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God’s Word for You

Numbers 4:21-33 we each have a task

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, June 14, 2021

Here in chapter 4, the matter of counting the Levites is recorded. Since the Levites did not take part in military action, they are counted according to their eligibility to serve (ages 30-50) rather than to fight (ages 20 and up).

The Duties of the Gershonites
21 The Lord also told Moses 22 to take a census of the descendants of Gershon, according to their fathers’ houses, by their clans, 23 and to register those from thirty years old to fifty years old, everyone eligible for the service of doing the work at the Tent of Meeting. 24 This is the work for the Gershonite clans: the work of moving the Dwelling. 25 They are to carry the curtains of the Dwelling, the Tent of Meeting, its covering, and the covering made of sea cow hides that is on top of that, the screen for the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, 26 the hangings for the courtyard, the screen for the entrance through the gate into the courtyard which surrounds the Dwelling and the altar, the ropes, and all the items related to this work. They are responsible for everything that is to be done with these things. 27 All the work of the descendants of the Gershonites, everything they are to carry and all the work they are to do, is to be done at the command of Aaron and his sons. You are to assign to each of them everything they are to carry. 28 This is the work for the clans of the descendants of the Gershonites in regard to the Tent of Meeting. They are to serve under the direction of Ithamar, the son of Aaron the priest.

Here a new detail about the Gershonites is recorded: They were under the direct supervision of Ithamar, Aaron’s youngest son (Exodus 6:23). Here we might also point out that there was no requirement that a Levite had to marry a woman who was also a Levite, although this happened sometimes (Exodus 2:1). Aaron’s wife Elisheba was the sister of Nahshon, the leader of the tribe of Judah. The only restraints on the High Priest’s wife were that she could not be a widow, could not be divorced, could never have been a prostitute, and had to be a virgin from one of the tribes of Israel (Leviticus 21:14). This would make certain that their sons, who might in turn become High Priests, were legitimate descendants of the tribe of Levi and unquestionably their father’s sons, descended from Aaron. This shows that the Israelites were a patriarchy, tracing the line of their descent primarily through the father. We also see this in the way that people were named using patronymics, “Son of—” or “Daughter of—,” such as “Gomer daughter of Diblaim” (Hosea 1:3) or “Joel son of Pethuel” (Joel 1:1).

The Duties of the Merarites
29 As for the descendants of Merari, register them according to their clans, according to their fathers’ houses. 30 Register all of them who are between thirty years old and fifty years old, everyone eligible for service, to do the work for the Tent of Meeting. 31 This is what they are responsible for as their entire work at the Tent of Meeting: to carry the Dwelling’s boards, its crossbars, its posts, its bases, 32 the posts of the surrounding courtyard and their bases, their tent pegs, their ropes with all their equipment, and everything related to this work. You are to specify by name the items that they are responsible to carry. 33 This is the work for the clans of the descendants of Merari, regarding all their work in regard to the Tent of Meeting, under the direction of Ithamar, the son of Aaron the priest.

Another detail we see with both the Gershonites and the Merarites is that each man was assigned the things he would carry. This shows a great deal of organization. There was no scrambling, “You, come here and carry this,” or “Who’s got the ropes for the curtain that goes up in frame number two?” Everyone knew what they were supposed to carry, and every time they packed up, that is exactly what they carried. Notice that within the clan of Merari, “You are to specify by name the items they are responsible to carry” (Numbers 4:32).

This is an excellent illustration for Paul’s encouragement about spiritual gifts. “There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord” (1 Corinthians 12:5), and “If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body” (1 Corinthians 12:15). Where would the tabernacle be if everyone wanted to carry the Ark of the Covenant? The Ark had to rest in the Holy of Holies, and therefore someone had to carry the curtains and poles for that place. And the Holy of Holies could not stand alone without the Holy Place, and so someone had to carry the curtains and poles and furnishings for that place, too. And what would the Holy Place be without the altar? What would the altar be without the water basin? What would those things be without the small tools for tending the fire and the sacrifices? And were would all of those things be without the surrounding curtains and poles for the tabernacle? Therefore every Levite—Kohathites, Gershonites, and Merarites—had specifically assigned duties to perform. They were all part of the larger body known as the Levites, and the Levites were part of Israel. But everyone had a task to perform. You and I have tasks to perform within God’s kingdom, as well. Don’t forget that such tasks include serving your family (1 Timothy 5:16; Proverbs 31;15), keeping secrets when asked (Esther 2:20; Proverbs 25:9), helping out in the neighborhood (Nehemiah 3:1 f), doing what needs to be done around the house (Proverbs 14:1), and taking care of your pet (Proverbs 12:10) and your plants (Psalm 144:12). Do these things to God’s glory. We can’t all carry the Ark of the Covenant. But we each have a task in God’s holy kingdom.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


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