“All the numbered men of the Levites, whom Moses and Aaron numbered at the command of the Lord by their
families, every male from a month old and upward, were 22,000.
“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Number every firstborn male of the sons of Israel from a month old shall take the Levites for Me, I am the Lord, instead of all the firstborn among the sons of Israel, and the cattle of the Levites instead of all the firstborn among the cattle of the sons of Israel.’ So Moses numbered all the firstborn among the sons of Israel, just as the Lord had commanded him; and all the firstborn males by the number of names from a month old and upward, for their numbered men were 22,273.
“Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Take the Levites instead of all the firstborn among the sons of Israel and the cattle of the Levites. And the Levites shall be mine; I am the Lord. And for the ransom of the 273 of the firstborn of the sons of Israel who are in excess beyond the Levites, you shall take five shekels apiece, per head; you shall take them in terms of the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs), and give the money, the ransom of those who are in excess among them, to Aaron and to his sons” (3:39-48).
Living in the Christian era and being able to read over previous biblical history gives us more insight into the workings of God than the people of that generation had, for Israel had been at Sinai only a short time and God’s instructions were new to them. These Old Testament workings of God, updated and made clearer by the New Testament, are marvelous in scope when one is able to contemplate their depth and wisdom. After the large census of all the people was taken, God subdivided Israel further into the separation of the tribes. God numbered all of the Levites from one month old and upward. He then numbered all of the first born of the other eleven tribes and took redemption money for the excess of 273 male children. This certainly sounds like a strange way of accounting. What did God have in mind? Moses termed it “redemption money.” The idea started from the thought of property. Money was paid according to the law of Moses to buy back something that must be delivered or rescued (cf. 3:51; Nehemiah 5:8). In the Old Testament, God is the Redeemer of Israel in the sense that He is the Deliverer of Israel. He had both a claim upon Israel (Deuteronomy 15:15) and an obligation toward Israel (1 Chronicles 17:21; Psalms 25:22). Israel belonged to Him, and by His own right He could move into the life of Israel to redeem them. On the other hand, obligation was laid upon God to redeem Israel (remember His promises to the fathers). In the New Testament, redemption has more of a suggestion of ransom. The Redeemer purchases our deliverance by offering Himself as payment for that redemption (cf. Ephesians 1:7; 1 Peter 1:18, 19).
In Exodus 34:19, 20, God demanded redemption. None were to appear empty-handed before Him. In Numbers 3:12-13, He took the Levites to Himself as a substitute for all of Israel. However, from that time onward Israel had to pay redemption money because God considered all the first born as His. The custom of redeeming the firstborn son is preserved among the Jews today. After thirty days the father invites the “Kohen,” a supposed descendant of Aaron, into the house. The child is brought and shown to the “Kohen,” and the father declares the mother of the child to be an Israelite. If the mother is also a “Kohen” from Aaron, no redemption money is necessary. The “Kohen” asks the father what he prefers, his child or five shekels. The father answers that he prefers his son and pays a sum equivalent to five shekels. After receiving the redemption money, the “Kohen” puts his hands on the child’s head and pronounces the Aaronite blessing (cf. 6:22-27).
Why did God consider the children so special? A brief look through history shows gross inhumanity among men with children often being victims. One of the grossest practices of Israel’s pagan neighbors was the throwing of newborn infants into the flames of Moloch. God later warned Israel that she was forbidden to take up such a hideous practice. In Exodus 13:15 as God explained Israel’s redemption and Egypt’s destruction, He uses language that suggests that God hated to destroy Egypt’s first-born children. Because He destroyed Egypt’s children, Israel’s children would always be special to Him. The principles behind the concept of the redemption of children we need to apply. I believe those principles in part involved our evaluation of the worth of our children. “What are our children worth?”
I. Children are a love-creation from God
God’s divine principle is that life is created from life. After God’s bringing into existence something from nothing (ex nihilo). His command was that the reproduction of things would follow a pattern. Each entity would produce after its kind; life would come from life. Science’s struggle to disprove creation and prove evolution has proved futile. Scientists simply cannot produce life from lifeless material. Basically, they cannot prove that man is God. Someone beyond this universe had to create and put all of this into motion. We believe it to be a personal deity whom we are able to call God. In Genesis 1:22, each product of creation was capable of reproduction. In Genesis 1:28, God’s highest order of creation, man, was also created with that capacity. But God has always considered reproduction more than just a biological act. It is an act of love that involves two human beings and God. David had insight into God’s workings in human history when he said, “Know that the Lord Himself is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture” (Psalms 100:3).
Today we face the terrible reality of abortion, an act that violates these principles of God’s creation. Since we did not make ourselves, we deliberately provoke the One who made us when we interfere with His work in making others. Humanists and pro-abortion advocates would argue that a fetus is just tissue. But the Bible disputes that claim. In the New Testament, the Greek word brephos is used and defined as “a breathing, nursing infant.” It is used eight times by Luke, Peter, and Paul. The latter two authors used it metaphorically (e.g., “Like newborn [brephos] babes, long for the pure milk of the word,” 1 Peter 2:2). Luke, a physician, used the term to describe an unborn infant, one still in the womb (cf. Luke 1:41, 44). An unborn child is breathing and taking nourishment, even in the fetus stage. A fetus is more than tissue; it is a live being.
Murder in this country has long been defined as the unjustified taking of human life. It prevents the individual from completing a natural life cycle. If a fetus is allowed to remain unmolested, the unborn will complete the natural life cycle that God began. Abortion, then, has become legal murder in this country. We have destroyed more human life through abortion than in all the combined wars of this century, including the Holocaust of the Jews by the Nazis. “What about a woman’s right to control her own body?” some will argue. That really could be the whole problem. Or, to say it another way, it is not a matter of control but the lack of it that has created most of the problems in the abortion issue. What most people want in legalized abortions is the right to commit fornication without any consequences or corresponding responsibilities.
II. The kingdom of God is built on a childlike character
Jesus loved children. He characterized them as fit recipients of the kingdom of God (cf. Matthew 18:2-5; 19:13-14; Mark 10:14-15; Luke 18:16-17). What are those characteristics that are so important to the kingdom?
Children of earlier generations generally followed in the steps of their parents. Education consisted of learning what the father and the mother did and then duplicating it. One of God’s commands to Israel was that parents were to teach their children His law (Deuteronomy 6:6-9). Israel took that command seriously for a time, but their downfall came when they failed to transmit the knowledge of God to the next generation. We all have hopes and dreams for what our children will be when they grow up. Unfortunately, some adults live their unfulfilled dreams through their children. They have the activities and careers all chosen, and the children are never consulted as to their desires and dreams. Some parents fail in educating their children about God. Many parents foolishly say, “I won’t force my child to go to church. I’ll wait until he grows up and let him decide.” This is non typical of any of life’s other decisions. We see the necessity of our children eating properly, going to school, etc., and we “force” the child to do those things that will greatly benefit the child. Is not teaching our children about God as valuable and mandatory as the other things our children are made to do? Perhaps it is a question of value. How much are the souls of our children worth? One of the saddest commentaries in the Old Testament is found in Judges 2:10: “…and there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord, nor yet the work which He had done for Israel.”
God’s idea of redemption in both Old and New Testaments has always involved people. He wants you to be His possession, His pride, and His joy (Galatians 4:6, 7). God valued you so much He gave His only Son so He could redeem you. Since you are valued so much by God, do you value your children as much?