The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them, The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. “So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.” Numbers 6:22-27, ESV.
Instructions are passed from God through the mediator of the old covenant, Moses, to the first High Priest of Israel. Aaron is to instruct his sons, the priests to follow in his line, on how to bless the people. They are to pronounce a three-line benediction and, by doing so, identify Israel as the people of Yahweh (the LORD). I have no way of knowing, but I imagine this might have been a priest’s favorite duty.
The three lines of the blessing run in perfect parallel and build on one another. When we consider the first part of each line, we learn that the blessing comes from God and consists of God’s presence. His face and His countenance are the greatest gift man can know, for there is no greater blessing than fellowship with your Creator. From man’s very beginnings, this has been His best desire. Remember Adam walking with God in the Garden in the cool of the day? The results of this intimate fellowship with God are wonderful. The God who walks with you will keep you; you do not need to fear the loss of this fellowship. This is a gift of grace, given to undeserving sinful men. And it will, more so than any other blessing, bring peace to the hearts of men.
It is this kind of fellowship with God that identifies men and women as the people of God. It is this kind of fellowship that was purchased for sinners on the cross by Jesus Christ. Jesus came as Emmanuel, God with us (Matthew 1:23), and following His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension to the Father, sent another Helper to be with us forever, the Holy Spirit (John 14:16). By grace through faith, we can know and be kept in intimate fellowship with our God today. We are blessed.
My prayer for you?
The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Command the people of Israel that they put out of the camp everyone who is leprous or has a discharge and everyone who is unclean through contact with the dead. You shall put out both male and female, putting them outside the camp, that they may not defile their camp, in the midst of which I dwell.” And the people of Israel did so, and put them outside the camp; as the Lord said to Moses, so the people of Israel did. Numbers 5:1-4, ESV.
Israel’s camp has been organized. The priests and Levites have been set apart for their duties. The people of God have been made ritually clean, now they have to stay that way. This means that people who have an unclean condition, like those listed in Numbers 5:1-4, have to be moved outside the clean boundaries of the camp. Reading these verses today we might think that this is a health code. But it is something even more vital to Israel’s well-being: a purity or holiness code. In Leviticus and Numbers, the people of God remain symbolically pure and holy by remaining symbolically clean.
As New Testament Christians, we no longer follow Israel’s purity codes. Nonetheless, Peter appeals to these words of God from Leviticus, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:14-16, referring to Leviticus 11:44). Just as the symbolic holy place, the symbolic priesthood, and the symbolic sacrifice were replaced when Christ entered the heavenly Holy of Holies and offered Himself for our sins, symbolic holiness through purity codes has been replaced by a call to genuine holiness. We who trust in Christ are reborn and indwelt by the Spirit of God. As transformed people, we are to live out the reality of our inward holiness in our outward conduct.
We can rejoice that we do not need to remove from fellowship the people of God who come down with sickness and disease or come into contact with something dead. However, we must remember that the call to holiness has not gone the way of the Old Testament purity codes. It has been replaced by a call to live out the reality of our conversion in Christ . . . to “be holy in all your conduct.”
I pray that you will know the joy that comes from living a life of holiness today and for many days to come.
These are the generations of Aaron and Moses at the time when the LORD spoke with Moses on Mount Sinai. These are the names of the sons of Aaron: Nadab the firstborn, and Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. These are the names of the sons of Aaron, the anointed priests, whom he ordained to serve as priests. But Nadab and Abihu died before the LORD when they offered unauthorized fire before the LORD in the wilderness of Sinai, and they had no children. So Eleazar and Ithamar served as priests in the lifetime of Aaron their father. Numbers 3:1-4, ESV.
The shocking death of Nadab and Abihu is detailed in Leviticus 10:1-2. It tends to leave us a bit perplexed. Just what is this strange “unauthorized” fire? It is fire from a source other than the large altar in the tabernacle courtyard, the one God had ordained for the priests to use (Leviticus 16:12). It is also possible that the young men acted in this irresponsible manner because they were drunk, because soon after the description of these events, Leviticus 10:9 forbids priests from drinking while on-duty. In any case, the young men are put to death by God for not worshipping God as He told them to worship. The Lord declares, “Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified” (Leviticus 10:3).
Should we be surprised that God takes the “how” of worship so seriously? Do you remember Cain and Abel? Cain killed Abel. But do you remember what motivated Cain to murder? His offering was rejected by God (Genesis 4:1-5). He had attempted to worship God in a way other than the way God desired.
Why does God spend so much time explaining the details of furniture construction for the tabernacle or the design of the priestly garments (Exodus 25-30)? Or why does God refuse to allow any other use for the incense perfume than its worship use (Exodus 30:34-38)? How we worship matters to God.
God cares about how we worship Him. Even in the New Testament, we are told how to worship (preaching the Word, singing, prayers, offerings, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper). God is not looking for new and inventive means of worship. Such are like strange fire. Sadly, there can be little doubt that many contemporary churches have fallen to the temptation to imitate the entertainment culture of our land. And, longing for miracles more than Jesus, we have even invited charlatans to perform tricks in so-called worship services. We are too often tempted to play with strange fire. God forgive us.
I pray that we will all see the beauty and majesty that are available in worship God’s way.
The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, “The people of Israel shall camp each by his own standard, with the banners of their fathers’ houses. They shall camp facing the tent of meeting on every side . . . Then the tent of meeting shall set out, with the camp of the Levites in the midst of the camps; as they camp, so shall they set out, each in position, standard by standard. Numbers 2:1-2; 17, ESV.
As God gives His people travel instructions, He organizes them by tribe and tells them how to set up camp, break down camp, and travel. There are so many instructions in these first two chapters of Numbers that you might read them and come away thinking that God is a little uptight. However, that would miss the point. What God does is ensure sure that every facet of the life of His people reflects their status as His people.
Pay special attention to the second verse, “They shall camp facing the tent of meeting on every side.” Some will face east, some west, some north, and some south. But they will all face the tent where they go to meet with God. Even as they journey to the Promised Land, they will maintain this relationship. The Levites will pack up the tent and the people will travel in their tribes with the tent in the middle. In motion or at rest, everything about their lives reminds them that they are God’s people.
We need this center. As we run the race of life, we need to direct our eyes to that center. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and the sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2). As we journey toward our Promised Land, we must set and keep our eyes on Jesus!
I pray that Jesus will fill your vision every moment of this day!
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.