From: Ryan Ruffing
I imagine the task given to the sons of Kohath brought with it great prestige - carrying the most holy things. They had been made responsible for the safe passage of Israel’s most sacred items, including the ark of the testimony that held the tablets on which Moses had recorded the 10 commandments from the very mouth of Lord. In the early days, this band of relatives within the Levite clan must have reveled in the glory of the task - sons standing tall as mothers spoke proudly to one another: “mine carries the ark today.”
As they set their hands to the task day after day, I imagine the revelry of prestige soon gave way to boredom. Carry these items, every time we pack up camp, from when you are 30 until you are 50 years old(vs. 3). Days turn to weeks, weeks to years, and these formerly awe-filled objects slowly seem more and more mundane to their porters. They also seem more and more heavy. I can see their calloused hands rubbed in familiar places by the wooden poles used in freighting these heavy burdens.
The inflation of prestige, and the deflation of boredom may have finally delivered members of this tribe over to temptation. “I’ve been carrying it for 15 years. I know the command was to never look under the coverings, never touch it. The mystery is unbearable - if I weren’t so afraid I’d do it - they say if you look or touch, you die. It’s entirely irrational - what kind of God would ever kill people for touching something!” And that age old deceiver, who has always tempted the people of God with lies, replies with familiar words “you will not surely die.”
Throughout the book of Numbers we will see the Israelites called over and again to the same central task - trusting the Lord. Trusting God is always difficult because what was once glorious and new becomes mundane and eventually opens us to temptation. In the midst of boredom and apathy the voice of temptation, challenging the words of God, seems to make so much sense, but it is never leading us to life.
The life of following God will always have periods marked by the mundane, times when we are called to faithfully put one foot in front of another. It is in these times when we learn to trust the Lord. We learn to trust the Lord in the wilderness.
I love riding my bike around Boston, and eating good meals with great friends. I am currently somewhat obsessed with the story of Galileo. I live in JP with my wife, Libby.