1 Chronicles 23:1-6 (Part 2) – Oh, This Old Thing? I Have Had It for Years!

Posted: May 21, 2020 in 13-1 Chronicles

1 Chronicles 23:1-6 (Part 2 of 2)

Duties of the Levites

Sometimes, you hear one woman compliment another on her dress or some other type of clothing, and the other woman will say, “Oh, this old thing! I have had it for years!” It is a kind of way of humbly deflecting the praise being heaped upon her by the other woman. We laugh at that common phrase but there is something beautifully humble about it. May we think of ourselves in this deflecting, humble way each day.

One of the dangers of being a pastor, particularly a solo pastor of a medium to small sized church, is that you can become a minor celebrity among the people that you serve. In large and megasized churches, you can become like a rock star almost with a Sunday morning security detail and things such as that. In the smaller church, you are closer to the people and there are a lot of people that want a piece of you each week. In a larger church, you don’t get to know many of the church members on a personal basis anymore and you are buffered by a staff that you supervise. In the larger church, there is more rock star adulation it seems than there is in the smaller church. However, in both cases, there is a danger of all this stuff going to your head where you are a pastor of 90 people or 900 or 9,000.

The same thing happened to David back in 1 Chronicles 21. He had probably go through a phase of life where, with all the victories in battle, though he gave credit to the Lord, he was probably feeling pretty good about himself. He probably had a lot of people saying he was “all that” too. So, in the growing celebrity culture that sometimes develops around a successful leader, David was falling into the sin of conceit and pride in himself. To make him feel even better about himself and how superior his kingdom was to anyone else’s, he decided to number his fighting men and all the war machine equipment that he had. That would show himself and the world what a regional superpower that Israel had become under his leadership. That was what God took issue with. It was David’s pride. Not the census. The census in and of itself was nothing to God but the reason for it was an issue for God to deal with in David.

In the church world, as a pastor, like David, we have to keep our eye on the ball. Any success we have comes from God. That’s one thing that God keeps reminding me here lately. First, don’t get me wrong. I am having the time of my life as THE pastor. It was what I think I was born to do. I took a 30plus year detour into accounting (but even that is useful to me – I know what secular careers are like). Being a pastor and loving on people and helping them grow in their relationship with Christ is what turns my crank and always has since the day of my salvation. So, I love what I am doing. It’s the way I am supposed to finish the final third of my life. However, there are times, I beat myself up when things after this first year here aren’t really where I expected them to be.

As I beat myself up often for not having grown the population of our church in these first 11 months, not having my church totally diving in the deep end of the pool on doing community outreach, not having people desiring to grab hold of their ministry leadership positions and run with them, not having doubled the youth ministry, not having this and not having done that. God keeps telling me, you are here to serve me. God keeps telling me that it’s not my job to grow this church. It’s not my job to set people on fire for Jesus Christ. It’s not my job to develop a passionate leadership team. It’s not my job to create passion for outreach. It is my job to be faithful in all these things. I am not to sit back and do nothing. I am to be actively serving God in all these things – to push, to prod, to change the culture, to remind, to set a fire, to stoke the fire. However, as in all things, God will bring the increase. It is God’s church and I am to be his faithful servant. I plow the field and plant the seeds. He creates the miracle of a seed growing into a harvest.

With that in mind, let us read this passage, 1 Chronicles 23:1-6, now:

Chapter 23

1 When David was an old man, he appointed his son Solomon to be king over Israel. 2 David summoned all the leaders of Israel, together with the priests and Levites. 3 All the Levites who were thirty years old or older were counted, and the total came to 38,000. 4 Then David said, “From all the Levites, 24,000 will supervise the work at the Temple of the Lord. Another 6,000 will serve as officials and judges. 5 Another 4,000 will work as gatekeepers, and 4,000 will praise the Lord with the musical instruments I have made.” 6 Then David divided the Levites into divisions named after the clans descended from the three sons of Levi—Gershon, Kohath, and Merari.

In this passage, you, as well as I, may be asking the question, “Why was THIS census acceptable when the one in 1 Chronicle 21 was not?” This census was different for a couple of reasons. First, this census was for a specific purpose. It counted only the Levites so as for David to know how to assign duties at the Temple (since they were the tribe directed by God to manage the religious life and operations surrounding worship in the Tabernacle and, subsequently, the Temple). Second, this census was not motivated by vain conceit as the first one was. In the first census, there was really no purpose in it other than to massage David’s ego about how big his army was.

As pastors (and in the secular world as leaders of any organization or department or whatever), we must remember that God is the one who brings the increase. We should simply be faithful to him in the field where he has us plowing. Keep plowing. Keep pushing. Keep dreaming dreams that are godly. Keep having vision. Keep in prayer about what God wants us to do. Keep you eyes on what’s on the next row in the field before you turn the plow onto that row. Keep seeing what five rows over. We must be planning ahead. But even the vision, the keeping six weeks and six months and six years ahead of the people is subject to the Lord. All of that must be subjected to the Lord in prayer. Only accept those goals and dreams that God has laid on your heart and not what you ego has. And above all remember we are here to serve God’s glory not ours. That keeps us focused and humble.

Recently, there have been several people that have told me that have been enjoying my sermons lately a whole bunch cause they’ve been so good. What they don’t know is that I personally think all the way up to starting to preach my sermon that this sermon is the most awful piece of literature ever written! That keeps me humble. What I think is horrible is God’s way of reminding me that it is Him who takes my sermon and makes it sing in someone’s ear, not me. As well, any leadership situations, I think I am a horrible leader, but I have recently had compliments on how I have led our church during this Coronavirus shutdown season. I think that is God’s way of keeping me humble so that I don’t think that I am this awesome leader, but rather a guy that is simply doing what seems to be the best course of action. Being open to the Spirit’s leading requires that we think that we are NOT “all that”. I hope that I never lose that feeling that I could always be doing better than I am doing. There’s humility there. There’s teachability there. There’s prayer there.

Lord, help us to be humble leaders and, thus, put us on our knees seeking what You want instead of what we want. Help us, oh Lord, to stay humble and remember that any increase that comes to our organization is from our obedience and faithfulness to You. Nothing else. Not us.

Amen and Amen.

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