Numbers Chapter 4: Seven Additional Principles for Being Part of God’s Holy Priesthood

1. Be Spiritually Mature. Nu. 4:1-3, 23, 30, 35.

  • Maturity protects yourself and others from false doctrines. The priests with the privilege of serving within the Tabernacle had to be at least 30 years old (Nu. 4:1-3, 23, 30, 35). From ages 25 until 30, the priests learned as apprentices (Nu. 8:24). Although a believer is not limited by his or her age in leading others, he or she should not lead as a new believer: “and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil.” (1 Tim. 3:6). A believer should also know Scripture well enough to avoid become yoked by false doctrines: “As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;” (Eph. 4:14). “Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, through which those who were so occupied were not benefited.” (Heb. 13:9). A leader should also be able to point to Scripture to answer the questions of others when they are confronted with false doctrines. The people Berea searched the Scriptures to verify Paul’s claims (Acts 17:11). Do you know the Bible well enough to answer the teaching of another religion or a cult? Are you teaching the Word to others?

  • Maturity requires love. Maturity is not measured alone by head knowledge. A mature believer also has to have a child-like faith: “Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” (Mk. 10:15; Lk. 18:17). A mature believer should also be motivated by love. “If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.” (1 Cor. 13:2-3). Do you have a child-like faith when you don’t understand something? Is your service motivated by love?

2. Be Holy. Nu. 4:4-20.

  • Keep your body holy. The Kohath tribe was required to protect “the most holy things.” (Nu. 4:4). This included all of the furnishings of the tent of meeting. Today, believers are the bride of Christ (Rev. 22:2, 17). The temple where the Holy Spirit dwells is in your body (1 Cor. 3:16-17). Through Jesus’ death, your body has also been bought with a price (1 Cor. 6:19-20). If you were once a slave to sin, you should now be a slave to righteousness (Ro. 6:17-18). As a slave to righteousness, you cannot follow the morals of the world (Lev. 18:1; Ezek. 20:18-19). As a slave to righteousness, you also should be sanctified and set apart for Christ’s use: “Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.’” (Lev. 19:2; Ex. 22:31; 1 Pet. 1:16; Ep. 1:4; Matt. 5:48). You make yourself a slave to righteousness by making yourself a living sacrifice for Him: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship.” (Ro. 12:1). Are you living your life as a living sacrifice for God? Or, are you using His mercy and grace as a license to sin even more? (Ro. 6:15; Gal. 5:13).

  • Keep your eyes holy. Although the Kohath tribe carried the holy furnishings, they could not look upon them. If they looked for even a moment, they would die (Nu. 4:20). Thus, the holy furnishings were covered with animal skins to protect their unclean eyes (Nu. 4:6, 8, 12, 14). God also had to make animal skins to protect mankind’s unholy eyes after they were expelled from the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:21). God later struck down 50,070 men in Beth-Shemesh because they looked in the ark with their unclean eyes (1 Sam. 6:19). Jesus also wants you to control your eyes. He warned that: “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Matt. 6:22-23). Job denied himself by making a covenant with his eyes (Job 31:1). If you do not control your covetous desires, they will ultimately consume you: “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.” (Jam. 1:14-15). Are you exercising self-control by removing unclean things and turning to Christ whenever you face temptation?

  • Keep your hands holy. The Kohath members also could not touch the holy things because they were sinners. If they touched the items with their unclean hands, they would die (Nu. 4:15). Instead, the ark and the other holy furnishings had to be carrying using two poles (Nu. 4:10, 12, 14; Ex. 37:4-5; 25:14-15). The poles were meant to allow for the ark and the other holy fixtures to be transported on the shoulders of the men. If any person touched the ark, he would die because of his unholiness. Uzzah died after he touched the ark to keep it from falling off a cart (2 Sam. 6:6-7; 1 Chr. 13:9-14). This would never have happened if the Jews had transported the ark in the manner God had commanded. The beginning of all knowledge is the fear of the Lord (Prov. 1:7). This is defined as hating evil (Prov. 8:13). The act of touching something unholy is the final step in the descent into sin after your eyes and your mind have surrendered to sin. This might include adultery, fornication, or drug use. If you don’t repent of these sins, God will eventually hand you over to your addictions (Ro. 1:28). Is there any hidden sin in your life that you need to repent of?

3. Be Ready to Explain the Hope within You. Nu. 4:9-11.

  • Sin has caused separation (the animal skins). The lampstand, along with the other holy items, had to be covered from the eyes of the laypersons who could not look upon God (Nu. 4:9). Sin has also separated us from God: “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God . . .” (Is. 59:2(a)). God has looked down from heaven and observed that not one person is holy and without sin: “[I]t is written, ‘There is none righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.”’ (Rom. 3:10-11). “[T]here is no one who does good.” (Ps. 14:1; 53:1). “Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you.” (Ps. 143:2). “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 Jo. 1:8). Yet, this is not what God intended. Jesus explained that a lampstand should not be hidden. It should instead give light to those around it (Matt. 5:15). Jesus was the light of the world who enlightens every person. Yet, the world did not know Him (Jo. 1:10). Indeed, people turned away from the light because they loved darkness (Jo. 3:19-20). Today, the light of Jesus burns from within us because the temple of the Spirit now lies within us (Matt. 5:16; 1 Cor. 3:16). Is the light of Christ visible to others through your actions?

  • Christ died for everyone’s sins (the scarlet cloth). The priests covered the holy items with a scarlet cloth (Nu. 4:8). The scarlet symbolized Jesus’ blood (Rev. 7:14; Heb. 9:14; 1 Jo. 1:7). Only the blood of Christ can save you from judgment: “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12). The shedding of His blood at the altar symbolized the exchanging of His life for yours (Lev. 17:11; Heb. 9:22). “God presented Him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in His blood.” (Rom. 3:25). “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, . . .” (Gal. 3:13). If you could get to heaven because of your good works, Christ’s death on the cross was unnecessary (Gal. 2:21). If you accept this truth, what are you doing with your life to thank Him? (Rom. 12:1).

  • Jesus is the Messiah and God. The golden altar and holy items were also covered by a blue cloth (Nu. 4:11). Blue symbolized the color of heaven. In order to see the holy light of God, a seeker must understand that their sins have separated them from God and that Jesus died to reconcile man with God. This is not something that a mere human could do. Jesus stated that He was not just a prophet. He revealed that He is also God (Jo. 8:58-9; 10:30-33). Many of His names confirm His divinity: He is the “Lord of All” (Acts. 10:36). He is the King of Glory (1 Tim. 1:17). He is also the King Eternal (1 Tim. 1:17). He is the Creator (1 Pet. 4:19). He was also called “Emmanuel”, which means “God is with us” (Is. 7:14; Matt. 1:23). He is the “firstborn,” which means the preeminent one (Ro. 8:29; Col. 1:15; Rev. 1:5). He is the only begotten son (Jo. 1:18). He is the “highest” (Lk. 1:76). He is the image of God (2 Cor. 4:4; Heb. 1:3). He is also the gift of God (Jo. 4:10). He is also the “Word” of God who became flesh (Jo. 1:1, 14; Rev. 19:13). He is described as omnipresent (Matt. 28:20), omniscient (Jo. 16:30), omnipotent (Matt. 28:18), and the holy one (Acts 2:27; 3:14). He is our “all in all” (Col. 3:11) and the “heir of all things” (Heb. 1:2). He is the “ancient of days” (Dan. 7:9). He is also the author of our peace (1 Cor. 14:33). He is the author of our faith (Heb. 12:2). He is our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:57). He is the power of God (1 Cor. 1:24). He is the Radiance of God’s Glory (Heb. 1:3). He is potentate (the supreme power) (1 Tim. 6:15). He is the Lord of Glory (1 Cor. 2:8). He is the Lord of Lords (1 Tim. 6:15). He is the Lord of Harvest (Matt. 9:38). He is the Lord of Righteousness (Jer. 23:6). He is Love (1 Jo. 4:8). He is the Majesty on High (Heb. 1:3). He is the Alpha and the Omega (Rev. 22:13). He is also the “beginning” and the “end” (Rev. 21:6). A person who denies His divinity before mankind and is warned that Jesus will deny him before the kingdom of Heaven (Matt. 10:32-33). Is Jesus Lord over ever part of your life? Or, is He only Lord while you are in church?

4. Be Righteous. Nu. 4:21-26.

  • Let your actions be clothed in Christ’s righteousness. The members of the tribe of the Gershonites were given the role of carrying the “fine linens” for the Tabernacle. This included the curtains, the animal skins, and other similar items. These are the outermost components of the Tabernacle. These are the things that strangers to God would see. Today, our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16). The only thing that a stranger to God may see is your actions, not your beliefs. The fine linen symbolized His righteousness and holiness (Rev. 19:8; 3:5). As believers, He “imparts” elements of His righteousness to us (2 Pet. 1:4; Col. 1:22, 27). Are you living a pure life as an example to others?

  • Avoid self-righteousness. The Jews may have wanted to prepare themselves through acts of righteousness to be in God’s presence. Yet, their sin created a barrier to being in His presence. For this reason, they could not join Moses on mount Horeb (Ex. 19:16). No acts of righteousness could breach this barrier of sin: “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; and all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” (Is. 64:6). If you aim to help or serve in a manner that seeks to bring glory to yourself, your acts are also filthy rags to Him.

  • Don’t bring attention to your acts for God. The Gershonites’ role in carrying the linens would have drawn little attention. Today, they would be looked upon as the moving company. If a human had decided what to keep in the Bible, this entire text would have been deleted as trivial detail. But God wanted us to know that He sees and values all of the quiet acts of service. In order for God to exalt you in heaven, you must be a humble servant and not seek to draw attention to your acts (1 Pet. 5:5-6; Matt. 23:12; Jam. 4:6). If you must boast about anything, it should be about what Christ has done (2 Cor. 11:30). Finally, if you perform your service for God in a manner where we are recognized by newspapers, societies, or others, you will have no reward left in heaven (Matt 6:1). Are you announcing your good deeds for others to see? When you are successful, are you giving credit to Christ?

5. Be Obedient. Nu. 4:27-28.

  • Submit to Godly Leadership. Aaron and his sons were to direct the tribe of Gershonites in their duties (Nu. 4:27). The Gershonites did not get to vote on their leaders. God expects order. His holy priesthood cannot function properly if believers refuse to obey His leaders (Heb. 13:17). Thus, He commands that we submit to His appointed leaders. First, we submit to Him through his Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:14), His Word (2 Tim. 3:16), and His church leadership (Matt. 18:17-20, Heb. 13:17). Second, we submit to our civil authorities (1 Pet. 2:13-14; Rom. 13:1-2). Third, we submit to God’s family order (Eph. 5:22-25; 6:10). Only when our authorities refuse to follow God’s Word can we ignore them (Acts. 4:19). Satan’s goal has always been to break down authority through rebellion. His goal is to create chaos and misery. His first rebellion led a third of the angels in rebellion against God’s rule (Rev. 12:3-9). He then led Eve to rebel against God’s rules (Gen. 3:1-4). He then lead Adam and Eve to rebel against each other (Gen. 3:16). All of Satan’s 12 rebellions in the wilderness sought to depose Moses as the leader of the Jews. Jesus once quoted a prophesy: “I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.” (Mk. 14:23). Are you submitting to your leaders? Or, do you gossip and murmur about them?

  • Guide those who serve below you. The Shepherd carried a staff to keep the sheep together and safe from predators. Are you mentoring others to keep them safe?

  • Let God’s Word and His Spirit guide you in your walk. The Jews never needed to wonder which path to take as they traveled through the wilderness. God guided them with a pillar of light both day and night (Ex. 13:20-22). Today, instead of a pillar of light, He has left you with His Word to guide you and protect you: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Ps. 119:105). Before Jesus left, He also promised that He would leave us with “a helper” – the Holy Spirit – to teach us His will (Jo. 14:26). But we cannot see Him directly. We need to trust God and know that He is there. Jesus explained that many see without seeing and hear without hearing (Matt. 13:13; Mk. 4:12; Lk. 8:10). The Holy Spirit guides using the God’s Word: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” (Jo. 14:26). Yet, in order for the Holy Spirit to bring you into “remembrance of all that [Christ] said to you” you need to know God’s Word. Have you given the Spirit a lot of verses to work with? Can He remind you of much with only a few memorized verses?

6. Be Filled with Praise for Your Sustainer. Nu. 4:29-33.

  • Let God sustain and protect you. The Merarites carried the sockets, the pegs, and other equipment that sustained the Tabernacle (Nu. 4:32). Christ holds the Church (the fine linens) together. He is also the chief cornerstone that later held the Temple together (Eph. 2:20-22). “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” (Col. 1:7). “And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,” (Heb. 1:3). Yet, He uses believers to be the pegs, the sockets, and equipment to hold the Church together. Thus, He values the service of everyone, and everyone in the Church has a different role. Are you looking to Christ to sustain you? Are you letting Him direct you to sustain others?

  • Sing praise for your sustainer. The Merarites and Gershonites also “performed the service to do the work at the tent of meeting.” (Nu. 4:23, 31). Rabbi Rashi explained that their “service” included singing songs of praise and playing the worship music as the other priests performed the sacrifices. You must also remember that you carry the spikes that pierced Christ. It was everyone’s sins that pierced Him. Thus, all believers are encouraged to speak “in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. . .” in praise of Christ (Eph. 5:19). Are you filled with so much joy that you must sing His praises? Or, do you skip your worship serve?

7. Be Ready to Serve. Nu. 4:34-49.

  • Be numbered amongst those ready to serve. Everyone was numbered for “serving or carrying.” (Nu. 4:49). Are you serving or carrying for God? If not, find your role.

  • Be ready to share in responsibilities. The thousands of men in each of the tribes within Levi would have exceeded the number needed to carry the holy furnishings of the Tabernacle. The extra members of each tribe were meant to rotate with others in the responsibilities. Are you sharing in the responsibilities of the body? Or, do you let others do all the work?

  • Be in fellowship. The leaders numbered every member of every family. This implied that they closely protected and watched over each other in fellowship. Believers are also warned not to be in a place in their walk where they are: “forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Heb. 10:25). Floating in and out of church does not meet the definition of true fellowship. Large churches also have a special responsibility to keep track of their many members. A shepherd does not do his job if he merely opens up his gates and lets the sheep wander in and out without carefully counting them, protecting them, keeping track of them, and feeding them. Are you in a small fellowship of believers where you are accountable to each other? Are you opening up to another believer to keep yourself in check?

  • Walk in fellowship with Jesus. The Tabernacle was meant restore the Jews’ fellowship with God. To maintain fellowship, they needed to walk with Him. When their relationship with God was proper, “Abraham and Isaac walked with God.” (Gen. 48:15). After receiving God’s blessing, Abraham walked with Yahweh throughout the Promised Land and built an altar to symbolize his fellowship with Him (Gen. 13:17-18). God later gave Abraham two directives when He affirmed His Covenant with Him. He was to “[w]alk before Me, and be blameless.” (Gen. 17:1(b)). Both Enoch and Noah also “walked with God.” (Gen. 5:22, 24; 6:9). Before his fall, Adam also walked with God. This suggested not just piety, but also fellowship. Sin broke this fellowship between God and Adam’s descendants. Yet, through Christ’s blood, you too can “walk” with Him in fellowship (Dt. 5:33; 8:6). When you sin, you don’t lose your salvation. Yet, you can fall out of fellowship. If you think salvation automatically brings fellowship with God, ask a saved but backslidden drug or alcohol addict if they feel Jesus’ peace.

  • Walk in fellowship with Jesus using His Spiritual gifts for His Kingdom. Like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob / Israel, and the Jews, you are also called to walk in fellowship with Jesus. This includes using His Spiritual gifts for His Kingdom. There are seven ways to walk in fellowship with Him. First, this requires that you walk by faith in Christ and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7; Col. 2:6; Gal. 5:16). Second, this requires that you trust the Lord with all your heart as opposed to leaning upon your own understanding (Prov. 3:5-6). Third, this requires that you walk in obedience as God commands you (Dt. 5:33; Zech. 3:7; Job 22:21). Fourth, this requires that you read the Word and pray regularly so that the Holy Spirit may be a lamp to your feet and guide your path (Ps. 119:105; Jo. 14:26). Fifth, this requires that you walk with purity as a “living sacrifice” and a “new creation” for Him (Ro. 12:1-2; Ps. 119:133; Jam. 4:8; Ro. 13:13; 2 Cor. 5:17). Sixth, this requires that you perform the “good works” of love, unity, kindness, justice, mercy, and encouragement that God has prepared in advance for you (Eph. 2:10; 1 Jo. 4:8; Micah 6:8; Amos 3:3). Finally, when your walk fails you, repent of your sins so that He may cleanse you of your sins (1 Jo. 1:9). If you are not walking in fellowship with Him, pray for the Spirit to guide you.

  • Jesus also wants you to desire His fellowship. Like the Jews, you too are called to seek fellowship with Jesus: “God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Cor. 1:9). Christ also offered to believers that they could enjoy spiritual intimacy with Him, symbolized by dining together with Him: ‘“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.”’ (Rev. 3:20). Christ offered this so that you could find both fellowship and peace through Him (Jo. 16:33). Without His fellowship, your peace will be only temporary and easily broken (Eph. 2:13-15; Ro. 5:1). When you are in fellowship with Him, He offers the “peace that surpasses all understanding.” (Phil. 4:7). “For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall,” (Eph. 2:14). Sadly, many believers have been led to believe that being saved is the end-all-be-all of being a Christian. Yet, it is only the first step in a person’s walk with Christ. If you want fellowship with Him, you must accept His knock on the door of your heart. Are you opening your heart to Christ to allow Him to keep you in full fellowship and to give you peace?