This is how Aaron’s descendants, the priests, were divided into groups for service. The sons of Aaron were Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. But Nadab and Abihu died before their father, and they had no sons. So only Eleazar and Ithamar were left to carry on as priests.
With the help of Zadok, who was a descendant of Eleazar, and of Ahimelech, who was a descendant of Ithamar, David divided Aaron’s descendants into groups according to their various duties. Eleazar’s descendants were divided into sixteen groups and Ithamar’s into eight, for there were more family leaders among the descendants of Eleazar.
(1 Chronicles 24:1-4)
The Ahimelech mentioned in this passage was the son of Abiathar and the grandson of another Ahimelech, one of the priests massacred by Saul (1 Samuel 22:11-18). Abiathar and Zadok were co-high priests under David: one was at Jerusalem where the Ark of God was kept, and one was at Gibeon serving at the Tabernacle. Ahimelech began to assume some of Abiathar’s duties as his father grew old (see also 1 Chronicles 18:16).
Eleazar’s descendants were divided into sixteen groups (as opposed to Ithamar’s eight) for three reasons. (1) Eleazar had received the birthright since his two older brothers, Nadab and Abihu, had been killed (Leviticus 10). The birthright included a double portion of the father’s estate. (2) His descendants were greater in number than Ithamar’s. (3) His descendants had greater leadership ability. These twenty-four groups gave order to the functioning of the Temple. Each group of priests served two-week shifts each year at the Temple. The rest of the time they served in their hometowns. This system was still in place in Jesus’ day (Luke 1:5-9).
The Temple service was highly structured, but this did not hinder the Spirit of God. Rather, it provided an orderly context for worship (see also 1 Corinthians 14:40).
Ever feel that planning and structure are unspiritual activities that hinder spontaneity in worship? Order and structure can free us to respond to God. Order brings glory to God as we experience the joy, freedom, and calm that come when we have wisely prepared in advance. How has order in worship aided your worship experience? You might drop your ministry staff a note affirming the ways your church services helped you meet God.