.
I pray that you have come to Jesus in faith and been made clean and that you know today the joy of a life lived as one welcome in the presence of God.