When I first read this passage, I was confused about its meaning. A thorough search of the commentaries helped me understand, and I’d love to pass some of that on to you today.
The first section refers to the financial value put on different members of a family or tribe. Men, women, children and the elderly all seem to have their price. Does this mean they are somehow for sale? No, is the first answer but there is a kind of yes, too. Back in the days when worship centred on the Temple, it was usual for people to dedicate themselves for service there. Obviously the sacred duties were conducted by the High Priest and assisted by the tribe of Levites, but there was always a plethora of menial jobs that had to be done, whether that was sweeping the floor, clearing away ashes, or running any errands as required by the priest. The person who had dedicated him/herself in this way would devote their time and strength to whatever was required.
However, there might come a time when the person offering their service would wish to become free to leave Temple service and resume their normal life. It was in these instances that the table of charges came into play, each person paying that particular sum of money to the Temple to secure their release. In other words, they were buying back (“redeeming”) their lives, in ways that would not be detrimental to the ongoing work of the Temple.
Livestock, too, could be dedicated. The best animals were used in sacrifice – with the clear warning that no underhand swapping of chosen animals could take place – but there was need of animals to carry things and so on, as with the more menial tasks that the men, women and children were doing. These animals could also be bought back, at the right price.
These verses seem to be irrelevant at first glance, but the word of God always offers its truth if we seek it. So, regarding dedication to God, all of us who have confessed Jesus as Lord have come into his service. We have let go of our natural rights to choose how we live and come under his authority, for him to use us as he chooses. We are reminded that God deserves the best of what we can offer: no “wonky produce” as our sacrifice! After all, in sending Jesus, God didn’t hold back. What better example is there?
Jesus, all I have and all I am is yours. Use me today for your purposes. Amen.