““Now, behold, I have taken the Levites from among the sons of Israel instead of every firstborn, the first issue of the womb among the sons of Israel. So the Levites shall be Mine” (Numbers 3:12, NASB95).
Under the Old Testament law, there were two kinds of priests, the Aaronic priesthood, and the Levitical priesthood. Technically, only those of the Aaronic priesthood were what we would consider priests. The Levitical priests had a twofold role in their work. First, on behalf of the congregation, they were to serve Aaron or the Aaronic priest and do the service work of the tabernacle. In terms of a New Testament structure, the Levitical priests carried out the role of the Deacon. They were many in number, they rotated in their service, and their work was a ministry of service. Unlike the New Testament Deacon, the Levitical priesthood was a vocational calling into which a person was born. At 30 years of age, a young Levite would be ordained to the Levitical priesthood.
Even more importantly, there was a second role of the Levitical priesthood which was a spiritual role. When God spared the firstborn sons of Israel because of the blood of the Passover lamb, the blood of the lamb delayed the actual taking of these eldest sons. This is consistent with the Old Testament, which teaches sacrifices as atoning, that is as covering sacrifices. After atonement, something has to satisfy the initial demand beyond the atoning sacrifice. This is why Jesus is considered the propitiatory sacrifice for our sins. Atoning covers, propitiation completes. The role of the Levite was to be the propitiation for the firstborn sons of Israel. In Numbers 3:11-20 a census was taken of the firstborn of Israel, which discovered 22,273 firstborn sons and only 22,000 Levites. The difference, or ransom, for 273 firstborn was satisfied with an offering of five shekels for each firstborn, or 1,365 shekels.
Today, both the firstborn of Israel as well as all of mankind has been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ. The payment has been made in full; the propitiation has been completed, and salvation is available to everyone through Jesus Christ.
In His Grace,
Dr. Randy White