“Then the leaders of Israel––the tribal leaders who had organized the census––came and brought their offerings. Together they brought six carts and twelve oxen. There was a cart for every two leaders and an ox for each leader. They presented these to the LORD in front of the Tabernacle.“ – Numbers 7:2-3 NLT
This chapter seems to be a look back at a month earlier in the lives of the Israelites, when they had just finished the construction of the Tabernacle. At that point, the various tribal leaders brought what seems to be an unsolicited, spontaneous gift to Moses of six wagons and 12 oxen. The twelve tribes gave these gifts in order to assist the Levites with the transport of the Tabernacle and all its contents from the wilderness to the Promised Land. While it seems that God did not prescribe or demand this gift, it was obviously prompted by God’s Spirit. The six wagons and 12 oxen would prove highly beneficial in carrying what amounted to a significant amount of construction material over a great distance. The gifts were distributed by Moses to the Levites, but none were given to the Kohathites, because they were commanded by God to carry the sacred objects on their shoulders.
In addition to the oxen and carts, each of the tribes offered a variety of offerings that included silver dishes, rams, goats, lambs, and grain. These gifts were offered one tribe at a time over a 12 day period. The extent of the offerings seem to suggest that they were a collective gift given by the people of each tribe. In a sense, the community was joining together to give as a group. Each tribe gave the same gifts. None was greater than the other. But the most significant gift was the very practical one of the oxen and carts. While the transport of the Tabernacle was to be the sole responsibility of the Levites, the other tribes wanted to contribute and assist. Their gift showed forethought and a commitment to solidarity. They were all in this together. In much the same way, we can help support those who have been given specific charges by God to serve as ministers or missionaries, by giving them practical support that makes their ministry more tolerable. Over in Ephesians, Paul tells us that God, “is the one who gave these gifts to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12 NLT). There are those who God has called to serve the body of Christ in specific roles and to carry out specific responsibilities. It is up to the rest of us to support them and to stand beside them as they carry out their duties. Paul told Timothy in regard to elders, “Elders who do their work well should be paid well, especially those who work hard at both preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, ‘Do not keep an ox from eating as it treads out the grain.’ And in another place, ‘Those who work deserve their pay!'” (1 Timothy 5:17-18 NLT). The unique nature of the gift given by the 12 tribes is a reminder that we need to see to it that the ministry always has what it needs to be accomplished. For the good of the ministry and the glory of God. Their gift was practical and highly utilitarian, but it was an offering to God as much as any other sacrifice associated with the Tabernacle. Sometimes our practical gifts get overlooked and overshadowed by the more impressive or “spiritual” gifts of teaching and preaching. But just imagine how difficult it would have been for the Levites to transport the Tabernacle and all its content had the tribes not been sensitive to God’s leading and given those six carts and 12 oxen. God uses all the people of God as ministers to the body of Christ. Practical, powerful, and life transformational.
Father, thanks for the reminder that You want to use all of us to minister to the body of Christ. We all have a role to play and a job to do. Keep us sensitive to Your leading. Guide and direct us and show us how to give practical gifts that illustrate our devotion to You and our love for the body of Christ. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men