4 Then the Lord spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying, 2 “Take [a]a census of the [b]descendants of Kohath from among the sons of Levi, by their families, by their fathers’ households, 3 from thirty years and upward, even to fifty years old, all who enter the service to do the work in the tent of meeting. 4 This is the work of the [c]descendants of Kohath in the tent of meeting, concerning the most holy things.
5 “When the camp sets out, Aaron and his sons shall go in and they shall take down the veil of the screen and cover the ark of the testimony with it; 6 and they shall lay a covering of porpoise skin on it, and shall spread over it a cloth of pure [d]blue, and shall insert its poles. 7 Over the table of the bread of the Presence they shall also spread a cloth of [e]blue and put on it the dishes and the pans and the sacrificial bowls and the jars for the drink offering, and the continual bread shall be on it.8 They shall spread over them a cloth of scarlet material, and cover the same with a covering of porpoise skin, and they shall insert its poles. 9 Then they shall take a [f]blue cloth and cover the lampstand for the light, along with its lamps and its snuffers, and its [g]trays and all its oil vessels, by which they serve it; 10 and they shall put it and all its utensils in a covering of porpoise skin, and shall put it on the carrying bars. 11 Over the golden altar they shall spread a [h]blue cloth and cover it with a covering of porpoise skin, and shall insert its poles; 12 and they shall take all the utensils of service, with which they serve in the sanctuary, and put them in a [i]blue cloth and cover them with a covering of porpoise skin, and put them on the carrying bars. 13 Then they shall take away the [j]ashes from the altar, and spread a purple cloth over it. 14 They shall also put on it all its utensils by which they serve in connection with it: the firepans, the forks and shovels and the basins, all the utensils of the altar; and they shall spread a cover of porpoise skin over it and insert its poles. 15 When Aaron and his sons have finished covering the holy objectsand all the furnishings of the sanctuary, when the camp is to set out, after that the sons of Kohath shall come to carry them, so that they will not touch the holy objectsand die. These are the [k]things in the tent of meeting which the sons of Kohath are to carry.
16 “The responsibility of Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest is the oil for the light and the fragrant incense and the continual grain offering and the anointing oil—the responsibility of all the [l]tabernacle and of all that is in it, with the sanctuary and its furnishings.”
17 Then the Lord spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying, 18 “Do not let the tribe of the families of the Kohathites be cut off from among the Levites. 19 But do this to them that they may live and not die when they approach the most holy objects: Aaron and his sons shall go in and assign each of them to his work and to his load;20 but they shall not go in to see the holy objects even for a moment, or they will die.”
I think it is a bit interesting that only those between the ages of thirty and fifty that were allowed to serve among the Kohathites. For one, they respected their elders much more in those days (or that is my impression). So once they were older, they were not expected to keep earning their keep. They had earned the right to rest a bit. Now, fifty may seem young, but keep in mind that the life expectancy back then was likely not nearly as long as today, although Moses certainly lived much longer.
Carrying the sacred objects during a long journey would have been an arduous task at any rate, and so God limits the task to those who would be well-equipped physically.
It is a sobering thought that those under thirty needed to be excluded from service, likely because of the huge responsibility, and the warning that comes at the end of the passage. If they even saw the holy objects, they would die, and it doesn’t seem God trusted them to take this seriously enough. They were certainly old enough to fight based on previous chapters, but not responsible enough yet to carry the most sacred objects from the tabernacle.
So first, we ought to be sure to take care of our Pastors while we have them, and look out for their retirement, not expecting them to serve until they fall over and die. While it isn’t necessary to force a Pastor into retirement, a minister should not feel compelled to work all his living days just because no church ever thought to take thought for his retirement.
Secondly, those of us in ministry should take our calling with great seriousness. Yes, God is fun, and enjoys a good laugh (with and at us I’m sure), but there is a gravity to being in ministry that should not be forsaken. It should show that you take your calling very seriously.