I tried Googling it. That’s not really serious research, but it’s worth a shot when you don’t think you can do the math yourself. The math in question? How much did the tabernacle in the wilderness weigh? The whole thing? The curtains and their posts which formed the walls of the outer courts? The laver? The altar? The curtains and covering for the tabernacle? All the gold-fashioned furniture of the holy place? The ark of the covenant and mercy seat? Add up the weight of all the materials, and how much did it weigh?
A quick scan through the search results didn’t give me a definitive answer. But what I did see in a number of the hits was the word “tons.” So, I’m thinking when moving the tabernacle through the wilderness those Levites charged with moving it were transporting tons of materials. That’s the assumption. That’s what I’m going with.
So, as I’m reading Numbers 7, I’m guessing when the sons of Gershon (who were to carry all the curtains and coverings), and the sons of Merari (who were to carry all the bars, pillars, and bases for the curtains and coverings as well as the equipment and accessories used in the tabernacle), and the sons of Kohath (who were to carry all the furniture from inside the tabernacle) saw the chiefs of Israel roll up with 6 hefty wagons and 12 power-pulling oxen, they were all pretty relieved and thankful.
First, Moses calls forward the sons of Gershon and gives them two wagons and four oxen to pull them. And then he turns to the sons of Merari and gives them the remaining four wagons and eight oxen. And at that moment, as they look at one another, for the sons of Kohath it becomes real — like really real! The theory they had been taught back in Numbers 4 becomes the reality of Numbers 7.
But to the sons of Kohath [Moses] gave none, because they were charged with the service of the holy things that had to be carried on the shoulder.
(Numbers 7:9 ESV)
Carried on the shoulder. That’s what I’m chewing on this morning.
The weight of the holy things from the holy place, when transported, was not to be loaded up on some wooden carts and hauled through the desert by some beasts of burden. No, when the holy things were moved, they were to be carried on the shoulder of the sons of men.
Now, when compared to the holy God of heaven, there might not seem to be a lot of difference between wooden carts, dumb animals, and sin-infected men. But among those three, only one was created in the image of God. Only one bears the DNA, physical and spiritual, of what God intended for those who He would have walked with in the garden. So only one would be set apart to bear the weight of holiness on their shoulders. Tons of weight, I’m thinking. What a burden!
Yet, what a privilege! To carry on their shoulders the vessels by which the holy God of heaven would reside in their midst, and through which the eternal God of heaven could be accessed by mere men. To be called to such a calling would be a call to a high, high calling. A great weight before God? To be sure. A great way to serve God? To be sure, even more.
Aren’t we called to something similar?
. . . but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
(1Peter 1:15-16 ESV)
It is not to inanimate objects or brainless beasts that God looks to cast His image, but upon men and women. Men and women created, and through rebirth re-created, to be like Himself for Himself. Men and women called to be holy for He is holy. Men and women who are to carry on their shoulder the holiness of God.
But though we’re not given vehicles to help transport such a weight, though no physical horsepower to pull such a heavy load, we have been yoked with the Son of God so that the weight of holiness is a burden we’re able to bear (Matt. 11:29-30). Christ living through us, by the ever-abiding presence of the Spirit of God living in us, so that those created in the image of God might live into the image of God. Being holy for He is holy.
The weight carried in the shadow of the cross. Ever accessible for those times when we stumble, for those things encountered which trip us up. An ever-present reminder that, though we seek to bear His holiness, the blood of Jesus is always sufficient to cleanse us from our sin.
Carried on the shoulder.
Something worth noodling on, I think.
By His grace. For His glory.