Have you ever just opened the Bible and noticed something new?
It happens to me quite frequently since I am finally trying to read for myself rather than reading because someone else told me a verse I should read.
Today I found Numbers 4:33-37. A boring piece of counting that Moses was required to do in the wilderness, for which most of the book of Numbers is known, it numbers the tribe of Merari – the Mahlites and the Mushites. I wasn’t intending to read in Numbers today – but as I opened the book, verse 37 caught my attention. Something about the words pillars and sockets, and cords and the way my eye actually skimmed over them made it tremble in my mind with sounds similar to “the rocket’s red glare.” So I had to investigate.
The Merari people are told to pitch (their tents) on the north side of the tabernacle and are given charge of :
“the boards of the tabernacle, and the bars thereof, and the pillars thereof, and the sockets thereof, and all the vessels thereof, and all that serveth thereto, and the pillars of the court round about, and their sockets, and their pins, and their cords.”
Why did I take the time to quote all of that? Because I struggle sometimes knowing what I am supposed to do with myself- wondering if God has a truly specific plan and purpose for my life. I “know” he does – I “believe” he does- but sometimes my beliefs get caught in the obstacles that I am concentrating on and are therefore never acted upon.
God doesn’t intend for us to concentrate on the obstacles – we are to fix our eyes on Him. These simple instructions to this family are powerful to me today – because they remind me that our purpose is quite specific. And they also remind me that our family connections matter to God too. In fact – He designed them for our good.
The Word tells us that we are placed in families for a reason – the things we learn from them are important in shaping our purpose. This family of Merari had a specific purpose to keep and safeguard the boards, tent pegs, and guy wires that supported the place of worship. Not just those things, but all of the tools used for the care of those things as well.
The Merari children would have been taught how to reconstruct the structure each time the tabernacle was moved – how to inspect the boards for signs of decay, how to fit each board into each socket and how to tie down each rope, and how deep each peg must be anchored in order to hold properly. They must have been taught well since, to my knowledge, there aren’t any stories of the tabernacle collapsing in on anyone.
My family, and my husband’s family, have many family skills that have been passed down – but that are losing ground in our modern world. Some of these are carpentry (from my father’s grandfather), sewing (from my mother’s grandmother), horsemanship and care for animals (my mother’s father), teaching and preaching (farther back than I can pinpoint on both my mother and father’s sides), electrical work and engineering (my husband’s grandfather), and a love of flight (my husband’s other grandfather).
The blending of all of these creative gifts makes up the skill set that I can pass to my own children and grandchildren. But, obviously there are so many things in this set that it can be daunting to try to master them all. Yet they are the patchwork that I draw around me on the days when I am tired or cold from trying so hard to be “my”self. They are what reminds me that I am not my own, but I am bought with a price, beautifully and wonderfully made in the image of God.
His purpose for me lies somewhere in the stories told by the one who stitched that quilt, in the sharpening of the carpenter’s tools, in the caring for the lives entrusted to me, and in the electricity infused into it all by my husband’s heritage. It is a specific, yet incredibly unique blend of it all. Not just one tent peg – but the boards, and sockets, and pillars, and cords too- an array of things so different, yet intricately designed to fit and work together.
So I do not have to try to invent something for myself that I am not. Nor do I have to pattern myself to be exactly like someone else in my family. God has given me a wealth of options – even inside my family – that He will combine into a specific purpose that is mine alone. And all I have to do is spend time with Him so that He can tell me, each day, what that is.
God sets the lonely in families, He leads out the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.