Numbers 8:5-26 (Part 1) – The Sprinkling, The Shaving, The Washing

Posted: July 29, 2016 in Book of Numbers
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Numbers 8:5-26 (Part 1)

The Levites Dedicated

Sprinkling, Shaving, Washing. We Americans are obsessed with cleanliness. Products related to personal hygiene are a multi-billion dollar industry. We want to be clean. We may sweat during our workouts and while doing labor outdoors, but we hit the shower as soon as we can because we want to be clean. Because of our obsession with cleanliness from our water, to our homes, to our bodies, to our food, it is often difficult for us to travel to third world countries where the water is often not clean, the food not pure, and personal hygiene is often lacking. Disease can fester and spread quickly in places like these. We, Americans, when we travel to such places often have to be extremely careful about what we eat and what we touch and how we cleanse our bodies as our bodies are often not able to handle the raw nature of the environments of third world countries. We have become prima donas almost in that we have to be so careful when we travel to such places.

 

It used to not be that way for me. When I was a kid, I was all boy. The dirtier I got the better. It did not matter to me whether I took a bath or not. I had holes to dig. Trees to climb. Things to do outside. Bikes to ride. Hills to climb. Wars to win in the woods. Bugs to grab and look at and examine. All those things that kids in the 70s would do. Life was a dirty adventure for us boys. The dirtier the better. It you stayed clean all the time, it meant to us boys that you weren’t really living. There were always those boys here and there that had overbearing moms that wouldn’t let their sons get dirty. To us, that was not living – being in fear of getting dirty meant that were so many boy things that you could not do. You missed out on life if you could not get dirty. The old saying that “God made dirt and dirt don’t hurt” was the mantra of most of us boys. Life outside the house was dirty and if you were gonna live the life of a boy, you were gonna get dirty. It was a badge of honor to come home from a day of playing with your clothes so filthy that your mother wondered how one boy could get so dirty and for us to not even care. Even filthy, dirty, we did not think we needed to take baths. We certainly didn’t do it voluntarily. Our moms and dads would have to threaten a “belt whoopin’”, as we would say in the South, for us to even entertain the idea of an evening bath. It just seemed so unnecessary and unnatural. Boys dreamed of being on an island where baths only happened as you swam in the ocean. On the islands of our dreams, there was no pre-set baths to be taken, no routine of brushing teeth, and washing our hair. But, I imagine if we had not been forced to take baths, we would eventually not wanted to sleep in dirty beds. We would have begun to stink. And the greatest fear of a Southern mom in the 70’s, “you can’t go to church looking like that!”

 

We always had to be clean when we went to church. Those Saturday night baths before church the next day had to be extra special. Those baths would have to be supervised by mom or dad. They made sure we got in the tub. They made sure we washed our hair and everything else. They made sure we brushed our teeth. They made sure we clipped our fingernails and toenails. It all seemed so pretentious to us as young boys. But there was honor in that. Making sure that we were clean as possible made us ready to enter the house of the Lord and not some dirty, filthy ragamuffin that I would have been if were not for nightly baths but particularly the Saturday night ones.

 

Later in life though as we grow older, we discover girls and how intoxicatingly clean and pretty they are and out the windows go all the uncaring things of boyhood. We may still not mind getting dirty but before we go meet that girl, we voluntarily get clean. We want the girls to think the best of us and cleanliness was what girls liked. As we grow even older, we play less outdoors and become obsessed with staying clean and keeping healthy through cleanliness. Gone is the little boy from the 70’s that would rather ride his bike through a big mud puddle of dirty red-clay water than ride around it. To us now, dirty just means that we are gonna have to get cleaned up again. Clean sheets. Clean towels. Sterilized toothbrushes. Clean water. Clean floors. Clean tables. Clean cooking surfaces. Clean food. The 4 year old me would look at 54 year old me and ask me to come play in the mud puddle with him and I would probably refuse 8 times out of 10. As we mature, cleanliness becomes important in a way that 4 year old me could not even fathom.

 

It was that idea of what I used to be like as a little boy compared to grown-up me where cleanliness is a premium is the first thing that popped into my mind as I studied this new passage that we have moved to today. When I read through this passage, I found that there are going to be multiple blogs coming from this passage (in part because it is a long passage) because there are some key points that come out of reading it. The first being the cleanliness issue that we will talk about today. Let’s read the full passage together and then let’s concentrate on vv. 5-7 for today after we have read through it:

 

5 The Lord said to Moses: 6 “Take the Levites from among all the Israelites and make them ceremonially clean. 7 To purify them, do this: Sprinkle the water of cleansing on them; then have them shave their whole bodies and wash their clothes. And so they will purify themselves. 8 Have them take a young bull with its grain offering of the finest flour mixed with olive oil; then you are to take a second young bull for a sin offering.[a] 9 Bring the Levites to the front of the tent of meeting and assemble the whole Israelite community. 10 You are to bring the Levites before the Lord, and the Israelites are to lay their hands on them. 11 Aaron is to present the Levites before the Lord as a wave offering from the Israelites, so that they may be ready to do the work of the Lord.

 

12 “Then the Levites are to lay their hands on the heads of the bulls, using one for a sin offering to the Lord and the other for a burnt offering, to make atonement for the Levites. 13 Have the Levites stand in front of Aaron and his sons and then present them as a wave offering to the Lord. 14 In this way you are to set the Levites apart from the other Israelites, and the Levites will be mine.

 

15 “After you have purified the Levites and presented them as a wave offering, they are to come to do their work at the tent of meeting. 16 They are the Israelites who are to be given wholly to me. I have taken them as my own in place of the firstborn, the first male offspring from every Israelite woman. 17 Every firstborn male in Israel, whether human or animal, is mine. When I struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, I set them apart for myself. 18 And I have taken the Levites in place of all the firstborn sons in Israel. 19 From among all the Israelites, I have given the Levites as gifts to Aaron and his sons to do the work at the tent of meeting on behalf of the Israelites and to make atonement for them so that no plague will strike the Israelites when they go near the sanctuary.”

 

20 Moses, Aaron and the whole Israelite community did with the Levites just as the Lord commanded Moses. 21 The Levites purified themselves and washed their clothes. Then Aaron presented them as a wave offering before the Lord and made atonement for them to purify them. 22 After that, the Levites came to do their work at the tent of meeting under the supervision of Aaron and his sons. They did with the Levites just as the Lord commanded Moses.

 

23 The Lord said to Moses, 24 “This applies to the Levites: Men twenty-five years old or more shall come to take part in the work at the tent of meeting, 25 but at the age of fifty, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer. 26 They may assist their brothers in performing their duties at the tent of meeting, but they themselves must not do the work. This, then, is how you are to assign the responsibilities of the Levites.”

 

The process of cleanliness was important when it came to being in the presence of the Lord our God in the Tabernacle. The process involved three steps. There was the sprinkling of the water of purification on their bodies. There was the shaving of their body hair and trimming of beards (as anyone who shaves knows that in order to shave there must be lots of water and soapy material). Finally, there was the washing of clothes. The sprinkling of pure holy water was symbolic of imputing God’s holiness upon us through Jesus Christ. The shaving of the body hair was to ensure that the hidden dirt that our hair retains is washed away and is symbolic of our purposeful repentance of our sins. And the washing of clothes is again to remove the dirt and dust that our garments collect from the world outside that must be purified before entering the presence of the Lord. It is symbolic of the rags of the world that we bring before God at salvation and the robes of riches that He bestows upon us through our salvation in Jesus Christ.

 

Yes, we live in dirty world, both literally and figuratively. Does that mean that we cannot be in the presence of the Lord? No, but we have been cleansed first. Just as my mother would have never took me to church immediately after riding my bike repeatedly through a dirty mud puddle, we must be cleansed somehow. For us it begins with realizing that we are dirty. We must realize that we have the dirt of sin all over us. We must say to the Lord, I realize that I am dirty and that I need your mercy. He then, while yet still dirty, sprinkles us with holiness through our salvation in Jesus Christ. Once we admit that we are dirty and come humbly before the Lord to ask for His imputation of holiness upon us through Jesus Christ, we must shave, in a sense. It is through the action of the Holy Spirit that we are sanctified and we realize that we have more dirt on us that we had originally though. We have our hair follicles of sin. We have this hidden dirt in the hairs of our body and head. We have those sins that we enjoy and don’t even realize that are sins. We have those sins that we know are sins but that we bury in the hair of our soul. It is through the Holy Spirit that we realize that these sins are keeping us impure and prevent us from being truly holy and from being fully intimate with God. We must go through the process of shaving our sins and removing them from our bodies. It can be painful at times. Some of these sins are deep rooted follicles and the shaving of them causes cuts and pain. It is to through the Holy Spirit that we realize that the clothes that we have on are dirty. We have our world trappings that keep us from being holy whether its friends, obsessions, habits, desires, worldly thinking. In salvation and sanctification, the trapping of this life that once seemed wonderful to us are revealed as nothing but rags to us. What we once thought was cool and OK to participate in that grieves the heart of God is revealed to us as needing cleaning and washing. We put on the new clean clothes of the righteous through Jesus Christ and the action of the Holy Spirit in our souls. We are clean and now we can get close. We can truly be in the presence of God through salvation and sanctification. Salvation assures us that we can be in the presence of the Lord eternally, the sprinkling of the holy waters of Jesus Christ upon us. Sanctification allows us to draw closer and closer to Him and go deeper in our relationship with Him. As we mature in Christ we draw closer and closer to Him, the shaving and the washing.

 

Amen and Amen.

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