The Work of Setting Forward

Scripture Passage: 
Numbers 4:1-33

INTRODUCTION: The people of God have been stationed in the wilderness of Sinai for quite some time, but it is nearing time for them to set forward. The Lord has specific instructions for the packing of the tabernacle. Each of three families of Levi (the Kohathites, the Gershonites, and the Merarites) is given specific responsibilities. This lesson gives detailed information as to the responsibility of each family. It should not surprise us that this lesson also contains many wonderful pictures of how the work of God would move forward into the age of grace when God packed away the Old Testament government and wrought a supernatural work through the sacrifice of His Son.

  1. The Responsibilities of the Kohathites (Numbers 4:1-20)
    1. The Command to Number (Numbers 4:1-3)
    2. The Work of Aaron (Numbers 4:4-15)
      1. The ark of the testimony (Numbers 4:5-6)
        1. Literal instructions
          1. Take down the covering vail and cover the ark of testimony with it.
          2. Put thereon a covering of badgers’ skins.
          3. Spread over it a cloth wholly of blue.
          4. Put in the staves thereof.
        2. Spiritual application
          1. The ark is a type of our Lord Jesus Christ and speaks specifically of the presence of God among His people.
            1. As such, we see that the ark itself pictures the presence of God.
            2. The covering vail is typical of the body of flesh that our Saviour adorned while on this earth (Hebrews 10:20).
          2. The extra coverings also point to the dual nature of Jesus Christ.
            1. Humanity (badgers’ skins) – The badgers’ skins were not beautiful. The color was drab and dull and more than likely the outside would show the wear and tear of the elements.
            2. Deity (cloth wholly of blue) – The color blue usually is typical of royalty or heaven. As such, it is symbolic of the heavenly nature of the God-man. Notice that it says it was wholly of blue. As such, Jesus Christ was completely God and completely man.
      2. The table of shewbread (Numbers 4:7-8)
        1. Literal instructions
          1. Spread a cloth of blue.
          2. Put thereon the dishes, spoons, bowls, and covers to cover withal.
          3. The continual bread shall be thereon.
          4. Spread a cloth of scarlet.
          5. Cover the same with a covering of badgers’ skins.
        2. Spiritual application
          1. The table of shewbread is a type of the word of God.
            1. It is compared to bread in scripture (Matthew 4:4).
            2. There were 12 loaves of bread on the table (1 for each tribe) or 2 rows of 6. The Bible is made up of 66 books.
          2. The covering of the table of shewbread bears much of the information concerning how we got our Bible.
            1. Inspiration - The cloth of blue shows that its origin and source is heavenly. The instruments demonstrate that God used instruments to bring us the word and those instruments were the human penmen (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21).
            2. Preservation – The bread is here said to be continual. We know from studying the scriptures that God has promised a continual word. Not a new word, but rather a preservation of the one He gave in the first place (Psalm 12:6-7).
            3. The cloth of scarlet could be twofold.
              1. Sins are associated with scarlet in the Bible which demonstrates that the Bible is a book that condemns man by showing his sins
              2. The blood can also be associated with scarlet and certainly the only thing that can cancel out the debt of sin is the blood. The blood is a central message from the beginning of the Bible all the way through.
      3. The candlestick of the light (Numbers 4:9-10)
        1. Literal instructions
          1. Cover the candlestick of the light, his lamps, his tongs, his snuffdishes, and all the oil vessels thereof with a cloth of blue.
          2. Put all of that within a covering of badgers’ skins.
          3. Put it upon a bar.
        2. Spiritual application
          1. The candlestick is a type of the Holy Spirit.
          2. It is He who illuminates us concerning the table of shewbread (the word of God).
          3. The candlestick here is wrapped up in a cloth of blue signifying it as deity and signifying the presence of God.
          4. The candlestick is then placed inside a covering of badgers’ skins.  This pictures that the presence of God in the future would be that of the Holy Spirit residing on the inside of the believer (the badger’s skin is typical of our body) (John 14:17; Romans 8:9).
      4. The golden altar (Numbers 4:11) – the altar of incense (Exodus 40:26)
        1. Literal instructions
          1. Spread a cloth of blue.
          2. Cover it with a covering of badgers’ skins.
          3. Put to the staves thereof.
        2. Spiritual application
          1. The altar of incense is a type of our prayers (Revelation 8:3-4). Notice the simplicity of the packing of the altar.
          2. This points to the ease by which believers will be able to come to God in the New Testament. Notice that it is merely the coming together of blue (deity or God) and badgers’ skins (flesh or man).
      5. The instruments of ministry (Numbers 4:12)
        1. Literal instructions
          1. Put them in a cloth of blue.
          2. Cover them with a covering of badgers’ skins.
        2. Spiritual application
          1. The instruments of our ministry are gifts from God which are pictured by the cloth of blue.
          2. God chooses to place these gifts within men for the furtherance of the gospel.
      6. The altar (Numbers 4:13-14)
        1. Literal instructions
          1. Take away the ashes.
          2. Spread a cloth of purple.
          3. Put upon it all the vessels.
          4. Spread upon it a covering of badgers’ skins.
          5. Put to the staves.
        2. Spiritual application
          1. The altar points to a place of sacrifice.
          2. Taking away the ashes may be symbolic of the fact that bulls and goats cannot satisfy God.
          3. The spreading of the purple cloth once again points to the deity of Christ coming to take the place of the bulls, goats and other sacrifices.
          4. The tools of sacrifice were laid on the purple cloth, much like the cruelty of crucifixion and judgment of our sins was laid on Him.
          5. The covering of badgers’ skins could once again point to the fact that He (Jesus) was sacrificed for our sins in a body of flesh.
    3. The Burden of the Kohathites (Numbers 4:15)
      1. Do not touch (Numbers 4:15).
      2. Bear the ark of the testimony, the table of shewbread, the candlestick of the light, and the golden altar (Numbers 4:15).
    4. The Office of Eleazar (Numbers 4:16)
      1. The oil for the light
      2. The sweet incense
      3. The daily meat offering
      4. The anointing oil
      5. Oversight of the tabernacle, the sanctuary and all the vessels thereof
    5. The Protection of the Kohathites (Numbers 4:17-20)
      1. Do not cut them off (Numbers 4:18).
      2. Can not see the holy things uncovered (Numbers 4:20)
      3. Lest they die (Numbers 4:20)
  2. The Responsibilities of the Gershonites (Numbers 4:21-28)
    1. The Command to Number (Numbers 4:21-23)
    2. The Burden of the Gershonites (Numbers 4:24-27)
      1. Bear the curtains of the tabernacle (Numbers 4:25).
      2. The tabernacle of the congregation (Numbers 4:25)
      3. His covering (Numbers 4:25)
      4. The covering of badgers’ skins (Numbers 4:25)
      5. The hanging for the door of the tabernacle (Numbers 4:25)
      6. The hangings of the court (Numbers 4:26)
      7. The hanging for the door of the gate of the court (Numbers 4:26)
      8. Their cords (Numbers 4:26)
      9. All the instruments of their service (Numbers 4:26)
      10. All that is made for them (Numbers 4:26)
    3. Under the Hand of Ithamar (Numbers 4:28)
  3. The Responsibilities of the Merarites (Numbers 4:29-33)
    1. The Command to Number (Numbers 4:29-30)
    2. The Burden of the Merarites (Numbers 4:31-32)
      1. The boards of the tabernacle (Numbers 4:31)
      2. Pillars of the court round about (Numbers 4:32)
    3. Under the Hand of Ithamar (Numbers 4:33)

CONCLUSION: What an amazing God that we have that could place within the instructions of moving the tabernacle His plans for offering salvation to mankind, for providing the written word of God, and for working in the hearts and lives of His people. It is no wonder that the scriptures say of Him that His ways are past finding out.

David Reagan and Andrew Ray

Daily Proverb

Proverbs 19:5

A false witness shall not be unpunished, and he that speaketh lies shall not escape.