Numbers 4 & Psalm 38

Numbers 4

    The LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, “Take a census of the sons of Kohath from among the sons of Levi, by their clans and their fathers' houses, from thirty years old up to fifty years old, all who can come on duty, to do the work in the tent of meeting. This is the service of the sons of Kohath in the tent of meeting: the most holy things. When the camp is to set out, Aaron and his sons shall go in and take down the veil of the screen and cover the ark of the testimony with it. Then they shall put on it a covering of goatskin and spread on top of that a cloth all of blue, and shall put in its poles. And over the table of the bread of the Presence they shall spread a cloth of blue and put on it the plates, the dishes for incense, the bowls, and the flagons for the drink offering; the regular showbread also shall be on it. Then they shall spread over them a cloth of scarlet and cover the same with a covering of goatskin, and shall put in its poles. And they shall take a cloth of blue and cover the lampstand for the light, with its lamps, its tongs, its trays, and all the vessels for oil with which it is supplied. And they shall put it with all its utensils in a covering of goatskin and put it on the carrying frame. And over the golden altar they shall spread a cloth of blue and cover it with a covering of goatskin, and shall put in its poles. And they shall take all the vessels of the service that are used in the sanctuary and put them in a cloth of blue and cover them with a covering of goatskin and put them on the carrying frame. And they shall take away the ashes from the altar and spread a purple cloth over it. And they shall put on it all the utensils of the altar, which are used for the service there, the fire pans, the forks, the shovels, and the basins, all the utensils of the altar; and they shall spread on it a covering of goatskin, and shall put in its poles. And when Aaron and his sons have finished covering the sanctuary and all the furnishings of the sanctuary, as the camp sets out, after that the sons of Kohath shall come to carry these, but they must not touch the holy things, lest they die. These are the things of the tent of meeting that the sons of Kohath are to carry.

    “And Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest shall have charge of the oil for the light, the fragrant incense, the regular grain offering, and the anointing oil, with the oversight of the whole tabernacle and all that is in it, of the sanctuary and its vessels.”

    The LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, “Let not the tribe of the clans of the Kohathites be destroyed from among the Levites, but deal thus with them, that they may live and not die when they come near to the most holy things: Aaron and his sons shall go in and appoint them each to his task and to his burden, but they shall not go in to look on the holy things even for a moment, lest they die.”

    The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Take a census of the sons of Gershon also, by their fathers' houses and by their clans. From thirty years old up to fifty years old, you shall list them, all who can come to do duty, to do service in the tent of meeting. This is the service of the clans of the Gershonites, in serving and bearing burdens: they shall carry the curtains of the tabernacle and the tent of meeting with its covering and the covering of goatskin that is on top of it and the screen for the entrance of the tent of meeting and the hangings of the court and the screen for the entrance of the gate of the court that is around the tabernacle and the altar, and their cords and all the equipment for their service. And they shall do all that needs to be done with regard to them. All the service of the sons of the Gershonites shall be at the command of Aaron and his sons, in all that they are to carry and in all that they have to do. And you shall assign to their charge all that they are to carry. This is the service of the clans of the sons of the Gershonites in the tent of meeting, and their guard duty is to be under the direction of Ithamar the son of Aaron the priest.

    “As for the sons of Merari, you shall list them by their clans and their fathers' houses. From thirty years old up to fifty years old, you shall list them, everyone who can come on duty, to do the service of the tent of meeting. And this is what they are charged to carry, as the whole of their service in the tent of meeting: the frames of the tabernacle, with its bars, pillars, and bases, and the pillars around the court with their bases, pegs, and cords, with all their equipment and all their accessories. And you shall list by name the objects that they are required to carry. This is the service of the clans of the sons of Merari, the whole of their service in the tent of meeting, under the direction of Ithamar the son of Aaron the priest.”

    And Moses and Aaron and the chiefs of the congregation listed the sons of the Kohathites, by their clans and their fathers' houses, from thirty years old up to fifty years old, everyone who could come on duty, for service in the tent of meeting; and those listed by clans were 2,750. This was the list of the clans of the Kohathites, all who served in the tent of meeting, whom Moses and Aaron listed according to the commandment of the LORD by Moses.

    Those listed of the sons of Gershon, by their clans and their fathers' houses, from thirty years old up to fifty years old, everyone who could come on duty for service in the tent of meeting—those listed by their clans and their fathers' houses were 2,630. This was the list of the clans of the sons of Gershon, all who served in the tent of meeting, whom Moses and Aaron listed according to the commandment of the LORD.

    Those listed of the clans of the sons of Merari, by their clans and their fathers' houses, from thirty years old up to fifty years old, everyone who could come on duty, for service in the tent of meeting—those listed by clans were 3,200. This was the list of the clans of the sons of Merari, whom Moses and Aaron listed according to the commandment of the LORD by Moses.

    All those who were listed of the Levites, whom Moses and Aaron and the chiefs of Israel listed, by their clans and their fathers' houses, from thirty years old up to fifty years old, everyone who could come to do the service of ministry and the service of bearing burdens in the tent of meeting, those listed were 8,580. According to the commandment of the LORD through Moses they were listed, each one with his task of serving or carrying. Thus they were listed by him, as the LORD commanded Moses.

(Numbers 4 ESV)


Psalm 38

A Psalm of David, for the memorial offering.

    O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger,
        nor discipline me in your wrath!
    For your arrows have sunk into me,
        and your hand has come down on me.
    
    There is no soundness in my flesh
        because of your indignation;
    there is no health in my bones
        because of my sin.
    For my iniquities have gone over my head;
        like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.
    
    My wounds stink and fester
        because of my foolishness,
    I am utterly bowed down and prostrate;
        all the day I go about mourning.
    For my sides are filled with burning,
        and there is no soundness in my flesh.
    I am feeble and crushed;
        I groan because of the tumult of my heart.
    
    O Lord, all my longing is before you;
        my sighing is not hidden from you.
    My heart throbs; my strength fails me,
        and the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me.
    My friends and companions stand aloof from my plague,
        and my nearest kin stand far off.
    
    Those who seek my life lay their snares;
        those who seek my hurt speak of ruin
        and meditate treachery all day long.
    
    But I am like a deaf man; I do not hear,
        like a mute man who does not open his mouth.
    I have become like a man who does not hear,
        and in whose mouth are no rebukes.
    
    But for you, O LORD, do I wait;
        it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.
    For I said, “Only let them not rejoice over me,
        who boast against me when my foot slips!”
    
    For I am ready to fall,
        and my pain is ever before me.
    I confess my iniquity;
        I am sorry for my sin.
    But my foes are vigorous, they are mighty,
        and many are those who hate me wrongfully.
    Those who render me evil for good
        accuse me because I follow after good.
    
    Do not forsake me, O LORD!
        O my God, be not far from me!
    Make haste to help me,
        O Lord, my salvation!

(Psalm 38 ESV)


Something to Consider

Numbers 4: Three different Levitical clans (extended families) are assigned specific acts of service as it pertains to transporting the tabernacle from place to place. Of the three clans, the Kohathite clan was given the assignment that required the most caution and the highest responsibility. They were responsible for the holy items in the most holy place of the tabernacle. Items such as the ark of the covenant and the altars. These items were so holy that the Kohathite priests had to heavily wrap them and cover them up unless someone looked at them and died. It was understood that nobody could look at the glory of God and live (Exodus 33), and these items mysteriously shared such glory. Therefore, approaching them or handling them too casually could kill you. 

The penalty of immediate death for approaching the holy presence and glory of God indicates that we need Someone capable of standing perfectly in God's presence without perishing. This Someone would be appropriately fit to serve as a mediator between us and God without the fear of sudden death and therefore the consistent need for another mediator to replace Him.

Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. (Hebrews 9)

Christ is not simply capable of handling the holy items placed in the holiest part of the tabernacle; Christ enters into heaven itself and stands in the very presence of God in the holiest of all holy places. When we consider the deadly consequences of approaching God too casually under the Levitical priesthood, how much more amazement, awe and wonder should we feel for the freedoms we now have under the priesthood of Christ? May we heavily and soberly consider the incredible privilege that through Christ we have peace with God and access by faith to stand in the very presence of God (Romans 5). And may we always approach Him with fear and confidence through faith in the name of Christ.