Just before we enter the tabernacle proper, we must take another side-trip and look at another interesting word picture; the Levites, living sacrifices to the Lord. The Levites paint an interesting picture of our Christian life. They were ordinary Israelites with one exception; because they had chosen the Lord during the golden calf incident, God promised them a special blessing - they were to be inducted into the service of the Lord. This gives us a valuable lesson that we can apply to our own lives.
The Lord, our Service
I. Special blessing for the tribe of Levi, service in the Lord's "house." Exod 6:16-27; 32:26, 29; Num 1:49-53
As the believer/priest has been cleansed from the filth of his sin, he now enters into the service [worship, fellowship] of the Lord. The tribe of Levi was consecrated to the service of the Lord. It was their appointment by the Lord to act as assistants to the regular priests.
A little background is necessary. Both Moses and Aaron were descendants of the tribe of Levi (Exod 6:16-27). When the Israelites grew tired of waiting for Moses while on mount Sinai, they rebelled and made a golden calf for an idol. When Moses returned from the mount and discovered their sin, he stood at the gate of the camp and said, "'whoever is for the Lord, come to me!' and all the sons of Levi gathered together to him." (Exod 32:26). Because of this loyalty to the Lord and to Moses, the Lord reserved a special blessing to the tribe of Levi (vs 29). This blessing was to be in direct service unto Jehovah in the keeping and maintenance of the tabernacle, a type of Jesus Christ (num 1:49-53).
It was the Levites who prepared the tabernacle for Israel's journey in the wilderness. "...it had been their duty to look after the sacred vestments and vessels; the store-houses and their contents; and the preparation of the shewbread, of the meat-offerings, of the spices, etc. They were also generally to assist the priests in their work, to see to the cleaning of the sanctuary..."
Their preparation of the tabernacle for the traveling in the wilderness is another interesting study of the life of the Christian in this world - perhaps later we'll cover that subject.
II. The Levites, in the Service of the Lord. Num 8:11-26; Rom 12:1.
The Levites are a picture of you and me. They were appointed to the worship/service of the tabernacle of the Lord (which we know, is a picture of our Lord, Jesus Christ). Num 8:11-23. Here the Levites are a wave offering to the Lord - living sacrifices, if you please (vs 13; 15; 19; 21). Vs 16 "...I have taken the Levites for myself." The wave offering involved a special way of presentation, as the offering was moved back and forth in an horizontal fashion as it was presented. However, the Levites being a wave offering may refer to the it's root meaning which refers to a swinging motion as in wielding a sickle as a tool in harvesting grain. The Levites were to be a tool in the Lord's hands in the service of the tabernacle.
Now turn to Rom 12:1. "...living sacrifice..." I think Paul had precisely in mind the service of the Levites. The Levites were living sacrifices. They were the offering, not some animal. The whole idea of this unique sacrifice was that the Levites were to be dedicated wholly to the Lord Jesus Christ in the type of the tabernacle. You and I are an offering to the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom 12:1).
They were given to Aaron and his sons (a type of Jesus Christ) num 8:19a. You and I are given to Jesus Christ (Heb 2:13). They had no inheritance in the land of Israel for the Lord was their inheritance (Josh 13:33). Likewise you and I have no inheritance in this world, Jesus Christ is our inheritance (Eph 1:11, 12; gal 4:7).
They were to be a tool in the hand of the Lord (the meaning of the root word) - their vocation was Jesus Christ (again, the tabernacle) Num 8:26; 3:5-4:49. You and I are to be a "tool" in his hands - our vocation is Jesus Christ (1 Cor 15:58). We are ambassadors (2 Cor 5:20). We are his servants (John 13:13-16; Rom 1:1; 16:1; Col 4:12; Jude 1). He has made us a kingdom of kings and priests unto God (Rev 1:5, 6).
Anything short of total consecration to the service of Jesus Christ is rebellion against his service. For this read num 16 - the Levitical rebellion led by Korah.
Finally, this consecration is our reasonable service, worship (Rom 12:1) - it is the only Christian life-style that makes sense. It is our "charge," our work, our occupation.
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1. The Temple: Its Ministry and Services, Pg 60 Alfred Edersheim. Note this is a very large page.