Bible in a Year – Day 46: Lessons in the Numbers
In today’s reading, we find a few interesting tidbits: a biblical standard for retirement, an example of people eager to honor God and a model for the way we should walk with God.
On retirement, Numbers 8:23-26 sets a mandatory retirement age for priests. Now, most 50 year old priests, pastors or clergy that I know would bristle at the notion that they are “finished.” But I don’t get the idea that the retirement commanded by God of the Levites has as much to do with the abilities of the older men as it does with the abilities of the younger ones.
It’s as if God’s ultimate desire was for each generation to be able to serve in the church. And, essentially, to create a 25 year term of service for each person. Think of it this way (and I know this is simplistic): Imagine a guy named Ug is a Levite. Once he turns 25 years old, he begins his service in the tabernacle. He also has a son. Twenty-five years later, just after Ug turns 50 and retires from his service in the church, his son, now 25 years old himself, begins his service. Cue the Lion King soundtrack – “…the circle of life…”
This was God’s way of ensuring that the duties were being passed on from father to child, from generation to generation, and not being “hoarded” by those who had been doing it for 25 years. We would do well to learn this lesson in our own churches – to train up others to take over our jobs long before we are physically unable to do them. Our abilities aren’t the point. Instead, we are to recognize and foster their abilities.
On honoring God, the “unclean” of Israel give us a great example of people who are eager to show God the respect he requires. These unclean people, recognizing that they aren’t allowed to participate in the Passover remembrance, approach Moses in search of a solution. And I love their attitude here:
“We have become unclean because of a dead body, but why should we be kept from presenting the Lord’s offering with the other Israelites at the appointed time?” (Numbers 9:7)
Let me translate this into more modern vernacular:
“We’ve been sick and haven’t been able to come to church. Why should we be kept from paying our tithe and serving in children’s ministry?”
You see, these were people who had a legitimate excuse to not honor their commitments to God. But instead of taking the easy way out, they requested a variance – one that would get them into the mix. And so, God, through Moses, scheduled them to serve in children’s ministry next month.
Lastly, and briefly, on the way we should walk with God, the Israelites provide a great model that we can live by. When the cloud over the tabernacle lifted, they went. When it settled, they stayed. It didn’t matter how long they sat or how long they walked, they just wanted to make sure that wherever God was leading them, they were right on his heels. I wonder if we can say the same for ourselves.
So often, I find myself trying to convince God to go somewhere, or trying to convince him to let me stay somewhere. What if I, in the words of Numbers 9:21, was right on God’s heels “whether by day or by night” whenever he moved? What if I didn’t hesitate when God asked me to move? What if I wasn’t so anxious and impatient when he asked me to wait?
What about you? Is God asking you to move or to wait? Can you find it within yourself to follow the model of the Israelites, whether by day or by night?
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- Bible in a Year – Day 353: Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing
- Bible in a Year – Day 349: Values of a Leader
- Bible in a Year – Day 339: Boastest with the Mostest
- Bible in a Year – Day 328: Writing to Rome
- Bible in a Year – Day 324: The Mentor
- Bible in a Year – Day 320: New Eyes
- Bible in a Year – Day 317: Graceful Beginnings
- Bible in a Year – Day 302: Which Yeast?