Posts Tagged ‘eternal freedom’

Numbers 3:40-51

Redeeming the Firstborn Sons

Yesterday was July 4, 2016. It was the 240th anniversary of our declaration of being an independent nation from England. Although the declaration was signed in July 1776, the war had begun with skirmishes in the previous year, 1775. The war lasted 8 long years. It was a long war. It was a tough war and many sacrifices were made by the firstborn sons of our new nation. A generation of young men and old sacrificed time away from their family for long stretches of time. A generation of men, some gave their lives in the cause they we felt was right – release from tyranny, rule without representation. There farms that were lost because of the sacrifice of many of these men. There were families displaced by the war. These were brave men who risked the lives of themselves but also of anyone who aided them including their families. For, as a British colony living under British rule, what they were doing was treasonous. We may speak out against our President and nothing happens to us really, but back then, to speak out against the crown much less fight against it was a death sentence if you were captured. And, the British, as most nations were in those days and prior, were none to kind to those captured and sentenced for treason. They were killed for sure but were tortured beforehand. In our cushy lifestyles in the 21st century, we forget the great risk at which this nation was born. We were a rag-tag, ill-equipped, ill-financed bunch of rebels against our mother nations, against the crown of the royal family of England. We were born at great risk because if we had lost the war, the British would have come down hard on these American colonies. There would have been no America as we know it. America might never have expanded beyond those colonial, east coast borders. There would have been no spirit of capitalism that made this the nation of the common who could make himself great.


The thing that makes me take the greatest pause though is this generation of men who risked life, liberty and limb to gain our nation’s independence from England. We owe a great deal to these men. We would not be the great nation that we are today without these rebellious band of men from Boston to Savannah. Without their sacrifice, we would not be a nation where the ideal is that anyone can be who they wanted to be. These men changed the world. The American Revolution led to the crumbling of the elitist world which existed at the time. Revolution of the common man spread through Europe and around the world after that. Even our mother country no longer is a country truly ruled by its monarchy. For all the attention we pay to the royal family in England, they are meaningless to British law today. They have no power anymore. Great sacrifices were made by this generation of Americans to change the world. These were the firstborn sons of freedom. These were the firstborn sons of the new American nation. To them, we owe a great deal of honor, respect and gratitude for the nation that they gave us, the world that they gave us. We were redeemed from tyranny, as we colonists saw it, by the sacrifice of these firstborn sons of freedom. We are the redeemed from the slavery of tyranny of a far-off king by the sacrifice of these, the firstborn sons of America.


It was that idea of redemption that played a role in my thoughts of our still-young nation yesterday as we celebrated with fireworks, good food, and good friends. It is that thought of redemption that continues this morning when I read through this passage, Numbers 3:40-51, that we will read together below:


40 The Lord said to Moses, “Count all the firstborn Israelite males who are a month old or more and make a list of their names. 41 Take the Levites for me in place of all the firstborn of the Israelites, and the livestock of the Levites in place of all the firstborn of the livestock of the Israelites. I am the Lord.”


42 So Moses counted all the firstborn of the Israelites, as the Lord commanded him. 43 The total number of firstborn males a month old or more, listed by name, was 22,273.


44 The Lord also said to Moses, 45 “Take the Levites in place of all the firstborn of Israel, and the livestock of the Levites in place of their livestock. The Levites are to be mine. I am the Lord. 46 To redeem the 273 firstborn Israelites who exceed the number of the Levites, 47 collect five shekels[a] for each one, according to the sanctuary shekel, which weighs twenty gerahs. 48 Give the money for the redemption of the additional Israelites to Aaron and his sons.”


49 So Moses collected the redemption money from those who exceeded the number redeemed by the Levites. 50 From the firstborn of the Israelites he collected silver weighing 1,365 shekels,[b] according to the sanctuary shekel. 51 Moses gave the redemption money to Aaron and his sons, as he was commanded by the word of the Lord.


The Levite clan was set apart for special service to the Lord. They were to replace the service of the firstborn sons of each clan in service in the Tabernacle. God decided that, not that He was wrong previously, but rather that He wanted all clans to know the hard work of maintaining the Temple and then create a specialized group to handle that duty for the entire nation. The Levites were to be that special group. They were to be the substitutes for the firstborn sons of each family of each clan. They took the place of the firstborn sons. Even when there more firstborn sons in all the other clans that males in the Levite clan, there was a redemption price paid to cover the excess. The sons of Israel were redeemed in body and in price by the Levite males. This idea of sacrifice and redemption is a model is it not? When we think of the Revolutionary War, we think of men who redeemed our freedom with their very lives. They died so that we might live in a world where we could determine our own future. They died so that we might be free. Here, in this text, the Levite clan becomes the sacrificial substitute for the rest of the nation so that they could be about the work of the nation of Israel. The Levites sacrificed their rights and claims to any lands in the Promised Land to be in full time service to the Lord at the Tabernacle (and later the Temple). This sacrifice by the Levite clan and their substitutionary redemption and replacement of the firstborn sons of Israel is the very same thing that God did in the person and work of Jesus Christ, is it not?


We were redeemed at great price by Jesus Christ. He sacrificed His life so that we could be eternally free from the tyranny and death of sin. He redeemed us with the price He paid on the cross. Everything in the Old Testament is pointing toward Christ from the moment of the first sin in Adam & Eve. Everything was practice for the recognition of the Messiah when He came. As Christ followers, we understand the sacrifice here as pointing toward the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the substitutionary nature of what Jesus did for us on the cross. Just as the firstborn sons of America sacrificed much, even their lives, so that you and I can sit here on this side of eternity and celebrate a nation of great promise, so it is with the Levites here and so it is with Jesus. Jesus ensures our eternal freedom through His sacrifice on the cross. It is this sacrifice that redeems us from the depths of hell that we are sentenced to by our own sins. We are free on this side of eternity on the shoulders of the firstborn sons of freedom. We are free eternally through the person and work of Jesus Christ.


Amen and Amen.