So, are you wondering what on EARTH Numbers chapter 4 has to do with gratitude? Well, the connection is rather round about…it won’t be obvious any time soon! I hope you stick with it, though and see. 🙂
First some background, though.
Numbers 4 finds the Israelites wandering around in the wilderness some time after having left Egypt. God has met with Moses and given explicit instructions regarding almost everything imagineable, including the “Mobile Meeting Place” or tabernacle. This temporary structure would be built and torn down each time the Israelites moved. It was basically made up of curtains and rods on the outside, but inside, there were items that God had given very detailed instructions about creating. In fact, not just any craftsman was able to make the golden lampstand (for instance). God had given the Holy Spirit to specific people (yes, even in the Old Testament!) to enable them to have the skill needed. The golden altar of incense, the brazen altar of sacrifice…and many other special items were all set apart by God–considered holy. We don’t have anything in our modern churches that enables us to really understand the special place these items had. Everything, from the bowls and censers to the lampstand with its specific detailed almond blossoms and so on…all had a Heavenly reality…all of it was intentional by God in part to demonstrate His holiness and man’s need for God.
In this segment of scripture, God is telling the Israelites what to do when they break camp and how to move the tabernacle through the desert in the way that is acceptable.
This is one part of our background information.
The other part is WHO we hear about in this passage. As you may know, the Levites–one of the twelve tribes of Israel–had the job of ministering. Within the tribe of Levi, only Aaron’s line were to be priests. The rest of the Levites had supporting roles of ministry with the tabernacle.
In the passage of scripture we are looking at, God assigns duties to another sub-group of Levites, called the Koathites.
This is the work of the Kohathites in the Tent of Meeting: the care of the most holy things.
Drop down now to verse 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, the Kohathites are to come to 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.
Now to verses 17-20:
17 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, 18 “See that the Kohathite tribal clans are not cut off from 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.”
To summarize, Aaron and his sons were the priests and one of their jobs was to assign who would carry what through the desert from the Kohathites. But how could the Kohathites carry the stuff if they weren’t supposed to look at it or touch it? Careful reading in Numbers 4 of verses not mentioned show that the priests were to go in and carefully cover everything “just so” and then with the poles through special rings, the Kohathites, directed by the priests specifically, would carry the holy items for the community of all of Israel through the desert.
It is important to know that these were roles of incredibly high esteem. This wasn’t slave labor or done by those who drew the “short straw.” Those who carried these items were respected as having a special role in ministry.
Still not sure what this has to do with gratitude? 🙂 I know, I know…bear with me! LOL!
Flip in your bible to Numbers 16 if you want to see it yourself. Otherwise here it is…verse 16:1-2a:
1 Korah son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and certain Reubenites—Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth—became insolent 2 and rose up against Moses.
The word, “insolent,” means presumptuous, insulting in manner or speech; arrogant, audaciously rude or disrespectful; impertinent.
Look at WHO is being this way with Moses….it is Korah. And who is his “dad?” Kohath…mentioned back in Numbers 4. So here is Korah, one of those charged with the esteemed role of carrying the Lord’s holy items and furnishings through the desert.
Read on in Numbers 16:2b-3:
With them were 250 Israelite men, well-known community leaders who had been appointed members of the council. 3 They came as a group to oppose Moses and Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the LORD is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the LORD’s assembly?”
Who is it that confronted Moses? Korah and 250 friends who are RESPECTED, esteemed, leader type people!!! These aren’t low-life types. What did they want? According to Moses and Aaron they didn’t want the role of support servants to the priests. Look at what Moses says Korah wants in verses 8 – 11:
Moses also said to Korah, “Now listen, you Levites! 9 Isn’t it enough for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the rest of the Israelite community and brought you near himself to do the work at the LORD’s tabernacle and to stand before the community and minister to them? 10 He has brought you and all your fellow Levites near himself, but now you are trying to get the priesthood too. 11 It is against the LORD that you and all your followers have banded together. Who is Aaron that you should grumble against him?”
Korah and his men had allowed discontentment to fester. Misery loves company so Korah wasn’t satisfied to keep his gripe to himself. I don’t know about you, but I tend to do the same. If I want to gripe about something, I want company. I want someone who will listen and maybe even contribute more gripes to fuel my fire!
Korah wasn’t focusing on the honor God had given to him, but was fixating instead on what he wanted–to hey with support ministry–he wanted to be a priest!
In Numbers 16 we can read about what God did in judging these men for their rebellion. Suffice to say that God viewed their rebellion harshly and put an end to it…period.
I am thankful to God that in Christ, it isn’t likely I will ever have to be concerned about the ground swallowing me up in judgment for my discontentment. But do I want to be in a place where I am at odds with God because I was ungrateful for that to which he called and yearn for another calling? Far be it from me…
I have been like Korah…
To be continued…. (and yes, I promise it will tie to gratitude more obviously! LOL!)