Recognized to Serve

Sep 8, 2015   //   by James Johnson   //   Blog  //  No Comments

Recognized to ServeThere’s an interesting juxtaposition between what we think of recognition as being, and what the Bible shows recognition as being.

What do you think of when you hear the word “recognition”? Awards? Being seen as the best at something? Someone knowing who you are? Being recognized as the biggest giver in a philanthropic project, perhaps?

Go to some churches and you’ll see people recognized in a variety of ways. The bricks outside may have the names of donors etched into them. A plaque may recognize someone for the contributions they have made in time and service and finances to the church. You might even name a room after someone. Anyone who has ever read Mike Yaconelli’s works, or have been a part of the Youth Specialties scene very long… you know what “Jones Memorial Carpet” means (and heaven forbid you spill anything on it)!

Yet when we look at recognition, from a biblical position, everything should change. Numbers 8 is a picture of recognition.

Not to skip over it, the first part speaks of the command to have the light from the Lampstand in the Tent of Meeting to be cast in front of it. This light illuminated the Table of Shewbread, representing God’s great provision. The light of God shows God’s provision, and always is cast forward, illuminating us in the present, even showing us what is to come. This light represents the Holy Spirit, a light that reveals what is really going on in our hearts.

Then comes the ceremonial recognition of the Levites, who would work in the Tent of Meeting. I found it interesting that it was not just a few who placed hands on them, but the whole community, recognizing their role as mediators of God’s justice and grace, righteousness and reconciliation between the community and holy God. These men were substitutes for the firstborn males from all of Israel. In Egypt, God “took” them, either in death (to those who refused the blood of the lamb on the doorpost) or in life (the blood of the lamb being their substitutionary atonement). In the wilderness, the Levites were the “stand-ins” for the rest of Israel, and they were recognized for this. They especially belonged to God, set aside to serve Him. They were to have families, then spend arguably their best years as priests of service.

That’s the thing. What do you seek recognition for? What do any of us seek recognition for? Biblically, at least in this case, people are recognized for service. Just thinking about it, I can’t think of many positive associations made in the Bible with people who sought to be recognized. Nebuchadnezzar sought it… and wound up mooing and eating grass for awhile (see Daniel 4). Solomon sought it, and the kingdom split into two after his death, and he seemed to live out many of his years totally messing up (as he messed around), and if you read some of his writings, I think it’s safe to say he was depressed much of the time.

The Bible heroes I think of, for the most part, weren’t looking to be recognized. Theyserved God, and are recognized for their service.

So what about now?

  • In your home, do you seek recognition as the leader of your home, or do you look for ways to serve your spouse and/or your children?
  • In your neighborhood, would you rather be recognized as the owner of the most pristine house and lawn, or the one that goes out of the way to do something nice… dropping off a little bag of cookies or bread, or randomly mowing someone’s lawn, or taking the time to have a conversation with the little old lady across the street who is, frankly, lonely?
  • In your church, how do you feel about recognition as a leader? Is it your right to tell someone what to do, or to listen? To serve? Are you OK with taking hits for the gospel? For sticking with the mission even when others think it’s time to change course? Or to make changes when needed and avoiding unneeded stubbornness?
Sometimes we get burned for serving. At work, many of us are almost expected to step on others to get where we want to be (an unfortunate side-effect of capitalism and free-market enterprise, and a human nature that manifests itself in other forms of society too). Yet the way of Jesus, the way of God’s society dating back to the days of Numbers, is to serve. To be a “priest” that seeks the justice and grace of God to share with others.
What would you like to be recognized for?

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