Friday, May 11, 2018

Serve Now

There comes a point in Israel's history, although it comes not when you think it might, when the Levites become no longer responsible for carrying the burden of the most holy things on their shoulders. You would think that this would happen during the reign of Solomon, when the Temple is built and all of the things that once had to be toted through the wilderness come to rest in one place and dwell among them. 

But actually, we don't see these words until the reign of Josiah, many, many generations after Solomon. 

Josiah was a king, one of a rare breed of the kings of Israel and Judah, who kept the Passover. And it was after this Passover that he declared that the Ark of the Covenant, the most holy thing, would no longer be a burden upon the shoulders of the Levites (2 Chronicles 35). In the very same command, he turns the focus of these Levites from the most holy things to merely the holy things and also the human things. "Serve now the Lord your God, and his people Israel...." 

It's what happens when we put God in His place. It's what happens when we give Him the space He's sanctified to live among us. All of a sudden, we're not responsible for mere items any more. We're not burdened with the box that we try to keep God in. We are freed to bear upon our shoulders the holy things and the human things, while leaving the most holy things to the One who dwells among them. 

In other words, when God is given His proper space in the world, then He takes care of His own house and we need only concern ourselves with His people. 

There is still in that command an echo of both holy and human things, for they are His (holy) people (human), and that's something that is far too easy for us to forget. It's far too easy for us to think that God has charged us with human things because they are human, so we go about doing human good works and push aside the glory of Him who desires them by often not even bringing Him up, thinking that this is what He desires of us. But this is simply not the case. God has charged us with the human things precisely because they are holy things, they are His things, and if we do not do the work that He has called us to with both in mind, then we are not doing His work at all. 

But back to the story at hand - the most holy things are no longer our burden to carry. They are no longer pressed on our shoulders. We are no longer yoked to them. This has been perhaps the most difficult shift for us to wrap our minds around. 

The truth is that most of us would rather carry the most holy things. Ironically, it's easier. It's easier for us to put God in a box and then carry that box around and make our God what we desire Him to be, become responsible for who He is and where He is in this world, taking Him out of our box only when we need Him or want Him or want to show Him off. We have named ourselves not laborers of the most holy place, but gatekeepers of God's garden. We decide who He is. We decide what He does. We decide where He goes. 

It has become for us a measure of our faith, how well we do this. We who are most faithful are the ones who most successfully safeguard God. We are the ones who build the biggest hedges around Him, who erect the highest gates. We are the ones who are confident and assured and know exactly when to let Him out of His box. The burden we carry? It's not so big. Not when you think about what it means to be the ones who determine who God gets to be in this world. And we call it holy. No, we call it most holy. But it is no such thing.

That's the beauty of this passage in 2 Chronicles. That's the wonder of what Josiah has done for us, even all these years later. He has declared in a single breath that God now has His own dwelling place among us and that He can take care of His own things, but that this frees us not from all of the burden. Our burden shifts from bearing God's things in this world to what it was always intended to be, bearing His image. No longer responsible for the most holy things, for they are God's in His dwelling place where He finds rest among us, we are still charged with holy and human things. 

Serve now the Lord and His people...and let the Lord order His own house. 

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