Numbers 8–12: The LORD calls, but will we answer?

In Torah reading נשא Nasso (Numbers 4:21–7:89), we discussed the dedication of the altar and the tribal offerings. You notice that Levites did not bring an offering. The Levites receive gifts because they have no inheritance.

This week’s reading, בְּהַעֲלֹתְךָ Beha’alotcha (“when you raise up” [the lamps]) starts with Aaron lighting the menorah. This symbolizes God’s eyes opening. Before the menorah and altar were dedicated, God’s eyes were symbolically closed. Now they are open and the people have God’s full attention. God’s Tabernacle is now open for business.

If the Tabernacle is open for business, who can work there? God appoints the Levites as a tribe to take care of the Tabernacle.

God tells us why He commissioned the Levites for the Tabernacle:

“I have given the Levites as a gift to Aaron and to his sons from among the sons of Israel, to perform the service of the sons of Israel at the tent of meeting and to make atonement on behalf of the sons of Israel, so that there will be no plague among the sons of Israel by their coming near to the sanctuary.” (Numbers 8:19 NASB)

God had killed the first-born in Egypt of both man and beast. God had the right to ask the children of Israel to sacrifice their first born animals and to dedicate their first born sons to His service. However, rather than commissioning the first born of Israel for the Tabernacle, the Levites are dedicated to God’s service in their stead.

The Levites were first purified with red heifer water, which is a removal of ritual contamination. Nazarite vows began in a similar fashion. Then the Levites had to shave their bodies. In modern times, we don’t think of shaving the hair off of one’s body a big deal. In the USA, men’s shaving habits support a multi-billion dollar industry. In the Ancient Near East, it was a humiliation to have one’s hear or beard shaved off and you certainly would not have paid someone money to do it to you. The Levites were humbling themselves to submit to this ritual.

The Levites also had hands laid on them to set them aside for service. The Levites then laid their hands on the animal sacrifices offering for their sin and burnt offerings.

The three Levites clans of Gershon, Merari and Kohat did not work in the Tabernacle from cradle to grave. They had a specific term of service. From the age of 25-30, they were apprenticing but from 30-50, they were on active duty. Once they “retired” at 50, they could still assist in the Tabernacle, assisting the younger men in their service.

“Now the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘This is what applies to the Levites: from twenty-five years old and upward they shall enter to perform service in the work of the tent of meeting. But at the age of fifty years they shall retire from service in the work and not work any more. They may, however, assist their brothers in the tent of meeting, to keep an obligation, but they themselves shall do no work. Thus you shall deal with the Levites concerning their obligations.’” (Numbers 8:23–26 NASB)

After the Levites were dedicated to serve in the Tabernacle, the first test of their skill comes the following Passover.

“Thus the LORD spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the first month of the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying, “Now, let the sons of Israel observe the Passover at its appointed time.” (Numbers 9:1–2 NASB)

There is only one holy day that you have a second chance to keep if you aren’t able to keep it on schedule, which is the Passover. This does NOT apply to the Feast of Unleavened Bread. You can keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread even if you are contaminated, while one must be pure to keep the Passover.

Passover is a holy day that has nothing to do with us. Passover is a holy day that is distinct. Our salvation is completely in God’s hands, He did all the work. Our actions don’t affect Passover.

Unlike for Atonement, where we are call upon to examine and humble ourselves or Unleavened Bread where were required to have all leaven removed from the house.

God set up Yeshua’s sacrifice for us on the Cross. Yeshua died because God ordained it, not man.

There is a difference between one who can’t observe the Passover due to contamination over the who chooses not to observe the Passover. God give us freedom of choice.

God tells them to make silver trumpets so He can call them to meetings and to move from one camp to another.

There are different blasts for different reason. Long blasts are for the Holy days and Rosh Chodesh. Short blasts are for moving or for war.

After a year and a month at camp, they take up camp for the first time. The order of their march is recorded in Numbers 10.

When they reached their new camp, after three days of traveling, the first thing they did was complain, loudly.

“Now the people became like those who complain of adversity in the hearing of the LORD; and when the LORD heard it, His anger was kindled, and the fire of the LORD burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp.” (Numbers 11:1 NASB)

The Torah doesn’t record why they complained at this point but God didn’t take kindly to it and punished them. I suspect that they were grumbling because they were very tired after the 3 days of travel but since there’s no cause recorded, that is simply my opinion.

We do know the reason they complained the second time. We are told they were complaining about the manna. Apparently God’s menu was not up to their Egyptian influenced standards.

“The rabble who were among them had greedy desires; and also the sons of Israel wept again and said, ‘Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic, but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.’” (Numbers 11:4–6 NASB)

They want to eat the foods they were accustomed to in Egypt. They were tired of eating this new-fangled “manna.” They are tired of moving around, they want to set up roots and they prefer their roots in Egypt to setting up roots in a new place. They were also conspiring to return to Egypt.

The people were complaining to Moses about God’s treatment of them.

These complaints get so bad that even Moses complains about the people. Moses asks God’s help.

God is merciful on Moses and gives him 70 men to help him with taking care of the people.

God is not as merciful on the people. He gives them quail to eat and punished some of them with death for their insolence. They were still chewing their food when they died. The ones who died didn’t get 30 days of meat.

God proved He could feed the entire congregation and showed His power over nature.

The last complaint we read about today are the complaints of Miriam and Aaron against Moses. The excuse was Moses marriage to a Cushite woman. She is not an Israelite but she most likely was one of the mixed multitude that came out of Egypt.

Miriam was probably upset that Moses didn’t chose an Israelite wife but I believe Moses chose a non-Israelite wife for a reason. His first wife wasn’t Israelite either.

Moses probably didn’t want to cause strife or favoritism in the tribes if he had chosen an Israelite wife.

When Messiah Yeshua returns, His Bride will include all those who call on His name, not just of Israel but of the nations as well.

“Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession; He was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was in all His house. For He has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, by just so much as the builder of the house has more honor than the house. For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God. Now Moses was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken later; but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house ― whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.” (Hebrews 3:1–6 NASB)

Moses’ humility reflects his trustworthiness. He is very trustworthy and humble. When you see Moses’ humbleness, you see the humbleness of Messiah.

A humble person is not a coward or a weakling. A humble person understands what is in his power and authority and what is outside his power and authority.

Moses’ goal for all of Israel was not to dominate them. His objective was to get them to the Promised Land and to make sure they gained their ultimate inheritance of dwelling with God.

“But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD’S people were prophets, that the LORD would put His Spirit upon them!” Then Moses returned to the camp, both he and the elders of Israel.” (Numbers 11:29–30 NASB)

Moses’ goal was to teach them to follow God, not Him. He wanted them to be trustworthy in following God. He wanted all the people to have God’s spirit.

The 70 elders who were given the gift of prophesy were speaking God’s word. When the people saw this, they saw that there’s more to God’s power than just Moses, Aaron and Miriam. God’s spirit is not limited to a far away person, but is available to all who God calls. God came to them. This was what Moses wanted.

Summary: Tammy.

Banner Photo: Barack Obama, President of the United States, reaches to answer a call in the Oval Office. Official White House photo by Pete Souza (2009). As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain.

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