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Thursday: Priests and Levites as Part of Worship — 18 Comments

  1. The book of Nehemiah is an interesting insight into organisation and structure. Of course we are talking about an ancient structure that compared to today was quite small. One of the key features of Isreal's organisation was the setting aside of a the Levites as the priests/temple workers/government clerks etc. They were asked to do these tasks based on descendency. I am not sure how this worked out in reality, although there is ample evidence that the Israelites were pretty good at keeping genealogies. (Just look how much space in the Bible is devoted to them)

    While our church organisation is quite different (although I can see some Adventist families featuring quite strongly in administration over several generations now) the principles of organisation and structure remain the same. Namely if you want to accomplish goals you need to work together and that requires cooperation and support, The post-exilic Israelites had their issues but they were fortunate to have strong leadership and were capable of working together. But they were not perfect either and needed reminders of their responsiblities.

    As has been evidenced in recent years, the Seventh-day Adventist Church organisation and structure has been challenged and attempts have been made to ensure unity and support. Unfortunately some have been hoping for a quick fix, by vote or edict. Just is with the post-exilic Jews we need to accept that structure and organisation need to be worked on supported and renewed if it is going to continue into the future.

    Back in the 1960s the NSW government supported the building of the Sydney Opera House. It took a lot of work, money and controversy before it was finally complete. It became the iconic building for Sydney. But for such a building to remain iconic it must be maintained and renewed. The Sydney Opera House is now undergoing a refurbishment program that is costing much more than the original building, so that Sydney can keep its iconic building functional and aesthetically appealing.

    We should think about that need for renewal in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. We may only be individuals, but part of our spiritual journey involves the support and cooperation of our church organisation, because only by working together can we achieve the spiritual renewal needed for our goal of witnessing to the love of Jesus.

  2. Worship is not complete without organized leaders leading out the congregation.
    Remember book of Haggai
    You have neglected the house of God.
    You have tried to self serve where has that gotten you.
    You are working three jobs to provide for your family, yet at the end of the day you are always coming short.

    Now I ask you change your priority and rebuild My temple.
    These curses are placed upon you because of you have disregarded My house.

    Now the temple had been rebuilt. The people have rebuilt the wall.
    The book of the law had been read to the people and understanding of the law had been given to the people.
    People have reacted by repenting and worshiping the Lord.
    When they turned back to the Lord, the Lord who had never left them embraced them and blessed them.
    The first three things mentioned in Nehemiah chapter 12:44 is offerings, the firstfruits, and the tithes.
    They were able to return faithful tithe, offering and first fruits because they have experienced the blessings of the Lord.
    It may seem impossible to meet the needs of the family and pay tithe, offering and support the people in need around you.
    When we return unto the Lord, He will return unto us in immeasurable way.

    • Well, the temple and its worship was rebuilt even with "A curse and an oath," but God's people still rejected Jesus when He came. The Apostle Paul in Hebrews 10:19,20 is clear about how we are to enter heaven. Boldly and by the blood of Jesus and also via His Flesh. This was the Apostle Paul's counsel to believers of his day 2,000 plus or minus years ago. But how could the Apostle Paul be doing this then when according to "Our Sanctuary Doctrine" Jesus was not there until 1844?

  3. Structure and organization: I found it interesting that the process was read the Word of the LORD and those educated in the Word explained it to the people, and they accepted and rejoiced and dedicated themselves to the LORD.
    As Maurice said only the Levite's were allowed to do all the work involved in the temple service and only Aaron's descendants were priests. Why was the LORD so exclusive? It goes back to Mt Sinai, when Moses came down and found the people worshipping the golden calf and Moses said whoever is on the LORD's side come to me and only the Levite's responded.
    Two things I learned from this:
    1) those who responded to the LORD's call are the ones who are appointed to serve Him
    2) those who were educated in the LORD's Word explained it to the people and they accepted it

    My concern is at gatherings members who have not taken the time to do in depth study of the Word and His prophet are allowed to vote on an issue and then the result is imposed on all members.

  4. I can see that tithing was essential for the priest hood before Christ. So the sanctuary services can continue for the forgiving of sins. But now Jesus who is our ultimate high priest does not need our tithes for his self keep. But we give our free will offerings for the ministry we support. Not to pay for the lively hood of pastors who can and should work for their living just like Paul did as a tent maker.

    • Stephen, I see no Biblical evidence that the tithe system was done away with. To the contrary:

      “Don’t you realize that those who work in the temple get their meals from the offerings brought to the temple? And those who serve at the altar get a share of the sacrificial offerings. In the same way, the Lord ordered that those who preach the Good News should be supported by those who benefit from it.”
      ‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭9:13-14‬ ‭NLT‬‬

      • Dear William, I agree that supporting the ministry is essential so the gospel can be know throughout the whole world only then shall the end come. But there is no transfer of paying tithes from the sanctuary priests to the pastors of today. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 9 6 & 7 - The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully[d] will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
        I believe we should give offerings based on a willing heart which can be way in excess of 10%. Let giving to God not be a burden but a blessing. God bless.

        • Hi Stephen, it always could be way in excess of 10%. In Matthew 23 Jesus says we should pay tithe as well as being merciful. I see no place where Jesus discontinues tithing. As far as priests or pastors in my humble opinion that is just splitting hairs. I once heard a lady tell me that Jesus did not go to church on Sabbath he went to a synagogue. That is just splitting hairs again same difference. So to me making a distinction between church or synagogue or priest or pastor is meaningless. Same principle applies. Blessings!

          • Dear William, I appreciate your reply, when reading Matthew 23 I see that in contents Jesus was addressing the scribes and pharisees who at the time where obeying the command to pay tithes to the priests of the earthly temple, but completely missed the command to care for the needy. For us today this applies to us in way of giving unto God and to those in need through our offerings. We may differ, but should avoid forcing people to pay 10% as if it is a command which it is not. God bless.

            • Dear Stephen, again I see no difference between priest and pastor or Church and temple. I guess we will just have to agree to disagree. Of course no one should be "forced" to give 10% or anything for that matter. Forcing people to give a certain amount to a certain place is one of the papal errors of the dark ages. Force is never right in any situation. Love does not force.

        • Stephen, it is true that any "forced" giving is utterly worthless. But then I don't see anyone "forcing" anyone else to return a tithe to God.

          Because there is no direct commandment to return a tithe in the New Testament, the pioneers of the Seventh-day Adventist Church struggled to find a way to support the ministry once they realized that organization and regular pastors were needed. It seemed that depending on people's feelings of generosity at any given time wasn't doing the job. Thus, after studying the Bible a bit more, they decided that God's way of supporting the sanctuary services and the Levites was a pretty good way to support the modern ministry. And the rest is history - as in a rapidly growing church.

          You suggest that ministers ought to work for their living as Paul did, but Paul didn't seem to think so, as is evident in his counsel to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 9:13-15) Paul was also in a special position as a single itinerant pastor evangelist, and there are still some who do the same today in special circumstances.

          We do have the example of other churches who do not use the tithing system to support their pastors who are expected to work part-time, with supplemental income from parishioners, as the spirit (feelings) moves them. And it is no wonder that such pastors are often tempted to preach pleasing sermons so that they will get more financial support. Realistically, they also do not have the time for deep study and visitation, if they are forced to work at another job for living. By contrast, Seventh-day Adventist pastors are not dependent on local church support for their income. Thus they are free to preach even "hard" messages.

          I believe our system of supporting the ministry is about as good as it gets. I also believe that it is fair to judge people's commitment to the church by their giving practices. (Is that what you consider "forcing" people?) After all, even clubs do that. 🙂

          By the way, the Israelites, when they were faithful, gave about a third of their income to the Lord's service, if we include all their offerings. And many of God's people today do not only return tithe, but also give offerings in excess of 10% of income. The Lord calls for tithes and offerings.

          But maybe you have a better, proven system to support the ministry?

  5. Supporting the work of God is always easy when church leaders stand firm on their duty and seek the will of God and the welfare of God's people. "for Judah rejoiced over the priests and Levites who ministered", that part in verse 44 was not included accidentally. Church leaders should strive to live their calling as outlined severally in the Bible including 1st Peter 5 that says "To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock." When that happens contentions in the church as witnessed in many parts of the world, will not be seen and the name of God shall be uplifted and His work never hindered.

    • That is a generalisation Mulaisho Saviour. I am not suggesting that every modern worship practice in Seventh-day Adventist Churches is good but at the same time, making such a generalisation is not warranted.

      A certain well-known Seventh-day Adventist author came to Australia, and on the basis of some criticism he had received from some friends here, he wrote a condemnation of the worship in my church. He had not visited the church or talked to any of the participants. I challenged him, suggesting that such comments from such a well known writer and researcher were unwarranted. If he had been here and listened and got to know the participants by name, and had talked to them face-to-face about the issues that he experienced, then his criticism may have had value. But to make blanket value judgments on the worship of others without personally experiencing it quite simply not on. Fortunately, and to his credit, he withdrew his comments.

      There is a real need for all of us to listen to the words, and take part in worship. If there needs to be criticism then it should be made face-to-face with friends, like in a family, not written in the relative anonymity and isolation of a blog.

  6. I find the books of Ezra and Nehemiah difficult to apply to our lives today. I have also read many other portions of the bible, mostly the new testament and have read 2Timothy 3:16. What then do you find that is really applicable to our lives today in Ezra and Nehemiah? Much of the two books, is historical.

    • I have learned a lot from following the story of the tribe of Judah in their experiences and the LORD's guidance on their journey back from exile to restore the Temple and the City.
      I learned that listening to the call of the LORD to return to Him is not always easy but it is worthwhile.
      I learned that we need to read the whole Bible to understand His Plan.
      I learned that part of His Plan was for His people to support His church and His ministers with tithe and offerings.
      I learned that strong dedicated leaders show us the way back and inspire us, however we must also have a personal relationship with the LORD otherwise we might backslide
      I learned that group singing is a powerful way to worship the LORD and to share the message.
      Each week as we walked in their shoes I learned a principle that also applied to my life.
      I learned that often a narrative gets the message across better than philosophy without context.

  7. I read Comments in a book written by Jiri Moskala on Ezra and Nehemiah. It says, "For many people, the numerous lists in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah are a surprising phenomenon. Some lists involve objects others distinguish categories of people, and some number the temple vessels". Not exactly what my previous comments were about but somewhat similar thoughts.


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