What does it say?
The story! The mission! Don’t lose your focus in the details that seem so irrelevant. They’re not. The Levites were not counted in the earlier general census, but here (Num 3) is a census specifically of Levites one month and older. God chose the Levites for himself in place of the firstborn of the other tribes (3:12).
All priests are Levites; not all Levites are priests. Only direct descendants of Aaron are priests. There are three other sons of Levi. Those of Gershon will care for the tabernacle’s external coverings. The family of Kohath will be in charge of the internal components, furnishings and veils. Merari will be responsible for the structural parts of the tabernacle, boards, bars and pillars. Inside the military parameter, Gershon, Kohath and Merari will camp on three sides of the tabernacle, while the priests would be on the east side, the entrance.
Another numbering of the Levites lists those from 30 to 50 years of age (Num 4). This is the age span of active duty in the service of the tabernacle. Gershon, Kohath and Merari receive more detailed instructions about their duties.
What does it mean?
God’s people are to be on the move. We have a mission among the nations and there is a specific place and specific responsibilities for everyone and everyone. In the first four chapters of Numbers the images are powerful. There is work, and there is war in the air. There are workers, warriors, worshippers and priests. Yet warring, working and worshiping all center on God’s presence in the tabernacle, center of the assembly of God’s people.
The way that God has a plan, place and position for each Israelite is striking. The same is true of God’s people today, and 1 Corinthians 12 is a vivid picture the organizational and organic structure of the assembly of believers. Every person in some way contributes to the advancement of the mission.
Despite the many flaws and failures of Israel in the desert, imagine the disaster if everyone just kind of did their own thing, wandered off, showed up when they thought about it and didn’t care to connect with others!
How will I respond?
Do I know my place and responsibilities in the body of Christ? Do I understand how my role directly links to the mission? What can I possibly learn from this passage that will advance my growth in understanding my role in God’s mission.