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TITLE: Precious Things
By Melanie Kerr

I was very much taken with the account in Numbers of the task given to the Kohathites. Every other Levite clan was given a gift of wagons and bullocks, but they were required to carry the contents of the tabernacle on their shoulders. I remember hearing someone say, or reading perhaps, that rather than see it s a difficult chore, it could be looked upon as a privilege to carry the precious things of God. The Kohathites, along with all the Levites were forbidden from fighting in a battle. Little boys in particular seem to enjoy battles and fights and I wondered how a Kohathite father might explain to his son that he could never become a soldier. Basically - does it work? Do you need to know more background information than the story gives?
"I want to be a soldier when I grow up," announced Josh as he mopped up the last of his stew with a wedge of bread. He sat on the floor with bowl balanced on his knees, looking up at his parents. His mother had a baby nestled against her shoulder, swaying as she hummed softly.

"We have been through this all before, Josh. You are not going to be a soldier when you grow up." His father, Simeon, looked at him gently.

"But I am stronger than any of the other boys. And I can run faster than they can. And I'm not scared of anything." Josh scowled, his bottom lip jutting out rebelliously.

"That may be so, but you are still not going to be a soldier when you grow up." Simeon reached over to ruffle his son's hair. He turned to his wife. "Do you need help with the packing, love? We need to be ready to move by mid morning tomorrow."

"It's not fair!" Josh kicked his empty bowl across the floor in frustration. For a moment, a flicker of fear flashed across his face as he wondered if he had over stepped the mark.

"Come with me, Josh." Simeon gently took hold of his son's elbow and steered him towards the door. He could see the tears collecting in the corner of his son's eyes. Just before they left the room, Simeon picked up a small bundle of things he had been collecting.

"Here, take this too." His wife slipped her long dark hair out of her brightly coloured headscarf and threw it at Simeon.

Once outside, Simeon and Josh moved into the shade. They could taste the heat of the sun, hear the buzz of grasshoppers and see a cloud of flies hovering above their heads.

Simeon unfolded the headscarf and smoothed it carefully over the ground. Josh watched as he laid down the items he had been carrying. There was a deep wooden bowl, carved around the top with an intricate pattern of vine leaves and a clay cup with a deep brown glaze. Simeon placed a small, carved box beside them. Josh knew that inside the box was a lock of his own hair and two of his baby teeth. To the pile Simeon added a small knife with a curved bone handle.

"You know what these are?" asked Simeon.

Josh nodded solemnly. They were some of his father's precious things. Although not worth much in terms of money, each item held a special memory for Simeon. Josh was rarely allowed to touch them.

Deftly, Simeon securely knotted the items in the headscarf. When it was ready he handed the bundle over to Josh.

"When we leave tomorrow, I want you to carry this bundle. You mustn't drop it or put it down or forget about it and run off and play. These are my special things. They are precious to me. I am trusting you to look after them until we get to our next home. Will you do that for me?"

Josh nodded again, his eyes shining. To be entrusted to look after his father's precious things during the journey was a huge responsibility.

"When I was your age, I wanted to be a soldier. I wanted to fight against the Egyptians who were cruel and wicked. I was strong and could run fast, and like you I wasn't afraid of anything." Simeon spoke quietly.

Josh knew the story of the Exodus. It was central to the Passover festival. He knew of how God had killed the firstborn sons of the Egyptians, and how the Israelites, had been protected by the lamb's blood on the door.

"Not so long afterwards, God gave the Levites a special job to do. They were to look after his tent and all the things in it. Some of them were to mend the curtains if they were damaged. Others were to clean the blood off the altar. Our family, the Kohathites, were given the task of carrying everything when God decided to move. It doesn't sound a very important job, does it? But just as I have given you my precious things to carry, it is like God gives us his precious things to carry. He trusts us not to drop them, or to put them down and forget about them if we met an enemy and everyone goes off to fight them. One day God will trust all of his precious things to your care."

Based on Numbers 4:15; 7:9
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