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THE ARRANGEMENT OF THE LAMPS
It may seem strange that this one subject of the lampstand and the arranging of the lamps should be introduced in this place. But the previous chapters have been considering the preparation for Israel's journey through the wilderness, and therefore the question of testimony before the world is of serious importance. The lamps speak of this testimony, and their proper arrangement is here insisted upon, so that the light from them will particularly lighten the lampstand itself. The spiritual meaning is plain. All true testimony on the part of believers will draw attention to the person of Christ, who, being today in heaven, is the Sustainer of testimony, as the lampstand sustained the light. Our true testimony is that of Christ risen and glorified at the right hand of God. It is only as we look upon Him that we are sustained in our walk on earth.
Interestingly we are reminded in verse 4 that the workmanship of the lampstand was totally of hammered gold, all made of one piece. There was no acacia wood involved in this, for it does not in any way symbolize the humanity of the Lord Jesus, but His glory as the eternal God. For just as life is completely divine, so is light in its manifestation of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. We need the light for our entire path on earth.
THE PURIFICATION OF THE LEVITES
The Levites were called to represent all the people, for they took the place of the first-born, so that each believer should take on his shoulders the responsibility for service such as the Levite symbolizes. In so doing, he is to be prepared for this first by cleansing. Water was to be sprinkled on them (v.7), which speaks of cleansing by the water of the word of God (Ephesians 5:26), reminding us also of Psalms 119:9: "How shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word."
Along with this cleansing they were to shave all their body, which speaks of removing all that is of the growth of the flesh. In other words, this involves strict self judgment, which we all need if we are to rightly serve the Lord. Their clothes also were to be washed, for garments speak of habits, which should be cleansed of all impurity.
Following this (v.9) a young bull was to be taken as a burnt offering with its accompaniment of a meal offering of fine flour mixed with oil, together with a second young bull as a sin offering. All the congregation of Israel was then brought to witness this dedication, and the children of Israel (no doubt through representatives) were to lay their hands on the Levites, thus fully identifying themselves with them (vs.9-10). Then the Levites were offered as a wave offering before the Lord (v.11). This may seem strange, for it is not likely that the Levites were actually waved, yet this was called a wave offering because as servants of God they were to be typically identified with Christ ascended to the right hand of God. For all ministry today is provided by Christ ascended in glory (Ephesians 4:8). Therefore, ministry is from heaven, on a far higher level than anything earthly.
Then the Levites were to lay their hands on the heads of the young bulls (v.12), that is, they were to typically identify themselves fully with the sacrifice of Christ, both as the sin offering and the burnt offering, the first indicating Christ's taking the responsibility for their sinful condition and suffering for it; the second showing that God is glorified in the results of the sacrifice in qualifying the Levites for service. The bulls were then offered.
Verse 14 repeats verse 1, showing the importance of the heavenly character of ministry as symbolized by the Levites being offered as a wave offering. In this way the Levites were ceremonially separated from the rest of Israel as being the Lord's special property. Today, all believers should appreciate this fact of being set apart for the Lord's service, -- not set apart from other believers, but from the world. To be devoted to the Lord's service is a wonderful privilege.
After finishing their cleansing and dedication, the Levites were qualified to go in to do the service of the tabernacle (v.15), and God insisted that they were wholly given to Him. He had taken them for Himself instead of the firstborn in Israel. For all the firstborn were His from the time of Israel's redemption from Egypt (vs.16-17).
God gave the Levites as a gift to Aaron and his sons (the priests) to serve them in doing the work required in caring for the tabernacle (v.19). Verses 20-22 show that these preparatory matters were carried out as the Lord had commanded.
LIMITED LENGTH OF LEVITE SERVICE
The service of the Levites was strictly limited to 25 years, beginning at age 25 and ending at 50. After 50 they were allowed still to assist the other Levites in ministering, but were to do no work. This does show that while age will necessarily limit our physical labor, it does not limit assisting in ways that we can, therefore there is no reason for one to be set aside from doing spiritual service. Even a woman, Anna, is a lovely example of this (Luke 2:36-38). A true prophetess, having been a widow for 84 years, she "served God with fasting and prayers night and day." John too, when over 90 years of age, was given the wonderful privilege of serving God in writing the Book of Revelation.
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Numbers 8". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Sixth Week after Easter