Parashat Bamidbar (In the Desert/Wilderness)
Bamidbar (Numbers) 1:1–4:20
The Book of Numbers in Hebrew is called “In the Desert (Wilderness)” and it speaks of the time when the children of Israel wandered in the desert after their redemption from slavery in Egypt. Many important things happened during their 40 years wandering in the desert, and God re-established the children of Israel as His covenant people after more than 400 years of slavery!
As I was reading and reflecting upon our weekly portion, I thought a lot about the “inner circle” that the tribe of Levi created in their service to and protection of the Tabernacle.
In Chapter 1, we find the specific instruction to count every man from every tribe who is above the age of 20, which was the minimum age to join the army:
Then the LORD spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tent of meeting, on the first of the second month, in the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying, “Take a census of all the congregation of the sons of Israel, by their families, by their fathers’ households, according to the number of names, every male, head by head from twenty years old and upward, whoever is able to go out to war in Israel, you and Aaron shall number them by their armies.”
However, when we read verse 47 of that chapter, we find that one of the tribes had a different role:
The Levites, however, were not numbered among them by their fathers’ tribe. For the LORD had spoken to Moses, saying, “Only the tribe of Levi you shall not number, nor shall you take their census among the sons of Israel. But you shall appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of the testimony, and over all its furnishings and over all that belongs to it. They shall carry the tabernacle and all its furnishings, and they shall take care of it; they shall also camp around the tabernacle.”
God had a different, specific role for the Levites; they were to care for the Tabernacle of the Testimony and everything connected to it. The Levites were to be separated unto God’s service, to fulfill a very specific role, which God predestined for them. In the next verse we find something small yet, very important for us to understand, since it has nothing to do with the role of the Levites:
So when the tabernacle is to set out, the Levites shall take it down; and when the tabernacle encamps, the Levites shall set it up. But the Stranger who comes near shall be put to death.
The stranger here refers to anyone who is not a Levite, which is basically anyone who is not from the specific group of people whom God has chosen to care for the Tabernacle of the Testimony. The consequence for this “stranger” who puts himself in the role of a Levite without being an actual Levite is death – a supernatural death by God Himself.
There is no doubt in my mind that the role of the Levites was sacred and important. While the Levites were not warriors fighting a physical war, they had a very challenging job of caring for and protecting that which belongs to God. The Levites were the “inner circle” of the Tabernacle, guarding the very presence of God Himself. Until today, when an important figure needs protection, there is the outer circle and the inner circle of security. While they have different roles, they are equally important and serve the same cause.
But what about the rest of the tribes? The rest of the tribes had just as much an important role in protecting the “outer circle”; they were to fight the wars, to be the front lines and the first circle of defense. Because there is blood and death in war, they would essentially be unclean, and therefore, they would be prevented from serving in God’s holy place, the Tabernacle. This, I believe, is the reason God set apart one tribe to care for His business, which protected His holiness.
My dear brothers and sisters in Messiah, I believe that this is a picture of the Body of Messiah. We are all called to his or her own role, yet we are all called to serve the same purpose, which is to build and care for the Kingdom of Heaven. We need each other in order to accomplish this. Let’s not forget this!
Did you know? — Lone Soldier
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