Can you guess what the book of Numbers is about? Lots of numbers and infinite details!
When the book of Numbers opens, the children of Israel had been traveling for more than a year. Remember, there were likely several million men, women, and children in this massive migration. Numbers 1:46 tells us there were 603,550 men upwards of twenty years old, who were able to go out to war. Extrapolate that number to include older men too old to fight, the Levites who did not go to war, wives, multiple children, and servants. Estimates range from two to six million people plus all their cattle and livestock!
Surely the longer they walked, the more Moses and Aaron saw the need for organization if they were to accomplish what God had set before them. Thankfully, God loves details, structure, and order, and He gave specific instructions on how they were to camp, the order of movement when they continued on, and much wisdom on daily life and responsibilities.
One key task was the care of the Tabernacle that had now been built for God’s presence in the camp. The tribe of Levi was chosen for this assignment. Levi had three sons: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari (Aaron was a descendant of Kohath). God divided up the responsibilities for the care and transport of the Tabernacle between these three families.
The Gershonites were responsible for taking care of all the soft coverings that made up the tabernacle. When it was time to move, they would carefully take down the linen curtains and leather coverings, and fold, pack and transport them. When they arrived at their new destination, they would put it all back together. The Kohathites had the responsibility for all of the articles inside the tabernacle (ark, table, lampstand, altars, etc) but they were only allowed to go in and pick up the items for transport. As the chosen high priestly family, Aaron and his sons first had to cover and wrap everything. The Kohathites were not even allowed to see or touch the items. The Merarites were appointed to take care of the frames, poles, crossbars, posts, bases, tent pegs, and ropes that created the structure of the tabernacle.
Each tribe had its specific duties. These duties were considered a holy privilege and very important. And think about this. There were 22,000 male Levites. Out of these, there were 8,580 of age to serve (between 30 and 50 years old). So, if you were a Levite male, you would be serving on a huge team, assigned on a rotating basis to do your particular task. (Can you imagine being the person in charge of scheduling?!) It would be easy to think your little job wasn’t very important when there were so many others to do it.
The truth is, it doesn’t matter how important I think my job in God’s kingdom work is. It doesn’t matter how much work I am able to accomplish, or how talented I may or may not be. The issue is, will I be willing and able, and obedient when God assigns me something to do, even if it seems trivial and unimportant? If every Levite man did not do his duty, then it would affect the spiritual condition of the entire nation. I would not want to be the one who decided my tent pegs weren’t important and lost them along the way.
Those of us who have placed our faith in Jesus are part of the body of Christ, the people of God. We are part of something bigger than ourselves. God even calls us a royal priesthood.
Ephesians 2:9-10 – But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
As part of God’s family, we each have been given responsibilities – good works that God prepared for us to walk in (Ephesians 2:10). We, too, serve on a massive team, and just like the Levites, our assignments are for the purpose of bringing God’s presence into our communities. We all have different abilities and roles, and all are equally important to the whole.
We will revisit this idea in just a few chapters, when one Levite man decides his duties aren’t important enough for him, but for today, what has God called you to do? Do you think it’s unimportant? It’s not. If God gives you an ability, a job, a talent, a skill, or simply a day when it’s your turn to fold the curtains or carry the tent pegs…do it with full obedience and a heart of worship.
We all serve the same King, Jesus.
We are all valuable and needed in God’s kingdom work.
It’s a privilege to just carry the tent pegs when you know you’re serving the Creator. Don’t look at the size of your task, or underestimate its importance to the kingdom of God. Instead, remember what your work is really about. You are part of allowing the world to get a glimpse of God’s glory, and it is the Lord Christ whom you serve.