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From Thirty To Fifty Years Of Age

Count all the men from thirty to fifty years of age
who come to serve in the work in the Tent of Meeting.
(Numbers 4:3)

The LORD said to Moses,
"This applies to the Levites:
Men twenty-five years old or more
shall come to take part in the work at the Tent of Meeting,
but at the age of fifty, they must retire
from their regular service and work no longer.
They may assist their brothers
in performing their duties at the Tent of Meeting,
but they themselves must not do the work.
This, then, is how you are to assign
the responsibilities of the Levites."
(Numbers 8:23-26)

All matured men of the tribe of Levi, from thirty years old to fifty, were eligible to serve in the Tabernacle. The holy service in the house of God requires the best of our strength, and the prime of our lifetime. These ministries are not for novices or youths who may be puffed up with pride and fall into the same condemnation as the devil. If a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God? (1 Timothy 3:5-6)

Our service for God should be done when we are most alive and active. He deserves our best simply because He is the Best! He is the King of kings and the LORD of lords! Many people who do not consider this, put off their responsibility in the house of the LORD till their old age, and in doing so, they leave the best work to be done in their worst time when they are elderly and probably having some illness. Worst still, many old men have become schooled in worldly ways, and are unteachable in the ways of the LORD! The worldly standards have crept into many churches! The Levitical ministry is mostly taken over by youth groups and teenagers. As a result, many churches have become business corporations, companies, production houses, rock concerts and entertainment centres.

John the Baptist and Jesus Christ our LORD did not enter into ministry till they reached the age of 25. They started as learners, and acted under the inspection and direction of their teachers in the synagogues. But when they were 30 years old, they began preaching the Good News!

The work of the Tabernacle requires full strength of the physical body as it entails laborious work of carrying the various parts and vessels of the Tabernacle. It also requires maturity and righteousness, which are necessary for the proper running and carrying out of the holy services. As a strict requirement, only those without any defects or impediments were allowed to carry the holy objects and vessels of the Tabernacle. Upon reaching fifty, the Levites were exempted from the toilsome work of carrying the heavy things. However, they might assist their brothers in performing their duties at the Tent of Meeting, but they themselves must not do the work.

What is the work of the Levitical ministry? Many churches have now become concert halls for aspiring rock stars and upcoming pop singers. The Levitical ministry is more than just praise and worship, music and songs. It is definitely not a show business. It involves a lot of hard work like carrying heavy objects, tearing down and erecting of the Tabernacle, the cleaning and proper running of the holy place.

The Levites were specifically assigned to help the High Priest and the priests.

The LORD said to Moses,
"Bring the tribe of Levi and present them
to Aaron the priest to assist him.
They are to perform duties for him and for the whole community
at the Tent of Meeting by doing the work of the tabernacle.
They are to take care of all the furnishings of the Tent of Meeting,
fulfilling the obligations of the Israelites
by doing the work of the tabernacle.
Give the Levites to Aaron and his sons;
they are the Israelites who are to be given wholly to him.
Appoint Aaron and his sons to serve as priests;
anyone else who approaches the sanctuary must be put to death."
(Numbers 3:5-10)

These were the names of the sons of Levi: Gershon, Kohath and Merari (Numbers 3:17). The chief leader of the Levites was Eleazar son of Aaron, the priest. He was appointed over those who were responsible for the care of the sanctuary. The Levites were divided into three sections, and had three departments of responsibility:

1. Duties of the Sons of Kohath (Numbers 3:28-32; 4:1-20)

  • The Kohathites were responsible for the care of the sanctuary.
  • They were responsible for the care of the ark, the table, the lampstand, the altars, the articles of the sanctuary used in ministering, the curtain, and everything related to their use.
  • The leader of the families of the Kohathites was Elizaphan son of Uzziel.
  • They were to camp on the south side of the tabernacle.

2. Duties of the Sons Of Gershon (Numbers 3:23-26; 4:21-28)

  • At the Tent of Meeting the Gershonites were responsible for the care of the tabernacle and tent, its coverings, the curtain at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, the curtains of the courtyard, the curtain at the entrance to the courtyard surrounding the tabernacle and altar, and the ropes--and everything related to their use.
  • The leader of the families of the Gershonites was Eliasaph son of Lael.
  • They were to camp on the west, behind the tabernacle.

3. Duties of the Sons Of Merari (Numbers 3:35-37; 4:29-33)

  • The Merarites were appointed to take care of the frames of the tabernacle, its crossbars, posts, bases, all its equipment, and everything related to their use, as well as the posts of the surrounding courtyard with their bases, tent pegs and ropes.
  • The leader of the families of the Merarites was Zuriel son of Abihail.
  • They were to camp on the north side of the tabernacle.

Moses and Aaron and his sons were to camp to the east of the tabernacle, toward the sunrise, in front of the Tent of Meeting. They were responsible for the care of the sanctuary on behalf of the Israelites. Anyone else who approached the sanctuary was to be put to death (Numbers 3:38)

When the camp was ready to move, the priests, namely Aaron and his sons, would first go ahead and cover the sanctuary and all the sacred articles properly. After they had finished covering the holy furnishings and all the holy articles, the Kohathites were to come to do the carrying. But they must not touch the holy things or they would die. The Kohathites were to carry those things that are in the Tent of Meeting (Numbers 4:15). The Gershonites and Merarites would carry those items related to their scope of responsibility and work.

How the priests covered the holy articles and objects is as follows (Numbers 4:5-20):

  • The Ark of the Covenant: Before the camp moves, Aaron and his sons must enter the Tabernacle first to take down the inner curtain and cover the Ark of the Covenant with it. Then they must cover the inner curtain with fine goatskin leather and spread over that a single piece of blue cloth. Finally, they must put the carrying poles of the Ark in place.
  • The Table of Bread of the Presence: Next they must spread a blue cloth over the table where the Bread of the Presence is displayed, and on the cloth they will place the bowls, pans, jars, pitchers, and the special bread. They must spread a scarlet cloth over all of this, and finally a covering of fine goatskin leather on top of the scarlet cloth. Then they must insert the carrying poles into the table.
  • The Lampstand: Next they must cover the lampstand with a blue cloth, along with its lamps, lamp snuffers, trays, and special jars of olive oil. Then they must cover the lampstand and its accessories with fine goatskin leather and place the bundle on a carrying frame.
  • The Gold Incense Altar: Next they must spread a blue cloth over the gold incense altar and cover this cloth with fine goatskin leather. Then they must attach the carrying poles to the altar.
  • All Remaining Furnishings: They must take all the remaining furnishings of the sanctuary and wrap them in a blue cloth, cover them with fine goatskin leather, and place them on the carrying frame. They must remove the ashes from the altar for sacrifices and cover the altar with a purple cloth.
  • All the Altar Utensils: All the altar utensils-the firepans, meat forks, shovels, basins, and all the containers-must be placed on the cloth, and a covering of fine goatskin leather must be spread over them. Finally, they must put the carrying poles in place.

The camp will be ready to move when Aaron and his sons have finished covering the sanctuary and all the sacred articles. The Kohathites will then come and carry these things to the next destination. But they must not touch the sacred objects, or they will die.

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, "Do not let the Kohathites be destroyed from among the Levites! This is what you must do so they will live and not die when they approach the most sacred objects. Aaron and his sons must always go in with them and assign a specific duty or load to each person. The Kohathites must never enter the sanctuary to look at the sacred objects for even a moment, or they will die." (Numbers 4:17-20)

All the sons of Kohath, Gershon and Merari were eligible to serve in the Tabernacle when they were between the ages of thirty and fifty (Numbers 4:2-3; 22-23; 29-30). They were assigned different duties. One group was responsible for all the holy vessels of the sanctuary, another had all the curtains and the tapestries; and the third had the bars, pegs, ropes and accessories. All the different aspects of work in the house of God were holy and spiritual. All were equally important and sacred in the eyes of the LORD. All of them worked like the various parts of a Body, all parts being important and essential. One without the other is incomplete. All of their works were Levitical. Some had the rougher work, while some had the heavier tasks. Some were more physically strenuous, while others were less. But they were all sons of Levi, one people, one tribe and one ministry!

Then the Jews said to Him,
"You are not yet fifty years old,
and have You seen Abraham?"
(John 8:57)

Fifty years of age, according to Jewish traditions, was the age of ripe manhood. Upon reaching this age, the Levites were exempted from the toilsome work of carrying heavy objects and such, but they might assist others in doing the honourable work in the Tabernacle. Sometimes, they became the leaders of their family clans.

Herein is the wisdom of God. First, as the men aged and became elderly, their muscles probably would decrease in strength and power. Second, they had probably become experienced and learned, and they would become teachers mentoring their younger brothers on how to do the work in the house of God properly and with holy reverence. They might assist the other Levites in their duties at the tent of meeting, but they may not do any regular work. They would be honoured and respected by their people. They will be well spoken of by people outside the church, even those who aren't Christians, so that Satan cannot trap them with many accusations and leave them without freedom to lead their flocks (1 Timothy 3:7).

You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses,
commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
(2 Timothy 2:1-3)

Upon reaching the age of 50, the Levites would have worked in the house of God for 25 years since they entered into the ministry at age 25. They would have been faithful, and fully tested for their faithfulness. They would have been taught in the ways of the Lord, and schooled in the Word of God. They would be fully committed and dedicated to the Lord, and they would be able to teach others also. They knew that hard work, sacrifice, faithfulness and persistence were needed as they served in the Holy Place. And they were willing to pass on their leadership and work to others. They were willing to give up their position and status quo onto their younger brothers. They were able and willing to equip others for the work of the ministry, and for the edifying of the Body of Christ:

And He Himself gave some to be apostles,
some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,
for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry,
for the edifying of the body of Christ,
till we all come to the unity of the faith and
of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man,
to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;
that we should no longer be children,
tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine,
by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,
but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him
who is the head-Christ- from whom the whole body,
joined and knit together by what every joint supplies,
according to the effective working by which every part does its share,
causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
(Ephesians 4:11-16)

However, sadly, many elderly pastors and ministers in churches worldwide upon reaching age 50 and above, are not equipping the next generation to do the work of the ministry. They are unwilling to give up their prestigious status and position so that they would still remain centre-stage and in the limelight. The wisdom of God is to ensure that the Levites, upon reaching 50, remains in the ministry but they are not to do the regular work. They are required to minister to the needs of the sanctuary, especially the needs of the younger Levites such as their training and nurturing. They will pastor the pastors, shepherd the shepherds, and nurture the leaders. They would become counselors, teachers, mentors, trainers and equippers. They would move from front office to back office, from the limelight to behind the scenes.

The ministry in the house of God needs godly and faithful men to carry out the various tasks and services properly. They must have holy reverence and fear of the Lord. Without which, churches will run into troubled waters!

In 1 Chronicles 13:7-10, King David desired to bring back the Ark of God into the City of David. They moved the ark of God from Abinadab's house on a new cart, with Uzzah and Ahio guiding it. David and all the Israelites were celebrating with all their might before God, with songs and with harps, lyres, tambourines, cymbals and trumpets. When they came to the threshing floor of Kidon, Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the ark, because the oxen stumbled. The LORD's anger burned against Uzzah, and He struck him down because he had put his hand on the ark. So he died there before God.

In 1 Chronicles 15:11-16, after realizing his errors, David did it right the second time. He summoned Zadok and Abiathar the priests, and Uriel, Asaiah, Joel, Shemaiah, Eliel and Amminadab the Levites. He said to them, "You are the heads of the Levitical families; you and your fellow Levites are to consecrate yourselves and bring up the ark of the LORD, the God of Israel, to the place I have prepared for it. It was because you, the Levites, did not bring it up the first time that the LORD our God broke out in anger against us. We did not inquire of him about how to do it in the prescribed way." So the priests and Levites consecrated themselves in order to bring up the ark of the LORD, the God of Israel. And the Levites carried the ark of God with the poles on their shoulders, as Moses had commanded in accordance with the Word of the LORD. David told the leaders of the Levites to appoint their brothers as singers to sing joyful songs, accompanied by musical instruments: lyres, harps and cymbals.

When the heads of the Levitical families didn't train their next generation to be consecrated and committed in doing things according to God's Word, problems and troubles abound and amount! Many churches all over the earth are losing out now. They are not doing God's things God's way! Many church leaders are not equipping their younger generation to do the work of the ministry with the holy fear of the Lord. Many are not teachers. Many have not been discipled and are not able to make disciples. Many are not faithful to teach and train others! Many, by holding on to their prestige and position, fail to pass the baton unto their younger brothers or sons!

The students must eventually become teachers. The teachers must teach and train others, and allow their students to shine and excel and become leaders and teachers too, and in due time, taking over their tasks and duties when the teachers have reached their ripe age.

Written on:
28 January 2009