Numbers 3:46–48 - And as the redemption price for the 273 of the firstborn of the people of Israel, over and above the number of the male Levites, you shall take five shekels per head; you shall take them according to the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel of twenty gerahs), and give the money to Aaron and his sons as the redemption price for those who are over.”

What is going on here? A blockbuster trade! The previously-dedicated firstborn from Exodus (22:49, 24:19) are now traded for the Levites so they can be in complete service to God. There were 22,273 firstborn in Israel and there are 22,000 Levites. So there’s a ransom - man-for-man up to 22,000 and then 5 shekels per man for the 273 overage. This is the redemption price for the Levites to become dedicated for service to God and to unwind the previous arrangement.

Why the minutiae? Why the weirdness? One reason: it’s quite probably a foreshadow of Christ - a physical analog to what would happen spiritually. Numbers 3:48 (above) talks of redemption to become God’s. Paul makes the connection for us:

Romans 3:23–24 - for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus

The Levites were priests to God - devoted to him and his service. And now we Christians have been redeemed not by 5 shekels but Jesus’ blood and end up priests. Jesus unwinds the previous Levite arrangement with a new redemption. Peter makes the connection:

1 Peter 2:9 - But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

May God make us the most excellent priests and ambassadors! May he let us experience more and more and more of his marvelous light!

Numbers 3:45 - The Levites shall be mine: I am the Lord.

And so it is with us because of Jesus!

Psalm 100:3 Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

We are God’s, just like the Levites - who previously had no real part in God’s plan but now played the central role of service to him!

1 Peter 2:10 - Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

In light of being priests, Peter immediately encourages us toward holiness:

1 Peter 2:11 - Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.

May the Spirit put to death the deeds of the body and free us for perfect lives and service to God who has saved us through Jesus!