Monday, August 13, 2012

God's Godly Servants Labor together

Numbers 3:5-6 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 6“Bring the tribe of Levi near and set them before Aaron the priest, that they may serve him. 7“They shall perform the duties for him and for the whole congregation before the tent of meeting, to do the service of the tabernacle.

Yesterday we explored how God had so designed the ministry of the tabernacle in the Old Testament to be that of the priests and their assisting servants among God's people.  We noted that this pattern foreshadows a Divine Design that God would employ in a far richer way in the New Testament.  Today I want us to consider how these servants in the Old Covenant system were beneficial to both the Priesthood and God's people, with a few suggested applications to us as believers today.

Identifying the Godly servants in Numbers 3-4
After telling Moses to bring the remaining Levites to stand before Aaron and the priests in Numbers 3:5-10, we are then told the specific identity of these "Godly servants" who were to aid the priesthood in Numbers 3:17 - "These are the sons of Levi by their names: Gershon, Kohath and Merari".  Levi, who had been one of the original sons of Jacob back in Genesis, had three sons who in turn were the ancestors of the three clans with the tribe of the Levites - hence the Gershonites, Kohathites and Merarites. 

The root meanings of the Gershonite, Kohathite and Merarite clans
The meanings of these names can help shed light onto what they may had been like as a people.  "Gershon" comes from a Hebrew root meaning "to drive, to expel, to push out".  We could say that this particular clan of Levites were aggressive, the go-getters.  Although we cannot discern the root of the Kohathites, by their actions and calling, they were to care for the transport and upkeep of the furnishings of the tabernacle.  The Merarites come from a Hebrew root meaning "to weep, to be hard".  This may indicate their passion, their ability to do the grunt work needed to enable the priests and the people to worship God at the tabernacle. 

What the godly servants were supposed to do
Each of these three clans within the Levites had an important role in the setting up and tearing down of the Israelite worship center - the tabernacle.  Since the people traveled continuously throughout the book of Numbers, God had so designed the tabernacle to be mobile.  Thus each clan had a responsibility of ministry in His house. 

The Gershonites - Took care of protecting God's house
Numbers 3:26 describes the Gershonites - "Now the duties of the sons of Gershon in the tent of meeting involved the tabernacle and the tent, its covering, and the screen for the doorway of the tent of meeting, 26and the hangings of the court, and the screen for the doorway of the court which is around the tabernacle and the altar, and its cords, according to all the service concerning them." Though these actions may had seemed tedious, the coverings of the tabernacle prevented unholy eyes from looking upon the holy things of God.  God warned the people that death would come upon anyone who overstepped in places they did not belong.  The value of a ministry should never be judged by its seeming simplicity.

Kohathites - Took care of protecting the furnishings of God's house
In Numbers 3:31-32 we read about the Kohathites: "Now their duties involved the ark, the table, the lampstand, the altars, and the utensils of the sanctuary with which they minister, and the screen, and all the service concerning them; 32and Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest was the chief of the leaders of Levi, and had the oversight of those who perform the duties of the sanctuary."  Eleazer, the son of Aaron the High priest, had both "leadership' and pastoral oversight of not only this clan, but also the Merarite and Gershonite clans.

The Merarites - Took care of the practical upkeep of God's house
Numbers 3:36-37 describes the function of the Merarite clan -  "Now the appointed duties of the sons of Merari involved the frames of the tabernacle, its bars, its pillars, its sockets, all its equipment, and the service concerning them, 37and the pillars around the court with their sockets and their pegs and their cords."  Without maintaining the undergirding structure of the tabernacle, wear and tear would gradually ruin the tabernacle in the process of its mobility.  The Merarites served to ensure it as in tip-top shape, ready to go. 

Some practical suggestions and applications for Christians
As you look over the functions of these three clans in even further detail in Numbers 3 and 4, many would say that what they had to do was menial, tedious and more behind the scenes.  Being a Godly servant is not about having the stage or the spotlight - rather its about building the stage and holding the spot-light to bring glory to Jesus Christ.  Aaron and Eleazer illustrate by their leadership role the New Testament Pastor /Elder who shepherds and oversees the people of God.  Even he, as a leader, aims to shine the spot-light upon Jesus Christ.  (1 Timothy 3:1-7; 1 Peter 5:1-5; Hebrews 13:7,17)

The three clans we looked at today could be comparable, in an illustrative way, to New Testament Deacons.  Deacons are men who aid the Pastor and God's people in shining the spot light on Jesus Christ.  Often Deacons may be called upon to do seemingly tedious things.  However for the servant of God, nothing is tedious or menial - since the privilege of serving the King always outweighs the apparent value of the task. (Acts 6:1-6; 1 Timothy 3:8-13)

Then the people of God in the Old Testament function to foreshadow the New Testament church, who, like they, are a Kingdom of Priests and household of faith. (1 Peter 2; Hebrews 3:1-6) In a far more richer way, the theme of Godly servants is not just restricted only to Pastors/Elders and Deacons, but all of God's people have a share in the ministry. (2 Corinthians 5:18-21) We are equal in value before Christ and differing in function.  It takes all of God's people, laboring together, to bear out the Godly service desired by God for His church in the 21st century. 

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