Deuteronomy 10:8

Sunday Morning Bible Study

August 12, 2001


The idea behind Deuteronomy is to prepare the people for the Promised Land.  In this book we see principles about how we can enter into the things God has for us.

On this Sunday that we are ordaining Dave Dunagan as a pastor, I thought that it would be appropriate that we talk about ministry.  To help us this morning, I did some research and came across a letter that is circulating among churches that are looking for the Perfect Pastor.


Perfect Pastor

The results of a computerized survey indicate the perfect Pastor preaches exactly fifteen minutes. He condemns sins but never upsets anyone. He works from 8:00 AM until midnight and is also a janitor. He makes $50 a week, wears good clothes, buys good books, drives a good car, and gives about $50 weekly to the poor. He is 28 years old and has preached 30 years. He has a burning desire to work with teenagers and spends all of his time with senior citizens. The perfect Pastor smiles all the time with a straight face because he has a sense of humor that keeps him seriously dedicated to his work. He makes 15 calls daily on congregation families, shut-ins and the hospitalized, and is always in his office when needed. If your Pastor does not measure up, simply send this letter to six other churches that are tired of their Pastor, too. Then bundle up your Pastor and send him to the church on the top of the list. In one week, you will receive 1,643 Pastors and one of them will be perfect. Have faith in this procedure. One congregation broke the chain and got its old Pastor back in less than three weeks.

:8 At that time the LORD separated the tribe of Levi

We are in the middle of a section where Moses is reminding the Israelites of some of their history while they wandered in the wilderness.  He recounts how God had at one time taken an entire tribe and given them a job to do.

God had already called Moses’ brother Aaron to be the head of the priests for Israel, but Aaron wouldn’t be able to do all the work by himself or even with his entire family.  He needed help, kind of like an assistant pastor.

God made a deal with the nation of Israel.  Technically, God already “owned” every firstborn child in Israel when He delivered the people out of Egypt at the Passover.  To make things easy, God proposed a deal where He exchanged his ownership in all the firstborn for an entire tribe, the tribe of Levi (Num. 8:13-19).

The tribe of Levi was the greater tribal family that Aaron and his brother Moses belonged too.  The priests were to be descendants of Aaron, but the rest of the helpers in the Tabernacle and the Temple were the Levites, the rest of the relatives.

The idea of “separating” is that of pulling these people aside and giving them a job to do.  Their job was to assist the priests.  Here’s where God reminds the people of four things about the Levites and their “ministry”.

Ministry Lesson #1

You are in the ministry

(Eph 4:11-12 KJV)  And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; {12} For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
(Eph 4:11-13 NIV)  It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, {12} to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up {13} until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
One of the gifts that God gives to the church is the ministry of the “pastor-teacher”.  The role of the pastor-teacher is to help train the people in the church for the ministry.

We can tend to think that the “ministry” is only for those who are paid staff people, people who have the initials “Rev.” in front of their name.

The truth is, the ministry is for all believers.
This whole message isn’t really about Dave, is it?  It’s about all of us.  God has called ALL OF US into the ministry.  We are all called to serve the Lord.

:8  to bear the ark of the covenant of the LORD

An “ark” is a box.  The “covenant” was the agreement that God had made with Israel, summed up in the Ten Commandments.  This “Ark of the Covenant” was a gold covered box (as in Indiana Jones, “Raiders of the Lost Ark”) that contained this agreement.

Ministry Lesson #2

Carry the message

God had purposely designed this golden box to be carried by humans.  The box had rings on the side for long poles to go through.  When the Ark was to be moved, it was to be moved by putting the poles through the rings and then carried by the Levites.
When David was king, he tried to move the Ark once by sticking it on an ox cart, but God wasn’t pleased with this and one of the priests died in the process.  Later David found out that he was trying to move the Ark incorrectly.  When he went back and moved the Ark by having the Levites carry it, everything went smoothly.
What does this mean for us?
The Gospel
The “covenant” inside Moses’ Ark was the Ten Commandments, the “Old Covenant”.
But we have a “New Covenant”.

(Mat 26:26-28 KJV)  And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. {27} And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; {28} For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

Under the “Old Covenant”, mankind’s relationship with God was conditional upon man obeying God’s Laws.

Under the “New Covenant”, mankind’s relationship with God is based on what Jesus has done for us, dying on the cross to pay for our sins.

If someone wants to have a relationship with God, he no longer must live a perfect life according to the Law, but instead he must come to the point where he has asked Jesus to pay for his sins through Jesus’ death on the cross.

The Levites are to carry the Ark – the gospel is to be carried by those in ministry.  If you consider yourself to be in the ministry, God wants you to be involved in sharing this good news with others.  It’s on “your shoulders”.
The Word
The Ten Commandments is not only God’s “covenant”, they are God’s Word.
The men God uses are men of the Word.  God’s men ought to be carrying God’s Word on their shoulders.
When you serve the Lord, there will be a temptation to find some new gimmick, some new program, some new “thing” that will enhance your ministry.  Don’t get away from the main thing.  Be a man or woman of the Word.  Base your ministry on God’s Word.

:8  to stand before the LORD

Ministry Lesson #3

Know His Presence

Ministry must be done with a sense of God’s presence. 
I think there are several aspects of knowing God’s presence in your life.
It starts with humility and a sense of your own unworthiness.  When Isaiah the prophet found himself in God’s presence,

(Isa 6:5 KJV)  Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.

But there is also something very real, very powerful about a person who has been in God’s presence.
Whenever Moses had spent time in God’s presence, he seemed to literally “glow”.  There was a kind of radiance –

(Exo 34:35 KJV)  And the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses' face shone …

With the apostles, the fact that they had been with Jesus and had been filled with the Holy Spirit produced a holy “boldness” in them.

(Acts 4:13 KJV)  Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.

The person God uses in ministry is a person who is very aware of God’s presence in their life.

:8  to minister unto him

ministersharath   to minister, serve

The word is used to describe the work that the priests and Levites did inside the temple, the worship they offered to the Lord.  When King David began to organize the temple worship –

1Ch 16:4  And he appointed [certain] of the Levites to minister before the ark of the LORD, and to record, and to thank and praise the LORD God of Israel:

1Ch 16:37 So he left there before the ark of the covenant of the LORD Asaph and his brethren, to minister before the ark continually, as every day’s work required:

Asaph was one of the chief musicians whose job was to praise the Lord.

Ministry Lesson #4

Worship the Lord

When you are in ministry, your primary job is to worship God.
When you begin to discover what it means to serve the Lord, it’s not hard to get so caught up with doing “things” that you lose your focus on what is really important.  This was the problem that the church in Ephesus had developed:
(Rev 2:1-5 KJV)  Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; {2} I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: {3} And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.
This was a church that had done a lot of great things.  They had done great “works” for the Lord.
{4} Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
This was a church that had gotten off track.  Instead of doing things for the Lord because they loved Him, they were just doing things for the sake of doing things.
{5} Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.
Jesus remedy for the Ephesians was threefold –

First, they needed to take some time to reflect on where they had fallen from.  They needed to take some time to remember what it was like when they were so madly in love with Jesus.

Second, they needed to repent.  They needed to recognize what had gotten into their lives to take them away from loving Jesus and they needed to turn around from those things.

Thirdly, they needed to “do the first works”.  They needed to get back to the basics and serve the Lord out of love.

God’s desire is that those who serve Him serve HIM.

:8  to bless in his name

blessbarak – to bless.  The idea of “blessing” means to bring a “happiness” to a person.

Ministry Lesson #5

Encourage others

Those in ministry are responsible to “bless” others in God’s name.  You are to encourage them, build them up.
One of the ways we “bless” people is in what we say to them.
(Num 6:23-27 KJV)  Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying, On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them, {24} The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: {25} The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: {26} The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. {27} And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them.
God wants us to be encouraging each other.  He wants us to be asking for His blessings on each other.  He wants us building each other up.
Sometimes we “bless” people by the things we do for them.
Dancing on Potato Chips
An anonymous wife writes,
Not too long ago I had “one of those days”. I was feeling pressure from a writing deadline. I had company arriving in a couple days and the toilet was clogged. I went to the bank, and the trainee teller processing my deposit had to start over three times. I swung by the supermarket to pick up a few things and the lines were serpentine. By the time I got home, I was frazzled and sweaty and in a hurry to get something on the table for dinner.
Deciding on Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup, I grabbed a can opener, cranked open the can, then remembered I had forgotten to buy milk at the store. Nix the soup idea. Setting the can aside, I went to plan B, which was leftover baked beans. I grabbed a Tupperware from the fridge, popped the seal, took a look and groaned. My husband isn’t a picky eater, but even HE won’t eat baked beans that look like caterpillars. Really frustrated, now, I decided on a menu that promised to be as foolproof as it is nutrition-free: hot dogs and potato chips. Retrieving a brand new bag of chips from the cupboard, I grabbed the cellophane and gave a hearty pull. The bag didn’t open. I tried again.
Nothing happened. I took a breath, doubled my muscle, and gave the bag a hearty wrestle. With a loud pop, the cellophane suddenly gave way, ripping wide from top to bottom. Chips flew sky high. I was left holding the bag, and it was empty.
It was the final straw. I let out a blood curdling scream. “I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE!!!”
My husband heard my unorthodox cry for help. Within minutes he was standing at the doorway to the kitchen, where he surveyed the damage:
An opened can of soup, melting groceries, moldy baked beans, and one quivering wife standing ankle deep in potato chips. My husband did the most helpful thing he could think of at the moment. He took a flying leap, landing flat-footed in the pile of chips. And then he began to stomp and dance and twirl, grinding those chips into my linoleum in the process! I stared. I fumed. Pretty soon I was working to stifle a smile. Eventually I had to laugh. And finally I decided to join him. I, too, took a leap onto the chips. And then I danced.
Now I’ll be the first to admit that my husband’s response wasn’t the one I was looking for. But the truth is, it was exactly what I needed. I didn’t need a cleanup crew as much as I needed an attitude adjustment, and the laughter from that rather funky moment provided just that.
There’s a right time and a wrong time for stomping on potato chips.  But stomping on chips isn’t our goal, blessing others is.