Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Sons Of Kohath

I have been making a real effort to read through the Old Testament more. If I have some spare time to read I instinctively open up the New Testament. That is partly the result of having a quasi-Anabaptist view of the priority of the New over the Old and also, if I am honest, because a lot of the Old Testament is a tough slog to read through. I can jump into Ephesians or Galatians or John any time but I need to really make a concerted effort to get into the Old Testament. I have been reading in Numbers and it is easy to sort of read the words without really understanding them but I read something today and then I backed up and read it again. And then again. Read what Moses had to say about the sons of Kohath or the Kohathites (emphasis mine):

The LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, "Take a census of the sons of Kohath from among the sons of Levi, by their clans and their fathers' houses, from thirty years old up to fifty years old, all who can come on duty, to do the work in the tent of meeting. This is the service of the sons of Kohath in the tent of meeting: the most holy things. When the camp is to set out, Aaron and his sons shall go in and take down the veil of the screen and cover the ark of the testimony with it. Then they shall put on it a covering of goatskin and spread on top of that a cloth all of blue, and shall put in its poles. And over the table of the bread of the Presence they shall spread a cloth of blue and put on it the plates, the dishes for incense, the bowls, and the flagons for the drink offering; the regular showbread also shall be on it. Then they shall spread over them a cloth of scarlet and cover the same with a covering of goatskin, and shall put in its poles. And they shall take a cloth of blue and cover the lampstand for the light, with its lamps, its tongs, its trays, and all the vessels for oil with which it is supplied. And they shall put it with all its utensils in a covering of goatskin and put it on the carrying frame. And over the golden altar they shall spread a cloth of blue and cover it with a covering of goatskin, and shall put in its poles. And they shall take all the vessels of the service that are used in the sanctuary and put them in a cloth of blue and cover them with a covering of goatskin and put them on the carrying frame. And they shall take away the ashes from the altar and spread a purple cloth over it. And they shall put on it all the utensils of the altar, which are used for the service there, the fire pans, the forks, the shovels, and the basins, all the utensils of the altar; and they shall spread on it a covering of goatskin, and shall put in its poles. And when Aaron and his sons have finished covering the sanctuary and all the furnishings of the sanctuary, as the camp sets out, after that the sons of Kohath shall come to carry these, but they must not touch the holy things, lest they die. These are the things of the tent of meeting that the sons of Kohath are to carry. "And Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest shall have charge of the oil for the light, the fragrant incense, the regular grain offering, and the anointing oil, with the oversight of the whole tabernacle and all that is in it, of the sanctuary and its vessels." The LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, "Let not the tribe of the clans of the Kohathites be destroyed from among the Levites, but deal thus with them, that they may live and not die when they come near to the most holy things: Aaron and his sons shall go in and appoint them each to his task and to his burden, but they shall not go in to look on the holy things even for a moment, lest they die." (Numbers 4:1-20)

One other brief Scripture from a little later:

Then the Kohathites set out, carrying the holy things, and the tabernacle was set up before their arrival. (Numbers 10:21)

Most Christians know Aaron and his sons. Aaron as High Priest and his sons had specific duties when it came to serving as priests. Aaron would go into the tent and perform the tasks enumerated for him and as one would expect he gets a lot of ink, over 300 mentions in the Bible in spite of that unfortunate incident with the gold calf and his sons and their strange fire. I had read about the Kohathites before but it really struck me today. They had an unglamorous job. They didn't handle the most holy of items among the people of God, they just carried them after they were packed up but they had a critically important task. They were entrusted with the most precious possessions of the Israelite's, doing the grunt work that needed to be done.

Not actual sons of Kohath
So what? Here is the so what. We don't have Aaron and his sons around anymore. We don't have human priests to serve as intercessors for us. Christ Jesus Himself intercedes for His people and no human today has been given the right to assume that privilege for himself. There are no longer earthly places where God manifests Himself to His people in spite of the attempts by so many men to create a cage in which to keep and control God and access to Him. It seems to me that we as His people, especially as the winnowing of the merely religious continues to accelerate, serve a similar function as the sons of Kohath. We are not the High Priest, we are not entrusted to carry out the intercessory functions but we have been giving the job of carrying and protecting what is most precious to God: the Gospel of His Son. That is a weighty responsibility. The church today and for some time has stood on the precipice. We are never more than one generation from losing the Gospel. God's purpose and God's church will never be thwarted but as the thousand year despotic reign of Rome shows when we lose the public witness of the Gospel and permit false prophets and wolves among the sheep to rise unchecked, it makes life very difficult for the remnant of His Church.

This is an era when false teachers abound just as they always have but with two major advantages for the wolves. First there is a deplorable ignorance of Scripture and basic theology in the church. By allowing a select few to shoulder the hermeneutic burden for the entirety of local churches (see my post Toward A Community Hermeneutic), many Christians have never advanced beyond the "milk" stage and into the "meat stage" (1 Corinthians 3:1-3). Many Christians simply lack the resources and training to recognize false teaching from the true. Second, never in human history has it been as easy to disseminate the truth thanks to the internet. Unfortunately it is even easier to spread lies as unregenerate people will always be drawn to the darkness rather than the light (John 3:19). The most effective lies and the most attractive false teachers are those who tell people to embrace the darkness while convincing them that it is actually the light. With the near instantaneous spread of anything from anyone, many people suffer from information overload and tend to turtle up, only listening to people they already agree with, leading to what I call theological incest where we never are challenged to stretch and grow. Certainly not every opinion is worthy of consideration, in fact most are not, but we still need to be open to learning from other believers.

In these days, the church needs to embrace our role as a modern form of the sons of Kohath. Not in the sense of mindlessly stumbling into and out of pews, content to have a Christian life of "Show up, shut up and pay up". Rather we should allow and delight in the glory all shining on the most precious things, on Jesus Christ and His Gospel, while we march forward tirelessly and courageously carrying His message and protecting His Gospel from any who would seek to pervert it.

I think there is more to be said about the sons of Kohath but that is for another day. Just let me remind you as I reminded myself today that there is no extraneous material in the Scriptures. There are powerful truths to be found everywhere. Even in the mundane, we see God working and God teaching His people. Go to His Word regularly, joyously and drink deeply brothers and sisters. His Word is an endless fountain because the source of His Word is the boundless, eternal Son of God.

This is the service of the sons of Kohath in the 
tent of meeting: the most holy things.

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