...Every man able to go to war... (Numbers 1:20, 22, 24, 26, 28, 30, 32, 34, 36, 38, 40, 42, 44) Too long have I had my dwelling among those who hate peace. 7 I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war! (Psalm 120:6-7)
I have a confession to make. I have never shot a gun.
I feel weird saying that, because I live in the great state of Alabama, which ranks number five in the nation for most guns per thousand people (33). For reference, Wyoming is #1 (229 per 1000) and #50 is Rhode Island (3 guns for every 1000 people).
I have a lot of men in my church who, when they find out I have never shot a gun, offer to cure me of that.
Our men’s ministry planning team did a survey, in which, among other things, we asked the men in our church what kind of activities they would like us to plan on a quarterly basis. Every one of them listed “shooting” as an activity.
Every. Single. One.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t begrudge anyone else owning a gun. I really don’t. I take comfort in knowing that on any given Sunday, there are lots of people packing heat.
Along with their husbands.
I just choose not to. I choose not to have a gun in my house. I choose to have prayer be my only defense against any intruder. If I go to my grave never having fired a weapon, I will be okay. I don’t have the itch to fire a weapon. Not even at a tin can.
Does my man card have an asterisk on it? Or do I not get one at all? I saw a shirt recently that said, “If you know how many guns you have, you don’t have enough.” Perhaps I can tell people, with complete honesty, “Dude, I can’t even COUNT how many guns I have!
In the first chapter of Numbers, the only ones that were counted were the ones who were able to go to war. And I do sometimes wonder if my unwillingness to own a gun or even learn how to handle one somehow makes me… not count.
Am I “less than“ because I don’t go to war? For most of Numbers 1, it seems that way. The people who weren’t able to go to war weren’t counted. Children, women, the old, and the crippled didn’t count in the official census.
So I start off kind of hating the book of Numbers.
Until I get to verse 47. That’s when I read that there was one tribe that was NOT counted by the number of men that were able to go to war. The Levites were exempt from the census. Instead, they were to handle the holy things. They were in charge of the tabernacle, its furnishings, and the Ark of the Covenant itself.
“But appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of the testimony, and over all its furnishings, and over all that belongs to it. They are to carry the tabernacle and all its furnishings, and they shall take care of it and shall camp around the tabernacle.”
Numbers 1:50 ESV
And when Israel set up camp, the Levites were in the very center.
The men in my church might scoff. “Yeah… those Levites needed to be in the center. They needed to be surrounded by the warriors, so the fighting men could protect them.”
But I like to see it a little differently. The Levites stayed in the center of camp–closest to the Tabernacle, so they could continually intercede for the people. They could continually offer sacrifices. They could constantly stand in the breach between holy God and sinful man.
In other words, they could continually fight for the warriors.
Again, no disrespect to the hunters, and shooters, and collectors among whom I live and work and minister. I love you. And I am thankful for you. And I also mean no disrespect to other ministers who enjoy responsible gun ownership.
But I don’t need you to “cure me” of never having shot a gun. I’m going to continue to wage war for the souls of the lost. I’m going to keep on waging war against the devil. And I’m going to continue to let the Lord fight for me.
I will be a warrior. But the weapons of my warfare will not be of the flesh (2 Corinthians 10:4)
And maybe God’s ok with that. After all, the ones that were closest to His presence were the ones that didn’t count.