Numbers 8:5-26 (Part 9) – Like A Fifteen Year Old Boy Trapped In A 54 Year Old Body…

Posted: August 10, 2016 in 04-Numbers
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Numbers 8:5-26 (Part 9)

The Levites Dedicated

When I think about being in my fifties now and the facts that (1) I will be 54 years old in just 15 days and that I am now a grandfather (going with G-Pa or Poppy instead of like grandpapa, or grandfather), I want to scream hey wait a freakin’ minute! What the hell happened? How did I become “sir” to people I work with or at church? Inside I am still this devilish little 15 year old or maybe even a precocious 25 year old but everybody on the outside is seeing this man with grey streaks in his air and a grey goatee and a greying mustache. Somehow, somewhere along the life just shot on past. The streak of time from say 23 years old when my first child was born until these 31 years later have gone by in an immeasurable flash of light speeding along at 186,282 miles per hour.


Man, a lifetime has happened to me in 30 years. I have had two daughters of my own who are now grown. I have been a stepfather to three boys for nine years (who are now grown, one of which is deceased) and now for the last 6 ½ years a stepfather to another girl. She’s grown up too. I have been through two divorces and have lived to tell about it. I have bought two houses and given them away in two divorces. I have made money and lost it. I have been in desperate need as a result of the divorces. I have been so broke that I have had to buy 4 hot dogs so I would have dinner for 2 nights. I have lived to now being able live comfortably and be generous to family, friends, and strangers. I have gone from this inexperienced internal auditor working for the school district in Greenville County, SC who knew little about what he was doing to now where I am an experienced accountant and understand my profession with great precision. Although I am not a superstar accountant or anything, not a CFO for a Fortune 100 company or anything like that but I am respected and I make a good living and am living a blessed life. Of that, I have no doubt. But it all happened in a flash! It’s been almost 40 years since this 14 year old boy met his first real love who would become his first wife and mother of his children. Equally stunning is that my first wife and I split up 23 years ago. Just thinking about it yesterday, it has now been 21 years since I married the second time and that it’s been 12 years this month since my second wife and I split up. Too, it blows my mind that it’s been 9 years since I met the woman who is now my wife. It just seems like yesterday that Elena and I met for the first time in the laundry room of an apartment complex in Rock Hill, SC. Since then we have been lived in Rock Hill, SC, Livermore, CA and now Duncan, SC. A lifetime has been lived in what seems like the time it takes it takes to make instant mashed potatoes. Somehow I am in the last third of my life. I want a re-do. I am NOT a candidate for AARP membership. I am still a silly little boy who still giggles when he hears the word, boobies! I love puns. I love “that’s what she said jokes”. I love to laugh. When most people my age have grown serious, I am still silly. My mind is still young. I love to make people laugh with my goofy, wacky sense of humor. My wife says I am a fifteen year old boy trapped in a 54 year old body. Growing old gracefully is not in my vocabulary. I am going down with a fight. Scratching, clawing, screaming.


Since moving to Duncan, SC from California, we have a whole circle of friends who have only known me since I was like 47 years old. They know the older me. They know the overweight me. They know so little of who I have been. They don’t know the skinny little guy I once was who dropped down from 180 to 168 when going through my second divorce. They don’t know the teenage me that was a damn good basketball player that could hit from three point range back in the day. They don’t know the kid that even in his early to mid thirties could still outrun his stepsons. That don’t know the pre-casual office days when everyone wore suits to work and I looked really good in a suit. They don’t know the guy who could tackle people twice his size when he played football. They don’t know the defensive back with might not have had lighten speed but had football smarts and could be there when the ball got to the receiver. They don’t know the fearless ride anything high and scary at the amusement park as late as 7 or 8 years ago. I don’t want to grow old. Although I have had a lot of knocks and bruises along the way and some periods of profound sadness and times of wondering how I was going to make it through to the other side, I still feel young on the inside and see the world ahead me with the same hopefulness as I did as kid graduating from Furman University in 1983. I still think, like a young person, that there is still more out there for me. I am not done yet. I have much left to do. But, yet, I am about to be 54. Some my age are settling in and thinking of retirement, but not me. I don’t want to give up or give in. I still feel like a kid who believes there is more candy or cookies in the jar. I don’t want be old. I don’t feel old. Sure, my body reminds me quite frequently that I have lived over a half of a century, but no one told my mind. My mind is still like a kid discovering new things and wanting to learn more. My mind and heart knows that I don’t know everything and I still want to learn more. Stop making me older, Lord. I don’t want to be perceived as old and slowing down. I want to be seen as that kid who just happens to have a little grey hair. I don’t want to grow up. I want to be a Toys R Us kid! Too many times in our society, we glorify chronological youth as the ideal and we begin shoving people to the edges when they pass into their mid-fifties. We are judged by our age in our society and growing into your fifties is often seen as the farming out, put them to pasture years as if you don’t any longer have that hip edge. I don’t want to play that game! I am just a kid trapped inside a 54 year old body. Look inside not at the slightly tattered book cover on the outside.


When I read today’s passage for the final time for this 9th part of 9 blogs on Numbers 8:5-26 and read those final 4 verses, I was like no way, man! I thought God was not like our society of today where youth is glorified and people 50 or over are shoved aside as has-beens. It kind of mad me angry when I read it at first pass. So, let’s dig in and deal with what God is saying about age here in the final four verses (vv. 22-26) of this passage. Let’s read the whole thing one more time but focus on those last four verses:


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 3themselves. 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.”


Why were the Levites supposed to retire at age 50? The reasons were probably more practical than theological I would imagine. Although the Bible record tells us in Genesis of people living 900 years and such, with the effects of sin and its results which includes wars, poverty, disease, by the time we reach the sojourn of God’s people in the wilderness, I would imagine that they were not living those long lives anymore. I imagine that their life spans were on average about 15-20 years less than modern average lifespans. Thus, there probably was a practicality to the requirement. Moving the Tabernacle and its furniture through the desert wilderness required the strength and stamina of a man in his physical prime. The younger men were better suited for the lifting and carrying of heavy objects over distances. However, to say the Levites were retired completely would be inaccurate. They were allowed to continue working and assisting with light duties within the Tabernacle. They helped the younger men assume more and more responsibilities as they matured and it allowed the older men to assume positions of advisors and counselors to the younger ones.


So, what do we learn from this requirement. Is that we are washed up and set aside when we reach our fifties? No, it is quite the contrary. At my age, I must learn that I am entering an age where I have actually experienced a lot of things in my life. I still have much to offer. I still have that youthful flare in my heart but at the same time, wow, all the things that I have gone through in life have taught me many hard lessons. So, in my fifties, not only can I still feel youthful on the inside, I have experiences that I can share with folks younger than me. I have all these experiences of what not to do! LOL! I can share those hard knock lessons with others while still blazing new trails. God gives us this age of the fifties through the early 70s as a time where we can still be very productive but yet have wisdom to impart. I must accept that I am 54 but it is not a death sentence. I still have much life to live. I still have much to give. Just thinking of my darling grandbaby gives me hope of usefulness as well. Ralyn, my first grandchild, will need that special relationship with her G-Pa. I will have knowledge only I can impart to her as grandfather. She will accept advice from me that she will reject from her mom and dad. I have a special role there that I look forward to playing. Being a granddad does mean I am in my declining years. It just means that I get to be a mentor to my granddaughter in ways that her parents will not be able to do. I am not done yet. I have things to teach my granddaughter and I still have things to accomplish. Just because I am 54 does not mean I am done yet by any means! I still have work to do. As long as we have that, we are still young. When we give up on learning, teaching, accomplishing, then we grow old.


God gives us our fifties to realize much has happened but yet much is yet to come. He wants us to use our wisdom gained through a half century of living to help our children and grandchildren learn the world and learn what it means to have a relationship with Jesus Christ. If I can do nothing else in this last 1/3 of my life, it would be to teach those younger than me that why waste time on things that don’t matter. Learn of the love of Jesus Christ for you at an early age. Learn what the cross means to you at an early age. Learn that your eternity hinges on how you deal with Jesus Christ. Don’t waste time with a lifetime of mistakes chasing other gods. Get to know the real God through His Son, Jesus Christ. Don’t waste years of heartache like I did chasing after other gods. That is what this time is for. Spreading the good news of Jesus Christ to the generations after me. There is no more important job. I thank God for the lifetime that He has given me so far. He has delivered me from my own self-destruction but it is through my experience that I can share the good news of redemption. He has richly blessed me with salvation and with wisdom that has come with age. He has blessed me as I have become more and more obedient to Him. He has blessed me so immeasurably. Take this time, Mark, to teach people not to waste time and make these huge mistakes in life chasing after things that are really not real nor important. Teach others to chase after God from now. Don’t wait. The time is now. Eternity is now.


Amen and amen.

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