God held Aaron and his sons responsible for the tabernacle ministry

Philip Melancthon, the great Reformation theologian, once said to his friend Martin Luther, “This day you and I will discuss the governance of the universe.” What Luther said in response was unexpected: “This day you and I will go fishing and leave the governance o … More

Responsibility

Throughout this book, God’s people have been stubborn and rebellious, and the Lord has chastened them for it. But in spite of their disobedience, the Lord has been faithful to care for them. Because of His judgment of the rebels at the tabernacle (16:31-35), and His miraculous defense of Aaron’s high priestly ministry (17:10-13), the people were afraid to even have the tabernacle in their camp. Yet Israel was the only nation to have the glory of the living God present with them and going before them (Rom. 9:4).

In today’s reading, God speaks expressly to Aaron (vv. 1,8) which elevates his high priestly ministry even more. The Lord makes it clear that it is the responsibility of the priests to minister in the tabernacle and protect it from being defiled. It is also the responsibility of the Levites to assist the priests in their tabernacle ministry. As long as the priests and Levites obeyed this rule there would be no judgment of the people (v. 5). The priestly ministry was a very serious matter and God held Aaron and his sons responsible for offenses committed against the sanctuary and the priesthood. The priesthood was God’s gift to Israel, for without priests the people could not approach God. The first-born of all animals belonged to God, but they could be redeemed with a price and used for ordinary purposes.

The Lord tells the priests that everything in Israel that has been completely dedicated to me will now belong to you (v. 14). From now on, the sacred offerings that the Israelites give to me will belong to you, your sons, and your daughters. Everything rises and falls on leadership, and Aaron was the leader of the priestly family. He was accountable to God for what happened in the sanctuary (v. 7). Today, God doesn’t dwell in temples made with hands (Acts 7:48), but He does dwell in our bodies by His Holy Spirit (I Cor. 6:19-20). Therefore we must be very careful how we treat our bodies.

Application

Lord, help me to sense my responsibility each day in serving those you have entrusted to me.

Numbers 18:1-19 (English Standard Version)

So the LORD said to Aaron, "You and your sons and your father's house with you shall bear iniquity connected with the sanctuary, and you and your sons with you shall bear iniquity connected with your priesthood. And with you bring your brothers also, the tribe of Levi, the tribe of your father, that they may join you and minister to you while you and your sons with you are before the tent of the testimony. They shall keep guard over you and over the whole tent, but shall not come near to the vessels of the sanctuary or to the altar lest they, and you, die. They shall join you and keep guard over the tent of meeting for all the service of the tent, and no outsider shall come near you. And you shall keep guard over the sanctuary and over the altar, that there may never again be wrath on the people of Israel. And behold, I have taken your brothers the Levites from among the people of Israel. They are a gift to you, given to the LORD, to do the service of the tent of meeting. And you and your sons with you shall guard your priesthood for all that concerns the altar and that is within the veil; and you shall serve. I give your priesthood as a gift, and any outsider who comes near shall be put to death." Then the LORD spoke to Aaron, "Behold, I have given you charge of the contributions made to me, all the consecrated things of the people of Israel. I have given them to you as a portion and to your sons as a perpetual due. This shall be yours of the most holy things, reserved from the fire: every offering of theirs, every grain offering of theirs and every sin offering of theirs and every guilt offering of theirs, which they render to me, shall be most holy to you and to your sons. In a most holy place shall you eat it. Every male may eat it; it is holy to you. This also is yours: the contribution of their gift, all the wave offerings of the people of Israel. I have given them to you, and to your sons and daughters with you, as a perpetual due. Everyone who is clean in your house may eat it. All the best of the oil and all the best of the wine and of the grain, the firstfruits of what they give to the LORD, I give to you. The first ripe fruits of all that is in their land, which they bring to the LORD, shall be yours. Everyone who is clean in your house may eat it. Every devoted thing in Israel shall be yours. Everything that opens the womb of all flesh, whether man or beast, which they offer to the LORD, shall be yours. Nevertheless, the firstborn of man you shall redeem, and the firstborn of unclean animals you shall redeem. And their redemption price (at a month old you shall redeem them) you shall fix at five shekels in silver, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, which is twenty gerahs. But the firstborn of a cow, or the firstborn of a sheep, or the firstborn of a goat, you shall not redeem; they are holy. You shall sprinkle their blood on the altar and shall burn their fat as a food offering, with a pleasing aroma to the LORD. But their flesh shall be yours, as the breast that is waved and as the right thigh are yours. All the holy contributions that the people of Israel present to the LORD I give to you, and to your sons and daughters with you, as a perpetual due. It is a covenant of salt forever before the LORD for you and for your offspring with you."

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