REAL LIFE expository study devotional 5 – The Making of the Nation of God 3: The Levitical Code of Worship and Separation

Kponu, Dieovietoo Fabian

Day 4: The Levites.

‘‘Bring the tribe of Levi near, and present them before Aaron the high priest, that they may minister unto him.’’ Num. 3:6
Additional reading: Num. 8:6, 18:2
While Aaron has been consecrated as high priest and his sons as priests with the sole responsibility to prepare the camp for worship and ensure holy living amongst God’s people through daily sacrifices, God again gives another charge to Moses concerning the Levites who were actually relatives of Moses for Moses himself was from the tribe of Levi (Exo.2:1-2,10).
‘‘And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, bring the tribe of Levi near, and present them before Aaron the high priest, that they may minister unto him.’’ If you recall, when God spoke to Moses concerning Aaron and his sons, God was specific. Here also, we see a specific statement being made concerning the tribe of Levi, and this no doubt was going to be their definite responsibility. However, we must be careful to note the difference between the assignment given to Aaron and his sons and that assigned to the tribe of Levi.
Concerning Aaron and his sons God said: ‘‘And take thou unto thee Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office, even Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar, Aaron’s sons.’’ And regarding the tribe of Levi God said: ‘‘Bring the tribe of Levi near, and present them before Aaron the high priest, that they may minister unto him.’’
While Aaron and his sons were to function in the office of priests as mediators between God and Israel offering sacrifices daily for the sins of the camp of Israel so that they could access God, God’s call concerning the Levites was different. God instructed Moses thus: ‘‘Bring the tribe of Levi near, and present them before Aaron the high priest, that they may minister [sarat — a primitive root; to attend as a menial or worshipper; figuratively to contribute to: – minister, minister unto, serve, do service, servant, servitor, wait on] unto him.’’
Have you noticed the obvious differences between the assignment given to Aaron and his sons and that of the tribe of Levi? Firstly, while Aaron and his sons were to appear before Moses before their consecration into the priestly office, the tribe of Levi was to appear before Aaron. Secondly and where the whole issue lies; Aaron and his sons were to function as mediators between God and the people, therefore, they were to work directly before God — atoning for the sins of the camp offering sacrifices. This was not the case with the tribe of Levi. The tribe of Levi was to minister unto Aaron and his sons, i.e. they were to attend to them, assist them, serve them, wait on them and (or) help them as they (Aaron and his sons) performed their duties. In other words, the tribe of Levi were servants to Aaron and his sons. Put in another way, they complemented the service of Aaron and his sons who were the priests. Again, they contributed their quota in the camp by serving Aaron and his sons.
So, what were the duties of the Levites? Levi had three sons; they were Gershon, Kohath and Merari. The Gershonites were assigned specifically to carry the curtains of the tabernacle of meeting and all holy coverings and ropes. ‘‘The Gershonites will be responsible for carrying the curtains of the sacred tent, its two outer coverings, the curtain for the entrance to the tent, the curtains hanging around the courtyard of the tent, and the curtain and ropes for the entrance of the courtyard…’’ (Num.3:24-26 CEV). Ithamar had authority over the family of Gershon. The children of Kohath were assigned the most holy things, which were the furnishings of the sanctuary. ‘‘The Kohathites will be responsible for carrying the sacred objects used in worship at the sacred tent.’’ (Num.4:4 CEV).  Eleazar supervised all activities of the Kohath children. The Merarites were to attend to all the structures of the taberbacle with Ithamar also as their supervisor. ‘‘The Merarites will be responsible for carrying the frames of the tent and its other pieces, including the bars, the posts, the stands, as well  as the posts that support the courtyard, together with their stands, tent pegs, and ropes. The Merarites are to be told exactly what objects they are to carry…’’ (Num.4:31-32 CEV).
This was a clear cause of division of labour. But beyond this, it portrayed God as a holy God and as such, all persons in His service must do so in total reverence, purity and holiness. Everyone had a specific task, so no one was expected to do the contrary. By extension, the entire nation of Israel was expected to follow in the footsteps of the priests and attendants in upholding holiness within and around the camp as even negligence of duty attracted the death penalty: ‘ ‘‘When Aaron and his sons have finished covering the holy furnishings and all the holy articles, and the camp is ready to set out, the Kohathites are to come and do the carrying. But they must not touch the holy things or they will die. But the Kohathites themselves must not go into look at the holy things, not even a glance at them, or they will die.’’ ’ (Num.4:15, 20 GNB).
God is holy and His temple must be kept holy. God is holy and His servants must uphold holiness and remain in total obedience to their call. We are His temple; therefore, our body must be kept holy for His use. We are His servants and children; we must uphold holiness and remain in our call if we are to approach Him.
Meditation: How well have I kept my vessel, which is the LORD’s temple?
Prayer: My body is Your sanctuary; purify me as gold, so that I can be bold to say that my body is Your sanctuary.

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REAL LIFE Expository Study Devotional: THE MAKING OF THE NATION OF GOD 5 – The Levitical Code of Worship and Separation

Kponu, Dieovietoo Fabian

Day 3: Aaron and his sons.

‘‘And take thou unto thee Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office, even Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar, Aaron’s sons’’. Exo.28:1

Additional reading: Num. 18:7; Heb. 5:1, 4

Having given Moses a structural layout of His place of worship, it was expedient to appoint officials to ensure proper worship procedures and other activities related to godliness in the camp. So God told Moses: ‘‘And take thou unto thee Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office, even Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar, Aaron’s sons.’’

Here again God was specific, He did not mince words; He clearly told Moses those who were to act in the priest’s office: ‘‘And take [qarab … a primitive root; to approach (causatively bring near) for whatever purpose, bring, cause to bring, bring forth, come, come near, come nigh, draw nigh, present, produce, make ready] thou unto thee Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him, from among [min … properly a part of; hence (prepositionally),from or out of in many senses….] the children of Israel, that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office [kahan … a primitive root; apparently meaning to mediate in religious services; to officiate as a priest; figuratively to put on regalia:- deck, be priest, do the office of a priest, executive the priest’s office, minister in the priest’s office ], even Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar, Aaron’s sons.’’

Moses was instructed by God, thus: Bring [make ready, produce and present] Aaron your brother and his sons out from the children of Israel that Aaron and his sons; Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar will officiate as priests — (Author’s words). As priests, Aaron and his sons were to act as intermediaries (mediators) between God and man by offering sacrifices for the sins of the people and leading the nation of Israel in worship of the LORD.  Put in another way, as priest (chosen by God from among the people) they were simply mediators between God and the people of Israel. They were to interpret,  uphold and make known to the people the will of God as contained in the Ten Commandments — the Covenant, and at the same time mediate on behalf of the people by offering sacrifices to atone for the sins of the people, and, of course, their sins too. ‘‘FROM AMONG the Israelites take you brother Aaron and his sons with him, that he may minister to Me in the priest’s office, even Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. (AMP).

In this regard, God detailed Moses on every single issue concerning the priesthood of Aaron and his sons including their ceremonial regalia even to the manner of their consecration. Every bit of attire had its significance.

The breastplate: It was square shaped and where 12 precious stones were placed with the names of the 12 tribes of Israel inscribed on each stone — 28:4.
The ephod: It was a sleeveless garment reaching the knee and worn as an apron over the robe — v6.
The names of Israel: He represented the people as high priest as Christ represents us in the presence of God — v 29
The Urim and the Thummim: Were used to determine the will of God. The literal meaning is ‘‘lights‘’ and ‘‘perfections,’’ or ‘‘curses’’ and ‘‘perfections.’’ — v30

For Aaron and his sons to function effectively as priests they were of necessity to be taken from among their people. This was so because for them to function in this office as mediators they needed to know the people, their lifestyle, thought pattern, their pains, etc. This was a qualification that could not be washed away because for intercession to be effective the mediator or priest must of necessity empathize with the people, i.e. identify with the people, feel and understand their pains the way they do. And again, Aaron and his sons did not choose themselves; neither did Moses, but God Himself appointed them to minister to Him as priests — to prepare the camp for worship. As high priest, Aaron represented the people in the presence of the LORD each time he entered the Holy of holies.

Again, we see God’s earnest desire to have His people continuously live holy and righteous lives. No one can worship God in sin and trespasses. In this regard, God appointed priests to offer sacrifices daily to atone for the sins of the people so that there will be no barrier as they lifted up their hands in worship unto the LORD. As members of the congregation of Christ, who have been redeemed by Jesus, we must present our bodies holy that our worship is not hindered. 

Meditation: Have I been worshipping the LORD in sin or in holiness and righteousness?

Prayer:  Cleanse me once again as I surrender my life, my all; that I can worship You in the beauty of holiness.

REAL LIFE expository study devotional 5 – The Making of the Nation of God 3: The Levitical Code of Worship and Separation.

Kponu, Dieovietoo Fabian

Day 2: God’s pattern of worship — a review

‘‘According to all that I shew thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it.’’ Exo. 25:9

Additional reading: Act. 7:14; Heb. 8:5

We are to respond to God’s great mercy shown towards us through a daily commitment of worship. This Paul said is the only logical thing expected of us as members of the congregation of the called out ones. However, God is not to be worshipped in our own pattern. If we must worship Him, it must be in true holiness and righteousness as reflected in His ideal pattern of worship in His congregation.

Having delivered His children from the place of sin and bondage, God went ahead to give them a pattern of how He was to be worshipped. This was necessary because the people needed to know that God was different from the idols of Egypt and other surrounding nations and as such should be worshipped differently — in His terms. God, therefore, took out the time to give Moses instructions — a layout plan of His place of worship, the instruments or furnishings as well as the way and manner He was to be worshipped. God also designed the clothing of His priests, chose them and spelt out their responsibilities. 

God began by telling Moses the kind of gifts His children were to take before Him. Then He expressed His desire to live in the midst of His children: ‘‘Let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.’’ (V 8 WEB). ‘‘I also want them to build a special place where I can live among my people.’’ (CEV). God has always sought the fellowship of man right from creation. And having raised a people after Him, He again demonstrates His willingness to live in the midst of His children. With His desires known, He went on to describe the kind of place to be built for Him: ‘‘According to all that I shew thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it.’’

‘‘And let them make [asa … a primitive root; to do or make — do, dress, fashion, furnish, prepare] a sanctuary [miqdas …a consecrated thing or place]; that I may dwell [sakan … through the idea of lodging, to reside or permanently stay:- abide, dwell, have habitation, inhabit, lay, remain, rest, set, set up] among [tawek … from an unusual root meaning to sever; a bisection, i.e. (by implication) the centre:- among, amongst, between, half, in, therein, wherein, middle, midst, with, within] them. According to all that I shew thee, after the pattern [tabnit … structure; by implication a model, resemblance: – figure, form, likeness, pattern, similitude] of the tabernacle [miskan … a residence, the grave, also the temple; specifically the tabernacle (properly its wooden walls):- dwellet, dwelling, dwelling place, habitation, tent], and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it.

So God instructed Moses: Ask the people to prepare a holy place for Me for a habitation in the midst of My children. The tent of dwelling and all the vessels are to be according to the model I will show you — (Author’s words). ‘‘The people must make a sacred Tent for Me, so that I may live among them. Make it and all its furnishings according to the plan that I will show you.’’ (Exo. 25: 8-9 GNB). The tabernacle, therefore, was a place sacred, thus, dedicated for the presence of God. For this reason God had to give a precise description of how it was to be built or structured. May I also say that one reason why God insisted on high quality and precision is the fact that He wanted to express His greatness. And making it mobile was an expression of His desire to abide continually in the midst of His people. So, what were the things that made up the tabernacle?

The offering: Was to be freewill offering. Individuals were to decide what to give based on what God had requested — v 2.
The tabernacle: Was a sacred place of dwelling for God’s presence — a place set apart for God to dwell and meet with His children. The glory of God rested here and whenever God’s presence moved the camp of Israel moved. With this God led Israel for the years they wandered in the wilderness. It was the tabernacle of testimony as it contained the Ten Commandments. It was the place God made forgiveness of sins possible by the blood sacrifice of animals, which foreshadowed the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. It points to a heavenly tabernacle where Christ, our High Priest lives forever and to God’s final redemption when God will abide with His children forever — v 9.

The ark: Made of Shittim (acacia) wood. Was a chest containing the Ten Commandments, a pot of manna and Aaron’s staff that budded. Over it was a cover called the Mercy seat with two carved Cherubim facing each other. The ark was placed in the most holy place called the Holy of holies, which was akin to God’s throne and where the high priest entered once a year, i.e. the Day of Atonement to sprinkle blood for the people’s sins — v10.
The testimony: Was the stone on which was inscribed the Ten Commandments Moses received from God — v16.
The Mercy Seat: Also called the atonement cover was a symbol of God’s throne. On the Day of Atonement the high priest sprinkled blood of the sacrifice to make atonement for the sins of the people of the previous year. It is believed that the sprinkling of the blood of sacrifice was done in the shape of the cross — v17.

Cherubim: These were carvings of angelic beings surrounding God’s throne in heaven. They represented the worship of God, His presence and kingship among His people on earth — v18.
The table and showbread: It symbolized God as the Provider who gave them bread all their time in the wilderness. The showbread foreshadowed Jesus Christ as the Bread of Life — v23, 30.

The lampstand: Symbolized God as the light that guided them in their Exodus. A type of Christ, who is our light — v31-40
With all this done, God proceeded to give further instructions concerning the pattern of the tabernacle — His house, which must be built to His specification and taste. These included the curtains, the bars, veil, the Most Holy Place, the altar, and all other vessels including the garments for the priests needed for the worship of the LORD.

It is obvious that God was clearly telling His children that He is God; holy and righteous and anyone worshipping Him must do so in holiness, righteousness and in spirit. This explains why He asked for a holy place — consecrated, i.e. set apart to be prepared for Him, which will be His dwelling in the midst of His children with the priest offering daily sacrifices for the sins of the people so that they could worship Him.

It is interesting to know that God personally instituted the art of worship. Not only did He institute worship, He gave a model and this makes Him a partaker of our worship. Every item in God’s place of worship was consecrated — set apart for that purpose. In other words, every item performed a service, i.e. every item was a tool of worship.

God no longer dwells in houses or tabernacles built by hands and He no longer relies on material vessels, which were mere symbols of worship. Our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit; He dwells in us and so we have now become His vessels of worship all because of the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus Christ. Just as those items were set apart for the worship of the LORD through the blood of goats, we have also been set apart for this same purpose. Therefore, we must deliberately in total submission and commitment present our bodies as aroma of worship to the LORD as He has patterned our lives to be. 

Meditation: Have I come to terms with God’s desire to use me as a vessel for His worship?

Prayer: I am ready to be used for Your worship; use me LORD.

REAL LIFE expository study devotional 5 – The Making of the Nation of God 3:The Levitical Code of Worship and Separation

Kponu, Dieovietoo Fabian

Day 1: God’s code of worship.

‘‘According to all that I shew thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it.’’ Exo. 25:9

Additional reading: Act. 7:14; Heb. 8:5

This is The Making of the Nation of God 3: The Levitical Code of Worship and Separation. This study will deal basically with God’s model for worship and His standard for righteous living in the camp of Israel as handed down by God Himself to Aaron and his sons and the Levites through Moses.

In the beginning of this study, i.e. The Making of the Nation of God 1: From Adam to the Entering into Egypt, I did say that the reason why God made man was for man to know God, love God and be with God forever in the next world to come. Despite the sin of Adam and Eve, God showed His love towards mankind and promised to redeem man through the seed of the woman. From that moment, God set in motion His divine redemptive plan to restore man to his first estate.

So, from Adam through Noah to Abraham, God made His intentions known. Specifically, God did not fail to mention to Abraham His grand design to raise a seed through Abraham by whom all the nations of the earth would be blessed. God also promised to raise a multitude of people through him. He also did not fail to tell him that his children would be held in captivity for several years but at the end He would deliver them, then, give them a land of their own. All these were fulfilled except the promised seed, which was partially fulfilled in Isaac (in the Old Covenant) with its full fulfilment being in Jesus Christ (in the New Covenant).

The book of the Exodus, which contains God’s multifaceted acts of deliverance expresses further, God’s continued desire to have a people set aside for His purpose; a people named after Him and called to worship Him in spirit and in truth, a people strikingly different from those of other nations.
In Genesis 3:18, God said to Moses: ‘‘…and thou shalt come, thou and the elders of Israel, unto the King of Egypt, and ye shall say unto him, The LORD God of the Hebrews hath met with us: and now let us go, we beseech thee, three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.’’ Moses in company of the elders of Israel were to appear before the Pharaoh of Egypt to demand of him three days off their daily labour so that they would journey into the wilderness to worship the LORD their God.

Let us examine this: ‘‘…and thou shalt come, thou and the elders of Israel, unto the King of Egypt, and ye shall say unto him, The LORD God of the Hebrews hath met with us: and now let us go, we beseech thee, three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice[zabah — a primitive root; to slaughter an animal (usually in sacrifice):- kill, offer, sacrifice, do sacrifice, slay ] to the LORD our God.’’
If you study the book of Exodus, you would notice that all through the negotiations between Moses and Pharaoh, Moses consistently demanded Pharaoh as directed by God to let the children of Israel go on a three days’ journey into the wilderness. This journey into the wilderness was to afford them total separation from all that had to do with Egypt. Please note that Egypt was a symbol of sin, so they needed to be separated from Egypt entirely. Zabah, which is the Hebrew word for sacrifice, a primitive root to offer an animal in sacrifice denotes worship. And the implication was to take a three days’ journey into the wilderness to rid themselves from sin so that they could approach the LORD in worship. This was also necessary because it was only in offering sacrifices that man could be cleansed from sin.

The book of Exodus therefore, was God’s continued process of making a people after Him. He established this by calling His nation out from Egypt to worship Him after His great acts of deliverance by giving them the Levitical code of worship through His appointed priests. This gathering in the wilderness was God’s congregation of the called out ones but not with the blood of Jesus Christ.

Today, we are all members of an assembly of the called out ones who have been redeemed by the bloody of Jesus Christ, and believe that the word of God is the final authority, that is the church (ekklesia). Being redeemed implies that we have been separated from sin like the people of old so that we too can offer sacrifices unto the LORD in the newness of our lives. Therefore, Paul wrote saying: ‘‘I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.’’

What really did Paul mean? Let us see: ‘‘I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice [thysia — sacrifice (the act or the victim, literally or figuratively):- sacrifice], holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable [logikos — rational (‘‘logical’’):- reasonable, of the word] service [latreia — ministration of God, i.e. worship:- (divine) service].’’

According to Paul, we are no longer to offer animal sacrifices as the people of old did in the wilderness, but in total submission and commitment unto God, as the called out assembly of the LORD, we are to humbly offer our bodies as a living sacrifice daily to God, this in the right sense of judgement is the only service we can render unto the LORD, which is worship. Read this: ‘‘So then, my friends, because of God’s great mercy to us I appeal to you: Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer.’’ (GNB).

The charge is that we the assembly of the called out ones should respond to God’s great mercy shown towards us by consecrating ourselves unto God through worship, which is the only thing we can offer the LORD while maintaining a life of holiness and righteousness.

Meditation: How do I respond to God’s great mercy shown towards me?
Prayer: In response to Your great mercy shown towards me; I offer my life as a living sacrifice and may my life be pleasing and acceptable before Your throne.