Saturday, September 1, 2012

Rules Concerning The Tabernacle (Numbers 1:48-51)

The following quote is taken from

"Kill Anyone Who Approaches The Tabernacle - "For the LORD had said to Moses, 'Exempt the tribe of Levi from the census; do not include them when you count the rest of the Israelites.  You must put the Levites in charge of the Tabernacle of the Covenant, along with its furnishings and equipment.  They must carry the Tabernacle and its equipment as you travel, and they must care for it and camp around it.  Whenever the Tabernacle is moved, the Levites will take it down and set it up again.  Anyone else who goes too near the Tabernacle will be executed.'"  (Numbers 1:48-51 NLT)

            Why would capital punishment be prescribed for a non-Levite person who went near the Tabernacle?  The Tabernacle was constructed as the literal dwelling place of God while he was in the desert with the Israelites on their journey to the Promised Land of Canaan (Exodus 25:8, 22; 40:34-38; Numbers 7:89; 9:15-23).  As such, it was considered the holiest of places.  When the glory of the Lord initially filled the Tabernacle, not even Moses could approach it (Exodus 40:35).
            The presence of God is extremely powerful.  God told Moses, "'I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence...But,' he said, 'you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live'" (Exodus 33:19-20, NIV).  The powerful and holy presence of God is too much for any mortal creature to withstand.
            God set the people of the tribe of Levi apart to serve as his priests and those who served at the Tabernacle (Numbers 18; Deuteronomy 18:1-8).  However, even the Levites who were not descendants of Aaron could not go into the inner sanctuary, or they would die (Numbers 18:1-7).  Also, only the high priest had access to the place called the Most Holy Place inside the sanctuary, where the Ark of the Covenant was located, and even then he could only enter once a year during the Day of Atonement, and had to make careful preparations beforehand (Exodus 26:33-34; Leviticus 16). 
            In light of all this, the command not to approach the Tabernacle was a very serious one.  This is why those who disobeyed the commandment were ordered to be executed.  In this day and age, we are able to come into the presence of God because of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Hebrews chapter 9).