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God’s Word for You

Numbers 8:5-11 For original sin

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, July 19, 2021

The Purification of the Levites

5 The LORD told Moses 6 to take the Levites from among the Israelites and to do the following to make them ceremonially clean: 7 This is what you are to do to them to make them ceremonially clean: Sprinkle the water of purification on them. Have them shave their entire body with a razor, wash their clothes, and purify themselves.

Some older commentaries called this ritual the “Ordination of the Levites,” but it would be better to say purification or consecration. As one of my professors said, “You don’t need an M.Div. (Master of Divinity, the degree received by our pastors) to carry stuff.” The Levites who were being set apart for service were those who were not from Aaron’s family, that is, those who would not become priests, since priests were ordained with a different ceremony lasting seven days (Leviticus 8:1-36).

The “water of purification” is not otherwise explained. It is not a water set apart from the purification of lepers (Leviticus 14:5-6, 50-51) or for the ritual cleansing of those people or houses defiled by a dead body (Numbers 19:9-12). The water in those cases was adapted with additional ingredients (hyssop, wool, ashes, etc.), but no such mention is made here. This water must have been from the bronze basin (the “sea”) that held water for washing at the tabernacle. After this water was sprinkled on them, they shaved their hair from their entire body—head, chin, chest, arms, groin, legs, etc.—and then they also washed their clothes. This was a sign of subordination to God’s decree, of devotion, and also ceremonial cleanness. This ritual did not need to be repeated every time the Levites went to work, but each time new Levites were consecrated for service. After this initial event, it would make sense for new Levites to be consecrated every year, all of those who had turned twenty-five (Numbers 8:24).

8 Then they are to take a young bull from the herd with its grain offering of fine flour mixed with oil. You are to take another young bull from the herd for a sin offering. 9 You are to present the Levites in front of the Tent of Meeting. You are to assemble the entire Israelite community. 10 You are to present the Levites before the LORD. The Israelites will place their hands on the Levites. 11 Then Aaron will offer the Levites before the LORD as a wave offering on behalf of the Israelites. They are to do the work of the LORD.

There is a sin offering here, but no particular sin is mentioned as it is in other places (Leviticus 4:3, 5:1; Numbers 6:11). Therefore this is an acknowledgement of the inherited original sin with which we are born, and which we inherit from Adam. The Bible tells us that from the moment of our conception we are not the type of people he demands that we should be: We are sinful, inheriting our sins from Adam and Eve through our parents. David confessed the same thing: “Certainly, I was guilty when I was born. I was sinful when my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5 EHV). To this, David admitted: “So you are justified when you sentence me. You are blameless when you judge” (Psalm 51:4). Our Augsburg Confession applies this truth:

“Since the fall of Adam, all human beings who are born in the natural way are conceived and born in sin. This means that from birth they are full of evil lust and inclination and cannot by nature possess true fear of God and true faith in God. Moreover, this same innate disease and original sin is truly sin and condemns to God’s eternal wrath all who are not in turn born anew through baptism and the Holy Spirit” (AC II:1,2).

Original sin is a terrible corruption of our human nature. The blood of the second bull and the bread (grain) offering here pointed ahead to the sacrifice of Jesus for all sin, inherited and otherwise. The first of the two bulls was offered as a burnt offering to show complete dedication to the Lord. We will meditate more on the bulls and the consecration of the Levites as the chapter unfolds, but we should also remember the consequences of our original sin (the following is adapted from Professor Lyle Lange’s God So Loved the World, NPH, 2005, p. 212-213):

1, We are born into the world spiritually blind (1 Corinthians 2:14), thinking that we don’t even need a Savior, or that we could somehow make ourselves right with God by our own efforts.

2, We are born into the world dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:1). We can’t do anything to save ourselves.

3, We are born into the world as enemies of God (Romans 8:7). We remain in a state of rebellion, at war with God (James 4:4) unless God himself intervenes.

4, All people die because of original sin. This is true physically, with our bodies and souls separating at death (Genesis 3:17-19) and will be true spiritually, with both body and soul spending an eternity in agony in hell (Isaiah 59:2). We all deserve this, even on account of our original sin (Matthew 25:41).

5, From the moment we enter the world, original sin places us under the condemnation and judgment of God (Ephesians 2:3; Psalm 5:4-5).

6, From the time we are conceived, we are corrupted by a lust for sin and an inclination to always sin all the time (Genesis 6:5, 8:21; Jeremiah 7:24). We lack the righteousness God demands.

7, Our will is corrupted by original sin, so that we are in a state of rebellion against God’s will (Mark 7:21-23).

8. Because of our original sin, our deeds come from an unconverted hearts and are completely corrupt. Not only do they fail to please God, they are an affront to him. Even the best attempts of an unbeliever to do good works are still wicked and sinful in the sight of holy God. “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6).

9, In our original sin, by nature we view God as our enemy. Since we do not love God the way we whould we do not love one another the way we should (Genesis 3:8-13; John 13:35).

10, Anyone who discards their faith later in life brings down all of the guilt of their original sin on their heads and on their accounts, having forgotten God’s love and benefits (Psalm 106:21-22) and dying for their own sins (Deuteronomy 24:16; Revelation 20:12).

Jesus’ sinless conception and his bloody death on the cross atoned for our original sin as well as all of the other sins of our lives. Praise God that we have such a Savior, who loved us, who chose us, who rescued us, and who will welcome us in the resurrection as we step out of our temporary graves and into everlasting life.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


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