Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Work (07/27/06)
TITLE: I want to be...a Levite with a wagon
By Melanie Kerr
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Among our small Sunday school class we had a ballet dancer, an artist, a nurse and a zoolologist! Liam, our youngest member, couldn’t make up his mind. He wanted to do well at school and grow his hair long when he got older!
Reading through the early chapters of Numbers, the Levites did not have much choice about what they want to be when they grew up. They had been selected to help the priests with the running of the tabernacle. When it came down to moving the campsite along the route, they were given the job of dismantling the Tabernacle, moving the components and assembling the meeting place at their next stop. Some lucky Levites got to pack the tabernacle curtains, the poles and the tent pegs onto a wagon pulled by oxen. Others were not so lucky and carried things on their shoulders.
Many of the instructions given in the opening chapters of the book of Numbers relate to God’s desire to protect his people. He was living in the midst of them. He was holy, and they were not. His presence among them was like dealing with sensitive dynamite and things had to be correctly handled. The Levites didn’t line up outside the tabernacle, but there was a list of their names. Each person, by name, was given a specific item to take. Each person was hand picked and their specific strengths and weaknesses taken into consideration. Who knows best, but God, what we can carry and what we can’t? What God gives us to carry is not so heavy that we are broken by it.
Many of us have an unrealistic view of our abilities. We are not as strong as we think we are. We take on board more than we can handle and we get burnt out. For some of us, it may be the opposite – we are actually much stronger than we think, but we rule ourselves out and we never really get to exercise our spiritual muscles properly. The anointing that God gives for a task is not haphazard and random, but carefully orchestrated. The things that we do must be the things that God has set us apart to do and not the things we think we are capable of doing. They are the things that no one else has been assigned to do and they are matched to our individual strengths and weaknesses.
However, suppose as a Levite turns up at the tabernacle. Every time they have moved camp he has been given things to carry. Sometimes it’s the same item he is given to carrying. Sometimes it’s something a little different – but he always has something to do. Suppose one time he turns up but the priest sends him away – there is nothing for him to carry! Suppose the next time he turns up, and he is sent away – again there is nothing for him to carry. And perhaps a third time, and a fourth time. What questions might go through his mind? Does he automatically think – “Oh wonderful, I get to help my wife pack and move our stuff.” Or “I was really needing a rest!” or more likely perhaps, “What is wrong with me? Why am I being passed over here? Have I done something to offend the priests, or God?” The man has got used to doing stuff, but suddenly, he feels like he is being made redundant!
God’s rule for protection does not just cover the physical aspects of a heavy a burden to carry. It is also a spiritual thing. We have a tendency to measure value according to what a person does. We perhaps measure our own value on the basis of what we contribute or the part we play in the church setting. If we do nothing, we think we have no value. If we had a job, and then it gets taken off us and given to someone else, we jump to a conclusion perhaps that the other person must be better than we are. Learning just to “be” and not to “do” is so so important. God can work without us and he chooses to do so at times.
The challenge for us at these times is to enjoy the rest and the space we’re being given - a space particularly to explore what else God has got in mind for us.
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