Every artist I know signs his or her work. It links the artist with stylistic qualities and themes, and designates the piece is finished, permanently identifying its creator. The latter aspect becomes more important with the passing of time and multiple owners. Without the signature, historical background as well as the purpose and process behind the creation is lost.
I’ve often contemplated what God did in setting aside the Levites from the other 11 tribes of Israel to serve Him in the duties of caring for the Tabernacle and all the holy articles. “Every firstborn male in Israel, whether human or animal, is mine. When I struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, I set them apart for myself. 18 And I have taken the Levites in place of all the firstborn sons in Israel. 19 From among all the Israelites, I have given the Levites as gifts to Aaron and his sons to do the work at the Tent of Meeting on behalf of the Israelites and to make atonement for them so that no plague will strike the Israelites when they go near the sanctuary.” (Nu 8:17-19)
It occurred to me that God as the Master Creator was signing His masterpiece of Creation by placing His “signature” on all the first-born. It was not so much a matter of ownership, because all creation – living and inert – belongs to Him. But, it was a matter of identifying the “created” with the Creator. The fact remains that the created piece is always inferior to the artist himself. How much more so with God Who is pure Holiness. So, just as fire and water cannot be combined without obliterating one or the other, the depravity of the Egyptians resulted in their destruction in God’s Presence. Even though all mankind is prone to similar arrogance and rebellion, God made a special provision for the first-born of Israel. Purification was absolutely essential to anyone who would be in God’s Presence or around His holy articles. The exchange of all the first-born for one tribe simplified the purification process, and provided the Israelites with a constant reminder of God’s Presence through His signature on the Levites.
Even so, that system was ritualistic and ultimately established no permanent means of connectivity, as God is Spirit and man is flesh, and a true first-born of God must be God in nature. In all wisdom and knowledge, God bridged the great divide with Jesus, both Son of God and son of man, providing the only real exchange for all people. The exclusivity of being the first-born vanished in Jesus’ work of atonement, as the way was opened to all who believe Jesus is Who He claimed to be. His righteousness provides a protective covering for mankind to come into the Holiest Presence, and there we receive God’s signature on our hearts.
The Creator God has accomplished a masterpiece for which there is no comparison: a work so living and vital that it is constantly changing, linking history and process, culminating in His purpose. “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Cor 3:18)