Numbers 17-18 & Psalm 55

Numbers 17-18

     The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel, and get from them staffs, one for each fathers' house, from all their chiefs according to their fathers' houses, twelve staffs. Write each man's name on his staff, and write Aaron's name on the staff of Levi. For there shall be one staff for the head of each fathers' house. Then you shall deposit them in the tent of meeting before the testimony, where I meet with you. And the staff of the man whom I choose shall sprout. Thus I will make to cease from me the grumblings of the people of Israel, which they grumble against you.” Moses spoke to the people of Israel. And all their chiefs gave him staffs, one for each chief, according to their fathers' houses, twelve staffs. And the staff of Aaron was among their staffs. And Moses deposited the staffs before the LORD in the tent of the testimony.

    On the next day Moses went into the tent of the testimony, and behold, the staff of Aaron for the house of Levi had sprouted and put forth buds and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds. Then Moses brought out all the staffs from before the LORD to all the people of Israel. And they looked, and each man took his staff. And the LORD said to Moses, “Put back the staff of Aaron before the testimony, to be kept as a sign for the rebels, that you may make an end of their grumblings against me, lest they die.” Thus did Moses; as the LORD commanded him, so he did.

    And the people of Israel said to Moses, “Behold, we perish, we are undone, we are all undone. Everyone who comes near, who comes near to the tabernacle of the LORD, shall die. Are we all to perish?”

    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.” And the LORD said to Aaron, “You shall have no inheritance in their land, neither shall you have any portion among them. I am your portion and your inheritance among the people of Israel.

    “To the Levites I have given every tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service that they do, their service in the tent of meeting, so that the people of Israel do not come near the tent of meeting, lest they bear sin and die. But the Levites shall do the service of the tent of meeting, and they shall bear their iniquity. It shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations, and among the people of Israel they shall have no inheritance. For the tithe of the people of Israel, which they present as a contribution to the LORD, I have given to the Levites for an inheritance. Therefore I have said of them that they shall have no inheritance among the people of Israel.”

    And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Moreover, you shall speak and say to the Levites, ‘When you take from the people of Israel the tithe that I have given you from them for your inheritance, then you shall present a contribution from it to the LORD, a tithe of the tithe. And your contribution shall be counted to you as though it were the grain of the threshing floor, and as the fullness of the winepress. So you shall also present a contribution to the LORD from all your tithes, which you receive from the people of Israel. And from it you shall give the LORD's contribution to Aaron the priest. Out of all the gifts to you, you shall present every contribution due to the LORD; from each its best part is to be dedicated.’ Therefore you shall say to them, ‘When you have offered from it the best of it, then the rest shall be counted to the Levites as produce of the threshing floor, and as produce of the winepress. And you may eat it in any place, you and your households, for it is your reward in return for your service in the tent of meeting. And you shall bear no sin by reason of it, when you have contributed the best of it. But you shall not profane the holy things of the people of Israel, lest you die.’”

(Numbers 17-18 ESV)


Psalm 55

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. A Maskil of David.

    Give ear to my prayer, O God,
        and hide not yourself from my plea for mercy!
    Attend to me, and answer me;
        I am restless in my complaint and I moan,
    because of the noise of the enemy,
        because of the oppression of the wicked.
    For they drop trouble upon me,
        and in anger they bear a grudge against me.
    
    My heart is in anguish within me;
        the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
    Fear and trembling come upon me,
        and horror overwhelms me.
    And I say, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove!
        I would fly away and be at rest;
    yes, I would wander far away;
        I would lodge in the wilderness; Selah
    I would hurry to find a shelter
        from the raging wind and tempest.”
    
    Destroy, O Lord, divide their tongues;
        for I see violence and strife in the city.
    Day and night they go around it
        on its walls,
    and iniquity and trouble are within it;
        ruin is in its midst;
    oppression and fraud
        do not depart from its marketplace.
    
    For it is not an enemy who taunts me—
        then I could bear it;
    it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—
        then I could hide from him.
    But it is you, a man, my equal,
        my companion, my familiar friend.
    We used to take sweet counsel together;
        within God's house we walked in the throng.
    Let death steal over them;
        let them go down to Sheol alive;
        for evil is in their dwelling place and in their heart.
    
    But I call to God,
        and the LORD will save me.
    Evening and morning and at noon
        I utter my complaint and moan,
        and he hears my voice.
    He redeems my soul in safety
        from the battle that I wage,
        for many are arrayed against me.
    God will give ear and humble them,
        he who is enthroned from of old, Selah
    because they do not change
        and do not fear God.
    
    My companion stretched out his hand against his friends;
        he violated his covenant.
    His speech was smooth as butter,
        yet war was in his heart;
    his words were softer than oil,
        yet they were drawn swords.
    
    Cast your burden on the LORD,
        and he will sustain you;
    he will never permit
        the righteous to be moved.
    
    But you, O God, will cast them down
        into the pit of destruction;
    men of blood and treachery
        shall not live out half their days.
    But I will trust in you.

(Psalm 55 ESV)


Something to Consider

Numbers 18: Unlike the rest of the tribes of Israel, the tribal inheritance for the Levites does not include an allocation of any specific area of land in the Promised Land. Instead, their “inheritance” is the sufficient financial support from all the other tribes for their special service of shepherding over the sanctuary for the sake of the people. 

The Levites livelihood and income comes from the tithe given by the other tribes. This is their reward for their special work of transporting the tabernacle, serving in the tabernacle and bearing the burden associated with the holy activities. It was the job of the Levites and even more specifically the work of the priests that literally preserved and protected the people from perishing in the wrath of God. Those entrusted with the sacred task of protecting our souls bear a responsibility that is certainly worthy of a reward from our own resources. 

The greater the work and the greater the power entrusted to a person then the greater danger there is of that person falling into the temptation of betraying that trust. We ought to heavily consider the weight upon those in high leadership positions concerning the souls of men and heavily examine why we may envy such great responsibility.

Those called by God to shepherd the people of God ought to be properly cared for by those under their leadership. It is their special duty to remain fully devoted to the service of the Lord and His people, and therefore they do not need to be distracted or disturbed by worldly concerns and financial provision. We give our first fruits to the Lord by supporting those He’s specially called to care for His people. 

God calls men out of the business of this world and into the whole-hearted service of His church. It is a great privilege and honor to be called by God and to be entrusted with the leadership over His people. May we reward those who faithfully bear this great responsibility, and may these men remain focused on their whole-hearted service to God and His people.