Numbers 4:29 & 31-32
“As for the sons of Merari, … this is what they are charged to carry, as the whole of their service of the tent of meeting: the frames of the tabernacle, with its bars, pillars, and bases, and the pillars around the court with their bases, pegs, and cords, with all their equipment and all their accessories.”
While the Kohathites are distinguished by their blue cloth, their cousins, the Merarites, are distinguished by their blue collars, but both are equally significant in this priestly brotherhood. One handles the most holy instruments of theophany, facing the painstaking labor of safely packaging and transporting the more delicate sacramental items, while the other does the heavy lifting. But just think: if every Levite only pined to perform the most sacred arts, if every hand only lit the candles and polished the tables and oiled the instruments, if no one devoted himself to the more utilitarian task of setting the poles and frames in place, then the entire tent of meeting operation would drift away like a kite in the breeze.
I appreciate the way my father has so often taken time in the middle of a sermon to recognize the Merarites in our church that keep the diverse ministries aloft. Applauding the nursery workers who give up two hours on a Sunday morning to hold crying infants so that parents can worship unincumbered, and the behind-the-scenes people who come early to make coffee and breakfast for visitors, and servants who place hundreds of chairs on the gym floor before services, and volunteer sound technicians who set up microphones and cords and speakers and stand quietly in the back to make sure the Word of God gets heard.
It strikes me that the tribe of the Kohathites should be the most enthusiastic champions of the tribe of Merari because they understand most profoundly the impact of such nitty-gritty, often mundane labors of love. And likewise, the Merarites should be the loudest champions of the Kohathites, seeing clearly that the precious work of sacramental ministry is what the pillars and rods are for. Which provides a convicting resolution for us today: let’s go out of our way to praise those who partner with us to make our work meaningful, recognizing that we are all partnering with our blue cloth and blue collar Shepherd in Whose hands and on Whose shoulders we’re being carried even now!