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.