Numbers 8:5-26 (Part 5) – The Pinkie Swear of Evangelical Prayer

Posted: August 2, 2016 in 04-Numbers
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Numbers 8:5-26 (Part 5)

The Levites Dedicated

The “pinkie swear” was serious business when we were kids. When you linked pinkie fingers with one of your buddies, it was a serious deal. Whatever you said during a pinkie swear, you were bound by the honor code of childhood friends to do what you said you were going to do. It was a verbal contract. You would lose honor in the kid world if you went back on your word. Usually, too, there were witnesses to a pinky swear. That made it official and public. We had to keep our word when we made a pinkie swear. It was a reputation thing. You would no longer be trusted as a true friend within your circle of friends in life of kids. It is funny how we, as parents, think we know our kids through and through, but there are certain parts of childhood that parents just have no clue. The world of school kids starting about 3rd grade and on through high school, there are social currents and social structures that kids navigate and understand that parents are clueless about. But, that is just the way of the world as children grow progressively more independent from their parents. Although the pinkie swear takes many forms over the years, it is part of the social justice system of kid kingdom. Sometimes, requirements of parents (unaware that a pinkie swear has been made) conflict with the kid social justice system of the pinkie swear. Kids understand that parental authority trumps the society of the kid kingdom so it can cause conflict with a pinkie swear made. If you promise to be there on a Saturday morning at the ball field to stand with a friend against your enemy but yet you haven’t finished your home chores, the pinkie swear gets trumped by parental authority. Thus, kids who make pinkie swears take it seriously because you are saying that this oath to do something is important. I am willing to risk the uncertainties of the future conflict of parental authority and the pinkie swear. I am that serious about this. A pinkie swear meant that you didn’t know what conflicts lie ahead with your promise but you were willing to put your honor on the line and keep your word. Ah, the pinkie swear! It was serious business. When you were a kid, you did not need a voluminous contract (like Sheldon’s roommate agreement in the show, The Big Bang Theory) to solidify your word. All that it took to mean that you were serious about keeping your word was the pinkie swear. It was your contract. It was your honor. It was your commitment. It was the contract of the kid kingdom. If you weren’t willing for a promise made to be a hill worth dying on to keep, then you didn’t pinkie swear. If you were not willing to put your honor on the line, the pinkie swear was not made. If you were lying about your ability to do something, you did not pinkie swear. It was reserved for brothers-in-arms. It was reserved for those friends that you would go to battle with. It was reserved for those most serious of commitments. It was serious business, this pinkie swear.


As adults who are evangelical Christ followers, we have our things that mark seriousness as well. It is the pinkie swear. It is classic evangelic Christian stuff. I’ve done it. If you are an evangelical Christian, you’ve probably done it, too. It is the laying on of hands to another person during a prayer. It means more than just your average prayer. It is more than your normal spectator public prayer. It shows that you are serious about this prayer. You want the person to know that you are not praying some platitude over them from afar. You are physically touching them. In some of the big laying on hands in prayer for a person or persons in a large group, you may end up laying a hand on a person who is laying a hand on a person who is laying a hand on a person who is laying hands on the person being prayed for, but the idea is the same. It takes getting out of your seat. You are demonstrating your seriousness. And if you lay on the hands during your small group meeting, whoa, that’s evangelically serious! The laying on of hands is the pinkie swear of evangelical Christians. That idea of serious commitment was what came to my mind through the Holy Spirit this morning. Let’s read the full passage together and then let’s concentrate on v. 9-10 for today after we have read through it:


5 The Lord said to Moses: 6 “Take the Levites from among all the Israelites and make them ceremonially clean. 7 To purify them, do this: Sprinkle the water of cleansing on them; then have them shave their whole bodies and wash their clothes. And so they will purify themselves. 8 Have them take a young bull with its grain offering of the finest flour mixed with olive oil; then you are to take a second young bull for a sin offering.[a] 9 Bring the Levites to the front of the tent of meeting and assemble the whole Israelite community. 10 You are to bring the Levites before the Lord, and the Israelites are to lay their hands on them. 11 Aaron is to present the Levites before the Lord as a wave offering from the Israelites, so that they may be ready to do the work of the Lord.


12 “Then the Levites are to lay their hands on the heads of the bulls, using one for a sin offering to the Lord and the other for a burnt offering, to make atonement for the Levites. 13 Have the Levites stand in front of Aaron and his sons and then present them as a wave offering to the Lord. 14 In this way you are to set the Levites apart from the other Israelites, and the Levites will be mine.


15 “After you have purified the Levites and presented them as a wave offering, they are to come to do their work at the tent of meeting. 16 They are the Israelites who are to be given wholly to me. I have taken them as my own in place of the firstborn, the first male offspring from every Israelite woman. 17 Every firstborn male in Israel, whether human or animal, is mine. When I struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, I set them apart for myself. 18 And I have taken the Levites in place of all the firstborn sons in Israel. 19 From among all the Israelites, I have given the Levites as gifts to Aaron and his sons to do the work at the tent of meeting on behalf of the Israelites and to make atonement for them so that no plague will strike the Israelites when they go near the sanctuary.”


20 Moses, Aaron and the whole Israelite community did with the Levites just as the Lord commanded Moses. 21 The Levites purified themselves and washed their clothes. Then Aaron presented them as a wave offering before the Lord and made atonement for them to purify them. 22 After that, the Levites came to do their work at the tent of meeting under the supervision of Aaron and his sons. They did with the Levites just as the Lord commanded Moses.


23 The Lord said to Moses, 24 “This applies to the Levites: Men twenty-five years old or more shall come to take part in the work at the tent of meeting, 25 but at the age of fifty, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer. 26 They may assist their brothers in performing their duties at the tent of meeting, but they themselves must not do the work. This, then, is how you are to assign the responsibilities of the Levites.”


Here we see the Levites being brought before the Lord and the people of Israel were to lay hands on them as they were being dedicated to the Lord. This is serious business. But it got me to thinking, what does the laying on of hands mean in the world of God’s people. You hear about it. You see it all the time. But what does it really mean? According to Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary, in its summation of what the laying on of hands had meant through the various instances it has been used in the Bible, it wraps it up by saying,


“There is a sense in which the idea of separation for a special purpose, so clearly visible in many instances, binds together all the occurrences of the phrase. Even in the context of formal blessings and astonishing miracles, the imposition of hands signifies the separation of a person, a people, or even a bodily part (Mark 8:25) as the recipient of an unusual manifestation of God’s grace.”


In this particular instance, the laying on of hands upon the Levites was to signify that Israel was calling upon the Lord to show the Levites special grace, an unusual manifestation of understanding of their work and their purpose. The Levites were being set apart for the full time service to the Lord. They were being set apart for a holy purpose. Often, when a person is being ordained into the ministry, we lay hands upon them as they are being committed to this holy purpose, we are committing them the Lord. We are committing and pledging our support of their endeavors. We are showing how serious we are in support of their sacrifice of their time, talents, and resources to the full-time service to the Lord. It is a public commitment. It is not some private ceremony. It is a public one where we and the person being ordained as a minister are saying, we are serious about this person being set apart for the service of the Lord. It is a high calling to serve the Lord. It is a high calling to lay hands on them and dedicate them to the Lord. It is not some half-hearted thing we do. It is not something we do for the notoriety of it. Being fully dedicated to full-time ministry is a tough job and is not for the faint of heart or for someone who is in it to have their ego massaged.


Likewise, when we are praying for someone and we feel compelled to lay hands on them during the prayer, it is reserved for the most serious and most somber of prayers. We are praying boldly for God’s healing power to be manifested upon the person being prayed for. We are praying boldly for God to specifically intervene in physical, emotional, marital, financial issues of a person’s life. When we lay hands on a person in prayer, it is serious business. It is more than a holding hands prayer which is serious but not quite the same. It is more serious than sitting in a circle praying. It is more serious still than a generalized public prayer. Laying on of hands on a person signifies the gravity of seriousness with which we pray. It is calling upon the Lord, begging the Lord boldly, to show special grace to this person being touched by our hands. They are usually kneeling and we are in a circle around them laying our hands on them. We all pray for them and it is usually with a great deal of fervor. If you are not serious about praying for a person, you sit the laying on of hands prayers out. This is serious business. It is not for the faint of heart or those who lack commitment to the fervent praying for God’s intervention of special grace. When we lay on hands, we are saying that we fully believe in the power of prayer. We are committed to the belief in the mightiness of God. It is serious business. It is the pinkie swear of evangelical prayer.


Are you willing to pray with a pinkie swear? Are you serious about what you are praying? Are you dedicated to the prayer? Are you believing in the prayer to the Lord? Do you believe that God will intervene in a holy and miraculous way? Do you believe He will be imbue those who serve the Lord? Do you believe He will protect those who serve the Lord? Do you believe that God will intervene and change a person’s life? If you don’t believe in the power of God really, don’t pray. If you don’t pray boldly for God’s grace to be manifested upon a person, don’t lay on hands. When we believe in a mighty God, a real mighty God who can do anything and for whom nothing is impossible, we are ready to pray with the laying on of hands. Otherwise, we must pass on this serious commitment of our beliefs. It is the pinkie swear of evangelical prayer. It is serious business.


Amen and Amen.

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