In the book of Numbers the Lord clearly specifies the ages of those who are to serve Him in the Tent of Meeting. “From thirty years old and upward even to fifty years old, all who enter into the service to perform the skilled work in the Tent of Meeting” (4:3). Even the Lord Jesus began His ministry when He was thirty (Luke 3:23). But the Levites were not inexperienced in the holy things of the Lord when they began to serve at thirty. Numbers 8:24-25 says, “This is what applies to the Levites: From twenty-five years old and upward they shall go in to perform the service in the work of the Tent of Meeting. And from the age of fifty years they shall retire from the service in the work and shall serve no more.” These verses show us that there was a time of apprenticeship for five years, from twenty-five to thirty. Since serving the Lord as a Levite was a serious matter, this time was surely necessary for the young Levites to learn how to do things properly.
This example has much application for our generation as we begin to enter into the “Levitical service” of the church life. We simply need to follow those who have gone before us in order to learn the proper way to bear the needs and responsibilities of the church. Then after such a time of training, we will be able to enter into this corporate service. What is most touching, however, in the spiritual application of these verses today is found in Numbers 8:26, “But they [those over fifty] may minister to their brothers in the Tent of Meeting, to keep the charge, but they themselves shall do no service.” Even though the older ones have “retired” from serving directly, their experience and guidance is all the more valuable for the younger saints to learn from in order to serve the Lord in the church in a proper way.
On a deeper level, there is a tremendous burden here as well. Those who are beyond “fifty years” today are those who stood with the Lord to establish His recovery in the churches. They, loving the Lord and being absolutely consecrated to Him, would gladly spend every ounce of their strength to continue in this practical service for the churches. But according to the principle in Numbers, there is the need for some younger ones to learn from them, and begin to bear the burden for this service, so that they can “retire from the service” and “minister to their brothers.” That is why it is so precious to be among young saints who are willing to give themselves to go through a period of apprenticeship, learn from the older saints, and begin to bear responsibility in the churches. May the Lord raise up our generation to carry on this holy service in all the churches for the building up of the Body of Christ!