Well, good morning Boxing Day.
Christmas is still going for me. I’m on the road this morning to Launceston for a family barbecue this afternoon.
Yesterday was great. Lunch with some extended family – was good to catch up with Steve, whose blog inspired me to actually undertake this epic journey through the bible as well. I owe Steve and his wife Donna thanks; too, they’ve been a very important and special part of my life over the past four or five months that I’ve been on this journey, not only through the bible but with my relationship with God, too. We’ve been in touch via Facebook and email, so it was really great to actually see them in person.
Then came dinner with my sister and her family and in-laws. Also a great night. Relationships with the in-laws aren’t always as easy to form as other friendships, perhaps because you’re sort of forced into a relationship with people you don’t really know, and in some cases might not even consider associating with if you’d just met one another on the street. Last night was the most comfortable I’ve felt with my brother-in-law’s family. It’s nice when those relationships start actually tightening and getting stronger.
I hope that everyone else had a wonderful Christmas.
And today: Day 1 of the Boxing Day test. Come on Australia!
Numbers 3 & 4:
Here we have the census of the Levite clan; who weren’t included in the previous census because their responsibility was to God.
A couple of things that I find interesting:
1. Why are there so few Levites in comparison to all the other tribes?
2. The Levites are taken in place of the Israelite firstborns.
What I really brought out of this, though, wasn’t to do with those two points. As the title of this entry suggests, what I really took from here was the idea of service in the House of God.
The Tabernacle was God’s meeting place with the Israelites. It was the place where He could come and dwell amongst them; speak with them – via Moses or the Priests; associate with them; relate with them. It still comes back to the relationship. He wanted to be with them.
The Tabernacle, though, needed to be maintained. Not only did it need to be maintained, but it needed to be taken care of; stored and packed away properly and transported properly when the Israelites were on the move. At this point, it seems, they were still camped around Mt Sinai; but they were just that – camped. They were always going to be on the move again.
The House of God, today, is not a building. Sure, we refer to it as one, and the buildings have their place, but ultimately the House of God is in our hearts.
However, the ‘local church’ is our place of fellowship, accountability, friendship, relationship, family, all those sorts of thing.
I find myself wondering how the Levites felt about their part in things at this point. They weren’t to be part of the army; their role was to look after the Tabernacle.
I think sometimes we get caught up with an image of what we consider to be a ‘good job’ or a ‘bad job’. Going back to my involvement with local churches in my youth, I remember that one of my regular duties was to man the overhead projector. In the days before computers and TV projectors, we had to use them for putting the words up on the walls. I was actually good at it – and when I say I was good at it, I mean that there were people who weren’t. I never understood how people would get confused as to which way around to put the words on the screen.
But that wasn’t an exciting job. I also would play guitar, sing, and look after the sound desk at different times too. Singing and guitar were great, overhead projector and manning the sound desk, not so great.
So I wonder if there were Levites going, “Man… Are you serious? I have to fold the curtains?!” When their job was assigned to them in service. I wonder if any of them questioned why God would have them born in to the tribe of Levi, while their friends were all, say, from Judah and got to train with swords to be part of the army. Or even narrower, I wonder if there were Gershonites wishing they could be from Kohath, so at least then they’d get to look after the holy stuff instead of just carrying the curtains.
Service really needs to be done out of a heart of love; but it also comes down to where you are, as well. Sometimes, yes, you have to start at what you consider to be ‘the bottom’ in order to work your way up, demonstrate trustworthiness and reliability before you can be released into other things. Ultimately, it comes down to if you love God, then it doesn’t necessarily matter what you’re doing – because like everything else, it comes back to Him.
Slowly starting to feel like I’m recovering. Slowly.
Today wasn’t as hard to get through, although I still woke up this morning feeling like a train wreck; and I’m feeling very tired still tonight so I think it’s going to be another early one here.
I was thinking on the way home tonight, how good it feels to have assuredness. To be living life with peace and assuredness about where you’re going, and that it’s all under control gives such a good platform to live life from. I may not necessarily be exactly sure of every detail of my future, but I know one thing. God’s plan for me is not to harm, but to give me a hope and a future. It’s a fairly cliche verse, but it’s so true, too.
And I can trust in that.
I was talking to a friend tonight about Church, and part of the topic was about whether or not they really feel the need to go or not.
It’s a question that I’ve seen raised – and raised myself – several times in the past, about whether a relationship with God is dependent on involvement in a particular ‘church’.
- I put ‘church’ in quotations, because The Church is the Body of Christ, we are all The Church; regardless of what ‘church’ we might attend or what denomination we might be a part of, or what doctrine we might believe in.
God doesn’t need a ‘church’ to work in people’s lives, but I think, to an extent, we do. It’s strange, because I’ve really started to feel the need to be involved in a ‘church’ on a regular basis since coming back to God, moreso than I ever did before. The difference is that now it’s about being planted, rather than feeling an obligation to go, or just going to socialise. There’s definitely a social aspect involved in fellowship, but being planted is more than that.
I think as humans, we do need to be planted, we need a regular source of sustenance. Yes, that is God, and yes, we can relate and involve ourselves with God wherever we are, but I think that we actually grow more effectively and stronger when we are in the environment where we are surrounded by others of like mind and like spirit. When we are directly involved in The Body.
That’s what I think part of God’s reasoning was here in chapter 17. It wasn’t necessarily that He was restricted to accepting only those sacrifices that were offered in front of the tabernacle; but it was about the people.
This is so that the Israelites will bring to the LORD the sacrifices they are now making in the open fields. They must bring them to the priest, that is, to the LORD, at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting and sacrifice them as fellowship offerings. ~ Leviticus 17:5
They must no longer offer any of their sacrifices to the goat idols to whom they prostitute themselves. This is to be a lasting ordinance for them and for the generations to come. ~ Leviticus 17:7
By bringing their sacrifices to the Tent of Meeting, the Israelites were, themselves, ensuring that their hearts were focussed on God. There were distractions when offering sacrifices out in the open field, and it was easy to maybe consider the offering a sacrifice to another god also. They weren’t focussed. When sacrificing in front of the Tabernacle, they were confronted and had to focus themselves on God.
And this, perhaps, is something worth remembering on the question of whether a ‘church’ is needed in our walk with God today. Perhaps it’s not necessarily, but it certainly aids us in our focus on God. We have people around us with whom we can build relationship; there are people to keep us accountable, to help us, to pray with and for us. We should, certainly, have our focus primarily on God, definitely. It’s not always easy to keep our focus on God, though, when we’re out in the field rather than in front of the Tabernacle.
You know, sometimes, it doesn’t matter how certain you are that God’s involved, and you’re simply trusting him, there’s still an element of doubt and fear that sits with you.
I guess that’s natural, though, isn’t it. I mean, we’re still physical beings, we have a physical, biological body – the part of us that is tied to this world and lives according to the world.
I’m not going to go into a lecture about the Body, Mind and Soul at the moment, it’s just too in depth, I don’t think I could fit it in a smaller blog post!
Everything we do in God involves faith, though. Faith is the knowledge that we have success in God, but it’s also more than that – Faith is what allows us to ignore the whims of the body, and of our physical self. Acting in Faith is breaking free of our worldly selves, and entering, even for just a brief moment, into the spiritual world of the Father. It is what draws us nearer to him.
Well, this is a long chapter, but it’s a fairly well-known story, too. Isaac’s getting on in years, and he calls Esau, his firstborn to him and asks him to prepare a meal. Esau goes off, but Rebekah’s eavesdropped, and quickly sets Jacob up, instead, to make sure that he can get Isaac’s blessing. Isaac does it, and gets the blessing from his father, and gets out of there just in time for Esau to come in with his prepared meal – and he’s not happy to find out that his little brother got in ahead of him, and has gotten one up on him a second time.
I have a little brother, and we don’t always get along that well, but I tell you what, I’m suddenly grateful to have mine rather than Jacob!
God did, though, make this promise right from the beginning, and we see the fulfilment of that promise in Isaac’s blessing to Esau. The original promise God made before they were born, was that the older would serve the younger, and we see Isaac confirm that in his blessing, that Jacob will be lord over his brothers, and he says in turn to Esau that he will serve his brother.
A lesson from Jacob’s perspective: Just because you might be on the bottom rung, doesn’t necessarily stop you from achieving God’s blessing. I’m certainly not advocating deception and lying to do so, but God’s got a plan in store either way.
From Esau’s perspective: He still was blessed, and he was actually blessed pretty strongly. Isaac told him that he would be away from the earth’s richness and the dew of heaven above, but the most important line of Esau’s blessing was still to come. He would grow restless and he would throw off his brother’s yoke. He would be free one day.
It wasn’t really much comfort to Esau at the time, though. He’s ready to kill his brother – so Jacob’s forced to flea back to Haran.
I really don’t think there’s a great way to paint Jacob in an positive picture in this chapter, it’s something that I’ve actually found quite surprising throughout Genesis, and I’m surprised that I never noticed it before. The characters aren’t just flawed, but at times they’re distinctly villainous. There are some actions in Genesis that really, it has to be said, were not good at all.
No human’s perfect. I take comfort in the fact that these guys, the people God picked out as his chosen ones, still screwed up. They might have made some mistakes – serious mistakes too, not just something minor – but they were still blessed.