“And the LORD said unto Aaron, Thou and thy sons and thy father's house with thee shall bear the iniquity of the sanctuary: and thou and thy sons with thee shall bear the iniquity of your priesthood. And thy brethren also of the tribe of Levi, the tribe of thy father, bring thou with thee, that they may be joined unto thee, and minister unto thee: but thou and thy sons with thee shall minister before the tabernacle of witness.
And they shall keep thy charge, and the charge of all the tabernacle: only they shall not come nigh the vessels of the sanctuary and the altar, that neither they, nor ye also, die. And they shall be joined unto thee, and keep the charge of the tabernacle of the congregation, for all the service of the tabernacle: and a stranger shall not come nigh unto you. And ye shall keep the charge of the sanctuary, and the charge of the altar: that there be no wrath any more upon the children of Israel.
And I, behold, I have taken your brethren the Levites from among the children of Israel: to you they are given as a gift for the LORD, to do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation. Therefore thou and thy sons with thee shall keep your priest's office for every thing of the altar, and within the veil; and ye shall serve: I have given your priest's office unto you as a service of gift: and the stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death.” (Numbers 18:1-7)
Aaron and his sons were to bear the iniquity of their priesthood and the sanctuary. Literally, they were to be responsible to see that the rules were followed exactly. The word translated iniquity means to deliberately do wrong and comes from a word meaning to bend or crook. The other Levites were to assist them and follow their instructions, ministering to them, but they were responsible for the actual sacrifices on the brazen altar and the ministry inside the holy place.
Allowing some one else, even one of the Levites to handle the sanctified vessels or perform the sacrifices exposed both the priest and person who had done it to the risk of death, and could bring the wrath of God on the entire congregation. The Levites were to care for the physical tabernacle, making repairs, transporting it, and assisting with the bringing in sacrifices and whatever else might be needed at the priests direction.
The priest’s office was given to them as a service of gift, literally a work of gift. The meaning is the same as the gifts to the church described in I Corinthians 12:28. “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.” They have a particular job to do, and they are responsible for how it is done. Unfortunately, many today do not recognize their responsibility in these areas, either doing things their own way, or allowing others to.
“And the LORD spake unto Aaron, Behold, I also have given thee the charge of mine heave offerings of all the hallowed things of the children of Israel; unto thee have I given them by reason of the anointing, and to thy sons, by an ordinance for ever.” (Numbers 18:8)
The priests were to be responsible for all the offerings of the children of Israel because of their calling. We have made spiritually unqualified men pastors of churches, resulting in abuse of finances in our day.
“This shall be thine of the most holy things, reserved from the fire: every oblation of theirs, every meat offering of theirs and every sin offering of theirs, and every trespass offering of theirs, which they shall render unto me, shall be most holy for thee and for thy sons. In the most holy place shalt thou eat it; every male shall eat it: it shall be holy unto thee.” (Numbers 18:9-10)
Certain parts of each offering made by fire reserved for the priests. The reserved parts were to be eaten in the tabernacle by the priests while they were ministering and as part of the ministry. They were to be most holy, and every priest was to partake.
“And this is thine; the heave offering of their gift, with all the wave offerings of the children of Israel: I have given them unto thee, and to thy sons and to thy daughters with thee, by a statute for ever: every one that is clean in thy house shall eat of it. All the best of the oil, and all the best of the wine, and of the wheat, the firstfruits of them which they shall offer unto the LORD, them have I given thee. And whatsoever is first ripe in the land, which they shall bring unto the LORD, shall be thine; every one that is clean in thine house shall eat of it. Everything devoted in Israel shall be thine.” (Numbers 18:11-14)
All of the offerings that were not to be burned were given to the priests for the support of their families. Even these things were not to be shared with outsiders according to Leviticus 22:10-13. “There shall no stranger eat of the holy thing: a sojourner of the priest, or an hired servant, shall not eat of the holy thing. But if the priest buy any soul with his money, he shall eat of it, and he that is born in his house: they shall eat of his meat. If the priest's daughter also be married unto a stranger, she may not eat of an offering of the holy things. But if the priest's daughter be a widow, or divorced, and have no child, and is returned unto her father's house, as in her youth, she shall eat of her father's meat: but there shall no stranger eat thereof.”
This standard kind of raises a question about many of the things churches donate money to today, doesn’t it? I Timothy 5:1-16 give some very precise directions about charitable giving. Too often we have ignored these instructions, enabling sin and damaging the church‘s testimony.
“Every thing that openeth the matrix in all flesh, which they bring unto the LORD, whether it be of men or beasts, shall be thine: nevertheless the firstborn of man shalt thou surely redeem, and the firstling of unclean beasts shalt thou redeem. And those that are to be redeemed from a month old shalt thou redeem, according to thine estimation, for the money of five shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary, which is twenty gerahs.
But the firstling of a cow, or the firstling of a sheep, or the firstling of a goat, thou shalt not redeem; they are holy: thou shalt sprinkle their blood upon the altar, and shalt burn their fat for an offering made by fire, for a sweet savour unto the LORD. And the flesh of them shall be thine, as the wave breast and as the right shoulder are thine.” (Numbers 18:15-18)
The Levites were taken by God as substitutes for lives of the firstborn of Israel according to Numbers 3:12-13. “And I, behold, I have taken the Levites from among the children of Israel instead of all the firstborn that openeth the matrix among the children of Israel: therefore the Levites shall be mine; Because all the firstborn are mine; for on the day that I smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt I hallowed unto me all the firstborn in Israel, both man and beast: mine shall they be: I am the LORD.”
The redemption money was given in payment for fulfilling the firstborns responsibilities. no sacrificial domestic animals had to be redeemed or killed. The fat of sacrificial animals was to be burned and the meat given to the priests like the specified parts of any other burnt offering.
“All the heave offerings of the holy things, which the children of Israel offer unto the LORD, have I given thee, and thy sons and thy daughters with thee, by a statute for ever: it is a covenant of salt for ever before the LORD unto thee and to thy seed with thee.” (Numbers 18:19)
The covenant of salt is referred to just three times in scripture. Leviticus 2:13 commands, “And every oblation of thy meat offering shalt thou season with salt; neither shalt thou suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking from thy meat offering: with all thine offerings thou shalt offer salt.” Salt was a valuable commodity in many areas of the world and seemed to indicate a permanent commitment.
II Chronicles 13:5-6 states, “Ought ye not to know that the LORD God of Israel gave the kingdom over Israel to David for ever, even to him and to his sons by a covenant of salt? Yet Jeroboam the son of Nebat, the servant of Solomon the son of David, is risen up, and hath rebelled against his lord,” again making it clear God’s covenant is sure. The covenant with the priests, that they were to receive the heave offerings, was equally sure.
“And the LORD spake unto Aaron, Thou shalt have no inheritance in their land, neither shalt thou have any part among them: I am thy part and thine inheritance among the children of Israel.” (Numbers 18:20)
The priests were never to have any property or inheritance among Israel, only what was given to God. They were not to be distracted by Earthly possessions. As priests of God, Christians are to be equally devoted and focused on him as Jesus described in Matthew 6:19-34. “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”