Do you lead a super busy life? You probably chuckle because you are just getting around to reading this two weeks later than September 26 – since you’ve been too busy to peruse it until now, right? I think most of us could claim the dubious reality of living jam-packed, crazy-busy lives. The pressures of being students, or holding down jobs, or family obligations, or social activities, or travels, or maintaining homes, or a mixture of all of the above, can usually fill our time – and then some. We stay on the ubiquitous hamster wheel of life – never quite keeping up with the demands on our time. As I read 1 Chronicles this morning it struck a chord with me as to the difference between being busy – and being busy with the right things. That’s what I’d like to explore with you today.
As you have been doing your daily readings recently you have probably just been surface reading 1 Chronicles – finding it rather boring or lacking in information. But I’ve caught you red-handed, and I will remind you that some deep lessons hide among the sprinkling of seemingly random names and genealogies. :>) They provide a bird’s-eye view of family histories, and surely provided great interest to the people related to those actually listed here – something like the keen pursuit many have in searching out their roots on websites and in old records today. Whole lives and generations are summarized for us in tiny vignettes that are fascinating at times. Perhaps, you, like me, will find lessons that can be quite profound.
1 Chronicles 9 is telling us the names of families from a variety of the 12 tribes – many of whom were “chief men” in the history of Israel. v.34 The ones that really intrigued me had the diverse occupations of the “priests, Levites and temple servants.” v. 2 They were described as “very able men for the work of the service of the house of God.” v.13 That word “able” carries of connotations of; strong, mighty, efficient, and valiant, in Hebrew. Some of these capable men were priests – who actually administered the sacrifices and temple worship; others were Levites who were to “study the law”, “practice it” and teach its’ ordinances to Israel”. (Ezra 7:10) The rest of the support staff were termed “temple servants.”
The “ruler” over the temple servants was the High Priest. The genealogy notes in the distant past that Aaron’s grandson, Phinehas had been one of them- of whom it says “the Lord was with him.” v.20 We know he was a noble, zealous man and he was the High priest that helped establish Israel in the Land of Canaan. (cp. Numbers 25, Joshua 22, Judges 20) Perhaps he is singled out to note his worthiness as an obedient manager and community-builder in the nation’s early history.
Some of the temple-servants ruled by the High Priest were the 212 gatekeepers/guards who had been enrolled by birthplace and specially chosen to fill this office way back in the day of the Prophet Samuel v.22 There were also four chief gatekeepers who were in charge of guarding by night and opening the entrances of the tent of meeting in the morning. Their tasks also included work as ” Levites”, “an office of trust,” “over the chambers”, and “over the treasuries of God.” vv.26-27 So these men were not only responsible for tabernacle security but were also to make certain that teaching, keeping up the rooms in the Lord’s house, and treasury accounts were diligently administered. Still other men were charged with counting and assembling the utensils of service used by the priests – for sacrifice and worship. v.28
Next we have the furniture experts who presumably kept the furnishings of the tabernacle – like the table of showbread and the lampstands – in good repair. Perhaps they also were responsible for maintaining and furnishing the chambers of those who lived in the temple. v.29 Then come the stock room organizers – those who kept track of the flour, wine, oil, frankincense and spices used in worship. v.29 Remember the supplies were donated by the people on an ongoing basis and from different places, so this was an important management role. They supplied the perfumers who were given the special recipes used to mix those same spices into the fragrant blends appointed by God for use in the sacrifices and offerings. v.30
Next we learn of, Mattithiah, the Korahite who “had the responsibility over the things which were baked in pans” – an interesting occupation to say the least! v.31 He must have supervised and worked closely and cooperatively with the Korahites who prepared the showbread each sabbath. v.32 I wonder where the kitchen was and what the ovens looked like?
And finally we have the group of singers “who lived in the chambers free from other service; for they were engaged in their work day and night.” v.33 This group, in particular, was the one that spurred me to thought today. I remembered reading about them back in chapter 6 where they were described as “ministering with song before the tabernacle of the tent of meeting, until Solomon had built the house of the Lord in Jerusalem.” Ch. 6:32
I got to thinking about these men, whose jobs as temple singers kept them so busy in the Lord’s work both “day and night.” It’s sort of astonishing to sit back and consider, isn’t it? What exactly were they doing all that time? Were they like my musician nephew, who practiced the piano for hours and hours per day when he was getting his music degree? Did they have singing practice into the wee hours of the morning? Could the people walking through the streets of Jerusalem hear this nearly non-stop voice of praise? Maybe, like my son, who travelled to Germany with his Collegiate Choir; these singers, at times, travelled from village to village and sang for the worshippers outside of Jerusalem? Or perhaps they were busy composing music to sing for the multiple feast/holiday celebrations that were appointed throughout the year by the Law of Moses? I find it intriguing that these men had full-time occupations as singers.
All of these people – priests, Levites and temple servants – presumably were working 40 hour+ weeks supporting their families through the activities that had to do with worshipping God. There were people to teach, sacrifices to be made, people to serve and help, unclean to be declared clean, celebrations to organize, prayers to be offered, songs to be composed and sung, commandments to be obeyed. Their families were critical too – in playing their parts in support of these God-designated roles for their husbands, fathers and sons. In fact the Chief gatekeepers were busy night and day such that their relatives had “to come in every seven days from time to time to be with them”. v.25 Now that’s commitment! The vision of this bustling, God-glorifying community is wonderful, isn’t it? When Israel was faithful as a nation – there was an abundance of profitable work to be done to ensure the healthy spiritual life of God’s people. And it was engaging, fulfilling, joyful service that pleased and honored God.
And this got me to thinking about our own time in history and our own busy lives. Are they, too, busy in the Lord’s work? Do we make time to find our gifts and passions and enlist them in engaging activities that would glorify the Father? Do we take stock of our “talents”, as Jesus calls them, and make sure we are wisely investing them in spiritual things/ lives – both our own and others? Do we work cooperatively with people who have similarly dedicated themselves to God’s service – to help build a joyful community of worshippers? And do we remind ourselves that we, like Israel, are called to be a kingdom of priests – readying ourselves for that great day when we begin officially ministering to the nations when Jesus sits on his throne in Jerusalem? (Rev. 5:10)
So, I see this as a good opportunity to examine my life for the difference between purposeless busy work and purposeful busy work – for the Lord. Am I am growing in grace and the knowledge of God? Am I growing in the fruits of the spirit in my attitudes and interactions with others? Am I making time to listen to God through His word, to praise His name with music, to obey His commands? Am I holding and pursuing the vision of healthy, godly community as a primary goal for my life? In essence I guess this could all be boiled down to this one phrase, as the Lord Jesus put it: Is my life “rich toward God”? (Luke 12:21) There is no better life of purpose and engagement than the one that has God’s worship in service within a positive community as its focus. We too can be “very able men and women for the service of the house of God”. v.13