Yesterday, we witnessed the rebellion of the Israelites against Moses. At this point, the Israelites had refused to enter into the promised land after focusing on the battles they would face rather than the rewards they would reap with God’s help. After that, the Israelites continued to not trust God when they spoke out against Moses. They didn’t realize that in doing so, they were – in effect – not trusting God. The rebellion that Korah instigated ended for the most part when he died. In Numbers 16, we see God choose Aaron and the tribe of the Levites as his priesthood. The twelve tribes all brought their staff to the temple to represent them. Aaron’s staff – which represented the Levites – sprouted, formed buds, blossomed, and produced almonds (Numb. 16:8). Interestingly, this isn’t the first time that almond branches and almond blossoms make their appearance in relation to the temple and the priesthood. In Ex. 25:31-40, the lampstand that was to be kept continually burning on the altar was supposed to be shaped like almond blossoms. This was the light that the priesthood was in charge of day and night. In the miracle of Aaron’s rod, God showed clearly which group of people he wanted as his priesthood, and he chose the Levites.
Numbers 18 continues on with laws and requirements for the priesthood along with ways that the priesthood could be provided for by the Israelites people. Nestled in these verses is such an important truth for us today. Numbers 18:5-7 says, “You are to guard the sanctuary and the altar so that wrath may not fall on the Israelites again. Look, I have selected your fellow Levites from the Israelites as a gift for you, assigned by the Lord to work at the tent of meeting. But you and your sons will carry out your priestly responsibilities for everything concerning the altar and for what is inside the veil, and you will do that work. I am giving you the work of the priesthood as a gift.”
Moses was clear in the last chapter that the laws and responsibilities given to him by God were not things that he was doing out of his own will. In this chapter, God is clear about his intentions to give as a gift the work of the priesthood. Yes, the ministry that they had would be challenging. They would face opposition from the people, and they would have to work hard in the temple. Some of their responsibilities included doing animal sacrifices, staying up all night to tend the lamps, dealing with skin diseases, and more. But, this work was a gift. A special provision and reward to be the light to the Israelites as they entered the promised land.
In Christian circles, we talk often of the gift of Salvation. That is the first wonderful gift that we receive in our Christian walk, and we should always be grateful for that amazing grace. But, that is only the first of the many gifts that we receive as a believer in Christ. We are also given the gift of the priesthood, the gift of being a light to others. We will face the same opposition from others at times. And we will have to also take part in the grueling work of ministry. But, that is the work – the priestly responsibilities – that we have been assigned to do.
As we head into another week, ask yourself: What is the ministry that you have been called to? Are you treating this ministry as a gift?
Praise God that we can be partners in his work!
~ Cayce Fletcher