Have you ever been counted? There’s something impersonal about it, isn’t there? If you’re being counted, you’re being lumped into a large, faceless group. You’re counted as part of a survey or a census. Or you’re counted as one of someone’s followers or friends on Facebook. And if you’ve ever volunteered for something, you’ve stood there gazing around awkwardly while someone very quickly pointed at each person and silently counted to themselves.
It’s a strange thing. But it’s a quick thing. One and done. All of a sudden, you’re back to being an individual.
I don’t know if you can tell by now, but this chapter of the Bible is all about counting people. Here the Levites are counted in their individual clans – the Kohathites, the Gershonites, and the Merarites. They each number in the thousands, and all together they’re about 8,500 men, aged thirty to fifty, ready and willing to serve in God’s tabernacle.
A large, faceless group? An impersonal collection of volunteers? Only this time, the volunteers were signing up to serve for the rest of their lives! Existential crisis, anyone?
The Treasures Within:
Would you want to be a Kohathite? Or a Gershonite? Maybe a Merarite? Forever?
I don’t know about the Israelites, but these days we value variety, independence, and choice. We want to choose our dreams and then chase them. We want the freedom to try new things.
But what if God asked you to be a Kohathite? What if He asked you to do something for Him that wasn’t your original plan? That didn’t even sound like something you wanted to do?
It sounds deeply unfair. No longer an individual with hopes and dreams, you are now a number, and you must report to work. And all because of what? The whims of a careless God, who makes some people Gershonites and some people Merarites without even asking?
But who is God? Is He careless?
Have you ever seen High School Musical? You know that song towards the middle, “Stick to the Status Quo”? All these teenagers are talking about what they love to do, like dance or bake or play cello, while their peers remind them that they shouldn’t stray from their cliques and stereotypes. And the whole time you’re sitting there thinking that Chad or Melissa or whatever their names are really should bake and play the cello, because that’s super cool and they’re obviously good at it.
So we can look at a movie – or a friend or a family member – and say hey, you’re good at this thing – why don’t you pursue that? but God can’t? We can know our friends and family members and even ourselves super well – but God has no clue?
You can see how this doesn’t make sense.
If we believe that God created us, then we have to believe that He knows what’s best for us. If we believe that God can read our minds and our hearts, then we have to believe that He knows what will strengthen our characters, bring us peace, and truly help others.
After all, if we believe in God, then we have to believe that He can be trusted – even with our lives.
That’s the number of Kohathites, Gershonites, and Merarites who signed up to trust God with their lives. That’s a lot of people!
And God had a lot of work for them to do. It was good work. Important work. The tabernacle was the centerpiece of the Israelite community. Working with it and in it was a blessing.
But man, everyone has to retire sometime. There’s got to be something else to do with your life besides work.
The Levites’ temple service wasn’t just work, though. Just about every time the word Levite or someone who was a Levite was mentioned in the Bible, they were mentioned in connection with the priesthood. It was their identity. Serving God as His priests – that’s who the Kohathites and Gershonites and Merarites were.
Who are we? What is our identity? What are we known for? Our careers? Our family? Our social media presence? Our creative projects? Or our devotion to God?
What if those things were to go away? Who would we be then? The only thing that cannot be taken away from us is our identity in Christ. In fact, it is the most important thing. Before we are writers or singers or filmmakers or entrepreneurs or husbands or wives or hustlers or activists – we are God’s children. We are people who are looking and planning and hoping for God’s second coming. We are people who love God most and best and want to introduce as many people to Him as possible.
Or are we? I confess, there are so many things that fill my mind before service and witnessing. There are dreams that I have, and when I paint them in my mind, I often find myself imagining my own success and the accolades I’ll receive – instead of the glory God would get.
And that’s a huge, huge problem.
If we are Christians, we believe that Jesus is coming back. We believe that everything that exists in this world will fade away. We believe that heaven is our future home, our best home, our only option.
If we are Christians, we have got to be about that. First and foremost. That must be our identity. That must be who we are. We are servants looking anxiously forward to Jesus’ appearing. And even if we are to be nothing else, then so be it.
God’s Message To Us:
“Look up, child.” And don’t ever look down. Even if what God asks us to do is not what we want. Even if God asks us to let go of what feels like our very core, our oldest dreams.
Does this amount to “suck it up, buttercup”? It’s more like a rewriting of our values. We’re not here to do what’s fun, what feels good, what feels right. We’re here to serve the God who gave up everything so we could have life. We’re here to shed the sugarcoated lies fed us by close-minded, finite humans. We’re here to grapple with, pray over, and ultimately accept the truth laid out in His Word by the God who made us and everything.
We’re here as servants. We’re passing through, getting our hands dirty for just a moment before moving on to an eternity with our Father, our Identity, our Everything.
What do you think? Is there room for individuality and choice in service to God? Has God ever asked you to do something you didn’t want to do? Share your story in the comments below.
2 thoughts on “How to be a Real Missionary – Part 2 (Numbers 4)”
You know what is interesting? It is interesting that in the book of Numbers, a few chapters in, the Kohathites are going to rebel. They decide they don’t want to do the job God gave them. They think it’s menial labor. They want a more exalted position. So often, we are just like them. We aspire to do “bigger” things than God has appointed us, and we are actually leaving the very work God has given us to do, even though it may be humble.
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That is so interesting. We are so prideful. That is part of why God calls us to certain things – to shape us and to heal us of flaws like pride.