Numbers 8
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
This passage is to be considered in connection with Revelation 1:9-20. Moses had revelations in Sinai even as John had in Patmos. Matthew 5:14-16 will serve for a link to connect the two passages.

I. THERE WAS A TIME TO LIGHT THE LAMPS. "When thou lightest the lamps." Dressing them was morning work: they were then ready for Aaron to light" at even" (Exodus 30:7, 8). The light was symbolic only when it was clearly useful. By day no light was needed, but it was fitting that at night the holy place of him who is light and in whom is no darkness at all, should be well illuminated. Seven is said to be a number of perfection; if we take it so seven lamps would denote perfect illumination. Similarly the Churches of Christ are to be as lamps in a darkened world, that by their light the things of God may be discerned. The words to the seven Churches are thus words to every Church, admonishing it to tend and replenish the lamp that has been lighted at even.

II. THE LAMPS WERE TO BE LIGHTED OVER AGAINST THE CANDLESTICK. This, taken together with the reference in verse 4 to the construction of the candlestick, seems to indicate that the candlestick with its richness and beauty was to be revealed by the lamps. Bezaleel and Aholiab had been specially endowed to make this and like elaborate work (Exodus 35:30-35; Exodus 37:17-24). If the Churches then are as the lamps, we may take the candlestick to signify the doctrines, the promises, the duties, the revelations to be found in the word of God. Law and gospel are intermingled by prophet and apostle in a splendour and richness of which Bezaleel's work was a feeble type. The candlestick supports the lamps, which in turn reveal the candlestick. The truths of God's word are in charge of his Churches. They rest upon that word, and their lives, conspicuous for abiding purity and brightness, must recommend the word. The lamps must reveal that the candlestick holds them, and it must be made obvious that the candlestick is for this purpose.

III. IT WAS AARON WHO LIGHTED THESE LAMPS, and so it is from Christ the true Aaron that every Church gets its light. We cannot recommend God's word by anything save the holy, beautiful, benign life which his Son, by the Spirit, can create within us. Then, and only then, will our light so shine that men will glorify our Father who is in heaven.

IV. THE LAMPS REVEALED THE GLORY OF AARON'S OWN VESTURE - those holy garments which were for glory and beauty. Read carefully Exodus 28, and then consider that Aaron arrayed in all these splendours was the type of the true Intercessor afterwards to come. That is an unworthy Church which does not reveal much of Christ; which does not, by the shining of its life, attract attention more and more to the glories of his person. We cannot glorify our Father in heaven, unless by glorifying the Son whom he has sent.

Lessons: -

1. That which is useful may also be beautiful, and in its use its beauty will be revealed.

2. The candlestick was something permanent, made of gold, and not needing renewal. We have no occasion for a new, an altered, or an increased gospel; all required of us is to show it forth, by daily replenishings from the beaten oil of the sanctuary. - Y.

The tribe of Levi was set apart for God's service in the tabernacle in place of all the firstborn. Before they could enter on that service they needed a special call and consecration, including atoning sacrifices (verses 5-12). Thus we are reminded of the obvious truth that, without a sacrifice for us, we can never ourselves be acceptable sacrifices to God. Illustrate from the position of Romans 12. I in the Epistle, coming after the exposition of the mercies of God, including the atonement of Christ (Romans 3). But in verse 19 the services of the Levites (or the Levites themselves) are said to be an atonement. The Levites were regarded as a vicarious offering to God (verses 10, 11). In the wider sense of the word atonement, they are said to make (or to be) an atonement. ("The priests made an atonement by sacrifice; the Levites by attendance." - M. Henry.) Yet even this vicarious offering needs to be atoned for (verse 12). Hence the lesson, that every human saint (separated to God, verse 14), service, or sacrifice needs an atonement. This is needed for -

1. All God's chosen servants, "a kind of first-fruits of his creatures." (Illustrate from 1 John 1:7-10; 1 John 2:1, 2, and from John 13:10.)

2. All God's selected ministers (pastors, missionaries, etc.). Illustrate from Tertullian's request to his brethren: "Ye have sought, and ye have found; ye have knocked, and it is opened to you. Thus much I ask, that when you seek again, you remember me, Tertullian, a sinner;" or from W. Carey the missionary's selected epitaph -

"A guilty, weak, and helpless worm,
On thy kind arms I fall."

3. All the most sacred services of the most saintly men. Their prayers need to be prayed for; their tears to be washed from impurity; their gifts of gold to be refined from the dross of earthly motives. Though all Christians are priests unto God, their most solemn priestly acts need the blood of Christ to cleanse them from all sin. - P.

Thus shalt thou separate the Levites from among the children of Israel: and the Levites shall be mine. There was a threefold reason why the Levites were separated from the rest of the nation and wholly dedicated to the Lord's service. In the first place, they were to stand instead of the first-born, whom the Lord had specially claimed for himself (verses 16-18). It was judged expedient that to the service of the sanctuary one whole tribe should be dedicated, rather than individuals out of all the tribes. Secondly, the due serving of the tabernacle being much too burdensome for the single family of Aaron, their brethren of the tribe of Levi were appointed to help them. But there was a third and deeper reason. All the chosen people are the Lord's, and he claims their service. But all cannot, in person, serve him in the way of keeping the charge of the sanctuary. Some of them must be separated to this ministry. Official service is necessary under the gospel. Much more was it necessary under the law. Hence the separation of the Levites. When the time came for the Levites to enter on duty, they were set apart in a service, not so solemn indeed as the service on the occasion of Aaron's consecration, nevertheless highly impressive, and fitted to suggest many a lesson worthy to be laid to heart by us on similar occasions.

I. Let us begin by taking A GENERAL VIEW OF THIS ORDINATION SERVICE. The outstanding features were these. It took place at the door of the tabernacle and in presence of the whole congregation. The Levites being marched in, the congregation put their hands on them, q.d.: "We are thine, O Lord. Thou hast redeemed us and brought us out for thyself, to be to thee a kingdom and priests. With respect to the charge of this thy sanctuary, thou hast made choice of these our brethren to minister to thee in our stead. We freely give them up to thee, and renounce all the rightful claim we should otherwise have had upon their service in peace and war." This done, Aaron "offered" the Levites to the Lord as a "wave offering." Finally, Aaron in turn accepted the Levites as the Lord's gift to him, to aid him in the tabernacle. Who can fail to see the significance of all this? Besides suggesting

(1) how fit it is that men who are entering on a life of official service in the Church should be solemnly set apart to their office and charge, it plainly teaches

(2) that ordination to sacred office should take place in the face of the congregation. It ought not to be performed in a corner. The people are vitally interested, and have a right to be present. This is the rule, I believe, in all evangelical Churches.

(3) When a man has been set apart to sacred service, at the instance of his brethren and in their presence, a relation is formed between him and them which involves reciprocal obligation. He is to lay out his strength in their service; and they are to charge themselves with his maintenance while he does so. The people of Israel having laid their hands on the Levites, were thenceforward to communicate with them in all good things (see Deuteronomy 12:19; Deuteronomy 14:27). When Dr. Carey consented to go down into the pit of heathendom, it was only fair and just that the brethren at whose instance he went should "hold the rope," as he stipulated that they should.


1. Lustral (verse 7). First, Aaron sprinkled the Levites with water of purifying - either that described chapter 19, or, more likely, spring-water, such as was used in the laver. Then the Levites, on their part, shaved off their hair and washed their clothes, q.d.: "Lord, we are not meet for thy house and service. Holiness becometh thine house. Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil. And we are unclean. But thou canst make us clean. As thou hast sprinkled our persons with clean water, so do thou remove all filthiness from our hearts. And we, for our parts, are resolved by thy grace to put away the evils of our past lives and to follow after holiness henceforward."

2. Expiatory (verses 8, 12). The Levites were to bring a sin offering for atonement; laying their hands upon it with confession of sin (see Leviticus 4). They were thus reminded of their guilt as well as impurity, and were encouraged to believe that there is forgiveness with God, on the ground of which they might hope to be accepted in their persons and service.

3. Dedicatory. The sin offering was to be followed by a burnt offering to signify that the Levites presented their whole persons to the Lord, a living sacrifice, to be employed in his service all their days. Blessed be God, we are rid of these burdensome and carnal rites. Care must be taken not to let anything like them creep again into the sanctuary. But the ideas they set forth - the great realities of purification, and pardon, and dedication - ought to be often present to our minds and hearts in the house of God. - B.

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