LESSON 2 *October 3 - 9
Preparing a People
Lesson graphic

Read for This Week's Study:

Numbers 5, 6; Ezek. 33:15; Luke 19:8, 9; Acts 17:28; 1 Cor. 6:19, 20.

Memory Text:

"Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth" (3 John 2).

      Unless you have been a refugee, you're probably not going to relate completely to the situation of the children of Israel. Of course, unlike many refugees today, the children of Israel wanted to leave Egypt, as opposed to being driven out. Yet still, it must have been disconcerting to have left the only land they knew and to be wandering in a hostile desert.

It's in this context that we can better understand some of the rules and regulations given to this people, rules that would help them survive in the wilderness. At the same time, though some things were ended after they finally entered the Promised Land (such as the manna), many regulations remained because in them were principles that, if followed, would have greatly blessed their lives in a world filled with sin and idolatry.

This week we'll look at some of the provisions that the Lord instituted for His ancient people, which includes such things as how to deal with some sickness and disease, how to deal with marital infidelity (or the fear of it), and how to deal with the personal clashes that inevitably arise when people live together.  

*Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, October 10.

SUNDAY October 4

Disease Control

Imagine the scene of ancient Israel in the wilderness desert before Mount Sinai. Thousands upon thousands of nomads with their cattle, miles away from any kind of civilization. What kind of medical facilities did they have at their disposal? None. And considering how medicine often was practiced back then, they might have been better off anyway. Nevertheless, in such an environment, how easily an epidemic of one sort or another could spread.

What three classes of people did the Lord command Moses to "put out of the encampment"? Num. 5:1-4. 

Apparently anyone with a serious skin disease might be designated a leper. True leprosy (now called Hansen's disease) also was included in this class. Any infectious skin disease would be regarded as a danger to the community. So, also a bloody flux or discharge, or the handling of a decaying corpse in the desert heat, might spread disease of epidemic proportions through the camp. Both men and women were expelled until, if possible, they improved in health. The Lord didn't hate these physically-impaired persons, but for the sake of the health of the nation, He separated them to an area outside the camp, a kind of quarantine. Even in modern times we have special wards in hospitals for persons with infectious diseases.

For what theological reason were these impaired persons removed for a time from the nation's encampment? Num. 5:3, last phrase. What spiritual message can we take away from this for ourselves?  

Look at this whole thing from a spiritual perspective, from the idea of defilement, of sin, and of what sin does to us. What believer hasn't experienced the reality of how sin separates a person from the sense of God's presence? Who hasn't experienced the sense of spiritual isolation that comes from being defiled before God?
What things are we watching, reading, eating, doing, or even thinking that make us feel as if we are exiled spiritually out of the camp? More important, what's the only solution to this problem? 1 John 1:8, 9.  

MONDAY October 5

Social Control

It is difficult for us today to grasp the enormous problems entailed in the migration of thousands of people together with herds and flocks of cattle and sheep. Now they are packed into the wilderness before Mount Sinai. The physically impaired had been removed for the sake of the nation's health. But another serious problem needed to be addressed. Although they were being instructed to "love" one another (Lev. 19:18), as anyone who lives in a community knows, that's not always so easy. Even in the best of times, conflicts arise.

When an Israelite sinned against a person in the camp, whom did they really sin against? Num. 5:6; see also Ps. 51:3, 4. How do we understand this concept?  

To wrong our neighbor is to sin against God Himself. In one sense this shouldn't be that hard to understand. We all belong to God; we are all His property, both by creation and redemption (1 Cor. 6:19, 20; Acts 17:28). If someone were to come onto your property and damage it, the sin wouldn't be just against the property itself as much as against you, the one who owns it. It works the same way when we sin against someone else; we are sinning against the One who created that person and who, at the cross, bought that person back with His own blood. No wonder, then, that the Bible expresses this idea that by sinning against others we are sinning against God Himself.

What was the guilty person to do? Num. 5:6-8; see also Ezek. 33:15 and Luke 19:8, 9.  

Though the principle of righting wrongs with other people still applies today, how do we right the wrong we have done to God, against whom we've sinned, as well? The fact is, we can't. It's way too late for us to make ourselves right with God. That's, of course, why Jesus came: to set us right with God, not through anything we could do, but only through what Jesus has done for us (Col. 1:20).
Keeping in mind what Jesus has done to make things right between you and God, what do you need to do to make things right with someone whom you might be in conflict with?  

TUESDAY October 6

Marital Fidelity

The Creator established the marriage bond in Eden by creating humankind in two sexes and celebrating the first union (Gen. 1:26-28, 2:21-24). Two precepts of the Decalogue, the seventh and the tenth, protected the institution of marriage. In the theocracy, infidelity was punishable by the death of both parties (Lev. 20:10).

Read Numbers 5:11-31. How are we to understand this today?  

The Lord, obviously, wanted to stress how seriously He took the whole question of marital infidelity, which is by far the greatest threat to family stability.

In this procedure, obviously which included a supernatural element-the focus was on the drink. The water was holy; so was the ground from which the priest took a pinch of dust. Holy water and dust didn't embitter the water; it simply underscored its holiness. The written judgments/curses that were washed off into the water symbolized its potential bitterness. "Everything depended on whether the woman was holy (guiltless) or unholy (guilty). If the holy met the unholy, judgment was inevitable. If the holy met the guiltless, harmony prevailed."—Raymond Brown, The Message of Numbers (Liecester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 2002), p. 46.

This procedure (strange to us) was not an instance of magic. Rather, it was a concrete visual aid that ex-slaves could grasp. It was not the water but the Lord who read the wife's heart, and who punished or cleared her.

How was this procedure also a protection for the woman, who could be the victim of a husband's unwarranted jealousy?  

However strange this whole thing seems to us today, the point it brings out is how important the marriage vow is in the eyes of God. Only God alone knows just how much pain, suffering, and damage has been caused by marital infidelity by one partner or another. What a tragedy that in so many societies marriage vows seem to hold about as much sanctity as a handshake.
What things can you do, what choices can you make, to enable you to have a pure heart?  


Consecrated Commoners

God purposed to organize Israel in the broadest sense to be for Him "a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation" (Exod. 19:6). They would thus witness to the nations far and near about the truths concerning the living God and the Creator of all things. However, at Sinai the Lord especially appointed priests and Levites to serve Him in connection with the sanctuary-tabernacle worship.

What vow could a commoner (woman or man) take to devote a specific period of time to the Lord? Num. 6:1-21. What spiritual lessons can we take from this for ourselves today, in the context of deepening our own spirituality and our commitment to the Lord?  

A Nazarite was a "consecrated one" who purposed to dedicate himself or herself to the Lord for a varying length of time. A parent could dedicate a child to be a lifetime Nazarite. For example, Samson's mother dedicated her son according to the instruction of an angel, with the intent that he would begin to deliver Israel from the Philistines (Judg. 13:2-5; 16:17). Likewise, the angel Gabriel instructed Zacharias to rear John (the Baptist) as a Nazarite for his service as the forerunner of the Messiah (Luke 1:15). Hannah also vowed Samuel to be a lifelong Nazarite (1 Sam. 1:10, 11).

Interesting, too, is the injunction about drink. The vineyard, and its products of juice, wine, and grapes represented to the ancient mind a cultivated land of farms and homesteads. When the Nazarites wouldn't drink from the vineyard, they were expressing in a concrete way their belief that they were heading to a better land. The vineyard symbolized the settled life; the Nazarite, however, by the way he lived, showed in a concrete way a desire for "a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city" (Heb. 11:16).
How do we, as Adventists, live in anticipation of a better country, regardless of whatever country we are living in now? What are concrete ways that we can protect ourselves from getting so caught up with our vineyards here that we lose sight of our final destination?  

THURSDAY October 8

The Aaronic Prayer

"The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace" (Num. 6:24-26).

After reading carefully the above blessing, answer the following questions:  

There are several points of interest here. Each of the lines begins with God's personal, covenant name (Yahweh, Lord). The congregation addressed is in the singular number. That is, each person was talked to as an individual. Each person could know what the blessing meant personally, individually. That is, no matter how much of a community Israel was, each one could have a personal relationship with the Lord.

Israel had no Scriptures at this time. The Lord's blessings would be seen in their deliverance from slavery, the crossing of the Red Sea, and the provisions made for their food and water. His keeping power would have been seen by His presence in the sanctuary, whose ritual—burnt offering, incense, and menorah—always were burning day and night.

Here is clear evidence that Old Testament religion was all of grace (Gal. 3:7-14; Heb. 4:l, 2). The third line assures the believer of God's smile and peace (see Matt. 11:28-30).

How have you experienced the blessings listed above in your own life? What things might you be doing that are making it difficult to see these things realized in your walk with God? What changes, no matter how painful, must you make?  

FRIDAY October 9

Further Study:  
  "Consecrate yourself to God in the morning; make this your very first work. Let your prayer be, 'Take me, O Lord, as wholly Thine. I lay all my plans at Thy feet. Use me today in Thy service. Abide with me, and let all my work be wrought in Thee.' This is a daily matter. Each morning consecrate yourself to God for that day. Surrender all your plans to Him, to be carried out or given up as His providence shall indicate. Thus day by day you may be giving your life into the hands of God, and thus your life will be molded more and more after the life of Christ."—Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, p. 70.

"Circumstances may separate friends; the restless waters of the wide sea may roll between us and them. But no circumstances, no distance, can separate us from the Saviour. Wherever we may be, He is at our right hand, to support, maintain, uphold, and cheer. Greater than the love of a mother for her child is Christ's love for His redeemed. It is our privilege to rest in His love, to say, 'I will trust Him; for He gave His life for me.' "—Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing, p. 72.   

Discussion Questions:
     Though we all know the dangers of getting too caught up in the things of this world, and losing sight of our real home, is it possible to be so wrapped up in our desire for heaven that we shirk our responsibilities here? If so, how? How can we strike the right balance in this important topic? What examples can you think of in which people have gone too far in their anticipation of heaven at the expense of their responsibilities here?  

   What are some of the stresses and strains that your particular society places on marriage? How can your church, in that society, deal with these challenges in a way that protects the God-given sanctity of marriage?  

   In class, talk about situations in which you were wrong, or wronged someone else, and how you were able to resolve the problems. What lessons did you learn from these experiences? How do you deal with situations in which it appears the wrongs are all but unforgivable?  

  The Lord would have His people happy and at peace. Physical and spiritual wholeness are obtained by loving obedience to His laws of life, kind relationships with spouse and neighbors, and daily consecration of the will to the Father. This doesn't mean that life is always easy in this sin-cursed earth, but it can be improved greatly if we seek to walk in His paths.   

I N S I D E Story    
Mad Man Goes to Church


God has a thousand ways to lead someone to Jesus. I know because He used several ways to lead me to Him.

Like most people in Japan, I was not a Christian. In university my shorthand teacher encouraged us to attend lectures and take shorthand notes to practice. So when I saw an advertisement about a seminar in town, I decided to go. I didn't know that the meetings were religious meetings. I simply sat down and waited for the speaker to begin.

I found the lectures interesting and attended every night. After all, it was homework. When a girl my age asked if I would like to study the Bible, I agreed. As I studied the Voice of Prophecy correspondence course I became convinced that God exists and that He loves me and wants a relationship with me. The Bible course led me to the Adventist church, and I was baptized.

It was easy to be a Christian in church, but outside of church I had problems and began to doubt whether I really was a Christian. Eventually I stopped attending church, but I never stopped believing in God.

After university I found a job. A colleague, a young man, visited my home and saw the Voice of Prophecy course on my bookshelf. He looked through the lessons and asked if what they said was true. I assured him that it was true, and he asked if he could study the Bible lessons. I offered to take him to evangelistic meetings, and because he wanted to attend all of them, I felt obligated to go as well. Once more I was grounded in my faith. My friend asked to be baptized.

I attended the church because my friend wanted to go. We found the young people's class enjoyable. As we grew in faith, we also discovered we were more than friends. Eventually we married.

My husband was active in the church in addition to his heavy work schedule. One day he suddenly became seriously ill and was rushed to the hospital. I rushed to the hospital, praying all the way that he would be alive when I arrived. He was, but the doctors said he was critically ill.

During the next few weeks I prayed constantly for him. Prayer strengthened my faith and expanded to include family, friends, and colleagues. I realized how fragile life is, and daily I committed my life and my family to God.

I realize that God turned my husband's illness into a blessing. We have learned that our lives are in God's hands. Now we host a small-group meeting in our home where others can learn God's precious message of love. Thank you for giving your mission offerings so that people such as we can experience and share God's love.

SUMIKO SAKAMOTO lives in Osaka, Japan.
Produced by the General Conference Office of Adventist Mission.
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