In today’s reading we see the practical side of a worshipping community. Up to this point in Exodus and Leviticus the people have been instructed concerning the worship of God through burnt offering and cleansing rituals. The worship of God revolved around the tent called the Tabernacle.
Now, let’s put this into perspective. The book of Leviticus was not a story (with the exception of the brothers toasted). Leviticus was the Law itself. The story left off at the base of Mount Sinai where Moses had a close encounter of the Divine Kind. Now, at the beginning of Numbers the story is about to continue. Do you remember what is happening in the story? God had promised to Abraham that He would give him the land of Canaan. The Israelites were currently a mobile nation, on the move to the Promised Land, being led by the pillar of cloud/fire, and being fed by manna.
So, what does this mobility mean for worship? It means that somebody had to pack up the Tabernacle and transport it to the next camping site. How do you transport the Most Holy Place that is never to be seen or touched? God had to set aside people to be God’s tent movers. This was probably hard, physical, and tedious labor. Every time the pillar started moving, the Levites would have to kick into gear, tear down the tent, carefully pack it up, physically carry it to wherever the pillar landed, unpack it, set it up, and then begin proper worship again.
Here are some observations about this process that can have application to us:
- The people of God were mobile, flexible, and ready to move whenever the pillar led them.
- It was the pillar that dictated when they moved, how far they would travel, and where they would stop. God led, not the people.
- There was hard, physical, and unglamorous work involved whenever God led them out.
- God appointed certain people to certain tasks. Each section of the community had their specific task, and if each player did their part then the whole community would be able to move without any problem. This seems to be a similar image to the New Testament analogy of the people of God being the body of Christ. Each person has a part in the body. No part is higher or lower than another. All parts are necessary to the health and functionality of the community.
Today, ask yourself a) am I open to God leading me wherever and whenever He wants? b) do I know what part of the body I play?
As with the Tabernacle, there are many roles to play in the body of Christ and in being a worshipping community. In a place of worship—whether a house church or a cathedral—there are physical things that need to be done in order to create a re-creative space. Facilities need to be cleaned, food needs to be prepared, children need to be watched and taught, and kitchens need to be cleaned. It’s not glamorous, but it is worship. So, the next time you are doing your “family chore” remember the Levites as they were rolling up the Tabernacle tent and hoisting it on their shoulders for the long walk. As a community, we all pitch in and do our part so that God can be glorified, we can be edified, and the Kingdom of God can have space in which to grow in our lives and in our neighborhoods.