Numbers 8:23-26 Retirement

Old age doesn’t mean and end to usefulness. Different roles but just as important.

God specified the age requirements for the Levites to be serving within the Tabernacle. From 25 to 50 they were required to wok.

We already looked at God’s call for the Levites to “come to do duty, to do services in the tent of meeting” (Numbers 4:3, 23, & 30). The wording is not exact in each of these three references but the intent is the same. God called Moses to number all the Levites from the three different lines who were between 30 and 50. These were the men who were to do duty, to serve in the tent of meetings.

In our reading today we are told that they had a more defined span of service. God called for the men between the ages of 25 to 50 to serve in the tent of meeting. After 50 they were allowed to do guard duty but not serve in the tent itself.

When I was comparing the two passages I started thinking about the age differences mentioned. I believe that this passage includes the “training years” for service. This first group was going to get “on the job training” with a crash course but later their replacements would be given time to learn their role at their elder’s side.

I’m curious why the short duration of service for the Levites. Moses was 80 years old when God called him. He served until he was around 120 years old. Aaron was Moses’ older brother so he was even older when he was put into service as Moses mouthpiece for God. Both men died during the wilderness journey but were MORE than the 50 year statute God imposed. Moses and Aaron also actively served for more than the 25 years of service specified for the other Levites.

In the New Testament Paul calls the older generation to be mentors for the younger ones. The older women are to teach younger women how to be good wives and mothers. The older men are to teach the younger ones to be good husbands and servants of God. Was this the same principle for the Levites in their service in the tent of meeting? It makes sense. But instead of continuing to teach by doing they taught by watching over the younger generation. They could stand guard but not serve after 50.

Maybe it had something to do with the physical efforts needed for this service. Carrying the pieces of the Tabernacle and the furniture couldn’t have been an easy job. Also the work involved in the sacrifices had to be demanding physically; especially on holy days because of the sheer number of people needing served each day. Maybe this is why God set it up like He did. And make no mistake; HE set it up as a requirement to be followed.

In our world today there is no hard and fast “retirement age” for everyone. Some jobs have an age limit while others don’t. With Social Security in the United States there are two dates that are constantly moving further away as the population continues to work beyond “retirement age” and living longer. But even reaching retirement age with this agency doesn’t mean that the person has to or even can stop working. Many people continue working many years beyond this date because they cannot afford to retire. The “benefits” received don’t cover the cost of living. (I’m not going to get on my soap box here and talk about the “benefits” no matter how tempted I am.)

I wonder what age the Levites had to stop “keeping guard” for their brothers? Was this a job they could keep until they no longer could rise in the morning or was there a retirement age there too? I know that being in the house of the Lord every day would be one place I would want to enjoy for as long as possible, even if it was just watching others serving Him with all their might. But then again, I would probably get frustrated with those who weren’t treating their service with the respect it deserved. “Too many cooks” and all.

Father God, what do You want me to do with my life as I age out of physical service? Do You have a retirement age in mind for me? The way my life is going I won’t retire until my husband goes to be with You and that’s fine with me. I like my “job” of caring for him, most of the time. And when I don’t really like it You remind me of how fortunate I am to have this job and to have him. Thanks for those reminders.

As for “training the next generation”, I pray I made a positive impact on my children. Thank You for letting me be there to help them now and to give them advice when called upon. Help me know when to step in and when to stand silently by as they make their own directions. Let me be a place that they feel free and able to turn in any situation. I need Your wisdom still as their parent, parent in law, step parent, and friend. Be my source so I have enough for them and my husband. Help him with his jealousy when my time is taken by their needs. Help me include him in those times as much as he can tolerate. And watch over my patience when all the different needs conflict. Give me the ability to continue taking on the added responsibilities my mother in law needs. Help her feel confident that she can come to me and receive all she needs without fear of being a “burden.” Show me how to support her without stepping on her independence. I guess I’m not going to be “retiring” any time soon!

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