Numbers 4:1-20 – God is Not Our Buddy…He Is Our Good, Good Father

Posted: July 6, 2016 in Book of Numbers
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Numbers 4:1-20

Duties of the Kohathite Clan

Have you ever noticed that some parents want to be their children’s friend rather than be a true parent to their children? Some parents are afraid that they will lose their “friendship” with their children if they take a hard line on disciplining their children. They are afraid that their children will hate them or cause their home to be a difficult one to live in if they discipline their children. They want to be buddies with the kid. As a result, such parents end up having unruly children and end up hating their parents anyway. As parents, we were not put on this earth to be, contrary to 21st century sensibilities, our children’s friend or buddies or pals. We were put on this earth to raise them up to be responsible adults. We were put on this earth to teach them the ways of the world so that they can survive in it and even flourish in it as adults. We were put on this earth to teach them right from wrong. We were put on this earth to teach them about actions and consequences. We were put on this earth to teach them about hard work and rewards and about the lack of rewards for laziness. We were put on this earth to, yes, love and protect and provide for them but never at the expense showing them the way to adulthood. Being buddies with your child never produces the intended results. Being the cool parents to your kids will often lead to children who grow up thinking that they are entitled to a certain kind of lifestyle without having to put forth any effort. It can lead to disastrous results. You can end up with a child in their twenties that lives in your basement and doesn’t see the need to “get a life” of their own among other unintended results of being buddies with your kids.

 

I know that with my father and mother, I knew that they loved me. They sacrificed greatly so that my brother and I could have what we needed to survive. Some of the best times that I had growing up was with my family. Some of my most unique and funny memories are things that I did with my mom and with my dad. One of my favorite memories was when I was about 10 years old and my dad and I were traveling back from Columbia to our home, at the time, in Anderson, SC. We stopped to get a soft drink after getting outside of Columbia and from that point forward until our soft drinks were gone, we had a burping contest. The contest was to see who could have the longest burp or who could say the most syllables of a word or words while burping. It was a priceless father-son moment. However, I respected my dad beyond belief. That was what made the fun moments most fun was because I knew who the boss was. Dad was not a tyrannical father but he was the authority in our house. I knew what the boundaries of behavior were and I knew there would be consequences for bad behavior. He never wavered in our consequences. If he said this is your punishment, that would be your punishment. There was no negotiating our way out of the consequences of bad behavior. I hated his consistency and his willingness to stay the course at the time, but looking back I am glad he did. I knew that my parents loved me. Without question, I knew this! They showed us love with hugs and kisses and hanging out together and playing sports with us. However, I knew my place as child and their place as parents. There was an understanding that I was not equal to them. The roles were properly defined. There was no blurring of the lines between being a parent to me and being a friend.

 

It was that proper relationship between a parent and a child that was the thought that came to mind when I read through today’s passage. It might seem odd to think of that in a passage about the duties and responsibilities of the Kohathite clan within the tribe of Levi at the tabernacle. As you know, the tribe of Levi was assigned responsibility for the Tabernacle and as we open Chapter 4 of Numbers, we see that God gave specific assignments to each clan within the Levite tribe for the care of the Tabernacle. After you read it, you may wonder how I came to this thought of proper relationships but I will, I promise, tie it together when we finish reading the passage:

 

4 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron: 2 “Take a census of the Kohathite branch of the Levites by their clans and families. 3 Count all the men from thirty to fifty years of age who come to serve in the work at the tent of meeting.

 

4 “This is the work of the Kohathites at the tent of meeting: the care of the most holy things. 5 When the camp is to move, Aaron and his sons are to go in and take down the shielding curtain and put it over the ark of the covenant law. 6 Then they are to cover the curtain with a durable leather,[a] spread a cloth of solid blue over that and put the poles in place.

 

7 “Over the table of the Presence they are to spread a blue cloth and put on it the plates, dishes and bowls, and the jars for drink offerings; the bread that is continually there is to remain on it. 8 They are to spread a scarlet cloth over them, cover that with the durable leather and put the poles in place.

 

9 “They are to take a blue cloth and cover the lampstand that is for light, together with its lamps, its wick trimmers and trays, and all its jars for the olive oil used to supply it. 10 Then they are to wrap it and all its accessories in a covering of the durable leather and put it on a carrying frame.

 

11 “Over the gold altar they are to spread a blue cloth and cover that with the durable leather and put the poles in place.

 

12 “They are to take all the articles used for ministering in the sanctuary, wrap them in a blue cloth, cover that with the durable leather and put them on a carrying frame.

 

13 “They are to remove the ashes from the bronze altar and spread a purple cloth over it. 14 Then they are to place on it all the utensils used for ministering at the altar, including the firepans, meat forks, shovels and sprinkling bowls. Over it they are to spread a covering of the durable leather and put the poles in place.

 

15 “After Aaron and his sons have finished covering the holy furnishings and all the holy articles, and when the camp is ready to move, only then are the Kohathites to come and do the carrying. But they must not touch the holy things or they will die. The Kohathites are to carry those things that are in the tent of meeting.

 

16 “Eleazar son of Aaron, the priest, is to have charge of the oil for the light, the fragrant incense, the regular grain offering and the anointing oil. He is to be in charge of the entire tabernacle and everything in it, including its holy furnishings and articles.”

 

17 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 18 “See that the Kohathite tribal clans are not destroyed from among the Levites. 19 So that they may live and not die when they come near the most holy things, do this for them: Aaron and his sons are to go into the sanctuary and assign to each man his work and what he is to carry. 20 But the Kohathites must not go in to look at the holy things, even for a moment, or they will die.”

 

The Kohathites along with the other two clans to be mentioned in this chapter were family clans within the Levite tribe who assigned special tasks for the maintenance and care of the Tabernacle and in Israel’s worship of God within it. They were expected to carry out their duties in exacting detail as described here. Failure to do so would result in death. This contrasted greatly with the culture from which they were enslaved, the Egyptian culture. There, worshipers of the Egyptian gods could purchase amulets and potions related to their gods. The idols of their gods could be touched and handled and thus reduced to common everyday elements. This is because their gods were not real. Man makes up his own rules when he creates gods of his own making. However, our God is a holy God. He is separate and distinct from His Creation. Therefore, Israel was being taught proper respect for being in the presence of a perfect and holy God. Since He was and is far greater and far better and more awesome than anything in His creation, He is teaching the Israelites how to take great care so as not to be consumed and die in His presence because we are imperfect and He is perfect and He must make sure that we take care when we have the opportunity on this side of heaven to come into His presence. Since He is the Almighty God who is perfection itself, we would be consumed, burned up, would die in His presence because of being imperfect. I don’t quite think that we grasp that, but it is really a thing. Imperfection cannot exist in the presence of perfection without being burnt up. Think of iron ore being smelted. Imperfections are consumed and burned up in the smelting process. It’s kind of like that.

 

Too often in our 21st century sensibilities, and this is where we tie this though of parent-child relationships into what we have read about the special care of the objects in the Tabernacle, we try to make God our friend. We even sometimes say we are co-pilots with him. In the 21st century, we like to think of ourselves as in control of our world and of our own destiny. Therefore, we have elevated ourselves and demystified our God. We want to be buddies with Him. We want to be pals with Him. Even in my own Bible from which has footnotes to help explain the passages and in other biblical materials nowadays, we have made subtle changes to the relationship. Hardly ever (and I one of the few that still does) do you see pronouns referencing God capitalized anymore (instead of He, Him, Himself, and so on, we now use he, him, himself and so on). We want to be buddies with God. He is our pal. We even pray to Him like he is our buddy. We do not take time to properly prepare for prayer. We just talk to him as we are doing other things. We do not prostrate ourselves in prayer. We do not have alone time for prayer. I dare say that most of us do not have a quiet, special place where we go to have quiet prayer time with the Lord. We do not honor Him the way He should be honored. I am not saying that we should not talk to Him throughout the course of the day. We should! However, we do need those times where we approach Him in humble reverence. We need to treat God like He is God.

 

He is not our buddy. He is God of the Universe. He is the Creator of all Things. He is Almighty. He is Perfection. He is God of Strength. He is God of Infinite Wisdom. He is God of All Knowledge. He is Holy. He is Mighty. He is Perfect. He is Everything. We are, by contrast, like a grand of sand in His Presence. We have forgotten how holy God is. We have forgotten the reverence with which we should treat Him. He is All and we are nothing. He is not our buddy. He is our Father. He is a good, good Father. We should know, yes, that He loves us with unbounding love. He loves us so much that He gave us away to exist in His presence even with our imperfections through the perfection of Jesus Christ. So, yes, He loves us intimately and pursues us relentlessly. But He is God. Let us remember our place in this relationship. We are the sons and daughters of God. We are not His equal. He has no equal. He is God. We are His children. Let us always remember to approach Him with the reverence and awe that He deserves. He is not our buddy.

 

Amen and Amen.

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