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THE SERVICE OF PRIESTS AND LEVITES
God now impresses on Aaron the seriousness of the priestly service to which he and his sons were separated. They were to bear the iniquity of the sanctuary, and the iniquity of their priesthood (v.1). for the place where Israel's iniquity was to be faced was the sanctuary and the men charged with facing it were the priests. This was no light matter. They must therefore know what sacrifices were necessary for whatever sin arose in the congregation. Korah wanted the outward position as high priest, but how little did he understand that this would involve his bearing the iniquity of the sanctuary, a humbling, sobering work.
Also, others of the tribe of Levi (called Levites) were to be linked with the priests in order to serve them (v.2). This service involved the temporal needs of the priests, but was limited to this: they must not approach the furniture of the tabernacle or the altar (v.3). Thus their service is shown to be completely distinct from worship. Today too, worship and service must be kept distinctly separate. While all believers are both priests and servants, yet we must be careful not to confuse the functions of one with the other.
An outsider, that is, one not of the tribe of Levi, was not to come near to them (v.4). Such coming near of course has to do with one's interfering in the service of the tabernacle. He must not dare to do such a thing.
The priests and Levites must give proper attention to the duties of the sanctuary and of the altar, in order that God's wrath would be averted from the children of Israel (v.5). they were therefore intermediaries on behalf of Israel, the priests being responsible to offer the proper sacrifices at the proper time, and the Levites furnishing such help as was needed to carry out every necessary function. At the present time, all believers being priests, they have the honor of being intercessors for all mankind (1 Timothy 2:1).
The Lord further says that He Himself had given the Levites as a gift to Aaron and his sons (v.6). In a similar way servants of the Lord today are given as gifts to the Church of God (Ephesians 4:7-12) to serve the saints of God, not in temporal affairs, as did the Levites, but in their spiritual needs.
Therefore, with their temporal needs cared for, the priests were freed to occupy themselves with their proper priestly functions, which occupation is also said to be a gift for service (v.7). An outsider who dared to infringe on this priestly service would be punishable by death.
OFFERINGS SHARED BY THE PRIESTS
The offerings of the children of Israel were to be offered fully and thoroughly to God, not to the priests, just as every gift given to the Lord's servants today should be given primarily as to the Lord Himself, and therefore received as from the Lord. Yet the priests were given the responsibility to take charge of the offerings, a trust that called for faithful adherence to God's clear instructions.
The heave offerings, being heaved in symbolizing the resurrection of Christ, were given to the priests (v.8). Also, all grain offerings, after a part was burned as a sweet aroma to the Lord (Leviticus 2:2), were eaten by the priests. Every sin offering, except those whose blood was brought into the sanctuary (Leviticus 16:27), and all trespass offerings, were also to be eaten by the priests. Of course, in every case, the blood, the fat and other inwards were burned, for God had His part first. The heave offerings and the wave offerings (implying the resurrection and ascension of the Lord) were only part of the meal or animal offerings (Leviticus 7:14; Leviticus 7:30; Leviticus 7:32). These were given to Aaron and his sons (v.11).
More than this, all the best of the oil, wine and grain, the first fruits offered to the Lord, were given to the priests also, as well as every devoted thing, including the firstborn of men or animals (v.13). Yet they were not to keep the humans, but redeem them, and also unclean animals, which could not be offered. Of course the owner would be responsible to bring the sacrifice for their redemption, which in verse 16 is seen to be five shekels of silver. The priests would receive this.
But the firstborn of the clean animals were to be sacrificed, God first receiving His part, then the priests privileged to eat the flesh. The blood was sprinkled and the fat burned in respect for God's rights.
These provisions for the priests were necessary since they had no inheritance in the land, as did the other tribes. They were to realize that God was their portion and inheritance. We may wonder if they understood and appreciated this as they ought. But what of ourselves today? Being priests, believers have no earthly inheritance, but even now God is our portion and inheritance, and we have the wonderful prospect of an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, unfading, reserved in heaven (1 Peter 1:4).
THE LEVITES SUPPORTED BY TITHES
The Levites did not share in the offerings, but God provided for them in His requiring tithes (one tenth of income) from all Israel. This was a fair return for the work they were given. It was their work alone: others of the children of Israel were not to come near to take any part in the service God had given the Levites, no more than they were to infringe on the service of the priests (v.22). In their measure the Levites also were to "bear their iniquity," that is, to take the responsibility for the iniquity of the children of Israel as identified with the priests, who of course alone could offer the sacrifices for that iniquity (v.23).
The tithes were necessary for their support since they, as well as the priests, had no inheritance among the children of Israel. They were scattered among the tribes, rather than having any property for their own tribe (v.24).
LEVITES ALSO PAYING TITHES
However, in receiving tithes, the Levites were not exempted from paying tithes. When the tithes were brought in from the other tribes, then the Levites were to offer to God a heave offering of one tenth of the tithes (v.26). In our present day of grace no law is given as to tithing. Instead the measure of our giving is "as he may prosper" (1 Corinthians 16:2) or "as he purposes in his heart" (2 Corinthians 9:7). The amount is left to the spiritual exercises of each individual. Support may he given, as to the Lord, from the people of God, to the need of the Lord's servants. The servant is to be just as exercised as they in reference to his using funds for the sake of the Lord, and be glad to give as the Lord prospers him.
This heave offering of the Levites would have the same value as the firstfruits of grain or of the winepress (v.27). Being a heave offering, it emphasizes the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, presented to God on a level above mere earthly things. While it was offered to God, it was given to Aaron, a type of the Lord Jesus, presented to God on a level above mere earthly things. While it was offered to God, it was given to Aaron, a type of the Lord Jesus (v.28). Thus all of our material offerings are given as to the Lord Himself, whatever may be the way He disposes of them.
These tithes were to he taken from the best of that which the Levites received (v. 29), an important principle for us, for the Lord is always worthy of the best. When this was done, then the Levites were left at liberty to use the rest as their own food, together with their households (vs.30-31). But verse 32 emphasizes that they must not dare to profane the holy gifts of which they were put in charge. God must be first, and any infraction of His rights would be punishable by death.
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Numbers 18". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34