NUMBERS 4:1 – 6:27 and MARK 3:1–35
The Lord instructs Moses to take count of the families who were offspring’s of Levi. This is the service of the priests and their respective roles with regard to the Tabernacle. We also see that each of the priests had to be in the age range of 30-50. The number 30 speaks of ministry and we see this as being the age Of John the Baptist as well as the Lord when they entered the fullness of their ministry.
There is preparation that goes into the development of a priest. We can see that there was a period of about 18 years in the life of Christ that is hidden (Isa 49:2). It is a season when God can do His greatest work but it oftentimes is not fully appreciated. A primary role of a priest is to be acquainted with the needs of people which would mean a measure of experience in the affairs of life. In the other tribes the age of accountability was 20. They could go to war and were counted as adults. In fact, any person who was part of the census who was at the age of 20 or above did not go into their inheritance. This judgment would be given when Israel later fails to obey God when being instructed to go into their inheritance (Num 13).
There are three divisions of priestly ministries that will be distributed amongst the sons of Levi’s families. The three sons are Kohath, Gershom and Merari. The ministry work of Kohath is covered in verses 4-20. Though Kohath was not the oldest, his sons were given the charge of the most holy things. This means that they were involved in the setting up and taking down of the Tabernacle. It would be at the appointed times of moving when they would be able to do this work. They were given warning if they were to intrude prematurely or presumptuously into the holy place or most holy place in the handling of the related articles (vs 15, 19-20). They were given strict instructions as to how to cover the furniture of the holy place and most holy place.
The sons of Gershom were given their ministry roles in the Tabernacle in verses 21-28. Their role was to look after the curtains and instruments of the Tabernacle of the Congregation, or Outer court. The sons of Merari were commissioned to look after the outer instruments of the Tabernacle itself which is covered in verses 29-33. It is interesting to note that the sons of Gershom and Merari were accountable to Ithamar the priest. The sons of Kohath were accountable to Eleazar. In other words we see Eleazar as having the responsibility of the Holy Place and Most Holy Place (vs 16). The sons of Gershom and Merari were accountable to Ithamar who had oversight of the Outer Court. It looks like another prophetic sign that Eleazar would be the priest with the promise of the everlasting priesthood. The remaining verses 34-49 consist of the tallying of the numbering of the families.
This chapter seems to be a bit of a review of what was learned in Leviticus. It appears the Lord is sending out a clear reminder of the functioning and operation of the Tabernacle. The first 4 verses can be linked to Lev 13 where the instruction was given in knowing what to do with anyone who had leprosy. We saw this in Mark 1:40-45 where Jesus instructed a man who was healed of leprosy to go and show himself to the priests. The Lord also adds instruction in what to do if there were to be an issue related to a sexual disease (Lev 15). Further instruction is given to those who would touch or be defiled by the dead (Lev 21).
In verses 5-10 we see what is to be done when a trespass offering is required. The trespass offering is when one sins against God in any of His commandments pertaining to God or man. The Sin Offering (Lev 4) were offerings that dealt with the sin nature of man. This sin nature still exists, even after salvation.
In verses 11-31 there is the account of what happens when one trespasses in the area of adultery. It specifically refers to a spirit of jealousy that comes upon a man whose wife has committed immorality with another man. The Spirit of jealousy can be evident even if a case of adultery is not yet proven (vs 14). Let’s address the Spirit of jealousy for a moment. We know that our God is a jealous God.
Exo 34:14 For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God:
There are many references that make clear that God is jealous over His people. We need to appreciate and understand this attribute of God. It is important that we learn to be jealous over those things that are godly. In Numbers we have a man who has the Spirit of jealousy over his wife. It is a situation where the wife has not confessed the sin but there is something felt, something sensed that there has been a violation of trust. It does not appear that the man reflected in this account would foolishly make accusations. In order to determine the truth of the matter the wife would be brought to a priest who would perform the following function:
She would be made to remove her veil and then drink of holy water that has been put into an earthen vessel which included the dust from the ground of the tabernacle. The priest would then give a charge that she would be clean of the accusation if nothing would happen after drinking of the water. If she were guilty there would be the swelling of her belly, her thighs would rot and the curse would go through her bowels (vs 16-22). This is the law of Jealousies and it has significance.
There is a godly jealousy that should be pursued. Are we jealous for the things of God? Are we offended when the Lord is put down and diminished? Are we jealous concerning His law and His ways? Are we jealous over our spouses, family and loved ones always having their best interest at heart? The Spirit of Jealousy can be felt by those who walk closely with God. A priest must develop this Spirit of jealousy as it pertains to one’s ministry with God.
Psa 45:7 Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.
The majority of this chapter has to do with the vow of a Nazarite. What does this really mean in today’s context? The overriding theme seen in this chapter is that of separation (vs 2). Some of the known characters from Scripture who took this Nazarite vow were Samuel, Samson and John the Baptist. We want to consider what this means for us today. The primary means of separation were in the following three areas:
1. Separation form strong drink
2. No razor coming to his head
3. Not come near any dead bodies
The time of this separation was designated as being Holy unto the Lord. We looked earlier at a primary definition of holiness. First, it is separation from the world the flesh and the devil. Secondly, it is a separation unto the things of God. We also looked at Daniel as fulfilling these two criteria (Dan 1:8-15). The definition of what constitutes a Nazarite aligns perfectly with the definition of holiness (vs 2-3). Let’s consider some attributes of those who were Nazarites and glean pertinent lessons from their lives.
1) Samuel-He came on the scene at a most critical time in Israel’s history. God needed a man, a priest who would be separated unto His purposes. Through this priest God brought forth a new order of priesthood. In addition, God used him to usher in the reign of the godly king. We need Samuel’s to arise today (1 Sam 2:35, 1 Sam 13:14).
2) Samson-A man who had the anointing of might upon him. In these last days we will need the Spirit of Might (Isa 11:2) to function. There will need to be the binding of strongholds over nations and people’s lives. We need to be warned by Samson’s example that one can have an anointing and yet abuse it. The fruits of the Spirit must be inwardly worked so that demonstration of the power of God can go forth without compromise.
3) John the Baptist-A messenger who preceded the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is likened to Elijah who represents a restoration of that which has been broken. Perhaps the greatest message we see from his life was that he had a ministry to make ready a prepared for the Lord (Luk 1:17). There were Old Testament verses that spoke to his ministry
Isa 40:3 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Isa 40:4 Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:
The earth is travailing for the manifestation of the sons of God; a manifestation of latter day Nazarites who choose to be separate and distinct for God (Rom 8:19). These foundational instructions in the first few chapters of Numbers should set the stage for the children of Israel to lead productive and fruitful lives as they begin their journey. The instruction we have seen in the construction of the Tabernacle and the Levitical functioning of the priests helps to ensure that Israel should be prepared and engaged. The reality as we shall soon see is otherwise. Is there a pattern here that we need to take note of? The answer is yes, but the question is will we give heed?
The last 6 verses (vs 22-27) are familiar to most church goers. It is the commonly stated benediction which is given at the close of many services. It is a beautiful blessing that God instructed Aaron to give to the people and it’s a blessing that continues to touch the lives of many.
We have another example of the Lord performing a miracle on the Sabbath day while He is in the synagogue. By now it was something that his accusers were more or less expecting. They had no regard for the man who received the healing but took indignation against Jesus for doing this. Jesus asks an interesting question in verse 4. Is it better or lawful to do good on the Sabbath or evil, to save life or to kill? Mathew’s account adds the following to the same incident. “If a sheep were to fall into a pit on the Sabbath, would you not lift it out?” It is an interesting contrast when you consider that Christ came to save life and it was them, the Pharisees who were of the mind to kill, seeing that they would soon consent to His death. Jesus was both angry and yet grieved because of their hardness of heart. The danger of a heart that becomes offended is one we need to be warned against. One who harbours an offended heart will seek for opportunities to fuel that offense. Jesus would give his detractors plenty of ammunition. This will be the case for those who lift up a standard of righteousness. There will be those who will oppose a righteous stand because their hypocrisy will be exposed. This is what is happening here. The result of this encounter was the Pharisees desire to seek a means as to how they could destroy Him. They took counsel with the Herodians (vs 6). Who were these Herodians?
The account in Math 22:16 gives a bit more insight. They were learned men who were probably associated in some measure with the state. They flatter the Lord in Mat 22:16 by saying Jesus was a man of Truth, not regarding the person of men etc. What they said was true but it was for evil intent. When a believer presses on in their walk with God they will find increasing opposition from the enemy. The opposition may be blatant at first with fiery attacks of intimidation, threats etc. When this does not work the tactics become craftier. This was Nehemiah’s experience as he went about the work of rebuilding the walls around Jerusalem. Nehemiah’s enemies consisting of Sanballat, Geshom and Tobiah initially mocked and ridiculed his efforts. Nehemiah pressed on in his work resulting in their tactics changing in more subtle ways in trying to stop him.
The Herodians could also be likened to the presidents and princes seen in Daniel 6. Daniel was promoted above them all because of an excellent spirit that was found in Him. These men devised a way to destroy Daniel. They knew Daniel was a man of conviction and they sought to enact a law that they knew Daniel would violate. This is so diabolical and evil. In violating this new law they could bring a charge before the king for Daniel’s transgression. They used the matter of state to try and destroy Daniel. This was what the Herodians sought to do with Jesus. In reading on in Math 22 we see that they challenge Jesus with a question regarding the image on a coin. They were trying to trap Jesus as being in opposition to the state. Let me give a personal example to further illustrate this truth.
My wife and I worked in the state of Orissa in India for 8 years overseeing two Bible Schools and two orphanages. There were leaders (Indians) who worked among us who were not happy about having a foreign presence working alongside them. After a time we began to experience opposition which was hindering our ability to carry the work forward. We later found that some of these leaders were in fact consulting government officials, providing information that worked against us. They cited Indian laws regarding the status of foreigners being able to be engaged in Indian outreach. They and the government officials were happy that a work was in place to serve the people but they were not happy with our presence. In the end our problems were not the result of Indian law or any particular Indian government party but rather leaders from our group who became hardened and offended. They linked with people they would have otherwise had no business with. This is exactly what the Pharisees did. They could not answer Jesus (Mark 3:4) especially when the Lord was healing and gaining in popularity. They had to resort to other means. In these last days it will be no different.
The ministry of Jesus continued to draw more crowds (vs 7-12). He had to withdraw Himself to a certain mountain to avoid the throngs of people. It was at this time where he called aside the 12 and ordained them to have a power and authority over sicknesses and devils. It is a picture of delegation similar to that of Moses when Jethro, his father in law gave his wise counsel (Exo 18:17-23). Jesus could not continue to go on in His current pace. These 12 would alleviate much of the burden in the area of healings and deliverance. This would allow the Lord to focus more on teaching and fulfilling HIs mission in moving closer to the Cross.
In verses 22-30 Jesus is charged as being mad and being demon possessed. He addressed his accusers by saying how can Satan cast out Satan or why would he even think of doing this? The strength of Satan is found in a divided house. It is when he is able to divide a marriage, a church or a nation where he is able to influence and hold sway. Jesus was establishing the fact to his accusers that there was a necessity in ensuring that there was unity in His house and kingdom. When there is agreement between even two people there is a power and strength and ability for God to work.
Mat 18:19 Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.
Ecc 4:12 And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
There is perfect harmony in the godhead and it this kind of unity that Jesus desired for His church before he died (Joh 17). This helps us to understand the tactic of discord and variance that Satan employs. He functions and excels in a divided kingdom as opposed to God who works and flows in a rhythm of unity. True unity is costly as seen in Psa 133 but it is here where the blessings of God flow forth. The Lord goes on to say that all manner of sins can be forgiven except when people attribute the work of the Holy Spirit to devils. These men were accusing Jesus of having an unclean Spirit.
We are living in a period where there will be an increase in spiritual opposition. It is imperative that we seek the Lord for the gift of the discerning of Spirits. Jesus flowed in this gift due to the feeding upon the Word of God.
Isa 7:15 Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.
A believer may have trouble distinguishing between which spirit is in operation in some of the large meetings we see today. Remember, there was both the power of God at work and the power of Satan at work simultaneously in Pharaoh’s court (Exo 7:10-12). True blaspheming of the Holy Spirit would come from a person who has no love or regard for God so one should not weary their mind if there is some confusion in what takes place in some of these meetings. God wants us to have the ability to know the source and origin of a sprit that is at work. This can be done by way of a healthy spiritual diet in the feeding upon the Word of God. It’s important that we do not minimize the gift of the discerning of Spirits.