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May 1, 2014 – Numbers 8

Click here to read Numbers 8 on BibleGateway.com

graduationThis is one of the best times of the year, and not just because it’s fun to sneeze snot all over everyone’s new spring outfits (thanks, pollen!).  All across this great land, thousands of high school and college students are preparing for graduation, the culminating 47 minutes recognizing years of agonizing labor.   It’s enough to make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  Or to realize the futility of all life.  Either way.

It’s always nice to see all these young men and women with the glow of success fresh in their eyes.  The whole world is their burrito; nothing is impossible.

WHEN YOU HEAR THE CHIME, TURN THE PAGE

That is, until they have to start the new year of college in the fall. Or can’t find a job with that new shiny degree.  Or find out that their alma mater of Bob’s MBA-o-Rama isn’t fully accredited and their degree isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.  When we check in on these bright young stars in ten years, they’ve become the bitter cynical adults that we all love.  What’s happened?  More importantly, why is this important to our reading today? Prepare yourself; there’s a hard segue coming up.

Exodus through Deuteronomy is a period of transition for the Israelites, graduating from nomadic herdsmen, to slaves, to a nation. During this important time of formation for the Israelite nation recorded in the first few books of the Bible, God put in place the idea that all of the first born children of Israel belonged to Him (it’s complicated. Just trust me for now.)  However, rather than accept all the various tribes, God declared that the entire tribe of Levi would stand in proxy for all those others (a nice setup for Jesus standing in for our sins, by the way).

Imagine that day: you’re in the tribe of Levi.  You, your family, your relatives; you’re the chosen people.  All those other chumps can only look on in jealousy since you get to work in the temple every day.  Your whole life will be surrounded by God’s presence.  It’s like graduation day for Bible college.

THE ROCKS OF REALITY

Yet stats tell us that 50% of new ministers will not remain in ministry for five years; only 1 in 10 ministers actually retires as a minister; 70% struggle with depression, and 90% feel unprepared for the demands of ministry.  What does this tells us?  That life in ministry may not be the cakewalk that the Levites (and possibly some of us) think it may be.  It is relentlessly draining, emotionally challenging, mentally exhausting work, and you never clock out.  Several Levites figure prominently in the stories of God’s judgment to come, and they were held to higher standards than the other tribes regarding sacrifices and lifestyle.  They’re proximity to God, while a blessing, also carried more sacrifice in their lives.

Is that the way you view your pastor? Do you appreciate the extra burden that they are under all the time? Or is it easier to sit back and criticize? To complain about how much or little they work? To complain that their kids aren’t behaving as you think they should? Rather than pointing out everything they’re doing wrong, might it better serve the kingdom of God to support your pastor? To tell him he preached a good sermon this week? To be supportive of her new ideas? To point out their good points to others, rather than their faults? Imagine what a difference it may make in your church.

When people give up their lives to full time ministry, we should respect and honor them.  They may be carrying more than we ever know.

Being chosen by God is a wonderful thing; but it’s not an easy thing.

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