In Numbers 4, Yahweh tells Moses that the sons of Kohath – in Levi’s tribe – were to help with the putting up and taking down of the tabernacle. The Lord gives Moses quite a few details about how the sons of Kohath are to do their task. It’s not up for a vote and it’s not a minor issue how these men would handle the holy things of God. In fact, the sons of Kohath were not permitted to touch the holy things upon the pain of death (4:15). Iain Duguid explains this well in his commentary on Numbers 4:
The purpose of all of these detailed instructions for the Levites was declared in Numbers 4:19: “that they may live and not die when they come near to the most holy things.” In fact, this was the purpose behind all of the extensive ordering of the camp of Israel in Numbers 1–4. The people were being carefully arranged so that God could dwell in their midst as a blessing to them and not as a curse. As long as Moses and the people followed these instructions carefully, the result would be blessing and life. …In his Word [God] has given us an abundance of guidance that is clear, straightforward, and direct.
I also appreciate Duguid’s application of this passage and God’s laws found in the passage. He said that God’s law is in some ways a good thing for us, like a gift – it guides us in life:
Do we appreciate the magnitude of that gift? The psalmist said, “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation.… How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way” (Psalm 119:97–99, 103, 104). Is that the attitude you and I have toward God’s Law? Do we love it and give him thanks that he has given us such an abundance of detailed instruction? Or do we think to ourselves that we know what to do in our situation better than he does?
One reason why we don’t love God’s Law is because we have forgotten God’s transcendence. Why is it that teenagers in particular have a hard time obeying their parents’ instructions? It is because they are at an age when they don’t really believe their parents are smarter than they are. At five years old you think your parents know everything; at fifteen you think they know nothing at all. Then you are amazed at how rapid their learning curve is as you enter your twenties and thirties! You once again start to respect their wisdom and seek out their insight. In the same way, if we truly grasp the fact that God is vastly higher, holier, and wiser than we are, we will love his law and cherish his detailed instructions for life. His wisdom is so profound; how could I ever imagine that I know better than he does? How could I second-guess his providence and the paths he leads me down? They are not necessarily the paths I would have chosen, but is that surprising? On the contrary, if I remember that his thoughts are as high above mine as the heavens are above the earth, I would expect that to be the case. It would have been easy for the Gershonites to resent the privilege given to the clan of Kohath to carry the most holy things, unless they remembered who it was who gave the orders. Why should Kohath have top place and not Gershon? God knows the reason, and that is enough: we don’t necessarily need to know.
…At the same time, though, to love God’s Law you not only need to remember his transcendence, you also need to remember his immanence. There is another reason why teenagers find it hard to obey their parents’ instructions, isn’t there? It is because they think their parents cannot identify with them in their situation. To a teenager, their parents naturally seem old and out-of-touch. “You just don’t understand” comes the cry, along with the expressive rolling of eyeballs. So too, if we only remember Godtranscendence, we may be tempted to think that he is out-of-touch with our situation. “He doesn’t understand what I’m going through,” we say to ourselves, excusing our sin. The God of the Bible, though, is not merely transcendent, he is immanent. He is with us in the midst of our situation. He knows what we wrestle with and sees our struggles. His law is not imposed upon us arbitrarily from a great height but is shaped to meet the needs of the creatures whom he made and whom he loves. There is therefore no cause for you to roll your eyes at God and think that he is out-of-touch with you. On the contrary, he knows your sorrows and your griefs. His law is wise and good not just for mankind in general but for you in particular. In some profound way, each clan’s burden was right for them, whether it was large or small. So too the personal burdens that you carry through life come to you by God’s assignment, and they are therefore in a profound way “right” for you. These are the good works that God has prepared in advance for you to do (Ephesians 2:10).
Hammond, WI, 54015