“For their duty was to assist the sons of Aaron for the service of the house of the Lord, having the care of the courts and the chambers, the cleansing of all that is holy, and any work for the service of the house of God. Their duty was also to assist with the showbread, the flour for the grain offering, the wafers of unleavened bread, the baked offering, the offering mixed with oil, and all measures of quantity or size. And they were to stand every morning, thanking and praising the Lord, and likewise at evening, and whenever burnt offerings were offered to the Lord on Sabbaths, new moons, and feast days, according to the number required of them, regularly before the Lord. Thus they were to keep charge of the tent of meeting and the sanctuary, and to attend the sons of Aaron, their brothers, for the service of the house of the Lord.” 1 Chronicles 23:28-32 ESV
Today’s reading challenges our modern understanding of calling and vocation. It’s all about the divisions of the Levites and priests for service in the Temple, once it was built. It continues the theme that was introduced way back in Exodus, when the Lord set aside one tribe out of the twelve and said, “You guys are going to be my priests throughout all generations.”
So today, I started thinking, what if there was a descendant of Aaron who said, “But I don’t wanna be a priest”? What if there was a son of Asaph who said, “I don’t like music. Can’t I be—I dunno—a stone mason instead?” I’m sure there were some teenaged Levites in every generation that said, “How come our family doesn’t have land, like Isaachar’s kids do?” Or looked at 1 Chronicles 23:30 and said, “How come we have to ‘stand every morning, thanking and praising the Lord’? Just once, can’t we sleep in, like the Reubenites?”
And I can imagine a father gently saying, “No, my son. We are Levites. It’s who we are. It’s not what we have to do; it’s what we get to do.”
It reminded me of the conversation I had with a rabbi I shared an elevator with when I was in Israel. When I asked him how old he was when he felt called to be a rabbi, it was almost like he didn’t understand the question. He was a fourth generation rabbi. It was just what his family did. (See Day 055: “My Father Was a Rabbi, and His Father Before Him…” (Numbers 3-4))
A lot of English surnames are based on the family trade. Carters made carts. Chandlers made candles. Boatwrights repaired boats. You get the idea. But these days, there aren’t too many occupations that get passed down from father to son. We are much more about teaching our kids to follow their passion. We tell them they can be whatever they want to be. Even a member of the British monarchy can say “You know what, I don’t really want to be a royal. It’s too much responsibility.”
In our generation, following your bliss and living out your truth is more important than fulfilling your destiny.
But the Levitical priesthood reminds me that as a believer, I have a calling and a consecration that was picked out for me before I was born. Matthew 25:34 says that I am going to inherit a kingdom that was prepared for me from the foundation of the world. And the apostle Peter went on to describe believers as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a people for His own possession,” with a very specific task: “that we may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9).
So we are a lot like the Levites. And yes, there are days that I wonder what it would be like to not have serving Jesus be the primary occupation and preoccupation of my life. There are days when I think it would be nice to pursue the things of the world without stopping to consider any spiritual obligations. As a pastor, there’s days when I think I’d rather be a plumber.
But then I feel the hand of my Father gently rest on my shoulder, and I hear His voice, full of love, saying, “No, my son. I chose you to follow Jesus. It’s who you are. It’s not what you have to do; it’s what you get to do.”