March 3, 2015

Priests and Small Things

Numbers 3:1–39
John 12:1–19
Psalm 3–4

When the Lord took His people out of Egypt, the final straw for Pharaoh was the death of the firstborn. God said that all would die unless the blood of a lamb was put on the door posts. Then the angel of death would see the blood and all who were in that house were safe. In this action, God was claiming the firstborn of Israel for Himself as well as turning the heart of Pharaoh.

Today, I read that God changed claim. Instead of the firstborn, He gives the priests a special place of substitution. “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Behold, I have taken the Levites from among the people of Israel instead of every firstborn who opens the womb among the people of Israel. The Levites shall be mine, for all the firstborn are mine. On the day that I struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, I consecrated for my own all the firstborn in Israel, both of man and of beast. They shall be mine: I am the Lord.’” (Numbers 3:11–13, italics are mine)

As many times as I’ve read the Bible, this is the first time I noticed this. I’ve no great insights into the significance of this change, nor what it means for God’s people today, but these New Testament verses came to mind:

“As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture: ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame . . . . But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:4–6, 9–10)

In days of old, the priests served God and made sacrifices on behalf of the people. When Christ came, their role faded away because Christ made the ultimate sacrifice. Now each believer can approach God without the need of a go-between. Yet God calls Christians a holy priesthood, a royal priesthood. We intercede for those who are not in the family of God (and for one another as needed).

The verses in Numbers that say priests became a substitute for those firstborn that God claimed for Himself. Is that talking about Christ as our High Priest? Certainly, but does it have anything to do with Christians who are now priests of God? I’m not sure, so must save my question until God chooses to reveal the answer.

The second part of that reading was job description for the priesthood. Here is a small part of what it says: “And Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest was to be chief over the chiefs of the Levites, and to have oversight of those who kept guard over the sanctuary. To Merari belonged the clan of the Mahlites and the clan of the Mushites: these are the clans of Merari. Their listing according to the number of all the males from a month old and upward was 6,200. And the chief of the fathers’ house of the clans of Merari was Zuriel the son of Abihail. They were to camp on the north side of the tabernacle. And the appointed guard duty of the sons of Merari involved the frames of the tabernacle, the bars, the pillars, the bases, and all their accessories; all the service connected with these; also the pillars around the court, with their bases and pegs and cords.” (Numbers 3:32–37)

Taking care of tent pegs does not seem like a big deal, but this tells me that whatever I do in obedience to God is part of His larger work. I may not see the big picture, but each task in important and obedience is never a waste of time.

Consider what Mary did . . . “Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, ‘Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?’ He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.’” (John 12:1–8) )

In another place, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” (Mark 14:9) Again, there are no small things. Every act of service for Jesus Christ has lasting value. I’m humbled by this truth.

The final reading is not particularly connected to the other two, but it is connected to my experience. Last night, I could not sleep. I prayed. I tossed. I was tired, but no sleep. These are the verses from the reading . . .  

“I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me. I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around . . . . Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah. In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” (Psalm 3:5–6, 4:4, 4:8)

In a way, this is connected. God is my priest, my intercessor. He comforts me with these words and tells me that my lack of sleep is not a small thing either. He knows the need and will sustain me and keep me safe.

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