"When you take a census of the Israelites to number them, each man must pay the LORD a ransom for his life when he is counted. Then no plague will come upon them when they are numbered.
1. The money was money of atonement. It was paid in ransom for life. If we seek the principle on which the ransoming proceeds, we must view the half shekel in the light of the practice of commutation. In strictness, atonement could be made only by blood. Here, as in other cases, the animal sacrifice is commuted for money, and the money, in virtue of that for which it is commuted, is admitted as atonement. The purpose to which the silver was to be applied required that the ransom should take this form.
2. All were to be taxed alike. "The rich shall not give more, nor the poor less" (ver. 15). This intimates that, as respects his need of atonement, no man has any advantage over his neighbours. "There is no difference" (Romans 3:22). It intimates, too, the essential equality of men in the eyes of God.
3. The money was to be applied to the work of the tabernacle. The greater part of it was used in making the silver sockets for the dwelling-place (ch. 38:27). Thus
(1) the tabernacle - symbol of God's kingdom in Israel - was founded on the silver of atonement. This, surely, was a profound testimony to the fact that only on the basis of atonement can communion exist between heaven and earth.
(2) Each Israelite was individually represented in Jehovah's sanctuary. His tribute money formed part of it. He had a stake and interest in it. The honour was great: not less so the responsibility. - J.O.
1. Observe that this redemption, without which no man might rightly be numbered among the children of Israel lest a plague should break out among them, must be personal and individual. You must each one bring Christ unto the Father, taking Him into your hands by simple faith. No other price must be there; but that price must be brought by every individual, or else there is no acceptable coming to God.
I. DIVINELY APPOINTED. "The Lord spake," etc. Who else had a right to speak on this matter? How would it have been had man spoken? God mercifully prevents confusion by Himself speaking. So, in our case. "I have found a ransom."
A ransom for his soul.
I. THE RANSOM FOR THE LIFE. Our human lives are forfeited to God; we have not accomplished the great end of our being, and therefore we deserve every moment to die. The Israelites paid their tax as a confession that life had been forfeited, and as an acknowledgment that its continuance depended wholly on God. We cannot give the half-shekel payment, but we should have before us the practical remembrance that in God's hand is the soul of every living thing.
II. THE RICH AND THE POOR WERE TO PAY JUST THE SAME SUM. This was a clear and unqualified declaration that in the sight of God the distinctions of rank and estate are altogether as nothing; that, whilst He gathers the whole human race under His guardianship, there is no difference in the watchfulness which extends itself to the several individuals.
III. If we understand the word "soul" in the ordinary sense, the text is a clear indication THAT GOD VALUES AT THE SAME RATE THE SOULS OF ALL HUMAN BEINGS. Every soul has been redeemed at the price of the blood of God's Son. Rich and poor must offer the same atonement for the soul.
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
II. UNIVERSALLY ENFORCED. "They shall give every man a ransom for his soul." No moral man shall, in the pride of his self-righteousness, conclude that he needs no ransom; nor shall any vile sinner, in utter despair, conclude that a ransom will in his case be useless. "He gave Himself a Ransom for all." How if we "neglect so great salvation"?
III. EQUALLY DISTRIBUTED. "The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less." There should be no excuse for misrepresenting their circumstances. They were taught that the soul, and not wealth, was the thing considered. Men spiritually on one level (Leviticus 19:15). The rich and the poor might be sundered by circumstances in the tent, but were on an equality in the Tabernacle. In the house of God the rich and the poor meet together, etc. Each went with his half-shekel to Him who respecteth not the person of any man.
IV. MERCIFULLY MEASURED. "An half-shekel shall be the offering of the Lord." In other matters there was a difference (see Leviticus 5:7; see marg.; Leviticus 12:8; Leviticus 14:21, 22, 30, 31). The poor were always treated with special consideration. It was a mercy to the rich to humble him, and to the poor to inculcate proper self-respect. A mercy to all, to inculcate the habit of giving as a "means of grace." Learn —
1. That in soul matters men are equal before God.
2. That our ransom is paid for us.
3. That we are not redeemed with corruptible things, etc.
(J. C. Gray.)
2. It was absolutely essential that each one should bring the half-shekel of redemption money; for redemption is the only way in which you and I can be accepted of God. There were many, no doubt, in the camp of Israel who were men of station and substance; but they must bring the ransom money, or die amid their wealth. Others were wise-hearted and skilful in the arts, yet must they be redeemed or die. Rank could not save the princes, nor office spare the elders: every man of Israel must be redeemed; and no man could pass the muster-roll without his half-shekel, whatever he might say, or do, or be.
3. Note well that every Israelitish man must be alike redeemed, and redeemed with the like, nay, with the same redemption. "The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel."
4. And it must be a redemption that meets the Divine demand, because, you see, the Lord not only says that they must each bring half a shekel, no more, no less, but it must be "the shekel of the sanctuary" — not the shekel of commerce, which might be debased in quality or diminished by wear and tear, but the coin must be according to the standard shekel laid up in the holy place.
I. I want you to view this illustration as teaching us something about GOD IN RELATION TO MAN. The tent in the wilderness was typical of God's coming down to man to hold intercourse with him. The Lord seems to teach us, in relation to His dealing with men, that He will meet man in the way of grace only on the footing of redemption. He treats with man concerning love and grace within His holy shrine; but the basis of that shrine must be atonement.
II. I think we may apply this illustration to CHRIST IN HIS DIVINE PERSON. The Tabernacle was the type of our Lord Jesus Christ, for God dwells among men in Christ. "He tabernacled among us, and we beheld His glory," "In whom dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." Our Lord is thus the Tabernacle which the Lord hath pitched and not man; and our first and fundamental idea of Him must be in His character as Redeemer. Our Lord does come to us in other characters, and in them all He is right glorious; but unless we receive Him as Redeemer we have missed the essence of His character, the foundation idea of Him.
III. The Tabernacle was a type of THE CHURCH OF GOD AS THE PLACE OF DIVINE INDWELLING. What and where is the Church of God? The true Church is founded upon redemption.
1. Christ is a sure Foundation.
2. An invariable Foundation.
IV. I think this Tabernacle in the wilderness may be viewed as a type of THE GOSPEL, for the gospel is the revelation of God to man. Now, as that old gospel in the wilderness was, such must ours be, and I want to say just two or three things very plainly, and have done. Redemption must be the foundation of our theology — doctrinal, practical, and experimental. Ah, and not only our theology but our personal hope. The only gospel that I have to preach is that which I have to rest upon myself — "Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree." This is henceforth the burden of our service, and the glory of our life. Those silver sockets were very precious, but very weighty. I dare say the men who had to move them sometimes thought so. Four tons and more of silver make up a great load. O blessed, blissful draught, to have to put the shoulder to the collar to draw the burden of the Lord — the glorious weight of redemption.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
(H. W. Soltau.)
(Hugh Price Hughes, M. A.)
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