…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. 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? Do I have a man card? 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, God commands Moses,
““Take a census of all the congregation of the people of Israel, by clans, by fathers’ houses, according to the number of names, every male, head by head. From twenty years old and upward, all in Israel who are able to go to war, you and Aaron shall list them, company by company.” Numbers 1:2-3 ESV
If you were a male over twenty who was able to go to war, you were counted. The assumption was that if you were an adult male, that meant that you could and would fight. You counted. You mattered.
If you weren’t able to go to war, you weren’t counted. Children, women, the old, the infirm—they weren’t numbered in Numbers.
I wonder what the census takers would have done with me. I am a male over twenty. I am able bodied. It’s just the gun thing. Would I be considered fit to fight if I had never so much as shot a squirrel?
So the first 46 verses of Numbers make me really insecure. Less than. Not measuring up.
But then, I got 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.
Some men 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 that’s not why the priests and Levites were in the center of the camp. The Levites were positioned 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.
That’s where the fighting was fiercest.
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 by the way, the priests and the Levites did go to war. Fast forward to Joshua 6, and take note of who was on the front lines: seven priests, with seven trumpets, followed by the ark of God.
They marched into battle, just like every other red-blooded Israelite.
They just carried different weapons.
Want to go to Israel with me next year? I am leading my church on a ten day tour, from February 22, 2024 to March 2. We will be flying out of Atlanta. Cost will be around $4000. If you are interested, please message me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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