In Numbers 4 different tasks concerning the temple are given to different branches of the Levite tribe. In v4 we encounter the responsibility of the Kohathites:
4 This is the work of the Kohathites at the tent of meeting: the care of the most holy things.
and again in v15:
15 After Aaron and his sons have finished covering the holy furnishings and all the holy articles, and when the camp is ready to move, only then are the Kohathites to come and do the carrying. But they must not touch the holy things or they will die. The Kohathites are to carry those things that are in the tent of meeting.
It’s an interesting responsibility. Having just moved across country, and noticed some minor breakages as a result, I am keenly aware of how important good packing is. And for the Israelites, when they, and the portable temple, moved, they did so with carts, not with professional grade truck suspension. For this reason, it is even more important that the delicate items of the temple be carefully wrapped first in cloth, and then “the hides of sea cows” (whatever they are).
As I sought to apply this passage to my life (and I freely admit it wasn’t written for the application I am about to give it), I considered my responsibility as a minister (in the tradition of the Levite priesthood). In some sense, I too have a responsibility to take care of, and carry, the holy things. In my environment though, I consider the “holy things” to be people, those God has entrusted to me. And it is those I must care for, and carry when they need to be carried.
This is easier to understand in the context of counseling meetings, when there can be a detailed discussion of a person’s life situation, and hopefully, some well-considered spiritual counsel from my side. However, the place where I interact with most people is through my preaching – and therein lies the dilemma.
On any given Sunday, there are bruised reeds who need gentle handling. There are those with Pharisee-like tendencies who need to be challenged. And there are myriads in-between. How am I supposed to preach a message that is relevant and equally applicable to everyone there?
I can’t. It’s simply not possible, on the human level. But my confidence is in this: that somewhere between my mouth and their ears, the Holy Spirit will mold or shape what I say in such a way that their heart receives it in the way God intended.
Only with that belief, do I have the confidence to speak boldly, knowing that God will care for the bruised, and carry the broken, and that by his grace, my words will be a part of that.
How about you? What are the “holy things” in your life – the people precious to God that he has brought within the sphere of your care and carrying? Who can you care for today? Who needs to be carried this week, at least in prayer, and maybe more?