The LORD also said to Moses, “I have taken the Levites from among the Israelites in place of the first male offspring of every Israelite woman. The Levites are mine, for all the firstborn are mine. When I struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, I set apart for myself every firstborn in Israel, whether man or animal. They are to be mine. I am the LORD .”Numbers 3:11-13
What is happening in this part of God’s inspired Word is not easy for 21st Century Man to get his head around! We are better to step back a bit from the details and look at the ‘Big Picture’.
At a human level, as far as the whole human race is concerned, the ‘cost’ of the ‘redemption’ from slavery for God’s Covenant People was the life of the first-born son in every Egyptian household. To remind the Israelites of this as they settled into their Promised Land they were to acknowledge that the first-born in every Covenant household belonged to the LORD himself, and therefore had to be redeemed by another life. The complex arrangement mandated by the LORD through Moses involved the setting apart and total dedication of all the Levite men to his Temple service, and when the total number of Levites fell short of the number required to redeem all the first-born by 273, the remainder had to be made up by payment in silver (verses 44-48).
Two important truths come out of the ‘big-picture’ significance of all this:
Firstly, the Creator God IS ‘The LORD ’, and therefore HE is the One who determines what is required in our relationship to him. “I am the LORD ”. It is not left to US to decide what is the appropriate response!
Secondly, all this foreshadows the extent to which the LORD himself will go to ‘redeem’ all those who belong to him in his Covenant of Grace – he will send his own ‘only-begotten’ (‘first-born’, ‘beloved’) Son to give his PERFECT life as the costly ransom for our redemption from slavery to sin. “The price is paid, come let us enter in to all that Jesus died to make our own; for every sin, more than enough he gave, and bought our freedom from each guilty stain. The price is paid, Halleluiah! Amazing grace so strong and sure; and so with all my heart, my life in every part, I live to thank you for the price you paid.” (Graham Kendrick).