Numbers 8

Subsitutionary Atonement

“I have given the Levites as a gift to Aaron and to his sons from among the sons of Israel, to perform the service of the sons of Israel at the tent of meeting and to make atonement on behalf of the sons of Israel, so that there will be no plague among the sons of Israel by their coming near to the sanctuary. – Numbers 8:19 NASB

In chapter 8 we have a reiteration of the role the Levites were to play in the lives of the whole faith community of Israel. They were set apart by God for service to Him. And they became substitutes for the firstborn males that God had claimed for His own after having spared them in the land of Egypt the night the death angel passed through the land. God had a rightful claim to all the firstborn males, but instead He claimed the tribe of Levi as His own, allowing them to serve in place of the others. Then God turned around and offered the Levites as a gift to Aaron and his sons, requiring them to serve Him in the Tabernacle – making atonement on behalf of all the sons of Israel. In other words, God claimed the Levites for His own, yet one of their primary roles was to offer atoning sacrifices for the people of Israel. God redeemed the people from Egypt. He spared the firstborn sons. He provided a substitute, and He made possible a way for them to experience atonement for their sins. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? All of this is what Jesus Christ has done for us. He became our sin substitute and made possible atonement for our sins. In other words, what Jesus Christ did as our sin substitute reconciled us to God. He made it possible for us to have a right relationship with God – in spite of our sin.

From that day forward, the Levites would serve God and substitute for the people. They would serve on behalf of the people. They would serve Aaron and his sons as they offered sacrifices on behalf of the people. Their role was critical to the spiritual health and well-being of the people, just as Christ’s is to ours. They made possible the whole sacrificial system, without which the Israelites would have had no hope for God’s presence or His power. Jesus Christ made possible the ultimate sacrificial system that made possible our hope of God’s presence and power in our lives. He gave His life in order that we might live. He served us by substituting Himself for us and providing a way for us to be reconciled to God the Father once and for all.

Father, thank You for the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Thank You that the Old Testament is a picture of the New Testament truth of Jesus and His coming. We see Him foreshadowed throughout the book of Numbers. Never let me read the Old Testament without looking for the Messiah – our deliverer. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men