|LESSON 8||*November 14- 20|
Priests and Levites
Read for This Week's Study:
"And the Lord spake unto Aaron, . . . I am thy part and thine inheritance among the children of Israel" (Numbers 18:20).
|After Korahs rebellion and
the test of the staffs, it became necessary to emphasize further the distinct
roles between the priests and Levites. Each had their God-appointed functions,
and the Lord clearly drew the lines between those functions. And though all
these roles and functions long ago have become obsolete, there are still
lessons we can draw from them for ourselves today.
Notice, for instance, just how sacred and solemn these roles were. Thus, we could learn for ourselves how we need to take seriously our sacred responsibilities and trusts, whatever they are.
Notice, too, just how interdependent these people were with each other and the nation as a whole. We certainly can draw lessons from that for ourselves today as a church body.
Also, pay attention to the role of grace in these chapters, especially in regard to the gifts given these people through no merit of their own. They had these positions only because God gave those positions to them, not because of any inherent worth in and of themselves.
*Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, November 21.
Division of Labor
Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel (Exod. 19:5, 6).
can we relate those words above to ourselves, today,
as a church called to bring a message to the world? Is this calling
18:17. What distinctions were made in the roles given these
Whats important to note here is that although all the nation was to be a kingdom of priests, only certain people were allowed into certain roles, as seen here in the division of the Levites and the family of Aaron from the general population, and then in the division made between Aarons family and the Levites. Obviously, in New Testament times, hereditary roles, such as found with the Levites, clearly have been abolished, yet we find in the New Testament distinct roles in the church (1 Cor. 12:2831, Eph. 4:11).
|What are your gifts, and how could you better use them to serve your local church?|
The Gifts of Divine Service
When we read the Lords instruction in Numbers 18:17, a few points stand out. First, the Lord makes it clear that He is the One who is appointing the people to these positions. Perhaps this emphasis was made because of the previous problems, not just with Korah and his cohorts but even with Miriam and Aaron. Now, though, there would be no question as to why these people were given these roles. They were there because God put them thereperiod.
Notice, too, the reason the Lord wanted to make these divisions. It was so that His wrath may never again come upon the Israelites (vs. 5, NRSV). Here, again, we see Gods mercy even amid such powerful judgments. God seeks to save His people, not condemn or destroy them. The whole plan of salvation, from start to finish, reveals the Lords desire to redeem sinful fallen beings from the destruction that sin otherwise brings (John 3:1618).
term is used to describe what the Levites are to the
priesthood and what the priesthood was to Aarons family? What lessons
should we draw from it?
When you think of a gift, you think of something that is not earned. Its totally of grace. This was a privilege bestowed upon these people, not because of any merit on their part, but simply through Gods grace and providence. In the end, the Lord needed someone to do this work, and in His divine wisdom these were the ones He chose.
Of course, with this sacred task came sacred responsibilities. Issues of life and death, both physically and spiritually, were involved here, for the tabernacle was the place where God dwelt on earth. The sanctuary was also the model for what Jesus would do here on earth and for His ministry in heaven (Hebrews 9). It was like a miniature Calvary being played out in types and shadows. The destiny of souls lay in the balance. Hence, the solemnity the Lord placed on the roles given these men.
|Think about your innate talents, whatever they are. No matter how hard you work to cultivate them, they are still thatgifts, something given to you by God. What are you doing with those gifts? Are you using them for yourself or for the good of others and the furtherance of the Lords work? Might you need to do some serious soul-searching and changing?|
Having distinguished between the two groups of religious workers, the Lord next gives instruction regarding their economic support. Their positions were, apparently, full-time. That is, they didnt serve tables (Acts 6:2) in order to support themselves. The support had to come from elsewhere.
18:820. What points seem most pertinent to you?
Many interesting thoughts come through these texts. Notice, for instance, how closely the Lord related the offering given to Him with what was given to the priesthood. That is, though the offerings and gifts were made to Him, He gave them to the priests. Thus, by giving the offering to the Lord, they were at the same time giving them to the priests. This shows the close link between the Lord and the priesthood, which served as intermediaries between God and the people.
At the same time, we can see the humanity of the priests, as well. Though in this privileged position, they still were depending on the people they served for their sustenance. No doubt, with the people giving them of their best oil, wine, grain, and so forth, the priesthood constantly was reminded of their obligation to serve these people faithfully and not to take advantage of the position that they had been given.
Also, to redeem a child or an animal by means of money was one of the ways the Lord taught Israel the concept of substitution. One day in the future Christ would give His life as a substitute for sinners (see 1 Pet. 1:18, 19). Salt, added to every sacrifice, was a symbol that signified the permanence of Gods covenant with His people (see Lev. 2:13).
|What kind of sacred responsibilities do you hold? How faithful are you in the tasks that others are trusting you with? How could you do better in faithfully executing your responsibilities?|
The Tithing Plan
Although the tribe of Levi had no land territory, they were given 48 cities, 13 of which were for the families of the priests (Josh. 21:19, 41). The Lord declared that He was their part or portion (Num. 18:20).
addition to their portion of the sacrificial offerings,
what other plan did the Lord devise to care for both priests and Levites?
Returning a tithe of ones income to the Lord (Lev. 27:30) was an ancient practice. It is first mentioned in the Bible when Abraham gave tithes to Melchizedek, King-priest of Salem (Gen. 14:1820; Heb. 7:1, 2). Jacob promised the Lord he would render the tenth of all he would earn in his future (Gen. 28:22). Now, the Lord adapts the use of Israels tithe, giving it for the support of the entire Levitical tribeincluding the families of the priests.
Even the Levites, who were paid in tithe, tithed as well, their tithe going to Aaron. The Levites were to give the best part of what they received as tithe. Hence, not only did that tithe go toward the support of the priesthood; it also enabled the Levites to realize their dependence upon God and that all they received was from Him. They, too, needed to show their gratitude by faithfully returning the tithe of the tithe. If the people always needed to remember their dependence upon the Lord, how much more so the Levites?
18:32. What point should be taken away from that regarding the sacredness
of their calling?
|In this divine plan, everyone had their role, everyone had something to do. The priests and the Levites had their sacred duties to carry out regarding the service and ministry in the sanctuary, while the people had theirs in regard to the paying of a faithful tithe. The tithe was a small thing to give, considering what the Levites and priesthood performed in their behalf. In a sense, all the different groups were dependent upon the function of each other, and all were dependent upon the Lord.|
The Red Heifer
sacrifice of an unblemished red heifer that never had
been yoked is the strangest rite in Israels sanctuary system
19). What lessons can we learn from
The sacrificial heifer was brought forth without the camp, and slain. Thus Christ suffered without the gates of Jerusalem (Heb. 13:12), for Calvary was outside the city walls. This was to show that Christ did not die for the Hebrews alone but for all humanity (Rom. 5:1220). He proclaims to a fallen world that He has come to be their Redeemer, and urges them to accept the salvation He offers. After slaying the heifer, the priest, clothed in pure white garments, took the blood in his hands as it issued from the body of the victim, and cast it toward the tabernacle seven times. Thus, Christ in His own spotless righteousness, after shedding His precious blood, entered into the heavenly sanctuary to minister in the sinners behalf. And there His blood is brought into the service of reconciling God to humanity (see Heb. 10:2123).
The body of the heifer was burned to ashes, which signified a whole and ample sacrifice. The ashes then were gathered up by a person uncontaminated by contact with the dead, and laid up in a clean place without the camp. When the ceremony of cleansing was to be performed, these ashes were placed in a vessel containing water from a running stream. A clean and pure person then took the hyssop and sprinkled the contents of the vessel not only upon the tent where someone died but also upon its contents and the people inside of it. This purification ceremony was repeated several times in order to be thorough, and was done as a purification from sin.
The cleansing water, sprinkled on the unclean, symbolized the blood of Christ spilled to cleanse us from moral impurities. The repeated sprinklings illustrate the thoroughness of the work that must be accomplished for the repenting sinner. All that he has must be consecrated. Not only should the sinners own soul be washed clean and pure, but he or she should seek purity and holiness in all aspects of his or her existence.
|Gods plan in the tithing system is beautiful in its simplicity
and equality. All may take hold of it in faith and courage, for it is divine
in its origin. In it are combined simplicity and utility, and it does not
require depth of learning to understand and execute it. All may feel that
they can act a part in carrying forward the precious work of salvation. Every
man, woman, and youth may become a treasurer for the Lord, and may be an
agent to meet the demands upon the treasury. . . .
Great objects are accomplished by this system. If one and all would accept it, each would be made a vigilant and faithful treasurer for God; and there would be no want of means with which to carry forward the great work of sounding the last message of warning to the world.Ellen G. White, Gospel Workers, p. 223.
| What are some of the issues regarding tithe in the
church today? Why is tithing so important, not just for the function of the
church, but for the spiritual well-being of the one who tithes?
Go back over Thursdays lesson on the red heifer. Dwell on what it tells us about Christs death and ministry in our behalf. What does it tell us about our need to be cleansed from sin? What has Christ done that enables us to have victory over sin?
What are ways that we can help others, especially the young people in our church, use their God-given talents for the Lord? That is, how can we help steer folks, who do have gifts, in the right direction of using those gifts for the right purposes? What is our obligation to help them?
|Because of Korahs rebellion and desire to hold the office of a priest, God instructed Moses (for the people) in regard to the distinction between the priests and the Levites. The priesthood was a gift from God; the Levites were a gift to the priesthood. Both were supported by a tithing plan. With the ashes of a red heifer mixed with water, the Lord provided for a special ritual cleansing, which signified the grace of God in cleansing a person from the stain of sin.|
|I N S I D E Story|
|Mad Man Goes to Church
by CHARLOTTE ISHKANIAN
Mekonin lived in a farming village in Ethiopia. Many people in this village didn't like Adventists, and some even wanted to destroy the local Adventist church.
One day people noticed that Mekonin was behaving erratically. He became angry easily and even tried to kill his wife. Fortunately, she and their children fled to her parents' home. As Mekonin's behavior became more demonic, the neighbors feared for their own safety. They chained him to a pillar in his home and stayed a safe distance away.
Then someone mentioned that when the Adventists pray for people, they're healed. The next Sabbath morning several strong men bound Mekonin in chains and led him to the Adventist church. The men sat down on a bench near the back surrounding Mekonin, ready to subdue him if he became aggressive. The visitors sat quietly through Sabbath School and church. Then the pastor, deacons, and church elders gathered around Mekonin and prayed for him.
"Why don't you throw water on him?" one of the neighbors asked. The pas-tor explained that the power to heal Mekonin was in Christ, not in the water. The pastor asked the men to bring Mekonin back the next day for prayer.
On Sunday the neighbors returned to the Adventist church with Mekonin, but this time he came without the chains. About 60 people came to pray for Mekonin or to watch what happened.
The following Sabbath, Mekonin visited the Adventist church again. He walked with some Adventist members and was not bound by chains. Mekonin took part in the worship service. The pastor knew of another Adventist church nearer to Mekonin's home and asked the local elders to go to Mekonin's home and pray with him. Other Adventist groups learned about Mekonin's condition and joined in praying for him. Within two weeks Mekonin was healed of the demons who had possessed him.
Mekonin's wife learned that her husband had been healed; she and her children returned home.
Mekonin and his wife joined the Adventist church, along with neighbors who had once wanted to destroy the church but had seen God heal Mekonin in answer to the believers' prayers. Today six Adventist churches stand in the area near Mekonin's home, testimonies of God's goodness and power to save.
Your mission offerings help spread the gospel in farming villages and large cities around the world so that people chained by darkness can be freed by Jesus, the Light of the World.
CHARLOTTE ISHKANIAN is editor of Mission.
|Produced by the General Conference Office
of Adventist Mission.
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