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Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “Take the Levites instead of all the firstborn among the children of Israel, and the livestock of the Levites instead of their livestock. The Levites shall be Mine: I am the Lord. And for the redemption of the two hundred and seventy-three of the firstborn of the children of Israel, who are more than the number of the Levites, you shall take five shekels for each one individually; you shall take them in the currency of the shekel of the sanctuary, the shekel of twenty gerahs. And you shall give the money, with which the excess number of them is redeemed, to Aaron and his sons.” Numbers 3:44-48What Is Going On?

There are a few things going on here, but in a word, God is reorganizing. Let’s tackle the events in order. First, the Lord has ordained that for the purpose of ministering to the needs of His Tabernacle, the first-borns of every tribe of Israel will be replaced by the first-borns of the tribe of Levi. Collectively we all may ask, “Why?”

…Then Moses stood in the entrance of the camp, and said, “Whoever is on the Lord’s side–come to me.” And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together to him. Exodus 32:26

There’s your reason. Remember the golden-calf incident in Exodus 32? Well the Levites were the only ones who stepped when Moses made the call. Their reward comes a year later (at this time) when God made their ordination official—the tribe of Levi is the ministering clan of His dwelling place.

And why are the first-born the Lord’s? Unquestionably all creation is the Lord’s, but God’s right (for lack of a better word) to claim the first-born of Israel came about during the first Passover when He spared them all from certain death, therefore no one else can make claim to this cluster of people.

Redemption

As we read the Numbers text we first notice that the numbers do not add up. That is to say there are 22, 000 Levites and there are 22, 273 first-born slots to be filled, leaving a balance of 543 shoes to fill (did you get the math?). God in His infinite wisdom concluded that the only remedy was redemption—a price would have to be paid. Why does God resort to this solution? Only He knows in entirety, but it certainly does lay the ground work for a deliverance procedure all Christians have become familiar with.

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Is This the Backbone of Replacement Theology?

No. Replacement theology–the notion that the body of Christ, His church has somehow replaced the nation of Israel, is a false doctrine and it is certainly not what is being illustrated here. Replacement does not mean displacement. What it does mean is that the replaced have lost out on the double-portion customarily awarded to the firstborn. There is a cost for disobedience and we do reap what we sow, but as long as there is repentance towards Christ Jesus there remains an open door to salvation. The church of Jesus has been grafted into the vine; we have not swapped-out the old for the new.

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. 1 Peter 2:9-10


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Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land. And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he took her and lay with her, and violated her. Genesis 33:1-2A Father’s Responsibility

I am not going to suggest that Dinah’s attack was Jacob’s fault; that burden falls squarely upon the shoulders of her attacker (whose name oddly enough means shoulder). However I am going to say that the situation could have likely been avoided if Jacob had not placed his family (and his daughter) in such a precarious and unhealthy environment. Jacob was living on the edge of ‘Heathenville’ and he knew it. To make matters worse, consider the carnage that ensued…

…Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, each took his sword and came boldly upon the city and killed all the males. And they killed Hamor and Shechem his son with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah from Shechem’s house, and went out. 27 The sons of Jacob came upon the slain, and plundered the city, because their sister had been defiled. They took their sheep, their oxen, and their donkeys, what was in the city and what was in the field, and all their wealth. All their little ones and their wives they took captive; and they plundered even all that was in the houses. Genesis 33:25b-28

A Lack of Supervision

Things were bad (prior to this massacre), but Jacob had the opportunity to take control of the situation and see to it that justice was administered. Instead he chose to remain silent. All things considered it was Jacob’s ineffectiveness and peace that provoked his two boy’s immature response. Again, it does not excuse the behavior of Simeon and Levi.

The root of this problem goes back to when Jacob elected to move his family to an unsafe setting. The entire account brings to mind Lot’s avoidable-saga when he pitched his tent on the outskirts of Sodom and Gomorrah and ultimately became entangled in the goings-on of that horrid place. I cannot help but read Jacob’s account and wonder why is it recorded in the Bible given that there is no positive outcome? Only one thing makes sense…

Consider it a Warning

Examining Jacob’s actions (and inactions) we wonder how he could be so ignorant and lackadaisical; the answer to which we will never know. But it should give us pause and reason to reflect upon the things we allow our children easy access. Suffice it to say, the consequences for the choices our children make are ultimately their own, but what affect did our indifference or ignorance have on these decisions—what was our role? Please consider this short story I took off the web a while back—it’s quite thought provoking. It is attributed to Joy Innes and is called…

The Stranger

 

“A few months before I was born, my Dad met a stranger who was new to our small Tennessee town. From the beginning, Dad was fascinated with this enchanting newcomer and soon invited him to live with our family. The stranger was quickly accepted and was around to welcome me into the world a few months later.
As I grew up, I never questioned his place in my family. In my young mind, he had a special niche. My parents were complementary instructors: Mom taught me the word of God, and Dad taught me to obey it. But the stranger? He was our storyteller. He would keep us spellbound for hours on end with adventures, mysteries and comedies.
If I wanted to know anything about politics, history or science, he always knew the answers about the past, understood the present and even seemed able to predict the future! He took my family to the first major league ball game. He made me laugh, and he made me cry. The stranger never stopped talking, but Dad didn’t seem to mind.
Sometimes, Mom would get up quietly while the rest of us were shushing each other to listen to what he had to say, and she would go to her room and read her books (I wonder now if she ever prayed for the stranger to leave.) Dad ruled our household with certain moral convictions, but the stranger never felt obligated to honor them.
Profanity, for example, was not allowed in our home … not from us, our friends or any visitors. Our longtime visitor, however, got away with four-letter words that burned my ears and made my dad squirm and my mother blush.
My Dad was a teetotaler who didn’t permit alcohol in the home, not even for cooking. But the stranger encouraged us to try it on a regular basis. He made cigarettes look cool, cigars manly and pipes distinguished. He talked freely (much too freely!) about sex.
His comments were sometimes blatant, sometimes suggestive, and generally embarrassing. I now know that my early concepts about relationships were influenced strongly by the stranger. Time after time, he opposed the values of my parents, yet he was seldom rebuked … and NEVER asked to leave.
More than fifty years have passed since the stranger moved in with our family. He has blended right in and is not nearly as fascinating as he was at first. Still, if you were to walk into my parent’s den today you would still find him sitting over in his corner, waiting for someone to listen to him talk and watch him draw his pictures.
His name?
We just call him TV.”


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