Monday, June 9, 2014

Numbers 3:9-13 -- On Belonging to the Lord

"And thou shalt give the Levites unto Aaron and to his sons: they are wholly given unto him out of the children of Israel.
And thou shalt appoint Aaron and his sons, and they shall wait on their priest’s office: and the stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death.
And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
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."
Numbers 3:9-13

I like the idea of belonging to the Lord.  Before this, God had told Moses "Sanctify unto me all the firstborn, whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast: it is mine."  This was for many reasons, I'm sure, one of which was so that the Israelites would remember having their firstborn saved while the Egyptian's firstborn were killed.  It is also very clearly symbolic of Christ and his sacrifice for us.  And here, God switches over to "owning" the Levites instead of the firstborn.  Interestingly, in D&C 13, speaking of the Aaronic priesthood, it says "and this shall never be taken again from the earth, until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness," perhaps suggesting that will happen at some future point?  Of course, the Nephites didn't have any Levites, and in the modern day we don't have any that I know of in the priesthood, or any specific descendents of Aaron, so we have to make do with what we have, as it discusses in D&C 107:16-17.
Why the Levites though, or even why the firstborn?  Why do they belong to the Lord and not others?  If we equate it with priesthood, we could in the modern day ask why men?  Why these limitations?  And I think that when we start thinking that way, we get it exactly backwards.  Belonging to the Lord isn't a limitation.  It's a huge responsibility.  The firstborn couldn't say... hey, choose my brother instead.  He likes administrative stuff more, and I would rather be a soldier.  Levites didn't get a regular inheritance in Canaan like all the rest of the tribes.  They couldn't just choose not to belong to the Lord, and if they were working in the temple they couldn't just say I don't like this, I want to be a dentist.  ... Now, of course, in addition to being a responsibility, it was also a great blessing.  Belonging to the Lord involved serving God, which is amazingly rewarding... but those are rewards available to everyone.  Including revelation and prophecy.  Moses said "would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets," (Numbers 11:29) and Revelations 19:10 tells us that "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." Maybe God's choice of who were his as a specific administrative group is symbolic, like it was with the firstborn.  Perhaps it was an easier division of labor, as it could have been with the Levites.  One thing we are certain of is that it was not because they were the only people God was willing to talk to.  He is willing, and even anxious, to talk with *all* his children.  He wants to bless and help everyone.  So we know that belonging to God didn't mean exclusive access. :) I submit that the same is true today.
God chose the firstborn and the Levites to belong to him, and he chooses the men today as a similar administrative group, holding the offices of the priesthood.  Great responsibilities and blessings are tied up in that requirement, and God's choice should be respected.  But that choice doesn't make men automatically spiritual, or women automatically not.  It doesn't mean that blessings and revelation are limited by gender.  And it probably doesn't prevent any of us from belonging to God even if we aren't in that particular group.  We can choose to belong to him every day... just because God chooses one group to administrate doesn't mean that he doesn't need a lot more volunteers. :)
Today, instead of worrying about who is in charge or who is more favored, let's remember that we all have direct access to the Lord, and can accept his power in our lives.  We all have the opportunity to change the world, to make a difference, to bless other people's lives immeasurably.  No one stands between us and God.  No one stops us from talking to him and knowing everything that there is to know.  No one can limit our access to God.  Only we do that, by our desires and our choices.  Let's go to the Lord with all our questions, with all our concerns, and with all of our ideas about changing the world, and let's let him answer, and calm, and empower us as only he can. Let's choose to belong to him.

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