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 8:23-26, ESV.
As we read the book of Numbers, we quickly see that God was detailed in His instructions regarding the Levites. In our passage this morning we have what might be called the Levite retirement plan. If we were to simply transfer this passage from the days of Moses to our day, we might expect to see large Levite retirement communities in Florida or an annual Levite sale at the local RV dealer. While there is a sense in which the Levites are being retired from the work inside the tabernacle, it is important to consider their retirement plan in context.
The Levites were God’s special possession amongst Israel. “Thus you shall separate the Levites from among the people of Israel, and the Levites shall be mine . . . 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” (Numbers 8:14-19). The Levites are dedicated to the service of God as a substitute for the firstborn sons of Israel who, having been spared from death in the final plague in Egypt, were to be devoted to God.
These men, devoted to the service of God, when they reach the age of 50, are moved from the more strenuous work inside the tabernacle to guard duty outside the tent. They still belong to God. And this matters to us because, in 1 Peter 2:9, we learn that we as believers in Christ are God’s new priesthood. “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” The body of Christ is the new priesthood. We are God’s new precious possession.
The Numbers lesson for us? Things may change in our lives as we age. We may no longer be able to serve the Lord the way we did in our youth. Even so, there remains a place for us in the service of our God. The work may be different, but it is not done! Maybe you are facing one of those transitions in your life today. The ministries of your past are no longer within your ability to accomplish. This is not the time to look for beachfront property and start your seashell collection. It is time to consider how you can continue to serve God in your new circumstance. For you remain a people for His possession, still tasked with proclaiming His excellency.
I pray that you all might be able to see, regardless of your stage in life, what God has for you to do in His service and for His glory!