11The Lord said to Moses, 12“When you take the census of the people of Israel, then each shall give a ransom for his life to the Lord when you number them, that there be no plague among them when you number them. 13Each one who is numbered in the census shall give this: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs), half a shekel as an offering to the Lord. 14Everyone who is numbered in the census, from twenty years old and upward, shall give the Lord’s offering. 15The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less, than the half shekel, when you give the Lord’s offering to make atonement for your lives. 16You shall take the atonement money from the people of Israel and shall give it for the service of the tent of meeting that it may bring the people of Israel to remembrance before the Lord, so as to make atonement for your lives.”
As a part of the worship in the Tabernacle, God imposes a tax upon the people. This isn’t a tithe or an offering. It is called a tax. Everyone pays it – although there are future passages that indicate this tax is paid only by males over the age of 20. For me the most interesting aspect of this tax is that everyone pays exactly the same amount. It isn’t based on wealth or station. The amount paid was also very small – relatively speaking so that everyone could afford it. It was paid in silver and amounted to the weight of 2 pieces of paper. This tax served to remind the people of their sin and of their utter dependence upon God. Here is where the equilateral amount is important. Sin is sin and God hates it all. For God, there aren’t and “worst sinners”. We’re all in trouble.
Peter brings our situation into sharp focus. We too owe the “temple tax” because we too are sinners. He makes mention of this fact in his Epistle in chapter 1.
1 Peter 1:13–21
13Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 17And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 20He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you 21who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
We stand on the other side of the death and resurrection of Jesus, so our “temple tax” has been completely and forever paid. Our sin is gone in the eyes of God who recognizes Jesus blood as the final payment. God no longer requires payment for it has been fulfilled ”with the precious blood of Christ.” For me today, I stand in awe of the fact that a few verses about the something as simple as silver amounting the 2 sheets of paper could point me straight into the Gospel. The work of Jesus pervades every part of the Bible, Old and New Testament alike. Yet another grace.