So were all those that were numbered of the children of Israel, by the house of their fathers, from twenty years old and upward…
The different departments of service appointed to the host of Israel and to the Levites remind us of similar diversities in national and Church life at present.
I. THE SERVICE OF THE SWORD.
II. THE SUPERIOR SERVICE OF THE SANCTUARY.
1. The apparent strength of the Israelites was according to the number of its soldiers. So with a nation and its bread-winners, or with a Church and its active workers. The "mixed multitude" (representing hangers-on, idlers, grumblers; Numbers 11:4), not reckoned or "mustered": only true Israelites can be relied on.
2. Their aggregation by tribes illustrates the value of natural affinities in Christian work (verses 18, 20, 22, etc.). This truth may be applied -
(1) To Christian nationalities, whether of a European or Asiatic type: e.g., Chinese Churches should not be cast in English moulds.
(2) To Christian denominations, which may work best as separate, yet allied denominations, each having its own methods and rallying round the standard of some special truth. We are reminded also of -
3. The value of noble Church traditions. "The house of their fathers" had a special honour in the eyes of every patriotic Israelite. So with British Christians: e.g., attachment of Episcopalians to the Church of the Protestant martyrs, and of other Christians to the Churches of Puritan, Covenanting, Nonconforming, or Methodist ancestors (Psalm 22:4, 5; Psalm 34:4).
II. The Levites were not mustered as soldiers, but were active in another department of service. The ark and its ministries were symbols of the source of the nation's strength. Their valuable services are described as a "warfare" (Numbers 4:23, marg.). Just as in a nation, it is not the hand-workers only that are a source of strength and wealth, but thinkers, writers, lecturers, preachers also, so in a Church the least prominent may not be the least useful (Cf. 1 Corinthians 12:12-28). The Levites pitched nearest the tabernacle (verses 52, 53), "that there be no wrath," etc. Simeons and Annas in the temple, invalids "dwelling in the secret place of the Most High," may not be "numbered" among the workers of the Church, but may have power with God and prevail as intercessors for their brethren. - P.
Parallel VersesKJV: So were all those that were numbered of the children of Israel, by the house of their fathers, from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war in Israel;