Grunt Work

Numbers 4:15, 20 “After Aaron and his sons have finished covering the holy furnishings and all the holy articles, and when the camp is ready to move, the Kohathites are to come to do the carrying. But they must not touch the holy things or they will die. The Kohathites must not go in to look at the holy things, even for a moment, or they will die” (NIV).

Observation: God was giving instruction to prepare the contents of the Holy of Holies for moving from one camp to another. There were precise steps to be followed for the dividing curtains, the Ark of the Covenant, the Table of the Presence, and such smaller articles as dishes, lampstands, and the gold altar. These were to be wrapped in skins of sea cows, covered variously with cloths of blue, scarlet, or purple, then spread over with more sea cow skins; definitely not a job for two men and a truck.

Application: What a job! These were a nomadic people, so it’s not hard to imagine the scope of the task in conducting repeated moves. In Exodus 3:4 I am reminded that Aaron’s two oldest priestly sons had fallen dead after making an unauthorized offering. So when God warned the Kohathites not to look at or even touch the holy articles on pain of death, they surely took His admonition seriously. But how fair was that? 

The Kohathite clan from the tribe of Levi numbered 2,750 men who were between 30 and 50, the required age to do this work (Exodus 4:35-36). Does it seem fair that a clan many thousand strong should be expected to labor in such blind obedience? Imagine the ignominy of being assigned to carry around items you had no hand in packing, and which you could neither touch nor view: the grunt work of the Gospel. Born into Levi’s tribe, anointed for service to God, this clan was nonetheless assigned an anonymity against which most of us would rebel. 

Seriously now, when I dream about making a significant kingdom impact, doesn’t the mind incline toward more glamorous roles? A foreign missionary preaching to thousands; a doctor to the poor; a pregnancy center volunteer…aren’t these the kinds of roles I would rather imagine behind God’s grooming of me? But the Kohathites were expected to spend their most productive years without ever laying eyes on the ministry tools they were destined to lug around the Sinai. And woe to any who stole so much as a glance at the treasured objects. 

What is it about my heart that causes me to imagine that I ought to have more important roles? In whose eyes are they more important? For all their anonymity, Scripture records exactly how many Kohathite men there were. God knows every one of them intimately. And He knows me.

Prayer: O Lord, how unlike a Kohathite I have been. Forgive me for not gladly accepting Your assignment. Have Your way with me, Lord.

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