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B'Midbar/Numbers 8:15 And after this the Levites shall come to serve the Tent of Meeting
Reading this text in isolation, one would have to ask: after what? What is it that qualifies the Levites to serve the Tent of Meeting? The answer is found in the preceeding verses, and starts with being taken from among the rest of the people (v6), being sprinkled with the water of lustration (v7), shaving their whole bodies (v7), washing their clothes (v7), bringing sin offerings (v8), coming near beforeAdonai (v10), accepting Aharon's authority (v13), being themselves a wave offering to Adonai (v13) and finally being declared separate from the rest of Israel to be holy to the L-rd (v14). Then, and only then, are they fit to come and do the work of service in the Tent of Meeting.
In those eight steps we can see a foreshadowing of the process of becoming a believer. First of all there is the calling out process asHaShem singles us out. Hirsch groups the next three steps as a mechanical separation of self and the past. Normally, the sprinkling to remove the contamination of touching dead bodies (acquired when they killed 3,000 of the other tribes during the Golden Calf incident) is to be followed by a second sprinkling one week later, but in this case is substituted with being shaved over the whole body - quite a public denial of self, dignity and shedding one's past life. The bringing of the sin offerings can be allied to formal repentance and confession of sin - required before the sin offering could be accepted - and essential for us as believers to be able to accept G-d's forgiveness in Messiah Yeshua.
At this point the Levites had to come near before Adonai and accept the authority of Aharon the Cohen Gadol and the priests in general to be told what to do and when to do it. As believers, we cannot stand at a distance having simply said "Sorry" and asked for forgiveness, we have to accept Yeshua as L-rd as well as Saviour. We need to accept Yeshua as the ultimate authority in our lives and commit to obeying Him in all things. Having drawn near before Adonai and accepted the authority of the priesthood over them, the Levites then stood before the L-rd and were themselves a wave-offering - from the people, to be the portion of the sacrifice that belonged to the priests. Believers too are to be an offering (see Romans 12:1), a spiritual sacrifice constantly being offered to G-d.
The last step before actually starting their service in the Sanctuary was for the Levites to hear and accept the declaration of their new state - separate from the other tribes and set apart for G-d. As believers, we need to walk through the process of "transforming your minds" and not being "conformed to this world" that Rav Sha'ul describes in Romans 12:2 onwards. Yeshua prayed for the disciples, "They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Set them apart for holiness by means of the truth" (John 17:16-17, CJB).
Further Study: John 17:6-19; 1 John 2:15-17
Application: Where do you stand against that list of steps to being fit for service in the kingdom of G-d? Have you made that separation from the world and past life? Have you drawn near to G-d and stood before Him in Messiah Yeshua? Have you accepted Yeshua's authority in your life? Do you live a life 'in but not of' the world? Today is a day for moving forward!
© Jonathan Allen, 2005
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