Numbers 3:1-51

Daybreak for Students

Numbers 3:1-51

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
Numbers 3
Bring the tribe of Levi near, and present them before Aaron the priest, that they may minister unto him. — Numbers 3:6

What comes to mind when you think of the word minister? Many of us immediately picture the preacher who stands in the pulpit and brings us a portion of God’s Word. This certainly is an important ministry. A broader definition of minister, however, is “one who gives help.” By this definition, the one who cleans the church on Monday is a minister. So are those who serve as ushers, musicians, Sunday school teachers, and a host of other roles. However, Christian ministry is not confined within the walls of the church.

Perhaps even more important than the roles within the church are the roles of ministers in the home and the community. Those who invite people to the services, those who call someone with a word of encouragement, those who visit the sick and afflicted, and those who pray for the family of God are also ministers. This is only a partial list. For every pastor, there are a great many supporting positions. To a large extent, the success of a particular body of believers depends on how well each of these jobs is carried out.

In today’s text, duties were outlined for the tribe of Levi. Can you imagine trying to direct more than twenty-two thousand workers — without a single cellular phone at your disposal? By the same token, our pastor is in charge of our local church body. However, if the job is to be done in the proper way, he relies on those who willingly and enthusiastically shoulder responsibilities.

As Christians, our attitude should be concern with what we can do for others, not what we can get from them. Someone once remarked, humorously, “Our church is a willing group of believers. Five percent of the people are willing to work, and the other ninety-five percent are willing to let them!” We may chuckle at this, but let us make sure that we are not part of the ninety-five percent! Rather let all of us be looking for ways in which we can minister to others. With that attitude, the Lord will find a good way to use us.

BACKGROUND

At the time of the ten plagues of Egypt, God in effect “purchased” the firstborn of Israel by sparing their lives through the provision of the blood over the doorposts. At the time of today’s lesson, God revealed a new phase of His plan. From that point on, rather than using the firstborn in his service, God instead used the males of the tribe of Levi. A male Levite began training for his particular role at age 25, and was ready for independent service at age 30.

The first and most obvious job of the Levites was that of the priesthood. A relatively small number of people were required for this role, and they were to come exclusively from the family of Aaron. He and Moses were of the Levite tribe. As the years passed, the family of Aaron expanded. By the time of the birth of Jesus, a particular priest (for example, Zacharias) would serve only for a limited time before relinquishing his role to another qualified participant. 

At the time of today’s text, Moses, Aaron, and their families were to camp immediately to the east of the Tabernacle. Other than the family of Aaron, the Levites were grouped according to the three major families: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. The Gershonites were to camp to the west of the Tabernacle and were responsible for the service of the Tabernacle, including the related coverings. Think of the effort involved in the orderly dismantling, transporting, and reassembling of this every time God directed them to move. The Kohathites were to camp to the south of the Tabernacle. The Kohathites’ charge concerned the holy objects within the tabernacle. With every move, all of these were to be covered and transported in a specified way so that they would be handled with dignity and respect. Finally, the family of Merari camped north of the Tabernacle, and was responsible for specified parts and implements of the Tabernacle such as the bars and pillars.

Clearly, Aaron and his sons were in charge of the entire operation. Yet, they needed the help of the many within the ranks if the job was to be done smoothly and effectively.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)

I.   The preparation for the journey from Sinai
     B.   The census, arrangement, and duties of the Levites
           1.   The generation of the priests (3:1-4)
           2.   The tribe of Levi (3:5-37)
                 a.   Their ministry (3:5-10)
                 b.   Their uniqueness (3:11-13)
                 c.   Their census (3:14-37)
                        (1)   The command (3:14-15)
                        (2)   The genealogical summary (3:16-20)
                        (3)   The sons of Gershon (3:21-26)
                               (a)   Their number (3:21-22)
                               (b)   Their camp (3:23-24)
                               (c)   Their duties (3:25-26)
                        (4)   The sons of Kohath (3:27-32)
                               (a)   Their number (3:27-28)
                               (b)   Their camp (3:29-30)
                               (c)   Their duties (3:31-32)
                        (5)   The sons of Merari (3:33-37)
                               (a)   Their number (3:33-34)
                               (b)   Their camp (3:35)
                               (c)   Their duties (3:36-37)
              3.   The place of Moses, Aaron, and Aaron’s sons (3:38)
              4.   The census totals (3:39)
              5.   The separation of the Levites (3:40-51)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. Make a list of some of the jobs that had to be done if the camp were to function effectively.

  2. Make a list of things that need to be done within a local body of believers.

  3. How can you help carry the load? Has the Lord been laying something on your heart lately?

CONCLUSION

Christianity is about what God can do for us and what we, with His enabling, can do in His service.