But the Levites were not numbered among them by their fathers’ tribe; for the Lord had spoken to Moses, saying: “Only the tribe of Levi you shall not number, nor take a census of them among the children of Israel.” (Numbers 1:47-49)
In regard to those numbered for the purpose of going to war, the Levites were excluded from this count because their duties were much different than that of the other tribes. In the conventional way at least, the Levites did not go to war. That is not to say that they didn’t have to make personal sacrifice because they most certainly did. They had proven their loyalty and dedication to God in the aftermath of the Golden Calf incident. They were, in fact, elevated to status of being God’s own legion.
Their distinction was demonstrated thus: they were counted separately and differently from the rest of Israel. Subsequently, they were assigned to guard the Tabernacle to the degree that they were to encamp around the Tabernacle and its courtyard. In a sense they were a military police, placed between the main body and the place of God’s Presence. You might even say they functioned as a bodyguard around the palace. because they were to “safeguard” the sanctity of the Sanctuary.
Obviously, God doesn’t need protecting but His holiness is to be guarded, and not for His sake as much as it is for the sake of His people. This is something that we see from the very beginning — Adam was told to “keep” the garden which, in reality, means “guard.” When he failed in this, cherubim were posted on the eastern side of the garden to guard the way to the Tree of Life. When the Sanctuary was constructed, cherubim were placed on the Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant, as well as embroidered upon the veil that sectioned off the Holy of Holies. Again, this wasn’t so much for God’s sake as much as it was for the benefit of His people.
What does this mean for us? In short, it speaks to the notion that some were called to move against the enemy without and some were called to guard against the enemy within. Where you and I are concerned, we must be diligent in both respects. We are part of a people that is called to be a light to the nations which implies we have to move among the nations — we must engage, and as we do, take ground from the enemy. At the same time, we must remain guarded and aware of the enemy that threatens to disrupt things from within — not because God is threatened but because it is in our best interests. So then, let us be diligent to remain at our post, standing alert and ready to move out when our Commander gives the word.
Blessings and Shalom,