Guarding the Presence of God

Guarding the Presence of God

Please remain standing for the reading of God’s Word. We are in numbers three, continuing through this new series, looking at rather large section of chapters three to four, basically looking at who are these Levi’s and why are they having so much fun? I hope, in a way, that a bunch of docs will be connected, connected for us, that we understand numbers fits into a larger story, and if we don’t see that, then this is just simply arcane historical information. But it is not, because it is the drama of redemption of which this plays a part. If you would then join with me in prayer for the reading of God’s Word.

Father, we do ask that you help us by Your spirit to be in awe of you this day. Put Your law in our hearts and write it upon our minds. Let Your Word come with power and help us receive it in love with attentive and reverent and teachable souls through Your Word. Allow us to taste the flavor of eternal life which we have for Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.

Getting in verse five. And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, bring the tribe of Leviner and set them before Aaron the priest, that they may minister to him. They shall keep guard over him and over the whole congregation before the 10th meeting. As a minister at the Tabernacle, they shall guard all the furnishings of the tender meeting, keep guard over all the people of Israel as a minister at the Tabernacle, and you shall give the Levites to Aaron and his sons. They are wholly given to him from among the people of Israel, and you shall appoint Erran and his sons, and they shall guard their priesthood.

But if any outsider comes near, he shall be put to death. And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, befold. I have taken the Levites from among the people of Israel. Instead of every first born who opens a womb among the people of Israel, the Levites shall be mine for all, the firstborn of mine. On the day that I struck down all the first born of the land of Egypt, I consecrated for my own, all the first born in Israel, both man and a beast, they shall be mine.

I am the Lord. The word of the Lord. Please be seated.

By way of quick summary, israel has left Egypt. The Exodus and the crossing of the Red Sea are behind them. And they have now been about a year at Mount Sinai, camped in a fairly barren region for a year with thousands of people. No doubt that was less than ideal. And while they’re there, they constructed everything necessary for the Tabernacle.

That’s Israel’s portable temple tent to the Lord. It’s the motorhome version that would go with them until a permanent place could be built. And this is going to take some time, depending on how you date the exes 450 to 250 years for this temporary structure. They’re getting ready to go forward and to claim the inheritance that the Lord has promised them again. What can seem like rather mundane part of Scripture for us was vitally important for them as they organized to move forward.

The Lord would go with Israel every step of the way. The tabernacle was the very presence of the Lord in the middle of their camp, a holy God dwelling in the midst of an unholy people. One writer put it like this to combine divine holiness and human sin in this way is like putting a huge fiery oven in the middle of a firework factory. You’re going to need more than simply a danger no smoking sign. The Levites are a part of that safety team to help ensure that the fire and the gunpowder don’t come together.

And what we see here, then is this interplay throughout the whole Bible, the tension between God’s holiness and human sinfulness. How is God going to be with his people? And this tension does not get resolved until the incarnation we hear in John’s Gospel, the word became flesh and dwelt. That word dwelt means tabernacle or pitched the tent among us. And we have seen his glory.

Glory as the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. And because our God is holy and righteous, his presence dwelling in us brings the problem of our sin forward. He must change our hearts and a tone for our sins from the sin of Adam and Eve. We see in Genesis three? The Bible.

It speaks of this unfolding drama of human salvation. It’s the drama of God not giving up on his people. How is he going to be present with them? How is he going to come alongside and lovingly guide and direct Awayward people who’ve been running and hiding from Him since the headwaters of creation?

We know in Genesis he came to one man, Abraham, and he builds a relationship with him. That special relationship is called a covenant. The closest example we have of that is a marriage covenant. Vows and promises are made. A formal bond is forged.

He says, I will be your God and you will be my people. Abraham, then his son Isaac, then his son Jacob. They all said to the Lord, I do. And last week I read from Exodus 19, when all the people of Israel are gathered around Mount Sinai and they hear the promises and the vows, and all of Israel said to the Lord, essentially, I do. From one man to a family, to a tribe, to a nation, god is calling people to Himself.

He’s promising to be present with his people. And the end goal was always greater than Israel. God had a global goal, and that was nothing short of bringing his wayward creation back to himself. Restored, reunited, in bonds of love. The book of numbers moves this goal forward the Book of Numbers shows us the struggle of the human heart.

And here in chapter three and four, we find out more about getting to that goal through the tribe of Levi. Because we consider why the Levites in verse one opens a the generations of Aaron and Moses. The time when the Lord spoke with Moses of Mount Sinai. It’s a familiar phrase from Genesis that these are the generations of. And it’s speaking now specifically of Aaron, from Aaron who is of the tribal Levi, come the priest.

And we read in verse five, the Lord told Moses to bring the tribal Levi near to set them before Aaron. The priest says they may minister to him. They shall keep guard over the whole congregation before the tent of Meeting. As they minister at the Tabernacle, they shall guard all the furnishings of the tent of Meeting and keep guard over the people. You shall give the Levites to Aaron and his sons, and you shall appoint Aaron and his sons as they shall guard their priesthood.

If any outsider comes near, he shall be put to death. Only one family of all of the Levites were to be priests, aaron’s family. The rest were given special tasks of working to support the Tabernacle and everything that included, as well as guarding it there to keep the furnace and the fireworks separate. Why the levites? In verse eleven, the Lord told Moses, behold, I’ve taken the Levites from among the people of Israel.

Instead of every first born, the Levites shall be mine for all the first born or mine. And then he reminds them of the Exodus. When I struck down all the first born of the land of Egypt, I consecrated for my own the first born in Israel, both a man and a beast. They shall be mine. I am the Lord.

God’s judgment fell on the Egyptians who had hardened their hearts against him. And in his mercy he passed over the first born of Israel. The blood on the door. It was the Lord who set them free from slavery, who redeemed them. The declaration, the dedication of the first born was a vivid reminder of all that the Lord had done for them.

We hear the words of the Psalmist in Psalm 24. The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, everything belongs to God. And in this first born dedication, as well as the giving of tithe, a giving back to the Lord is a reminder that everything we have is a gift from Him. Specifically, the whole tribe of Levi becomes a substitute for the rest of Israel. And so a sense is taken of all the families.

And it goes on to tell us that the Levites, instead of the first born among you, their cattle, everything, there’s to be a one to one correspondence. The levites are mine. And the redemption price over and above the number of male Levites you shall take as five shekels per head, and that money shall be given to Aaron and sons as a redemption price. So what do we see right off the bat? The theme of substitution and redemption, redemption by payment.

The way of sacrifice is being set forward. The Levites experience, as it were, a death. They’re not given a tribal inheritance. We’ll find out later. Like the rest of Israel, all the other tribes are all get a portion of land, but they’re not.

They are actually scattered into all the other tribes.

And in this they are going to be of service to the Lord. You may recall back in Genesis 49, Jacob is about to die. And what he does is he gathers his twelve sons and he blesses them. He pronounces blessing and some judgment to some of them. There we see that Joseph gets a double blessing.

He becomes two tribes, not just one. And in a way here we see Levi is actually subtracted, at least from the land inheritance. And this is what Jacob says of two of his sons, genesis 49. He says, Simian and Levi are brothers. Weapons of violence are their swords.

For in their anger, they killed men. In their willfulness they hamstrung oxen. Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce in their wrath, for it is cruel. I will divide them in Jacob, and I will scatter them in Israel. This comes from the story in Genesis 34 of these two brothers essentially killing the inhabitants of Shekham, a small village, the same blessing that Jacob gives to Judah, where the royal sceptre is given to him.

And in this same moment, he scatters Levi and Simeon. The tribe of Simeon actually later be absorbed into Judah. But Levi’s curse here in Genesis 49, God actually turns around, he takes from this curse and he puts it into a blessing. Basically, Levi, the tribe will be the pastors, the teachers, the temple servants for all of Israel. It’s another scene we see where God takes what is meant to be ill and turns it into what in his hands is good.

God alone can redeem a curse, and he does so for an entire tribe to be a blessing to his people. And then as we go forward, we ask the question, why all the structure and why all the order? Verse chapter four tells us that they have different jobs according to their tribes. There are three major families, sons of Kohath, Gersham and Marrerai, and each one of them is given a different responsibility with the tabernacle. If your ages 30 to 50 as a man, you’re called to serve in the tabernacle and the order is given for the smooth running of the camp while it is at rest and an order while the camp is at March.

Marreroi we’re told their clan in verse 31, chapter four, they’re given the tabernacle, the frames, all the structures around, and the equipment and their accessories. The Gershon clan, they’re told to actually carry the tents themselves. All the veils and the things that separate the tabernacle parts and ropes and all of that is their responsibility. Cohaf are given the responsibility of the most holy things. The priests are to cover it with a cloth and then a covering of leather to give it to them to carry.

And what we see is God is present symbolically in the tent and in the tabernacle. The priests, they oversee the worship service. The Levites help them with all the logistics of this. They all serve as a buffer, a guard around the holiness of the tabernacle. The closer you come to God’s presence, the more accountable you are.

At the start of chapter three, when it mentions Aaron, it mentions all of his children. These are the names of Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abeu Ellis r Nithamar. These are the names of the sons of Aaron, the anointed priest who he ordained to serve as priest. And then we read this in verse four. But Nadab and Abahu died before the Lord when they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord in the wilderness of Sinai.

That account is given in Leviticus ten. The closer you come to the presence of God, the more accountable you are. They went off script, and there was a price to pay for that because of God’s holiness. And immediately, though, with this, we see a question of human nature arise. Now think about it.

What happens when you’re told not to do something? Or when you’re told to do something? Hey, we’re just about to have dinner. Put the chips away. We’re just about to have dinner.

Please set the table.

I don’t know about you, but I want to eat the chips. In fact, now I want to eat them more than I did before. They’re more inviting to me and I don’t want to set the table. In fact, it seems a little unfair that I have to help all the time. Maybe that’s just me, but I doubt it.

Think about it. Nothing kills the desire to read a really, really good book like a teacher signing it for homework. Why is that? Oh, I can’t wait to read this. I read chapter three to four.

Oh man, you’re going to read it anyways. When you’re told not to do something, when you’re told to do something, there’s just this innate desire to do the opposite.

And what we see in numbers later is some of the Levites rebelling against Moses over this very thing. And later in Israel’s history, we see King Jerry Bomb set up two alternate worship sites with golden calfs. And and then there’s this curious line in verse Kings twelve, verse 31, it says, jerebaum also made temples on high places and appointed priests from among all the people who were not of the lead lights. That was considered a great sin.

A pastor friend of mine, Dave client, talking to you about numbers. He reminded me that the Bible keeps people from resentment, even though they have limitations placed on them. We’ll look later. Number six will introduce the Nazareth vow, which anyone can take to dedicate themselves in a special way to God. There is an equality given to all the tribes of Israel that they are all included as the people of God.

Even when their religious distinctions are present. There is an equality even with the difference. We know the royal line of Judah. Only from Judah was the king. We also know that the precise line is only from Levi of Aaron’s family.

And yet there were judges from different tribes of Israel included. Deborah there are male and female prophets from different tribes. Well, Testament scholar Ian Dugood reminds us, he said, those who are leaders in ministry do not appoint themselves. They are called by God to serve him and his people. God calls people in his service and for his purposes.

The Lord called Levi to serve in a special way. No doubt there were some from Levi who thought, oh, my goodness, this is so unfair. This is such a burden to me personally. Why do I have to carry this stuff? And no doubt there were some from another tribe who thought the calling of Levi was unfair and burdensome to them personally, who said, Why can’t I carry this stuff?

That’s human nature. And a lesson in human nature that we need to learn is we don’t have to have full understanding before we obey God.

We don’t have to know how it makes sense before we obey. I’m not saying things don’t make sense. I’m saying that we don’t have to first know before we do what we’re called. To Genesis Two. The Lord speaks to Adam and Eve.

You may surely eat of every tree in the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat. For in the day that you eat of it, you will surely die. Why not? The poisonous will make me sick, or the leaves like poison ivy and make me itch doesn’t look that much different than the other kinds of trees. This doesn’t make sense to me.

Why can’t I do what I want? Why are you oppressing me by limiting my options? Who are you to tell me what I can and cannot eat? I’ll show you the book of numbers. We see the same kind of thinking along the way in our own lives.

We see the same kind of thinking along the way. How is God going to be present with his people if they continually are setting fire to the gunpowder, to their own harm? It’s like watching someone you know stab their leg with a fork, complaining about the pain. And you’re like, Why don’t you stop stabbing yourself? I can’t believe you would say that to me.

How dare you? Can’t you see how much I’m hurting?

That’s us. We do it all the time for God to be present with us, he’s going to have to take care of the sin problem. He’s going to have to substitute His Son, the first born, for us. Jesus will have to bear the burden of the sacrifice once and for all. He will have to purchase our redemption, to buy us with his price.

That’s where Numbers is taking us. That’s what’s connecting all the dots, even as we heard in our scripture of exhortation, that we are not to have an evil and unbelieving heart like they did in the wilderness, that we are to come near and to share in Christ. That it is through Jesus once and for all, that these things the riot of Hebrews tells us, were shadows and copies. Everything in the tabernacle, all the temple stuff, all this is shadows and copies that are pointing to Jesus. And when Jesus completed them, that priesthood ended once and for all, because it’s no longer necessary.

Why? Because of the final work of Christ. It’s in him. The problem of God’s holiness and our gunpowder can finally come together once and for all because he deals with our sin. And then we are called then to walk in the newness of life and obedience to Him, even as we learn and grow along the way, maybe not knowing everything fully, but we step forward in fresh obedience because of what he has done.

That joy is put in our hearts we’re no longer trying to accomplish and prove to Him that somehow we’re worthy of our unworthiness, saying you, you couldn’t do it. I completed. I never left you people. I was here the whole time. And all of this was leading up to the revelation of my love for you and my Son, who has laid down his life willingly so that you could approach me without fear of death, that you now are holy because of the holiness of Christ, his righteousness given to us.

This is where Numbers is going. And if we fail to see how all this interlocks, we’re just left with arcane Bible stories that don’t make much sense to us, until we step back and we look at the beauty and the joy of this tapestry of redemption that God has woven from creation to revelation. And when you step back, you see Jesus in the midst of it. He is the one on display. He is the one that this book is about, that God does not leave his people.

And that’s good news for us, because we’re a faithless bunch who are constantly being called back to covenant renewal through the personal work of Jesus. Pray with me, Father. Indeed, we are so grateful for what you have done for us, for our behalf. And Father, we ask that not only you would forgive us, Lord, where we are constantly questioning you, constantly complaining, the Father, that you would set us on a new path, that you would continue to put before us the wonder and the joy of Jesus. And Father, I would pray that if there are any here who do not know, Father, your Son in this way, I would ask that you would grant them saving faith, that you would open their eyes to see the glory in the majesty of Christ, his finished work on their behalf.

We bless you, we adore you. We give you all praise, glory and honor. And this we offered you through Jesus, our risen Lord. Amen. You please stand together as we sing only a holy.

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