Numbers 3:1-13 – There, But By the Grace of God, Go I

Posted: July 3, 2016 in 04-Numbers

Numbers 3:1-13

Levites Appointed for Service

I remember when I was in first grade (and that’s really getting to be awhile back now), I was chosen to be the crown bearer for the homecoming court at the homecoming game of Hillcrest High School in Dalzell, SC (near Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter County, SC) in the Fall 1968. As I remember correctly, the homecoming student committee went around all the first grade classrooms and picked a first grade boy and girl to be the crown bearer (boy) and the rose bouquet bearer (girl). The duty was that we would stand on the sideline of the football field with all the officials of the homecoming presentation until the Homecoming Queen was named. We were to then walk out to here with the crown and the roses. The high school principal would then take the crown and place on the head of the new queen and then give her the bouquet of roses. I was randomly chosen for this honor by that committee of high school students as they peaked into each of the first grade classrooms. My parents had to buy me a new suit and all that jazz. They were so proud that their little first grader was going to part of the “cute part” of the homecoming court.


To this day, I do not know why I was chosen out of all the boys in first grade at Hillcrest Elementary School. I just the son of a Methodist preacher serving in the little community of Rembert, SC at the time. I didn’t have to qualify for the honor. There was no test to take. There was nothing that I did to earn that place in the Homecoming Court of 1968 Hillcrest High School lore. They just thought I was cute which of course I was (and still am! LOL!)! But, there was nothing that I did or nothing that I performed to be chosen for this honor other than the committee members’ good graces. I was chosen to perform a duty. I was responsible for carrying the crown. It was an honor for which I done nothing to deserve. It was one of the highlights of my childhood was to be the crown bearer that night. To be among all the grown-ups and the high schoolers on that football field made me feel special to have been chosen. Even at six years old, you know the difference between everyday events and those special occasions. It was pretty cool to this little six year old boy.


When I thought about that fact this morning, it reminds me of how the Levites were chosen to be the tribe of Israel that the Lord set aside to be ones who maintained the Tabernacle (and later the Temple) and acted as priests for the people. God called them to be the priests for the people. It was not because of anything special that this clan had done to qualify for this position. It was because God chose them, called them to be His servants at the Tabernacle. Let us read through Numbers 3:1-13 together this morning:



3 This is the account of the family of Aaron and Moses at the time the Lord spoke to Moses at Mount Sinai.


2 The names of the sons of Aaron were Nadab the firstborn and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. 3 Those were the names of Aaron’s sons, the anointed priests, who were ordained to serve as priests. 4 Nadab and Abihu, however, died before the Lord when they made an offering with unauthorized fire before him in the Desert of Sinai. They had no sons, so Eleazar and Ithamar served as priests during the lifetime of their father Aaron.


5 The Lord said to Moses, 6 “Bring the tribe of Levi and present them to Aaron the priest to assist him. 7 They are to perform duties for him and for the whole community at the tent of meeting by doing the work of the tabernacle. 8 They are to take care of all the furnishings of the tent of meeting, fulfilling the obligations of the Israelites by doing the work of the tabernacle. 9 Give the Levites to Aaron and his sons; they are the Israelites who are to be given wholly to him.[a] 10 Appoint Aaron and his sons to serve as priests; anyone else who approaches the sanctuary is to be put to death.”


11 The Lord also said to Moses, 12 “I have taken the Levites from among the Israelites in place of the first male offspring of every Israelite woman. The Levites are mine, 13 for all the firstborn are mine. When I struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, I set apart for myself every firstborn in Israel, whether human or animal. They are to be mine. I am the Lord.”


At the time of the first Passover, God instructed each Israelite family to dedicate their first born to Him. They were set apart to assist Moses and Aaron in ministering to the people. This was only a temporary measure, however. Here, God chose all of the men from the tribe of Levi to replace the firstborn sons from every tribe. These men were set apart to care for the Tabernacle and minister to the people. All the priests had to belong to the tribe of Levi because that was what the Lord commanded. They were chosen by God and set apart for this task in the sovereign decision of God for them to do so. There was nothing that made the Levite tribe more special than any of the other tribes of Israel. They were called into the special service by God. From that point forward though, they became experts in the services to be performed at the temple. They are proof of the old saying that “God does not call the qualified. He qualifies the called.”


There are two things that I take away from this passage this morning. The first thing is that the choosing of the Levites reminds me of my being chosen to be the crown bearer for that 1968 Homecoming event at Hillcrest High School and of my own salvation. In both cases, I did not do anything to make myself qualified for the honor bestowed upon me. In that homecoming court, I was just the cute kid that they randomly picked. In my salvation, it was the grace of God through His Son, Jesus Christ, that I was saved. If I was looking for ways to earn my salvation, there is nothing that I can do to earn it. There is nothing that I can do to qualify for it. It is only through the substitutionary grace of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross that I am made clean before God. My sins taint me on my own merit. My first sin that I ever committed in my life disqualified me from being in the presence of God EVER! Just one! Just that first one sin! Not to mention the lifetime of sins that I have committed and will commit before my earthly existence on this side of heaven ends, but yet all it took to disqualify me was the first one. I must be sinless to exist in the presence of God. I must be pure. I must be holy. None of those things, I am since I committed my first sin. Once I committed that first sin, I am no longer pure and no longer holy. Add to that the decay of a lifetime of sins, I am not worthy of the presence of God. I am not worthy of salvation. However, by believing that Jesus Christ was the Son of God who came to earth to live the perfect life and die on the cross, the new altar of sacrifice, as the atoning sacrifice for all my sins, then, and only then,  am I saved. There is no way that I deserve this grace, this favor. I cannot do any checklist of things to earn this favor. It is a favor freely given through the love of God for mankind. I don’t deserve it any more than I deserved to be the crown bearer that night, any more than the Levites deserved or earned their place as the keepers of the Tabernacle.


Second, when we are called to serve the Lord as ministers, it is not because we are special or have done something others have not. We are simply being called by the Lord for special service. Sure, it helps to go to seminary and get a master’s degree in theology, apologetics, Christian ministry, and so on. It helps to have to dig deeper and grow closer to God in the process of getting a seminary education, but it is not a requirement to be a minister in God’s eyes. We are called by Him to be ministers and He will qualify us. We do our parts by entering into His service and we learn as much as we can to become proficient and an expert in the field into which He has called us. However, His calling of us was not because of some checklist that we had checked off. He called us to ministry because He set us apart at salvation. He grows us deeper in relationship with Him through the action of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. He grows the passion of us for His service. He gives us our talent for the ministries that we serve. We serve Him because we love Him. We serve Him so that others can catch a glimpse of the Lord and be drawn unto Him. We serve Him not because we want to make celebrities of ourselves. We serve because the Lord chose us. What an honor that is to serve the Lord. Not because we deserve to serve but because He chose us to do so. Next time, we get all caught up in the business of being a Christ follower, let us remember that we do not deserve any of it. We have been granted grace to begin with and then we have been set apart not because we are special but because we were chosen and we heard the call. We serve not because we deserve it, but because we were chosen. We serve in thanksgiving for the grace that we have been given. We serve in thanksgiving for the favor that we have been shown by being chosen.


There but by the grace of God, go I…as the old saying goes.


Amen and Amen.


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