Bring the tribe of Levi near, and set them before Aaron the priest, that they may minister to him. They shall keep guard over him and over the whole congregation before the tent of meeting, as they minister at the tabernacle.
Under a theocracy, worship was a different experience. Numbers shows us this. There were two main duties for the Levites as detailed in this section of the Book of Numbers. They were first charged with guarding the tabernacle and its immediate perimeter from intruders. no “unauthorized personnel” were allowed in places reserved for the priests and the Levites. Their second major duty was to transport the tabernacle and its furnishings whenever the camp of Israel moved in the wilderness.
God entrusts His worship and honor into the hands of these men. They were considered His possessions. They were the “firstborn” redeemed from among the nation to God’s service under Old Testament Law. In fact, the rest of chapter three details the census of Levite clans, as well as a general tallying up of all the males in Israel who were the firstborn in their families. A special tax was then raised from this group that helped pay the expenses necessary for the Levites to labor exclusively in the service of the Lord in His tabernacle. There were more firstborn males than total Levite males and this was offset by this unique “redemption” tax. It honored God whether it was a life of service or a financial gift of service.
I am at a loss for any direct application discussion for this text. The ministry piece is always a springboard, but I’ll steer clear of it for now. God wants people in His service today, but certainly not in the mandatory way these Levites served. Redemption is a concept in play here, but the New Testament concept of salvific redemption should not be read into this text. And I cannot see a direct tie to giving either, since this special assessment was really a kind of tax under the theocratic rule of God in Israel. Probably the safest, simplest concept to apply here in this passage is this one: the worship of God is a serious matter worth investing lives and fortunes in service to Him.