We can learn a lot about the setup of David’s kingdom from this chapter if we look past all the names we (I) can’t pronounce. And there’s a good lesson to be learned as well.
First, we learn that there were gatekeepers. Now, it helped me to picture one of the Japanese castles we got to tour during a stupendous eight-day jaunt through Japan when reading about the gatekeepers. I don’t think the Temple was as large as some of the castle complexes we saw, and I don’t think it was made of the same materials, but by walking around a few castle grounds, I can kind of picture how this branch of the Levites worked each day. Then we have the guys who take care of all the plunder and riches, the treasurers. Next are the officials and judges. And finally, we learn that some Levites were called to be what I’m going to think of as early day church planters. Now, let’s break down each of these.
Imagine the gatekeepers, and imagine the duties they performed each day. Basically, their jobs were to guard the doors to the Temple. Some of them were stationed to the east, some to the west, blah, blah. Some of them guarded the storehouse (v. 15), which most likely contained the offerings of grain and such that sustained the Levites and the Temple on a daily basis. And a scant few were put in charge of the front door. So, think about it, most of them were guarding doors that probably didn’t get used as often, and their jobs probably weren’t as glamorous as those guys checking badges and tickets at the entryway. Have you ever thought about the job of a security guard, especially one who watches one doorway all day every day? Thailand is rich in security guards. There’s one on every corner and in every entryway. They’re just guys who need jobs basically, not scary watchmen or anything. But my point is, sometimes I see them standing in the same places day in and day out, and I think about how boring and tiresome that might be, especially when I see them in obscure places, like condo lobbies or parking garages. Ok, enough about the gatekeepers. I think you get my point. I wouldn’t want to be one, but I’m glad we have them. Respect.
The treasurers’ jobs sound a little more exciting. They were in charge of the Temple treasury, which contained a whole lot of loot from rich dudes like King Saul and Samuel. I’m not so sure Samuel himself was wealthy, but I think he probably ended up in charge of a lot of stuff, which was passed down to King David.
A few of the Levites were appointed as judges and officials, and the chapter doesn’t really say much about it, so neither will I. I’ll just comment that fewer Levites became judges and officials (compared to gatekeepers, et al.) due to need, and that’s pretty much same same today.
Now, for my favorite ones – the early day church planters. At least, I’m thinking of them as early day church planters. These families mentioned in the last few paragraphs of the chapter were the goers. They were commissioned to go to neighboring lands to “set up churches,” if you will, so that people who lived too far to go to the Temple regularly would have a place to worship the Lord and leave sacrifices. Pretty cool, huh?
Ezra makes quick work of this setup but gives us an exemplary picture of how things operate and what it might have taken to keep them going when David was king. He also gives us a picture of something else – everything that might go wrong in the future. One of the lines I underlined from this chapter, and I’ve highlighted it before, is that these families, like the musicians we read about in the prior chapter, were appointed “without regard to age or training (v. 13).” Each family member received their job titles by the casting of lots, so therefore, their ancestors would inherit the same job and duty. What happens if/when Meshelemiah’s great-great-great-grandson decides he wants to be a chef rather than a security guard? What happens when Shelomoth’s great-great-great-great nephew can’t really resonate with how his family came to be in charge of all those riches and decides he is justified in taking a few liberties in his position? What happens when Zechariah’s son falls in love with Asaph’s daughter and they give birth to a son. Will he be a gatekeeper or a musician?
See what I’m saying? There’s a huge lesson to be learned in each of these beautiful appointments. And there’s an even huger lesson behind that. Onions. So many layers. For instance, the plan itself is wonderful. It’s fair. It’s just. It gives every family an important position and duty in ensuring the Kingdom of God on Earth is realized. And God sees this beauty. He sees the meaning behind it. And I believe wholeheartedly that He sees what it will become also. We know from previous chapters, too, that this system won’t last forever. The Israelites royally mess it up. They don’t even stay the “Israelites,” per say. Anyway, we know what we know from the stories that were recorded. Now, imagine if those stories were never recorded. OR, worse yet, imagine if King David had set up his kingdom in a horrible oppressive way … and it was never recorded. Yet, it was passed down through the ages and still existed today. I’m just gonna chew on that a while, and I’ll let you do the same.
Writing prompt: chew on it
After you’ve chewed on it a while, spit it out on paper.