Having looked at the Levites in our previous reading, attention now turns to the Kohathites who had specific duties to perform concerning the Tabernacle.
A census was to be taken of this tribe, in order to establish how much man-power was available. Note that only men between the ages of thirty and fifty were to be counted – around a third of their total number. It was considered that men of this age were in their prime, both physically and mentally and, therefore, best suited to the rigorous duties required of them. (For example, the Tabernacle weighed something like 19,000 pounds and was frequently carried great distances.) Preparation began at the age of twenty-five (Numbers 8:24) when the tribesmen entered into a period of teaching and training. Interestingly, in contrast, a man could become a soldier at the age of only twenty.
So, at the same age as Jesus and John the Baptist began their ministries, the Kohathites entered into holy service within the Tabernacle. They were responsible for “the care of the most holy things,” but note the limitations of their task. Before they could move in to do their duties, the priests first had to protect the equipment of the Tabernacle with an elaborate ritual of coverings. Only Aaron and his sons could touch these objects that represented the holy presence of God. In this way, the Kohathites were spared the wrath of a holy God. Likewise, they were under orders to use only poles to carry the items and not to touch them directly. Much later, in 1 Chronicles 13: 1 – 14 we read what happened when Uzza reached out a hand to steady the Ark of the Covenant as it was being moved. There was no doubt that God carried out both His promises and His threats. His holiness was never to be treated lightly.
Many of us serve in church life today, in all kinds of different roles, and this passage teaches us some important lessons. We should be teachable and open to training, not assuming we know it all but staying humble. We should always be prepared to offer the best of our ourselves in body, mind and spirit and understand that God builds us into teams. In fact, more than being willing, able and committed, we should dedicate ourselves to the service we have been called to.
Lord, you called the Kohathites for specific purpose and they followed you wholeheartedly. Show me what you want me to do for you, and equip me with all I need. I dedicate myself afresh to you today. Amen.