“All those who were listed of the Levites, whom Moses and Aaron and the chiefs of Israel listed, by their clans and their fathers’ houses, from thirty years old up to fifty years old, everyone who could come to do the service of ministry and the service of bearing burdens in the tent of meeting, those listed were 8,580. According to the commandment of the Lord through Moses they were listed, each one with his task of serving or carrying. Thus they were listed by him, as the Lord commanded Moses” (Numbers 4:46-49, ESV).
The Book of Numbers begins at Mount Sinai, where the Israelites have received their laws and covenant from God. Now God has taken up residence among them in the Tabernacle that resides in the middle of their encampment. As they sojourn through the wilderness to take possession of the Promised Land, it will be a major logistical undertaking to mobilize, move and secure the Tabernacle at each layover along their journey.
“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘When you take a census of the Israelites to count them, each one must pay the Lord a ransom for his life at the time he is counted. Then no plague will come on them when you number them. Each one who crosses over to those already counted is to give a half shekel… This half shekel is an offering to the Lord. All who cross over, those twenty years old or more, are to give an offering to the Lord'” (Exodus 30:13-14, NIV).
The census was actually a way to determine a record of military manpower. But, when Moses enlisted men for military service, he was also to take a ransom from each twenty-year-old or more male and use it for the construction and ministry of the Tabernacle.
“Crossing over to those already counted” literally meant passing over to those who are mustered. It meant joining the ranks of the enlisted men. By passing muster the Israelite male effectively became a soldier in the Israeli militia–the Lord’s army.
“I will meet there with the sons of Israel, and it shall be consecrated by My glory. I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar; I will also consecrate Aaron and his sons to minister as priests to Me. I will dwell among the sons of Israel and will be their God. They shall know that I am the Lord their God who brought them out of the land of Egypt, that I might dwell among them; I am the Lord their God” (Exodus 29:43-46, NASB).
This chapter gives regulations for the consecration of the priests that would minister to God in the Tabernacle. The priests were to be ordained for service in the Tabernacle through purification rites and the offering of burnt sacrifices for atonement of sin. First, the priests were to be washed with water in the doorway of the Tabernacle. Then their priestly garments were placed on them and anointing oil poured over their heads.
“All whose hearts were stirred and whose spirits were moved came and brought their sacred offerings to the Lord. They brought all the materials needed for the Tabernacle, for the performance of its rituals, and for the sacred garments…So the people of Israel—every man and woman who was eager to help in the work the Lord had given them through Moses—brought their gifts and gave them freely to the Lord” (Exodus 35:21,29, NLT).
What if they took up an offering for a new church building and all the church members were so enthusiastic about doing God’s work that everyone in the church contributed financially to the project?
And, what if they gave enough in one offering to construct and furnish the new church building?