Just a few blocks away from all of the turmoil and panic of the NY Stock Exchange sits the world’s largest stockpile of gold. Deep under the streets of Manhattan sits more gold than is even housed in the impressive confines of Fort Knox. Five stories underground, nearly 30 feet below the NYC subway system, the vault at the Federal Reserve of New York houses more than $200 billion in gold. The gold stored underground in this vault accounts for more than twenty-five percent of the world’s gold reserves.
The security is impressive, to say the least. Armed guards from the Fed’s security force circle the surrounding blocks with large, imposing automatic weapons. The gold vault– about half the size of a football field– was built and lowered into New York’s bedrock in 1921 before the building was completed in 1924. Solid rock surrounds it on all sides. There is only one way in or out– through a narrow, 10-foot passageway cut into a 90-ton steel cylinder that sits within a giant steel-and-concrete frame. The cylinder can actually be lowered three-eighths of an inch to create an airtight and watertight seal. Large bolts then get inserted into the cylinder, locking it into place. Timers prevent it from being opened again until the next business day. On top of all of that, the vault is maintained solely through the use of robotics, which rarely makes it possible for a human to access the trove of riches stored within (nyc-architecture.com).
It goes without saying that the heavy security is in place to prevent a stockpile that is probably more valuable than any other vault in the entire world. While none of us know of the type of security like what is at the Federal Reserve in New York, we all live by the idea that what we value most is what we guard with the highest security. Most families have some sort of place where they store important documents– whether it be a drawer safe or under your bed. All of us lock our homes when we leave, knowing that theft is always a possibility and that our locked door is the easiest way to secure our safe place. If you think about it, security is one of the first things we think about whenever we buy something; we want the keys to our car, the case for our phone, the insurance for our new gadget, or the combo to the safe we use for storage at work.
Just as security is our first thought when buying something new, it was also one of God’s first priorities with this new nation, Israel, that had recently been delivered from slavery to Egypt.
The first 46 verses of Numbers chapter 1 are often skimmed over, but they describe an essential part of Israel’s beginning as a nation. God commanded Moses and Aaron to visit the tribes of Israel and obtain a head count of all of the men over 20 years old that would be capable of fighting in the military. In turn, Moses and Aaron gathered all of the tribes together and counted the men, family by family, that would make up their military. After all of the counting was finished, Moses and Aaron totaled 603,550 men that would be eligible to fight in Israel’s military.
While this number seems large, it was hardly an impressive fighting force compared to other nations at the time. Israel would discover that they would be largely outnumbered, in a worldly sense, in many of their battles on the way to conquering the Promised Land.
You would think, with an already small military presence, that God would have made sure that every healthy young man in Israel was drafted to military– but that wasn’t the case. The last part of Numbers 1 records that God had set apart one tribe for another type of national security.
God set apart the Levites from military service to dedicate themselves to protecting Israel’s worship. God had just given Israel hundreds of laws about every detail of their worship: the construction of the Tabernacle and each vessel within, the proper procedure for each ceremonial cleansing and sacrifice, and even some instructions on how the Tabernacle should be transported to each place that they camped out. It was the job of the Levites to make sure no foreigner tried to enter the Tabernacle. It was their job to ensure that each sacrifice was carried out perfectly, to bring honor and glory to God. It was their sacred duty to make sure that the general populous of Israel didn’t put their own “spin” on their worship to God.
Why did God deliberately shrink His military force, a move that would have been very strange to every surrounding nation? God recognized that Israel’s greatest threat to their stability as a nation was not a compromise of physical security; their greatest threat was a compromise of their worship. Israel not only needed security to protect themselves from the enemy without, they needed some boundaries that would protect them from the enemy within them that would tempt them to forsake their worship to God.
The world values the protecting of their physical resources, but Numbers 1 reveals that God places an even higher value on protecting our spiritual priorities.
Just like anyone else, I find it natural to protect the physical resources God has given to me. You don’t have to remind me to purchase insurance on my expensive gadgets, nor will you find my house unlocked after I leave. I’m very dogmatic about protecting my physical resources because I don’t want to pay the high cost associated with replacing them! The last thing I want to do is purchase another phone or another camera because I wasn’t wise enough to protect the first one God gave to me.
Guarding physical resources is not a bad thing, but I wonder how often we protect our wealth, but give no thought to protecting our worship? Is it possible that we can be diligent in guarding our 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. work hours, while doing very little to protect our worship hour that we should have every day? How often have you found yourself setting aside money to purchase a physical resource, but having no system in place to set apart and protect that portion of your income that should be reserved for an offering of worship? How many times have you compromised on a Spirit-led standard when God gave you those for the specific purpose of protecting the way you worship Him?
You see, worship is not just something we do; it is an attitude that shows who we value. Worship isn’t just about what you do on a Sunday morning– your worship to God dictates how you represent Christ on Monday afternoon at your workplace. Our heart of worship, and the specific ways in which that worship is expressed, is something that God deems to be precious and worthy of guarding.
Interestingly enough, if you know Israel’s history, the destruction of their land and eventual captivity had very little to do with a military failure. The root cause of Israel’s temporary demise as a nation was due to their flippant attitude towards their worship– expressed by their worship of idols and ignoring of some of the Sabbath laws. Sometimes, I get so concerned about protecting my physical resources that I forget that there is nothing more disastrous than a failure to protect the worship of my heart. Ruined marriages and families, destroyed testimonies, and ineffective ministry always boil down to one problem: neglected worship.
For many of us, it might be time for a security update of another kind– a setting of boundaries that will keep our worship on track.