Having read the title of today's post, you're probably thinking to yourself already...who? Mattathiah? I have read my Scriptures faithfully, and I do not know this Mattithiah that you speak of. And that would be fair. After all, his name is mentioned only once, and there are a lot of men and women in the Bible whose names are mentioned only once, the overwhelming majority of whom we could not name again if asked.
And yet, there's something about Mattithiah that draws me in, something that I cannot shake.
If you know me, and especially if you happen to attend church with me, you know that I have a deep affection for Communion. The Lord's Table speaks to me in ways that nothing else in the church experience speaks to me. It touches the very depths of my heart. There's just something about this God that breaks bread with us that catches me in tenderness that I cannot shake. But it's not really just me. There's something about Communion that God loves, too. Something about it that is essential to His relationship with His people. He is a God who has always been about the breaking of bread.
In fact, when God built the Tabernacle and the Temple, one of the commands for it was that His people always have bread out on the table. It was called the Bread of the Presence, a reminder that God was present there with His people and that there was something about the breaking of the bread with them that was essential. That is essential.
What does any of that have to do with Mattithiah?
We find this man is 1 Chronicles 9, where the author documents for us the people of God who were the first to re-settle on their own land in Jerusalem. We are told by name of the various tribes, of Benjamin, of the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers - a series of names, the kind of thing we're tempted to skip over when reading because we don't understand why these names matter to us. (They do, but that's another topic for another day).
After naming a few gatekeepers, the text moves out of the list of names and into a general discussion of Levites and their duties. Some were gatekeepers, and they were positioned in such-and-such places around the sides of the towns. There were four principal gatekeepers. Some of the Levites were in charge of this, some of them were in charge of that. We've moved from names to getting a general rundown of duties and tasks. Some took care of the articles, some of the furnishings. Some were responsible for mixing the spices or preparing incense. Some were musicians, and they lived in certain rooms in the Temple.
And in the midst of the listing of all of these duties by very general terms and by vague responsibilities, we're told about "a Levite named Mattithiah, the firstborn son of Shallum the Korathite...."
He was the bread baker.
We've got this ongoing list of duties of the Levites in the Temple in Jerusalem, of the things that they do and how they do them and where they live and how they're stationed and what they are responsible for. And in this entire list, only one Levite is mentioned by name - Mattithiah, the bread baker.
It's because God doesn't want us to forget the bread. He doesn't want us to fail to notice it. In a place that smells like burning hair and fat and incense, in a place where prayers and atonement and sacrifice are offered, in a place just outside where mercy reigns over the Ark of the Covenant, it's easy, I think, to walk right by the table and not even notice the bread. Not even notice the Presence. Not even notice the Promise.
Except that in a place where all this stuff is going on, where all these things are happening, where so much that seems essential to the worship of the Israelites occurs, God places special emphasis on this thing that we're most likely to miss by drawing our attention to only one man by name.
The baker of bread.