GOD’S WORD FOR YOU
1 CHRONICLES 9:28-33
28 Some of them were in charge of the vessels for the service. They counted them when they were taken in and again when they were brought out. 29 Some of them also were in charge of the utensils and all the vessels of the sanctuary, as well as the fine flour, wine, oil, incense, and spices. 30 Some of the sons of the priests prepared the mixture of the spices. 31 Mattithiah, one of the Levites, who was the firstborn of Shallum the Korahite, was entrusted with making the flatbread. 32 Some of their brothers from the sons of the Kohathites were responsible for preparing the bread that was set out and arranged Sabbath by Sabbath.
Here we have more duties of certain Levites spelled out clearly. Any one of these might seem minor to those who live in an era of convenience, where flour can be purchased instead of made personally, where even the smallest machine is a tool used without much consideration. Everything they did, they did by hand. How long would it take a baker to make anything without electricity, or without even a mechanical hand-mixer that uses such simple things as gears and a crank? Every one of these duties was a full-time position for more than one man.
The flour was ground with stones and then shaken out through sieves eleven times. Ten pints of wheat (two omers, or two-tenths of an ephah, Leviticus 24:5) were finely ground, mixed, and baked. A tradition in the Mishna (Shekal. V:1) is that a particular family held the secret of the preparation of the showbread, or bread of the presence. The basic ingredients were certainly flour, water, oil, and salt, but the measurements are not recorded apart from the flour. Whenever I have attempted to “cook” such bread “in a griddle” (Leviticus 2:5), the pancakes look good until I turn them, at which time they explode into a somewhat amusing cloud of powder, after which I have always said the same thing: “I made dust!”
The bread of the presence was made fresh for every Sabbath. They were made so that there would be twelve loaves (one for each tribe), and placed in two rows on the table of the bread in the Holy Place. There were two piles, six to a pile (Leviticus 24:6). Jewish tradition does not say that they were round, but rather rectangular, so that they were “five handbreadths broad and ten handbreadths long, but turned up at either end… to resemble the Ark of the Covenant” (Edersheim, The Temple, p. 143) and placed so that the two piles exactly covered the table, leaving a space between the piles for the two bowls or trays of pure incense (Leviticus 24:7). This description makes me think of Chicago-style or pan-style pizza.
33 The ones who were musicians, heads of Levite families, lived in chambers in the temple and were free from other service, because they were working day and night.
This verse informs us that there were services for worship at night. While the Evening Sacrifice was the last service in the tabernacle itself (Psalm 141:2), there may have been other opportunities for people to gather and worship nearby, and there seems to have been at least a night time service on the Sabbath day. Psalm 92, written “for the Sabbath day,” says, “It is good to praise the Lord and make music to your name, O Most High, to proclaim your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night” (Psalm 92:1-2). When Peter went up to the rooftop to pray at “about noon” (probably around 12:30 pm), it was a typical prayer-time, and he could have used any of the evening prayers as long as it was past noon (Acts 10:9).
The servants of the temple were assigned each to his own task (Nehemiah 13:30), and the Lord has assigned his servants in the New Testament church to their own tasks (1 Corinthians 3:5). Paul describes this for us with familiar words: “It was Christ who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service” (Ephesians 4:11-12). But who are the “some”? We know the names of the Apostles, a New Testament prophet named Agabus (Acts 11:28; 21:10), some evangelists like Philip (Acts 21:8) and perhaps Timothy (2 Timothy 4:5), and Paul calls himself a teacher more than once, although he was also an apostle (Romans 1:1, etc.). What about all the others? Professor Deutschlander writes: “We only know that they took the gospel into the world, preached and taught, suffered, and died. But where? How? We have some traditions about a few of them, but nothing solid. In fact, on their memorial days the church gives thanks that they did whatever they did, even if we don’t know what that was” (On Giving Advice to God, Part 1, p. 69).
Whatever the task before us, we want to do it to God’s glory. If you rake leaves, give thanks and praise God and endure the blisters for his sake. If you shovel snow, do the same, and know that what you do with your shovel is also in obedience to your city or town ordinances. Do it happily, to set an example of Christian living for your neighbors. And if you play with your children, remember that you are giving them a gift that they will treasure for their whole lives. Some of the happiest hours I spent with my mother was playing board games in the kitchen while the roast was in the oven. And although I worked several years with my father as his apprentice, I treasure my memories of playing on the same softball team with him, or just playing basketball in our driveway, or when he taught me how to make chili. We give to the Lord as we give to one another. It is the Lord himself who has prepared good works in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). The mandate of the prophet Micah is good to keep in mind: “What does the Lord require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). But as we become aware of the seemingly infinite variety of good works that God has laid out before us, we begin to understand that our lives of faith are like a beautiful cobblestone path, and each stone is a good choice that we make. But the true purposes of our good works are especially these (this list is from an early Lutheran catechism ):
1, To give glory to God. “Let your light shine before men,” Jesus says, “that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
2, That we may show honor and obedience to God. For “we have an obligation, but not to the sinful nature” (Romans 8:12).
3, That our good works are the fruits of righteousness and they are witnesses of our faith and of our conversion to God. “Make every effort to add to your faith goodness, and to goodness, knowledge, (etc.)” (2 Peter 1:5).
4, That we may serve and be profitable to our neighbor with our duties of justice, kindness, mercy, and so on. “Let our people also learn to busy themselves with good works when urgent needs arise, so that they are not unfruitful” (Titus 3:14).
5, That we may invite sinners and the ungodly to true repentance, the fear of God, and faith, through our good works, “So that even if some do not obey the word, they might be won over without a word” (1 Peter 3:1).
6, That we may not lose the grace of God, the Holy Spirit, and our inheritance of the kingdom of heaven, for these blessings are lost through wicked works or sins against conscience. “If you live according to the sinful nature, you will die” (Romans 8:13).
7, That we may avoid present and eternal punishments, because God regularly punishes wicked works also in this life: “If I sinned, you would be watching me and would not let my offense go unpunished” (Job 10:14).
8, That we may attain spiritual and physical rewards, both present and eternal. “Godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8).
Whether baking bread or making music; whether preaching the gospel or putting good preaching into practice with good deeds, shoulder whatever burden you might bear today and be yoked together with Jesus our Savior. His blessings are granted freely and without cost to everyone who trusts in him. And his love endures forever.
Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, New Ulm, Minnesota
God’s Word for You – 1 Chronicles 9:28-33 Good works