Today: [1 Chronicles Twenty-Three] Training for Reigning. In this chapter we inexplicably find the people being numbered again. When David numbered the people for his own purposes calamity came upon the nation. When God numbered the people for His purposes the nation was established and the generation to come was secured in His providence. Additionally we see that David re-tasks the Levites no more to carry the tabernacle of Moses from place to place but to begin training for serving in a permanent temple that Solomon will build.
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[1Ch 23:1-32 KJV] 1 So when David was old and full of days, he made Solomon his son king over Israel. 2 And he gathered together all the princes of Israel, with the priests and the Levites. 3 Now the Levites were numbered from the age of thirty years and upward: and their number by their polls, man by man, was thirty and eight thousand. 4 Of which, twenty and four thousand [were] to set forward the work of the house of the LORD; and six thousand [were] officers and judges: 5 Moreover four thousand [were] porters; and four thousand praised the LORD with the instruments which I made, [said David], to praise [therewith]. 6 And David divided them into courses among the sons of Levi, [namely], Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. 7 Of the Gershonites [were], Laadan, and Shimei. 8 The sons of Laadan; the chief [was] Jehiel, and Zetham, and Joel, three. 9 The sons of Shimei; Shelomith, and Haziel, and Haran, three. These [were] the chief of the fathers of Laadan. 10 And the sons of Shimei [were], Jahath, Zina, and Jeush, and Beriah. These four [were] the sons of Shimei. 11 And Jahath was the chief, and Zizah the second: but Jeush and Beriah had not many sons; therefore they were in one reckoning, according to [their] father’s house. 12 The sons of Kohath; Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel, four. 13 The sons of Amram; Aaron and Moses: and Aaron was separated, that he should sanctify the most holy things, he and his sons for ever, to burn incense before the LORD, to minister unto him, and to bless in his name for ever.
In this chapter we find the narrative of David winding down as he prepares to turn the kingdom over to the reagency of Solomon. Part of that preparation was to come together and again number the people. Now remember in the last chapter that David numbered the people and the thing displeased the Lord. What is the difference here? Before – David numbers the people and a pestilence broke out that killed thousands because the choice to do so created a breach in David’s relationship with God. In this chapter David numbers the people and it is a key event to solidify the future reign of Solomon and the continued line of David.
You have to be cautious when trying to extract a static principle from the teaching of scripture. One one hand you see Jesus in Matt. 10:10 instructing his disciples not to take anything with them on their journey (no coat, no shoes, no staves, etc.). By contrast in Luke 22:36-38 you find him instructing them to take purse, script, garment and even to arm themselves with a sword. Isn’t this a contradiction? For people trying to extract linear rationale from the teachings of Jesus they will go to great lengths to reconcile these problematic passages. This presumes that the bible is logical but it isn’t – it is a spiritual document subject to the sovereignty of God.
If you try to reduce Christian living down to a set of dogmas and principles you only succeed in becoming a modern day Pharissee. The important thing is to listen to God and do what He says even when His guidance doesn’t fit a linear rationale. This is one of the most important lessons that Jesus was indicating In John 15 when He said “I am the vine and you are the branches…” Vines do not grow in a symetrical, linear fashion like a tree that grows straight up. When God vines Himself in you and branches Himself in you there will be many unexpected turns and twists in the narrative of your life that you will not always be able to connect with a logical understanding or to explain to those who wonder what in the world you are doing.
In the previous chapter in number the people the problem was not so much David putting his confidence in numerical superiority as it was that he was intruding into the priest’s office. Only the priesthood was ordained by Moses to keep any tally of the population and the purpose was not for war but for worship! David numbered the people with a view to his own plans and purposes. God reserves the people FOR HIS OWN PURPOSES and not the plans of man! Thus in chastening David for numbering the people God then immediately calls for a numbering of the people Himself showing that He is God and He can do anything He wants anytime He wants and He doesn’t have to check with anybody. This is repugnant to our egalitarian sensibilities when we think everything has to be “fair”. God is not fair – He is Soveriegn!
14 Now [concerning] Moses the man of God, his sons were named of the tribe of Levi. 15 The sons of Moses [were], Gershom, and Eliezer. 16 Of the sons of Gershom, Shebuel [was] the chief. 17 And the sons of Eliezer [were], Rehabiah the chief. And Eliezer had none other sons; but the sons of Rehabiah were very many. 18 Of the sons of Izhar; Shelomith the chief. 19 Of the sons of Hebron; Jeriah the first, Amariah the second, Jahaziel the third, and Jekameam the fourth. 20 Of the sons of Uzziel; Michah the first, and Jesiah the second. 21 The sons of Merari; Mahli, and Mushi. The sons of Mahli; Eleazar, and Kish. 22 And Eleazar died, and had no sons, but daughters: and their brethren the sons of Kish took them. 23 The sons of Mushi; Mahli, and Eder, and Jeremoth, three. 24 These [were] the sons of Levi after the house of their fathers; [even] the chief of the fathers, as they were counted by number of names by their polls, that did the work for the service of the house of the LORD, from the age of twenty years and upward. 25 For David said, The LORD God of Israel hath given rest unto his people, that they may dwell in Jerusalem for ever: 26 And also unto the Levites; they shall no [more] carry the tabernacle, nor any vessels of it for the service thereof.
Here we see the reason for the numbering of the Levites. The determination has been made that the Levites will not longer be tasked to carry the tabernacle from one place to another. The people of Israel are no longer a nomadic people but are settled in the land of their inheritance. Again we see the hand of God exercising itself to change longstanding traditions among the people. Even after Joshua brought the people into the land the tabernacle of Moses from the wilderness journeying was still with them. It moved from place to place throughout the time of the Judges and the administration of Samuel and during the reigns of Saul and now David. That time is at an end. Here is a precursory record of the travels of the Tabernacle of Moses after the time of Moses:
Gilgal (40 years)
Shiloh (300 years)
House of Dagon
Kiriath-Jearim (90 years)
Nob (76 years)
Gibeon (58 years)
Obed-Edom (3 months)
Zion at House of David (Ark only) 7 Years
Threshingfloor of Ornan?
Solomon’s Temple Built
What does this change of the tasking of the Levites speak to us? It tells us that the Christian life is more than a journey but has an expected end. The idea of a journey is a metaphor for what we will call “process”. Sometimes God works in the midst of process and our lives are in a state of change and contradiction. Other times God closes the gap between our experience and His promise and that contradiction goes away. Promised land is not a picture of “when we all get to heaven”. There are no giants in heaven, no wild beasts to tame or land to take possession of from the armies of the aliens. The Promised land speaks of the narrative of redeemed humanity on the earth walking into the permanence of God’s promises. There is a place of arrival and being planted in your own land in life. To be sure seasons of change comes but God is a God who establishes us in His will in the geography of His purposes that we might thrive and prosper in the kingdom.
27 For by the last words of David the Levites [were] numbered from twenty years old and above: 28 Because their office [was] to wait on the sons of Aaron for the service of the house of the LORD, in the courts, and in the chambers, and in the purifying of all holy things, and the work of the service of the house of God; 29 Both for the shewbread, and for the fine flour for meat offering, and for the unleavened cakes, and for [that which is baked in] the pan, and for that which is fried, and for all manner of measure and size; 30 And to stand every morning to thank and praise the LORD, and likewise at even; 31 And to offer all burnt sacrifices unto the LORD in the sabbaths, in the new moons, and on the set feasts, by number, according to the order commanded unto them, continually before the LORD: 32 And that they should keep the charge of the tabernacle of the congregation, and the charge of the holy [place], and the charge of the sons of Aaron their brethren, in the service of the house of the LORD.
Lastly we see in this chapter that David instructs that the Levites begin now (though the temple is not yet built) to begin practicing and training for the duties that will be theirs when Solomon’s temple is completed. This speaks to us of the work of God in our own lives. The kingdoms of this world have not yet become the kingdoms of our God and His Christ but we are in training for reigning. We are learning now the understandings of the ways of God that we might serve in His divine administration when He comes to rule and reign over the affairs of man 1000 years.
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