Now behold, I Myself have taken the Levites from among the children of Israel instead of every firstborn who opens the womb among the children of Israel. Therefore the Levites shall be Mine because all the firstborn are Mine. On the day that I struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, I sanctified to Myself all the firstborn in Israel. (Numbers 3:12-13)
From the beginning of the Biblical record, we can see the sanctity and primacy of the firstborn. In fact, God refers to the people of Israel as His son, “My firstborn” (Exodus 4:22). And because Egypt’s king was determined to keep “His son” in bondage, God required the death of Egypt’s first born that Pharaoh might release the people of God. It is then that God says of His people, “Consecrate to Me all the firstborn, whatever opens the womb among the children of Israel” (Exodus 13:2). Thus we see that, initially, God appointed the firstborn of Israel to be in His service, that is to say, His priests. Consider this passage:
“And he (Moses) rose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars according to the twelve tribes of Israel. Then he sent young men of the children of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the LORD.” (Exodus 24:4-5)
Remember, this is before the Golden Calf incident and implies the young men referred to were the firstborn sons of Israel — those who had been redeemed. As a nation, God called Israel to be a “kingdom of priests” but it was the firstborn who officiated the duties of the priesthood. However when Israel gave into idolatry with worship of the Golden Calf, like Reuben who forfeited his rights as firstborn to Joseph (1 Chronicles 5:1), the firstborn of Israel forfeited their position and privileges as priests. It was then that the Levites — those who resisted to engage in worship of the idol and were on the LORD’s side — were chosen in the stead of the first born.
So what is the point today? First of all, we must realize that those who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb are considered as God’s firstborn (not be to be confused with “only begotten”). As such, we are His sons and daughters and entitled to certain promises and privileges. At the same time, with that position of firstborn, we are charged with certain responsibilities just as the firstborn of long ago.
But, we mustn’t repeat the mistake made by those of long ago; we need to be as the faithful Levites who were determined to be on the LORD’s side. It is given to us to safeguard the holy things of God and to teach others to distinguish between clean and unclean. This is a critical part of our calling and will continue to be on into the future. So then, let us resolve to stand fast in the face of adversity and the whims of culture and be true to the call bestowed upon us — because we are His.
Blessings and Shalom,