Scripture Focus: Numbers 8.16
16 They are the Israelites who are to be given wholly to me. I have taken them as my own in place of the firstborn, the first male offspring from every Israelite woman.
Reflection: Becoming Firstborns
By John Tillman
Levites were set apart among those set apart. God makes covenants, within covenants, within covenants.
God promised Eve, and all humanity, that her son, the snake-crushing savior, would come. (Genesis 3.13-15) Within that covenant, God promised Abraham that his children, the Israelites, would bless the entire world, (Genesis 12.2-3) becoming a priestly nation. (Exodus 19.5-6) Within that covenant, God set apart the Levites.
God chose the entire tribe of Levi as the “firstborn” of Israel to be dedicated to him. Dedicating the firstborn to the Lord was common. Usually, an animal was sacrificed and the family would take the child home as normal. But two things are unusual. Levi was not Israel’s firstborn—Reuben was. Also, life for the tribe of Levi does not go on as normal. They serve and are set apart in a unique way.
God routinely calls those born out of order or in the wrong family to be his and act as his firstborn. Hannah’s firstborn son, Samuel, was not a Levite (1 Samuel 1.24-28) but he served in the Tabernacle for life and God called him by name. (1 Samuel 3.10) Mary’s firstborn son, Jesus, was not a Levite but he was God’s son (Luke 9.35) and was made a priest for eternity. (Hebrews 6.19-20) Jesus sacrificed himself to create a new Tabernacle into which all of us are called. (John 2.19-22; 1 Peter 2.4-5)
Jesus, our high priest, is the “firstborn” of creation and from among the dead. (Colossians 1.15-18) He is the one at the center of all of the covenants. God’s covenants narrowed, becoming more and more exclusive, until Jesus. Then the covenant exploded in exponential expansion.
In Jesus, we join a ministry greater than the Tabernacle of Moses or the Temple of Solomon, or the Temple of Jesus’ day. All can now enter because the way has been opened. Despite being born in the wrong order and the wrong family, we are adopted through Jesus. Despite being unworthy, we are judged by the worth of Jesus. Despite being sinful, we are seen as sinless in Jesus.
Jesus makes us his Levites—his priests and ministers. We are set apart in a unique way. Life does not go on as normal for us.
As servants of the snake-crushing priest, we have no battle to fight. Only a victory to announce. We have no enemies to defeat. Only conscripted soldiers to set free.
We are set apart to proclaim that outsiders can become insiders and orphans can become firstborns.
Video: “The Last Will Be First” — The Bible Project
Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
God looks down from heaven upon us all, to see if there is any who is wise, if there is one who seeks after God. — Psalm 53.2
– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.
Numbers 8 (Listen 3:37)
James 3 (Listen 2:38)
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