May 18, 2021
Numbers 8: 5-22
Rev. Clair Sauer, Clergy
Jones Memorial UMC, Chattanooga
Scenic South District
Numbers 8: 5-22 (CEB)
The Lord spoke to Moses: 6Separate the Levites from the Israelites and cleanse them. 7This is what you will do to them to cleanse them: Sprinkle water of purification on them, have them shave their bodies, wash their clothes, and cleanse themselves. 8They will take a bull from the herd, with its grain offering of fine flour mixed with oil. You will take a second bull from the herd for a purification offering. 9You will bring the Levites before the meeting tent and gather the entire Israelite community. 10Then you will bring the Levites into the Lord’s presence, and the Israelites will lay their hands on the Levites. 11Aaron will present the Levites as an uplifted offering in the Lord’s presence from the Israelites so that they may do the Lord’s service. 12Then the Levites will lay their hands on the heads of the bulls, and Aaron will offer one as a purification offering and the other as an entirely burned offering to the Lord in order to seek reconciliation for the Levites.
13You will have the Levites stand before Aaron and his sons and you will present them as an uplifted offering to the Lord. 14You will separate the Levites from the Israelites, and the Levites will be mine. 15The Levites will enter to serve the meeting tent, after you have cleansed them and presented them as an uplifted offering. 16They are given over to me from the Israelites in place of all the newborn, the oldest of all the Israelites. I take them for myself. 17Every oldest male among the Israelites is mine, whether human or animal. When I killed all the oldest males in the land of Egypt, I dedicated them to myself. 18I have taken the Levites in place of all the oldest among the Israelites. 19I have selected the Levites from the Israelites for Aaron and his sons to perform the service of the Israelites in the meeting tent and to seek reconciliation for the Israelites so that there will not be a plague when the Israelites approach the sanctuary.
20Moses, Aaron, and the entire Israelite community carried out for the Levites everything the Lord had commanded Moses. That is what the Israelites did for the Levites. 21The Levites purified themselves and washed their clothes. Aaron presented them as an uplifted offering in the Lord’s presence, and he sought reconciliation for them in order to cleanse them. 22After this the Levites went in to perform their service in the meeting tent before Aaron and his sons. They did for the Levites just as the Lord had commanded Moses concerning them.
The dedication of the Levites is one piece in bringing order to the worship and spiritual life of the Israelite people. Even as they were wandering in the wilderness, God guided the work of Moses and Aaron to help the Israelites understand God’s Law and how it would look to follow God’s law. As described in this passage, the Levites were dedicated “to perform the service of the Israelites in the meeting tent and to seek reconciliation for the Israelites” (verse 19).
We often talk about our pastors as “set apart.” As the Levites are dedicated, it is implied that they are being “set apart” for this particular service in the tabernacle. I will be honest, as a clergyperson, I have never much liked to think of myself or even other clergy as “set apart.” I rather prefer to think of us as “set among.” Indeed, we are called, anointed, ordained, and appointed, but when it comes to ministry, we are talking about the task of every Christian. As our United Methodist Book of Discipline states, “The ministry of all Christians in Christ’s name and spirit is both a gift and a task” (para. 129). So pastors are “set among” congregations and communities to serve alongside the laity in that particular area. Our task together, as brothers and sisters in Christ, is to bring people into the Lord’s presence – or perhaps even greater, to make the Lord’s presence known to all people.
In Hebrews 7, the author speaks of the responsibilities of the “descendants of Levi who become priests.” What if we all saw ourselves as “descendants of Levi”? What if we all purified ourselves before the Lord and then worked together to bring people into the Lord’s presence? 1 Peter 2: 8 says, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people who are God’s own possession. You have become this people so that you may speak of the wonderful acts of the one who called you out of darkness into his amazing light.”
What an amazing privilege it is to be “set among” God’s people so that we may together declare God’s good work! I’ll see you in the mission field!
Almighty God, help us as a royal priesthood to serve you according to your will. As we are “set among” our brothers and sisters in Christ in our particular communities, lead us all to the places and the people where we may speak of your wonderful acts and shine light in the darkness every day. Amen.