Today the Lord continues to teach the Israelites how to come to Him through the sacrificial system to atone for their sins, and He starts with the priests because they are sinners just like everyone else. We learned in Exodus 28 that the Lord chose the Levites to serve as priests and to do the work of the tabernacle. Today the Lord dedicates the Levites through ceremonial cleansing and sacrificial offerings. God says to Moses, “Thus you shall separate the Levites from among the children of Israel, and the Levites shall be Mine.”
Remember during the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, the Lord consecrated all the firstborn of Israel to Himself (Exodus 13:11-16). Today the Lord tells Moses that the Levites “are wholly given to Me from among the children of Israel; I have taken them for Myself instead of all who open the womb, the firstborn of all the children of Israel. For all the firstborn among the children of Israel are Mine, both man and beast; on the day that I struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt I sanctified them to Myself. I have taken the Levites instead of all the firstborn of the children of Israel. And I have given the Levites as a gift to Aaron and his sons from among the children of Israel, to do the work for the children of Israel in the tabernacle of meeting, and to make atonement for the children of Israel, that there be no plague among the children of Israel when the children of Israel come near the sanctuary.”
The Lord is substituting the Levites in place of the firstborn of Israel. This is called the principle of substitution, the principle first seen illustrated by the Passover in Egypt. There a spotless lamb died in place of the firstborn of each household under the blood of a lamb. It is also a foreshadowing of Jesus Christ, who is coming to die as the final substitute. Jesus will willingly lay down His life and shed His innocent blood in substitution for our lives. When we enter the Divided Kingdom Era, we will meet a prophet named Isaiah who will speak of the coming Lamb to be slain for us – “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). But for now, the Levites will serve as priests until Jesus arrives on the scene as our Great High Priest.
After dedicating the Levites, God gives instructions regarding offerings. The book of Leviticus describes five major offerings: burnt, grain, peace, sin, and guilt.
Burnt Offering – underscores prayers of petition and praise
Grain Offering – pleasing aroma; often mirrors emphasis of the offering it accompanies
Peace Offering – fellowship with the Lord by having a communion meal
Sin Offering – atonement of a committed sin, metaphor of purification
Guilt Offering – atonement of a committed sin; metaphor of compensation for wrongdoing
(Summary of the offerings came from the ESV Study Bible)
We also read about the priests being presented through a wave offering. A wave offering is when the offering is literally held in the hand and waved in the air to acknowledge the Lord and to show that the offering is for Him.
Today, the children of Israel celebrate the second Passover as the Lord instructed the Israelites to do annually in remembrance of what He did for them when He brought them out of Egypt. However, thirty nine years will pass before the children of Israel celebrate another Passover like this one. Keep reading to find out why. (Numbers 8:1-9:14, Leviticus 1:1-3:17)